Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oh Single Speed... why did we ever break up?

I've been riding my Surly Pacer lately with the wife and leaving the UNBRANDED bike at home, even though the original purpose of that bike was to do those types of rides. After some seat time with the Surly Pacer, however, I've grown to re-love that bike: the feel, the comfort and the speed of road geometry. I've had my Surly Pacer for two years now, and although I've swapped out all kinds of parts (even made it into a singlespeed for a quick sec), it's now at a happy place.

I gave it a little thought and decided to repurpose the UNBRANDED back to what the frame calls for: mountain biking. I gathered up the parts from the parts bin and converted it to a singlespeed.

HOLY SHIT! I forgot how much I love singlespeed riding! It was so nice to mash through climbs and rely on momentum - it's a whole different style of riding that I took for granted... there's something about a direct chainline to your pedal stroke that just feels right.

This bike is 100% analog - v-brakes, rigid fork, skinny tires, ancient wheels, and an old 110bcd crankset with a square taper bottom bracket - a little throwback to the pieced together "winter" bikes folks would ride to protect their multi-speed race bikes from the harsh elements. There is a purity to riding these types of bikes that modern parts just can't compare to: I guess it's like listening to music on vinyl.

I do not intend to change this bike to geared, nor do I intend to upgrade any parts on this bike; I want to leave it AS IS, replacing only things that break (the On-One Inbred 26" frame does sound appealing, though). Selling it would be futile - I would probably only get about $200-$300 on Craigslist. However, the enjoyment I'm going to get out of this bike does not have a price tag.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 17th San Jose Bike Party

The wife and I haven't been to the San Jose Bike Party for awhile, but the weather has been nice so we decided to load it up and go last night.

Bike Party seems to always carry the same timeline as the night progresses:
  • Starts off very fun; lots of mature riders having a great time with music going.

  • First stop, the energy is still cooking but the youngsters start to come out and the obnoxious behavior commences.

  • The mature, well behaved riders either dropped off the back or called it a night. Now it's nothing but completely obnoxious humanoid monkeys, screaming indecipherable words in the tone of a teenage boys whose balls haven't dropped yet.

  • Mile 20 - end: "Let's get ahead of everybody else so we can just get home"
Bike Party is an interesting look into how things can start as something cool and fun but turns into a bit of a mob mentality near the end - and I don't think it's anybody over the age of 21 acting this way. However, considering how large the group is and how rude and obnoxious a lot of the participants can be, I am surprised that there aren't more problems than presented.

I have spoken to the organizers and even done on the "Test Rides" and these folks sincerely want to keep the Bike Party in relatively good order - which they generally do. However, the message of civility isn't getting to those who need it the most.

For the most part, I have been taking my "utility bike" on these rides, but the wife and I decided that for the next Bike Party we ride, we are going to have to take something with a little more speed behind them to get ahead of the group and away from the lower primates. Therefore we are taking our road bikes - so if we need to jump far ahead of the group, we have the ability to do so.

I enjoy the scene of Bike Party, but some of the youngsters get a little on my nerves.

Yup, I am officially an old man.

Photos courtesy of Mrs. RidesBikes. Check out her Tumblr HERE

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Motorcycle Horn on a Bicycle

Well... here's a fun one.

I've had this motorcycle horn sitting in my office for a LONG time. It was intended to go on a Cafe Racer motorcycle I built and sold a couple of years ago, and I never got a chance to use it.

Anyhow, I had the crackhead idea of connecting it to a Makita Drill battery and seeing if it would actually work - and *BOOYAH*, it did! The motorcycle horn is VERY loud, and hopefully doesn't suck up the battery like a car horn would.

The wiring was very, very simple using a bar mount push button. I do unplug it when not in use and I still have yet to see how long a charge will last. Below are pics of the push button and the mounted horn.

...and here are the three levels of warning. Can't wait until I get to use my new horn on a clueless victim!


A little R&R on RR (Rocky Ridge)

Had a strong ride yesterday, doing the full outer perimeter of Santa Teresa County Park - even did the Bernal Road Climb to get back up. It was Home > Harry/Fortini Entrance > Harry Trail > up Stile Ranch Trail > back down to Fortini > climb Rocky Ridge > Boundary Trail > Access Trail > Bernal Rd. > Fortini Trail > Harry Rd. > Home.

Rocky Ridge tossed me off its back 4 times; after all these years, still can't completely clear it on the rigid without at least one dab. I was determined yesterday, but my rear tire is extremely bald and I was losing it getting up and over some of the stuff. Practice!

So, here's my best Ansel Adams impersonation. Still trying to decide for today - trials or cyclocross?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My 3rd Day of Trials

My 3rd Day of Trials from Dion Rides Bikes on Vimeo.

Well, ths is my official 3rd day of riding this bike in an actual "session" - 5th day if you count what I've done in front of my house.

I had some side hops and stuff, but honestly, it looks so utterly pitiful on video when you're doing them onto something that's no more than a couple feet high.

Please be kind - I'm just starting out on this bike.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

1 1/2 Year Review of the Scott Sportster P5 Women's Hybrid

The women's Scott Sportster P5 was purchased for my wife over a year ago after she was having one heck a time trying to find a bike that was comfortable to ride. I come from the philosophy that a high-end $5000 bike is worth nothing if it doesn't fit the rider. And out of all the bikes we looked at, fitted her on and test-rode, the $375 Scott Sportster P5 was the winner through-and-through.

A little background: My wife isn't necessarily a beginner; she actually has been riding for years and she was a very strong climber and roadie at one point. Two events took her out:

1. She was "doored" while splitting traffic on her motorcycle (legally) to a stoplight and that seriously damaged her knee - even with armor in her riding leathers. Some lady had road rage and slammed her door into my wife when she was safely passing through. Her knee has never been the same.

2. She went over the handlebar on her old road bike which aggravated the knee injury and destroyed her riding confidence.

Sucks because she used to really give me a run for my money on the road, but we are working up to where she was. These two events threw her back into beginner'ville and I am being very patient with her. Due to all of that, she stayed off the bike for a long time and lost her riding fitness.

The Sportster is a hybrid type bike that carries the rider in an upright, seated position for all day adventures on the road, gravel or dirt path. The stem is high, the v-brakes are powerful, and there are plenty of places to bolt on racks and fenders. A rider can truly go on an epic tour with this bicycle with the triple crankset combined with the 8-speed cassette in the back, going all the way up to a 32-tooth rear cog. Because of my wife's knee injury, we opted for wide, flat platform pedals that allows her foot to be placed comfortably as to not aggravate her injury as straps and clipless systems do (to her). The chain moves through the drive train with Shimano shifters and Shimano Acera derailures.

The one negative comment I have about this bike is the cheap front suspension fork. However, I did offer my wife to swap on a rigid fork and she told me she actually likes the "give" the spring suspension offers on the bumps. No problem! Again, she is the rider, and if it feels right for her, it feels right for her.

Some changes we personally did was add front and rear racks, a Serefas "female" seat (which compensates for wider sit-bones) WTB 700X38 Pathway tires with Slime tire liners and a trekking (mustache) handlebar that offers 4+ hand positions for the rider.

For a sub-$400 bike, I am completely impressed with what this bike has offered my wife in terms of performance - and I use that word by its true definition: The accomplishment of a given task measured against preset known standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed.

I think it's easy to equate "expensive" to "performance", or "speed" to "performance - because neither speed nor expensive was the objective of this bike. We tested $1000 bikes, but none of those felt "right" for her - and the bike that just happened to fit her was this.

She has not had the chance to test the trekking handlebar yet, but I am confident she will like it. On long stretches of flat road, she used to lean on her regular handlebar to stretch her back and utilize her glutes more for pedalling. It always made me kind of nervous when she did this, because it's one pothole away from crashing. The trekking handlebar offers multiple hand positions, allowing the rider to stretch out a little in the cockpit. This product seems to be less popular in the US than in other countries, but after test riding it myself in the front of my house, I have to say that it is a very appealing upgrade. To top it all off, a matching purple bell tells trail zombies to get outta the way!

The Forte' Platform pedals are a fantastic product. They are wide, very grippy (for mountain bike use) and have sealed bearings. The pins are removable, giving the rider choices for how much grip they want, or as the pins wear down, they can be replaced. They are a nice, neutral, cool grey in color which goes with any bike. Again, price was the ultimate value at $39.99 - similar name brand pedals are in the $80 - $100 range.

Bike shopping can be very intimidating, and often times people think buying the most expensive is the best thing to do. Although higher end components and good geometry makes a difference for the hardcores, the daily recreational rider can get away with a budget bike that fits him/her. Don't discount the entry-level to mid-level bikes that are in the sub-$500 price range. Stay on top of the maintenance with these bikes and you can have a ride that will last a lifetime. From what I've discovered with the Scott Sportster P5 - it is more than enough bike to perform above and beyond its expectations.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pake C'Mute 1 Year Review

So, it's been officially over one year since I built my Pake C'Mute, and here is an update - not much has changed! My 6 month review can be found here.

The only true change I have done has been the shifter and handlebar: gears are moved with an 8-speed Shimano Alivio and the front is steered with a wider (29") low rise mountain bike handlebar. I still continue to be impressed with the versatility and tire choice I have with this frame, and so far, no cracks or busted welds.

I am considering racing the Surf City Classic Cyclocross series in October, so the training may begin changing as well as a weight loss program. I have toyed with the idea of going 2X8 on this bike, but I really like the simplicity of the 8-speed, so I will probably leave as-is. A 1X set-up is very nice for racing, as well. I may switch to a 36T front chainring, but I have to see how my training goes.

Advise: get a C'Mute if you're in the market for such a bike. Frames are going for $220-$250 which, I believe, is an awesome value.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I love that New Bike smell...

Well... my trials bike finally came in yesterday from China. It is a "Because Simple" which seems to be popular in Asia and Europe. As much as I wanted the Danny Macaskill bike (Inspired Bikes), that bike was way beyond my budget for an entry into trials riding. I picked this up for $900, shipped.

It is a very, very strange ride and it will take time getting used to. Most notably, I am having one hell of a time bunnyhopping the dame thing. I feel like I can bunnyhop higher on my cyclocross bike, and when reading trials forums threads - I'm not the only one. Once used to the geometry, however, I don't think it will be a problem. Compared to the junk I used to be able to ride (well), this shouldn't be an issue for a few days of solid riding.

I was able to do small side hops to front, 180 rollbacks, rock-walks and other things just goofing off out in front of my house. It's raining today, so I will have to play it by ear to figure out whether I can actually give it a go today since (I think) there will be a break.