Charm & Grace Shorty

It’s been a busy week. I got out with Bob and the group for a few miles last LAST weekend. I started in darkness from home at 5:50 am and rode to the start. The plan was to meet up and roll with the group for as long as I could. First 26 went great and I caught up with everyone at 7:55 right on time. Unfortunately, the bathrooms at the meetup were locked so I had to run off in search of the nearest open business. I told Bob not to wait up as I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to hang anyway. When I got back to the meetup spot I was just in time to watch the group rounding the first corner.

All the way up Harford Rd. out of the city I’d see the group at the far end of any straightaways or long climbs. I was keeping visual but couldn’t close. Once I was out in farm country I made the decision to stop chasing and start enjoying. Stopped for a wardrobe change and to take some photos along the side of the road in a few spots. Back on the road I actually did catch up with the group twice but only because they had mechanical issues (shifting & flats). I rolled ahead on the second unscheduled break to the Wawa rest stop that was mile 23 for everyone else, mile 50(?) for me. Even though I’ve been commuting 65 miles weekly and riding mountain here and there I still haven’t been in the saddle for more than 2 hours at a shot since December. When I lost sight of the group again less than 45 seconds out the Wawa it cemented my judgement that I’d had my fill for the day. I’d been thinking about doing the Winters Run loop to tack on an extra 10 for an even 70. 61 was fine for me and the way I was zoned out all afternoon told me I made the right choice. I had level 1 saddle sores for my Monday commute. Other than that I bounced back ok. Good day all around and looking forward to more riding with the group soon.

Check here for the full photoset: Charm & Grace Shorty Flickr
GPS Data: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/13846942

Some Ups Some Downs

Over the years, I’ve saved lots of money doing stuff myself on the bike. 90% of the time everything goes great but then there’s that other 10… 1 week ago, Ken stopped by with Pugsley to set in motion a 1×9 build idea he had after a few rides with Andrew & myself. He’d picked up an 11×40 wide-range cassette and a new chain. I got warmed up by replacing the cassette and chainrings on the Trucker which were torched after the tour last September…

IMG_1147

I also took the opportunity to do a show and tell on what new chains and rings look compared to totally destroyed ones. Everything started out fine. Replacing his old cassette and installing the new one only took 20 minutes or so. While I was working on installing the wheel Ken asked “what’s next?” I passed him my crank removal tool and said “have at it” since we needed to pull the drive arm to replace the rings with the ones I was donating to the cause. The devil is in the details. I’ve removed square-taper crank arms 50 times if I’ve done it once. The problem I didn’t foresee was Pug had a splined crank which required a different tool head buried deep in my kit. Ken dutifully was turning the wrench and eventually said “is it supposed to be this tough to turn?” Before we knew what happened, the removal tool was embedded 1/2″ in the axle threads. A terrible coincidence of spline and square cranks is that the diameter of square removal tools is precisely the same as a bolt for a splined interface. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to recover from it to no avail.

By 6pm I was getting pretty frustrated so we wrapped it up for the day. I went on the computer that evening to research the tools and parts I’d need to dig myself out of the bike mechanic’s hole I was in. 1 week waiting for boxes to show up and I was ready to right the wrongs by late the next Saturday. All totaled:

  • New bottom bracket
  • New bottom bracket removal tool
  • New external bb cup removal tool that I’ll probably use one time.
  • Clean brakes
  • Adjust rear hub
  • Adjust headset

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P.I.T.A. to fix but cheaper and less embarrassing than taking my mistakes to a shop. Maybe by writing this out I can save someone else from making the same mistake I did. Looks pretty good all back together.

Also on Saturday, Andrew and I planned a redux of our Loch Raven trip. Second outing didn’t go as well. On the way out I was dragging so hard. REALLY tired. About as far from the car as we could be, Andrew got a flat. We tried to pump it up. No dice. Spare tube? Nope. sigh.

He ended up walking back to the car. Ironically, he was STILL faster than me up the hills. Andrew ended up needing a new tire after a sidewall rip. double sigh.

Sunday afternoon was sort of redemption day. Ken was free in the afternoon and wanted to check out his revamped bike. He came by the house and we did a little test-ride from the front door. Of course, he found a ‘no trespassing’ sign and made me ignore it. We explored along Winters Run past this construction entrance. He kept telling me it was “probably going to loop around” while I told him “no way” I followed him anyway and he proved me wrong. Found some cool trails and 80% of it was rideable. Wish I had taken more pictures…

IMG_1154

IMG_1153

On AND off the bike I’ve been sluggish lately…

image1

Thanked Ken for getting out and shared a nip of my 15y scotch when we got back. Glad I got his bike back to him before the first snow of the year!

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…

img_4462

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.

Gifford Pinchot Car Camping

Ken and I broke away from everyday life for a few hours last weekend:

Just a bit less than 24 hours away at Gifford Pinchot. We took the car this time because 1) We would have spent the entire time on the road if we s240’ed it and 2) I’m unfamiliar with routes that far north. We had considered a redux of our trip to Henlopen from last fall. Unfortunately, they are closed for renovations and I didn’t have the free time to take a day off anyway. This was a nice alternative. I believe they have put in some new mountain bike trails since I was last there and we were out for an hour or 2 Saturday after we set up the tents. There were a few occasions where we got confused by the markings as to which way bikers were allowed but we kept speeds down and tried to be courteous to hikers. All was good.

Sleeping was borderline cold. I had my bag zipped up to my face and 3 layers on all night. Slept well. Ken, not so much and I was selling him on a slightly thicker sleep pad in the morning. The packed gravel camping pad probably didn’t help him any.

In the morning we set another fire, cooked some breakfast and broke camp in time for me to get home and do all my weekly chores. Ken didn’t feel like driving on 83 so he mapped a back route which looked to be a great extension from York to the park. I’ll need to do more reconnaissance work as I think I have a good route for bike camping next year.

Life is busy, but good.

Green Mountain Loop

I haven’t written much at all in the last 3 months. I’ve been riding, but it’s all been in circles. Recycled circles. Part of writing this blog and riding in Baltimore over the last few years has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, I’ve met a lot of great friends. On the other side, I’ve had to come to grips with what I’ve termed my “low normal.” I busted ass by my own metric training this summer in preparation for what happened last week. No matter how much riding I do it never seems to be enough to effectively catch up to the awesome I’m surrounded by and ride “fast”. The good side of the equation is that I found last week I can tour through east coast mountains for 4 days with all my junk and come out the other side still wanting to ride bikes the next week. My job changed too. That’s been good for commuting but when it comes to free time–not so great. Any extra energy has been shuttled away from writing and posting into “real” things.

Anyway, last Saturday, Andrew and I caught the Amtrak Vermonter north and met Adrian in Burlington to set off on an augmented version of the Adventure Cycling Green Mountain loop.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-8-59-55-am

Weather was great, it only rained once and 90% of it was while we were sitting at lunch. Adrian had to back out 50% of the way through because of some knee pain. He turned lemons into lemonade by renting a panel van on the fly at a local enterprise and shadowing us for the second half. We had planned on arriving back in Burlington after 5 days of riding but decided to skip the slog across suburbia. In lieu of riding Thursday, we visited the Ben & Jerry’s factory and hung out in Burlington for half a day. So much adventure. So many side stories that will never make it to the page. I could talk your ear off for an hour so let’s go for a ride and if you go slow enough to stay in earshot I’ll tell you some stories.

Days: 4
Trip Odometer:
307 miles
Elevation: 20267′
Photos: In the Flickr Gallery. LOTS more.
GPS data: track 1, track 2, track 3, track 4, track 5, track 6, track 7

Michaux Gravel Grinder

Andrew had the good idea to ride some gravel today…

38 miles | 4520′ | maybe more words later. I gotta sleep now…

…While riding we joked about how these things happen. He’s been excited about riding out in Michaux for a while now. On Thursday or Friday he emailed our regular group and tossed the idea of driving out there a go. I was a little sketched out about the elevations but didn’t want to squash his enthusiasm so I “checked YES” and sent a reply. I went back to look at the RWGPS track and immediately started to regret my decision. These mixed feelings of excitement and regret continued straight up through the moment when we started to pedal away from the car. Andrew told me he was going through a similar process of hesitation and unwillingness to back out after he sent his original invite. Shout out to great friends with crazy ideas because if it wasn’t for that I’d probably never get to the trailhead by myself. Once on the bike we were greeted with some of the most gorgeous (and brutal) terrain I’ve ever ridden through. The mystery person who designed this 80/20% unpaved/paved route really had us off the beaten path…

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 8.49.07 PM

We’d be rolling along on some beautiful well-maintained back road and the gps would ding. Off to the left there would be a barrier with a muddy double track fire road. This happened more times than I could count. The one road was muddy-fresh from the rain and barely passable (documented in photos 8 & 9 above). The crushed rocky section I took a picture of was actually the EASIEST part. For most of it I was caught in a muddy tire rut pedaling for my life. I said to my self “Self, you can take a picture if you have to clip out but until then keep pedaling.” Somehow I made it through in one piece without stopping.

Around mile 22 we were on a screaming descent for what felt like forever. Half-way down I started to think “This is going to hurt.” Lucky for us the worst of the pain was on the rutted paths and 11% grades behind us. At the bottom, I looked at my map screen and realized that we were basically going to climb straight back up the same mountain on another pass. Going was much smoother here and when we finished descending a second time we were nearly home. There was an on-road stretch at the bottom of the loop that was flat/rolling. Knowing we were about 5 miles from the car I hit it as hard as I could. I wish I had left a little gas in the tank because at the very end there was about 2 miles and 300 feet of climbing–just enough to completely finish me for the day. We changed out of the muddiest of our clothes and hit the road with time to grab lunch/dinner in Frederick and be home long before sundown.

Thanks again Andrew for making me work for my Saturday. It was a blast!