Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Part 1: First Road Bike Crash - Update
I have not blogged since May 26th. I have not had the heart to write an update to the Road Bike Crash that occurred on May 22nd.
Here is a link to my last blog about the crash:
This story has gotten ugly. We are talking about incompetent insurance adjusters, the other party changing their story, 8 weeks of physical therapy, continuous pain, lawyers and a lawsuit. I am now undergoing serious physical medical rehabilitation.
My right ankle has no discernible stabilizing ligaments. If I am not careful, my right foot just rolls under my leg and I stumble. My neck throbs all the time and my right shoulder has pretty much seized-up.
To make matters worse, I officiated in 43 high school football games this season. These games were assigned to me in April, which was over a month before my bike accident. Every second I spent on the field was agony. Aleve painkillers became my best friend. Just when I thought the season was over, I got tapped to do two playoff games.
I have over 15 years of experience as a football official. There is a shortage of officials at every level, for every sport. Even though I was injured, I couldn’t dump any games and leave my crew high-and-dry. Working football games showed me how badly I was hurt. On the football field, I had to move to in uncomfortable ways to cover the action as plays progress. There are certain signals that require shoulder movement, which hurt. A “ref” has to keep their head on a swivel. My neck pops and cracks when I turn my head. I got “rolled” several times. “Rolled” is the term for getting clobbered by a player. Due to the pain in my wobbly ankle, I was just not agile enough to get out of the way. Half way through one game, I got clobbered by two monster linemen and got my left knee sprained.
Officiating football is not a really cardio-vascular exercise. The bad news is I gained 20 pounds because I have not been able to do much running. I managed to fight off 10 pounds, mostly by bike riding.
Part 2: White Lightning Is Repaired
After the accident on May 22nd, I ended-up paying for bike repairs myself. My LBS (“Local Bike Shop”) did a complete crash assessment. The carbon front fork checked-out okay. The LBS managed to straighten the bent wheels. They realigned the brakes, shifters and handlebars. They re-wrapped the bar tape, and changed the bent rear derailleur hanger. They also had to tune and adjust everything on the bike.
The bike took a fearsome blow!
I bought a new Specialized Echelon helmet that was just like the one that was destroyed in the accident. The old Echelon helmet was broken and dented. I suffered one heck of a concussion. But my head is still in one piece.
Part 3: First Ride After The Accident – Sometime I Scare Myself
I took the newly repaired Allez to Green Mountain where there are dedicated concrete bike paths. In other words, there are no cars. I really was not ready to deal with cars, yet.
Here is a shot of the Allez prior to ride.
After $400 in repairs the bike is as good as new.
I rode around the parking lot and tested the shifting and handling. The bike felt good. I took off down the path. There were no other bikes around me. I pedaled easily and the bike picked up speed. I know this makes no sense, but as I neared 20 mph, I got irrationally scared. When the speedometer hit 20 mph, my heart raced in my chest and I felt panicked.
I then scared myself even worse; I purposely unfocused my eyes. I call this my 1,000 yard stare. The visual image is akin to a wide-angle movie camera. My eyes fed my panicked brain the blurred image of the tall brown grass on both sides of the path speeding by. I had the sensation that my bike was stationary in space and time while the world rolled underneath me.
Whoa! I came back to earth, refocused my eyes, and hit the brakes! I then cruised slowly on the smooth path trying to get control of myself. On this warm June night, with the gorgeous path all mine, biking conditions were perfect! But I rode back to the car and racked my bike. I was fighting fear. And I lost.
That ride was six months ago. I have not been on my Allez since.
Now, I have no problem riding my other bikes. I have since blasted through Moab, Utah on Ultra-Stumpy; taken my Surly Cross-Check on lengthy adventure touring outings; flew down twisting single-track trails with Little Cam; honed my skills on my personal trail system with Little Stumpy; and railed snowy trails with The Beast!
Part 4: Happy Thoughts - Why So Many Bikes?
“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
Although my Allez sits quietly in the garage, I have no shortage of great bikes to ride. A handful of Aleve, washed down with Red Bull, can keep the pain in my neck and right shoulder down to tolerable levels. Clip-in pedals keep my wonky right ankle from exploding.
The following are descriptions, or rather excuses why I have a relative large number of bikes.
Part 4a: Sophisticated, Fast and Comfortable: Ultra-Stumpy
Here is a nice picture of Ultra-Stumpy.
Ultra-Stumpy is a 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Expert FSR 29er mountain bike that is designed for endurance trail racing. Ultra-Stumpy is blazing fast. Maybe just a little too fast. About a month ago, I lost my mind and installed tubeless Maxxis Ardent tires on Ultra-Stumpy to lower rolling resistance. My dubious goal was to top 50 mph on level dirt. I am not so sure that is a good idea. Ultra-Stumpy accelerates like it is shot out of a cannon! Fortunately, Ultra-Stumpy has the brakes, suspension and stability to handle high-speed. Unfortunately, I am not so sure I have the nerve to handle high-speed.
Part 4b: Flexible and Fun: Surly Cross-Check
My Surly Cross-Check is an odd steel frame multi-purpose bike that handles dirt and pavement equally well.
Although my Cross-Check is a 2013 model, all Cross-Checks made by Surly since the beginning of time are essentially the same. The Cross-Check is not a quick bike, nor a fast bike. The Cross-Check is a fun and forgiving bike. I must be getting soft in my old age!
Part 4c: Quick and Dangerous: Little Cam
Little Cam is a highly modified 2012 Specialized Camber Comp FSR 26er mountain bike that is optimized for technical trails.
Little Cam has an odd-ball geometry that makes the bike lightning quick, extremely agile and terribly unforgiving. Little Cam spends a lot of time in the air. This bike has an extremely raked-back 74 degree seat post angle, short wheelbase and very short chainstay length (i.e. distance from crank to rear wheel). This unique geometry makes Little Cam unbalanced fore-and-aft. When you are sitting on the seat, Little Cam is tail heavy. If you lean backwards the front wheel comes off the ground. But if you lean forward, the back wheel comes off the ground. I have no other bike that can do wheelie, or front wheel-stand while not moving.
Now you get the idea why Little Cam is so fun. Little Cam does not just roll down a trail. Little Cam leaps down the trail. Little Cam does not turn just around corners. Little Cam ricochets around corners.
I plan to write a geeked-out blog detailing how I managed to shave 5 pounds off Little Cam and installed a new high-tech suspension system. Little Cam has been transformed from a pleasant and somewhat dangerous little sucker, into a sophisticated trail bike and really dangerous little sucker!
2012 was the last year Specialized made the Camber with 26” wheels. In 2013, the Camber was dumbed-down and given 29” wheels and a lot longer wheelbase. I rode one of these 29” Cambers, and It was okay. The Camber was intended to be an entry-level full-suspension mountain bike. The evil, wicked, mean and nasty 26er was not well suited for novice mountain bikers. The 29” Camber is tame and easy to ride. The 26” wheel is rapidly becoming a thing of the past on higher-end mountain bikes. The big new rage is the 27.5”wheel size, which some biking pundits are claiming will replace both the 26” and the 29” bikes. I hope not.
Part 4d: Easy Rider: Little Stumpy
Little Stumpy is a 2006 Stumpjumper Pro Disc hardtail XC Racing bike that was only sold in Great Britain. Somehow, this strange machine ended-up in a bike shop in Lakewood, Colorado.
When I ride Little Stumpy, I have to remember that the brake controls are backwards. The front brake is on the right hand side, which is just the opposite of my other bikes. I have been tempted to switch the brake controls to the North American standard. However, I think the strange brake set-up is charming. Little Stumpy is somewhere between Little Cam and Ultra-Stumpy in stability. The fun part about Little Stumpy is the bike can do a wicked front fork rebound hop. I have been sorely tempted to replace Little Stumpy with a newer hardtail Stumpjumper. But there is something about the unassuming little blue bike that makes it a lovable little character.
Part 4e: One Fat Bike to Rule Them All: The Big Orange Beast (“Bob”)
The Beast is a custom-built 9:Zero:7 high-performance racing fat bike. The Beast is amazingly capable in deep snow and ice. I had the pleasure of specifying every component for the Beast, which included a light hydro-formed 9:Zero:7 frame, Shimano XT brakes, 2 x 10 XT shifters, XT Shadow Plus derailleur, Race Face Turbine crank, Turbine seatpost and Turbine stem. I later added a Race Face Next carbon handlebar and Specialized Phenom seat with titanium rails. The wheels are custom made with Hope low friction Hubs and Surly Holy Rolling Darryl Rims. The tires are Surly 26” x 3.8" Nates with 120tpi ultralight casings. The tires have been converted to tubeless cutting 3 to 4 pounds off the bike.
When I bought the Beast, fat bikes were the prevue of small “boutique” companies. Now mega-companies like Trek and Specialized have introduced fat bikes. You can even order a fat bike from Walmart.
The Walmart fat bike has a single speed and is very heavy at 50+ pounds. However, this Walmart one-size-fits-all Mongoose fat bike has the virtue of being really, really cheap at $199! Just the Race Face Turbine Crank for my Beast was $364!
Part 5: Why Good Bikes are so Expensive
In a recent letter to Dirt Rag magazine, a reader complained that high-end bicycles cost more than many motorcycles. This is true. Here is a price comparison between one of my Honda dirt bikes and new Ultra-Stumpy.
List Price for a 2014 Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon 29 is $6,500
List Price for a 2014 Honda CRF230F is $4,170
Why does the Mountain Bike cost so much more? The Stumpjumper is built with the high-precision components made from carbon fiber, high-strength titanium and aircraft grade aluminum alloys. The Stumpjumper’s is made with the same materials and precision as Formula 1 racing cars, or aircraft pylon racers. The Stumpy is completely hand-built to exacting tolerances. The bike also very light at 20 to 22 pounds.
The Honda CRF230F is made of steel, iron, aluminum, rubber and plastic; and tips the scales at 260 pounds. To make up for all this low-tech weight, the engine turns out 20 horsepower.
What is the horsepower of the Stumpjumper? One human power equals 1/10 horsepower! That means if humans were magically turned into horses, we would be a horse about the size of a house cat!
The Honda has a top speed of about 60 mph. How fast is the Stumpjumper? I have managed to hit 46 mph on Ultra-Stumpy on flat dirt. Not too shabby for a pitifully small horse!
Sorry for the ramble. Thanks for reading my blog.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
This blog is a rant against stupidity and negligence and may contain material not be suited for younger family members.
Part 1: Bikes, Bikes and more Bikes
I keep my Specialized Allez road bike at work. I can grab a quick bike ride during lunch. Or go for a longer ride after work. There are networks of really pretty bike paths accessible from Downtown Denver. Denver streets have well-marked bike lanes. B-Cycle rental kiosks are all over the place. Denver is a bike friendly city.
During nice weather, bikes are a very good way to get around the city. City buses have bike racks on the front, which seem to always seem to be carrying bikes.
Part 2: Yield to Bikes
When I am driving I am always on the lookout for people on bikes, scooters and motorcycles. People riding on two wheels do not have tons of sheet metal surrounding them. They have no seat belts or air bags. They are at the mercy of motorists.
Yielding to bikes is not just a good idea, it's the Law!
Part 3: "Ignorantia non excusat"
"Ignorantia non excusat" is Latin for "Ignorance is no excuse". Or, as the great philosopher, Forrest Gump, would say, "Stupid is as stupid does."
Keep this in mind as I describe my painfully close encounter with a 2012 Toyota 4Runner while riding my bike.
Part 4: Ripple in the Space-Time Continuum
It is common knowledge that space and time is a 4th dimensional construct of 3-dimensional Space, and the 1-dimensional Time. Space and ime form a continuum because so far as we know, there are no missing points in space or time. Furthermore, space and time can be infinitely divided, such that the position of any particle in space is described in terms of position at an instant of time.
But I state the obvious, so please forgive me. I just want to assure you that I am a rational and thoughtful man. However, my rational thought process was severely tested at 7:07pm on Wednesday, May 22nd, while riding my road bike on the marked bike path along First Avenue in Denver, Colorado.
Particle #1: 2012 Specialized Allez Mid Compact
This bike was a top racing bike a few years back and is very light weight. I can easily balance the bike on two fingers at the center of gravity, which is about foot in front of the seat post. I would guess the bike weighs a lot less than 20 pounds.
Particle #2: 2011 Toyota 4Runner 4x4
Does this thing look big to you? From the saddle of a bicycle, this thing looks frickin' monstrous! Length is 16 feet. Height is 6' 4". Vehicular weight is 3.3 tons!
I am positive the blithering idiot piloting this death machine on public roads while talking on a cell phone has no idea that they are a dangerous menace!
I warned you this was going to be a rant!
Here is a reasonably accurate diagram of what happened at 7:07PM. I have annotated the diagram with speed of my bike, which I knew because I was wearing a Garmin 901XT in bike mode.
Invoking the aforementioned space-time continuum theory, I was able to determine the 4Runner's speed and position relative to my speed and position. I only had to determine the overall length of the 4 Runner; and the distance I traveled from when I first observed the 4Runner turning in front of me to the time of impact, which was 11 feet. At the same time, the 4 Runner had traveled one car-length or 16 feet.
See, I can be rational and thoughtful.
Part 5: Pain, Blood and Bruises
I try to avoid roads, particularly busy ones, on my road bike. I ride for pleasure and fitness, not to get from point A to point B. Last Wednesday I was riding the Cherry Creek bike path. Unfortunately there is a section of the bike path that is being rebuilt and there is a detour to a wide city sidewalk. This detour is outlined in yellow and has a yellow dash line separating Eastbound and Westbound bike traffic. Since this is a sidewalk there are a lot of pedestrians, By law, bikes always have to yield to pedestrians, which I do by slowing down or stopping and calmly announcing my intentions.
So what happened, you ask.
I am pedaling down the sidewalk with a nice easy cadence. I am in the clear and there are no bikes or pedestrians in front of me. I am only about 100 yards from the end of the detour. I am happy that I will be soon be away from the busy road and back down by the river again.
I have my hands on the brake covers, which are also called "the hoods". I am feeling really good. The weather is sunny but it is not too hot. There is a gently breeze blowing but it is not windy. I am relaxed and riding easy.
I see in front of me a place where the sidewalk dips and flattens a bit. I recognize that this is an entrance to an office park. Here is a photo of the location.
No worries, the parking lot entrance is totally clear and there is not a car in a position to turn in front of me.
Or so I thought.
All of sudden I see the black grill of a Toyota 4Runner in front of me. There was no turn signal flashing. I hoped the driver saw me and would stop. In blink of a cat's eyeball, I realized that the 4Runner was accelerating.
I that point I knew that I could not, in any way shape or form, avoid a collision. I was already on the brakes. I was moving at over 20 miles per hour. There is no way to stop. Since my hands were on the hoods, my leverage on the brakes was limited. Even if my hand would have been on the drops (lower handle bars), I could not have stopped.
From when I saw the 4Runner until collision was a bit less than 1/3 of a second! Let me repeat 1/3 of a second. As the massive wall of sheet metal loomed in front of me, my brain went into overdrive! I calculated that I was going to hit the rear tire.
The only thing to do was to prepare for impact. I decided to relax and go limp. I closed my eyes. I knew this was going to hurt. Then I heard ka-BANG, BANG, BANG. I was amazed at just how loud a bike plus flesh and bone colliding with sheet metal could sound! The sensation was like there was a giant hand beating me against the side of the speeding car.
The noise was tremendous! Then there was no sound. I had the sensation of falling.... falling..... and falling. I hit the concrete like laying down on a feather bed. I tumbled over three or four times but it didn't hurt. There was no sound.
I opened my eyes. I was on my belly. I saw the 4Runner moving away from me. Then I saw the brake lights come on. I spit out blood. But no teeth, which I thought was good. I ached all over like I had been beaten with a hammer.
I picked myself off the ground. Blood tricked down my left calf. Blood dripped from my left elbow. The back of my neck throbbed. I almost fell down as my right ankle gave way. I picked up my bike. The handlebar was askew and about 45 degrees off center. The brake levers were turned inward. I steadied myself against the bike.
I saw the door of the 4Runner open. A leg with a medium heel swung out and dropped to the ground. A blond woman approached me and asked, " Are you alright?" I took a painful breath and answered with a slurred voice that surprised me, "I dun't know". Blood sprayed out of my mouth as a spoke. The woman took a quick step back. I though, "Oh, far be it from me to get blood on your stupid power suit!"
Then she said the absolutely stupidest thing I ever heard, "I saw you coming. I thought I could beat you"! Had she said that she didn't see me I would have understood her actions a lot better.
I wasn't mad. I was shocked! Remember "Ignorantia non excusat!" Yup, you got it!
I sized her up. She was about 5'4" tall. Her shoulder length blond hair had way too much coloring. She was dressed in an expensive cream-colored suit. I would guess she was in her late 30's. She didn't look concerned. She looked nervous.
I then noticed a security guard from the office park walking toward us.
I held out my hand and said, "My name is Bruce." She held out her hand. I gently took her hand from the top. She answered in a tentative tone of voice, "I am Lynsey". I am sure she was afraid I was going to say something and spit blood in her eye. I said quitely, "Pleased to meet you." She then said, "I am so sorry. I really thought I could beat you through."
I thought, "Please quit saying that!"
The security guard spoke to her. He pointed at the people on bikes cascading by, "This is a bike path. Do you see all the bikes? You have to be more careful." She deflated right in front of my eyes. She spoke to me again, "I have a bike. I ride a lot." I reply, "Maybe we can go riding together, sometime." She gives a nervous little laugh, "I wish we had met under different circumstances." As I stood there trembling in pain, I answered, "Yeah, me too."
While we were talking I had fished my multi-tool from my seatbag. I had straightened the handlebars and re-aligned the brake levers. I picked up the front of the bike and gave the front wheel a spin. The wheel was bent. I looked at her and said, "I am going to need you to pay for repairing the front wheel." She asked, "Where do you want to take your bike for repairs?" I answered, "Wheatridge Cyclery." She hands me her business card, "Have them call me when the repairs are done. I will give them my credit card over the phone."
I looked at her business card. She is a manager in the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services! I am thunderstruck! As a taxpayer I bought a piece of the 4Runner death mobile!
I rode back to my office building very slowly. The pain was starting to increase. A security guard at my company did some first aid and got me ride to the parking lot.
Part 6: Wrap-Up
My bike is at Wheatridge Cyclery getting a crash evaluation and repairs. I am concerned about the carbon front fork. A damaged carbon fork can fail suddenly.
Here is a Garmin readout that shows the crash.
This is a chart of my speed. The big "dip" a bit toward the right of the chart is the collision. My initial speed was 21.4 mph. I managed to slow down to 20.9 mph at the point of impact. The 4Runner was moving at 30.7 mph at the time of impact. The driver was accelerating in attempt to get 4Runner clear of the bike path.
Stopping and not turning in front of a person on the bike is what the vast majority of drivers would have done.
I am bruised and cut all over. Judging by my injuries, My right hand was caught between the car and my brake lever and is very swollen. I hit the side of the car with my head. Then my right shoulder and right knee hit the car. As the car kept moving, I was twisted and hit the left side of my face, which shredded the flesh on the inside of my mouth, which was the source my bleeding mouth. The inside of my left elbow and left knee hit the car causing severe bruising. Somehow, my right ankle was severely sprained. Most of my cuts and abrasions (raspberries) are a result of striking the concrete.
Here is a photo of one set of bruises
I have over a dozen bruises similar to this one. The injuries to my right ankle, neck and right shoulder are deep tissue injuries, which hurt more than the bruises, cuts and abrasions.
I plan to do an easy bike ride today on Ultra Stumpy. I am healing nicely.
Thanks, For reading my blog.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Part 1: Road Biker - Well, Not Really
Last July I bought a road bike. I went to the bike store with the intention of buying a Specialized Tricross Elite Disc Apex Compact.
This bike was pretty and very comfortable. The gearing was well suited for the mountains where I live. The Tricross could handle dirt and rough pavement, which are abundant in the Rocky Mountains where I live. This bike was within my budget at $1,450.
I was about to pull the trigger on the Tricross when I spotted a sweet looking Specialized Allez sport bike nearby. I test rode the Allez (pronounced “al-lay”). The Allez was a two-wheeled rocket! I was in love. I plunked down $1,300 and the Allez was mine!
I have never regretted buying the Allez.
Part 3: Fast Ride
A few weeks ago, during a rare non-snowy day, my boss, Steve, and co-worker and biking buddy, Jason, took an hour out of the work day and rode along the Cherry Creek bike path. Steve has a titanium Moots road bike. Jason has a carbon Specialized Tarmac.
This photo gives you some idea on how nice and smooth the Cherry Creek bike path is.
We started off fast and kept pushing each other. We covered 18.12 miles in 53:30 minutes at an average speed of 20.3 mph. Our top speed was 36.5 mph. Granted, there were no hills and the path was smooth.
It seem to me we were going very fast. I think pedaling knobby-tired beasty mountain bikes up steep hills, over rocks and through snow is good training for a speedy road bike outing. Jason is a competitive bike racer. Steve is a spin class instructor. I was lucky to keep up. I think these guys were dogging it for my benefit. The ride was hugely fun!
Part 4: Surly Cross-Check
I am very happy with my speedy Allez road bike. However, I did not enjoy riding my Allez in my neighborhood. The hard smooth tires made the bike skittish on rough surfaces. The Allez also has tall gearing that makes it difficult to pedal up steep climbs.
I wanted a bike that could handle both dirt and pavement. My mountain bikes are great for rough terrain but are not a lot of fun on pavement. I started thinking about a cross bike again. I test rode the Specialized Tricross Sport Disc Compact.
This is a new model for 2013 that has a light aluminum alloy frame and decent components. Disk brakes are a big plus. I liked the Tricross and knew the bike would serve my purposes well.
However, there was one more bike I wanted to check out. I was intrigued by the Surly Cross-Check.
I did a search online and found one, and only one, Surly Cross-Check available in the greater Denver metro area. The downtown “Flagship” REI had a single medium-frame Surly Cross-Check. Surly does not make a lot of bikes, which can make them hard to find.
As with most Surly products, the Cross-Check is a slightly strange bike. All Surly bikes are made of 4130 chrome-moly steel tube. I like Surly’s sense of humor and attitude. They make old-school bikes. Except for color choices, Surly does not really change their bikes much year-to-year. Here is a link to Surly’s website:
I drove down to the store in my Toyota Corolla. It is a long drive to from my house to downtown Denver. I did not anticipate buying the Cross-Check. I had pretty much made up my mind to get the Specialized Tricross. When I arrive at REI I had a hard time finding a place to park! The store was packed! Colorado is a big outdoor recreation state. I noticed that people who frequent stores like REI and Whole Foods tend to be fitter than those you see at Wal-Mart. I can’t help thinking that nutritious food and exercise may have something to do with overall fitness and health.
I walked into the store and made my way over to the bike department. REI has 100’s of bikes. I managed to find the one-and-only 54cm Cross-Check sitting in a rack. I was there about 20 minutes when a bike sales guy approached me, “Hi, I am Joe. Can I help you?” The guy was tall and maybe in his late 40’s. I reply, “Yes, I would like to test ride this Surly Cross-Check.” I thought that I was pretty clear. Joe then says, “What sort of riding do you plan to do?” Maybe REI trains their sales people to ask certain questions. I really suspected that Joe took me for a newbie ignoramus. I felt like saying, “I plan to do the sort of riding that requires this bike.” But I was nice and said, “I want a bike for riding on mountain roads, including rough pavement and dirt. I also might take the bike for a ride on an occasional dual track trail or fire road. I may try a little light touring.” Joe nods and pulls a Cannondale Quick CX-1 off a nearby rack. He says, “This is the bike I would recommend for you.”
I didn’t ask for a recommendation.
The CX-1 would be perfect for riders looking for a high-performance hybrid bike. I could tell at a glance that the Cannondale had mountain bike geometry. I have five mountain bikes already. I wanted a versatile road bike. I could also tell the Cannondale had very slack steering. “Slack steering” means the fork has a lot of rake that makes the bike very stable and forgiving. Hybrid bikes are designed for relaxed cruising so stability is a desired characteristic. I like bikes that are extremely responsive, unforgiving and slightly dangerous. I am not likely to mend my ways any time soon!
I said to Joe, “I already have a bike that fills the niche of the Cannondale. I really want to tryout the Surly.” Joe decided that I was not going to listen to reason. He said “OK, you need to sign a waiver. I will get the bike ready for you.” He gave me a helmet and told me to take the bike on the paths next to the Platte River. I asked, “When do I need to be back?” He smiled, “We close in three hours. Try to be back by then.”
I was somewhat skeptical about the Cross-Check. The bike has odd bar-end shifters, cantilever brakes, lacks the secondary tricross brake levers, has rear horizontal dropouts and has only 18-speeds. The gloss black triangular frame looked rather ho-hum.
But as I stared to ride the Cross-Check I found that the bike felt pretty good. After carefully navigating through the some of the crowded areas, I let the bike go. Boy was I surprised! The bike accelerated sharply and handled really well. The bar-end shifters were delightful and the brakes worked well. The Cross-Check was responsive, maneuverable and fast! I became convinced that Surly had really thought through how to make the Cross-Check a great bike. I found some dirt paths and gave the Cross-Check the acid test. The bike gobbled up the dirt with perfect controllability. I rode the bike for about an hour and covered a lot of ground.
I was sold!
When I got back to the store, I held onto the bike until Joe noticed my return. He said, “What do you think?” I said, “Wrap it up! I’ll take it.” I had to remove the wheels to get my new bike into my tiny Corolla.
Here is a photo of my Cross-Check when I got the bike home:
After riding the Cross-Check around my neighborhood a few times, I decided I needed to change some things. Where I live the roads are loose dirt and rough pavement. There are also lots of really steep hills. I did not like the WTB SST saddle that much.
Part 5: Unable to Leave Well Enough Alone
I decided to modify the Cross-Check to make it better suited for my neighborhood.
The first thing I did was to get some lower gears. The bike came equipped with a rear gear range of 11-32. High gear was fine with 11 teeth. But I wanted a lower gear than 32 teeth. The small chain ring on the crank had 36 Teeth. Therefore, the lowest gear ratio the bike had was 1.125, which is not bad in most parts of the country. Where I live, every ride is uphill both ways! I bought a new cassette that was 11-34T. Two more teeth on the low gear (34T vs. 32T) makes a big difference.
Hear is the new cassette on the bike.
I bought a better quality cassette than the bike came with. I shaved a whopping 1/3 of a pound off the bike with the new cassette.
I also bought a 34 tooth small chain ring. A smaller the chain ring equates to a lower gear. Just like a larger rear cog equates to a lower the gear. Here is a comparison between 36 tooth and 34 tooth chain ring.
The new chain ring is on the left. There is actually a big visual difference.
Here is the new chain ring installed on the crank.
The bike now has a 1 to 1 low gear ratio that makes the bike much easier to pedal up steep hills.
I also got a new saddle. One of my favorites is the Specialized Phenom. The new saddle meant I needed to change the seat post. The Phenom requires very precise adjustment and the original UNO post did not adjust finely enough. Here is the new saddle and post:
The final modification was to swap out the Ritchey Speedmax tires for Kenda Slant 6 tires. The Kenda tires have much better traction on loose surfaces than the Ritcheys.
I am a big fan of Kenda bike tires. Kenda tires provide a lot of bang for the buck. I also changed the original brake pads to larger pads with higher friction.
The bike stops a lot better with Clark pads. The stock Tektro pads were fine for flatter terrain.
Part 6: My Real New Bike
With a few strategic modifications this bike is a lot of fun. I also think it looks more serious somehow.
The Cross-Check is extremely versatile and allows me to jump on a bike, pedal up my driveway and go for a ride. As a result, my training mileage has shot up.
I added clipless pedals that help me pedal a bit faster. Today, I got in 21 miles on the Cross-Check. I rode from my house and was pretty much on dirt the whole way. I found a nice trail. The Cross-Check did fine on the trail but was a bit of a handful on some moderate rocky sections. I climbed 1,411 feet during my ride. My average speed was 10.5 mph. I think I can get faster.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Part 1: Red Cone and Webster Pass
One of my favorite places to ride my mountain bikes or run is Webster Pass to the top of Red Cone Peak. Red Cone is not a particularly high peak for a Colorado mountain. At 12,801 feet, Red Cone is dwarfed by the nearby mighty Mount Evans.
Here is a shot of Red Cone in the 6-week period during the summer when there is not much visible snow.
This is a good shot of both Webster Pass and the "spur" up Red Cone. From the start of Webster Pass to the top Red Cone is about 12 to 14 miles.
This is a US Forest Service map that makes the various trails seem well marked and easy to find.
In reality, Webster, Handcart and Red Cone move around a bit due to rock slides and washouts.
The trails on both Mount Evans and Red Cone have a lot of character. The trails on Mount Evans are very high and long. The trails on Red Cone are shorter and steeper! I mean really, really steep. The best trail on Red Cone is Handcart Gulch, which can only be accessed on foot or bike. However, quite a few trails on Red Cone are wide enough for 4x4s and ATVs.
Here is what Colorado Central Magazine has this to say about Red Cone for 4-wheelers:
"Red Cone gets the rating of 7 from Massey and Wilson — the most difficult route in their book. From this eleven-mile road (between Webster on US 285 and the Keystone Ski Area) the view is worth the effort. Supreme driving skills are mandatory to challenge this one. Close maneuvering through trees, tight switchbacks, and extremely rocky sections characterize the ascent to Red Cone Peak.
Red Cone’s descent is very steep. No vehicle can make it back up this stretch. The vehicle must crawl three-quarters of a mile downhill through rock talus and moguls. First gear in low range holds the vehicle speed to a crawl. Brakes can’t be used or the tires will skid. The rear-end wants to slide around. If this happens, the driver must slightly depress the accelerator or the four-wheeler will slide sideways on the steep peak and roll 1,500 feet into Handcart Gulch. Several more steep sections must be descended to Webster Pass."
People in four-wheel drive vehicles consider conquering Red Cone a badge of honor.
Fortunately, the mangled wreckage of those four-wheelers that didn't earn the badge of honor are promptly removed.
Since I only tackle Webster and Red Cone with running shoes and bikes, the four-wheelers think I am nuts.
The four-wheelers are a nice bunch of folks that give and take good natured ribbing. Anyone on these roads is a bit nuts.
This is Handcart Gulch trail.
Forget finding this trail in the winter. I know this for a fact because I looked for the trail and I know where it should have been.
This shot is near the Red Cone Summit.
I was thinking that I might be able to get this far on my 907 Fat Bike. I didn't make it. I was hoping that some of the slope would be wind-blown and exposed. The wind blows at umpteen bazillion miles per hour on high exposed peaks and can clear a path along a ridge. No such luck. BTW, Red Cone is so steep that it doesn't pose too much of an avalanche danger.
Mountain Goats live on top of Red Cone year round.
These hardy creatures are not overly skittish and very curious. Nobody with a lick of sense bothers these animals. The goats tolerate human visitors as long as the human keep their distance. These animals can do some real damage if they get upset. These critters do not take guff from anyone.
Part 2: Winter Bike Riding on Webster Pass
When I loaded my 907 on the bike rack I had plans to ride along the headwaters of the South Platte River starting near the summit of Kenosha pass. I still think the trail along the South Platte headwaters would be a very good ride.
Here is my 907 loaded and ready to go.
The weather was nice and in the 40's. We have not received much snow this winter, which does not bode well for the Western United States. Colorado is nicknamed "The Mother of Rivers" because more major rivers have their source in Colorado than in any other state. Of course, the water source is the massive snow pack we usually have. States like California and Nevada rely on the mighty Colorado river as a source of water. 65% of the water used in Southern California is from the Colorado River.
The Platte River drainage is a major contributor of water for the breadbasket states of the Great Prairie. In the mountains, roads and trails tend to follow flowing water since these routes are usually the easiest to traverse.
As I was driving by Webster Pass on the way to Kenosha, I decided to see how far I could get up Webster. I like the raw untamed feeling of the beautiful, and somewhat hazardous, Webster Pass and Red Cone.
I parked at the bottom of Webster Pass.
I had already covered about three miles when I came to this sign. You can see Red Cone looming in the distance. Like I said, Red Cone is a small mountain. But it looks pretty darn big and imposing from this angle.
The temperature was down right balmy at 26 degrees F. At high elevation, the sunlight is pretty intense.
Here is the sun beating down through the trees. Even though the the air feels cold, the thinner layer of atmosphere combined with lower air density allows far more ultraviolet rays to reach the surface. I wear sunscreen SPF 5 million.
As I climbed up Webster pass I ran into some difficult snow conditions. Snowmobiles had packed down the snow. The relatively warm temperatures made the packed snow very slippery and uneven.
I had to drop my tire pressure to 4 psi to get traction. Unfortunately, the snow conditions were just too slippery. I made it to the base of Red Cone but just could not make it up the extreme grade.
Here are a few shots of my 907, which I have named "Big Orange Beast" of just "Beast" for short.
The snow is deep enough that the Beast can stand all by himself. Fat bikes are very stable.
Although the big tires are the most remarkable feature, the Beast is a finely-tuned all terrain bike that is quick and agile.
The Beast has amazing traction and can plow through some pretty deep snow. Shifting is quick and flawless.
I like what this bike can do.
The 907 is a snow racing bike. Average speed on the ascent was 7.8 miles per hour for 8.1 miles. That is fast for a bike chewing through soft snow on a 15%+ grade.
Part 3: Descent
The lower part of Webster pass was in pretty good shape.
This is a photo of some nice packed snow. According to my Garmin 305, I hit a top speed of 30.7 mph. The Beast was steady as a rock at higher speeds. The massive tires are like mega-gyroscopes. The bike could go faster but my legs were just too tired.
I did take a small detour to visit the Platte River.
I am glad the Forest Service puts up signs.
The river is frozen.
The same idiots that harass the goats will walk out on the snow-covered river ice. Snow is a good insulator. Ice under snow is thin. A person falling through the thin snow-covered ice is in big trouble and may not be able to get out before hypothermia sets in. Mountain rivers are cold and fast.
I called my wife when I got to the car. There is no cell phone coverage on Webster or Red Cone. I asked her if she wanted me to pick-up Chinese carry-out in Bailey. She said she was pleased I wasn't dead and ordered Szechuan Tofu. I got Combo Chow Mein. I have got to say I don't worry much about calories after a jaunt on my 907.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Part 1: I Got my 907 Fat Bike
Finally, I was able to pick up my beautiful orange 907 fat bike last Thursday. Every 907 fat bike is a custom build.
Sitting near my fat bike was a small-framed black 907. The buyer of little black 907 had specified SRAM X7 shifters and derailers. The crank was a mid-level Race Face Evolve 36/24T. The bike had a nice white Bontrager saddle. The pretty fat bike was topped off- with a Bontrager Stem and Easton handlebars. Perched on the handlebars were the great XT brakes. The bike rolled on 45 North Husker Du tires with 27 treads per inch.
My brain had registered all this information from a single glance at the black 907. I had spent so much time researching and demoing fat bikes, I can read a "build" as quick as a cat. I think with time and much therapy, I can get over my bicycle component OCD!
The bike shop guys told me that a fellow that owned a rare polished frame 907 had ordered the little black fat bike for his wife. I thought that was cool. My wife has a nice mountain bike but refuses to ride with me. She says I ride too fast and go on dangerous trails.
I have no idea what she is talking about.
The bike tech wanted to make sure my 907 worked properly and adjust the "fit". I was pretty nervous as I climbed aboard my fat bike for the first ride. I had paid extra to get high-end components. When you buy a bike you can get components that are light, cheap or strong. But you can on get two of the three. My fat bike cost about the same as the gross domestic product of a small banana republic.
What if my 907 was not worth the money? The little black 907 was a nice bike and cost less to boot.
I sat on my gleaming orange 907 right outside the door of the Golden Bike Shop. I rolled down the sidewalk. Due to some parked cars, I had very little room to get to the street. Without thinking, I cut a quick "Z" turn in front of a parked car. The 907 responded perfectly! I made a couple of quick upshifts and the 907 surged forward like it was shot out of a cannon. I zipped around a corner and started up a steep hill. I purposely lugged the bike to see if how well the bike would shift under extreme pedal pressure.
I prepared for the acid test. Would my 907 shift from the big crank ring to the small crank ring while I was standing on the pedals in high gear going up a hill. Every fat bike I demoed would get stuck in the high ring and would not downshift under high pedal loading.
I hit the left shifter trigger. Immediately, without a sound, the bike downshifted! I ran the 907 through every gear. The bike shifted flawlessly! And it was FAST!
Part 2: Getting Ready
I spent Friday and Saturday getting ready for my first ride. I bought a Lezyne high-volume hand pump. Fat bike tires are so darn big that my high-pressure hand pump just would not work. I used this pump on my first ride. This pump was just great.
This pump works great. The biggest advantage of a fat bike is the ability to run a wide range of air pressure in the tires from 5 psi to 30 psi.
I also got a NXE Smartphone bag so I could use my GPS.
This bag mounts to the top tube and is very solid. This is a very high-quality bag. Even though this bag mounts up by the stem, I found it gets in the way when mounting or dismounting on very steep hills. I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
I then lost my mind and bought a monstrous Jandd seat pack. I previously talked to a guy that was an experienced fat biker. He said that heading up into the snowy wilderness requires a lot of extra stuff like dry clothes.
I bought a Jandd Mountain Wedge III Seat Pac. This thing was huge and required bungee straps running to the chainstays to stabilize the seat pac's mass. I got this bad boy at Evergreen Bicycle shop.
I am always willing to defer to someone's greater experience. I had foolishly wanted a Large Topeak Wedge DryBag that was plenty big enough for my tire pump, pressure gauge, first aid kit and food.
This pack mounts nicely to the seat and doesn't weigh much.
More on this later.
Part 3: First Ride - Where is the Snow?
Colorado is a sunny place. We have been getting modest amounts of snow. But due to temperatures in the 40s and 50s there are a lot of bare patches on trails under 9,000 feet of elevation.
Only one thing to do!
I bought this bumper sticker but have not put it on my car. With the passage of Proposition 64, which legalizes the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado, this sticker could have two meanings.
I can see Mount Evans from my house. At 14,265 feet, Mount Evans is covered with snow. I loaded my 907 on my bike rack and headed north.
This is my 907 fat bike all ready to go. The temperature is a near tropical 45 degrees F at my house.
I just hoped that there would be snow on Mount Evans. As I started up Squaw Pass on the way to Mount Evans I ran into a snow packed road. I was getting pretty stoked!
I snapped this shot just by holding my camera with my right hand and hitting the shutter button. Besides the rush hour traffic represented by one oncoming truck, the right side of the road is a cliff. I needed to keep my eyes on the slippery road as a whipped along at 22 mph.
I got to the parking lot at the base of Mount Evans at 3:30 in the afternoon. The temperature was a more comfortable 12 degrees F.
There was a group of snowshoers that came out of the woods just as I arrived. They wanted to know all about the fat bike. They thought the fat bike was cool but had never seen one. I was happy to talk to them.
As the snowshoers were getting ready to leave, I got my bike off the rack. I said my goodbyes, then deftly sped across the parking lot, over a snow berm, and flew into the forrest. Yup, I was showing off!
Here is my 907 on Echo Lake trail, which runs along the side of Mount Evans. Echo Lake Trail is steep, narrow, rocky and pasted on the side of a darn big mountain. In some places the side of the trail was nearly vertical. The trick is not look down! Firstly, your bike tends to go where you look. Secondly, I am not overly fond of heights.
Here is a shot of the back trail.
I put a red "X" on the photo to show you where I had been. This is a really pretty place.
Here is a shot of where I am going.
I put an red arrow to show where I am going. The trail makes a hard right and starts climbing. I had stopped to rest and catch my breath here. These shots were taken at 11,500 feet of elevation. 11,500 feet is considered to be the lower threshold of "Very High Altitude". Blood oxygen saturation is about 40% to 50% less at 11,500 feet than at sea level. But since I live at high altitude I am pretty well acclimated.
Part 4: The Descent - Trouble in Paradise
I tried to make it up to 12,000 feet but zonked out at 11,800. I started the descent. This was really fun. The 907 rails snowy curves. What I did not realize is the seat bag was flopping around with the cornering forces. All of a sudden I heard an ominous thwap! Evidently, the the seat bag stabilization straps had rubbed against the rear tire and snapped in two. One strap was wrapped around the rear hub. The other strap was wrapped around my cassette. The temperature had dropped to 1 degree. It was getting dark and I was stuck a long way from the car. Fortunately, I managed to get the straps untangled in about 10 minutes. However, in the cold, dark and howling wind, 10 minutes seems like a really long time.
After I freed my bike from the straps I cranked up the 907 to as fast as he would go. Oh, my that bike is fast!
Here is the 907 back at the car. There was just the faintest last glimmer of a pretty Rocky Mountain sunset. Dark means cold. I got off the mountain at the perfect time.
Given the debacle with my Jandd seatbag, I have since bought the smaller Topeak bag. The 907 is not a beast of burden. I could have bought a Salsa Mukluk if I wanted a luggage carrier. The 907 is too fast to be weighted down. I have learned my lesson.
Here is the lonesome drive home.
I didn't see another car until I hit the town of Evergreen. For just a little bit, I owned the whole mountain.
Thanks for reading my blog.
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