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

The Good Intentions Tour

The Good Intentions Tour

Every year during Memorial Day weekend I have vowed to go ride my bike as far as I can, for as long as I can. This is a tour to push my spring limits, something to gauge what needs to be focused on for summer so that the fall gravel races are a little easier on the body than the early spring excursions.  It could be fully bagged out, it could be a dirt bagging trip, it could be a “credit card” tour with support and hotel rooms.  It could be anything, really, as long as there is a goal of at least 300 miles over the course of the four day weekend.

This is why it has earned the title of “The Good Intentions Tour”

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The fully loaded Ti Vaya, a formidable touring rig but not something to ride 100 miles a day in heavy rain storms. I will not be using this rig for 2017’s GIT

The Good Intentions Tour is just that. It’s a set of intentions (outlined in P1) that are more like a limit than an intention.  Last year I had decided that I was going to take an fifth day and ride a total of 400 miles.  What actually happened was I chose to take my loaded touring bike, I started a day late and rode into intermittent rain storms, at fried chicken, got stuck in a shelter at a city park waiting out a storm, made it to the Night Hawk in Slater, IA drinking with a team of woo girls that were woo-ing their minds out inside a sheet metal shed which houses the back bar at the establishment.  I rode north from Slater to Ames, IA, where I ended up in a hotel room as there were some very serious looking storm systems coming my way, then rode from Ames to middle-of-nowhere Collins, IA where I ran into BikeIowa.com founder Scott Sumpter randomly at a tiny bar, then rode to Cleverley Farms for the last historical Garlicpalooza.  At Larry’s farm we had a blast, but the next morning it was blazingly hot and humid and I made it to a convenience store in Bondurant, IA where I ended up calling a sag for my last 12 miles as I could not get my body to act right.  I don’t blame it, it had a reason to be hostile towards me.  Three Days, 99.4 miles. I couldn’t even bring myself to ride around the steamy block to get to an even 100. I was done.

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The fully loaded Ti Colossal, a killer self contained road-packing rig. I will be losing most of the bags and using this bad boy for GIT. At least I intend to. haha.

That is how it goes every year, first make a long list of good intentions, then say “fuck it” and just do whatever.  This year I will have a partner in Intentions crime, who has vowed to ride one of the four days with me (sounds like a proper good intention), and will then pilot Kira as my support in my quest to ride at least 300 miles.  I haven’t picked the bike yet, but I can tell you that it will not be my Vaya.  Day 1 or 2 will be on the Java, and since there is support involved this year I will probably just pack a very stripped down Colossal for the solo miles.  I can see this turning into a one day loop then a “tailwind tour” to wherever the time limit takes me.

No matter what happens, I am making my list of good intentions for this coming Memorial Day weekend.  I’m looking at routes, plotting miles, and looking at where I can stick a tandem loop in the middle of all of this, in addition to working in some #vanlife with Kira, and also putting together a bail plan for when I give up on my intentions and just want to go home to my lovely vegan kitchen to eat something other than road food.  That’s going to be the biggest challenge this year, spending 3-4 days on the road while still sticking to clean Vegan eating.  We shall see how that goes, or if anything goes at all.

Sam

CNB

Hashtag Cult Membership Time

I did something very uncharacteristic of me today.  I obtained a motorized vehicle.  It’s very foreign to think of doing things that don’t require turning pedals, but after ridding myself of the “Deal Mobile” last week, and seeing as the venerable Gold Jetta Wagon (the Swagon) is all but sold, I thought that maybe I should start a new thing.  This thing I did gave me entry into a new-to-me hashtag subculture.  I already belong to a few of these groups (#vegancylist #cheflife #veganhashtagabuser #rifftober #rigsofdoom, the also-new-to-me #gravelfamily that I learned is now a thing as of this weekend, and many others), but this is one that I had never aspired to. I purchased a 2006 Dodge Sprinter today…

Enter the #VanLife

IMG_6029#VanLife is this thing where you live your life in, by, and for the Van. You buy a Van, you convert the van to a suitable mobile living quarters, then you go do shit in it.  You go camp, you drive to other places and meet new people, bike unfamiliar areas, explore.  You can save a ton on hotel rooms if you have either good enough facilities or can just make do with what you have brought with you.  As a bit of a cycling vagabond/traveller (and a person who has spent a little too much on air fare and hotel rooms the last few years) this has appealed to me since the day my friends Fresh Tank decided to ditch their living situation and travel the country living the #vanlife. It looks like they have been having fun.

 I had been dead set on a high top Sprinter, but the previous owners, Alex and Hanna, IMG_6028had done a lot of the conversion work like insulate and run power to the back area already, which made this a great base for what I was planning. Alex included a few cabinets he had made for their buildout, along with some helpful tips on the idiosyncrasies of this ole gal. She has some patina, and some quirks, but The Stoker and I are pretty stoked to have something that can accommodate bikes up to and including the Java Tandem, with some basic amenities for the trip to wherever that tandem is getting pedaled from.

Her name is Kira, after current day explorer Kira Salak, who has travelled solo to almost every continent.  My Kira will probably not leave this continent while under I captain her, but I do have some pretty major plans for her. I mean, one does not simply enter the realm of #vanlife without an adventure in their hearts and minds.  What’s my plan? Aside from making grocery runs for the restaurants and maybe doing some catering, you’re going to have to stay tuned to see what my #vanlife has in store.  I promise you it will be a journey into some unknown territory…

Sam

CNB

In Review: Clement Xplor MSO 40

I’ve burnt through some gravel tires in my time. LOTS of them. Back before “gravel tire” was a thing, we rode cyclocross tires. I fell in love with the Michelin Mud, a light, fast tire with minimal tread and a decent line of gripping knobs on the side. These tires were made for doing laps around a closed course for an hour, not for riding 10-12 hours straight on rock roads. They lasted accordingly, aka not very long at all. I caused many dead Muds, but man did they roll. I, along with many of my dirt riding compatriots, needed something that would last and not break the bank.

As time meandered on, companies started introducing more durable tires that were gravel specific like the Kenda Small Block 8, and Clement’s Xplor Series. Clement caught my eye. I started of with their smaller offerings, but soon the MSO 40 was in my sights. I got a pair. It was mildly life changing. Here was a voluminous tire that wasn’t TOO heavy, rolled fast, and felt supple on the dirt roads. It performed well on pavement. I felt that it looked pretty sexy. My first pair of these adorned my Salsa Fargo for training and ultimately riding Trans Iowa 10 (TIV10), I fell in love with their performance in the racing realm, and riding 40’s on a MTB allowed for zipping through muddy B-level roads with ease, giggling to myself as others were off to the side with their various “scrapin sticks” trying to get their wheels free of their muddy bonds.  Gotta love a little extra clearance, Clarence.

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POOR BIRDY

All was well through miles and miles of riding, then the MSO’s were transferred to another bike, my Warbird. The Bird was the new kid on the block, and took over the brunt of my mileage.  I finally got a flat. A flat that thwarted a perfectly good sunny century day at mile 35. Now, I will admit that checking my tire condition before riding is not really on my list. It should be, I keep a close watch on tire inflation (which is subject for another post for another day), but don’t think about inspecting the outer casing. Noted: will change this. I didn’t just flat, the casing of my tire either split or was cut. The tread was also just chewed up, all the way around, which lead me to believe is was more the tire than some errant object in the road which made cause for this pause. I was close to a town, so I booted the tire, got it rolling, stopped for lunch, then limped another 20 miles in to Des Moines to Rasmussen Bike Shop for a replacement. I was so burnt out that I just handed them the bike and said “go for it.”  They got me back on the road and disposed of the tire accordingly.

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POOR BIRDY PT 2

I rode the new rear tire for another 500 miles or so (not in a row) before encountering any more problems. I had another flat, this time a pinch flat that you can read about here, which I quickly fixed and got home for lunch.  A few days later I was on the Gent’s Race, you can read my race report here, having fought through some difficulties in the beginning I was well on my way to finishing with my team, and BOOM flat. Fixed it. We rode another mile or so, within 2 miles of the finish, and BOOOOOM a total blowout. Upon inspection, the kevlar bead and sidewall had separated. Race Over. Good Day.

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Mark Showing me the exposed Kevlar bead, AKA POOR BIRDY PT 3

I talked over the life of these tires with a good friend and team mate, who has a very keen knowledge of gravel tires. We came up with the hypothesis that the Clement MSO is not durable or reliable enough to be pulling long miles on gravel, at least not for someone my size (read:large).  He told me other people have had similar issues with these tires, and I’m not surprised. This is the only tire since I started riding “gravel specific” tires that have done such things. I’ve gone years and thousands of miles without flats. This all leads me to…

My final thoughts on the Clement Xplor MSO 40mm: Fast, Light-ish tire that is best suited for equally light-ish riders that ride low mileage, or for shorter circuit-style lapped gravel races that won’t leave you stranded out in the middle of nowhere. I absolutely would not used these again for any type of distance or “adventuring” as they are more volatile than most other gravel tires I’ve had the chance to ride.  In fact, they kind of remind me of the good old days of ripping through tire after tire on those Michelin Muds.

Sam, CNB

Favorites: J-Paks GravelPak

I’ve been a frame bag user for quite some time, using Revelate full frame and Tangle bags on my gravel/fat/mountain rigs, and a sweet Porcelain Rocket custom frame bag (thanks to my deer friend Zen Biking), on my Ti Fargo. I’m a big fan of these convenient packs, but I have one problem. I’m a pack rat and my frame bags end up looking like something out of “Hoarders, Bike Edition.” The “map compartment” side is usually stocked with old cue cards from races past, random keys or mud scraping devices (aka ti tent stakes), licorice ropes, batteries, empty gel packs, and the main compartments are a collection of mini pumps, ancient granola bars, lighters, expired gel packs, gas station trinkets, a goddamn red clown nose (???), crushed beer cans, and it just goes from there.  Basically, my frame bags become a rolling landfill. Pretty rad.

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The J-Paks Gravel Pak on my Salsa Warbird Carbon Gravel Rig Of Doom

Enter my new favorite bike thing: the GravelPak from J-Paks. I picked one of these up a few months back, and it has become my go to for bringing along anything I need on a ride. It’s similar in shape to the ubiquitous seat packs you see on most bikepacking rigs, but it’s smaller and less unwieldy than it’s larger brethren.  There is enough space for a tool kit, phone charger, base layers/jacket, extra gloves/hat (I always carry spares, especially in the cooler months. I like to change out these items about half way through a ride), some food items, maybe even an extra water bottle or can of beer if you feel so inclined without taking up frame space, and you hardly notice the seat pack. Somehow the GravelPak also lends itself to repacking and keeping things organized, and since it is a roll-closure and not something you simply unzip and toss crap in, you are less likely to pack rat away all of those cool (useless) gas station finds.

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GravelPaks in the not so wild. Image ripped off from jpaks.com

The Gravel Pak is great for switching between bikes, its two clipped straps for the seat rails and one very secure velcro strap around the seat post can be easily popped/undone and moved to whatever steed you are riding today. You can have your “winter kit” on hand and move it between your gravel rig, fat bike, whatever bike, and with so much less hassle than undoing 400 velcro straps you find on frame bags.  You can use a regular seat pack for things like this, but the J-Pak bag is like the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of short to medium range riding. It’s just the right size.

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Hey! Hooman! Paws off my #$%&ing porridge!

Due to the ever changing Iowa winter weather, I have been using this bag between my road bike, my gravel bike, a single speed, and my trusty Mukluk with no problems at all. It’s a sturdy build that shows no signs of wear after over 500 miles of mixed use and many bike swaps. I’m looking forward to a good spring of many more miles with this bad lad, and to maybe picking up a few of J-Paks other offerings from their J-Paks Shop.

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J-Paks GravelPak on my trusty road bike outside Jamaica, IA

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And here it is on the trusty Mukluk. (Thanks, DMPL, for gently shoveling around my steed)

Yeah, that’s it. No crazy stories, just a solid piece of kit that will keep you organized in your travels, and transfers easily between bikes.  Kudos, J-Paks. Thank you for the righteous gear.

Sam, CNB

Stoker Stoke II: The Stokening

After writing about the mothballed Co-Motion Cycles Java tandem the other day, the thought of it just sitting there waiting for a good cleaning, tune up, and parts swap out was burning a hole in the pocket of my mind.  I decided to eschew my planned dealings of the day and delve into putting this beauty back on the road.

The Obligatory Before Picture shows that we are missing a stoker seat (the captain saddle was also poached for my road bike, this Selle Anatomica was put on a few days before the picture was taken), the bike is dirty, the  bar tape on the captain’s bars has started unraveling from the bottom (?) of the bars, there are also some Crank Brothers Mallet pedals on the stoke spot that were meant to replace the Mallets on the touring bike, as I had broken one of the retaining springs on the pedal but HEY IF YOU FLIP IT OVER, IT RIDES JUST FINE. Lazy ass.  There is an unnecessary stem extension that needs to be removed, it was installed while I was searching for some hand numbness solutions.  During the test ride it felt like the bars were in my beard. Too High. A problem I know all too well.

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Co-Motion Cycles Java Adventure Tandem: a beauty, even in such a sad state of repair. 

The Nano 2.1 Tires are a little overkill for the planned pavement trial runs (stoker isn’t very experienced in off-road or gravel cycling, we are going to keep on the hard surfaces until we get more comfortable, also the tires are practically brand new, I would hate to wear them down on pavement), so they need to be swapped for high volume road tires.  The front shifting is a little wonky, I remember it was prior to being put in storage. The front Surly Nice Rack is total overkill, so that’s going to probably go away until we decide to do some actual touring/camping. My camping setup is small enough to fit in a Revelate Viscacha, I have joked about just bungee cording that to the top of the rear rack, eliminating the need for front panniers for S240 trips (which will most likely be the extent of our adventures for now).

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JAVA on the road, looking healthier for sure. 

The Necessary After Picture looks a little cleaner, and the bike is rideable now.  The Stoker position has been adjusted, the Terry Butterfly saddle and Crank Brothers Stomp flat pedals have been installed, Schwalbe Big Apple tires have been installed, bar wrap has been redone, tune up has been performed, and I did a good wipe down. The stem extension still needs to be removed, and the front rack either leveled or removed.  I will  be digging through my water bottle cage collection, and the Edelux dyno light/USB charger needs to be moved back over from the Cargo Bike.  BUT SHE RIDES!  It’s so great to have this thing back on the road.  Here’s to hoping that the Stoker enjoys stoking, and we can get stoked on some tandem adventures in the future.  Up next: The Test Ride Report, coming to you after the snow melts and we can get this baby on the road.

Sam, CNB

Fargo Is Closer Than You Think

I had the chance to touch a buddy’s Ti Fargo today.  It is even more beautiful in person than it was as my desktop background (for the last 4 months waiting for it to ship).  Due to a crazy freak something or other, MY Ti Fargo did not ship yet….but thanks to Sterling at Rasmussen Bike Shop, that problem is officially solved.  I’M SO FUCKING STOKED!  By the beginning of next week this wide drink of water will be pounding out the miles on the ultimate version of what has become one of my favorite bikes of all time.  The only problem now is that the Ragley Luxy bars I had decided to repurpose for the Drop-Bar Puffin now have their original home back…. The only thing harder than getting Salsa to ship the 2014 Ti Fargo is probably finding a THIRD set of these rare dirt drops.  I suppose I have had worse problems….

Anyway, it’s nice out and I should probably get my leg over a top tube for a while.

CNB