Category Archives: Gear

And the snow finally settles in…

We cyclists were pretty fortunate so far this winter. Aside from a few weeks of freezing-ass cold and choking, inverted smog in the air, October to January was pretty pleasant, and I continued to ride outside until about a week ago. Then, the snow came with authority. While decidedly un-Utah-like (wet, heavy, rain/snow mixture in the valley), what it lacked in predicatble moisture content it more than made up for in sheer quantity.

In the interest of not riding through a perpetual dust bowl this summer, I’m not too upset that normal winter finally came. But, I’m also a little upset that normal winter finally came. The appearance of snow coincided with new responsibilities at work, too, so far from being mildly entertained during the day and wishing I could duck out for a couple hours to ride, I’m quite busy and tired by the time I get home, and have little to no interest in occupying the trainer, given the resulting saddle sores that occurred during the last trainer commitment.

I’ll probably break out the skinny skis sometime in the next week, after I kick this cold that showed up on Friday. Maybe even give skate skiing a try, get my winter roadie on. Find a fanny pack (excuse me, ‘lumbar hydration pack’) and dial in my V2. Or something.

I have a pretty strong case of spring bike fever settling in as well. Big plans for an existing frame, and bigger plans for a new roadie and a new mountain frame. And some magical way to sell whatever I can to get the money for them.

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Filed under Bikes, Gear, Training, Weather

Redverz Gear Tenere Expedition Tent

Redverz Tenere Expedition Tent

I just came across this rad little tent, and had to give it some blog love. While it’s designed for motorcycle touring, if you break up the weight between a couple people, it would be pretty awesome for bike touring as well. It packs down relatively small, and weighs 13 pounds. 13 pounds is a bit of weight, 6 1/2 per person if you’re sharing, but if you are touring in inclement weather or are willing to carry a little bit more for the luxury of being able to stand up in your tent, it might be just the thing.

This is the original version, and it looks like they’ve improved pretty significantly in the Series II version, which adds more usable vestibules on both ends.

They’re definitely not cheap tents, but they’re on par with comparable high-end backpacking tents, and you can’t beat a purpose-built shelter.

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Filed under Bikes, Gear, Touring

DealerCamp, Day Two (with pictures)

Headed up to DealerCamp for a second day last Wednesday, and actually got to ride bikes and take pictures. Though not necessarily take pictures of the bikes I was riding (gotta work on that).

Salsa Spearfish

My first ride of the day was Salsa’s top-of-the-line Spearfish. A mix of X9 and X0, carbon bars and post, and nice all-around build. I liked this bike a lot, except for one minor (but major) thing: My calves touched the linkage with every single pedal stroke. I have big calves, and a relatively narrow pedaling stance, but I’ve never had this happen before. My guess is that it’s the fault of the BB30 interface. Although the Q-factor doesn’t change, the crank arms’ position relative to the rest of the bike does, and they wind up closer to the frame and cause interference  (in my case) with the relatively wide suspension linkage. We’re talking about maybe a quarter-inch too fat on either side; it’s not much, but it feels like a lot when you hit it every stroke. For reference, my calves are about 17 inches around at their widest point. Your mileage may vary.

Outside of what amounts to a little more than a fit issue, I was very impressed with the way the Spearfish handled. My regular ride is a rigid 29er, so I’m no pro when it comes to suspension, but I was relatively impressed with what Salsa has done. I never felt like I was putting energy into the suspension while climbing, but at the same time, it soaked up everything I wanted it to soak up. Culverts, rocks, roots, and even a couple of 8-12-inch drops were no big deal. Salsa markets this as a 24-hour race bike, and as an all-day rider. I can say it is definitely a bike I would want at 2:30 in the morning after 15 hours of riding. It didn’t do anything all that fantastically, but I forgot it had suspension when I was climbing, and it didn’t feel like I was working it too hard on the descents. I wasn’t tired in any way after I got off, which is exactly how I had hoped to feel.

The spec package leaves a bit to be desired, but even at the high end, Salsa have to hit a price point. I would have preferred to see some non-Avid brakes, and an XT/SLX component mix.

Ridley Noah RS
I wish I’d had another hour on this bike. I rode from Deer Valley to Kimball Junction and back, which I think is somewhere around 15 miles round-trip. This bike is fast. Like passing cars on the highway fast. Maxing out a 53-11 and feeling like I needed a couple more teeth to get anywhere near this bike’s top end fast. But, speed is nothing without handling and stability. The Noah RS has both in spades. The front end is incomparably stable; take your hands off the bars at 35 miles per hour, and don’t worry about what the front wheel will do. I didn’t get to take it into anything super twisty, but carving a turn was never an issue. On the way down from Deer Valley, I passed many cars on the highway, probably in excess of 45-55 mph. That was a hell of a lot of fun, but most bikes are fun on a mild downhill. The Noah RS impressed me on the uphill on the way back as well. I was spinning comfortably in a 39-23, and actually thought I was pushing a 30 front chainring until I got off and looked to confirm. This isn’t really much of a climb, but it would typically be enough to put me toward the red in that gear combination. Riding was nearly effortless, all the way around. A colleague also rode it, and liked it, but thought it was so stable as to become a bit boring. He preferred the Damocles; it was sportier. High-end car comparisons usually work, so I would consider the Noah RS a Bentley, while the Damocles is maybe more of a Porsche. In the Bentley, you’re all of a sudden at 110 mph, and it feels like you’re gliding.
Ridley has done a lot of work in the wind tunnel to make this one of the fastest bikes in the world, and it’s apparent. When I brought it back, one of their reps commented that there’s ‘just something about that bike.’
The downside was the SRAM Force group. DoubleTap is stupid, and their hoods feel cheap, unstable, and uncomfortable. It wasn’t bad when I was upshifting while blowing downhill, but downshifting on the climbs means you have to throw the lever halfway across the bars, and accidental upshifts are common. If I was a pro rider sponsored by SRAM, I’d try to get Shimano internals mated to SRAM levers somehow.

Other cool shit that I saw but didn’t ride:

Felt’s new throwback bike. Not sure on the model name, but this is one classic-looking bike. Steel, built with Campy’s Athena 11 alloy finish group, and just good looking.

K-Edge’s Ki2 mod. A long, machined derailleur cage add-on teams up with a remachining of the Di2 shifter pods to make an electronic mountain group. I’m sure Shimano’s paying attention, but it shifts beautifully. These pictures are from one of their guys’ personal Niner.

Sorry for all the shitty iPhone pictures, I keep forgetting to run around with my regular camera.

And here’s a picture of the MAST pants-cum-Recovery boots.

A thousand bucks for the whole setup is steep, but if it really does decrease your muscles’ recovery time, that may be worth it to some folks. At least the science is legitimate.

I mentioned Litespeed’s new L1R in the last post, but didn’t have any pictures. Here’s a few.

The L1R will only be available as a frameset, so don’t get too hot and bothered by those Reynolds RZR wheels…

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Filed under Bike Industry, Bikes, Gear

Bike DealerCamp, Day 1 News and Notes

I spent most of the day running from meeting to meeting, so I don’t have any good pictures, but I did see a few things that are worth noting.

 

SRAM’s Slide:

After a couple years of near-dominance in the OE spec world, SRAM seems to be starting to slide. It could be for a variety of reasons, but I think it boils down to a simple lack of high-end innovation. On the road side, the Apex group sucks, and that’s the only new thing they’ve shown besides being able to anodize the Red group into different (non-red) colors. 2×10 changed the mountain world, perhaps permanently, but attempting to integrate TruVativ and Avid into SRAM-branded components will likely do damage to both brands. Now that Shimano has a 10-speed mountain group, and brakes that beat the piss out of anything Avid’s producing, I would expect to see that slide continue onto the mountain side.

 

Intense Carbine:
A pretty creative name for Intense’s new carbon fiber wunder-bike. 5.5-6 inches of travel, and a 5.5-pound frame. Yet another BB standard in BB92, VPP suspension, and rumored to be around 28 pounds built. This bike sits alongside Santa Cruz’s carbon Nomad, Yeti’s ASR-C, and a handful of other category-redefining, pedal-able trail bikes. But, the boys at Intense make a tougher mountain bike than just about anyone else out there, so I’d imagine they’ll do well if they can keep it on sales floors.

 

Litespeed’s ongoing need to name everything with a letter and a number:

At least this time it’s not some multi-personality aero road bike that will leave you blowing side to side at the slightest hint of a crosswind. The new Litespeed L1R is a bike that has apparently been in the works for over 5 years, and draws its geometry from some of the lessons learned by Litespeed when they made custom pro bikes. Short, snappy chainstays, combined with an ultra-stable front end make a bike that responds rapidly, but never feels twitchy. Another new BB ‘standard’ in the BB 386. FSA is apparently the only company that can keep up with all these standards, because their cranks find their way onto almost all the new hotness. It’s a spendy bike, but a great choice for someone who likes to go fast all day long. Litespeed is one of the manufacturers that has drifted away from SRAM in a big way. Also new at the booth was a titanium city frameset, complete with braze-ons for just about everything. Unfortunately, Litespeed tacked a Cross-Check fork on it and called it a day. Kind of lazy (if functional) presentation for a $2000 frame.

Ridley’s F.A.S.T.:

This is a pretty cool piece of carbon engineering. The brake caliper arms are the rear half of the fork blades. Not ‘tucked into’ the blades, or ‘integrated with’ the blades, but they are actually the blades themselves. Not sure on performance or aero gains, but a pretty creative solution to a problem that may or may not have existed.

MAST pants for tri-geek recovery:

That’s right, a company has branded Military Anti Shock Trousers as a recovery device. I’ll have to get a picture of this tomorrow to show the scene. Words simply cannot describe it.

Tri-ing a little harder:

Tri companies are encroaching heavily on the bike industry, even in this pretty mountain-minded setting. Swimsuits, goggles, wetsuits, and some of the stupidest-looking ‘bikes’ I’ve ever seen were on display, along with a steaming pile of recovery/performance products designed to help you tri.

 

That’s it for tonight, I’m bringing the camera and a more open agenda tomorrow, so come back for a better post then.

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Filed under Bike Industry, Bikes, Gear, racing

Overnight Bike Tour to Antelope Island

It’s been a couple weeks, but a couple friends and I plunged headlong into bike touring, and did an overnight trip to Antelope Island State Park. It was pretty great, if just a bit too windy for easy cruising. The day started off sunny and gorgeous, and stayed that way until about eight miles in. At that point, a pretty fierce headwind kicked up, and I learned all about panniers’ distinct lack of aerodynamics.

It was also the new Fargo’s maiden voyage as a built bike. I had finished the build a week or two prior, and slapped some Blackburn racks on. I borrowed a set of POE panniers from a friend, and set about overfilling them. Here’s the Fargo all loaded down at our first stop:

We headed north on the Jordan River Parkway trail until it ended in North Salt Lake. From there, you can ride a dirt/gravel path to link up with the Legacy Parkway Trail. It was fun to get a hint of what the Fargo is capable of, both on and off-road. You can see in this photo that the wind is starting to pick up -that funny thing in the frame is the camera’s wrist loop blowing in the wind.

We continued north, fighting a pretty brutal headwind. After commuting daily through the winter, I was pretty well-prepared for foul weather, and I’m comfortable riding through it. We made a planned stop at Saturday Cycles in Bountiful after about six and a half miles on the Legacy path. Saturday Cycles is a transportation/touring/commuting-focused shop that is -you guessed it -only open on Saturday. Tom picked up a beautiful, brass Crane bell, and Andy found a saddle cover to replace the grocery sack he’s been carrying. Steve from Saturday Cycles was kind enough to snap a picture of the three of us in front of the shop.

From there we continued North on the Legacy path until its terminus at the Farmington train station. We traveled west into Farmington, and found a series of semi-rural roads and paths to follow. The northern cities seem to have embraced the rails-to-trails concept, and there’s a rather nice path that travels through Farmington and Layton. It looks a little bit like this for most of it:

After some time on the trails, we stopped to eat some lunch, and then continued on out to the island, putting in some serious work across the seven mile-long causeway. The wind was gnarly, and we all settled into our own paces. My pace was a little faster, so I stopped about 60% of the way across and took some pictures.

My valiant steed. Brooks B17 saddle was the single best addition to the build.

Tom and Andy trying to beat the storm.

Once on the island, we had to climb some gnarly hills to get to the campsite, all while looking for water. There were some showers and bathrooms at the beach, around two miles from the campsite. We incorrectly thought there would be a water spigot of some kind at the camp site, so we bypassed the bathrooms on the first pass, and had to ride back later to fill bottles for cooking and drinking.

View from the campsite.

The campsites at Antelope Island are brand new, and pretty fancy for a state park. Twenty concrete pads with fire pits built in, and small pavilions with picnic tables underneath.

This is us loading up the next day, but it shows the pavilion.

The problem with integrated fire pits is that the engineers neglected to build drainage into them. Since it had been intermittently raining for a few days out there, our fire pit was full of water. No fire for us. It was getting damn cold, too. We cooked a quick dinner, ate and drank heartily, and crawled into our sleeping bags.

We woke pretty early in the morning, made another water run, cooked breakfast, and broke camp. We took it nice and slow (not that our sore muscles gave us any other option) and started out on the hills that we had ended on the day before. Then the causeway slog in the wind, and back into the cities and paths.

The ride home was pleasant and uneventful until halfway through the Legacy path in North Salt Lake when the wind decided to blow at us, hard. It was about an eight or nine mile slog into the wind, and then a stop for sugar and salt at a truck stop. From there, it was onto the dirt, back on the Jordan River Parkway, and home.

It was a pretty damn decent way to spend a weekend. All told, I think we rode around 120 miles over the course of two days, under a load of about 50 pounds (in Andy’s and my cases) and a little less for Tom, who was only running rear panniers. Beats the hell out of the couch.

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Filed under Gear, Touring

Utah Weather at its Finest

Today’s commute was a prime example of everything Utah can throw at you (or, why I carry so much shit in my bag). When I left the house, it looked like this outside:

 

When I left work in the evening, it looked like this:

 

And when I got home, it looked like this:

 

It rained more or less from the time I got to work until it started to snow, about halfway home. My ride is only about 7 miles, and takes somewhere in the 20-30 minute range, typically. It was wet, heavy, nasty snow. My outer shorts, tights, and shoe covers had wet out at the knees and ankles, but my top was essentially dry (thanks eVent!).I spent a few extra minutes wringing out all of my clothes on the porch before I went inside.

 

I threw the roadie pedals on the Konamutter this morning, because I had the SPDs on the Fargeaux, and decided it was easier to put a different pair of pedals on than it was to pull the others off and put them back on the Konamutter. Not the best decision I’ve ever made. Roadie pedals suck for commuting, clipping in and out, etc. Plus, I had to wear shoe covers, and shoe covers are less than awesome.  I picked them up on sale a few months ago, but they’re designed for road shoes, so I hadn’t used them before today, outside of a test fitting right after I got them.  Unfortunately the zipper blew out when I put them on to ride home (you know, when I really needed them).

 

The rubber band worked pretty well to keep them from flapping too much, but the rain/snow found its way right down into the heel cup.  It was pretty rad.

 

Grabbed dinner and beers with a friend tonight, so there was some redemption there. Beer included a Rogue Kells, a Deschutes Inversion IPA, and a Deschutes Black Butte Porter. It was like I was in Oregon, except, you know, not. Food was the ever-ubiquitous veggie option, the Black Bean Burger, or 3B. This 3B wasn’t supposed to have cheese on it, but came with a thick slab of greasy cheese, so back it went. Probably returned with a little extra spit on it, but it was still ok. If I was a wannabe cajun restaurant, I think I’d try to make a vegan jambalaya burger, or a red bean and rice burger, or something a little more creative.  But no, 3B it was.

Weather tomorrow is supposed to be decent. Maybe it’ll be one of those post-storm bluebird-y days. I could get behind that after tonight’s commute home.

 

 

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Filed under Beer, Commuting, Gear, Vegan, Weather, Winter commuting