Easy Web Page Load Timing Comparison via Bookmarklet

I needed to get rough metrics of web page load times across different browsers. While the built in development tools are good for fine-grained timing, outside of pay tools (eg: HttpWatch) or browser-specific (Page load time Chrome extension) I couldn’t find anything easily available for general page load time.

It turns out that the time between performance.timing.navigationStart and performance.timing.loadEventEnd does a good job of this, as it shows the time elapsed between when the browser starts navigating to the new page and when it feels the page is done loading (the load event handler is terminated).

A bookmarklet containing the following can be used to do this:

javascript:(function(){ var loadtime = (performance.timing.loadEventEnd - performance.timing.navigationStart) / 1000; alert("Page Load Time: " + loadtime + " sec"); })();

This link can be dragged and dropped to your Favorites / Bookmarks bar to easily create a bookmarklet with this content: Page Load Time

2015 Salsa El Mariachi Single Speed w/ Upgrades

A couple years ago I had an older Bomb Pop Blue colored El Mariachi that I used in a bunch of different setups, including rigid SS and rigid 1×9, but mostly it saw use as a hard tail SS with wide wheels. A fun all-around XC bike; I loved it. After building up the Jones Plus (as a single speed) I sold the El Mariachi, but missed it, especially after selling off the Jones. (While nice, I couldn’t justify such a high end single speed like the Jones, and my buddy Bob was really keen on it…)

For everything from might-get-wet rides to trips to Ray’s (where a derailleur can be a liability) I liked having a cheaper, familiar, single speed bike and kept an eye out for something that’d meet the want…

Suddenly, one dreary spring day in 2016, I found what I was looking for: a second hand (but practically new condition) 2015 Salsa El Mariachi Single Speed, in it’s wonderfully weird grey-green color which occasionally looks to my deuteranomalous eyes as brown. Even better, with a 44mm straight head tube and kinked seatpost it features Salsa’s newer El Mariachi geometry; the same as is found on my beloved El Mariachi Ti, a perfect single speed for me. Unfortunately, while I love the frame and its color, I was was never really happy with the anodized orange accents.

After riding it for a year, tweaking some things, reusing spare parts, and finding some mid-winter deals it’s had quite an upgrade. While the stock wheels were nice I wanted higher engagement hubs and wider rims with higher volume tires. A suspension fork, bought used from a buddy in late spring 2016, took the edge off of rough trails. New wheels, a black handlebar (from the Blackborow), and a new seatpost collar did away with the remaining orange. Swapping on 180mm/160mm rotors (also from the Blackborow) brings stopping in line with my other XC bikes. The end result is monochrome parts on a colorful frame, my preferred style of bike.

Topping it all off are Schwalbe’s giant, aggressively knobbed 29″ x 2.6″ Nobby Nic tires which — even on the wide-for-XC WTB KOM i29 rims — fit nicely in the El Mariachi’s frame, getting it close to 29+ territory. While I’m not normally fond of such an aggressive tread for XC use it’s the only tire of its size available that appealed to me. The stock bike build featured 2.25″ Nobby Nic tires and while they felt squirmy on hard pack, they were quite enjoyable when conditions are soft or loose; precisely one of the times when I opt to ride single speed. So, I opted to give them a go. I may eventually switch to something lower knob, but for now they are staying.

More photos, including wheel build numbers, can be seen here, and the complete bike is built as follows:

Frame / Rigid Fork: 2015 El Mariachi Single Speed (Medium)
Suspension Fork: Fox Racing Shox OE, CTD w/ Open Bath Damper (Grey Decals)
Rigid Fork: Salsa CroMoto Grande, tapered, 15mm thru-axle (Matched to Frame)
Hubs: Hope Pro 4 (front), Pro 4 Trials / Single Speed (Rear)
Rims: WTB KOM i29
Spokes: Sapim D-Light (Black, 292mm and 290mm)
Nipples: Sapim (Black)
Tires: Schwalbe Nobby Nic HS 463 (29 x 2.60, SnakeSkin, TL-Easy, PaceStar)
Tubeless Setup: Stan’s NoTubes Sealant and Valves (35mm), WTB TCS Rim Tape (34mm)
Brakes: Shimano Deore M615
Brake Rotors: TRP-14 Standard Rotor (180mm, 160mm)
Front Brake Adapter: Shimano SM-MA-F180P/P2 (Suspension Fork), SM-MA-F180P/S (Rigid Fork)
Handlebar: Salsa Salt Flat 2 (700mm, cut from 750mm)
Grips: Ergon GP1 BioKork (Large)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 ZS44/EC44
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 (SM-E133 0° X 100mm X 31.8 1-1/8 X4 Black)
Spacers: Generic Aluminum
Stem Cap: Niner YAWYD w/ Evil Twin Cap
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (SP-E113 27.2 X 410 Black)
Seatpost Clamp: Thomson Seatpost Collar (SC-E102 29.8 Black)
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Expert (143mm)
Crankset: Generic (Salsa OE)
Bottom Bracket: Generic (Salsa OE)
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater Sl
Chainring: Generic 32t (Salsa OE)
Cog: Surly Cassette Cog (17t)
Cog Spacers/Lockring: Surly Spacer Kit
Chain: SRAM PC-850
Bottle Cages: Specialized Zee Cage II (Left and Right)
Rear Light: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Bell: Mirrycle Original Incredibell
Sensors: Garmin Bike Speed Sensor

Post upgrade, tubeless, with suspension fork, without Garmin Edge 520 or rear light, it weighs 26.12 pounds. This is pretty nice for what’s effectively a steel 29+ single speed, with super-grippy tires, in a geometry that I’m very comfortable riding. I have less than $1500 into the bike, which I’m pretty happy with considering how well equipped it is.

For Sale: MAME Cabinet

Up for sale is my MAME Cabinet. As documented on this wiki article I built this cabinet from a pile of lumber in the style of a late 1980s Data East cabinet, then outfitted it to be an extremely solid, quality MAME cabinet. Over the past few years I haven’t found the interest to keep working on it and now it’s time to sell.

Price is US$700, to be picked up at my house in Shelby Township.

Purchasing just the keyboard encoder, controls, coin door, and supplies for finishing the control panel would cost nearly this much.

Click on the photo above (or here) for more photos of the cabinet taken in early 2017. Please take a look at this article for information on exactly what went into the cabinet, and this photo gallery for some photos of it throughout the years.

This cabinet currently does not have a monitor installed, and the PC is a bit outdated (it was last powered on ~3 years ago), but all of the arcade-specific parts of the cabinet are in great shape. All controls feel good and are connected to a Hagstrom KE72-T encoder (no ghosting), the control panel can quickly disconnect from the main cabinet for ease of transport, and the monitor support bracket will make it easy to install a new display. Prior to listing this for sale I was planning to install a ~24″ widescreen LCD. Proper arcade game-type T-molding is installed along all edges and the cabinet has numerous handles, leveling feet, and roller wheels to make moving it easy.

Part specifics can be found on the wiki article; almost everything was purchased from Happ Controls and thus is full arcade quality. The control panel is topped with Formica and features eight buttons per player, some MAME-specific buttons for adjusting in-game controls (DIP switches, volume, etc), and there are three hidden buttons on the sides to act as coin inputs. The Millipede-sized real-arcade trackball serves as a normal mouse, and a wireless Logitech keyboard is included.

The cabinet features a temperature-controlled vent fan, internal power strip, speaker amplifier, remote bezel light switch, remote power and reset buttons, and quick-disconnects for all internal connections. PC-mounting points inside are ATX-spec to make installing a bare motherboard easy. The control panel is removable, held in place with thumb screws making transportation even easier.

Please contact me at steve@nuxx.net if you are interested in buying my MAME Cabinet. It was built with extreme care and well loved, but it’s time for me to let it go.

Where I Rode in 2016

I’m not normally one to do a list on all the places I’ve ridden in a given year, but this map from RubiTrack — my preferred offline ride tracking application — changed my mind for this year. In my personal life it’s been quite an interesting year or so, and I took advantage of of that to travel a bit more. Some of these were with my amazing girlfriend Kristen, some with friends, and some by myself. Whatever way, it made for some great riding.

Calculated via Strava, I ended up with 261 rides totaling 5928 miles over 503 hours 22 minutes and climbing 234,394 feet.

Here’s all the different places/trails that I was fortunate enough to ride, broken down by state:

Michigan

  • Addison Oaks County Park
  • Aspen Park
  • Bald Mountain Recreation Area
  • Bear Creek
  • Big M Ski Area
  • Bloomer Park
  • Brighton
  • Bruno’s Run
  • Churning Rapids
  • Clinton River Park Trails
  • Clinton River Trail
  • Copper Harbor
  • DTE Energy Foundation Trail
  • Fort Custer
  • Glacial Hills
  • Hanson Hills
  • Harlow Lake
  • Hewen’s Creek
  • Hickory Glen Park
  • Highland Recreation Area
  • Hillside Trails (Munising)
  • Hines Park
  • Holly-Holdridge Mountain Bike Trail
  • Iron Ore Heritage Trail
  • Island Lake Recreation Area
  • Kensington to Proud Lake Connector
  • Lake Orion High School
  • Lakeshore Park
  • Maaso Hiihto
  • Macomb Orchard Trail
  • NTN Trails (Marquette)
  • Maybury State Park
  • Merrell Trail
  • Michawyé
  • Milford Trail
  • Morton – Taylor
  • Munson Park
  • North Country Trail
  • Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties
  • Olson Park
  • Orion Oaks County Park
  • Ortonville Recreation Area
  • Owasippe
  • Paint Creek Trail
  • Pontiac Lake Recreation Area
  • Potawatomi
  • Proud Lake Recreation Area
  • RAMBA Trails (Ishpeming and Negaunee)
  • River Bends Park
  • Rolling Hills
  • Rouge Park
  • Ruby Campground
  • Seven Lakes State Park
  • Sharon Mills
  • Stony Creek Metropark
  • Stony Creek Ravine
  • Swedetown
  • Valley Spur
  • VASA

Ohio

  • Mohican State Park
  • Ray’s Indoor MTB Park

Indiana

  • Brown County State Park
  • Nebo Ridge

North Carolina

  • Bent Creek Experimental Forest
  • DuPont State Forest
  • Pisgah National Forest

Missouri

  • Berryman Trail
  • Greensfelder County Park

Arkansas

  • Back 40
  • Blowing Springs
  • Coler
  • Hobbs State Park
  • Lake Atalanta
  • Lake Leatherwood
  • Park Springs
  • Razorback Regional Greenway
  • Slaughter Pen

Here’s to 2017!

Fat Bike Upgrade: 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon

I’ve had my Salsa Blackborow for a year and loved riding it in all seasons, but thanks to Tree Fort Bikes I got a line on the brand-new 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon frame and decided it was time to upgrade. I love how the Blackborow rides, but a carbon frame with a 100mm threaded bottom bracket is what I’ve really wanted and until now it wasn’t practically available. In designing the 2017 Mukluk Salsa made some slight tweaks to the outstanding Blackborow geometry, named it the Mukluk, added some nice options (dropper post routing, new style Alternators), and built it out of carbon. All parts (except crank and headset) will swap over from my Blackborow, so there was no way I could say no.

Complete, with pedals, bottle cages, Garmin Edge 520, rear blinky light mount, bell, all sensors, and 4.8″ Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires set up tubeless the complete bike weighs in at 26.48 pounds.

Almost all the parts are the same as the Blackborow build, save for the wheels (upgraded at the end of my time with the Blackborow), stem, crankset, bar, and headset. The crankset on the Mukluk ended up being a unicorn SRAM XO1 fat bike crank which I fortuitously found as a brand new take-off from a Bucksaw Carbon XO1. Fitted with the non-standard 0mm offset chainring (intended for Boost 148 spec bikes), two non-drive side spacers (none on the drive side), the chainline moves to 71.5mm, which is just about right for a 190/197mm rear end fat bike. It was necessary to put both spacers on the non-drive side to get even spacing between the crank arms and chainstays.

On the first couple rides there was occasional heel rub, so I fitted a set of extended spindles for Eggbeater pedals. This is minor and only seems to happen with larger shoes on technical corners, so the extra 5mm Q-factor should help.

Due to a slightly different geometry on the bike and a wider bar (carbon, to hopefully keep my hands warmer in winter) I went with a 90mm stem, which results in the same saddle-grip reach and feels good.

Full photo gallery can be found here: 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon

Here’s how the build ended up:

Frame / Fork: 2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon Frame (Medium) / Bearpaw Carbon Fork
Wheelset: Hubs: DT Swiss 350 Big Ride (Front, Rear, Center Lock, XD Driver) / Rims: Hed B.A.D / Spokes: DT super comp / Nipples: DT Pro Lock (built by Mike Curiak)
Freehub Ratchets: Bontrager HUB51312614R (54-point for DT Swiss)
Summer Tires: Schwalbe Jumbo Jim HS466 26 x 4.8 (Snakeskin, TL-Easy)
Winter Tires: 45NRTH Flowbeist / Dunderbeist
Brake Calipers: TRP Spyke
Brake Rotors: Shimano SM-RT70 (180mm front, 160mm rear)
Front Brake Spacer: Shimano SM-MA90-F180P/P2
Brake Levers: Avid FR-5 (Black)
Brake Lever Insulation: 18mm 3:1 Heat Shrink (Generic)
Handlebar: Salsa Salt Flat Carbon (750mm)
Grips: Ergon GP1 (Large)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 Tapered IS41/IS52/40 Short Top Cover
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 (SM-E132 0° X 90mm X 31.8 1-1/8 X4)
Spacers: Generic Aluminum
Stem Cap: Niner YAWYD w/ Ore Dock Brewing Company Bottle Cap
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (SP-E116SB 31.6 X 410 Setback Black)
Seatpost Clamp: Salsa Lip Lock
Saddle: Specialized Phenom Expert (143mm)
Crankset: SRAM XO1 Fat Bike, SRAM Carbon Crank Boots
Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP (100mm)
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 (Blue) w/ Long Spindle Kit
Chainring: SRAM X-SYNC Direct Mount (30t and 28t, 0mm offset)
Cassette: SRAM XG-1150 FULL PIN Cassette
Derailleur: SRAM GX 1×11 X-HORIZON Rear Derailleur
Shifter: SRAM GX 11-speed X-ACTUATION Trigger Shifter
Chain: SRAM PC-X1
Cables/Housing: Jagwire LEX (4mm shift, 5mm shift for brakes)
Chainslap Protection: Scotch 2228 Rubber Mastic Tape
Bottle Cages: Specialized Zee Cage II (Left and Right)
Rear Light: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Bell: Mirrycle Original Incredibell
Sensors: Garmin Bike Speed Sensor and Cadence Sensor

For Sale: 2016 Salsa Blackborow Frame + Fork + Headset + Crankset

Up for sale is my year-old 2016 Salsa Blackborow Frame + Fork + Headset + Crankset + Extra Chainring. Everything is set up and ready to go.

The Salsa Blackborow is an outstanding fatbike platform with clearance for 5″ tires, and this package is the perfect way to build yourself an outstanding bike. All you need to get this rolling is a set of fatbike wheels (150mm front, 197mm rear — current through axle standards) and brakes/shifting bits/cockpit. Outside of the wheels nothing needed is fatbike specific, so this is a perfect project platform. If you want a suspension fork this frame is designed to accept a 100mm Rockshox Bluto; a drop-in replacement for the rigid fork.

Here’s what is included in the sale:

Everything is in great shape. Protective tape has been applied to everywhere routine rub could occur, and there are no cable rub, chain slap, or chainsuck. Small plastic plugs were installed into the non-used mounting holes for a smooth look and to help keep water out of the frame. There are a few small scuffs from usual riding wear, but so minor they don’t really show up in photos. There are no scratches, dents, etc.

Click here to see high-res photos of everything for sale: Take My Stuff: 2016 Salsa Blackborow.

The crankset spins smooth and the bottom bracket has plenty of life left (no roughness nor slop). Crank boots are installed to protect the ends of the cranks and crank washers were always used. Chainrings are in great shape with plenty of life left. Both the 28t and 30t rings are included, as I swapped between these for winter and summer. The 28t ring is currently installed, perfect for building up the bike as we roll into winter. The headset is smooth and works as it should, and being a Cane Creek 40 will have a very long life.

Price for the whole package is $900. Pacakge is now sold!

I’m the original owner of this frame and purchased it from Tree Fort Bikes in October 2015. Original retail price for this package was about $1461 + tax (Frame + Fork: $999 / Headset: $65 / Crankset + Bottom Bracket + Spacer Kit: $268 / Chainring: $60 + $60 / Crank Boots: $9). You can save a bunch by buying slightly-used and also avoid the hassle of pressing in a headset and bottom bracket. (All these parts match perfectly and are already set up, so I’m not interested in splitting up the package.)

Being only a year old you’re probably asking why I’m selling this. I came into a new frame (2017 Salsa Mukluk Carbon) and swapped over all compatible parts. Had the Mukluk not made it into my hands I would have been riding this Blackborow for the foreseeable future. It really is a great bike, fit me well, and is perfect for year-round riding here in Michigan. But, I don’t need two fat bikes, so this frame is for sale.

For sizing reference, I find that Salsa frames tend to run a bit big. For cross reference I ride a large in Specialized MTB frames and medium in all other Salsa stuff. Reach on this medium 2016 Salsa Blackborow frame is 420.2mm and stack is 604.4mm. Check out the geometry specifics here.

I live in Shelby Township, work in Warren, and am planning to take some trips to the Gaylord and Grand Rapids areas this month, so I’d be willing to meet a number of places in Michigan to complete this sale. I’m glad to ship this, so long as the buyer pays for shipping + insurance (actual price via UPS Ground). All parts will be packed in a Salsa frame box.

Head Gloves from Costco for Road Cycling

Costco is currently (Autumn 2016) selling some Head-brand winter gloves for $12.99 that make great road cycling gloves. I picked these up because my Pearl Izumi AmFib gloves don’t do well in high wind (the glove material is too thin and gets cold), and the lobster mitt type gloves are too warm above freezing. I’d hoped they would work well for 35-45F-ish temps and today’s ride proves that they are, and at a great price as well.

These gloves claim to be waterproof but breathable, and judging by today’s ride I think they are. Once I got a little sweaty they became damp inside, but stayed warm (but not too warm) the whole time. Prior to getting sweaty they seemed to breath nicely. A zipper pocket on the pack can be used for hand warmers or opened to add a little more venting. They did a fine job blocking wind, I had no problems shifting while wearing them, and there were no awkward seams or padding to make them uncomfortable on drop bars. Definitely a recommended purchase.

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: vinylcut_toppers_for_yellowgold.zip

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.

November Update: After tearing my tire on a piece of angle iron I got to test the FattyStripper during a tire swap. During removal the FattyStripper tore, and removing the part glued to the rim took quite a bit of time. I ended up selling the DT Swiss BR 2250 wheels (ordering some HED B.A.D. rims with DT Swiss hubs), but if I were to do it again I’d use the FattyStrippers, skipping the adhesive.

The FattyStripper held wonderfully for months of riding. There was no leaking, no need for additional sealant, and it held pressure as well as any other proper tubeless setup. There was quite a bit of sealant left in the rim when the tire were removed.

It seems that the biggest downside to the FattyStrippers is their one-shot use, but while in use they work very well. (There are a few people who’ve been able to reuse their FattyStrippers between tire changes, but they seem to be the exception. Therefore, I see these as needing to be replaced with each tire change.)

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 you over 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.