Archive for the ‘acquired things’ Category.

New Gravel Bike Day: 2019 Salsa Warbird Carbon 105 700

It feels like only yesterday, but five years ago I got my hands on a Salsa Vaya 2 which had an unexpected, but significant, impact on how I ride bikes. Prior to this (and despite brief flirtations with a CX bike that didn’t fit me well) whenever I would set out to do longer rides it’d be on a mountain bike. On dirt roads or local neighborhood streets, gravel road races or the Macomb Orchard Trail, I’d be on an MTB. This… worked… but after getting the Vaya things clicked and I found myself routinely doing things like 50+ mile paved rides after work in springtime, gravel road centuries, and fast-paced road rides with buddies. It really showed me how much fun a drop bar, skinnier tire bike—but one still with enough tire to ride off road—can be. By late 2018 I’d racked up over 10,000 miles on the Vaya.

As new gravel-optimized frames came about and components on the Vaya started to wear, I kept looking around for something new. Despite flirting with ideas for everything from a Trek Checkpoint to an ALLIED ALFA ALLROAD, from the Specialized Diverge to the Canyon Grail—all great bikes—nothing really clicked until Salsa announced the Warbird v4. Carbon and a very well designed dampening system, through axles, internal routing for everything, four bottle cage mounts, and overall standard parts it was just what I wanted. While I wasn’t too keen on the color patches on the white frame, the new R7000 105 group is perfect and I figured I could do something creative to change up the coloring.

After a boat load of geometry-checking, email back and forth with the ever-excellent Mike Wirth at Tree Fort Bikes, and some help and information from my friend and Salsa/QBP’s rep Jeff Buerman, a 2019 Warbird Carbon 105 700 was on order just for me. While driving up to Iceman this past weekend, where I raced my beloved Salsa El Mariachi Ti, I got an email notification that the Warbird was in, and I could pick it up! Kristen and I swung by Ypsilanti on the way home, and voilà, I’ve got a new gravel bike!

The stock build on the Warbird 105 is really well chosen, but like any bike there’s always some things to tweak or add. I added  the usuals like bottle cages, speed/cadence sensors, saddle, seatpost, and pedals, but I also had some spare parts sitting around home (eg: Thomson X4 stem, XT brake rotors) that were a bit nicer than stock so I swapped them on during the build.

I also unexpectedly got a too-good-to-pass-up deal on some DT Swiss wheels (CR 1600 SPLINE 23). While the CR 1600 wheelset has the same rims as the well-chosen stock C 1800 SPLINE 23 wheels, the CR 1600s have DT Swiss’ Star Ratchet in the hub. I prefer this freewheel design over all others, and switching to these wheels also let me upgrade to 54 points of engagement; right in line with all my other bikes. (High engagement is a luxury, sure, but this Warbird is a really nice bike already so why not.) It also doesn’t hurt that the silver and black hubs go wonderfully with the grey Salsa graphics on the frame. Finally, I’ve been wanting to try the well-regarded Panaracer GravelKing SK, so I set up a tubeless-ready 43mm pair of the blackwall tires on the new wheels.

As an experiment I covered the purple/blue/red patches on the seat tube and fork with self-adhesive, black reflective Scotchlite tape. This both serves as a reflector and brings almost the entire bike together in shades of grey. While I’m not completely happy with the tape job, it’s smoothly applied and covers the colors, bringing the entire frame to a very sharp black/white/grey color scheme. It looks good.

The four water bottle cages are all usable, with the super-common 24oz Specialized 1st Generation Big Mouth Water Bottles fitting in three of the cages with a 21oz in the upper downtube cage, giving 93oz of on-bike fluid storage. Without a bottle in the upper downtube cage I can fit an even larger bottle in the lower one, giving plenty of options. Mounting a Revelate Designs Mag-Tank Bolt-On top tube bag behind the stem provides ~65 in3 of storage for food, roughly equal to what I can fit in one jersey pocket. Coupled with or in place of jersey pockets this should be good for carrying food and drink for quite-long rides; a nice upgrade over the Vaya. It’s a tight fit to stand over the bike with this bag attached, but as an optional accessory for longer rides it could work out real well.

I’ve yet to figure how I’ll carry for tools, but with the relatively low pressure tires I’ll put together another Mobo Pocket Air Pump-based setup fit into the Specialized seat bag.

Weight was not a primary concern with this build, but I’m quite happy with 21.08 pounds for the completely bike as pictured above. This includes a Garmin Edge 130, sensors, pedals, rear light, empty saddle bag, and bottle cages. Not bad for a bike capable of everything from pavement to single track. Not bad at all.

Here’s the details of the complete build:

Frame / Fork: 2019 Salsa Warbird Carbon / Salsa Waxwing (White)
Wheelset: DT Swiss CR 1600 SPLINE 23
Ratchets: DT Swiss HWTXXX00NSK54S (54T)
Tires: Panaracer GravelKing SK (RF743-GKSK-B, 700x43c, Black Sidewall)
Group: Shimano 105 (R7000)
Crank:
 Shimano FC-R7000 (50-34T, 172.5mm)
Bottom Bracket: Shimano SM-BB72-41
Cassette:
 Shimano CS-R7000 (11-32)
Shift/Brake Levers:
Shimano ST-R7020 (Left, Right)
Brake Calipers:
Shimano BR-R7070 (Front, Rear)
Brake Rotors: Shimano SM-RT81-S (160mm)
Brake Pads:
Shimano K02S (Resin)
Chain:
Shimano CN-HG601-11
Front Derailleur:
Shimano FD-R7000-F
Rear Derailleur:
Shimano RD-R7000-GS
Bar Tape:
MSW HBT-210 Anti-Slip Gel (Black)
Handlebar: Salsa Cowbell Deluxe (42cm)
Headset: Cane Creek 40 (IS41/28.6/H9 | IS52/40)
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 (SM-E139 10° X 100mm X 31.8 1-1/8 X4 Black)
Spacers: Generic Aluminum
Stem Cap: MASH Donut 2.0
Seatpost: Thomson Elite (SP-E101 27.2 X 330 Black, Straight)
Seatpost Clamp: Salsa Lip Lock
Saddle: Specialized Power Expert (143mm, Black)
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 3 (rev. C, Black)
Bottle Cages: Specialized Zee Cage II (2x Left, 2x Right)
Rear Light: Planet Bike Superflash Turbo
Bell: RockBros Bell (Black)
Sensors: Garmin Bike Speed Sensor (Front Wheel), Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor (Crank)
Reflective Tape: 3m / Scotchlite Black
Mastic Tape: 3M 2228
Mounting Hole Plugs: Heyco 2590
Top Tube Bag: Revelate Designs Mag-Tank Bolt-On
Saddle Bag: Specialized Seat Pack (Medium, Black)

During assembly I encountered three wrinkles, none of which affected the final build:

Seat Tube Bottle Mount: When using the bottle mount on the seat tube, spacers are needed otherwise the center of the bottle cage will bottom out on the front derailleur mount. Problem Solvers SpaceOut Spacers, left over from the downtube mount on my original Mukluk 2, solved this.

Cadence Sensor Fitment: A typical problem on modern gravel road bikes with large tire clearance and narrow Q factors, there is not much room between the crank arm and the chainstays. The Warbird v4 is no exception, and I was not able to fit the standard Garmin Cadence sensor safely. It fit, but left around 2mm of clearance. This tight clearance may also preclude the use of a Stages-type power meter on the Warbird.

To fit a cadence sensor on the bike I fashioned an aluminum plate which spans two chainring bolts opposite the crank arm, then sticking a self-adhesive Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor to this plate. It has a look not unlike a power meter, allows for easy battery changes, and is tucked nicely out of the way. (Picture)

Fork Crown Light Mount Screw: I typically replace all unneeded mount screws on my bikes with Heyco 2590 plastic plugs. These small plastic plugs press snugly into M5 bottle/fender/accessory screw mounts, keeping out water and giving a smooth, finished look. At ~$0.10/each (via Mouser) they are much cheaper than bike-specific parts. Compared to aluminum screws this doesn’t save much weight, but I think it’s much more attractive and likely slightly safer than a protruding screw head.

When unscrewing the upper fork light mount screw the head came off, and the screw was stuck in the hole. As I was turning the screw it felt quite stiff, and I suspect it was either cross threaded, or the hole contaminated with paint which locked the soft aluminum screw in place. This was not an issue with any other screw on the bike.

I was unable to drill out the screw, so I carefully ground it flat and painted the remaining end black. I have no intention to use this light mount, but if this ever changes I’ll deal with the problem later. (Unfortunately while attempting to drill it out I slipped with a tool, bumped the fork crown, and put a small, 4mm chip in the paint. This got touched up with some white enamel paint and now blends in nicely, but it was a really frustrating way to get the first chip in the paint. Oops.)

There’s still a few things left to do, and the inevitable tweaking of things like bar position, steerer length, and all those fun things. But after a lot of work to clone the Vaya’s fit I think it’s good, so hopefully not too much work be needed. That which is probably won’t happen until spring when the weather turns nice and is a bit more conducive to long rides… Exactly what this bike is made for.

Pictures from the unboxing, assembly, and of the complete bike can be found here in my photo gallery: Salsa Warbird 105 (2019)

Garmin Edge 130 (vs Edge 520) First Impressions

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Back in 2011, when I was thinking about trying Lumberjack 100 for the first time, I bought a Garmin Edge 500 so I could log data and use heart rate zones for training. This worked out very well, and over the years I’ve iterated through of other Garmin units, including the Edge 510, 520, and now the new Edge 130. After years of acquiring increasingly complex units I recently switched to the less-featured unit (the Edge 130), finding that it covers everything I need, with some nice upsides over the 520. It’s a great computer for my mixed mountain / gravel / dirt / road riding, including the same, basic, line-following breadcrump route support that’s gotten me through self-navigated events like Barry-Roubaix and Marji Gesick.

First, the upsides. This unit has a higher resolution black and white screen which looks remarkably good in direct sunlight; much better than the color 520. The unit itself is quite a bit smaller (41 x 63 x 16 mm) than the Edge 520 (49 x 73 x 21 mm) which fits better on my stem mounts. I think the all-dark-grey color of the housing blends in with a bike better. The unit also feels like it responds faster to button presses. While this may just be the faster-updating display, it’s nicer when flipping through data pages.

Now, the downsides. While there are fewer features (no base map, can’t have as many data fields on screen at once — all well covered elsewhere), none affect my general use of the unit, but are worth mentioning. All are as of v2.20 firmware, and the software quirks will be changed:

  1. Zones (heart rate and power) must be defined using Garmin Connect; they cannot be configured in the unit itself.
  2. It is not possible to rename sensors. This means I can’t name a bike’s speed/cadence senors after the bike, which can make things a bit confusing if I have multiple sensors active in an area and I want to be sure the unit is currently listening to the right one.
  3. The rubber cover for the microUSB connector feels a little flimsy. It effectively rotates on a small piece of rubber and as someone who plugs in my Garmin after every use I have concerns for how long it’ll last.
  4. Some of the fonts seem a bit small, leaving a bunch of extra white space (particularly Heading as seen above). They are still readable, just small.
  5. The unit prompts for ride type (Mountain, Road, etc) after each ride. You can’t select a ride type by default, although it does default to the last option. (Just something more to choose when saving.)

Outside of the display and size, the biggest difference between the 130 and 520 is the data fields each can display. While both units will record from the usual speed/power/heart rate sensors, they vary quite a bit in what each will display. Here are the data fields that the 130 and 520 will display (some names edited from official Edge 130 documentation so they’d align with the Edge 520 names):

Battery Level · Battery Status · Beam Angle Status · Cadence · Cadence – Avg. · Cadence – Lap · Calories · Dist. – Lap · Dist. to Dest. · Dist. to Next · Distance · ETA at Destination · ETA at Next · Elevation · Grade · HR – %Max. · HR – Avg. · HR – Lap · HR Zone · Heading · Heart Rate · Laps · Location at Dest. · Location at Next · Odometer · Power – 3s Avg. · Power – Avg. · Power – Lap · Power – Max. · Power – kJ · Power Zone · Speed · Speed – Avg. · Speed – Lap · Speed – Max. · Sunrise · Sunset · Time · Time – Avg. Lap · Time – Elapsed · Time – Lap · Time of Day · Time to Dest. · Time to Next · Total Ascent · Total Descent

Here’s the additional fields the Edge 520 will display:

Balance · Balance – 10s Avg. · Balance – 30s Avg. · Balance – 3s Avg. · Balance – Avg. · Balance – Lap · Course Pt. Dist. · Dist. – Last Lap · Dist. to Go · Front Gear · GPS Accuracy · GPS Signal Strength · Gear Battery · Gear Combo · Gear Ratio · Gears · HR – %HRR · HR – Last Lap · HR Graph · HR to Go · Light Mode · Lights Connected · PCO · PCO – Avg. · PCO – Lap · Pedal Smoothness · Power · Power – %FTP · Power – 10s Avg. · Power – 30s Avg. · Power – IF · Power – Last Lap · Power – NP · Power – NP Lap · Power – NP Last Lap · Power – TSS · Power – watts/kg · Power Phase – L. · Power Phase – L. Avg. · Power Phase – L. Lap · Power Phase – L. Peak · Power Phase – L. Peak Avg. · Power Phase – L. Peak Lap · Power Phase – R. · Power Phase – R. Avg. · Power Phase – R. Lap · Power Phase – R. Peak · Power Phase – R. Peak Avg. · Power Phase – R. Peak Lap · Rear Gear · Reps to Go · Target Power · Temperature · Torque Effectiveness · Trainer Resistance · VS – 30s Avg. · Workout Step

Most of these are around in-depth training with power, leg balance, support for electronic shifting, and other metrics that I don’t use. Therefore, nothing is lost moving away from the 520. Temperature — which is still recorded — is the only one that might be handy, but in my experience Garmin’s temperature readings seemed to be a bit off and didn’t really map to how it feels, and I definitely didn’t need it as an on-device data point during rides. (See the Edge 130 Manual Appendix and Edge 520 Manual Appendix for more information on what each field means.)

All said, I’ve had no problem configuring the Edge 130 to display the same screens as my Edge 520, resulting in the same functionality. Even nicer, on the 130 I can choose to not show the elevation chart; something that I’ve never found myself using and had to flip past on previous units. Here’s how I have the different display pages set up:

Page 1: / Six Fields: Timer, Speed, Distance, Time of Day, HR Zone, Heading

Page 2: / Four Fields: HR Zone, Cadence, Timer, Heading

Page 3 / Three Fields: Timer, Time of Day, Sunset

Page 4 / Map: No Fields (Map only, shows breadcrumb / loaded course.)

Thus far I’m happy with the unit; happy enough that I’ve sold my Edge 520.

For more specifics on the Edge 130, please check out both the excellent Garmin Edge 130 In-Depot Review by DC Rainmaker and the Garmin Edge 130 product page.

A Surprising Little Pump

Wanting to reduce the size of the tools carried on the Vaya I went looking for a new pump, and what I found surprised me: the diminutive Mobo Pocket Air Pump (4″). Despite being marketed by a company that seems otherwise known for low-cost and kid-branded recumbents, this seems to be a quality pump for MTB and gravel road emergency use.

Looking for a small emergency pump my primary requirements were functionality and size, followed by the amount of time it’d take to inflate a tire. I have tubeless setups on all my bikes, which tends to be pretty reliable. Flats are pretty rare, so when they do happen I’m okay with taking my time installing and inflating a tube. Being something that’ll be packed away for non-routine use I’d prefer the emergency gear to be small and reasonably light. The Mobo pump seemed like it might be too cheap to work well, but just about $20 (via Amazon) I figured I’d give it a go.

Ideally I’d like to be able to fit a tube, multi-tool (including chain tool), pump, and a car key inside of a small seat bag. With this pump I think I’m on the way, as it had no problems fitting into a slightly-older, small-sized Timbuk2 saddle bag along side a Crankbrothers M17 multi-tool, with plenty of room to spare. Along with a bottle cage mount it ships with a nice brass Presta to Schrader adapter and sports ball inflation needle. The inclusion of an adapter is good, because the pump itself is Schrader-only. Thankfully packing either the stock adapter or an aluminum one into the bag isn’t a big deal.

Inside the expectedly cheesy (but well packed) box is a solid-feeling pump that measures in at 3-7/8″ long, 7/8″ diameter at the body, and 1-1/2″ across the pump head. At 56g it’s lighter than a 16g CO2 cartridge, and right about the same size as a cartridge + valve head. Somewhat to my surprise it has a very nice, light, smooth pumping action and check valve sound. Basic tests in my basement showed to work reasonably well.

My first test was inflating a 700 x 35-43c Kenda tube from flat to shape, as one would do before fitting it into a tire. This took 42 pumps — none of which required any notable effort — and took well under a minute. The second test was inflating the front wheel from my Specialized Camber, a 30mm internal width rim fitted with a 29 x 2.3 Specialized Purgatory tire, from atmospheric pressure. After pumping for four minutes the tire had 22 PSI, which is my normal front tire pressure for rocky trails. Finally, the third test was re-inflating the Vaya’s front wheel — a WTB KOM i23 rim and 700 x 38c Specialized Trigger tire set up tubeless — from atmospheric pressure to 43 PSI. This took a total of around six minutes, with some pauses sprinkled in as my arm got tired. Nearing the final pressure the pump got fairly hard to press, leading me to believe that the claimed 100 PSI maximum is probably more a technical than functional limit. Getting a wheel to 100 PSI with this pump would be… a challenge.

Sure, four minutes for an MTB wheel and six minutes for my road bike is a while, and the low volume won’t be re-seating any tubeless tires, but as an emergency pump this should be fine to get one rolling again. While some folks prefer CO2, as a one-shot item I’d want to carry a pump as a backup… Being small enough to tuck in a saddle bag with other parts, and right about the same size and weight as a CO2 cartridge, but multi-use. It’s what I plan to pack into a seat bag on future rides. While I hope it works when I need it — and seems like it will — needing to use a pump in the middle of a ride is something no one wants.

2017-2018 Trainer Setup: CycleOps Hammer

For winter 2017-2018 I’ve put together a revamped, and much improved, trainer setup in my basement. Since the last setup with a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine things have been changed pretty significantly. I had previously set things up in front of a CRT HDTV which I’d previously used as a gaming / home theater setup but over the years I didn’t really use it for anything other than movies while on the trainer and basement music; just kind of a waste. This fall I sold the CRT HDTV and stands, picked up a cheap LCD TV (with built-in Netflix and Amazon apps), and put the whole setup on a metal stand in front of the trainer.

The result is a nice setup where a movie plays at eyes-on-the-road level and TrainerRoad is just a glance below. A CycleOps Hammer smart trainer provides resistance when riding, a nice step up from using a power meter, fluid trainer, and shifting to reach power targets. Four speakers (plus two over the workbench) are connected to a home theater receiver / amp, making for great audio from movies, or music via the AppleTV (and iTunes), although I tend to have subtitles on while watching movies to keep the audio at a reasonable level. A squirrel cage fan blows from a distance to keep me cool while riding. To ensure good ANT+ connectivity I’ve located the Garmin USB adaptor to a table next to the bike where it has a short path to the trainer, power meter, and my heart rate strap.

Since I have a Stages power meter on the Vaya, I have the option of using TrainerRoad’s PowerMatch. This uses the on-bike power meter and adjusts the smart trainer so that everything matches. I understand how this will benefit those wanting the same power numbers indoors and out (since no two units match exactly), but I’m still undecided if it’s a good setup for me. I’ll be working that out over the next few rides.

So far this setup is working out very nicely. While expensive initially (almost the cost of a bike) I vastly prefer the feel of a direct drive smart trainer to the fluid trainer with power meter. Both are effective, but I’m really enjoying not having to shift and chase power targets. Both Kristen (she also bought a Hammer) and I are following TrainerRoad plans over the winter, and as it moves into more over-under workouts, especially those with very short high intensity intervals, having a smart trainer is a huge bonus. It’s very difficult to effect radical changes in power and stay on target when shifting and matching speed to a power target. A smart trainer eliminates that need.

Wahoo KICKR Customer Service Disappointment

Planning to follow a TrainerRoad plan with Kristen all winter, and a little irked at the quirkyness of shifting to hit power targets on my current setup, I became interested in a smart trainer. My buddy Mike let me borrow his Wahoo KICKR, something I’d been itching to try after hearing so many good reviews of them. In short, I really liked the experience and was quite impressed by how much easier it made riding indoors. I focused more on putting out effort and selecting my cadence and less on staying on target, and large swings (say, over/unders) were MUCH easier to do when I didn’t have to seek the moving power target. I really wanted one. A few days later I noticed that Wahoo was selling NOS (new old stock) 2016 model for $899, which seemed perfect! The $1199 retail price is a bit more than I can afford, but this was doable for both Kristen and I. Orders were placed and we got ready to sell our fluid trainers.

Not hearing anything on the order after four days we sent notes to Wahoo’s customer service department. The responses indicated the units had accidentally been oversold, so we were offered refurbished 2016 units for $100 less. Having the same warranty and being even cheaper, that sounded great! We both accepted the offer and waited. A day later we were informed that the warehouse had found more stock of the new 2016 units and those were on the way, with the refurb offer rescinded. Not as good of a deal, but still, great! Because of this back and forth Melinda, the customer service person, tossed in a 142×12 Thru Axle Adapter for me and a TICKR X Heart Rate Monitor for Kristen; both things we could use and a really nice gesture.

Unfortunately, when the KICKRs arrived, we found that Wahoo had screwed up. These were not new units, nor refurbished, but instead returns which likely hadn’t been opened since the customers packed them up. Mine was scraped and the end caps were chewed up as if the previous owner didn’t clamp it down properly and had the bike come off while riding. The cassette was slightly greasy, it had a bunch of non-Wahoo stuff (Garmin manual and packaging, Monoprice packaging) in the box, and fine plastic dust from the expanded foam packaging was spread all over, including in the resistance unit. Kristen’s was arguably worse, with a heavily scuffed flywheel area (as if the owner had it resting against something), an empty through axle adapter box, and the previous owner’s personal info: the RMA from Clever Training and — inexplicably — a copy of his vehicle inspection report from Volkswagen Credit.

My KICKR:

 
  

Kristen’s KICKR:

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IMG_4730.JPG IMG_4743.JPG IMG_E4729.JPG

Separately we both immediately contacted Wahoo, but being Saturday didn’t hear back until Monday afternoon. (They’re open M-F, 10am – 7pm, and email responses seem to take about a day.) The first responses offered $100 refunds claiming the units were refurbished. After pushing back indicating that they are simply used and don’t seem like it’d be up to their standards, the refund offer was upped to $200 with the opportunity to test them out before accepting. While $699 is an even better price, neither of us were keen on paying so much for used trainers with plastic dust in sensitive electronics.

Since it’s often easier to work things out over the phone I decided to call Wahoo. I spoke with Micah, who explained that the original customer service person I’d contacted via email, Melinda, was best suited to help me. (I got the impression she’s a lead or manager.) Indicating that what I really wanted was a new trainer, and that I was hoping they could sort this all out, he informed me that the 2016 units are gone, so that’s no longer possible, but he’d get in touch with Melinda and let her know that we had talked. A short while later I heard back from Melinda, offering to return the used trainer and give a 10% discount on a new 2017 KICKR. I replied asking for the RMA, declining to purchase the 2017 model. (In the mean time Kristen had called and set up an RMA for hers, but did not receive a discount offer.)

I understand that things go wrong with warehousing and shipping, especially when winter (trainer time!) is coupled with the busy holiday season, but I can’t help but be left quite soured by this experience. Almost two weeks after making the purchase, with time sunk into a back and forth via email and visiting FedEx, we’re both back where we started… without smart trainers. And waiting on refunds.

Good thing we’ve still got fluid trainers to ride… Because the CycleOps Hammers that we ordered are still en route.

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.

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.

Flat Bars?!?

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

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

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

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

Salsa El Mariachi Ti Rebuild (2013 to 2014)

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

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

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

The complete build is as follows:

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

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

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

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

2016 45NRTH Wölvhammers have Lake MX101 Soles

When picking up the Blackborow I also grabbed a pair of 45NRTH‘s redesigned (for 2016) Wölvhammer boots. When installing cleats I noticed the cleat cap (the piece which is removed to access the cleat mounting area) is labeled “CLEAT-CAP 4 MX101 Lake Cap Trail V Part t-0603-01”. It didn’t take much digging to find that the entire sole is the same as that of the (apparently no longer made) Lake MX101.

Here is the bottom of the 2016 Wölvhammer: photo. Here is the bottom of the Lake MX101: photo.