Failed Disc Brake Pad

On Wednesday evening when out riding at River Bends my rear brake became a bit stiff then suddenly failed. It seems the pads had rusted to the point where the pad material separated from the backing plate. Thankfully this failure was pretty simple and non-catastrophic, as I was able to finish the ride… just a bit slower.

Cut Hockey Pucks as Pinch Weld Protectors

After lifting a car via pinch weld, hearing a pop, and seeing it bend slightly I became nervous about setting a jack stands using them without any additional support. Thanks to the magic of the internet I got this idea from a car forum: cheap hockey pucks ($1.99/ea at DICK’s) with slots cut in them. The pinch weld is placed in the slot and the jack stand supports the heavy rubber puck which braces the frame rail.

These were cut by laying a 1cm strip of masking tape on the top of each puck, making a vertical cut with a hacksaw, then an angled cut to meet the vertical. The wedge of rubber was then encouraged out of the slot with a flat blade screwdriver and cleaned up as needed. Fairly simple and only about 20 minutes of work after acquiring the pucks.

Tyvek Tape for Fat Bike Tubeless

On recommendation from my friend Roger, who is also building up a new fat bike, I decided to try some using some seam sealing tape designed for Tyvek installations as rim tape (MSDS). This is commonly known as “Tyvek Tape”, even though it isn’t actually made of Tyvek. It is actually a somewhat stretchy polypropylene tape with acrylic adhesive. At $11.98/roll it’s not exactly cheap, but with 50m of tape in a single roll there’s enough to do numerous wheelsets.

I’d intended to use Scotch 8898 tape for tubeless, but after looking at the Tyvek Tape I decided to give it a try and thus far I’m glad I did. On the DT Swiss BR 2250 wheels I first installed the DT Swiss Rim Strip, centering it between the locking bead seats (photo). I then laid one strip of tape with the edge in the bead seat, butted up against the vertical side of the rim. This was smoothed against the Rim Strip and a second piece was applied to the other side. After most of the wrinkles were smoothed I laid a third strip of tape down the center to cover any center wrinkles, pulling it taught as one normally does when installing any rim tape. This was smoothed into place with a rag and taping was considered complete (photo).

To ensure the tape was well bonded I then fitted a tire and tube, inflated to 20 PSI, and set the whole assembly in the sun to warm up and soften the adhesive. After 30 minutes or so I took the wheel out of the sun and set it in the basement to cool back down. Once cool I deflated the tube, unseated the tire from one side of the rim, and removed the tube. A Stan’s valve was then fitted into the rim, a plastic washer placed on the outside below the locknut, and everything tightened up. The valve core was removed and an air compressor and custom chuck was used to seat the tire. Four ounces of Stan’s Sealant was injected into the wheel via a syringe, the wheel closed up and reinflated, and the sealant shaken around the wheel.

The tape provided a nice, smooth surface for the tire bead to slide across, and after a few days the wheels (fitted with Panaracer Fat B Nimble 26 x 4.0 tires) are nicely holding air. This tape seems like a great, light-weight product for using on fat bike wheels. I’m glad I gave it a go, as the thinner, stretchy tape seems much easier to apply than the Scotch 8898. It seems to make a great seal and hold well, and was pretty easy to install.

I inadvertently ended up with a couple small puckers along the rim tape on the rear wheel, but I think this was due to either sticking the Tyvek tape to the rim tape with too much force, or possibly deflating the tubed wheel while still warm. I don’t believe I can correct it without completely removing the rim tape, so I’ll have to live with it.

UPDATE on 2015-Sep-22: Over the past few days the rear wheel — the one with the small puckers — lost all pressure. The root of the problem turned out to be adhesive used on the Tyvek tape. The acrylic adhesive is a bit gummy and softens with a bit of heat. My process of installing a tube, deflating the tube, then unseating half of the tire dislodges the tape leading to the puckering — which was a symptom of dislodged tape — and thus leaking. Using some tweezers I can unfold and put the tape back in the bead seat which allows a tubeless setup to hold, but this setup feels fragile. I think the combination of thin tape, soft adhesive, and very wide rim strip (resulting in not much adhesive being on the rim) allow this to happen.

While the wheels are currently holding 20 PSI reliably, I’m concerned about what may happen to the tape in hot weather or as regular tire maintenance needs to occur. I suspect that I may have to switch to a different tape some time down the line, maybe the rubber adhesive Scotch 8898. Doing this will be a pain, because of how solidly the acrylic adhesive sticks to the rim and rim strip… At this point I may have to get some new rim strips.

UPDATE on 2015-Sep-29: I’ve decided to move away from the Tyvek tape. The rear wheel deflated over the next few days in the same failure mode, and both of my friend Rodger’s wheels went flat when taken out in the sun. When disassembling and cleaning the wheel set I found the front beginning to suffer from the same issue, so it was only a matter of time before the tape became dislodged there and failed.

Because of the tenacity of the Tyvek adhesive I purchased another set of rim strips from eBay and cut the current ones. The rims were cleaned up with mineral spirits and set to dry. In a few days I’ll be trying them again with new strips and Scotch 8898. If that fails I’ll be trying FattyStripper Tubeless Solutions trim-to-fit latex rim strips. vs.

Attempting to pay a medical bill online and accidentally typing (link intentionally omitted) instead of resulted in this wonderful false AV warning within my browser. I’d think that a big hospital would work to fix this sort of thing…

Fat Bike Capacity: 1 + 1

Lately I’ve had a need to carry two fat bikes on my well-loved 1Up USA Quick Rack, so I ordered a second Fat Tire Spacer Kit. Price has gone up from $29 to $34 and the style has changed, but it still seems like the best external rack available for carrying a fat bike. The original, which adds Delrin spacers can be seen on the left, and the new style which uses wider angled bits for the tire is on the right.

At 122mm (4.8″) the new spacer kit is slightly wider than the previous’ 114.5mm (4.5″). I’m planning to build a new fat bike with 5″-class tires, but with the knobs of the 45NRTH Flowbeist and Dunderbeist — the winter tires intended for the new bike — measuring 110mm on an 82mm rim I should be good. Hopefully the 4.8″ Schwalbe Jumbo Jim also fits, as I’m likely using those for summer… If the 122mm-width arms are needed for the new bike I’ll likely move the spacer kit or trays around, but hopefully that won’t be needed.

When installing these I also took my friend Rodney’s recommendation and fitted some cut-down bicycle grips to the spacers on both trays. The original design leaves narrow silicone bands in place, but these don’t span the full width of the Fat Tire spacers and the rack can end up making a slight rattling sound. The original foam grips from the Mukluk 2 were a perfect fit for this.

DT Swiss BR 2250 Classic Wheelset First Impressions

Even though purchases are on hold for a couple months I’ve been eyeing a new fat bike for this winter, making up a typical build spreadsheet to have fun with the planning phases. The frame that want (2016 Salsa Blackborow) isn’t available yet so I normally wouldn’t make any parts purchases, but I came across a deal on a wheelset that I couldn’t pass up. Bike-Discount, an online seller out of Germany renound for low prices on European-origin components, had the DT Swiss 2250 Classic wheelset listed for $628.23 (plus $22.60 postage) a few months ago; about what I’d expected to pay for some hubs and  a single rim. I ordered them and a couple weeks later they arrived.

For my next fat bike there were three major wants which this wheelset meets: through-axles, current axle width standards (197mm rear, 150mm front), and DT Swiss’ excellent Star Ratchet. Through-axles make for a very solid connection to the frame, the 197mm / 150mm axles work for 5″-class fat bike tires and any Rock Shox Bluto-compatible fork, and the Star Ratchets are incredibly solid, easy to maintain, and can be upgraded to higher engagement via either DT Swiss’ own 36-point upgrade or Bontrager’s not-well-advertised 54-point pieces. While I haven’t begun purchasing parts for the bike yet, I’ll likely be getting the 54-point ratchets as they’ve been working out well on the Jones Plus.

There isn’t much info on these wheels and rims available online yet, outside of folks having tried them on a Pivot LES Fat or taking photos at shows. Thus, I wanted to document measured weights (well, mass) and included parts. Note that all these include paper tags attached to the wheels, as I wanted to leave them intact in case I choose to sell the wheelset:

Front Wheel: 1068g (w/ paper tag)
Rear Wheel: 1180g (w/ paper tag)
Rim Strip: 61g (each)
Centerlock Adapter: 26g (w/ paper tag)

Here’s the included accessories (photo):

  • Centerlock Adapters (2x)
  • Rim Strips (2x)
  • SRAM XD driver
  • End caps for 190mm or 197mm axles

Thus far I’m pretty happy with these wheels and I’m getting excited about building a bike using them. The build seems top notch, and the rim itself has a very nice box section along the edge while being single wall in the center. (This can be seen in the photo on the BR 710 page, as this is the same rim.) There is also a slight lip (photo) where the tire’s bead will sit, which will hopefully make tubeless setups nicely reliable at low (read: winter) pressure. I’m intending to tape them with Scotch 8898, the same tape which Mike Curiak used on the SUNringlé MüleFüt wheels that he built for my Mukluk. This’ll be placed over the DT Swiss rim strip, and coupled with some valves, Stan’s, and likely plastic nuts due to the single wall issues, will hopefully make for a strong, fun, light weight fat bike wheel. I’ll likely have to plug the weld vent/purge holes (photo) with silicone before the build.

The complete photo album of these wheels can be found here: DT Swiss BR 2250 Classic

T8 Fluorescent Lamp Retrofit

The fluorescent light fixture in the laundry room had issues, with only two bulbs reliably lighting and a persistent buzzing sound. This is the telltale sign of a failing ballast, and with the bulbs being fairly old (last replaced in 2005) it was time for some work.

The fixture had been fitted with F40 / T12 bulbs and a pair of two-lamp magnetic ballasts. Since these bulbs aren’t being manufactured anymore (this was stopped in mid-2012) I had to move to T8 bulbs. This wasn’t a problem, as I’d been keen to try the Philips F32T8/TL950 high-CRI (98!!!) / 5000K bulbs. Outside of very specialized full spectrum bulbs these seem like the holy grail of daylight lamps. They aren’t readily available in shops in less than 25 packs, but some Amazon sellers have them individually for reasonable prices.

Four bulbs were ordered ($13.32/ea) via Amazon, along with an ICN-4P32-N electronic ballast ($15.60), and this evening I put it all together. Wiring was surprisingly simple, with everything being relatively color-coded and easy to fit. Two old magnetic ballasts were removed, the replacement electronic ballast was fitted / capped / taped, and it was ready to go.

These lamps look great, and the laundry room is now brighter than ever. These lamps look so good that I’m now considering them for over my workbench and trying to find a way to use them in the office. With such a high CRI and daylight-like temperature these should be good for dealing with seasonal affective disorder or just general blue feelings in winter. (Yes, getting out and riding in daylight helps, but that’s not really possible on weekdays…)

2015 Big M XC Race Report (Fat Bike Open)

I don’t normally write up post-race reports, but this past weekend’s Fun Promotions cross country mountain bike (XC) race at Big M ski area in Udell Hills was fun and notable, so I figured I’d give it a go.

A week earlier my buddy, fellow CRAMBA board member, and Tree Farm Relay team mate Chris Westerlund expressed an interest in going to race, and with Beginner (his class) and Fat Bike Open (the class I wanted to do) starting at 2:45pm time seemed like it would work out for a single-day trip. So, we made plans to go. While the Fat Bike Open class is inexplicably the same length as Beginner (two laps) it still sounded like a fun time, especially if we padded the day with some North Country Trail riding at the end.

Meeting at about 8:30am at our place the drive was pretty easy, affording us plenty of time to stop along the way and grab lunch (Butter Burgers and onion rings at Culver’s in Cadillac), arriving with just shy of two hours to spare. This gave us breathing room to register, change clothes, get bikes ready, and warm up. I’m normally not one to warm up much before a race, but as I’ve been finding that ~20 minutes into a race I hit a small wall and feel blah for a few minutes I decided to give it a go. The random trails, two track, and paved roads around Big M allowed for an easy ~30 minutes pedaling around and playing with tire pressure (Strava data, 10 PSI front, 11 PSI rear), which left me feeling quite good. Between first check while sitting in the sun on the car and rolling around in the cool shade my tires lost 1 PSI — a non-trivial amount on a fat bike — so I’m glad I did.

While warming up and getting ready we were able to chat with a number of different folks including some friends from the west side, folks who were at the Tree Farm Relay the day prior, and Steven Terry, a friend-of-a-friend from the Traverse City area. Steve and I had ridden together last autumn during an Iceman pre-ride that I attended on the way back from my first Marquette trip, so it was great to see him again. Being a pretty regular racer and sponsored by Framed Bikes I was pretty sure that he was going to beat me, but we ended up trading places throughout the race, riding together for most of it, and having a great time.

After starting a few minutes late (the kids race which used the Corkpine loop was running over) the race was on, with Bob Kidder (472) taking off in the lead, followed by Mike Dolefin (470), Todd Rillema (473), myself (475), Steven Terry (474), Steve Balough (471), and Kevin LaRoe (476). (Start photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) This order continued until the trail turned slightly uphill near the turn from Corkpine to Bullwacker (marker 34) when Mike, Todd, myself, and Steven passed Bob. We snaked along the Bullwacker single track heading southwest until the long, two-track-ish climb up to marker 47, when Steven and I pulled by Mike and Todd. From there on out it was him and I riding alone together at the front.

Steven and I rolled along through the twisting, flowy single track, with occasional brief bits of chatting but mostly riding along pushing a bit. I’d occasionally pull away, he’d occasionally catch me (thankfully he had a loud freehub so I could tell when he was close without looking), and then after the first lap (turn photos: 1, 2) Steven pulled past me on the long Bullwacker climb. Riding right on the edge of my ability I hung on to his wheel up the climb and was a bit surprised when he pulled over slightly at the top and let me by. We rolled through the course again, a bit faster this time, and then with about 1-2 miles left — I believe just after marker 23 where the course makes a hairpin downhill left turn — I saw Steven about 50 feet behind me on the ridge and decided to see if I could keep the lead and finish ahead of him.

I did my best to pick good lines through the remaining twisty trail, over some brake bumpy downhills, and to keep pedaling hard until the end and it worked, finishing a mere 27 seconds in front of Steven (finish photos: 1, 2). The photo above shows me at the finish area, pushing pretty hard as I was spinning away in the top gear on my fat bike (30:11). Despite the look I was pretty happy at the end, as this is only the second non-beginner race that I’ve won; the first being the Addison Oaks Fall Classic in 2014 which didn’t take nearly the same amount of effort. I don’t race much, and I’m not normally too far back in the standings of races that I do enter, but ending up on the podium, much less winning, is a very rare thing. (Podium photos: 1, 2.)

Chris ended up having a great race as well, taking first place in his category, surprising the leader with a pass not far from the end. He’s now on track to win his category for the whole MMBA Championship Point Series which’ll net him a nice custom jersey. (Chris’ finish photos: 1, 2, podium shot.)

The full race results can be found here.

After the race Chris and I headed over to the Udell Trailhead of the North Country Trail and had a fun ride south to Udell Hills Road and back (Strava data, NCT map). This area climbs over the hill in Big M and includes some great scenery, wonderful flowing downhills, and fairly decent climbs. It was a great way to end the day and got us ready for a nice meal at Clam Lake Beer Company before heading back home.

It was a good day.

Marquette Food Recommendations

After traveling to Marquette a handful of times I began putting together a short list of restaurants and such which I think are worth eating at. This started as a list that my friend Marty sent, but I’ve built it out and added my own descriptions. This was sent to a few friends who are heading to this part of the UP for the first time and now I’m wanting to share it as a blog post.

Just because something isn’t here doesn’t mean that it’s bad; I simply haven’t tried it thus don’t have anything to say about it. Every place listed here I’d gladly eat at again:

Donckers: Candy shop, has a restaurant upstairs that’s great for breakfast. I haven’t had any other meal here.
Sweet Water Café: I like this place more than Donckers for breakfast, but it’s different. Donckers is more like a high quality greasy spoon; Sweet Water Cafe is more like an Ann Arbor restaurant with high quality ingredients. Both are good.
Lagniappe: Cajun place. The food seemed good, but prices struck me as a bit high. Tasty, though.
Vango’s: Pizza place which is outstanding, the cudighi (local style sausage) sandwich is great.
The Vierling: Little more upscale restaurant and brewery, but t-shirt/jeans is still fine. Good food, more sit down-y.
Border Grill: Tex-Mex short order stuff, really good. The fish tacos were some of the best I’ve had.
ToGo’s: Good sandwich / sub shop; great for carryout.
Jean Kay’s Pasties: Classic UP pasties, really really tasty. You can also buy them par-baked / frozen to take home.
Ore Dock Brewing Company: Good brewery, snacky food (not much). You can bring food in.
Blackrocks Brewery: Great brewery, no food at all. I think you can bring food in.
Third Street Bagel: Giant bagel sandwiches, decent coffee. Open early.
Dead River Coffee: Outstanding small coffee shop. Very, very good.
Marquette Food Co-Op: Great little grocery store, prepared food, real high quality stuff.
Tadych’s Econo Foods: Regular grocery store, great beer selection. Essentially across the street from the north end of the black trail (Harlow Farms Connector) or whatever; the easy way into the trails from town.
Jasper Ridge Brewery: This place is in Ishpeming and where a group ride meets at 6pm on Wednesdays to ride the RAMBA trails. Beer is nothing special, food is basic. The deep fried mushrooms are great.
Muldoons Pasties: This pasty shop is located in Munising, about an hour from Marquette. Pasties are tasty, but different from Jean Kay’s. I think I like Jean Kay’s more, but a pasty from Muldoons is definitely good and hits the spot.

Subaru Outback Oil and Tire Rotation Change Cost Analysis

With my new vehicle, a 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium, after a basic mental cost analysis I decided to do oil changes and tire rotations myself. I’ve acquired the needed tools for both and here’s the actual cost analysis:

One-Time Tool Purchases: $175.48

  • Oil Drain Pan: $8.99
  • Funnel: $3.99
  • Oil Storage Container: $6.99
  • Oil Filter Wrench: $5.89
  • Floor Jack: $99.99 (replaced sub-standard $35-ish one from years ago)
  • Rubber Wheel Chocks: $15.98
  • Qwik Valve & Supplies: $33.65 (shipped, includes vinyl hose and snap-on fitting)

Per-Change / Rotation Consumables: $33.84

  • Mobil 1 0W-20: $26.99 (6 quarts, only 5.1 needed for vehicle)
  • Subaru OE Oil Filter: $6.85 (4-pack via eBay, w/ crush washer)

Typical prices for a synthetic oil change is around $75, and another $20 for tire rotation at a semi-local shop that I trust (LTM Quick Lube). Since coupons and deals are typically available, I’ll figure $90 average total for both. The monetary cost of doing the work myself is $33.84 per service, taking into account the one-time purchases I will break even after two more iterations; which should be before the end of the year.

Time cost is a concern, but I think this is a wash between doing the work myself and taking my car in. The first oil change and tire rotation took approximately one hour for the work itself, and I think that with the installation of the Qwik Valve this should be cut down even further, as I shouldn’t have to deal with removing/cleaning/reinstalling the drain plug and crush washer.

LTM Quick Lube is located at Opdyke and South Boulevard in Auburn Hills, and while I can usually find time, it’s roughly 30 minutes of extra driving when incorporated into another trip, and I have to find a convenient time. The oil change and tire rotation at the shop takes 15-20 minutes, so I’m estimating just about an hour to take my car in. (The dealership would also be an option, but it’s equal time away, and I suspect will take slightly longer than a dedicated oil change location.) I will also have to take the old oil for recycling, but there are convenient locations for this on my way to work, which should only add a couple more minutes and only needs to occur every other oil change.

Doing the oil changes and tire rotations myself will also give me a bit more flexibility, as if I find some time later at night or early in the morning before work I can get things done instead of having to find time when the shop is open. Thus, it seems like doing the oil changes and tire rotations myself are the best solution, giving me a bit more flexibility as to scheduling, a bit of cost savings, and no additional time cost outside of the initial setup, which has already been completed.