Dirticorn!

Long time no whatever!  I hope that everyone is kicking a bunch of butts-on-bikes out there in the finally-not-winter weather.  Central Iowa has been a veritable wonderland of snowless cycling enjoyment. I’ve personally been able to get into the 200+ miles-per-week range finally, it’s been super rad to get some real miles in!

Quite a few new developments have uh…developed since my last post. I’ve started a new Cyclist Not Biker podcast (episode 1 is up on Anchor.fm now, with other services to follow shortly), in which I plan on talking with some of my favorite cyclists about things like gravel, dirt bagging, ultra events, bike tech stuff, etc. (if you’d like to be on the show, email me).  Episode 1 is a 26 minute solo brain dump from me, mainly focusing on the Unicorn of Dirt Drop Bars, the Ragley Luxy.

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Luxy #3 found a new home already

I recently acquired this Dirt-Icorn,  one of the rarest and best dirt drops out there, and pontificated for half a podcast about where they might end up.  The post person showed up about 30 minutes later with said handle bars, and they immediately ended up on my refurbished 90’s GT Tachyon. I’ve done two rides on this setup in the last 24 hours, and they are definitely where they belong.  Now it’s time for some bar tape and probably some sort of write up glorifying said bike hahaha.

Some of you may be asking yourself “what in the hell is a Ragley Luxy bar?” Here is an article from good friend and gravel fiend Guitar Ted which explains its origin and extremely short history.  Read it, learn it, live it.  There are nearly impossible to get, requiring years and months of internet scouring to find one available, and when found the price is usually out of control.  I have seen a pair of Luxy’s go for over $200 on eBay. Yeah, oof.

ANYWAY, it’s time to get back out on the bike so let’s wrap this up.  LISTEN TO MY PODCAST. It will be available on Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, and more in the next few days and I will post updated links for you.  Until then you can listen on Anchor. fm

RIDE YOUR BIKE

CNB

ESI RCT Wrap: First Blood

ESI RCT Wrap: First Blood

9146g8ituul-_sy550_I recently decided to bring my Salsa Fargo out of retirement, the poor babe has been hanging on the basement wall for over a year with no rides.  It needed a tune, some cleaning, was getting some new-to-it wheels from the Warbird (which was getting sold), and it definitely needed new bar tape.  I had been running the same orange Lizard Skinz 2.5 tape on the Ragley Luxy bars since the bike was built up brand new, and it was pretty ratty looking after a lot of gravel miles logged back in the day.  I run Lizard Skins on all of my drop bar bikes, it’s has a lot of strengths, but it is time for a change.

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ESI’s RCT comes in an array of colors to match most builds/tastes.

When building up the Mukluk last year, there was a bit of a grip conundrum.  What grips would work best on Jones H-bars while running a Rohloff Grip Shift setup?  After some intense research the ESI Super Chunky silicone grips seemed to be the best for the application at hand.  After a few hundred fat biking miles, they have proven to be tough, comfortable, and look just a good as they did on day one.  They also come in crazy colors, and ESI will even put together custom color combinations.  Did I mention that all of their grips are also made in the USA?  Big bonus.

So… when it came time to choose new bar wraps for the Fargo, taking into consideration the needs of a rough-service bike packing setup, I thought it was time to give ESI’s RCT (Road, Cyclocross, Triathlon) bar wraps a try.  They are 100% silicone, reversible, and are available in the same selection of colors as ESI’s MTB grips.  I have high hopes for the RCT.

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ESI RCT wrap on the Fargo, Silicone Tape on the Aero Bars. 

Wrapping the bars with RCT is a breeze, since they are reversible there is no “tape side” paper to test your sanity (my messy shop floor is also thankful for this), and you can stretch or not stretch the wrap to fit the thickness needed at each hand position/bar bend (LS advises against stretching their tape, regular cork can slide around when not stretched enough).  The bevel in the tape gives you a close-to-exact guide for wrapping also, so it’s even easier to get a nice, even look.

The kit comes with two strips of ESI’s self sealing Silicone Tape (seen here also being used as wrap for the aero bars) to finish off the wrap job. It’s a nice touch, as most companies give you that weak ass branded adhesive strip that usually ends up on my shop floor in favor of the old classic electrical tape. I’ve used this silicone tape to secure dyno hub wiring, wrap parts of frames to guard against chipping/damage, shimming light mounts, I would strongly recommend keeping a roll or two around your home shop, it’s as invaluable as electrical tape without all the tape residue.

 

First Impressions Bullet Point List of TL,DR:

  • RCT has a slightly thicker, more comfortable feel than other wrap.  After the first 200 miles of mixed surface use, it has kept my hands happier than before.
  • It retains all of its grip in rain.  Last week I purposely rode through torrential downpour conditions to test, and RCT more than passed the…uh…test.  Part of the rain test was over some very sketch paved trail to dirt construction zone to trail to dirt, and maintaining control through these abrupt and wet/muddy changes was no problem at all.
  • I personally dig the matte finish of the wrap. It blends in more readily to the hoods of the shifters.  It’s also real stealthy, which is extremely important.
  • RCT is reversible, so you can conceivably cause wear to one side (or dirty up the brighter colors in the line), then rewrap the bars leaving them looking fresh AF.
  • Silicone Tape instead of usual crappy strip of branded tape to finish off the bar wrap job. A very nice touch.
  • Price is in line with other premium brands.
  • The supplied bar end plugs actually stay in the bar ends. Mind blown, really.
  • EASY TO INSTALL
  • MADE IN THE USA
  • Did I mention that it’s comfortable? Settling in to the bars for the first time was like a true “baby bear’s bed” moment.  I didn’t expect the comfort level to be that high.

 

I’m looking forward to tearing these up for many hundreds of miles to come, I’ll let you know how things go!

 

CNB

Disclaimer: CNB purchased this product for personal use and testing, and has in no way been compensated for any writing regarding this product*.

*Disclaimer Disclaimer: The preceding disclaimer was in no way CNB fishing for free stuff, or any other type of compensation. Wink.

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

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

Project Pink Pt. 2: No Fluid, No Shoes, No Service.

I feel pretty damn accomplished right now. Frame Saver has been applied. The King headset and PF30 BB have been pressed in, the Rival 1 crankset has been installed (after a panic search through the parts bin for the drive-side spacer), and the Rear (and only) Derailleur has been installed.  AND for the first time ever, I cut my own steer tube, chamfered it, installed the Star Nut, and assembled the front end. That was a big accomplishment for me, and I am stoked to cut down a few of my other steerers that could use some shortening.  I installed the Salsa Cowchippers, and the Rival 1 levers.

518732_862bThen I ran into a problem. The Rival 1 Hydro group, which was procured at a nominal fee, was accompanied by various hydraulic cables, two mismatched hydro calipers, one missing the pads, and the whole system was, of course, dry.  No fluid, no shoes, no service.  Shit.  I mean, I COULD just go NOBR AKES, but it just seems like this might be a ride that would benefit from a little stopping power. Maybe.

I have contacted my go-to hydraulic brake/bike build human about the problem.  I was hell bent on completing this project without dragging the unfinished carcass to a shop, and I definitely didn’t want to have to do this during the 30 days before the Brai.  I’m waiting on my wheels, they may be a week or two, so there is time.  Maybe I’ll watch a few YouTube videos on how to put this whole brake system together.  How hard can it be? I await a return message from my problem solver…

I really can’t wait to ride this thing.

Sam

CNB