Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bam! - It's Snow Bike Season

Michelle and I had visions of riding red dirt in St. George, UT over Thanksgiving but Mother Nature had other ideas and gave us icy roads & blowing snow. We decided to stay home and busted out the snow bikes instead (skis tomorrow). It only took one ride to get back in the groove and remember all the little tricks to stay comfy on the bike when its cold outside.

More snow began to fall this afternoon

Kenai loves snow biking!

It is very mid-winter-like for Thanksgiving weekend

The Osprey Hydraform Reservoir is working well so far this winter

Thursday's ride in single-digit temps shed light on a new piece of snow bike gear. I started using the Osprey Hydraulic Reservoirs this summer and really like them in my mountain bike packs so I thought I would try it out in the winter. No freezing yet...I am very excited and optimistic about this. Even when using all the known tricks, I still manage to freeze my Camelbak bladder at times.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Snowy Singletrack Adventure

Astute readers will quickly realize that I chose the word “adventure” rather than "ride". There was a lot of excellent riding involved yesterday but there were also some hike-a-bike sections through 8” of snow on the higher reaches of our route. A little hike-a-bike was a small price to pay for the excellent frozen singletrack riding we enjoyed.

Three of the four amigos

I met up with Mike, Gabe, and Mark in Jackson and a few flakes were beginning to fall as we began our ride with temps in the low 30s. The temps dropped and snow fell steadily throughout the afternoon but the steady effort kept us warm. Tree covered sections of the Hagan and Ferrin’s trails had about an inch of snow on them and climbing traction with the studded tires was excellent. Once we got above 7,500’, anything exposed had too much snow to ride so we would “connect the dots” of rideable sections with short hike-a-bikes. Winter MTB shoes were an excellent accessory to have on this ride. I even broke out the Moose Mitts to ensure that my hands stayed toasty. The sections of trail with deeper snow begged for a true snow bike but the regular mountain bike was a blast on the singletrack in the trees. Note to self: Ripping snow covered singletrack is waaaay more fun than grinding out miles on frozen Teton Valley back roads.

My desire to ride is still much higher than my desire to ski. I am sure the ski stoke will kick in eventually but for now I want to be on the bike when I can and yesterday just fueled the bike stoke even more. With tonight’s forecast of more snow, the next ride may require much fatter tires.

Mike broke trail most of the day

Gabe and his questionable footwear choice

Moose Mitts, Lake Winter Shoes, and a rear fender...this was not my first rodeo

Near the end of the ride Gabe shared that pushing his bike through the snow is not his favorite passtime

We actually rode more than I thought we would. Good times!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Cube Cyclocross, Race #2 this Saturday

I am looking forward to another weekend of cross racing close to home this weekend. Race #2 of The Cube Cyclocross in Rexburg is this Saturday. Who is with me?

Fiddee Cent had a strong race last weekend

Some serious questions will be answered this Saturday:

- Can Dave Saurman still ride a bike after surfing in Mexico for the past week?
- Will Fitzy's early-season form continue?
- Will "Medium" embrocation be enough, or will it be a day for the "Madness"?
- Will Michelle make her cyclocross season debut?

Victor Velo is loaning the City of Rexburg some of our course supplies so look for the course to be "PRO" this weekend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

CX Racing in Rexburg

“Holy shit, racing bicycles is fun” I say to myself as I look ahead at third place.
With two laps to go, I sit in fourth, on the wheel of third place, planning my attack.
And then I lose concentration in the singletrack, bobble a turn, and almost wreck.
The gap is now 25 yards.
The off-camber grass suits me and I ride smooth, gaining on my nemesis.
I dig deeper to grab his wheel before we hit the pavement.
Stay focused through the singletrack this time.
We exit the singletrack wheel to wheel.
At the left-hander onto the grass, I make my move.
Attack the last barrier, don’t stutter-step the remount, pedal!
Don’t look back.
A glorious third place effort.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let's Talk Tallboy

My new Tallboy has seen action for about six weeks but since the weather has caved, and our singletrack season is over, I thought it would be a good time to post a short-term review.

The Specs
- Large Tallboy Frame with Fox RP23 shock
- Cane Creek 110 Mixed Taper headset
- Stans 355s laced to DT Swiss 240s by Mike C.
- Fox F29 100 FIT RLC w/15mm axle
- SRAM XX Drivetrain with 39/26 Front and 11/36 Rear
- Magura Marta SL brakes
- Thomson Masterpiece Seatpost
- Thomson X2 Stem
- Edge Mtn Riser Bar, 700mm wide, uncut
- Ergon GP1 Leichtbau Grips
- WTB Silverado Saddle (still not sure if this is my saddle Nirvana)
- Time Atac XS Ti Carbon pedals

The tires obviously affect the overall weight, but with semi-lightweight 600g tires my Tallboy weighs 24.3 lbs. This is a huge improvement over my 2008 Turner Sultan which was close to 27 lbs. Bikes like the Tallboy, the Trek Superfly 100, and the Specialized Epic 29er have made full-suspension 29ers a viable race option.

The Ride
I dig it. If I had to choose one word to describe the ride, it would be “snappy”. It rides with the kind of snappiness that will make it tough to choose the hardtail next season. Four inches of travel is perfect for endurance racing and definitely smoothes out the bumps nicely. This bike will take the edge off of trail sections like Tuffy’s Rim during the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde and the Bustle Creek descent at Pierre’s Hole. The wheelbase is a bit longer than my Air9 hardtail and tight switchbacks are a little trickier but the low BB helps. Speaking of low bottom brackets...

Shock Pressure & Pedal Strikes
A lower BB for better cornering was part of my criteria for a new bike. The claimed BB height on the Tallboy is 12.8” but a rider’s weight effectively lowers the BB by about half an inch once you factor in the sag. Too little PSI in the shock means too much sag, which results in a BB that is too low, which results in lot of pedal strikes. At first, I was running too little PSI and whacking my pedals on a lot of rocks. Five PSI either way changes the ride quite a bit on this bike. At 168 lbs (no gear), I am running 160 PSI in the shock with the ProPedal on 2 and that seems to be the best balance between a comfortable ride and a firm pedaling platform. The ProPedal helps the bike ride higher up in its travel and keeps the BB where it should be.

The Drivetrain
I was really enjoying the SRAM XX until I went for a ride in the Big Holes where I was missing my 22 x 34 option on the steepest climbs. I did several big rides in the Big Holes in October and at some point during each of those rides I was wishing I had another cog in the back. However, the Big Holes are a unique place in that the trails tend to go straight up and then straight down. If I decide to race the 100-mile version of Pierre’s Hole next summer I will definitely have a triple chainring on the front of the Tallboy because of the relentless Dry Creek climb. However, the 26 x 36 is plenty for the Cream Puff, Mesa Verde, and Old Pueblo.

I have to admit that I was expecting more out of SRAM XX. It is a nice drivetrain but my “old” 9-speed setup of XTR cranks, XTR front derailleur, XO gripshift, and XO rear derailleur shifted every bit as well. SRAM would score points with me if they would hurry up and release a 10-speed gripshift.

I am a BIG fan of the Shimano 15mm E-thru axle on 29” forks. I admit that I didn’t think it was necessary at first but now I am a believer. The steering is crisp and precise and the big fat quick release is genius because the axle tension is the same every time and makes wheel removal and installation a no-brainer.

15mm E-Thru System

If you plan on carrying a water bottle on your Tallboy, flip your shock around and buy a side-loader bottle cage. I was getting really frustrated by hitting the blue ProPedal lever with my water bottle every time I took a drink until I flipped the shock around. The Arundel “Other Side Loader” cage works very well and is easy to load without looking down.

Flip your shock to make room for a 24oz bottle

Santa Cruz nailed the geometry and the tire clearance with the Tallboy. A 2.25 Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire has plenty of room to spare. A pet peeve of mine is to see a sweet mountain bike with crappy rear tire clearance. The built-in chainstay protector and zerk fittings for greasing the BB pivots are nice touches as well.

Zerk fittings are below the BB

Santa Cruz uses a combination of an in-set top race with an external bottom race called a "mixed set" headset

11-36 in the back

Interesting Note: Santa Cruz specs the Q166 SRAM XX cranks but the Q156 clears the chainstays just fine