Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bringing 1986 into 2013 - REVIEW of My "Modernized" 1986 Specialized Rockhopper Comp

In early-September, I was itching to build a rigid, steel 26" MTB, and began perusing Craigslist for something in the likes of a Redline MonoCog. I was on a pretty tight budget, so I narrowed my search to a max price of $100.

I already had my On-One Inbred 29'er, but not yet entirely convinced that the 29'er was the ultimate for rigid riding; I thought that a 26" version would be fun. After all, 26" bikes whip around very well and the wheels spin up pretty quickly. And, back in 2007, I had a Redline Monocog (and now regret selling it!). Through the years, I've built up 26" rigid singlespeeds, so this project wouldn't be anything new in terms of approach.

By using the search function on Craigslist, I stumbled upon this ad:

Two 1980's Specialized Bicycle Frames - $60 (Hollister)

Date: 2012-09-04, 1:18PM PDT
Reply to: see below

Two rare Specialized bicycle frames from the 1980's. Both are straight with no dents. All cable and brake holders and are in great condition too. 
The yellow frame is 19.5 inches and the blue frame is 18.0 inches. Each frame comes with a Specialized head set.
Taking the haul down to Hollister from my home in South San Jose, I purchased the yellow frame for $30.

Over the last few months, I've been able to gather parts through what I had in the parts bin, trading with friends and cheap stuff on eBay. What has come together has been one of the most fun, most efficient, most reliable and care-free, go-to bike I've had in awhile. 

The goal was to enjoy the Chromoly frame without dealing with old technology - like a weird quill stem and narrow flat handlebars with noodle'y bar ends. I also wasn't interested in old, crappy cantilever brakes (although I have been riding with Tektro C720's until today), outdated gear ratios with Biopace chainrings, or skinny wheels and gumwall tires.

No... I wanted to modernize it as much as I could. 

The first order of business was to get the steering correct. By using a thread-less stem quill adapter, it gave me a wider variety of stems to choose from. And, since I knew old frames had short top-tubes, I opted for a 110mm 25.4 stem from Performance Bike. 

I have pretty much guzzled the wide handlebar Kool-aid, and with the 30" wide Azonic World Force DH handlebars I had in my parts bin, I concluded they would fit my build nicely. Typically with such a wide handlebar, you'd have to use a short stem (say, 70mm), but the old Rockhopper's top-tube is short enough where the longer stem and wide handlebar work very well together without slowing the steering or making the handling poor.

I had envisioned a single-speed for this frame, and that's what this bike was built up as originally. But - with some afterthought about the convenience of having some gears - I opted for a 1X set-up. At first, a 1X8, and then after digging in the parts bin along with the purchase of an inexpensive Deore 9sp. shifter - I ended up with a 1X9 set-up, naturally.

XT Cassette, XT Rear Derailleur, Deore Shifter, SRAM 9sp chain, and a Truvativ Stylo Crankset with a 32T single chainring make the wheels go round-and-round. The Paul Chain Keeper holds it all together, too. My feet stay planted with traditional Crank Brothers Candy pedals.

For the trails I ride, I typically don't need a granny gear, especially with the 26" wheels. My Inbred is equipped with a granny gear, but that bike is reserved for more challenging climbs. I've found that the 32T X 11-34 gets me up most hills without having to walk.

I really don't know how people used to rail around on skinny, hard, gum wall tires, but that's what this bike probably had in its glory days. I was a little apprehensive about tire selection knowing that this frame was probably designed to be used with skinny tires, but a 2.1 squeezes on the rear and a 2.3 squeezes on the front. The old, steel fork absorbs the bumps surprisingly well, so combined with the 2.3 tire at a lower pressure, I don't feel like I'm chattering down a staircase riding the trails. 

I've reviewed the Forté tires in previous posts, so I will not reiterate the positive things I can say about them.

If you've ever gone back-and-forth between modern disc brakes and old school cantilever brakes, you will find yourself at a handicap with the canti's. Even with high-end cantilevers, they pale in comparison to discs. Modulation is non-existent and brake chatter is common. I've been riding this bike with Tektro C720 cantilever brakes but scored these Shimano XTR v-brakes through my riding buddy, Ken. The C720's worked fine, but the XTR upgrade will pay huge dividends in the braking department. Some claim that the XTR v-brakes work just as well as mechanical disc brakes when set-up properly. I've only had mid-level v-brakes before, and was impressed. I am sure these XTR's will make stopping issues - well - stop.

Lastly, I will need to mention weight since steel bikes are criticized in this department. I am sure an aluminum bike would come in at a few pounds less than this build. But, with nicer wheels, the old Rockhopper could probably squeak under 26lbs. Currently, with the old, cheap, heavy Vuelta Zerolite wheels, my bike weighs in at a respectable 26.86lbs. 

My next upgrade will be wheels, which I think will help in the speed and climbing department. Rim brake wheels are difficult to come by these days, so my choices are limited.

Ride quality and handling of the Chromoly Double Butted tubing is fantastic. Incredible. This bike is buttery smooth and it makes you forget you are riding a 26 (soon to be 27) year old frameset. I am extremely impressed with how well it handles, and I have no problem riding it with people on modern suspension bikes (especially when climbing). 

I wouldn't take this bike on gnarly downhill or freeride trails, but for my local, everyday lunch rides, this old bike proves to be a sure winner.

If you have that old steel bike rotting away on the side yard, don't let it die. With a little creativity, you can revive it to bask again in trail glory.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cycling and the Case of a Sleep Disorder

Since my 20's, I have snored. 

Growing up, my Dad snored awfully (I mean, really bad) and I am told my brother snores (I don't know if it's true, but so my Dad tells me).

Over the years I have been an intense coffee drinker for reasons other than I just love the taste of coffee.  I have used it as a hard drug, and when epinephrine was legal (meth's cousin), I even took that. It is awful to think that you "need" something like caffeine, but in my case I did. Since college, I have always been rushing around - and since my late 20's with my insurance career, I am constantly on the go, hustling... meeting clients and trying to make a dime here and there. I usually start work at 6:00am - 7:00am, and usually come home from seeing my last client at 10:00pm. I work my riding in my schedule in the early afternoons. This is an extremely busy life that I have grown accustomed to. 

I am now coming on 38yrs. old and, until recently, I felt like this life was wearing on me. I was extremely depressed - the most depressed I have ever been in my life - and riding felt more like a chore than a passion. I started to despise my job, the financial/career choices I've made, and I started to question my place in life. This was unlike me.

We had a death in the family and I had to put down my beloved dog, Rocky

Thank goodness I have a great wife, an awesome family, and some great riding friends... life could have ended and I wouldn't have cared. I am usually a positive person - but a rain of negativity started to fill my head. My riding and my job performance suffered and declined rapidly.

Accompanied with the depression was extreme fatigue. Dizziness, tiredness, and the constant feeling that I needed to nap. I would go out to ride, and felt like collapsing and sleeping right there on the trail. I would use caffeine to try and stay awake, but that didn't help. This compounded the problem, because when I got home from a ride, I would want to nap, but couldn't due to the caffeine. 

In August, I met with my doctor to discuss my health and my blood pressure (which is high and I take a medication for). I started to tell him what I was experiencing, and without hesitation, he says "You sound like a classic case of sleep apnea..."

I've heard of this, and even witnessed an awful case when I had to room up with another insurance agent while traveling. He snored so much, I had to use ear plugs, and he would get up out of bed very often due to - what sounded like - him choking. It was horrible to witness and I couldn't imagine how it would be to live like that. The sleep deprivation would make life extremely difficult to bear.

After my doctor told me that I may have a sleep disorder, everything I was feeling started to make sense. Lack of drive, depression, high blood pressure, constant fatigue and tiredness, etc. So, I made an appointment with a specialist and soon after got my CPAP machine to treat my apnea.

They found that I stopped breathing 22 times per hour. I had asked him if this was a weight issue, and he said it wasn't (I'm not obese). He said that it was my tongue falling and blocking my airway as I entered REM state. Therefore, I was never able to achieve a deep sleep. Essentially, I was choking myself awake!

I have been using my machine for exactly 30 days, and everything - I mean EVERYTHING - has changed. Depression has gone away, I am no longer sleepy (unless it's from working too hard), job performance has improved, and notably, my athletic performance has improved. My blood pressure reduced, and I may even be able to get off my medication. 

Since this is my bike blog, let's talk athletic performance.

August was my first full month of using Strava. That month I logged:

September, I logged:

October, I logged:

November was my first full month of using my CPAP machine. This is a result of getting a full night's sleep, going into sleep R.E.M. mode and waking up refreshed. This was also without the aid of caffeine, energy drinks or any other stimulant:

Out of all four months, I had the least activities, but yet shattered ALL my personal records. I don't believe this is luck, diet, or some sort of "go get 'em" mentality change. There really is only one difference, and that is the treatment of my sleep disorder!

I am a much happier camper now. My outlook is way more positive, work is picking up, and things are changing for the better. 2012 was an incredibly tough year for us, but I'm glad I got this taken care of. 

The lesson I wanted to share with you internet'ers is - go to the doctor for your regular check ups. Get blood work done with a full physical. Don't wait until you feel bad or sick, and ask him/her questions. This simple CPAP machine gave me a much more higher quality of life - on and off the bike.