Shuttle Smith -Ride of a Lifetime in Santa Cruz, CA

A few weeks ago, I flew out to Santa Cruz to have some much needed R&R with the family, and also to see my bro Brendan, who has resettled in the bay area.  With beautiful Cali weather afoot and some terrain I had never seen or ridden, Brendan made the call over to Shuttle Smith for a ride up the mountain.

We picked up a bike for the day, and met Dave at a nearby bike shop / parking lot at the base of the Sequel Demonstration Forest.  He was fully set up with a 4wd pickup truck, bottles of water, and a world of knowledge.  (For larger groups, he also has a bus he can use for shuttling, but for the two of us, it was a more intimate setting).

We headed out from the parking lot, and the knowledge dump commenced.  It was a truly amazing day of biking (I’ll write about that sometime), but the trip to the mountain biking was an experience onto itself.

IMG_5301 Dave is part mountain biking historian, part tour-guide, part California enthusiast…and all awesome.  All along the way, he was pointing out both historic artifacts from the Sequel area (such as one of the oldest hotels in California, and the location that they used to keep the horses…or an incredibly rare albino Redwood tree) and locations of incredible significance in the development of mountain biking. For years, I’ve seen the videos taken in the “post office” dirt jump track, and I shed some online tears when it was destroyed to make room for development.  We got to see it in person.  I’ve seen the videos of amazing mountain bike and dirt jump riders and the crazy things that they can do with bicycles.  We went past their houses–past their personal jump tracks.  It was a ~30 minute drive, and every second of it was filled with incredible stories about the area, the history and the culture.  For just about every pivotal moment in the sport, Dave’s been there–or talked to the person that was.  He was truly a wealth of knowledge. In Illinois, the drive to somewhere to bike is rarely scenic.  In California, every second of the ride was.  Dave knew the best routes, and the best spots to stop and take in the scenery. IMG_5300 When we reached the top of the access road in the Demonstration Forest, Dave pointed out all of the possible trails in the vicinity and gave expert recommendations on suggested routing to maximize our ride time and minimize our suffering on the climbs.  He talked about current trail conditions (dry, dusty) and suggested lines that would maximize speed and control (stay high on the berms to avoid the loose dirt at the bottoms).  He talked about places to stop for a breather, and obstacles to avoid.  He talked about places to grab water, and places to hit for dinner after the ride.  In short, he gave us the expert lowdown on all things Santa Cruz Mountain biking. We happened to just work with Dave for one ride up the mountain…but if you’re so inclined, he’ll shuttle you back and forth up the mountain again and again and again, until you’re incapable of riding any further.  He was incredibly enthusiastic, police, and knowledgeable.  Overall, it was the best guided shuttle service I’ve ever used, and lead to one of the best days of riding I’ve ever had.

If you’re ever in that neck of the woods and have some time to get out on a bike, drop Dave a line and set up a shuttle ride.  You won’t regret it!IMG_5308

Madone and Moots for Sale

If you’re a regular reader here, you know of the two amazing bikes that I’ve put together over the years, with DI2, and carbon, and titanium, and awesomeness.  The Madone and the Moots.  Search the site and you’ll find pictures and stories galore.

They’re both for sale.

Moots:

This is a 2014 Moots Routt–this was the first of the “new geometry” Moots, with a slightly lower BB height and a little slacker steering–the exact geometry that they went with on the current year’s model.

Drivetrain is Dura-Ace cranks with Ultegra Di2 shifting and Ultegra hydraulic brakes front/rear, with Shimano XT Ice rotors. BB is newly replaced Ultegra BB (because if you’ve run different Shimano BBs, you know that Ultegra are the best and last longer than their others).

Handlebars are 44cm ENVE compact road drop bars, stem is ENVE carbon stem, fork is ENVE disc-compatible CX fork.

Eriksen Ti Sweetpost.

Does not include saddle, pedals or bottle cages. Wheels shown in photograph are NOT included–it presently is sporting a nice set of unbranded Velocity wheels–they’re A23s without the brand labels on them.

There is some pedal rub on the cranks–Happy to post a current picture for an interested buyer.

This has all stops pulled. All the bells and whistles. As nice and as good as it gets. Contact me with any questions.

Will ship to CONUS.  $4750.

 

Madone:

This is a 2013 Trek Madone, Project One 7 series. Features Quarq SRAM RED cranks with powermeter, ceramic bb, Shimano Ultegra DI2 2×11 drivetrain with 11-25 cassette, Bontrager XXX stem, ENVE Road Drop Bars (Compact, 44cm), ENVE 3.4 SES Disc wheels with DT240s hubs, Bontrager brakes, Continental GP4000S tires (25c).

Things shown in pictures that aren’t included: pedals, bottle cages, and saddle. I have a saddle I can throw on the bike, but frankly, this bike deserves a perfect saddle that you pick.

Full disclosure statements: there is a small chip in the paint in the drive-side chainstay. I haven’t used the power meter in about a year, and I’m sure it should be sent in to be calibrated.

That’s it. The wheels are from here in flatlandia–there’s no wear on them. They’re on the first set of ENVE brake pads…and I’ve always exclusively used ENVE pads on them. Each part was picked based upon extensive research for the best possible build in the world.

It’s been lovingly ridden and maintained, and I’m sorry to see it go, but all things must go at some point. Will ship to CONUS, in the original box (as I bought this new, and kept the original packaging).  $3750.

Schrödinger’s Creak

I recently undertook some open heart surgery on the Madone, in an effort to track down and eradicate an elusive creak.

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In the time before undertaking that work, I realized that bike creaks are very Schrödinger.  Until you diagnose exactly where they’re coming from, they both are and are not every part on the bike–there’s a great deal of creak entanglement.  The bottom bracket is both fine and failing.  The pedals are both loose and tight.  The seatpost is both shifting and stable.

The only way to truly determine the origin of the creak is fixing the creak.  Tightening the pedals doesn’t work by itself–you have to try everything until the creak is resolved.  Because until you fix the creak, it is still there and you don’t know what it is.  Maybe you tightened the pedals but didn’t put grease on them, and it’s still the pedals creaking.  Or maybe it is the bottom bracket.

That Schrödinger…he knew a lot of things.  He is not often given credit for his bike-related work, however.

Poker in the Peloton

I had recently written of the living organism that is the paceline.  I had noted the joy of riding with those that you know.  One of the best parts of riding in a group with those you know is the game of poker that ensues.

Aaron is the best bike poker player I know.  He always, always has a game face.  You never see him suffer.  I’ve seen him riding a bike in 90 degree weather, experiencing food poisoning–game face on.  Going out on a quixotic sprint–game face on.  Subtle smile, no sign of exertion.  He’s so good at it that when he slows a bit, you just assume that he’s bored.  There’s never an indication that he’s slowing because he’s tired.  He’s just grown weary of being at the front, perhaps.

But you start to recognize the signals in other riders.

You see the subtle way that a rider starts rocking their hips more when they’re getting flagged.

You see the move from the drops to the hoods…back to the drops.  The twisting of the wrists as the hands try to grab the bars tighter–to wrest some greater leg strength from the silent carbon fiber.

You see the change in cadence as a rider shifts down, shifts up, shifts down, trying to find a sustainable gear.

You see the hands go to adjust a helmet as a bead of sweat runs down the side of a rider’s face.

You see the rider try to squeeze just a little tighter to the rider in front, working to hide just a little bit better in the draft.

You see a gulp for water–and then the paradox of deciding between quenching thirst by taking a drink, or continuing to breathe as hard as a rider can breathe.

You see all these things and more, and you know what they mean.  You know who will stay at the front until they’re spent, and who will back off and rotate through.  You know who will take a pull no matter the personal cost, and who will languish at the back of the pack and let others do the work.  You know the cards that other riders are playing without having to be told.  And you decide how to play your own cards.

It’s a rolling paceline and a friend goes to the front.  You see the hunch in his shoulders as he starts to burn–the hunting for a gear.  He hasn’t flicked an elbow yet, but you know he’s suffering, so you pull through anyhow and offer respite.  Or maybe that yellow sprint sign is lingering in the distance and you let him suffer…you play him out longer…you wait for the chance to not just pull through, but to blow out the front of the pack with a hard sprint that you know he can’t follow.

You’ve got cards to play too.

Today, you’re letting that build–you’re letting a friend take a long, lone pull.  Hey, they haven’t flicked the elbow, you think.  But behind you, someone is watching your cards.  They see you not pull through.  They know what you’re thinking, what you’re doing.  And while you’re laying in wait, they’re lying in wait.  While you’re setting a trap, so are they.

You get close enough to the sprint that you’re ready to lay your cards out in one effort far harder than you can reasonably sustain, with that full house that you think no one has seen.  And then you go–it starts as you just pulling through, but then you don’t slow and move over–you build and you’re exploding out of the saddle in a whir of gears and legs and sweat and growls.  You’ve played your hand.  Your cards are on the table.  The yellow sign lingers in the distance and it looks as though the pot is yours.

Just as you start to get ready to celebrate the victory, you hear the whir of gears behind you.  That person you hadn’t seen–hadn’t expected–the person reading your cards.  They explode from your draft and push through to the line, blowing your cards out of the water.

In these rides, it’s not about winning or losing.  It’s about playing your hand as best as you can, and playing fair.  It’s about enjoying the game.  It’s about taking a turn as the dealer, and taking a turn as the victor.  It’s about learning your friends nuances so well that you see the subtle indications that they need help–or that they’re ready to be taken advantage of.  It’s about bluffs and team play, and reassessing as the game proceeds.

It’s poker in the peloton.

The Living Paceline.

Sometimes, riding by myself is really satisfying–go out and ride at my pace (usually, as hard as I can ride), on a course I determine.  No being cut off, no one not pulling their weight, no stress.  But much of the time, I enjoy riding with a group–and I really enjoy riding with a group of people I know, or people that I don’t know but who are good riders….riders who know how to work together…who become one organism going down the road.  Riders who become a living paceline.

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You don’t notice it when you’re at the front…you notice it when you’re at the back.  If you’re just a little to the side, you can see the rhythmic pumping of legs in synchronization, as each rider matches pace.

You see the subtle sway of shoulders as the pace increases.

You see how a crosswind hits the group and the whole group moves over a few inches, and crabs into the handlebars in response, in unison.

You see how the front rider drops some fingers to call out a roadside imperfection and moves over ever so slightly, and then watch the gesture and movement be mirrored from the front of the paceline to the back.

You see each rider staring intently at the rider ahead of them, and beyond, watching for the nonverbal communication that controls the pace of the group.

There’s a ripple of words as someone calls “car back”, and the message is conveyed to the front of the group.

There’s the flurry of hands going up and down in the universal ‘slowing’ motion as we approach the intersection–the pivot of heads back and forth looking for traffic.  The click of gears being dropped.  The shout of “Clear” echoes back through the group and then everyone is out of the saddles, in unison, accelerating through the intersection and back up to speed.

The ride continues like that–balanced.  Strangely silent.  Perfect communication without  a word.  Some small transgression is committed–a rider gets too close pulling through the front of the line perhaps, and that transgression is instantly forgiven with eye contact and an apologetic nod.

The world is a silent whir of wind and chains.  Of skinny tires on hot pavement.  Only the occasional hazard penetrates the silence of the paceline.  The group spins through, front front to back, in perpetual rotation, in perpetual pedaling.

And then in the distance, the yellow “stop ahead” sign looms.

Hands move from hoods to drops.

As quietly as possible, riders try to shift their gears.

The group working together–the pulling through–it all freezes as people subtly try to position themselves for the coming sprint.

And then one rider goes.  The paceline–that common organism–instantly splits apart into a long string of independent riders.

The front rider goes out hard and tries to drop the group, but those who were well-positioned take the draft and wait for the right moment.

Suddenly, one of the group moves left and sprints hard–and then another moves even further left.

The world starts to go blurry.  Vision narrows to a skinny little round tunnel, a tiny patch of pavement just beyond the yellow sign.  Breathing as hard as possible.  Pedaling as hard as possible.  Out of the saddle, pulling up on the bars, pushing down on the pedals, hips rocking, bike rocketing forward.

The invisible City Limits line is crossed and people collapse back into their saddles.  Short-lived glory for one rider as the group coalesces again.  Back into a silent paceline.  Slowly into conversation.  Less organization.  Less effort.  Less strain.  One organism again, but filled with entropy and lactic acid.

The living paceline.

DSP Lizardskins Bar Tape

Going all the way back to my first ‘serious’ drop-bar bike (the Vaya), I’ve run DSP Lizardskins 2.5mm tape.

Why?

Well, on my first real bike, Tobie didn’t ask me what tape to use.  He just used DSP.  I’ve had it on the Vaya, the Ridley, the Madone, the Moots, the Moots, my ‘retro-Trek’, etc.  Yeah, I’ve used other tape in the interim–cork, other rubber tape, various brands…but I’ve always gone back to Lizardskins.

About a week ago, I was doing a hot 60 mile loop on the Moots and I looked down at the bar tape.  The Moots was built up in January of 2014.  In the intervening 2.5 years, I’ve ridden 5 figure miles on it.  I don’t know exactly how many, but a lot.  There were many, many gravel rides.  There was a ridiculous amount of training for Dirty Kanza.  There were exploits of all forms.  I looked down and, holy crap.  That’s still the original bar tape.

Yeah, it’s a little worn.  A lot of times, when I’m motoring along, I’ll pull my hands back to the bend at the tops of the bars–back where the center part of the bars bends 90 degrees forward to the hoods…I put my hands there and pedal.  I squeeze there when I’m hurting.  I languish there when I’m lamenting.  I relax there when I’m spinning.  I rest there when I’m riding solo.  Right there, in the crook of the bars, you can see where the gloss on the tape is gone.  You can see the outline of countless hours in the saddle.  You can see the investment of time that I’ve made in my legs.  You can see the past glories and the ignominious defeats.  You can see shades of the Kansas mud in the creases, from miles walked with a bike on my shoulder, one hand on the bars.

But you can also see the salt from the ride to Madison.  You can see the spots where my grip has tightened down on a Wednesday night sprint.  You can see that spot where I just barely clipped a tree when doing a little singletrack CX action.

The tape feels as good as when it was new.  I probably should replace it, just for aesthetic reasons, but there are a lot of memories there…and there’s nothing wrong with it, other than a little wear.

It’s grippy when it’s wet.  It’s comfy when it’s hot.  It’s compliant, even when it’s cold.  It doesn’t draw attention to itself; it just silently performs its job.  I haven’t maintained it because it hasn’t called for it.  And so it’s become one of my favorite products.  It’s much the same on the Madone–I’ve been riding it for nearly 4 years, all with DSP tape.  Truth be told, I swapped bars on the Madone and treated it to some new tape a couple years ago, so it’s not all-original like the Moots…but it still has a lot of miles on it.

Some time, I’ll throw some new tape on the Moots.  Until then, the DSP will keep doing its job, silently.  That’s the trait of an excellent product.  That’s why I love my lizardskins.

Salsa Horsethief: Split Pivot, Split Personality

I’ve had the chance to spend time on both the 29er wheelset and the 27.5″ wheelset.

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The 29er wheelset is Sram Roam 30 with Schwalbe 29×2.3″ tires, tubeless.  The 27.5+ wheelset is Stan’s Hugo with WTB Bridger tires, set up with tubes.

In 29er mode, the Thief is lithe and nimble.  It climbs, it shreds, it descends, it jumps.

In plus mode, the Thief is a bit more terrestrial.  At least in my incapable hands, it doesn’t like to get as airborne.  On the other hand, on the ground, it plows through anything.  I haven’t found the limits of the tires, because their limits are higher than my confidence level.  In corners, you can just keep pushing harder and harder.  Brake less and less.  Pedal more.  It just rails.

Surprisingly, the Thief feels more tail-happy with the plus tires in corners.  By that, what I mean is that the Thief will pivot or slide the tail through a corner more readily with the plus tires.  I’m not sure if it is the greater grip up front, or exactly what causes the sensation, but it’s very palpable.

I’m running about 15/15 in the plus tires, compared to about 26/27 in the 29er setup.

The plus setup is noticeably heavier to pedal–but that comes with the extra rubber and tubed setup.  I’m looking forward to trying the plus size setup this winter, as well.

If I was doing a no-holds barred, top speed shredathon, I’d rock the 29er setup.  If I was exploring a new area I hadn’t ridden, I’d ride the plus setup.  I’d say that the plus setup is better at hiding my riding mistakes, but the 29er setup is faster on Illinois terrain.

One note on setup: the plus size wheelset weighs appreciably more than the 29er setup.  From a suspension perspective, I run the same pressure, but I set the rebound dampening a bit slower–about 2 clicks.  That makes a significant difference, particularly in the rear.

All in all, it’s amazing that the bike has both capabilities–and it’s a significant upgrade from my previous rides.  The Boost spacing front and rear gives a lot of flexibility.