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.

BLBBRBK 2014 Details

BLBBRBK is on.  Next Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 10:00am.

We have spent the past year searching for the perfect venue.  We’ve looked in forest preserves, parks, private property, farms, creeks, over hill and over dale.

We found it.

BLBBRBK will be at the Campton County Forest Preserve, in Campton Hills, Illinois.  The closest address is 4N498 Town Hall Road, St. Charles, IL.  Here are the directions:

From the west (North or South), take Illinois Route 47  to Illinois Route 64.  Go East on Route 64 to Town Hall Road (about 2-3 miles).  Turn South on Town Hall Road.  (If you reach the McDonalds in Campton Hills, you’ve gone too far).  Once you turn South on Town Hall Road, look for the first park entrance on the left (east) side of the road.  Stay to the right, and drive to the end of the road.  We’ll be in the shelter.

From the East, take Randall Road to Illinois Route 64.  Go West on Route 64 to Town Hall Road (a few miles after you pass through Campton Hills (old Wasco) and go past the McDonalds.  When you get to Town Hall Road, turn Left (south).  Then, follow the directions in the previous paragraph.

In the above picture, we’re going to be in the building next to the ^^^^^^parking lot shown right above the carats.

Don’t forget to bring your fatbike.  Don’t forget to bring a sled.  A sled is required for the race start–at least one per team.

Race starts promptly at 10am.  There are bathrooms on-site, but not much else in the way of facilities.  Bring your own supplies, and plan on being self-sufficient with food and water.

Check-in starts around 9:30ish.

The course is somewhere between 2-40 miles long.  Plan on riding laps.  Laps will take about 20 minutes, so bring warm clothes for the period in between laps.  We’ll have a fire going, but the forecast is chilly.

The snow conditions should be perfect, and the route is amazing.

You can bring your own course map.  Here’s how you do it:

1)  Extend your open hand in front of your face, palm towards your face.

2)  Bend your pinky and ring fingers down towards your palm.

3)  Slightly extend your thumb from your hand.

4)  Bend your index finger down towards your palm.

Like this:

No really.  This is the course map:

We do ask that you refrain from pre-riding the course or doing pre-ride recon.  We’re working on having perfect conditions, and a few surprises, so wait until next Sunday.  It’ll be worth it.

See you next Sunday, January 26, 2014…at 9:30 for registration.  Fatbikes (3+ inch tires) only.  Note that you can have 2 riders per bike!

If you’re coming, hit us up on the BLBBRBK Facebook page, so we know to expect you.

 

Blood and Surfing.

As I type this, I’m keenly aware that Monday’s post was Hurt, and now I’m typing about Blood.  These are the kind of posts that inspire questions from my wife about exactly why I ride.

Last night, BPaul, Lenny and I headed out of town on fat bikes.  Having spent most of our recent fat rides on trails in town, we wanted to get out of town and actually go somewhere…so we headed down to Afton Forest Preserve.  Riding south, into the wind, in 14 degrees, on a fatbike, at a good clip, I was suffering.  That old familiar taste of blood in the back of your mouth…  In this case, I had been working until about 7pm, then scarfed down some Chipotle, and was on the bike at 8.  I felt like that Chipotle was going to be revisited a second time, in a less pleasant fashion.

Summer is around the corner.  Time to shift training to accommodate this sort of effort.

The “Imgonnapukerightnow” feeling eventually subsided, and we rolled into Afton.  The snow drifts were deep, and had frozen with a nice crust on top.  For the most part, you could spin right across the top of the drifts.  In some areas, it was like a little snow pump track.  It was ridiculously fun to work the little drift rollers, spin up a 3-4 tall, rock-solid drift, and hop of the back-end.  It made the whole ride worthwhile.  Off-road, I feel so much more confident on the bike.  

The drifts were akin to fatbike surfing–or snowmobiling.  It was effortless when you were rolling on the hard drifts, and you could drop-in and roll into the trough of the snowbank at will.  Fantastic.

Back on the road for the ride home, I was again reminded of the XX1 drivetrain.  It is amazing and I positively love it 95% of the time.  That said, when you’re on the road with a mild tailwind and 2 strong riders, having some more gearing options would be nice.  28×10 just isn’t tall enough gearing to hang with BPaul when he gets on a wild hare, and even when not geared out, the jump between 28×12 to 28×10 is pretty big.  In some ways, the 2×10 Beargrease may be more versatile.  For ultimate fatbike use, I still think the XX1 is the faster call.  Which option is better overall…that’s open to debate.  For summer use, I’m definitely going to go to a 30 or 32T chainring.

One closing note: I was reading a commenter on Facebook yesterday who indicated that gravel riders ride gravel (instead of crits) because they are unmotivated, mediocre riders.  He suggested not only that he was superior because he rides crits, but that his friends were superior and strive for excellence, unlike gravel riders.  He indicated that he rides gravel too (presumably when he’s slumming), but because of his general superiority, blinding speed, and need to perform at a higher level, he focuses on crits instead of gravel rides/races.  There was a note of pity in his tone when he talked about events like the Gravel Metric.

I’m still formulating my thoughts on his comments.  In a lot of ways, I really feel sorry for the guy.  Based on some of his other comments, it really sounds like he’s missing out on some of the best parts of cycling.  I’m sure all of his friends crap excellence and pee pineapple Fanta, but they’ve got nothing on our Axletree folk.  In a lot of ways, I really hope that people with his “my form of cycling is better” or the “anything to win” mentality stick to crits.  I don’t really want to go out and ride, or race, against people who want to be cutthroat.  After a hard race, I go back to work on Monday.  If another rider goes down, I will stop to help, not sprint for the win.  It’s a different culture–a different ethos.  The riding I do slakes my competitive thirst, and also makes me a better, more compassionate, more giving, more team-oriented person.  I say “better” here in comparison to myself, not in comparison to others; I’m not claiming to be better (or worse) than the above-mentioned crit racer.  But I am claiming that doing the rides I do, with the people I do them with, makes me a better person than I’d otherwise be.

I feel bad for someone who has to cast aspersions on others, without knowing them, in order to feel better about his own choices.  If what I do is mediocrity, then mediocrity is pretty damn amazing, and surprisingly fulfilling.  Over time, I’m realizing that I have nothing to prove, and no one to impress, on a bike.  I’m realizing that if I ride a bike in order to tell others something about me, or if I worry about a ride result and how it will be perceived by others, then I’m selling myself short.  I want to be challenged, I want to ride my best, I want to have fun–but I want to do these things around others that I care about and look out for.  I ride bikes for recreation and sport; I recognize that, and relish it.

I’m slowly realizing that I don’t have to feel superior to fell fantastic.  Even as I realize that; even as I type it…I still have to temper the sarcastic/cynical side of me that wants to shred obvious weaknesses in his syntax.  I’m the first to admit–I’ve got a long ways to go with my personal development, and never see myself as being anything other than imperfect.  (Obvious statement is obvious).  But at the very least, I can start to see when I’m about to be a douchebag, and restrain myself.  Usually.

Sometimes.

Blood and surfing.  Get some.

Hurt.

I hurt myself today.

On the bike.

In ways that I haven’t hurt myself in a long time.

I blame a Facebook friend.

For this:

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Madone, on a trainer, in the garage.  It was about 45 degrees in the garage.  I was riding in bib-shorts and a long-sleeve jersey, and had steam coming off of me…literally.  I did about 8 minutes of warmup, and then hit it, while watching Operation Pacific on Youtube.

It sucked.  Big time.

I don’t have a frame of reference for what “all out” should be.  My “all out” varied in wattage at different points in the ride.  I’m wondering if that’s ok, or if I should shoot to hold a certain average wattage when going ‘all out’.  I also don’t know what the recovery ride should be. Just pedaling along gently?  Maintain a certain minimum wattage?

I’m really not fond of riding the trainer, but it is January, and I’m starting to feel a need to have more structure to some of my rides.  A trainer is about the best way to cram productive suffering into an early morning, pre-work ride that I’ve found.  I wore a heart rate monitor for the first time in a long time…that was interesting.  When going into recovery, my % of MHR dropped almost immediately to 60-65%.  When ramping up to maximum effort, it was really, really hard to get over 95% of MHR.  That’s high, but a year ago if I did max effort on the trainer, my heart rate would take a really long time to drop a meaningful amount, and I’d easily blow up into 105-110% of MHR.  So from a cardiovascular perspective, I’m pretty significantly improved.  (And if I dare say so, my heartrate has decreased while my wattage has increased).

In any event, there was pain, in pyramidal form.  Truth in advertising and all.

And yes, the Moots is still for sale.