45NRTH Sturmfist

Click on over to the 45NRTH website to see their new STURMFIST gloves.

If you were at the North Central Cyclery winter clinic last week, you got to see these gloves before they were released.  Literally, a pair was hand courier’d from the factory to NCC for the demo night.

They’re available in 5 finger and 4 finger, with the 4 finger combining your ring and pinky finger…so you still have full shifting/braking, and you get the warmth of the 4 finger design. Bulk is about equivalent to a ski glove with the 4 finger…but you get the benefit of the aerogel insert in the palm and fingers, to provide a complete thermal barrier from cold grip/bars, and from the onslaught of cold wind on the very leading edge of your body.

The Sturmfist look great–and sizing runs pretty true.  I’m a L in most gloves, and a L in the Sturmfist.

Get ‘em while you can.

Whereupon, I sacrifice one of my tenets and espouse Rapha.

In the next few days, I’m going to do something that I’m not entirely comfortable with.  From the outset of this blog several years back, I’ve been a fond supporter of local bike shops, and have spent a considerable amount of time rallying against the onslaught of online retailing.  It’s no secret that my bike transactions occur at one of the greatest local bike shops ever, and I’ve focused my efforts for the most part on reviewing products that are available for purchase at similar local shops.  With rare exception (like the carbon fat fork I reviewed a couple years ago), the products I talk about are LBS friendly, and that’s by choice.  In large measure, it’s a decision based on principle for me.  When I need a tire, there are times when I could order it online, have it within a day or two, and maybe even save a buck or two.  I prefer to go the LBS and buy, and support the careers of some awesome bike industry professionals, notwithstanding the slight increase in cost.

In the next few days, I’m going to talk about some kit from Rapha.  I’m going to talk about it for a few reasons.

First, one of the things that makes me feel better about Rapha is that, in some small way, they try to be local.  You may recall that Rapha came out to the Night Bison this year and made it just a little more awesome.  They do support local events, and when they’re somewhere, they’re typically pretty cool about what they’re doing.  In the interests of full disclosure, the Rapha dude gave me a discount card that I used to buy some of the stuff I’m going to talk about.  If I could be a full-time paid shill, I would totally do so.  For now, a modest discount will have to suffice.

Second, it’s good stuff.  Seriously.  It looks good, it performs well, it has proven to be durable.

Third, I think that Rapha is a direct competitor for the Gore brands that I have come to know and love.  Sure, at retail, the Rapha is significantly more expensive.  But if you watch their site, they do have regular sales and clearances that make owning a few pieces significantly more affordable.

Finally, I’m a sucker for their branding.  I’ll readily admit it–I fall for the Rapha mystique.  Their ride videos, their blog posts…even the aesthetic of their website.

Rapha is very polarizing–I completely get that.  When I first saw Jensen wearing a pink wool jersey in the middle of summer on a 115 mile ride a few years ago, I was the first to question his judgment (but never his impeccable sense of style).  Over time, I’ve come to appreciate just how good their stuff is.  Not all of it perhaps, but everything I’ve tried.

I know it’s expensive, even on clearance.  I regard their pieces as something of an investment.  I’ve had cheap bike jackets that blow a zipper after a year of hard use, and even after repair, are never quite right.  I’ve had nice bibs that perform well, but have one area where the cut and trim is just a little off, leaving me chafed and uncomfortable after a day of riding.  For me, I’d rather pay a little extra at the outset to have a piece that will last a very long time, and perform without equal.

Haters gonna hate–I certainly know it.  And yes, even I’m a little reluctant to embrace a brand that is only available to me via a plane ticket or an online purchase.  But I use Rapha products, and I’m going to talk about my experiences with them.  Maybe, just maybe, they’ll start selling through a select few local bike shops.

The Burrito Bandito

Way back in the day, some three years ago now, we had an idea to do a kinda crazy nighttime ride.  Because of the peculiar ride food choices that some people made, the ride became known as the Burrito Bandito.  At the outset, everyone tried to look stoic and disinterested.  Except for Chad.  He’s always interested.

There was quite a collection of bikes.  At the left was Eric’s mountain bike, then my first Mukluk, although I didn’t ride it that night.  Then Chad’s Mukluk (which he rode), then my Ti Vaya, then Halverson’s Ti La Cruz, then Joel’s steel Vaya.  Man, I don’t think that Muk was ever that clean again.

We headed out into the night, looking for a fun ride, and hoping to hit some utility roads that had been recently installed.  Hijinks soon followed.

There was a lot of stopping.  For hydration purposes.

There were ghosts in the trees.

Man, there was a lot of crap on the Vaya.

If I recall correctly, there was a bottle of port in the frame bag.

I have no idea what we were doing here…

Then, we traversed some crazy mud roads, and Halverson decided to blow out his rear derailleur on his new (literally new…never before ridden) Ti La Cruz.

After some efforts at rendering the bike single speed…

We decided that wasn’t going to happen…but alas, we were about 8 miles from town.  What to do?

Vaya to the rescue.

I didn’t capture any pictures of the actual towing, but here’s the aftermath.  (Did I mention the road was muddy?)  We looped a tube around my septets, and around Halverson’s handlebars, and I towed him back into town on his oversized coaster bike.  It certainly took a while, but we eventually got back…and the towing story became a part of the local folklore.

I haven’t had many other chances to ride with Eric or Joel, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the intervening three years with Chad and with Halverson.  This past weekend, Halverson moved on to an amazing opportunity in Oregon, and our local cycling community is the worse for it.  We will miss him, but wish him the very best.

For me, the ride was an eye-opener.  I was amazed that Chad could ride a fatbike that far (not knowing what the future held for me).  I was amazed that I could pull Halverson back to town.  I was amazed at how much fun we had riding at a slower pace.  I was amazed at what night biking in the country had to offer.  I was amazed by how much alcohol five cyclists could transport on bikes.  I was amazed at what ridiculous routes Chad could put together.  (And in retrospect, I am amazed at how much of a fred I look like).

There were some crazy rides before, and many since.  The Burrito Bandito, however–it was one of the defining moments of my “early” riding.  It was one of the moments that transitioned me from a hobbyist into a serious cyclist.  It was one of the first rides that was both challenging and super-fun…and one of the rides that pushed me towards my current lifestyle.

I’m reminded of this because of a recent comment from one of my close friends about the difference between racing bikes and riding bikes.  All of my most memorable moments on a bike have been during rides.  At heart, I’m a cyclist, not a racer.  The Burrito Bandito shall forever live in infamy.

Superfish (Salsa Spearfish) For Sale

If you follow the blog, you know how obsessively I build and maintain my bikes.  My beloved Salsa Spearfish is currently available for purchase.

Salsa Spearfish 1, fully loaded. ENVE 29XC rims, set up tubeless with Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires (like new). Cannondale carbon lefty with 110mm of travel and remote lockout, set up with a Project 321 tapered steerer adapter. ENVE DH handlebars with Ergon grips. Salsa carbon seatpost. Shimano XTR-Ice brakes. The ENVE rims have the best spokes in the world (Sapim CX-Ray), laced to a DT240 rear and a Project 321 front hub. Ergon SM3 Pro saddle. 

Size is Medium. 600mm effective top tube. I’m 6′, and normally ride a 56cm road bike. You wouldn’t want to be taller than that on this bike.

Drivetrain is currently a XX grip shift, Type 2 (clutched) X0 rear derailleur, 11-36 Sram XX cassette, and SRAM XX1 crankset with an MRP 34T bling ring. If you’d prefer 2x, I’ll throw in the original double crankset and front derailleur/shifter. Also, it has a super-blingy red/black KMC DLC X10SL chain.

This also has an upgraded, Kashima Coated CTD shock. The complete bike weighs 23 pounds. Pedals not included. Note that for optimal clearance of the Lefty, I’m running a Salsa stem (and not a Thomson stem shown in pictures).

You can see the build progression on my blog.

Why a Spearfish?

Spearfish 1 Review.

Spearfish V23.4

Gripshift Spearfish

 

Project 321 Lefty Installation

Project 321 Lefty Update No. 1

Project 321 Lefty Spearfish Update

Further Project 321 Lefty Update

Seriously, this is an amazing bike. I am not thrilled about selling it, but at this moment, that’s the right thing for me to do. The wheels alone retail for $2600. You can have the whole bike, complete, for $4,000. I’m open to reasonable offers, via private message. Free shipping to CONUS at that price. Contact me with any questions.

Seriously hot bike. It will be missed.

A tale of two road bikes.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Trek 770 of late, after spending a lot of time on my Madone this summer.  I’m amazed by how quick handling the 770 feels, and had initially planned on writing this blog post about the huge differences that happen in bike geometry over the course of 25 years.  In all honesty, the 770 was the pinnacle of Trek road bikes in 1985, and the Madone 7 is the pinnacle of today, so it’s apples to apples, even though one is lugged steel and the other is carbon-fiber.

I got out the tape measure and started doing some measurement.  Much to my amazement, the wheelbase on the two bikes is within 1/2cm.  In fact, if you slide the wheels in the dropouts on the 770, the wheelbase is identical.  Rather shockingly, the chain stay length is also within a hair, to my tape measure.  According to their published specs,

The Madone has a 52.5cm seat tube length; the 770 is 54.9cm.

The Madone has 4.5cm of fork offset; the 770 is 3.8cm.

The Madone has a 99.3cm wheelbase; the 770 has a 97.1cm wheelbase (at the shortest setting.  When pushed back in the dropouts, the wheelbase is about identical).

The Madone has a 56.4cm “effective” top tube length; the 770 is 55.5cm.

The Madone has a 40.7cm chain stay length; the 770 is 41.2cm.

The Madone has 7cm of bottom bracket drop; the 770 is 7.2cm.

The Madone has a 73.5 degree head tube angle; the 770 is identical.

Accordingly, the top tube on the 770 is a bit higher than on the Madone, which throws some of the measurements (such as seat tube length, etc.) off a bit, but the geometry is pretty remarkably similar.

I’ve come to appreciate that the 15% reduction in fork offset, coupled with super-narrow, skinny handlebars, is likely what makes the 770 feel so much more lively/nervous (depending on whether you want a compliment or a pejorative).  (If you want a better explanation of fork offset and its significance, click-through to this older post about the Vaya).

Nonetheless, I’m amazed at how close the geometry on the two bikes is, notwithstanding the 2.5 decades between their construction, not to mention their different materials.

Bontrager CX0 Tire Review

I’ve been riding Bontrager CX0s for a few years now, and literally have thousands and thousands of miles on them.  I burned through two sets of 700x38c tires on the Vaya (both sets going completely down to the threads, after rotating front to rear), and have burned through 2 front tires and 3 rear tires on my Moots (I’m now on my 2nd front tire and 3rd rear tire on it), and closing in on my 4th rear tire.  On the Moots, I run a 38c up front and a 34c in back.  All told, I’ve gotten into 5-digit total mileage on these tires, which is saying something.

In all that time, I’ve only really written about them once, now nearly 2 years ago…so with the amount of time that I spend on them, I thought it was time for an update and a proper review.

This front tire has about 1,500 miles of gravel on it, and still looks relatively new.

The rear tire has about 2,000 miles on it, and is starting to get that telltale slick stripe.

I’ve run them set up tubeless for nearly all of my mileage (the Vaya does have a tubed set on it right now, as it doesn’t see riding as often), and all of it has either been on Stan’s Crest rims or ENVE 29XC rims, both with Stan’s sealant.

If I had written this post a week ago, I would have told you that I had never flatted…even after pounding tire-first into a hard concrete lip during a creek crossing…but I flatted last Saturday.  A nasty little stubby drywall screw went right through the tire.  The Stan’s tried to seal it, but I hadn’t refreshed the Stans in about 6 months, so I limped home, thew some fresh sealant in (through the valve-stem), pumped it up and was good to go.  Had I been doing regular sealant replacement, I wouldn’t have had any issues.  (The Stan’s has now sealed and has been problem free for the past 100 miles).

With my current 38/34 setup, I vary pressure based on conditions.  Up front, my pressures for wet or mud / gravel / road would typically be 30-35 psi, 40-45 psi and 50 psi, respectively.  In the rear, it’s pretty similar, but usually 3-5 pounds higher than the front.  Most of the time, I run 40 psi up front and 45 in the rear.  I weigh about 150#, plus bike and gear.

Tire wear on these varies greatly by location.  Up front, with the 38, the front tire will last several thousand miles and will outlast 2-3 rear tires.  (When I was running 38/38 on the Vaya, I could rotate and stretch both tires out).  In the rear, depending on conditions, they’ll last typically around 2,000 miles, and up to about 3,000 miles.  Riding higher pressures on road wears them much faster.  What I typically see is a very significant amount of wear in the first 500 miles, as the center tread on the rear wears quite rapidly, and then slow, even wear from then on in.  I’ve been riding the Moots on a lot of surfaces lately, getting ready for some anticipated long rides next spring, and the pavement miles show with the stripe down the center.  You can run lower pressure and even out the wear on pavement, but they’re not quite as responsive then.

These are, in my opinion, the best tubeless gravel tires on the market.  For pure mud, I’d pick something more aggressive.  For pure road, I’d pick something with a continuous center tread for better treadlife.  But for a combination of speed, traction and durability, the CX0s are my favorite.  There are tires that are longer-lasting, certainly.  I’ll take the tradeoff of a little faster wear, in exchange for how light and quick rolling these are.  In terms of durability, as noted above, other than an errant screw, I’ve never had a flat.  They’ve been perfect running tubeless, and have never let me down.  That includes doing some drop-bar single track, riding really rough gravel, and riding a lot of other varied conditions.

Even as the center tread wears, the side lugs are very helpful on loose gravel and sand/mud.  In soft conditions where the tire sinks in, those side lugs help the tires self-clean and dig through to something solid.  These are 38/34mm wide, so they’re not floatation tires, but at low pressures, they acquit themselves admirably under soft conditions, and show good conformity to uneven surfaces.  Even at low pressures, the casings are durable enough to resist flatting or problems.  I will say that on hard surfaces, at low pressure, the side lugs can get a little squirmy and cause some handling irregularities.  That issue can be solved by either running appropriate pressure, or by backing off a bit in corners when running super-low pressures.

I can’t really say that there’s anything I’d change about these tires, nor is there a reason I’d try another tire.  They’ve proven to be bomb-proof for my riding.  They’re incredibly fast-rolling and efficient.  They’re great in a wide variety of conditions, which is what I’m looking for in a tubeless gravel tire (because I’m not swapping out tubeless tires for different conditions).  Would it be nice if they were longer wearing?  Absolutely…but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice how fast they are or how good of traction they have in the name of longer treadlife.  If I want maximum miles, I’ll run some Schwalbe Marathon Mondials…but on my Moots, I want something faster.

So if you write me and ask for a recommendation for a gravel tire, if you need something in the 34 or 38c realm, this is where I will point you.  They’re truly a fantastic tire.