Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring ride....FINALLY!

It feels like I've been trapped inside forever.  I know it hasn't been that long but once you get a taste of that good spring weather, you want more.  So with the snow quickly melting and the temperature rising, I left Jennifer's parent's house.  Heading east and then turning south towards the Wildcat Hills.  During my entire ride I only encountered two cars on the road, not counting the short stint I had to take on the highway.  That's really the beauty of gravel riding.  On previous rides I'd complained of only using the top end of my rear cassette.  Not this ride.  Not having to deal with cars.  I won't tell you I climbed it all in one go.  First stop was to take off my head wrap and my gloves.  The second one was just because my legs were dead.  After getting to the top I wish I could have kept on going down the old highway.  The No trespassing signs, that's plural...which in this case means more then six.  Stapled to every post at the end of the line, said I probably shouldn't attempt what I wanted to try.  On the return trip home I encountered a bit of mud.  One section was bad enough that I got off and walked it thru the ditch.  Still managed to get a good amount of mud all over everything.  Bike worked like a charm.  Shifting got a little touchy after all the mud.  Nothing major.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gravel Grinder: Light bulbs and switches

Thought I'd put up a few revelations I've had while ironing out the particulars on my monster cross/gravel grinder.  I've had a chance to get a few rides under my belt.  Each time you learn a little more.  Either in preparation or out on the ride.  Here's what I've found.

Things I need to change :
     1) Water reservoir, hose length.
     2) Tire choice
     3) 32tooth chainring to a 34 or 36.
     4) Waterbottle cage
     5) Water reservoir that fits better
Things I might need to change :
     1) seat
     2) seat bag
     3) lighting set up
     4) pedals

Things I'm digging :
     1) Yipsan Spinner 650b
     2) Garmin 705 GPS
     3) Retroshift levers and shifters
     5) Luxy Ragley dirt drop bars
     6) clipless( again )

I noticed on my first long ride I didn't drink hardly enough.  One of the main reasons had to be because of the short hose on my water reservoir.  It just wasn't convenient to grab and drink.  Solution: I added a Camelbak Thermal wrapped hose.  Making it about three feet longer.  I haven't ordered new tires yet.  I'm pretty much set on Maxxis Crossmark tires.  Just need to get them bought and on the bike.  During the ride in Scottsbluff I noticed I only used the top four gears.  Solution : I'll try a 34 and 36 to see what works better.  My super cool Yipsan/KingCage water bottle holder just doesn't work with the Revelate Designs Tangle bag.  Solution: Get a Specialized brand side loader bottle cage.  Friend of mine has one and it should work well.  Last on the list is a water reservoir that fits better.  I tried two of the newer Camelbak reservoirs and neither fit very well.  I even modified a new 2L reservoir to try and make it fit better, by cutting the rib in the middle.  Letting it "round" out more.  This didn't work at all.  I searched for a reservoir that was longer and not as wide.  I found that in the Platypus Hoser resevoir.  Fits great.  Just need to get a refilling option that works better.  Pouring thru the tiny opening isn't gonna work well. 

My seat isn't totally agreeing with me.  I'm going to try a few things that I have on the work bench to see if they feel better over long distances.  The saddle I have on there now just doesn't feel right sometimes.  Not like the saddle on my Monocog.  The Monocog saddle is much stiffer with less padding/gel.  It's fit has always just been...better.  Less shifting around looking for a comfortable place.  I don't know how it'll feel after 20miles or 40?  Guess I'll find out.  I'm going to mount it up and ride it on my next long training ride.  The fox seat bag just needs to be a tad bigger.  I'd also like it to be more secure.  However all the other seat bags I've seen attach pretty much in the same way.  My lighting system is old.  I bought it cheap, and it's a good light.  It's just lacking in battery longevity and output.  It's enough to get me thru the race.  It's just a part that I'd eventually like to upgrade.  Battery technology has come a long way since the Nimh rechargeable I have.  Lipo batteries are much better at power distribution, hence there longevity.  For the price, there awesome.  Just old.  The pedals are the one's Renold left on for a test ride.  I've just been too lazy to switch them out.  I have a old set of Shimano's that are in decent nick.  I'll throw them on and see if they work better then Renold's pedals.  The right one seems to be a little sticky.

The bike it's self over all is working out stellar.  A few more fitting tweaks and it'll be dead on.  My Garmin 705 GPS is one of the funnest toy....erh tools I've had for training in a long time.  I should have bought one a long time ago.  The Retroshift levers and shifters are excellent.  One super minor problem that I hope to have cleared up soon.  The Luxy bar is working out good.  I jumped on my Monocog the other day and it felt very foreign.  Not sure if that's a good thing or not.  Pedals fell on two of the lists above.  While I think I need better pedals, I also love the benefits of the clipless pedals.  I've ridden them before in the past.  It's good to have that pull stroke for the hills.  I miss that with flat pedals.  I don't think the clipless pedals will make it on my Fivespot however.  I'm just too comfortable with flats when truly on the mountain.

So there's where I am right now.  Still trying to figure everything out.  Having a blast doing so.  I'll be on the trainer for the next few days while the snow melts.  Hoping this weekend turns out nice so I can get in some miles.

The Reign of Joab's Giant

Joab twisted and turned wrenches to finish up his Giant.  He really wanted to take a few test runs with it before the rain clouds came in.  Gotta give him credit.  He did most of the build here with only a little instruction from dear old Dad. 
Joab has been asking to drive more.  So what better chance then letting him drive Grandpa's truck.  I rode with him, but he pulled it down to the building and we loaded up our bikes for a few downhill runs in the pasture.  Since the build was fresh we thru in my mobile took kit and Joab brought a shovel to make some "sweet jumps".
 We scouted out a few different places to try and build some berms and jumps.  Then headed further down in the pasture to get some downhill riding in.

We rode in some light rain, but it didn't dampen Joabs spirits.  He loves the new ride.  I think it still needs a bit of tuning and we'll probably be swapping out forks.  For now it's great and he's loving it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ahhh Spring time in Nebraska.

The weather man said it was coming.  He's said it many times this winter.  He's never followed thru.  This time he came pretty close.  It's about as close to a blizzard as we have had in quite awhile.  Yesterday I rode home in nearly 70degree temps, chased closely by thunder storms, hail and lightning.  Today I slid into my parking place at work, with nearly a inch of ice under the Mazda's tires.  Sustained 40mph winds with 50mph gusts, driving snow across the plains.  You just have to step back and look at it.  It's wonderful really.  Who doesn't like contrast?

Lucky I got a ride in yesterday.  It's going to be the spin bike for a few days.  I might also try some cycling yoga.  Found a few video's on it.  We'll see how it turns out.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

30 miles of learning.

I'd been looking forward to this ride all week.  I had a rough route in my head and Thursday night I used connect.garmin.com to map it and upload it to my gps.  I used Google maps and garmin's to plan my route.  Trying to make sure that I wasn't using anyone's driveway or private land as a trail. 

I used one of my current 3L Camelbak reservoirs.  Quickly finding out that it fits, but it's very tight.  Lesson #1- Look for better fitting bladders/reservoirs.  I only filled the 3L reservoir with 2L so I could still fit my rain jacket in.  Advancements in reservoir technology over that last few years has been great.  Manufactures have addressed the "balloon" effect on there bladders in a variety of ways.  Camelbak has added a plastic baffle in there reservoir to keep it flat when in there packs.  Instead of turning into a dachshund which wallows around on your back as you ride.  Osprey has put a plastic insert on the inside of there bladders to keep them flat.  While these advancements are great for backpacks they suck for a frame bag.  Since the ride I've purchased a 2L Camelbak.  I'm thinking I can carefully reach in and cut the baffle inside allowing into balloon and fit easier in the frame bag.  Time will tell.

The ride started pretty much the same as most of my Scottsbluff rides.  Straight up a hill to start.  After riding for a bit I noticed the GPS wasn't tracking my progress.  Just giving me a MPH reading.  So about three miles in I finally hit the start button.  There's a learning curve with every GPS.  I just wish I knew where I was on that curve.  The GPS while it had it's bad moments was great.  Lesson #2 - better routing.  I had routed myself down some driveways and private property and had to make adjustments.  Those added another couple miles on to my total.  I loved the ability to have a map, average mph, mph, and a host of other stuff right at hand.  I like input on my rides.  Something to keep my brain busy.

Through out the ride I started noticing my shifter didn't move out of it's high range very much.  When I gave it some thought I found that I'd only been using the top four gears on my rear cassette.  Even with the steeper hills in the area, I'd only been using four gears.  Lesson #3 - Make better use of all my gears.  The bike is set up for mountains.  So some serious upward hills that would require the lower range that I wasn't using on dirt roads.  Once I add lower rolling resistance tires this will only grow worse.  I emailed Renold when I returned to pick his brain a bit.  He suggested a larger front chain ring.  I was thinking a road cassette.  I need to research this a bit more to decide on which way to go.

When Renold gave me the bike it had Nevegals on it.  Not the best tire for gravel.  So Renold also had a set of Quasi-Moto's that he loaned me as they would be better suited for the job.  When I changed them out I added new tubes and slime.  I knew the goatheads would be bad.  I just wasn't sure how bad.  I was totally expecting a flat on my first ride.  I lucked out.  I completed my ride with only a tire going low.  However after closer inspection once the ride was done, I think I got lucky on this ride.  If the tubes on this ride were gun shot victims they would have bleed out, I'm sure of it.  I had to wipe the tires down before loading it in the car.  There was so much slime, dirt, grass, crud on the tires. Lesson #4 - Need to experiment with sealant and thorn protection.  I have ordered a set of Stopflat liners and am going to change out one of the slime tubes with a Stans filled tube and try it for awhile.  To compare the two.

I packed enough food for about 3 hours.  I love granola bars and I know that I can work out pretty quickly after consuming them with out any negative results.  So I packed three bars, two different types.  Plus a few True North Clusters just because.  Lesson #5 - Dry food his hard to eat with out lots of water.  The first bar I ate was a dry bar(as compared to a chewy bar).  It probably took me two miles to get it all down.  That brings me back to hydration - Lesson #6 - Keep drinking and keep water readily available.   I need a longer hose on the Camelbak.  I'll be getting a connector to join two hoses together, so I can drink while being more upright.  Hopefully I'll drink more if it's easier to drink.

All in all it was a great ride.  Loved doing it and can't wait till I have the time to do it again.  Till then I'll work on the things noted here.