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Month: November 2013

2013 Detroit Invitational Cyclocross

Today was my first time attending the CX Czar‘s outstanding Detroit Invitational Cyclocross race. This properly casual race at Detroit’s Dorais Park (aerial image) takes place at the intersection of Mound and Outer Drive, just south of Eight Mile at the site of the historic Dorais Velodrome. This was one of the constantly hard non-endurance races that I’ve done, and very likely the most enjoyable. With a course that snaked around the lumpy and rutted fields of the park, near a burned out house, past some dumped jetskis, along the cracked concrete velodrome, through a tight spiral of death on a hill side, and featured a dumped light pole crossing as a barrier and a double-barrier rundown, it was hard. But awesome.

One nifty twist to this race is that, not long before the end of each lap, one can choose to consume a shot of tequila and take a shortcut, or ride a rough/hard section that adds on quite a bit of distance. I’d estimate that 4 or 5 passes through the shortcut would make up an entire lap, but balanced with the tequila… it’d be a hard, strategic choice. It’s a great twist, and perfect for the race. In retrospect I probably should have taken the shortcut more often, as I only went for it on my last two laps (out of six). I fell once or twice (gently) while trying to turn corners, stayed upright on the rough sections, and had a lot of fun.

The most surprising part of today was what I ended up winning. Just before the race started, as I took my place at the start, close to the end of the pack, the raffle was called out. I could barely hear the number, but pulled mine out and thought it might have matched. I asked for it to be called again and yes, it was mine. I wasn’t sure what I’d won, but it was soon apparent that it was something nifty: a new, custom bike from Motorless City Bicycle Co..

I was really surprised, and somewhere there are a couple photos of me with a rather ridiculous smile on my face. I’m still a bit in shock about it, but I’m really excited about how it’ll end up. Chris from Motorless City was there and informed me it’ll be a drop bar, rigid steel disc frame intended for fatter tires, which sounds a whole lot like what I’m going for with the Vaya. He’s also got a thing going with TRP and wants to fit it with their shiny new HY/RD hybrid disc brakes. I have a feeling the Vaya will find a new home once this is available…

Tomorrow I need to email Chris with my basic geometry likes and such, but I’m a bit too spent from today’s great race (and beer) to put those thoughts together now. That sounds like a nice project for a slow Sunday. I’ve already got thoughts swirling around… I’m excited about this.

Wrap this all up with a great time hanging out at Kuhnhenn with a bunch of Velvet Elvis folks and other people from the race and it’s been a darned fine day.

(Here is the Garmin data from the race displayed by Strava. Here are three photos of me from the race; the first taken by Bob Bruce and the other two by Marty Shue: 1, 2, 3.)

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Not paying enough attention to car maintenance…


I was originally going to post a photo of a wear indicator mentioning that, with fitting the new snow tires, I’ll need to get new tires next spring. Then I saw this one tire from the rear of the driver’s side.

With every set of tires that I’ve had on the car (this is the second or third, I think, in ~180,000 miles) I’ve had uneven wear from one wheel. It’s spotty, paneled, and results in a series of flat spots around the inside of the tire. I’d think that rotating the tires more often would help it, but I think I let these tires go a little too long without rotating them. They might not have even been done this year, having gone since the snow tires were removed in the spring.

This wasn’t losing air, but I’m really lucky that I didn’t have a sudden tire failure. I’ll definitely be buying new tires before spring now. (And no, the snow tires don’t have this kind of wear… But I did get an alignment some last year, after buying these tires but before the snow tires got much use.)


2013 Thanksgiving Morning Ride at Pontiac Lake

Since 1999 Robert Herimann has been hosting a Thanksgiving morning ride at Pontiac Lake Recreation Area. I’ve wanted to attend for a few years, but the timing has never really worked out for me. This year it did, and I’m really glad that I went. It was my first ride at PLRA both on a fatbike and in the snow.

The drive out to Pontiac Lake became snowy and promised an interesting ride, but having the Mukluk and winter clothes with me (as has been the norm for the past couple of weeks) I was content and ready to go. Almost all of the trail looked like what is seen above with the snow, frozen leaves hiding and lubricating the surface, and icy rocks. The ride was a bit exciting and traction was a challenge at points, but it was still a good time. I had a really fun time and made all of the climbs (including the one after the chute) except for Three Mile Hill, where someone stopped in front of me at a point where there wasn’t room to pass. A bit lower tire pressure might have helped as well (I had 11 PSI rear, 7 PSI front on the Larry / Big Fat Larry combo), but I went with something slightly higher than normal to cut down on the chance of pinch flatting.

About half-way through the ride I switched from motoring along, trying to keep up with others, and just began poking along slowly, looking out at the incredible views. I’ve only ever ridden PLRA when there were leaves on the trees; I didn’t realize just how many beautiful ridges it went along. There are spots where I could have stopped and stood, looking out at the snow drifting down for hours. But, I was having too much fun riding. I’ll have to make another trip here this winter; I really enjoyed it.

A mirror of the traditional group photo can be found here, if you’d like to see it. I count 62 participants, and I’m just to the right of the right-most Handicapped Parking sign, in a yellow Trail’s Edge jacket and black helmet. I’m surprised there weren’t more fatbikes on the ride, only Jay Jones, myself, and a guy I didn’t recognize on a 2012 Mukluk 3. (The announcement post, showing the group photo for each year since 1999 can be seen here. The guy in the photo above is just someone who passed me after I stopped to take the photo. I’m not sure who he is.)

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Hope Pro 2 Evo Fatsno Hubs

Since I’ve recently bought a bunch of new bike stuff I’ve been trying to hold off on spending for bike stuff, but another great deal happened my way that I couldn’t pass up. After seeing the Stan’s Notubes prototype fatbike rims at Interbike I’ve been wanting to build up a set, which meant that once the rims are available I’d also need another set of fatbike hubs.

A few days ago a brand new set of the highly regarded Hope Pro 2 Evo Fatsno hubs (135mm front w/ rear brake spacing, 170mm rear) popped up on the MMBA Forum for $225, a price that really grabbed my attention. Some email back and forth with the seller, a payment sent, and a few days later they are here. I’m really looking forward to building these up, so hopefully the Stan’s rims are available soon and at a reasonable price. If I end up not building up the wheelset I shouldn’t have a problem selling them for what I paid.

These are really nice hubs, wholly made in England, with an extremely high quality feel. When actuating the freehub by hand I can tell that it will have the telltale Hope sound (read: loud) when riding, something which I’d been a bit irked by in the past on others bikes. I hope it doesn’t bother me, but I guess if it does I can always add grease to dampen it a bit… so long as I don’t screw with winter-time engagement.

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Salsa Vaya 2 (2012): Ready To Go

After unboxing, some very detailed cleaning which let me get to know the bike thoroughly, fitting accessories, and transferring measurements from the Jamis Nova I’ve got the 2012 Salsa Vaya 2 mentioned previously (full bike photo) ready to go. While on its face this bike seems redundant and that the Nova would have met my needs, I think it’ll be a big improvement over the Nova for a couple reasons:

  1. The Nova with a 570mm ETT is a bit too large for me, evidenced by the 75mm stem needed to get the fit right.
  2. I prefer disc brakes on bicycles, even though the cantilever rim brakes on the Nova work well in most conditions.
  3. The Vaya has much longer head tube requiring far fewer spacers to get a comfortable position. This makes for an overall stronger/nicer setup.
  4. The Vaya comes with a crank that has 170mm arms. I’m not yet sure if this’ll work out for me, but I’m looking forward to trying it on long rides with lots of spinning.

Thus far I’ve only taken it on some short paved and trainer rides, but so it seems to fit well and I’m really looking forward to getting it out on some lengthy dirt road trips. With December and the first snows (and very cold headwinds on dirt roads) upon us I’m not sure this’ll be possible before spring, but I can hope…

In the mean time I spent a couple lazy hours over the past few days putting together my thoughts on the bike, mostly for my purposes a couple years from now. If you’re interested in that info and the full current build details, read on, or if you are interested in photos of this particular Vaya 2 click here

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Road Bike Disc Brakes, Oh My!

My dislike of the Avid BB5 design is already prompting me to look for different disc brakes for the Salsa Vaya 2. While I’ve only briefly ridden it, the typical BB5 problem is already rearing its head: the pads on these brakes are separated by a single spring in the middle of the pad. When sitting retracted the pad will pivot around this spring, resulting in one side or the other falling against the rotor and rubbing. See the results for avid bb5 pad at Google Image Search to see how it looks.

This can be briefly reconciled by squeezing the brakes and letting them retract, but its so common that simply moving the bike around the house will make the problem happen. The vibration of actually riding makes it  happen pretty frequently. Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes (and Shimanos, and I presume others) don’t have this problem because they use a box shaped spring that holds the pads apart from the ends. It’s quite an irritation without a good solution and something which coupled with the smaller size pads bothers me enough to do something about.

That leaves the question of what to get. There are a number of mechanical disc brake options out there, but most of them are variants (usually weight reductions) on these four, with my personal pros/cons of each:

Avid BB7 Road:

+ Known quantity, very familiar with the mountain version of this brake.

+ Same pads as the Mukluk.

+ Can easily be found on eBay, sometimes as just calipers. I have two new compatible rotors already.

– Some reviews claim they aren’t as nice as the mountain version.

– Except for some OE versions the silver color doesn’t quite match the Vaya unless a high end version is selected.

TRP Spyre:

+ Uses Shimano pads which are easy to get, but not the same as the Shimano BR-CX77.

+ Actuates both pads at once, unlike most other mechanical designs.

– No experience, not many reviews.

Shimano BR-CX77 (PDF):

+ Shimano stuff tends to be well engineered.

+ Same pads as XT brakes on El Mariachi Ti.

– No experience, difficult to find reviews, but are the replacement for the recalled BR-CX75 and supposedly feel the same.

Hayes CX Expert (CX-5)

+ Spec’d by a few manufactures, including All City on the Macho Man Disc.

– No experience with these; do not known anyone who has them.

At this point I think the best / most cost effective option may be to simply find some BB7 road calipers for a reasonable price and use the rotors that I already have. This’d use up some spare parts, likely cost less, and allow me to use spare pads that I already have…

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Used 2012 Salsa Vaya 2

Online wandering a week or so ago looking for an orange 54cm Salsa Vaya frame led me to this blog post from Colonel’s Bicycles in Fort Worth, Texas showing exactly the frame I was interested in, but posted 2.5 years ago. These are generally a bit hard to come by, and I’m not particularly fond of the current frame-only colors, so I didn’t want to get a new one, so on a whim I emailed asking if they still had any. The reply that I received surprised me: they had a used, but complete and in good shape 54cm bike in stock, and it was available for $900.

After some email back and forth where I had some pictures to look at (1, 2) and with the shop confirming that the fork recall (photo) didn’t apply to this one, I decided to go for it. Total after shipping was $1004, which strikes me as a good deal seeing as these bikes regularly go for $1300+ shipped via eBay. While the bike is definitely used and needed a drivetrain cleaning, the frame is in immaculate shape with only some slight cable rub along the head tube (which I’ll be covering with protective tape anyway), and slight marks on the rear brake mount from being bumped by the rotor during wheel insertion. All of this is typical wear that any bike would pick up in its first couple of months.

(The guy at the shop said the original owner was very good about caring for his bikes and this one likely has less than 2500 miles on it, and has never been crashed. If it has that many, those were definitely gentle miles…)

Dust in crevices of the frame and slight marks around the rack mounts indicated that it’d been used for touring / gravel road stuff, but it’s in otherwise great shape. The build seems to be pretty close to the original spec, but with different chainrings, a chain that’s in great shape, a like-new cassette, and an absolutely terrible saddle. The steerer has a lot of extra space on it, which is great for adjusting fit. The saddle is just a placeholder that’ll likely be given away (almost anyone buying a bike like this immediately replaced the saddle with one that they prefer), but I’m pretty impressed at how bad the molded plastic/rubber thing that came on the bike is. It’s even got an air vent hole on the bottom to let air with a whoosh out as its compressed. (Photos: 1, 2). Yes, that’s the stock seatpost.

The bike is now extremely clean and ridable, with a bunch of measuring and trainer / parking lot fit checks done to get it ready for me, and the initial feel is really promising. The saddle was replaced with the Specialized Avatar fromt the Jamis, fitted to the Salsa Pro Moto 3 seatpost originally from the Mukluk 2 (Photo). There’s likely some more fiddling needed and I have to cut a couple inches off of the steerer and finish fitting some accessories, but this far I’m really happy with it. Now to find a good day to ride it.

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Race Face Turbine Fatbike Crankset

My 2012 Salsa Mukluk 2 came stock with an e*thirteen XCX fatbike crankset, and while this has worked well for two years, the variety of other fatbike-compatible cranksets on the market had me wanting to try something different. I also haven’t been particularly fond of the bottom bracket design, particularly after ruining one set of bearings after a bit of a lake ride. Race Face, a stalwart brand in mountain biking, now manufactures a number of their cranks in configurations that support 100mm bottom brackets just for fatbikes.

After finding a surprisingly good deal on one of these cranksets and the chainrings that I prefer I ordered it, and in a bit of time this afternoon between work and a group ride I got it installed. After tonight’s ride I’m quite happy with the purchase. This crankset has a much more traditional bottom bracket with a well-known seal design, and unlike the e*thirteen includes a sleeve connecting the two cups, which should help keep contaminants out of the bearings.

This setup ended up being the following items:

  • Race Face Turbine Crankset for Fatbikes (100mm bottom bracket shell), 175mm arms, for 175mm rear hub spacing.($182.99)
  • Truvativ Trushift Chainring, 22t, Aluminum, 64 BCD ($13.99)
  • Truvativ Trushift Chainring, 32t, Steel, 104 BCD ($20.00)
  • FSA Torx Chainring Bolts, Alloy, Black ($17.50)
  • BBG Bashguard, 104 BCD OVAL, 32t ($26 shipped, but taken off of e*thirteen crankset.)

The total for this was $234.48, and I’m hoping to sell my functional but unwanted e*thirteen crankset to offset a bunch of this cost.

At 951g for this entire crank setup (versus 879g for the e*thirteen) there is a slight weight penalty (72g) for moving to this crankset, but as this is a fatbike I’m not particularly concerned. This amount of weight will be absorbed by extra clothes that I wear or food that I carry. The complete bike, with bottle cage and pedals (but without bike computer) comes in at 32.4 pounds with this crankset, which I think is pretty reasonable for a fatbike where weight isn’t a primary concern.

Tonight’s test ride at River Bends showed that this crankset seems to work as expected. It does what a crankset needs to, was sufficiently easy to set up, and moved the chainline outboard far enough to provide about 5mm of clearance between the chain and tire when in the 22t chainring / 34t cog combination. (Photo) This is the lowest gear that I have on the bike, and while it isn’t a very common combination for most riding, it’s useful in winter or inclement conditions when needing to move slowly and steadily through very difficult conditions. With the e*thirteen crankset there was a bit less clearance, resulting in more gunk being scraped off of the tire by the chain.

I have high hopes for this crankset, but based on what I’ve seen thus far I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

(Yes, I know the derailleur is mounted high… That’s still the original position compatible with 44t outer rings, but due to the shaping of the derailleur and the slightly more outboard chainline of the Turbine crankset leaving it this way allows me to use almost the entire cassette when in the 22t chainring.)

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This Is How It Gets Done

A scant 3.5 years ago the MMBA Metro North chapter, now known as CRAMBA-IMBA, finished completion of the first phase of official mountain bike trails at Shelby Township‘s River Bends Park. Today we had another trail work day to give the trail a nice autumn cleanup and the rerouting of a couple problematic spots.

It’s pretty amazing to me how things like this come together. A group of us, who generally all get along and work well with each other, came together and worked to make something that we enjoy even better. Even though the specific mechanics still baffle me, this is how it seems to work: people with a wide variety of skills but a common interest come together, self-organize, then volunteer their time building publicly accessible facilities that the entire community can enjoy.

As a community we essentially have two ways of making new public resources exist: we can either pay for something (via taxes, with all the overhead of getting this to happen), or we can make it happen ourselves doing the work without direct compensation, something generally known as volunteering. Parks typically don’t know what mountain bikers actually want, so for building new bike-accessible trails the best way is for us to get like-minded folks together and work with the parks to make it happen. This is what we did, and just like countless other locales across the country there are now trails that we all enjoy.

The trails at River Bends aren’t particularly challenging, but more people than I can remember have told me about getting started riding these trails. This was the goal, and it makes me, and surely everyone who has worked on these trails, very proud. We do good work.

(The photo above shows, from left to right, a number of people who were out at today’s trail day. In the top row: Mark Johnson, Erik Silvassy, Mark Senyk, Roger Class, Mike White, Rob Wedding, Bob Costello, Jeremy Verbeke (Co-Trail Coordinator at River Bends), Rodney Gullett, and Deanna Velasco. Second row: Aaron Burgess, Steve Vigneau (me, the other Co-Trail Coordinator at River Bends), Art Fleming, and Jeremy Kozak. Down in front is Jude, who is Mike White’s son and a perpetual presence at trail work days. Not pictured are the folks who were had to leave early or were out grabbing food for the rest of us, including Greg Kuhn, Chris Goddard, Erik Silvassy, Kristi Heuvers, Erick Mile, Katie Mile, Nick Shue, Marty Shue, or Pete Kresmery.)

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Remarking the Seasonal Loop at River Bends

River Bends is going to have a bit of remarking at the CRAMBA-IMBA trail day this weekend, and in preparation I removed most of the the wrong-way signs from the segment formerly known as the Seasonal Loops. A number of these signs were no longer necessary, and a handful of them had been shot with airsoft pellets to the extent that they weren’t very readable from a distance.

At some point in the next year or so I hope we are able to replace many of these with more permanent Carsonite-type fiberglass markers (such as this one at Bloomer), but for now it’ll be more of the same corrugated plastic and vinyl markers, color coordinated with the map.

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