Something New

So ok, another pause in blogging. I settled into the new job I started in September right before the tour and everything has been really busy. From a biking standpoint, it’s been ok even though I haven’t been getting out as much. I decided to keep up with my commute which tripled in distance and elevation. That sounds impressive because it was only 5 miles round-trip before. I do huff it in and out of Mt. Washington with some hill training every day so that’s worth something.

The stable has been, well, stable for a long time–even though I’ve never gotten around to writing up anything about the bikes I have. They all ride well and I’ve got no complaints or wants. Back in late September my special lady was asking me what I wanted for our anniversary in October (10 years can you believe it?). For a long time I was coming back with the same response I just gave you. All is well and I don’t really need anything. After a month or so I started to think “If I could change anything, it would be the wheelset and tires on Pugsley”. Looking around online I was put off by what I’d have to spend in order to build up what I was looking for. Stalemate. Then, hanging out with Ken one day we got on the topic of off-road riding and I had an idea. Sell Pugsley to Ken and pick up a new off-road bike? That would work and then we’d both have something to ride! Ken’s carbon-fiber Ridley with 25c tires wasn’t up to singletrack.

After less than 2 weeks research, we were at the bike shop and my wife was swiping her card to order me a new sleeker fat machine. 2 weeks later (mid October or so) the shop calls and tells me it’ll be ready to pick up Saturday. I wake up early and run down when they open, hoping to hit some trails that day. They bring it downstairs and both tires are dead flat. It appeared that the guy who did my tubeless setup didn’t do such a great job and it wasn’t going to be ready after all. They say sorry and tell me it’ll be at least a day to get it sorted out. A little bummed out having driven out for nothing we pile back in the truck empty handed. I thought that would be it for that weekend. A few hours later, the phone rings and they tell me they got it all fixed and the tires are holding air. Great I say and drive down to pick it up. They felt bad about the mixup and also because the rims got stained with sealant when they were reseating the tires so they offered me a free jersey from their collection. I tried something on, signed some papers and was ready to go. Then. Holding the bike, I took a second look and thought to myself “Wow, the top tube looks really short. Like really REALLY short for a large bike.” I take a third look at the frame and see a bold-face ‘M’ where I’m expecting an ‘L’ on the seat tube. Jeez. Strike two. At this point it’s 5pm on a Saturday. Distributors and other shops are closed. We check and I HAD ordered a Large. No way I would have said Medium but we confirmed anyway. There was definitely nothing to be done now. I leave empty handed a second time. Up until this point, you’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned a bike name or a bike shop. The main reason for this is I realize that mistakes happen and it isn’t my interest to throw a shop or company under the bus for an honest mistake. I talk with them on the phone and in person a few times in the following weeks. The saga ended with me being bikeless. Company A had a glut of 2016 models so they shorted their order for the 2017 model. When Shop A screwed up the order, they missed their chance to get a large and they were all gone. Strike Three. While I’m not going to throw them under the bus or leave nasty Yelp reviews, I was kind of done with it all by this point so even though they tried to make good with some other offers I gave them back the jersey and asked for a refund.

Back to the drawing board and looking at an empty bike hook in the garage, I started doing research again. I slept on it for a few weeks until I decided on bike B from shop B. I place an order and they tell me “mid-November”. Fine. Ken of course is calling me every week because he’s been off gallivanting around Loch Raven Reservoir on Pugsley without me. Texting photos of stream crossings and back-country adventures. For the most part I’m calm and leaving shop B alone to do its work in peace. Around Thanksgiving, I swing by on my way home from work and ask “what’s up?”. They say there’s been a hangup with supply and it’s looking like early February. “Here we go again” says me. Ok, well I’ll see you then I guess.

The months pass and late January rolls in. I’m working in the garage late one Saturday when I get a call from shop B telling me bike B is ready. I say cool and I’ll be in next week to pick it up. Why drive out of my way when I can just get it after work next week? 10 minutes later, Ken demonstrates that he has some sort of psychic link with me because he randomly texts to ask if I’ve heard anything about my bike yet. I say “yes” and he texts me back 2 minutes later “let’s go riding!”. Thus a new bike is born…

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This is a pic from our first Sunday ride in Loch Raven’s no-mans land. We met up at his house, drove down to BBW, picked up the new bike and rode out from his front door into the reservoir. I still have no idea where Ken took me. Lots of brush, log crossings, and hills. I haven’t been on trails in a long-long time. The first thing I noticed is that all my pictures look underwhelming. Here’s us riding through one rocky section.

After riding we ended up in his garage for a few drinks and a little hang-out. Good times. The second thing I noticed is that road riding doesn’t do crap for your upper body. My chest, arms and hands were TORN UP most of the next week.

While all this was going on, Andrew was having his own independent thoughts about mountain biking and had ended up bringing home a Trek Stache 29+ not 10 days before me. Of course we needed to go out too. Here’s Andrew and I at Sweet Air in Gunpowder 1 or 2 weeks later…

Sweet Air is a bunch of fun. (link to gps) Andrew braved the stream crossing. I wanted to keep my feet dry that day. Watch out for the horse doody. Neither Ken nor Andrew were free the next weekend so I went about setting up tubeless with my downtime…

The gallery is a bit out of order. I remember the shop had said “be sure to pull the tape tight”. Given the comment I figured it would be a little more elastic than it was. No matter how hard I pulled it never stretched to the dish of the rim. I focused on keeping it even in the rim track. Once it was pulled all the way around I burnished it with my tire lever and sealed it at the seam with a strip of electrical tape for good measure. I slid the tire on the rim and nudged it to the rim edge as best I could. The Dirt Wizards mounted fine and I was able to seat the bead with just a floor pump. Once the beads popped, I deflated, removed the valve stems and added about 3 to 3.25oz of Stans per tire. The rear looked to hold air more quickly in the start. The front tire had some bubbles of sealant protruding from the aluminum seam at the rim and at 1 or 2 spots on the bead. These quieted down after a test ride and a few hours. While I’m still keeping an eye on them, they appear to be mounted tight and holding air just fine. It wasn’t till I was all finished that I noticed I didn’t center the rear tire’s label over the valve stem like I’ve done on every tire change I’ve ever done. GRRRRR. Oh well. I’m not ripping it off for that alone so I guess I’ll fix it in 6 or 7 months when I go for a sealant refresher.

2 rides in, tubeless conversion done, now it’s time to get them both out for a ride…

We met at the Seminary trailhead Saturday and got in a nice 13 mile ride before the thunderstorm hit. (link to gps) We headed back to Kens house, hung out in the garage and watched the crazy rain pass. Good day. Really good day.

Initial impressions on the KM. I like it. Really like it. It Rips. When I ordered it, I wanted to swap out the tires for something with less aggressive tread. BBW didn’t let me trade straight up so I decided to ride it as is rather than having YET ANOTHER set of take-off tires laying around the garage. So far, I’m really happy with them. They dig in and grip SUPER well on the climbs. Now if I could just learn to pick a line better. I’m still working on tire pressure. At Sweet Air, I was running low (pre tubeless) and getting some odd squirm on the fast descents. I was around 17 or 18 at Loch Raven last weekend and that felt good all around. It was a little rough going through the rock gardens so I’m letting a pound out each ride until it gets weird again. Compared to Pugsley, I gave up just the right amount of float while still rolling well in really loose terrain. If I miss out on a little snow and sand I won’t cry too loud. I’m also liking how it handles at speed. Compared to my old mountain bike, the traction and control over obstacles are leaps and bounds better. Since there’s no suspension it’s also a little harsher. That’s a small price to pay to avoid the squish and strange oversteer effects I always got from my Talas RLC no matter how hard I tried to dial it in properly. Some of it might have been inexperience and bad riding technique. Oh well, this bike works so that’s all that matters. The bars are a bit wide and I’m still trying to decide if I want to cut them down or not. The SRAM Level brakes are FANTASTIC. Excellent power, no fade and they’re the first brakes I’ve ever owned that I didn’t have to fiddle with for 10 rides to dial in. Last but not least, Surly really did their homework on the ‘gnot-rite’ dropouts. Wheel removal and installation was super-quick-and-easy when I did the tubeless conversion.

Here’s the rest of the pics in Flickr Galleries:
Sweet Air and other Mountain Riding
Loch Raven Mountain Riding

Can’t wait to take it out again.

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