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

TrackPacking: Next Level “Fun”

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Bikepacking Rig

Ok, we have all heard of Bikepacking by now (it’s the “buzz” outdoor activity right now), and for the tens of you whom read this here “bike blog,” you are probably familiar with the term “Dirtbagging.” These are offshoots of normal rack-and-pannier bike touring (or backpacking if you’re into walking places), and generally involve packing all of your stuff into frame bags and other rackless packs, then hitting the dusty trail to camp out in the woods or some other remote area. Sounds like a whole lotta fun for everyone, right?  Yeah, almost TOO much fun.

Enter the newest bad idea: Trackpacking.  

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Trackpacking Rig

Trackpacking is closely related to Backpacking, more so than Bikepacking, in that you actually put all of your stuff on your back.  All you need is a track bike, or some other such fixed gear bike (no brakes! Trackpacking requires no brakes, them’s the rules), your camping gear, and a messenger bag or back pack.  You can get some pretty severe “messenger back packs” these days, so you almost wouldn’t need to leave anything behind. It’s that simple. Load up your messenger-type bag, hop on your fixie, and head somewhere to camp. This is really ideally suited for Sub-24 hour trips, unless you are particularly fond of long distance, multiple day fixie travel.  I used to be in that realm, but gears kind of soiled my chamois for said torture travel.

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Dirtbagging Rig

Pointless Back Story: I was pondering the entertainment value of the known realms of bike touring/camping, and what could be the next step for camping-kind.  The brainstorm took into consideration equipment on hand, I don’t need to buy any more “packing” gear in this lifetime, how much I love having fun by not having fun at all, and routes/roads to travel here in central Iowa.  I also wanted to use a bike that I had on hand, pretty easily achievable goal, but I wanted to use something that wasn’t common or run-of-the-mill, perhaps a little played out, even.  Enter the Track Bike.

I’ve done one Track bike tour (track bike, messenger bag, 90 miles) years ago, it did not end well as the weather took a sharp nose dive and I was not prepared for the adverse conditions.  I had a new leg tattoo, rain and road grit splashed up into it for a couple hours.  It got infected and I had a fever for a few days.  Yeah, that sucked. I should probably do that again.

So, that is the plan.  I’m putting together a route for a camping trip that involves some fairly level terrain (first three days of Ragbrai come to mind), and I’m getting out there to bust some knees and party on, Garth.

Sam

CNB

 

 

Carving Slayer Into My Life

Reign-in-BloodI turned 13 in 1986, the year that Slayer’s classic album “Reign In Blood” was released.  I remember thumbing through cassettes at Uncle John’s Records in Sioux City,  meeting what would ultimately be one of the most influential and loved albums in my life for the first time.  Staring up at me was a simple “Slayer – Reign In Blood” beckoning for my hand to reach forth.  As I lifted it from its cassette limbo, I turned the case to see the wicked Larry Carroll illustration of demons, blood, and other evil figures all residing in a hellish tomb.  The story goes that guitarist Kerry King* hated the cover originally, saying it was “not very metal” in a 1987 interview, but later had the realization that the cover had in fact redefined metal album covers to an extent.  That moment I instantly fell in love.

As a young boy I was exposed to some of the darker classical composers such as Chopin and Holst through my grandmother. I had also been raised by my Mother on Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, and Queen, who all had their darker sides, and as a mentally troubled youth all of this kind of kept me on an even keel.  The darker, heavier, or faster (or much slower), the better. Since elementary school I had been buying my own tapes, choosing Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, and early Def Leppard, then Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Ozzy, and writing this I realize I probably should have ended up with a mullet and a Camaro. I had picked up Anthrax’s “Spreading The Disease,” Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” and Megadeth’s “Killing Is My Business” some months before seeing Reign in Blood in that store rack, and those albums were mind blowing, even for someone who searched out the most “extreme” music he could get in small town Iowa as a kid (some would say my love of Frank Zappa and Weird Al were also very extreme, but those will be written about another day).

The first time my ear drums were punished with the opening to “Angel Of Death.” all those albums just fell to the wayside.  It was just RAW AS FUCK, I had heard nothing even close to this ever in all my music searching.  It exploded out of the gate like a thousand nuclear hell hounds, each clawing and shredding at my brain, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman holding the riff leashes of those hounds and guiding them towards my destruction.  Then came that famous scream from Tom Araya, possibly the most famous scream in all of metal. The speed, the riffs, the reckless, atonal solos, just a total cacophony, and the blasting drums of Dave Lombardo, it was almost too much.  I remember well the mile-wide smile that cracked the surface of my oily pubescent face.  THIS is what I had been waiting for.

Then came the fifth track, Jesus Saves. The opening riff to this beast will forever send a shiver through my body.  Here I was, all jacked up on speed metal riffing and blasting drums, then comes this monolithic pedal tone riff.  It was, and still is, crushing.  It’s like a half time break in the middle of armageddon, picking up to a solid mid-paced thrashing. That opening riff, I will forever bust that riff out while soundchecking, testing microphone placement, or just hanging out being an ass at a guitar store.  It has been melted into my mind.

The rest of the album is a ripper, ending with “Raining Blood,” Slayer’s calling card song, but that opening riff from “Jesus Saves” will always be my favorite piece from this album of iconic riffing.  It’s really tough to pick from an album that is literally just end to end golden, blood soaked riffs, but it’s the one that still stirs me from within.

Reign In Blood busted open the flood gates of speed metal for me, after my first listen I needed more.  Morbid Angel, Halloween, Mercyful Fate, Napalm Death, Carcass, Kreator, Fate’s Warning, Overkill, and Coroner all followed closely behind, if it was fast, or intricate, or bombastic, I was in. I’m still in to this very day. If you have a moment, cue up track 5 on your copy of Reign In Blood, max out your volume, and fire it up.

Sam

CNB

This was the first of a series of articles about the music that has guided my life, I hope you enjoy the meandering recollections.  

*the same guy who covered himself in ridiculous “tribal” tattoos, then used them as his brand’s calling card. Yeah, also not very metal.

Project Pink Jr: Candy Cup

Lately I’ve been trying to recover from being off the bike for about 7 weeks, there was a failed attempt at Fatbike Dirt Bagging last week, and then a trip out of town, then I return to a bunch of work things that have been piling up, so I decided to make the best of what time I have to ride.  I’ve spent my week getting re-aquainted with fixed gear bicycle riding.  It’s a great workout, no coasting = always pedaling.

The last three days have been a blast running errands (about 50 miles worth) on one of my favorite fun bikes, Candy Cup aka Project Pink Jr. Why the name “Candy Cup,” you ask?  I have no fucking clue, I was drunk one day and called her Candy Cup and *POOF* there it is.  It’s the same day I tried changing Bathory’s name to Cat Vegas, if I remember correctly, and thankfully that didn’t end up sticking.  Whiskey is a powerful drug.

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Candy in all its glory

Candy is a Leader Cure that I picked up in Chicago a few years ago when I had friends living there that we visited often enough to keep a bike at their place.  It was a great convenience, being able to travel without bikes on top of the car, or once I flew in from SFO and was able to get right on the bike and go.  Super convenient.  After Candy ended back in Des Moines, I found that the short riser bars and stock saddle needed some changing, and I had a set of pink Duro tires laying around the shop, so those went on. The stock crankset suffered what is a usual fate for my goddamn fixies, the left crank arm ended up being damaged and needed replaced.  I found this sick Sugino Messenger in pink and couldn’t really pass on the deal.  I’m finally comfortable enough to ditch the front brake, and I think the bars are going to get some pink tape when that happens.

It’s a great little whip for around town riding, and I’ll be taking it out on the road for a little thing I’m going to call “TrackPacking,” which you can read about in a future post. It’s probably exactly what you envision it is: another bad idea. Anyhoo, I need to go out and enjoy this sub-melting point weather and ride some more.

Sam

CNB