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.

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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.

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.

The Chase

You’re there.  All in.  You’re pushing a big gear, spinning hard.  Your legs are burning.  Your lungs and heart are maxed out–doing all they can.  There’s the subtle whir of a chain in the background (maybe I should have lubed that before the ride) and the crunch of gravel beneath you.  There’s the sound of the wind in your ears.

Your headlight vibrates with the crunching gravel, and the usually crisp edges of what it illuminates shake with reverberation from the uneven surface below.  The darkness closes in on the round ball of light in front of you, as you focus on putting everything you have into the pedals, and as you start to reach beyond your abilities, the darkness closes in just a little more, as the edges of your vision start to get cloudy.

You’re going too hard, it isn’t sustainable, you can’t hold on.  You start to see the ground below you lighten up, as headlights start to get closer to you.  What are you riding from?  Why are you riding so hard?  It’s your friends behind you…but that’s not why you’re in the saddle.  You’re riding to burn away the tension of your day.  You’re riding away from the ghost in the details of your work, or the frustration of an unsolved problem.  On a good day, you might be riding on a euphoric wave of accomplishment…but tonight, you’re riding to vanquish an unseen enemy.  You no longer hear the wind or the chain or the gravel, thoughts of chain lube have passed, and the burn of your legs is moderating.  You barely feel the vibration of the rough terrain below.  It’s just the thumping of your chest, the narrow circle of vision in front of you, and darkness all around.

As your legs start to falter, the headlights behind you grow stronger, as does the whir of their tires, and eventually, you get passed.  They’re riding as a team, which would have been a smart tactical move, but you have to ride this night alone.

They pull past, and you realize how Quixotic your attack was.  No–that’s too high of praise; at least Quixote had actual windmills.  You’re tilting at an invisible specter.  You throttle back and start to feel the burning of your legs and chest.  Paradoxically, the burning becomes worse as you start to take it easier on your pedal strokes.  What were passing headlights are now taillights, receding in the distance in front of you.  You take the luxury of a deep breath, a swig of water–a few drops run down the side of your face and you uneasily paw at them with the gritty, dirty back of your gloved hand.  You don’t know if you won or lost, because you can’t see your competition and can’t tell when you’ve passed the finish line.

You do know that the guys up the road will have to wait for you if you continue to dawdle. They don’t know that you’re lost in the moment, and they’ll start to think something is wrong.  So you ignore the burning and wheezing, and you pull hard against the handlebars as you push all of your force into the pedals.  Between their soft pedaling and your hard pedaling, you rejoin the group, and work in unison to get back to town.

At the end of the ride, there’s not a word about the attack, or the chase, or the aftermath. There’s just talk of the great ride.

Continental Grand Prix Classic Review

I’ve put a few hundred miles on the Grand Prix Classic tires on the 770 of late.

The Grand Prix Classics are a 700x25c tire with modern construction techniques, but with a classic tread pattern and a gumwall sidewall.

The center tread is relatively smooth, with classic chevrons along the edges.

Chevrons and Gumwalls.

Being Continental tires, of course they are…

They’re fantastic looking tires, and on a classic bike such as this, the aesthetics are perfect.  They were picked in part because of their look–and on that front, they’re fantastic.  I had never ridden these particular tires before, and was a bit nervous about how they’d ride…if they would feel lethargic or unresponsive.

I’m happy to report that they ride as good as they look.  With the smooth center section, they roll incredibly well.  If I was blindfolded, I’d have a hard time telling these apart from the Bontrager R3s that I run on the Madone, when these are pumped up to 90 psi and I’m putting my all into them.  The nice thing about these tires, however, is that I can run them at 80 psi and they take some of the sting out of the 770’s frame without compromising rolling resistance.  Around  80-85 psi seems to be the magic point where the tires remain fast rolling and responsive, but still have enough cushion to take the edge off of sharp jolts in the pavement.  Riding the tiny handlebars on the 770, any little bit of cushion helps.

The 770 likes to corner hard–the geometry is perfect for aggressive turn-in, and for powering out of corners.  Under such circumstances, the Grand Prix Classics excel.  They reward hard efforts with responsiveness, and even when I hit a little gravel or grit mid-turn, they respond predictably.  The early morning frost and dew on the road of late has not been an issue–the Classics have done a great job of taming whatever surface I ride.  I’ve done a little bit (little–maybe 5 miles) of tame gravel on them, and they were up to the challenge, but the 770 is not a gravel bike, so don’t expect much more of that.

The other thing I’ve done is push the Classics beyond their limits.  I like to know how a tire is going to respond if I have an issue, so when I’m testing new tires, I’ll do a hard corner (at a relatively low speed) and intentionally jab some rear brake to break loose the rear end and see what happens.  In a perfect world, when you release the brake, the tires regain traction progressively and predictably.  Some tires regain traction in an unpredictable fashion, and snap the rear end into line (which can be hard to control under the best of circumstances, and can high-side you off the bike in the worst of circumstances).  I’m happy to say that the Grand Prix Classics are predictable and progressive–slide recovery was easy (and dare I say fun).  I’m not necessarily encouraging a lot of drifting through corners, but it’s good to know how your tires (and bike) will respond when something goes amiss mid-turn.

The Classics also respond well under hard braking.  This morning, I was approaching an intersection on a street with no stop sign, and there was a car on the cross-street, stopped at a stop sign.  As I approached, I made eye contact with the driver of the car and signaled a left turn, to turn on the street that the car was coming from.  The car could have made its turn (and I would have turned behind it), but inexplicably, the car waited until I was halfway through my turn and then started to drive directly into me.  I hit the brakes hard, on a wet road, and the tires hauled me down to a stop admirably.  The driver rolled down her window and apologized profusely, indicating that she didn’t know why she started pulling forward when she did.  (?!?!?)  In any event, the tires did their job.

It’s too soon to talk about longevity, but with a few hundred miles under their belt, the nubbies are still showing.  I will also say that these tires seem to hold air better (and longer) than my R3s, even running the same tubes.  I can’t quite explain that one.

Thus far, the Grand Prix Classics are perfect.  I’ve been very pleased with all aspects of their performance, and highly recommend them, if you have a bike that would benefit from their aesthetics.

Moots and Steamboat Rides 2014

I’ve been struggling with how to convey what amazing rides we had in Steamboat when we went out for the Moots Factory Tour.  I thought about doing a separate post for each day of the ride, but ended up deciding to just do a photo-chronicle.  It was amazing–each and every ride was amazing.  I rode a mountain bike better than ever before, and with better fitness than ever before, and with amazing friends.  We had great rides with Jason from Moots, great rides with Tobie and Chad and Bobby, and some fantastic rides with just Aaron and I.  The bikes were great, the terrain was awesome, the scenery was breathtaking.

At the end, we were all like: