The Big Dirty

So I’m back in the saddle and spending less time at The Saddle, and with no goal but to have a good time while riding bikes.  I’ve ridden three of my bikes for about 10 hours the last week, seen dozens of friends that I haven’t seen in forever, and had a really fun time. Alas that goal of no goals lasted about a week, of course, and I have a new thing that I’m dreaming up for myself (and maybe some others) to do.  It’s going to be Big and Dirty…

I don’t have any real direction for this besides it’s going to be Adventure Bike based, not a race, not on pavement, and at least a little fun.  Is it an event? Is it a team? Is it just a thing that I do for six months then drop it when life gets hectic? How big? How dirty? I don’t know yet.  Event directing and team leading are not really my strong points, as business tends to get in the way at times.  Maybe it’s a thing that people can just do on their own, with a reward at the end ala Cup O Dirt.  Fuck, I really don’t know.

Anyway, I’m going to be thinking on the Big Dirty until something comes to me.  I should probably do that on a bike, though…

CNB

Back In The Saddle

The phrase “back in the saddle” has a few connotations, it could mean back on the bike, a horse, you’re an aspiring Steven Tyler, and due to my geographic proximity to The Greatest Gay Bar In The Universe, it could mean I’m back at the Blazing Saddle.  Come to think of it, I have spent more time in the Saddle than in the saddle (bike) over the last 3+ months due to things like working and also work.  It’s been one of my lowest mileage years in recent memory, and I’m ok with that.

I’m back in the saddle. Again.

This past year has been a monster, and I’m happy to just have some time to pedal.  I’m going back into this whole cycling thing with no goals but to have a good time and ride the bikes that have been collecting dust. They are practically buried alive in dust.  I’m not training, not trying in vain to prep for some gargantuan dirtbagging excursion, and not filling my calendar full of epic gravel races.  I’m going to ride bikes. I’ll ride trails and gravel and single track and roads, but just for fun.  That’s it. Fun.

They say you should go out at the top of your game, so earlier this year, I announced to Twitter my official retirement from “Bike Racing.”  I had reached the peak of my DNF/DFL/DNS career, earning more letters than numbers in all disciplines I had participated in. I just couldn’t see myself topping my past accomplishments, so I’M OUT.  NBD, and maybe I’ll do some bigger things or races again some day.  Maybe.

It should feel good to just ride, the first day was ok.  Tomorrow will probably be ok, too. I’ll see you out on the trails again, and we will have some beers and make some new memories while reliving a few old good times.  Let’s have fun. Let’s just ride some bikes.

CNB

I’m OVER IT.

Warning: I’m pissed.

Last night I took my first ride in a few weeks to check out the newly reopened Grand Ave Bridge.  The bridge, a main thoroughfare between the East Village and the Court Ave district, has been closed for over a year, and those of us with businesses or residences downtown have been patiently awaiting this opening day.  I mounted up on Pink and hopped a block south to the new Protected Bike Lanes that run down Grand Ave from Pennsylvania Ave to the bridge.  Beard pointed west, I was bridgeward bound.

It’s taken a while to get used to having the Protected Bike Lanes in my neighborhood.  Even though I’m (obviously) a cyclist, the adjustment to this new feature has been a little slow.  I spent the last three-plus months driving a giant box van through this, makes the car lanes seem a little anemic (they aren’t), and dealing with having total protection from cars feels weird.  I guess I’m so used to dodging giant metal weapons that to not have that worry is worrisome in its own right.  Kind of a sick way to think of it, and not in a DO THE DEW KORN SNOWBOARD PUKA SHELL kind of sick.  Like Stockholm Syndrome sick.  Now that I’ve had time to adjust, though, I’m in love with the PBL’s.  I’ve stopped jig jagging around on side streets to get to and from home, I can just ride up and down Grand, just like I would drive.  It’s nice.  Thank you to all who have made that happen.

The Bridge is only partially open, as the crews are still finishing up some curbs and edges, and they are putting in PBL’s in that run all the way to 2nd Ave.  This is really amazing.  I’m hoping that in the future the city decides to make these protected lanes run Grand Ave all the way west to 63rd in West Des Moines. That would be super cool. Wink. Hint. I crossed the bridge, then across 2nd Ave, on to the weird side switch the bike lane makes at 3rd (please fix this nonsense sometime), then down to 7th to swing around to Locust Ave and come back east towards the Grand Bridge again.

Cars were breathing down my neck on Locust, cyclists and motorists forced to coexist in the same space by “Sharrows,” and today to ill effect.  I rode the last block towards 2nd ave in the left turn lane, made the turn onto 2nd floating over to the far right so that I may make a right turn back onto Grand Ave, a car pulled up near me and yelled “GET THE FUCK OFF MY STREET MOTHERFUCKER!” then sped north on 2nd, the driver flipping me off, then the passenger joined in as I flipped the bird back and shouted a hearty and customary “FUCK YOU” to the two.  Judging by their intolerant nature and the vehicle graffiti’d up with 90’s Nu-Metal Band decals and Hot Topic/Spencer’s stickers my two verbal assailants and hobbyist bird keepers were probably in a hurry to get to their meth dealer or their job begrudgingly making pizzas at a convenience store , and could not be bothered to stop to SAY THAT SHIT TO MY FUCKING FACE.  Well played, gentlemen. Well played indeed.

Now, I would like to chalk this incident up as isolated and due to the current sociopolitical climate in which those with intolerant ideals feel emboldened by those in power to speak their mind, no matter how small that mind may be.  BUT, sadly, this is how it has always been for those of us who choose to travel by two wheels rather than four.  I have been called every derogatory name in the book, I have had people get out of their cars and attack me with weapons, I have been hit by cars, I have had death threats shouted at me from cars, I have had many friends struck by cars and A FEW OF THEM WERE KILLED.  Why?  Because people see “bike culture” as some sort of threat.  Cyclists “don’t follow the laws, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t buy gas, they aren’t American, THEY TOOK OUR LANES.”

I’M THROUGH WITH THE DEBATES AND THE IGNORANCE AND THE BACKWARD FUCKWADS WHO THINK THAT ATTACKING ME, OR ANYONE ELSE, ON A BIKE IS A GOOD IDEA.  If you don’t like bikes on the roads, FUCK YOU.  STAY HOME. If you don’t like to share the road, FUCK YOU. Take another road, asshole. IF YOU THINK THAT INTIMIDATING ME OR ANYONE ON A BIKE WITH YOUR 3 THOUSAND POUND WEAPON OF AN AUTOMOBILE IS A GOOD IDEA, be prepared for some fucking backlash. I’M OVER IT. If you can’t accept that there are laws in place, oh hell if you can’t have the COMMON DECENCY to treat others with respect or at least respect their right to breath air and exist, then FUCK YOU. YOU ARE FUCKING TRASH.

I know, it sounds a little harsh and we should probably all work together to make things work for everyone and all that sharing is caring shit, but I don’t fucking care about it anymore.  I care about people staying alive. I care about people being safe I care about you.  Unless you are some douche that is against me riding a bike. Then I would still like you to be safe, but seriously FUCK YOU.

Gloves are OFF, and discussion is OVER.  You come at me with your cowardly drive by expletives, better hope I don’t catch up to you.  You want to threaten my life with your car, be prepared to either take me the fuck out or face some fierce backlash. It’s not going to end well for either of us. I promise.

Stay safe out there, and Happy Holidays

CNB

The Day (After) SRAM Failed Me

*UPDATE: SRAM has been reached, solution achieved. The rep in question is paying for the replacement part out of his own pocket, I don’t feel he should do this, but thanks.  This was precipitated by Kyle Robinson, owner of Kyle’s Bikes in Ankeny, IA.  Kyle, seeing this rant, and being a concerned bike person and all around good human, made some contacts and straightened it all out.  Thank you, Kyle, for taking care of this situation for me.  Next chapter of Project Pink will be “A Day At The Doctor” aka a trip to Kyle’s for crank install, as said SRAM rep would like the shop to handle the replacement.  Fair enough. I still love ya SRAM.

Those of you who took the time to read about my little gravel travel on Pink last week will probably remember the part where my SRAM Rival 1 crank arm pedal threads gave out after a whopping 35 miles of use.  Here’s the continuation of that story…

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35 Miles of use. SRAM says “NOPE” to replacing. VERY COOL.

It took me a while to get the pedal out of the crank arm, I was dumbfounded by the whole issue when this is what I found after the extraction.  The pedals were installed correctly, the bike had only been ridden around downtown twice before taking it out on the gravel, and everything seemed fine.  I have never in my life seen a pedal/crank arm fail in such a way.  When I was riding I thought it was my pedal, as it’s a pretty old set of Crank Brothers Mallets that I keep around the shop for test rides and they have seen some fairly serious miles in their time.  Pedal failure wasn’t out of the picture, but the pedal is perfectly fine, no issues whatsoever.

I took the cranks to my LBS for them to make a call to SRAM.  I felt like a fucking dick for taking something in I purchased from a private seller on the internet, but the guys are super cool and understand that I’m a little special at times.  All Good.  The SRAM rep came by and took a look, said they will not replace it.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?  Your product failed under normal use, left me stranded, caused other people inconvenience, and is keeping me from riding this newly assembled bike, and NOPE.  I ride SRAM on all of my bikes. I have been loyal to them for many years, and this one incident is making me rethink that loyalty.  I’m pissed. I’m insulted. I’m out a crankset.

Until SRAM goes back on this decision and replaces the faulty part, FUCK SRAM. 

Stay cool!

Sam

CNB

A Colossal Ride

It’s been a pretty rough year for cycling here at CNB.  Injuries, mechanicals, work, family stuff, more injuries, blogging, extreme heat, and other assorted crap have gotten in the way of enjoying the normal amount of time that would normally spent in the saddle.  I’ve lost a bunch of weight and started making much healthier choices, but The Fitness Train hasn’t pulled into the terminal yet.  Now that it’s practically the end of summer (aka cross is coming), it’s time to get that Pain Pass punched.   This week I am doing an assessment of where I am at and where I’m headed, making a plan for this fall/winter, and putting together a rough training program to follow for next spring’s cycling.

By “Doing An Assessment,” I mean riding bikes.  Project Pink is down for the count as Rassy’s figures out what SRAM is going to do about my faulty crank arm, so it’s time to bust out the road bike for some base miles.  Yeah, base miles are starting in August this year.  Wow.  So far this week I have assessed that I am in no shape or form to toe the line at DAMN or Gravel Worlds (although I still plan on trying to make it down to Lincoln for the hanging out), and that it’s going to be a rough road to Spotted Horse, which is also a bunch of rough roads.  I may do some SS cross this fall, I haven’t raced in a few years and I think it’s time to add some CX back into the mix.  I may even look at doing some road events (not crits) for some fun.  I mean, I just wanna have some fun. I want to make use of this weight loss. I want to have fun on the bike again, something that has been elusive through my health problems and fitness issues.  I know many of you reading can relate to this in your own way.  I would really like to hear from you all.

IMG_6754Anyway, this is the bike I’m riding while waiting for Pink to come back to life, a stripped down version of my “road packing” rig (because everything is “________ packing” these days).  2015 Salsa Ti Colossal, Nextie carbon wheels with my favorite White Industries/Son28 hub combo (built by Ed at Beaverdale Bikes, who builds all of my wheels and should build all of yours), Panaracer “Gravel King” 28’s, SRAM Red Etap, Thomson Stem/Seatpost, Selle Anatomica saddle.  The bike was built by up by Matt at Rasmussen Bike Shop in West Des Moines, IA. Matt is my go-to for the tough/frustrating stuff that I can’t do, and the pricey stuff that I shouldn’t be allowed to install/work on to begin with.  Thanks to Matt and Ed, I have a few pretty nice rides.  Thanks, guys.

Anyway, I need to go ride that fine uh….ride.  Have a great rest of the week, and keep that rubber side down!

Sam

CNB

Eat Em & Smile – Pink’s First Gravel

Pink FINALLY got to see some gravel travel.  I was not feeling super great, but it was 78 out and a mild W/SW wind, perfect conditions for doing the Booneville route up to Adel, then back into town for a beer at 515 Brewing.  The ride started out at a nice easy pace, this was just to be a fun spin on familiar gravel to test out the whole 650b/1×11 setup.  The fit was the first thing to make itself known, the levers need to be raised a bit more, and that longer stem with a little rise would be helpful.  I definitely found myself riding on the hoods more than usual, I’m a “corner curve” kind of person.  I also noticed that I did not have the bars centered. WTF.  The Rival 1 drivetrain was dialed in nicely, shifting was crisp and immediate. It was going to be interesting seeing how climbing went with a high end of 42×36, especially on Old Portland Road.

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It was a beautiful day for this Twin Six Standard Rando. 

The WTB Byway ‘Road Plus’ tires on these ENVE rims are gold.  Maybe platinum.  I had a hell of a time getting the tires to seat properly (due to my shitty taping job), but now that they are there, hell yes.  I was running around 45 psi and could have dropped them down to 38-40 for a little more squish, but they handled the intermittent loose/fresh rock spots with ease. The small climbs at the beginning of the route were no problem, but as I went on to a few of the steeper grades I found that the wheels still spun up the hill with ease, but I was already getting down to the 36 cog and was only 13-14 miles in.  “This could turn into a slogger” I spoke quietly through dusty breaths.

It’s dry out there, and I hit some truck traffic that was kicking up giant clouds of dust.  The mild winds were not helping matters, I would have traded a little extra effort on the flats for a good dust-clearing cross wind.  It may be time to start restraining the beard and using a dust filter until conditions get a little less brittle.

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“Awe yeah, she’s beautiful alright…nothing like her in the whole world” – David Lee Roth, Yankee Rose

So I was trucking along, thinking about hitting the B-road coming up and noticed my right foot was getting some odd feedback from the pedal.  At mile 16.5 I stopped to assess the situation.  I was wearing newish shoes, the cleat could need tightening. Nope. The crank arm could have worked loose. Nope. Everything I checked was copacetic, so onward and upward towards some fun hills.  There was that weird, off balance feeling again.  This time when I stopped I found that the pedal seemed to be loose, but not in a way that it was unthreading from the crank arm, but it was just flopping there.  There was about a half inch of lateral play.  NOT GOOD. I made some calls and found a sag, then limped ole Pink into the Booneville Tap to wait for a lift.

IMG_6745After a few drinks and an order of fries, my lift arrived and I was off to my home shop to see what the hell happened.  It took a while to get the pedal out, and when I did it was a mess.  The threads in the crank arm were all but gone, left behind was a pile of dust and metal shavings.  It looks like they didn’t get the threaded insert in there during manufacturing (Thanks, Peter, for pointing that out), but the pedal installed fine.  It’s going to the shop for a warranty call, and hopefully SRAM will replace this bad boy quickly.  I need to get Pink back out on the road!

 

Sam

 

CNB

Project Pink: First Rolling Look

Today was a momentous day.  Morning. Project Pink has stepped into phase whatever, aka the “it rolls” phase.  I did a little initial ride around downtown which included some bike lane, my favorite pedestrian bridge, a bit of levee/dirt riding, and a quick stop on my second favorite pedestrian bridge for a photograph.

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That’s a good looking whip.

Here are my initial thoughts: The Twin Six Standard Rando frame works well with Road Plus tires, almost as if it was built for them.  Steel is Real, and it rides like a good steel frame should, and had a great fit/feel right off the start.  It handled comfortably on pavement, but when it was time to climb up onto the levee south of downtown is when it really shone.  The smaller wheel diameter mixed with the 47mm WTB Byway tires took on dried up ruts (ala B-roads) like a champ, even thought I was expecting less than spectacular handling compared to a 700c wheel.  It was a little choppier, but ate up every big rock, rut, divot, and bumpy grass line I fed it.  The custom Enve/White Industries/Son28 wheel set spun up to speeds quickly, but felt like they were lacking a little momentum. Time and miles will tell, as this was only 5 miles of riding, but the momentum issue could come into play on long flat stretches.  As far as climbing goes, on the one short hill I encountered, this wheel set is as expected: Grand Champion.  Light weight, spins up to speed fast, gets the job done and looks pretty hawt while doing so.

This is my first foray into the SRAM Road 1x universe, and I’m still a little skeptical.  It shifts well (as well as I had it set up, that comes up later…), and I do love the simplicity of one shifter.  I am running 42 up front with 11-36 in the back, and I feel like that might be about right, maybe a little heavy, for riding down in the Southern Iowa gravel.

I topped it all off with some of my classic favorites, a Brooks B-17 Saddle, Salsa Cowchippers,  Thomson seat post and stem, Lizard Skinz bar tape (still needs to be installed), and Crank Brothers Candy pedals (my old test Mallets are shown here. I keep the orange ones in the shop because they are easy to find haha).  The familiarity of the cockpit keeps the adjustments to a minimum. At least it was supposed to…

The issues that came out during the test ride:

  1. The rear tire did not seat fully on one side, so I had a fun little “hop” going on during the flats.  It was enough to kind of toss me around a bit. Whoops.
  2. The stem is too short. This was great for riding on the hoods, but put the bars in a spot that made riding on the tops a little cramped. Problem solution: the Fargo could use a shorter stem for the aero bars on it currently. I’ll do a little swap meet.
  3. The shifting was a little wonky.  I decided that there was too much slack in the chain while installing and took a link or two out.  This was a mistake. After I had everything together, I noticed that you could tension the chain via a set screw on the back of the Rear D. MAKE SURE YOU READ INSTRUCTIONS AND MAYBE WATCH A VIDEO WHEN INSTALLING UNFAMILIAR COMPONENTS. Another whoops. I will be patching the chain back up with a quick link, which should make the large cog shifting a bit better. Other than needing some adjustment, the Rival 1 shifter worked great.
  4. The seat tube bottle could stand to be lowered.  I am not sure why all companies making “adventure bikes” don’t adhere to the “get your bottle cages as low as possible” ethos set by (I think) Salsa.  There are adapters out there, and I should be able to lower the bottle to fit a Large Revelate Tangle bag in there.
  5. The Brooks saddle, which was a father’s day present from my awesome daughter Justine, might not be the right saddle for this bike. I’m going to swap it for the Selle Anatomica on the Tandem and see how that rides.  The Anatomica is definitely not the right saddle for the Tandem, so hopefully this is a solid swap out.
  6. My LBS sold me a set of non-compatible rotors for the brakes, and they require proprietary brake pads from the maker.  Stopping is not great, but I found another set of Avid rotors and will be swapping those out.  I’ll keep the other rotors for replacement on a bike that is getting near “that time,” and order the correct pads for the setup.  I read they are great rotors, but not when using the wrong pads.

Overall, Pink is almost ready for some mixed road travel, this thing blurs the lines between a road-touring bike and gravel grinder.  The build will give more options for detours than my road bike, which was a main point of the project. I will fix the aforementioned issues, wrap the bars, and throw a light system on from another bike, then I’m looking at doing a little cross country attempt at catching up with the Brai tomorrow.

Sam

CNB