Monday, December 28, 2009

Another freezing ride

Well, it was a balmy 29 degrees with 64% humidity yesterday for my ride. Now cold and dry doesn't bother me much, but throw that humidity and it got cold in a hurry. No warming sun to help me along. No problem, managed to ride 8.25 miles with Ken Roberts, one of the Stella Guru's and had a great time. The ground was frozen solid and the exposed roots had frost on them too which made for a slick riding surface. I managed to stay upright but it was challanging.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PNW Winter Riding Gear

It's cold outside, very cold for the PNW...but dry. This got me thinking about winter riding gear for mountain biking. I'd love to have a pair of winter shoes, but alas that is not in the budget. I do however have a pair of older Diadora shoes that are pretty loose fitting that become my winter mountain biking shoe because I can use thicker socks in them without cutting off circulation in my foot. On top of that, I also wear Gore-Tex oversocks for both waterproofing and for heat retention. My socks are always at least a 50% wool blend, man has yet to come up with a better sock material than wool. On my hands are usually my trusty Fox Polar Paws. They're about $40 but my pair are seeing their 6th winter and don't look worse for wear. They are warm without being bulky (I hate bulky gloves) and reasonably water resistant, only getting wet in the worst downpours yet still providing insulation. For my tops, I start with a synthetic mesh base tank top. Then I layer a wool jersey over the top of that and use my wool arm warmers. In heavy rain I have a Race Face waterproof/breathable (which is a farce mostly) jacket but most of the time I use a light LL Bean softshell jacket that is significantly more breathable than anything waterproof yet still repels light rain and mist. For my bottoms I start with my good cycling shorts or bibs. On top of that, I have a pair of thermal tights that work well. I don't bother with waterproof pants, not breathable enough and I generally am not bothered by cold legs. On my head I have a synthetic Helly Hansen LIFA skull cap that covers my ears and fits nicely under my helmet.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter Ride...and Hike

Woke up to a beautiful sunny morning with a dusting of snow on the ground. It was a chilly 34 degrees in the sun, much less in the shade. Hit Stella this morning for a group ride on the lightly snow covered trails. All bundled up, it felt great as the air was crisp and cold and the landscape was stunning. I lowered my front tire pressure to get a little better traction on the icy trail...maybe a little too low. As I set out on the Skeleton trail, I rounded a corner and rolled my front tire...CRASH! OK, nothing broken...flat tire though as the tire bead rolled off the rim. So I pull out a tube and my pump...shit where is my pump! Two weeks in a row my pack has ate something, last week no mini tool, this week no pump. I have no idea where they went! Anyway, everyone else already had headed down the trail so I'm on my own for a 3 mile hike out in cycling shoes through snow. Nobody came back for me, so much for trail etiquette.

Speaking of tires, I had converted back to Ghetto Tubeless using a split 24" tube as the new Michelin tires would not seat up using Gorilla Tape. With Ghetto they aired up right away and actually held air without sealant. I just ran my front too low (~15-20 psi) today...if I'd left it at 30 psi it would have been fine.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Electrolyte Drink Mix

Since I'm in the habit of making my own tire sealant and chain lube, I thought I'd share my recipe for an electrolyte energy drink that I have been using for a couple years. After years of spending $15-$25 for 30-40 serving cans of electrolyte mix that promises to do this or that, I came up with a very simple, effective, and cheap recipe. One thing I personally wanted was a lower sodium, higher potassium recipe...but if you like more sodium there is a provision for that as well.

Kool Aid Electrolyte Mix (makes 32 servings)
-4 packets of unsweetened Lemonade (which is natural flavored) Kool Aid
-32oz (4 cups) of Organic Evaporated Cane Juice
-1 tsp of Baking Soda
-1 tsp of Nu Salt

Content per serving (2 tbsp of mix)
-90 calories
-37.5 mg Sodium
-100 mg Potassium
-22.5 grams Carbs
-10% vitamin C

The Baking Soda both adds Sodium and also acts as a stomach buffer. This is real nice if you suffer from upset stomach while riding (as I occasionally do). If you desire more sodium in the mix, add 1/2 tsp salt to the mix which will increase the sodium to 73.5 mg per serving.

I usually don't mix full strength, more like 4 tbsp per 24 oz water bottle. This seems to work really nice. Also, you might be tempted to try other flavors of Kool Aid, but be cautious...I tried this and found most had a terrible after-taste from the artificial flavorings. The Lemonade flavor is actually natural flavored and doesn't have that bitter after-taste. The total cost was $4 per 32 serving mix...less if you choose to use regular sugar (though the evaporated cane juice seems to have a more mellow taste).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Proper way to lube chain with wet lube

1) If you can remove your chain, clean and dry then lay it flat with the rollers up (on something you don't mind getting oily). Put one drop over each roller making sure it saturates the entire roller and side plate overlap.
- If you must do it on the bike, clean and dry the chain. Set the chain in the big ring/small cog. Then put one drop on each roller on the inside (cog side) of the chain.

2) Let soak into chain at least 10-15 minutes, longer is better

3) Wipe chain with dry lint free rag and install (if removed) into big ring/small cog combo. Rotate crankset while wiping chain with rag. Wipe until you cannot see any oil spinning off the derailleur pulleys.

4) Wipe derailleur pulleys and shift chain off of the big ring and wipe down chainring.

5) After rides, simply wipe off any crud. Do not re-lube until your chain needs it (ie Poor shifting, chain suck, screaming in pain sound).

Becoming Obsesed With Chain Lube

There seems to be a lot of discussions about what is the best chain lube out there. Honestly, if you ask 50 bicycle mechanics what the best chain lube is, you'll get at least 10-15 different answers. It simply isn't cut and dry. There are many factors involved including riding style, riding conditions, multispeed vs singlespeed, price, and willingness to take the time to apply properly. I've probably used at least a dozen personally myself over the years and having lived in the Desert SW, the High Sierras, and the Pacific NW...I've used lubes that work in different conditions and some that don't work well for any conditions. For dry and dusty conditions, I've found that Dumonde Tech works best when the application procedures are followed. Pour it on like many other dry lubes and you'll make a mess, but put it on correctly and it will be clean and last a long time in dry conditions. However in wet conditions, you need something that is really going to lubricate your chain without getting washed off. Over the years, I've found that Phil's Tenacious Oil works best when the weather hits the fan. Again, you need to apply it correctly or you'll end up with a big mess. However, there is one thing that bothers me with Phil''s mineral oil based. So while all the water is splashing up and washing away small amounts, I'm polluting our fresh water. Yes, I know its a small amount but still, it all ads up. Now, there are some biodegradable chain lubes hitting the market these days...but of course I like to come up with my own DIY solution. So after some research, I have come in possession of a product that might just do the trick. I'm going to refrain from giving up the product name but its 100% biodegradable, 100% mineral or synthetic oil free, and a product of the USA (and NO, you can't find it in the cooking isle at Safeway). I'm going to give it a try and if I find it works well then I'm going to bottle it and let some riding buddies try it. I'm not planning to sell it but I might have fun with it a little.



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trail Work and Wet Rides

Saturday I spent a few hours doing trail work with the Growler's Gulch crew today. We were working on several new trails to add to the ever growing network of trails. I would like to get a bit more trail work in as I feel its important to contribute to the trails we ride.

Sunday we hit the trails with a good sized group of the Growlers Gulch crew and three dogs. I'm getting to know the group better and I am really enjoying my time riding, even in the really wet weather conditions!

On another note, I've been playing with chain lubricants a little more. My Mobil 1 50/50 mix is good for dry (but not dusty) weather, but is not thick enough to resist washing off in wet conditions. I'm also finding it turns black on anything short of a freshly cleaned chain. I have been using Synthetic ATF strait up and it has been working pretty well in most conditions without turning black. However for the really nasty conditions like its starting to get around the PNW, you need something thicker. I happen to have a bottle of Phil's Tenacious Oil sitting around and for the really nasty conditions, this stuff is the way to go. I wouldn't use it in drier or dusty conditions but for keeping your chain lubed in the wet and mud, its the way to go. Now if you want to go a little ghetto, Phil's Tenacious Oil is simply a Chain & Bar oil. So you can run down to your local hardware store and pick up some and it will work just the same.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Handbuilt vs Prefabricated Wheelsets

I worked 8 years in the bicycle industry and watched the Prefabricated Wheelset trend start and become a huge sector of the industry. As someone who worked as a warranty manager, I hated them and continue to hate them. Most Prefabricated Wheelsets use proprietary (not standardized) hubs, rims, spokes, and nipples. Repair service beyond the bearings in the hubs often required that the entire wheel be sent to the company (at the owners expense, even for warranty). Some were turned around quickly, some took as much as 6-8 weeks to get returned. Imagine being without your bike for that long! Handbuilt wheels using standard J-bend spokes (DT or Wheelsmith are my recommendations), 28, 32,or 36 hole rims and hubs can be built just as light, strong, and at the same or less price. Bending or breaking a spoke simply results in a quick trip to an LBS to get fixed. Rims are standard and so a damaged rim can be replaced fairly easy. You get your choice of hubs and rims for a truly custom setup.

Riding with the GGG's at the Gulch

Great fall ride with Mel and Dara (and significant others) of the Growlers Gulch Girls today. Growlers Gulch is more technical than my normal Stella trails. This is not a bad thing, while my fitness is lacking right now I still have my technical skills. I enjoy the challenge of slippery roots and slick trails and Growlers has an abundance of roots and log crossings.

Happy Trails, Aaron

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I think I need to live somewhere drier. I tried to beat the rain this morning but to no avail. And when it started to come down, it came down in buckets. I don't mind riding in the typical NW drizzle as once I'm in the trees I don't really even notice it. But today it was raining so hard that the canopy was of no protection. On top of that, it was a COLD rain...chilling to the bone. I ran the gateway trail at Stella which when dry is a super fun run down a root infested trail. When wet it is a skill challenge to how well you can keep your bike upright. All was good, and I enjoyed it but the 2 mile logging road ride back to the car was miserable.

I did get a set of used Salsa 17 degree bars and installed them for this ride. I put a 10mm longer stem to compensate for the extra sweep. The first couple miles they felt weird, then after that I barely noticed them. I'll be giving them a few more rides before I give them a full review.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tubeless Explosion!!!!

My Gorilla Tape tubeless with a non-TLR Bontrager ACX 29" x 2.2". It was a total PITA to get seated, but I only had 30 psi in it and had it laying on its side to seal the bead. I picked it up to wipe the soap off the sidewall and was chatting with Jen and Scout when KABOOOM!!!!!!!!

We got a latex mist on us but nobody hurt. It actually didn't even scare Scout much. I examined the tire and the kevlar bead actually failed. The casing was intact, but there was a gap in the bead where the kevlar ruptured. I purchased them used, so I don't know if they might have already been damaged or not but there were no sign that they had ever been run tubeless.

So, back to wire bead IRC Mythos II for now. I did get a set of Continental Valve Stems (cut out of a couple 650C tubes I got on clearance). So now I got removable valve core presta valves. I modified a spoke wrench for a core remover.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Fall Colors Ride

I pulled out the wool, put on the fenders, and headed out to Stella for the first time this Fall. As assumed, the main logging road was a bit muddy (its always the muddiest part of the ride) but the trails were in good condition. But the leaves were down and the roots were wet so it required some precision riding in the slick conditions. The thing I love about riding out at Stella is that I rarely see another person and I can just zone out. I don't need to worry about if some dipshit driver texting and driving is going to hit me. I don't have to breath exhaust or nearly piss my pants when a Semi passes me with only a couple feet of room. No, mountain biking just puts me versus the natural elements...and all I have to think about is just keeping the bike upright and on the trail.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Back From Yosemite

Well, I got one bike ride in on vacation. Nothing off road, but rode the 29er around with the wife on the Yosemite bike paths for 10.5 miles. Here's a pick at the Merced river

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yosemite Bound

Headed to Yosemite next week. Put platform pedals on the 29er to ride in my sandals on the 12 miles of bike path in the Valley. Nothing too exiting, but looking forward to a relaxing week. Pictures to come.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bicycle Lubricants

As a former bike shop mechanic, I can tell you that the mark up on bicycle lubricants is huge. In fact, one of the main shops I worked for actually purchased its fork oil from the next door motosport shop because it was cheaper than buying bicycle fork oil at cost. So here are some helpful hints for saving money on lubricants.

Fork Oil-none of the fork companies make their own fork oil, they simply reliable existing product and then double the price. The next time you want to change out your oil, here are the actual products from a motosport shop. Remember that fork oil weight is not consistent from one company to the next.

Marzocchi 7.5wt-Golden Spectro Cartridge Fork Oil 125/150
Fox 7wt-Torco RSF Medium
Fox 10wt-Silkolene Pro RSF 10wt
Rock Shox-Maxima Racing Fork Fluid of equivalent weight
Manitou-Motorex Fork Oil of equivalent weight, Motorex 5w-40 oil is used for the semi-bath

Also, Mobil 1 ATF or Redline ATF is a good equivalent to Fox 7wt, Rock Shox 10wt, and Manitou 7.5wt.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More riding at Stella

I've gotten in a good amount of riding at Stella this week and am really enjoying it. The trails are in super shape right now with just enough moisture to give them a tack while making the log and root crossings a little challenging. The only downside is the spiders, man there are a lot of them right now and they're BIG! After putting the Stans Raven tires back on, I've had zero issues with the Gorilla Tape tubeless set-up. I'm still amazed at how much traction these tires have.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to Stella

Well the trails opened back up after the Labor Day Weekend rains and I played hooky from work to go ride. Didn't do a real long ride as I am recovering from an illness (possibly H1N1). One note, Kenda Klaw tires suck tubeless...the rear would not hold air as it leaked through the various amount of pin holes (almost as if Kenda purposely put holes in the casing to keep from running them tubeless). I put the Stans Raven's back on and they sealed up in a snap. Going back out Sunday, can't wait!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why SRAM Chains Suck

I love SRAM...I use their forks, brakes, cranksets, shifters, and rear derailleur.

But their 9 speed chains suck, and I've dissected them to find out why the break so easily (the only two 9 speed chains I've broken). It comes down to the pins they use. On the SRAM PC 951/971/991 the pin only contacts the plate partially instead of entirely around.
The pin actually only contacts the plate on above and below the center ridge...weak. SRAM makes a PC 991 CrossStep that increases the pin strength but its a $45+ chain and it still doesn't completely contact the plate
Now compare the KMC and Shimano chains (KMC makes the HG53 and 73 Shimano chains). They use a mushroom center punched pin. You can feel how strong this pin is when your using a chain breaker to size the chain. It takes way more effort to push the pin through. In dissecting KMC X9 and a Shimano HG73, I can feel a distinct ridge around the entire pin. This gives the the KMC and Shimano chains more than 1.75x more pull strength than SRAM

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Solid Mid-Level Mountain Bike Parts

I've been working on and riding mountain bikes for over 15 years now. While the glamorous high end stuff like Shimano XTR and SRAM X.O. garners all the headlines, its the mid-level equipment that most riders use. Over the years I have seen what works well and what doesn't. So here is a recommendation for affordable mid-level parts that I have used or use and endorse as being solid, reliable, and perform excellent.

Rock Shox Tora 318 Solo Air (Tora Race)-The motion control damper on this fork works right up there with my all time favorite Manitou TPC+ damper. It is very adjustable and does not suffer from spiking like some other Italian branded fork. The Solo Air cartridge is easy to adjust and is very reliable. The spring curve is just right to have plush at the top of the travel while ramping up at the bottom. The fork is very laterally stiff and easy to service.

SRAM X-7 Shifters and Rear Derailleur-Precise shifting in all weather conditions is this combo's claim to fame. It doesn't seem to matter what you throw at the just keeps hitting its shifts perfectly.

Deore Front Derailleur-I love this cheap workhorse derailleur. Its performance is right on par with LX and XT front derailleurs I've owned, no reason to spend more to save a few grams.

Shimano and KMC chains-The Shimano HG73 chain, made by KMC, is another workhorse. Use a SRAM, Connex, or KMC quick link with it and it will not let you down. Another great chain in the same price range is the KMC X9. Both these chains use mushroomed center punched pins that have a pull strength that far exceeds SRAM PC chains.

Shimano HG61 Cassette-Not for use on aluminum freehub bodies (which I would never recommend anyway), reasonable weight and price and very long lasting. When combined with the recommended chains above, it shifts with pure precision. And the satin finish looks damn cool!

Shimano XT M756 Disc Hubs-Ok, you get your XT but at a bargain price. These hubs are absolute winners and reliable as it gets. Say what you will about cup and cone bearing systems, the races are precision ground for smooth as silk rotation. Easy to service, good seals, and reliable hubs...what else could you ask for at the price these run.

Cane Creek S3 Headsets (ZS3 included)-Good seals, light weight, long lasting...oh yea and under $50

WTB SpeedDisc Rims-They use a "shelf" with an extra lip to really lock in the tire bead. WTB refers to this as the International Bead Seat. What this means in real life is these rims are great for running tubeless conversions on with either the Ghetto tube method or the Gorilla Tape method. 9 months and 4 different tire brands and not one burp running tubeless.

Time Alium Pedals-The pedal you just can't kill. Immune to mud and snow, consistent entry and release, bomber construction, and a large platform so you can't miss clipping in.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dream Bikes

Well, mountain bike trails still closed and I've been sick...blah! I did actually get out for a 29 mile ride Saturday on the Shark and will get another ride today so that's something. Work is especially slow right now (this should be the busy season) so in my bordom today...I used the Wrench Science webpage to build my two dream bikes. One is my mountain bike and one is my road bike, I didn't include a cyclocross bike but I'd probably have one of those two. Both bikes are US made from Titanium alloy and use a lot of SRAM and DT components.

Moots XZ with SRAM XX

Litespeed Archon with SRAM Red

There you go, $18k worth of bikes...better go buy that Mega Millions Ticket, its up to $252 million!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gorilla Tape Tubeless Pics

OK, since the trails are going to be closed until probably this fall...and I've been suffering from a chest cold...I got bored. So I decided to put my fall tires on, a pair of Kenda Klaw 29" x 1.95" tires setup with a Gorilla Tape tubeless method. I've already have done this setup with my Tubeless Ready Stans Raven tires, but in the spirit of being "Ghetto" I chose to make my own valve stems instead of using the Mavic ones I have.

First, making the valve stem. I cut a valve stem out of an old regular weight tube.

Notice the locknut...this is a reducing locknut since my rims are drilled for Schrader valves.

Next I tape the rim with one layer of Gorilla Tape 1" wide, overlaping the valve stem hole. Make sure to tape carefully to ensure no air bubbles and the tape is centered. Once taped, press the tape firmly down onto the rim pushing out any air bubbles. You then punch a hole in the tape at the valve stem with an awl. (note, my rim was taped several weeks ago so you'll just have to use your imagination here).

Now take you valve stem and place a little sealant around the base. Install into rim ensuring that the rubber base can sit flush in your rim. Tighten as tight as possible with tools needed.

The rest is just like my Ghetto Tubeless pictoral. Soap up the beads and hit the compressor. The Kenda Klaw seated very quickly but had numerous pin holes in the sidewalls that leaked very fast. Once seated, I broke the bead in one spot opposite of the valve and installed sealant. Because these tires leaked so bad, I put in 4 oz of sealant in each (I only used 2oz in the Stans Tires). It took lots of shaking and laying on their sides on a bucket to get these tires to seal but 24 hours later they are holding air. I'd like to get some removable valve core stems or even some bolt on Schrader Valves (update, Schwalbe tubes have bolt schrader valves) but for now this will work. Since I already had my sealant and plenty of dead tubes sitting around...I'm in $2.99 for the Gorilla Tape 1" x 30' roll. Pretty Cheap!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Will the rain open the trails

Two days of well needed rain here in the PNW...will it be enough to entice Weyerhauser and Longview Fiber to open public access to their lands? One can only hope. Rode 30 miles in the rain last night, big climb up Headquarters Road. I felt really good, legs were solid on the climb. Only my constantly reoccurring back pain slowed me down a bit. But the back was painless the rest of the ride. However, started to feel a cold coming on last night and this morning it was present. Hopefully I can recover quickly as I have a 49 mile ride Saturday with lots of climbing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mountain Bike Season Over For Me

Well not entirely but it will be greatly restricted. The trail system I spend 90% of my time on is private land owned by Weyerhauser. Because of the dry spring and now record high temperatures, the land has been closed to all public access. The other "local" area in Castle Rock is owned by Longview Fiber and also has been closed. This means any mountain bike rides will require longer drives to public lands. So it looks like I'll be on the road bike more and will get limited trail rides this summer.

I wishing for a August monsoon season!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ghetto Tubeless #2

OK, so the Ghetto tubeless experiment has work pretty well. However, the other day while airing up my tires I ripped the valve stem from the rim strip. As I didn't have time to go through the process of redoing the setup...I pulled the tire and strip and threw another tire and tube on for my ride. Boy, did I notice the difference right away on the trail!

Anyway, as I am currently using "Tubeless Ready" tires, I thought I'd try the Gorilla Tape method of tubeless. I'm a tinkerer with bikes so my curiosity has me trying new things even if there is nothing wrong with what I'm using at the moment. I purchased a roll of 1"x30' Gorilla Tape for $2.99 from the hardware store. I already had two old Mavic UST valve stems laying around so I decided I'd use those. I left the layer of strapping tape over my spoke holes and carefully did a wrap of the Gorilla Tape making sure there were no air bubbles. The 1" width was perfect for my WTB Speed Disc AM rims. I overlapped at the valve stem hole, then punched a hole through the tape and installed the mavic valve stems. I soaped up the bead, installed 3oz of my sealant, and hit the compressor. It took all of 5 seconds before the bead poped into place! I did the sealant shake and everything sealed up quicky, including the valve stem. This worked so well I pulled the front tire to and did the same thing.

Now, I haven't rode this setup yet and I am using "Tubeless Ready" tires which have a stouter bead. So I am by no means discrediting the Ghetto Tube method...I'm just seeing if this is a viable option.

UPDATE...half a dozen rides and not a single issue, no burps and no flats and tires hold air as well as tubes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

53.4 mph

Hit on the Land Shark down a 9% grade on Green Mountain Road...and I touched the brakes!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two and half hours at Stella

Got a nice ride in yesterday at Stella after work. A good solid 2.5 hour workout. The new bar ends were nice, though I must take extra caution not to clip trees with them. The ESI grips are just not working for me, I think I'll go back to the Ergon grips.

Also, it appears that horse riders are now using the the pristine singletrack instead of staying on the logging roads and skid roads. I have a few issues with this. First off, not only have the horse riders never contributed to making or maintaining those trails...but they actually knock a bunch of debris into the trails. They also leave large divots in otherwise pristine trails, thus causing them to get muddy instead of the well drained soils they are right now. But my biggest issue by far is horse shit! Why do horse riders feel its OK for their animals to shit right in the middle of a trail and just leave it there? Really, would you like your horse to shit on your front porch so you have to walk through it. Use a poop catcher if your going to ride the trails! RANT OVER

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Adding weight to my 29er

Yes, my bike has actually gained 6 oz this week (its doing better than me though!). First off, I switched to Time ATAC Aliums for pedals from my Crank Bros Candy C's. I did this for one main reason, I find when riding over log crossings on my 29er that I have pedal strike more often. With my Crank Bros Candy's, this means I hit the bottom of the mechanism and as with Egg Beaters this cause the pedal to release! This has nearly caused several crashes. I like the Crank Bros pedals but I can't have this issue anymore so the Time pedal is my choice. They weigh a few ounces more so I gained a little weight. The second is something I haven't used since ends. As I am getting older, I need more hand positions to relieve some of the numbing in my hands. So I got a pair of NOS Titec bar ends and then trimmed them to "shorty" length. I'm riding tomorrow so we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Checking In

I haven't posted since the Tour de Blast...but that doesn't mean I haven't been riding. I was guided on the awesome trails as Growlers Gulch last weekend for 3.5 hours. A bit more technical than my "home" trails of Stella Ridge but similar. It was a blast and I look forward to riding them again. I had a big crash last Tuesday riding through a field at my lunch break. I rode into a fence wire that I didn't see. My bike survived with just a small scratch an a slightly kinked brake hose. But I got some wicked bruises from the wire.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tour de Blast

Mission Accomplished...I set out to ride to Elk Rock and back on the Tour de Blast...a total of 55 miles with a climb from Toutle (500ft) to Elk Rock (3800ft) and back. Along the way there are some rollers so the total climbing was about 4000ft. It was cold and we got rained on right at the end. Made it up to Elk Rock and was soaked from sweat yet it was 46 degrees. For the 8 mile descent with speeds averaging 35mph I stuffed large Fed Ex Tyvek envelope down the front of my jersey. My hands, toes, and head were cold on the first few miles of descent...but my torso stayed warm. Of course it warmed up on the descent.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bicycle Repair

Its summer and the only bike shop in the Longview/Kelso/Rainier area is getting busy. I am once again providing bicycle service for very reasonable prices. I am a former bicycle mechanic that worked in the industry for 8 years, including several years for Gregg's Cycles in Seattle. I was an assistant service manager and warranty manager for their Aurora store. I have a large assortment of bicycle tools that allows me to do most repairs.

Because I have very little overhead, I can provide service at very low prices. I charge $20 an hour and have some set rates which include:
-Minor Tune (1.5 hours) $30
includes adjusting drivetrain adjustment and lubrication, brake adjustment, headset adjustment, bottom bracket adjustment, hub adjustment, and wheel true
-Major Tune (2.5 hours) $50
includes everything above plus repacking and lubing hubs, headset, and bottom bracket with a waterproof marine grease (perfect for winter riding)
-Wheel True/Spoke Replacement (.5 hour) $10 per wheel
-Shimano or similar hub overhaul (.5 hour) $10 per hub
-Road Bike bar wrap (.25 hour) $5

Addition service can be provided including minor fork and shock servicing at hourly rate.

Parts are extra and can either purchased from Bob's Sporting Goods or be ordered from Universal Cycles in Portland. I will provide the part descriptions and numbers for you to order. I can order parts for you but require cash up front.

Please contact Aaron at for an appointment.

Personal 29er Tire Review

OK, I have had a 29er for about a year now and have had the opportunity to ride three different tires on my local trails. My local trails are mostly silty loam with roots and very little rockiness. All three were run Ghetto Tubeless so my review includes how well they work with this setup.

Kenda Nevegal DTC 29"x2.2"
Let me start off by saying that this tire is HUGE! It actually measures out to a 2.35" width. The tire is also quite heavy at near 900 grams each (wire bead, the Kevlar bead will save you about 50 grams a tire). These tires mounted up and seal very well with the Ghetto Tubeless setup. Once sealed, there was no weeping and they held air quite nice. I ran them at 28 psi on most of my rides. This tire had more traction than you'll ever need...and then they have more. I rode these in mud, snow, ice, leaves, etc. and they held on tight. They were very slow to get up to speed, but descending they would roll over anything and everything. However, while loads of traction is awesome...these tires are simply too heavy and have too much rolling resistance. If Kenda were to make a low tread (like WTB's Weirwolf LT) version that dropped to the 700 gram range, it would be an awesome tire. Tread life was fantastic on my trails (which are very easy on tires) and I ended up trading them for some lightly used Stans NoTubes Raven tires.

IRC Mythos II 29"x2.1" Front
I found these cheap online, and I ended up using the front both front and rear. These tires are closer to a 2.0" width and I got the wire bead version as IRC is known to have weak folding bead tires and I wanted to run these tubeless. First thing, DO NOT exceed 40 psi with these tires...when mounting I blew one off the rim at just past 40 psi. While the tires mounted up OK, they continued to weep during the 3 months I rode them. They held air well, but the weeping was always a little concerning. In mixed conditions of wet, damp, and dry these tires hooked up quite well. The tire worked fine in the rear (I ran it the same direction as the front) and these tires rolled noticeably faster than the Nevegals. The wire bead versions weighed about 750 grams each and I ran them at 30psi. These are the tires I rode the MacKenzie River Trail on and they worked great. With the exception of the weeping issue, these are a great tire and exceed the performance of the 26" version (which I used to ride in the late 90's to early 00's)

Stans NoTubes Raven 29"x2.2"
The first impression of these tires are they are super light and where is the tread? Well, as light as they are, the casing is not paper thin as I assumed they would be. Its a light casing, but not paper thin. These tires mounted up super easy and sealed up almost immediately. There was no evidence of sidewall weeping and I ran them at 27psi. While they are a tad narrower than 2.2", they have a lot of volume. Installing these tires dropped 1.5lbs from my bike!!! Hitting the trails, the first thing noticed is the lightness of these tires. They feel so light and plush. But here is the big surprise, these tires stuck to the dry trails like glue! No kidding, these tires provided more than significant traction, even when standing. They cornered fantastic as well. I don't know how well these would do in the mud or snow, but for dry trails they are fantastic. I wouldn't recommend these for rocky trails as the low tread height leaves the casing vulnerable. But for hard pack or loamy trails with roots, they are awesome.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bicycle upgrades

Well the Access 29er has been given some upgrades that have put it on quite a diet. I got a Nashbar Slide saddle which is the same Velo saddle as the Sette Sonic saddle I love. I put the Sonic (which Sette doesn't sell anymore) on the Landshark and put the black and red Glide on the 29er. I also got a new 34 tooth Race Face chainring. I have been using a 34 tooth Salsa chainring which is not ramped or pinned. It was not very smooth as you can imagine and I had trouble downshifting to my small ring. The Race Face ring will shift much smoother. I picked up some ESI Chunky grips as well, still have hand issues (I've had hand issues on bikes for YEARS). The Ergon grips were an improvement but I've heard great things about these silicon grips so I'm giving them a try. After swapping grips and chainrings, I found my bike was 28lbs 8oz (down from 28lbs 9oz)...not much of a drop. But then I traded my Kenda Nevegal tires which IMO were overkill on a 29er for a set of Stans Raven 2.2" tires. These are very low knob tubeless ready tires. Given the low pressure and greater contact patch a tubeless 29er tire can give...I believe they will be awesome for the dry trails through next fall. I mounted them up with my Ghetto Tubeless setup (using the same "rim strips") and they aired up right away. Put in 3oz of my homebrew sealant and away we go. Bike weight is now 27lbs even...I dropped 1.5lbs of rotating weight!!! Cant wait to ride them this weekend.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting Ready for the Tour de Blast

In less than a couple weeks, I will be riding the Tour de Blast. My ambitions are a little smaller this year. Last year I rode all the way up to Johnston Ridge, only to falter on the way back on the climb between Cold Water Lake and Elk Rock. I made it 56 miles, but it was a hot and muggy day and I made a poor saddle decision on was causing me lots of pain. This year my ambition is to Elk Rock and back...62 miles round trip but less climbing and more descending. After a very successful McKenzie River Trail ride (25 miles of singletrack), I have gotten in a 18 mile mountain bike ride and a 41 mile road ride. I'm feeling pretty good except a sore spot on my inner leg...not sure what it is but it feels like a gland that swells up after a ride then goes down after a few days. It happened on the McKenzie River trip too and the only connection is I was wearing the same shorts. I have several pairs so I might switch it up this weekend and see if it makes any difference. I am hoping for a clear day as the scenery on the Tour de Blast is amazing...probably the most scenic road ride I've ever been on. I am bringing a camera this year and hope to get some great shots.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Mckenzie River Pics

Final mileage was 25 miles of the most scenic and fun singletrack in Oregon. This is my sixth time riding the trail but the first on a 29er. I was the only one out of 25+ riders in our group riding a hardtail (and a 29er) and I more than held my own. After the ride I had many questions about the 29er and I think at least a few may be riding them by next years ride!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

McKenzie River this weekend

Short and sweet...riding the 26 mile McKenzie River Trail this weekend!!! Pictures to come

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Frame

I have enjoyed the Windsor, but standover has always been very tight. I really like the long ETT on the Windsor but when Performance had a one day sale on their Access 29er frame for $107.99 with 10% discount...I couldn't resist. It does have about a .5" shorter ETT, but I'm compensating by using a 1cm longer stem. Frame is 4lbs 1oz for a 19" and total bike weight is 28lbs 9oz

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Can your tubeless do this?

I've been singing the praises of Ghetto Tubeless for a while now. After seeing this video on Stans NoTubes site, I decided to try it on my system. I aired up the tires to 30psi and first tried to roll the tire off the rim. No go, couldn't get it to even close to burping. Then I used a C-clamp and clamped down till the tire side walls were touching, still no burping...AWESOME

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wind, Hills, and Chip Seal

No, this was not a ride in the European Peleton...this was Cowlitz County. Still early in the road riding season, we rode a hilly Pacific Ave to a flat but very windy Willow Grove. Willow Grove is a great place to ride, as there is hardly any traffic. But it sits right on the Columbia River and the raods are mostly chip seal so sometimes even on the flat road, it can feel like your riding up hill. Anyway, it worked out to only be a 28 mile ride but that was plenty for me. My 25c tires and compliant Land Shark frame and fork were more than sufficient for the chip seal. Smooth riding!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ghetto Tubeless Update

I thought I would give a 3 month update for my Ghetto Tubeless experiment. I have run two sets of 29er tires, both with wire beads and here are some results for each.

Kenda Nevegal 2.2"
-Mounted very easily, able to seat bead up to 60psi (did not go above that)
-Sealed well after a couple of rides, no seepage after sealing
-Ran 28psi with no issues
-Holds pressure once sealed as well or better than a tube

IRC Mythos II 2.1"
-Looser bead fit, a little more difficult to mount
-Bead blew off at 50psi when mounting (made a fantastically loud boom that sent my wife to the garage asking what I was doing).
-Continues to seep small amounts of sealant from sidewalls even after several rides
-Holds air as well as tubes despite seepage issues
-Ran at 30psi with no issues

So far no flats, no burps, no tire rolling...probably due to the 26.5mm wide rims and WTB's fantastic Safety Seal bead lock...I highly recommend these rims for Ghetto Tubeless.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wet trails but a dry day of riding

Well after a stromy, cold, and wet Saturday in which I wisely chose to skip a road ride...I woke up to sunshine this morning. Given it was 37 degrees outside but still, warm life giving sun was calling me to head out. I grabbed my 29er and Evie (my awesome trail dog) and headed for the trails. I met up with my friend April and we headed out. As is typical, the muddiest section of the ride was the 2 miles of logging road before you hit the singletrack. Still, the trails were about as wet as I've seen them with every root super slick. It certainly made for some challenging riding, but I had a blast. I ran into a group of regulars up there and rode with them on some new trails they have been making. I don't know what it is, but I can endure much worse conditions on the mountain bike than on the road bike. I am very fair weathered when it comes to riding on the road.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Brutal Road Ride

Well, I pulled out the Shark for a ride today and I am feeling the lack of miles. Mountain biking is such a different animal than on the road. I can feel pretty good on the MTB but the road requires much higher fitness level. Well, after a paltry 20 miles...I was cooked. Good thing its only March!

Anyway, hopping to get more miles in, maybe during the week I can get some short rides in and start building fitness again.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ghetto Tubeless In Pictures

This is a step by step with pictures on setting up a Ghetto Tubeless on a 29er

First, get a 24" tube, I use schrader valves since it makes adding sealant easier.

I'm using Strapping Tape over the spoke holes and under the "tube"

If you have presta drilled rims, you'll need to drill out your rims with a 21/64" bit

Cut tube down the middle opposite of valve side.

Stretch tube over the rim and fold sides down

Soap up tire bead, mount, and inflate (do
not exceed 40psi)

Remove valve core (Slime comes with core remover tool) and add 3oz of sealant per tire.

Reinstall valve core and inflate to 30psi. Use soapy water to find leaks and swish sealant around to seal up the major leaks (don't worry about completely sealing, it will happen when you go for a ride). Once you mostly have sealed everything up, cut the excess tube material.

Go for a ride around the block a few times to help the sealant seal up the bead and sidewalls. You should be pretty much set to go. Don't worry if you lose a few psi before the first few rides, everything will eventually seal up and your tires will hold air as well as a tubed tires. Check every few months for sealant in the tire (you can usually hear it when you shake the tire). Depending on where you ride, you may need to add sealant every 3-6 months...though in the wet PNW, I have not had to add any in over three months.

For more instructions, see the Homebrew 2Bliss Goo and Rim Strip post.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pictures from my ride yesterday

My Bike at the creek crossing

Evie, the mountain biking trail dog

Evie and I getting ready to climb the big hill

Mosquito Creek

Despite the winter storms, the trails are in very good condition. It is quite clear that a lot of trail clearing has been done by all the local riders who frequent the trails at Stella. That said, there are so many trails that there is plenty of work to be done. I probably spent 1.5 hours riding and a good .5 hour clearing trails. Lots of branches still down that can jump up and catch in your spokes and rear derailleur. I enjoy spending a little time each ride doing trail maintenance...I feel it gives me a little ownership in the trails.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

On the Bike again...finally

Well, thanks to a month long bout with Bronchitis...I have been off the bike for a while. I finally got out this morning. At first my lungs and legs felt terrible...but as the ride continued I started to feel pretty good.

It ended up being a nice two hour ride, which included getting lost which I normally do anyway at Stella Ridge.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cold Winter Ride

I went for a mountain bike ride yesterday on my local trails. I haven't rode these trails in a few weeks due to heavy snows in late December followed by heavy rains in the first week of January. I wasn't sure what to expect. It was below freezing when we left the trailhead and rode up the logging roads that lead to the trails. Quickly it became clear that we were going to encounter two things. First, despite the warm rains in January...there was still a lot of snow on the ground (which was now frozen solid). The other was how much downed foliage was going to be on the trails.

My riding partner and I did not bring any trail tools, but we made every effort to remove as much downed foliage as we could during our ride. Other than the logging road, I don't think there was a stretch longer than 200 yards on the trails before we had to stop and remove downed tree branches and sometimes entire trees. So I don't think we actually rode more than 5 miles on the actual bike. That is OK though, sometimes you have to pay your dues. I think I will get myself a pair of pruning shears and carry them on my rides for the next few months as it is going to take a lot of work to clear the trails.

BTW-ran the Nevegals at 28psi and they worked great, I might even lower them to 25psi for the next ride. Great traction, the ghetto tubeless is working great.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Home Brew 2Bliss Tire Goo and Rim Strips

If your thinking of going tubeless on your mountain bike, you can spend lots of money on UST wheels and tires. Or you can spend a little less but still a lot on a Stan's No Tubes set up.

But here is how you can save big $$$ on a tubeless system that works.
-Take your wheels and leave the rim strips in them
-Get a tube that is one or two sizes smaller than your wheel
-Inflate the tube just enough to give it shape and stretch it over your rim
-Cut the tube down the middle on the outside (opposite of rim side)
-Fold the flaps of the tube down each side of the rim
-Take your tire and put lots of soapy water along the bead, then mount making sure the tube remains in place (using an air compressor is much easier on this step)
-Inflate to 40psi and make sure the tire bead seats properly all the way around.
-Deflate and add sealant...if using a schrader valve, remove valve core and squeeze sealant through valve. If using a presta valve, you will have to break the bead in one spot (opposite of valve is best) and pour sealant in. Usually 2-4 oz of sealant is sufficient depending on tire size.
-Soap up sidewalls of tires and reinflate. You will see soap bubbles where air is leaking out of the bead and sidewalls. Swish sealant around to those spots until they seal.
-Carefully trim excess tube material from outside the rim leaving about 1/8" exposed (you can go flush if your really careful)
-Reduce pressure to about 30psi and go for a ride around the neigborhood to get sealant all around the inside of your tires.

2Bliss Tire Goo Formula (makes 64oz sealant, twice as much as Stans for the same price...and its better)
-16oz Mold Builder latex
-a 0.7oz tube of glitter
-16oz bottle of Auto Tire Slime (not Slime for bike tubes)
-32oz of windshield washer fluid (look for ammonia and methanol free) EDIT: I am now recommending RV Antifreeze...its cheap and uses non-toxic Ethyl Alcohol and Propylene Glycol which is much better than the Ethylene Glycol in windshield washer fluid or most auto anti-freeze.

Mix it all together, the latex coats the inside of the tire creating a seal. The glitter and auto slime provide particals to plug holes when you get a puncture. The windshield washer fluid privides a thinner for the latex but evaporates when pushing through a puncture, providing a quicker seal than just water.

My Bikes (updated)

I currently only own two bikes (I've owned as many as five in the past). My mountain bike is a Access XCL 9er frame purchased from Performance Bike. Here are the major components:
-Truvativ FireX GXP crankset with 22/34/BBG bash
-SLX 11-34 Cassette
-Titec Pluto CF Seatpost
-Easton EA50 Stem
-Bontrager Race Lite Big Sweep Handlebars
-Ergon GX-1 Grips
-Ghetto Tubeless Conversion on Tires

I also have a 1997 LandShark Roadbike that is a piece of art! It is mostly a 9 speed Ultegra group on it with some exceptions:
-Ritchey Pro Compact crankset 50/34
-Tektro 530 Brake Calipers
-MicroShift RD56S Rear Derailleur (not shown in picture)
The frame is full fillet brazed except for the lugged bottom bracket shell. It uses Reynolds OS 731 tubing and the ride is exquisite. Hand made by John Slawta in Medford, OR


Let me introduce myself, I am currently living in Rainier, OR with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and one very rotten cat. I work for Cowlitz County, WA as an Environmental Health Specialist and am a certified On-Site Wastewater Treatment Systems Inspector in the state of Washington.

In the past, I have worked as a bicycle mechanic (8 years) and an outdoor guide (4 years). I have a BS in Earth Sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I rowed an 18 foot raft 226 miles down the Grand Canyon with very little previous rafting experience. I have been mountain biking since 1992 and road biking since 1998.

I have made this page to share my outdoor experiences, provide thoughtful advice on many outdoor topics, and maybe do a little ranting every now and then.

Thank you for visiting,