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Month: April 2014

Ideas… Ideas…

Today is one of those days where I find myself with lots of ideas for things to do swirling around in my head. I just have to parse through them and figure out which ones are feasible, and when I can do them…

So, what am I thinking would be good to do? Here…

  • Take a half-day on Thursday and go ride Poto on a single speed before the Waterloo public meeting with the DNR.
  • Take a half-day on Friday to hike PLRA and gather more GIS data for mapping.
  • Order some wide, hookless carbon fiber rims from Light-Bicycle to build a new set for the El Mariachi Ti. Then sell the existing Arch EX wheels…
  • Hike River Bends and clean up any lingering deadfall. Maybe Saturday?
  • Attend the Stony Creek Trail Day.
  • Write up a new description for Massive Fallout.
  • Write up a document trying to convince more people involved in volunteering to work on MTB trail stuff.

Now, to find the time…

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Defective REI Venturi Shorts (2014)

A few days back I picked up a pair of the REI Venturi shorts, as I needed more shorts and these were quite comfortable when tried on. I wore them for much of the day today and they were comfortable, but poorly engineered pockets is causing me to return them.

Upon arriving home from my parents’ Easter dinner, when reaching into my left pocket with my right hand to get my keys, I heard a tearing sound. It turns out that the thread used to stitch along the pockets is not as stretchy as the short material itself, and stretching the edge of the pocket causes the stitching to burst, as seen above. At $69.50/pair I expected better, and I’ll be returning these tomorrow. I’m disappointed in this because they are comfortable and met a need.

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A Wish Fulfilled

Ever since beginning to do mountain bike trail work and seeing the effect of a heavy storm on trails I’d wanted to see this first hand. Today I saw this, and no longer wish to. JD Harvey and I were part-way through the more remote parts of some single track at Stony Creek when a hail storm arrived. Trees fell around us, an inch or two of 1-2cm hail fell in minutes, and we had to ride rough single track near-blinded to get out. This makes for a good story, but something that I do not wish to repeat.

Today’s weather was quite excellent, and after plans with Joy and Mark there was a bit of time, so I decided to go for a first-ride-of-the-season at Stony Creek on the El Mariachi Ti with the CroMoto Grande rigid fork. Not long after beginning the 6/12 Hour route I ran into JD riding his new fatbike, so he and I began riding together. After completing one lap we decided to start another, planning to part ways at the Swamp Cutout of the Roller Coaster so he could ride home to Rochester and me to the car. Not long after starting it seemed to be getting dark quickly, but we pressed on as we normally would have been out of the trails within fifteen minutes. Just before reaching the end of the Saturday/Sunday Reroute, within the span of 30 seconds a bit of rain spat, then the wind kicked up and hail began.

Unlike my usual experiences with hail and thunderstorms — where it lasts for a few moments before changing to torrential rain — this didn’t let up.

As we made our way to the climb to the Rest Area I called for us to stop and walk up the hill to save time, something which seemed to be over in a flash. Descending from the Rest Area to the Swamp Cutout was a haze as riding instinct took over. Whenever I’d look up from the trail I’d see branches and whole trees falling in what appeared to be a fog of painful ice. I fell briefly when rounding a small drop/corner (same places as here, five years earlier) due to my wheels rolling out from under me on the ball bearing-like ice, but save for interrupting our escape this was uneventful. Once getting down to the Swamp Cutout we found that the entire forest was covered in 1-2″ deep balls of quickly melting hail.

The usual route back to the parking lot, straight from marker 29 to 2 was blocked with an immense tree, so we turned back, detoured along the single track by marker 3. Between that point and the parking lot we had to climb over at least three more trees, and make a last-minute duck to avoid the neck-height wire which had fallen across the trail. I’m very fortunate this wasn’t a live power line, as I saw it just in time to duck, glancing my helmet off of it.

Once back at the car I quickly packed my bike inside, put JD’s on the rack, then got us both in the car with the heat turned on high. The photo above (and this one) were taken near the exit of the West Branch parking, as the hail began to melt. The river-like washes through the hail were exactly that: places where water was flowing down the pavement channeled through the ice. While packing the car this was flowing over my feet, something which I paid no mind as I was just happy to be out of the woods.

While this was quite an adventure, the worst storm I’ve been caught in, a good experience, a fulfilled wish, and something for good stories, I do not want to repeat it. We both were very fortunate that we didn’t get caught up in any of the falling trees, didn’t crash in a serious way, nor encounter any other catastrophe. Simply having wet/dirty bikes, some welts (I’ve got a large one on each forearm and a sore finger), and a story to tell show just how fortunate nature was with us. This shouldn’t be pushed a second time.

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High Volume Tire for Rigid Fork


With Dually rims acquired I started looking around for parts to build up a high volume front wheel for the El Mariachi Ti when it is sporting its new rigid fork. Within a few days of poking around on eBay I had everything needed, some nice spokes, a Shimano XT hub (same as on the OE El Mariachi Ti wheels), and some generic (but nice) blue nipples.

On Wednesday evening I laced the wheel, and thinking everything had gone great I tensioned it on Thursday night, finding myself very happy with how it came out. Tension was very even, it was true to within 0.5mm, and dished to less than that. All was good until I started looking it over and found that I’d made a very amateurish mistake, something I haven’t done on any of the other wheels I’ve built: I put the valve stem hole in the wrong spot: photo.

If I’d made this mistake on a normal rim I could have easily shuffled the spokes one hole over and all would be good. Not so on the Dually with its offset drilling. This required me to completely unlace and rebuild the wheel to get it right. This morning I found myself awake particularly early (a combination of Danielle’s alarm and my consuming too much caffeine the day before), so I headed down to the basement and relaced the wheel before going to work.

This evening I tensioned it, fit the tire, and set it up as tubeless. During tubeless setup I was a bit concerned that I didn’t have tape wide enough to cover the spoke holes, but as this photo shows, Velocity’s 24mm Velotape is more than wide enough to cover the spoke holes. All went good, and now I’m looking forward to dry trails so I can try the wheel. I may also try it in the suspension fork, as it fits very nicely: photo.

The assembled wheel came out to be 1821g with tire and lockring, but without rotor. This is heavy, but it was expected, as the Dually is 215g heavier than the Arch EX normally used on the front of the bike. Being rotating weight this is likely to be noticeable, even with the ~400g saving of the rigid fork. Measuring 63mm wide (7mm more than the 2.25″ tire on the Arch EX) I’m expecting the extra volume to make it worthwhile. If not, it was a fun experiment and the wheel can likely be sold for what I’ve put into it. Total cost was $137.16, not counting the tire which I’ve had sitting on the shelf since late 2012. (I believe the tire was around $40 via Chainlove.)

Here’s the build specifics:

Rim:  Velocity Dually 29″ (45mm wide)

Tire: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4″ (Old Tread Pattern, Tubeless Ready)

Spokes: Ritchey-branded DT Swiss Competition 2.0 (296mm)

Nipples: Generic Blue-anodized Aluminum

Hub: Shimano HB-M788 (15mm TA, Centerlock)

Rim Tape: Velocity Velotape (24mm wide)

Valve Stem: Stan’s NoTubes 35mm

Spoke Tension: ~120 kgF on the higher side.

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2006 Honda Civic EX Valve Cover Gasket Replacement

Some time in mid-2013 I noticed that my car’s engine was getting a bit oily, with all of it appearing from just below the valve cover. This meant was time for a new valve cover gasket. While I’m not much of a car guy, I figured this should be a relatively easy DIY repair, and it was. By following both Chilton directions (thanks, MeL!) and some of this YouTube Video I had no issue with this repair. Following a test drive last night and today’s trip to work no new oil is visible on the engine, and it seems to be running properly. Out of pocket cost was $31.25 (for the gasket set and some RTV silicone), and I suspect I saved $100 – $200 in labor costs while learning something.

With new tires fitted yesterday, there’s only one active issue left with my car: a rattling/resonating when load is applied to a cold engine when the RPMs are low. I suspect it’s a tensioner or pump that’s sticking a bit. Hopefully within the next couple of days I’ll get some time to diagnose this one as well.

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