White Tiger, Green Power Ranger, Human-Curling

Last night.

Last night was crazy.

We had the White Tiger and the Green Power Ranger on one ride.  We had studded-tire-bicycle ice-skating.  We had river riding.  We had it all.

Is the Captain in you?

So color-coordinated that it hurts.

No, really.  My eyes–they hurt.

The snow was a bit deep, getting to the river.

But the conditions on the river were fantastic.

And with the help of Chad’s SS, Titanium El Mariachi with studded tires, we did some human-curling.

No, this is not a scene from Tron / Yes, Chad, with studded tires, has enough traction to skid three grown men.

So.  Much.  Fashion.

Temps were about 14 degrees, which felt positively balmy.  I wore my Gore Windstopper Turtleneck, a Gore Jacket, and a long-sleeve jersey.  For comparison sake, that’s what I would have worn last November, if it was 40 degrees out.  Once you get confidence in your gear and get everything dialed in, it is amazing how well stuff performs.

Fun times had, memories made, river conquered.  Fatbikes.

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Gore Windstopper Base Layer Turtleneck Review

I’ve been trying out the Gore Windstopper Turtleneck base layer for a few rides lately.  Here it is:

Nice, zippered front for great adjustability.

The front, shoulders and arms are all made from a thin layer of windstopper–incredibly effective at stopping cold from getting to you, and yet super-breathable like all of the windstopper items I’ve tried.

The armpits and back feature a breathable, non-windstopper mesh for even better ventilation.

From a function perspective, this is a great piece of kit.  When I last wore it, the temp was about 30 degrees, sunny, and light wind.  I wore this under a winter jersey, and nothing else…I was super-comfortable.  When I was working hard, I unzipped the jersey and the collar of the base layer a bit, and when I was cooling off, I zipped back up.  Great temperature regulation.  I didn’t have any issues with moisture buildup, even though I was working pretty hard, and sweating pretty hard–it’s highly breathable.

Regular readers know how fond I am of the Windstopper Singlet.  This is the singlet, with arms, a zipper and a higher collar.  The singlet is perfect for spring/fall use, and this is perfect for winter use.  I firmly believe that the base layer is one of the most critical layers of clothing.  If you have a great outer layer and wear cotton under it, you’ll get soaked, and then cold.  A good, wicking, windproof base layer goes a long ways towards rider comfort.

A note on sizing.  I’m normally a medium in just about everything I wear in Gore…and the base layer is pretty stretchy…but in this case, I’m wearing a Large.  It fits perfectly, has great arm length, and is sized ideally.  If you can try on the base layer before ordering (such as by going to a great shop like North Central Cyclery), do so.  If you cannot try it on, look carefully at the sizing.  Had I ordered this, I probably would have ordered a medium, and it would have been very snug.  The large is the better option for me, in this instance.

Anyhow, great kit, highly recommended.  Here it is in action, under a winter jersey:

Into the Woods: Beargrease

I pre-rode the BLBBRBK course for a few hours yesterday, working out details and checking on a few pending items on my to-do list.  I brought along the big camera and took a few minutes to shoot some Beargrease love.  The shots speak for themselves.

I think I like a lot of the shots better in B/W.

The view from the bike.

Yes, I was there, too.

Shimano XTR-985 Brake Review

I ran Shimano XTR-985s on my Superfly and I run them on my Spearfish.  On the Spearfish, they’re on their original pads, notwithstanding the fact that they’ve seen some pretty terrible conditions.

When I got the Beargrease, I swapped the XTRs from the Superfly over to it, and couldn’t be any happier.  The XTRs perform flawlessly.  They squeak less than Avids (I swear they do), they never require adjustment, they have amazing stopping power…the benefits go on and on.  They *almost never require bleeding, and the brake levers are fantastic.  I’d go to XTR just for the brake levers and the ability to adjust throw and reach so easily, even if they didn’t perform so amazingly well otherwise.

I say that they *almost never require bleeding for a simple reason.  I’ve never had to bleed them on any of my bikes, even after shortening the brake lines, until this week.  For some reason, the banjo bolt on my rear caliper came loose on a ride Wednesday night, and I puked all of the brake fluid out of the rear brake.  So Friday night, I did a quick bleed job, and all’s well.

A note on my bleeding technique:  I put the bike in the stand, and set it so the front tire was pointing straight up in the air.  I positioned the brake lever so the reservoir fill hole was pointed up, and removed the reservoir cap.  I removed the rear caliper, and pointed the bleed port down, towards the ground (leaving the brake line attached).  I then filled a syringe with mineral oil, and hooked it to the bleed port on the caliper with a rubber tube.  I cracked the bleed port, and used the syringe to pump oil into the caliper.  This filled the caliper and then the brake line, and eventually the brake master cylinder with oil.  Since I was filling from the bottom, with no place for air to get trapped in the system, all of the air bubbles were pushed up by the rising oil.  I filled until oil started coming out of the master cylinder, tapped the brake caliper and master cylinder a few times with a rubber mallet, pushed in a bit more oil, and then closed the caliper bleed port.  I then closed the master cylinder fill port.  It took about 20 minutes, start to finish, and worked perfectly.  I’ve ridden twice since then, and the brake is nice and solid.

Reliability and function is perfect.  I have zero complaints.  I’m thinking that the odd banjo bolt issue must have been user error in installing the brakes.  We’ll see.  (I’ve paid a bit more attention to brake line routing and hope that it reduces stress on the banjo bolt).

I was a bit worried that mineral oil wouldn’t function well in cold weather.  It isn’t an issue.

Those pictures were taken after a few hours of snowdrift busting on a day when the temperature was -17 and the windchill was nearly -50.  I just let the snow melt off in the garage, and function remained perfect.  No problems in the cold, no problems thereafter once they dried off.

Another great product, that I recommend with no reservations.

Problem Solvers Mismatch Adapter Review

On the Beargrease, I’m currently running Shimano XTR985 brakes with the SRAM XX1 drivetrain.  I’ve previously talked about my love for the XX1; the XTR brake set is also amazing.  I think they’re a clear step up over the Avid brakes that came stock.

This does create a problem, however.  The mounting points for brake lever and shifters do not work together, so: 1) you end up running 2 mounts on the handlebars; 2) you cannot get optimal spacing for the shifter and brake; and, 3) it’s ugly.  The shifter cables interfere with finding the perfect mounting spot, and I ended up having the shifter mounted further inboard than I liked–making shifting a bit inconvenient.  I also couldn’t get the perfect brake angle and shifter angle; I had to compromise and have less-than-perfect on both settings, in order to have both be functional.

There’s a solution.  Problem Solvers makes a Mismatch Adapter designed to couple XTR Brakes to the SRAM shifter (trigger shifter, in this instance).  In particular, I used the BRO386 (thanks for the find, Chad at North Central Cyclery).  Installation took all of 3 minutes, and 2 allen wrenches (a 4mm and a 5mm).

Here’s the adapter in use:

A view from the other side:

And from the backside:

It’s just a tiny, simple, CNC’d block of aluminum.  It works perfectly.  It has 2 holes so you can adjust the lateral location of the shifter.  With 2 holes on the shifter body, you have 4 possible shifter alignments.  Adjustment is totally simple and very quick.

I’ve had it in place for 2 rides, and it has made a very positive change in control position.  There’s nothing to break or go wrong, so I don’t think a long-term review is necessary.  This is the exact, perfect product I needed to couple the best braking system on the market with the best fatbike drivetrain on the market.  It works perfectly in this application, and I highly recommend it.