Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ride Reports and Ramblings Pt.2

As a continuation from yesterday's post - let's move on...

Remember that Leader 510H SS bike I built up? Well, I had yet another brilliant idea of swapping out frames for a dirt jumper. Here was my OCD/ridiculous justification:
"I already have a MTB... and I really love urban riding... boy, a frame on closeout can be had for cheap... all I need to do is swap out parts and sell the Leader frame to make it all balance out... yeah... urban dirt jumper..."
So, finding a small Jamis Komodo for $120, I built this bad boy up. It's heavy, though, and square taper cranks are really not ideal for what I want to do with this. But, then again, I won't be doing anything more than bunny hopping piles of leaves and jumping curbs - so I figure it should hold up just fine.

I took it out for a "spin" that ended up being 25 miles to downtown San Jose and back, and aside from being extremely uncomfortable, it hopped and rolled the streets as a budget DJ bike should. I'm really happy with it, but the color scheme did not quite come out as I envisioned, so I may be changing the look soon.

This will be the bike I'm riding on the 4130 Subway Series Ride in a few weeks, and I'm positive that it will work perfectly for that and future rides.

Hicks Rd to Mt. Umunhum with Nelson34 (Robert)

With the Mt. Hamilton Superbowl Sunday ride coming up on Feb. 5th, a lot of the locals are getting ready for that big, grueling climb to the southbay's other highest peak, James Lick Observatory.

One of the more anxious riders is my pal, Robert (or "Nelson34" on MTBR), who is looking at improving his climbing endurance. He's a decent enough rider, and in fact, on this ride he was ahead of me the entire time, but he has that fire in his belly to improve.

When the both of us decided it was time to dust off the road bikes, we met at the Los Alamitos Creek trailhead with the intent on getting in a good road ride; and what better loop to do it on than Hicks Rd. to Mt. Umunhum? The Pacer is outfitted with a flat bar again - and the feel completely mimics my Pake C'Mute, which I like.

Well, the climb is as hard as it will always be and the Surly Pacer rolled it as it always does. Robert and I got to talking how a bike can make the difference, as his road race bike (as opposed to my simple "road bike") seemed to fly up that hill, even geared with the traditional 52/39 crankset and 11-28 gearing. Robert claims that the bike does make the difference, and I'm beginning to believe that claim. I would never trade in my Surly Pacer for an aggressive road bike, but this aspect of my traditional road riding bike is something to keep in mind when I feel like I'm getting dropped.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ride Reports and Ramblings Pt.1

I've been pretty slammed with work - so I've had a lot of stuff to blog about, but haven't had the time to sit down and write. Over the past few weeks, I've built two bikes, sold two and gone on a few sweet adventures. And since I can't really group all my ramblings under one creative title, I'm just going to call this "Ride Reports and Ramblings Pt.1" with Pt. 2 to come later (tomorrow perhaps?).

Ride Report: Team Social Pace up Kennedy

The usual suspects got together on the weekend of Jan 21st. to do a neat climb up Kennedy Trail in Los Gatos, Ca. Kennedy isn't anything special in terms of technical fun, but for cardio and climbing endurance it's a good place to put in work. I usually don't go out that far since I have Almaden Quicksilver trail for a wide fire road exercise, but since a handful of my buddies were doing it, I decided to go out.

Cleared the whole thing without a problem on the CX bike - even stuff I had to walk before. Traction was very sweet due to the light sprinkling we had in previous days and it even started to come down a bit while we were riding. As always, the 'cross bike was sketchy on the loose rocks and wash-board bumps - and everybody on MTB's dropped me on the descend down.

I had the opportunity to ride Leopold Porkstacker's fat bike for a bit and it was incredibly smooth and comfy. The fat tires didn't feel like too much of a hindrance and I'd love to try that bike up a technical climb. I've always been intrigued by fat bikes and it was pretty cool to give one a try.

Robert and Newton grunt up the ascend side-by-side

Leopold Porkstacker (Brett) throws a fat tire in yo' face!

A small, but brave, group.

New Build and Ride Report: Giant Cypress DX

When I stumbled upon Bryan from CL's listing (he's a guy who is always listing something for sale or trade) of a Giant Cypress DX frame for $45, I had to wonder what was wrong with it. I've dealt with him before, did some trades and such, so I knew he was a traveling parts bin (in a van). But I also knew that aluminum frames have a short lifespan, and from my experience, discovering hair-line micro cracks on a used frame is not fun.

After e-mailing him and discovering he needed a 9 speed derailleur and cassette, I knew we had a trade win. I met Bryan at a parking lot, looked over the frame and did the trade.

Now, here was the dilemma: How could I get away with building this trade score on a SUPER low budget? I didn't want to go "cheap", but I also didn't want to spend more than $100 building this thing up. Most of the parts, I already had, but I did need wheels, brakes, a stem, headset, seat and grips.

I scoured the pages of Craigslist looking for these things, when I found somebody selling his wheels and brakes for $60 in Hayward, Ca. I jumped on that right away, and felt good about my budget-friendly find. However, upon arriving home and taking a very close look at the rear wheel, I discovered that it was completely oval - which did not read when I spun it and looked to see if it was out-of-true. Somebody cased it bad, and there was no saving it. I also noticed that the front brake disc bridge was missing, so I had to order that, as well.

The interesting thing about this whole experience was that I got to lace my first wheel. Although it was simply replacing a rim, it was a good experience and gave me the confidence to do another if I had to. The rim was an eBay find for $22.

Finally, after my integrated headset arrived from China (ugh...), I finished the build. I went with a 1X8 set-up for the reliability and smooth shifting and opted for a 36t chainring up front; chain jump is eliminated with a Paul Chain Keeper. With 26" wheels and 1.5" commuter tires, the 34t cog and 36t chainring gives me enough granny to get up anything in the urban environment. Fenders, racks, two water bottle cages, lights, and a comfy seat make this bike just a joy to ride. It isn't the lightest thing on the planet, but I don't really mind. This bike is well suited for weekend jaunts with the Mrs. and long, lazy strolls. The Giant Cypress DX has VERY relaxed geometry, so you sit low in the frame with little pressure on wrists and hands. It isn't fast, but peppy: I found myself spinning on the flats at a steady 17mph, 20+ with the help of a downhill. Not a contender to hang in the peleton by any means.

This frame is a disc version and is normally seen with 700c wheels, and if you're wondering why I went with 26" wheels, it was mainly due to what the touring cyclists were saying on multiple forums - the 26" tire/tube is the most common size in the world. So, in an emergency situation, I could pick up a spare tube at, say, any drugstore or hardware store. I enjoy the disc brakes, but are definitely not needed on this bike.

First Ride

I took the Giant on a 30 miler, 1,300 ft. of elevation gain out to Los Gatos, Ca. and back. 5 miles of the ride was on a dirt road, and the low(er) pressure commuter tires worked great, for the inexpensive Forte' brand they are. Of course, this bike didn't get up the hills very quickly, but that was to be expected.

This bike is so comfortable, I found myself in a dreamy, riding state... relaxing, and doing a bit more sightseeing. I could easily see myself taking this bike on a long, long ride at a mid-pace on rolling hills and exploring gravel roads. I am, in fact, considering putting on flat pedals just for convenience.

I really like this build and considering the price I paid to built it up, it was well worth it. I don't intend on flipping this unless I absolutely have to, and it's a great, faster alternative than my beach cruiser. Don't underestimate these "comfort" frames - I quickly fell in love with the chilled out feeling of hybrid/comfort geometry and can understand why somebody would gravitate toward something like this.

I learned a valuable lesson in buying used stuff, though... especially take-off bike parts. Always inspect EVERYTHING very closely when buying used, and don't make a 40 min. trek to save $10.

Build Report: Beach Klunker Gets a Brake

After doing a few grocery store runs for the wife on this thing, I realized how sketchy a coaster brake can be if that's all you have. Plus, if you're like me and you like to dodge cars and old ladies, the coaster brake just doesn't cut it. After digging in the parts bin, I pulled out a v-brake bolt-on adapter and a Shimano XT v-brake (best v-brake I've ever used). I slapped that puppy on the fork and had-at-it.

I don't know what came over me, but I decided to climb Bernal Rd. - a 800ft. ascend, on that bike. I have the gear inches at 67", so it isn't hard, but it also isn't easy. After grunting up that hill with my cargo shorts, flannel and beanie, I got this pic at the top of the hill. Of course, coming home was a trek and the ride ended up being 18 miles in total.

Ride Reports and Ramblings Pt.2 coming soon!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

4130 Subway Series - San Jose, Ca.

We're bringing the 4130 Subway Series to Nor-Cal! SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

Date: February 18th, 2012
Start: 150 East San Fernando St., San Jose, Ca. - San Jose State University Martin Luther King Jr. Library
Time: 3:00pm - ?:??pm

First ride will be in San Jose, Ca. meeting at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library at San Jose State University. This is a BMX/Urban/Street ride, so come with your 20", 24" or 26" bikes. Everyone is invited, but this ride is truly for the O.G.'s. Street, dirt jumpers, BMX cruisers, side-hacks, trials, flatland - all are welcome.

We will end the ride at the San Jose City Hall on 4th and Santa Clara.

THIS IS NOT a fixie ride, San Jose Bike Party or Critical Mass, so please don't make it that. This is a BMX/street ride where the buzzing of freewheels will be our soundtrack for the afternoon and evening.

The loop is 10.34 miles and will take us to Santana Row and back using the main streets. There are stops every 2-3 miles at major intersections so nobody gets lost, but you are on your own if you do. The ride starts at 3:00pm and will end just in time for an early dinner (you're going to be hungry by that time) and there are plenty of options in and around the end point back at San Jose State University.

Some of you will choose to stop and session some areas, which is cool - but please stay legal. If you choose to ride something you're not supposed to, break the law or get popped for something illegal (riding or otherwise), you are on your own.

We may be riding into the evening, so bring some front and rear bicycle lights. Riding without lights at night is illegal - again, you are on your own.

Let's have some fun. Please, no monkey business and no bad attitudes. Rain WILL cancel and re-schedule this ride, so let's hope the weather holds up for us.

The route is HERE.

Here's how it goes down in Las Vegas:

Monday, January 16, 2012

MTBR Sunday Dirt Mass - January 15th, 2012

Some go to mass on Sunday. Mountain bikers go to Dirt Mass on Sunday.


My buddy, Brett, put this one on - as he does every few months. It's a great time at my local trails, and it's nice to be able to introduce other riders to Santa Teresa County Park: an amazing South Bay gem. As always, the Sunday Dirt Mass rides are "no drop", so no matter how slow you are, we always wait up.

We all arrived at the trailhead around 9:00am. On my way over I caught up with Brett (who also rides to the trails) on the paved multi-use trail and we spun along at a break neck speed of 9mph on our single speeds on flat ground. Pulling up, we already noticed a gang of people and knew that it was going to be a nice turnout; surprisingly strong during the NFL playoffs. We started our ride around 9:20am.

The head count was approximately 25-27 riders - all skill levels, all ages, all types of bikes.

We broke up into two groups: the "faster" group - who took on the more difficult trails at a faster pace, and the "slower" group, who I took on a good calorie burner. What makes Santa Teresa County Park especially accommodating is that no matter which route you take, you will pretty much always end up in the same place. This allowed the group at large to meet at central locations for a large re-group. Even with the "no drop" rule, some riders took wrong turns and ended up breaking off, but we all eventually found each other due to the trail system.

I'm very happy that my group had fun. I didn't want the route to be too difficult, but I also didn't want it to be too boring. There was a lot of climbing, but there are also fun, technical descends (like Stile Ranch Trail).

Until next time, dirt thumpers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Nisene Epic

My brother sent me this e-mail last week:
Been back on the bike lately. So nice over here in SC. Let me know if you want to do a ride Sunday morning. - Sent from the couch
So I called him later that night and we decided on our traditional Nisene Epic on the CX bikes. Our loop usually consists of riding out from his house, into Aptos, climb to "the couch" in Nisene, and descend through the forest to Branciforte Dr. with a short stop at Casalegnos before the road climb back into town.

As usual, we had a few creek crossings and MTB'ers (not-in-the-know) asked us about our "Hybrids" or "Road Bikes". These rides are always epic and fun; perfect for CX bikes. This is how we ended up:

My brother was the first to cross the creek.

Casalegnos. My brother went for the PBR; I went for a coconut water.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Fixed My On-One Inbred

A few weeks ago I fell into a riding slump (burn out) and realized I needed to change some things up a bit. While browsing MTBR, I had the wild notion of ordering a TomiCog - a fixed gear cog that allows you to convert your bike by simply replacing your rear disc rotor and flipping the wheel.

Well... fast forward to a few days after Christmas, and I am pedal striking and spinning away to my heart's content at my local trails.

The TomiCog is a nice piece of metal; pulling the disc and slapping this baby on was a snap. The caveat, however, is that you will no longer have a rear brake, so you are forced to use only a front brake and leg resistance to stop. Not wanting to throw myself off too much, I went with the same 32X20 gearing, which allows me to get up-and-over everything on my local trails.

This is my third go at fixed off-road and I've seem to have forgotten how exhausting it is. If you're a bicycle rider and haven't been cryogenically frozen for the past 5 years, you know that fixed gear riding does not allow one to coast on descends - you still have to pedal. Combine that with off-road obstacles, rocks, loose terrain/lack of traction, hard climbs and extreme concentration as to not face plant, the off-road fixed gear truly adds a whole new dimension to your local romp.

Since I ride to the trails, the 3 mile ride out and back is brutally slow; and since you can't coast on descends, the overall ride time takes much longer than with a freewheel bike. So, as I've said in my previous post about riding off-road fixed, you have to go into the ride with a different mindset or else you will scream to the gods when a granny on a 1994 Roadmaster comfort bike cruises past you on the multi-use trail.

I would recommend off-road fixed to anyone who 1) wants a challenge or 2) stopped taking their medication. It is fun, entertaining and will get you the craziest comments and stares on the trail. Viva la FIXED!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Leader got Lighter (and stops better, too!)

My China-brand "Mosso" aluminum fork finally came in and I installed it with some new Avid BB7's and red anodized brake cable housing. Bling bling!

Taking it out to the trails the other day, I was really expecting the aluminum fork to rattle my brain - not so! I was surprised to find that it wasn't any more harsh than my steel Kona 29'er fork. And after riding the 29'er for so long, you tend to forget how nice 26" wheels are for maneuverability in tight situations.