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Mangled Mountain Bike Trail – My Personal Trail System - A Photo Essay

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Part 1: "You Have Mangled Our Property!"

For quite a while I had been toying with the idea of building a mountain bike trail on my property. My house sits on a couple of acres of mountain land in Colorado. We have lived here for 17 years. I know every square inch of my land. There are a few game trails running across the property that I had used to do a little test riding.

I knew the size, shape and topography of my property was perfectly suited for building a set of trails that would emulate typical terrain of bike trails in the Colorado Rockies, albeit on a smaller scale.

Of course there were constraints. Tearing down the house was out of the question. Digging up my wife's garden and/or knocking down her greenhouse would not be a good way to ensure domestic tranquility. Besides, I like the fresh vegetables that grace our table. I also needed to be sure not to dig up the septic system.

Everything else was fair game. I started building last Sunday, August 13th.

I was curious what my wife would say about my construction project on her return from her mother/daughter adventure in Canada and the Pacific Northwest. She came back late on Tuesday. It took her a full day to realize something was different. She saw the trail segment "Garden Cutoff" since the trail went directly in front of her greenhouse.



She didn't volunteer any feelings about this segment. I asked her, "How do you like my bike trails?" She said in a measured voice "What trails?" I pointed to Rocky Gap and Scramble hill and said, "Those trails." Here lips quivered. Her eyes widened. Then she exploded, "You have mangled our property!"

Hence, the name of my trail system.

To my credit, she had not even noticed the other parts of the trail system. We had a short conversation and reached an impasse. She didn't like the project and I was going to stop construction. We agreed to disagree. I went back to work on the trail.

My wife is pretty chatty. She gave me the silent treatment for about 20 minutes. A little later, as I toiled away on the trail, she walked out on the deck and asked me what I wanted for dinner. The subject was closed. During dinner she told me all about some island in Canada that is full of wolves that fish for their food. Her favorite wild animal is the wolf because she thinks they are majestic. My favorite animal is the squirrel because I think they are funny.

Part 2: Simple Hand Tools

The vast majority of hiking or biking trails are made by hand. Heavy equipment doesn't fit up a trail that is 2 feet wide. The following photo shows my indispensable trail building items.



I have sturdy boots to protect my feet from rocks. I bought these boots at Walmart for $20 about 10 years ago. I just paid $11 for the leather gloves last Monday. I could only find one of my old gloves. The hand tools included a bow rake, long handled shovel and pickaxe. That is it.

Part 3: Engineering Marvel - If I do say so myself

I know this map is really too small to see well. But it should give you an idea of the general layout.



Here are the Mangled Mountain Trail parameters:

Total Length: 0.51 miles
Total Vertical Elevation Change: 199 feet (That is really quite a lot in 1/2 mile)
Mean Elevation Above Sea Level: 8,150 feet

Segments and Difficulty:



1. Slippery Slope - Green
2. Scramble Hill - Green
3. Tramp – Green
4. Breezeway – Green
5. Cross Roads – Green
6. Coyote Run - Green



7. Tomato Patch - Blue
8. S-Curves on Rocky Wash - Blue
9. Rocky Gap – Blue
10. Tree Bash - Blue
11. Garden Cutoff – Blue
12. Potato Box – Blue
13. Snake Head - Blue



14. Rollers - Black
15. Bounce – Black
16. Switch – Black



17. Jump - Double Black

The way the trail system is designed there are over a dozen individual large loops. Some loops are Green. Other loops are Blue. There are two loops that are all Black. Many loops are a combination Green, Blue and/or Black.

Part 4: Ride The Mangled Mountain Trail With Me

We will start our run on Upper Tomato Patch.

Did I mention that there are 199 feet of vertical on this trail?

Here is a shot of the relatively flat Lower Tomato Patch segment.

I call this "Tomato Patch" because we once tried to grow tomatoes here with a spectacular lack of success.

At this point, you and your bike should be moving pretty quickly. You haven't hit the brakes yet, have you? Now the fun begins! You are about to drop into the S-Curves on Rocky Wash.


The S-Curves are fast. You swoop along on the smooth banks because you know the center of the trail is rough and rocky. Speed is you friend here.


The trail is banked all the way to Rocky Gap. Always remember to look way ahead. Looking far down the trail slows everything down.


Rocky Gap is tricky. You know you should be pedaling really hard through this segment. Scramble Hill is coming up.


This is the exit of Rocky Gap. If you are not pedaling hard at this point you are going to "Fred Flintstone" your bike up Scramble Hill.


Scramble Hill is very loose dirt. This used to be a massive thistle patch. Good tires are a "must have". You also need to keep your weight centered over your pedals.


You are now entering Tree Bash. I reworked this quite a bit. Originally, this has a reverse camber curve. The chances of hitting a tree were pretty good. I banked the curve through the trees. Here is a tip - If a trail is comfortable to hike, the trail is also good to bike. Sort of rhymes.


Now you are rounding the corner from Tree Bash and heading up Slippery Slope.

You have just taken the easy way to Slippery Slope. There is an alternate trail called "Rollers". Rollers, well rolls.


Rollers is to the left of Tree Bash. Rollers is both steeper and rougher.


Big boulders in the middle of a trail are actually typical around here.


In reality you would be slightly airborne at this point. You don't really want to do a nose dive off this rock. Coming from the other direction you have to jump this rock.


After Tree Bash and Rollers is a straight steep hill called Slippery Slope. At the top of Slippery Slope is "Crossroads". At Crossroads, you can take Switch, Bounce, Garden Cutoff, Breezeway or Tramp.

Let's take Bounce.


Bounce is very rocky. This is really the domain of a full suspension bike. This photo doesn't really capture just how bouncy this segment is.


Bounce is short and sweet. We can turn up switch at the end of Bounce or take Garden Cutoff. Lets do Switch.


Switch is a steep little sucker that is "S" shaped making a sharp switchback.

Here is a better shot of Switch coming from the other direction. The top of Bounce and the top of Switch can both be accessed at the Crossroads.


This is the cockpit view of Switch. I had to build up the berm with a fallen tree and some logs.

Bounce and Switch form a circle. You can also take Garden Cutoff from Switch or Bounce; or you can take Garden Cutoff from Slippery Slope. Garden Cutoff, Bounce and Switch all traverse a big rock outcrop we call "Rocky Top".


The bike is positioned on Garden Cutoff. Switch is on the left and bounce is directly ahead. To the right is the an easy route to Slippery Slope via the top of Garden Cutoff. I know it is confusing. As you ride the trails, you have lots of ways to go.


Here is Garden Cutoff from Slippery Slope.


Garden Cutoff is pretty rough at the top. I rated this segment as blue because it is smooth further down.


Garden Cutoff ends at Potato Box. Potato Box is a "Y". Left takes you to Rocky Gap. Right takes you back up S-Curves on Rocky Wash. Garden Cutoff is steep.

Back at Crossroads, you can go right to Tramp or straight to Breezeway and Snakehead. Here is Tramp.


Tramp is a deer trail and is nice and flat. If you go straight at Crossroads you go up to Breezeway.


Here you have a gentle climb to Breezeway. Breezeway is really nice.


Breezeway roughly parallels Tramp. Breezeway is also built on top of a deer trail.

Tramp and Breezeway merge into Coyote Run. Coyote run heads across the driveway and back to Tomato Patch.


Coyote Run is so named because my 25 pound Beagle chased a Coyote off the property in this location.


You have completed a lap and are heading down to Tomato Patch again.

There are two other trails I want to show you. From Breezeway you can get to Snakehead.


Snakehead is a drainage full of sticks and stones and is really u-g-l-y.


There is not much of a trail here. I just raked a path through this area. Snakehead is a primitive trail.


Snakehead intersects slippery slope right above Rollers. If Snakehead and Rollers don't tear up your bike tires, nothing will!

There is another "trail" that you can take from Tramp called Jump. Jump is bad.


You are heading to Jump. Be careful.


Jump feels like going over a cliff.


After the Jump, you have to swing nearly 90 degrees to get back on Tomato Patch.

That is it! Your are done. Thanks for reading my blog.


  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ITSHOWYOULIVE 9/16/2012 12:56AM

    Really Cool!! Love your trail and hope you have lots of fun riding it. One man's (woman's) mangled is another man's improvement :).

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TRI_BABE 9/11/2012 11:56PM

    Wow! That is so awesome and cool. Would like to live by trails sometime, must be cool to have your own now.

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ELYMWX 8/31/2012 1:22PM

    Ha! The thing that went through my head first was that you didn't have far to go to reach a first aid kit!

(now why would I think that???)

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TEDDYBABE 8/26/2012 5:11AM

    Way to go! I am thinking this is going to be a great idea!

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KCNEWF 8/24/2012 10:58AM

    I like your style. Act first, as permission from the better half later . . . . Hmmm . . Maybe I can use that approach to go N+1 in my bicycle inventory . . . .


As usual, you are sparking my motivation!

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SQUIRRELLYONE 8/20/2012 2:27PM

    I love that you had your bike give us the tour :) Hope you have a plan to make it up to your wife!

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CBAILEYC 8/20/2012 11:15AM

    Great trail! I have to second what KRICKET4 said - a view from a helmet cam would be awesome!
emoticon
C~

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HEALTHIERKEN 8/20/2012 10:46AM

    Stunning! Spectacular!
emoticon

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LMB-ESQ 8/20/2012 8:48AM

    I have to laugh at your wife's characterization of your trail system... "you mangled our property!" LOL Years ago, when my parents bought their property, they both wanted to put in walking trails but couldn't agree on the best way to do it. Many arguments later, they ended up with a nice, but very small set-up of two trails and the whole family enjoyed it. Funny, I can't remember who won, but I guess they must have "agreed to disagree" too!

Enjoy... I hope you have many successful rides on it! And maybe your wife will decide she can run on them too!

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JSTETSER 8/20/2012 6:27AM

    Wow! When your wife leaves town, you get VERY busy!
I love the track. What a great way to start a day!

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ALDEBARANIAN 8/19/2012 9:50PM

    Hmm. Well, wow. Nice looking greenhouse. I was sort of thinking that Jump might go over the greenhouse. Looks like a great ride. emoticon

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DRAGONCHILDE 8/19/2012 9:11PM

    Totally jealous of you and your trail. Seriously.

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MPLANE37 8/19/2012 9:03PM

    Quite some story. But still, half a mile is a bit too short, even for hiking. But great job not giving in against your wife. I had a hard time until I convinced my wife that my mountain bike (which is a 2009 hardtail) is too valuable to leave overnight in the street, even when locked. Finally my bike is in its place in my small study room. emoticon

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CHRISKENANDKIDS 8/19/2012 7:50PM

    That looks like a blast to hike! I'm not good on a bike but that looks like fun! :)

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NATPLUMMER 8/19/2012 7:34PM

    It looks fabulous!! I'm glad you and your wife are still speaking.

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CHANGINGHORSES 8/19/2012 7:09PM

    OMG! You are lucky she is still speaking to you. You are a riot. I love it! It would scare me to ride bike on that but I would love to run it. Have fun. Just think of all the calories you burned creating the trail and now what you will burn using the trail. Way to go!

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LKEITHO 8/19/2012 7:03PM

    Quite the system!

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LINDAKAY228 8/19/2012 5:44PM

    I'm sorry you're wife doesn't like the trail system but glad you reached an agreement to disagree and she's dealing with it. Being an avid hiker I would so much love to have a place like that where I could head out my door and be on a network of trails for when I don't have time to go someplace else. I think it looks like you have done an awesome job with it. Hopefully with time she will come to like it a little better. I can picture it as a great place to take family or friends over part of it for a nice after dinner walk/hike at times.

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NWFL59 8/19/2012 3:29PM

    Wow great looking home test trails. The photos and description are excellent. Thanks. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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KA_JUN 8/19/2012 3:05PM

    Uh oh. Silent treatment is not good. "Mangled" as an adjective, when used in reference to things like hardware, (i.e. I mangled my rear derailleur) or property, probably indicative of displeasure. That said, Bruce, you don't mess around, your own personal groomed trail system right outside your front doorstep, mapped and blazed, that is AWESOME! I see you have built up some nice berms, too. Most excellent. I'm sure that riding the same controlled trails, you'll be really able to dial in your rides and see the differences in your equipment. Wow, truly epic!

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KENDRACARROLL 8/19/2012 3:04PM

    Now, how about a camera on your helmet so we can see this in action?
emoticon

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CAROLYN1ALASKA 8/19/2012 2:21PM

    WOW! That is just so cool!
We occasionally circumnavigate our yard and house, but we only have a half acre so "building" a trail is out of the question. I'm envious...
(The only consolation is that we're just across the street from the major mountain bike/nordic ski park here with about 80 acres and miles and miles of trails.)

Have fun!

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SEBASTIANALADY 8/19/2012 1:48PM

  Looks like fun.

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Bike Trail Building - Part 2: Quick Update

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Part 1: Cannot Leave Well Enough Alone

I had planned to build a rough bike trail on my property. Over time, as the bike rolled over the trail, the trail would become more distinct. I then got carried away.

Here is the progress as of last night.


This segment is called "Upper Tomato Patch" and drops from my driveway. I widened this segment last night and smoothed the surface a bit.


This is "Lower Tomato Patch". I really did a lot of work on this segment. I smoothed the transition from Tomato Patch segment to the Rocky Wash segment.


I widened Rocky Wash to allow for some fast banking.


I dramatically reworked Rocky Gap. When I took my test bike over this area, I found that the direction of travel through the Gap required a near impossible left turn to stay on the trail when coming downhill. I built up the right hand side of the trail and whacked some roots off the stump to provide a more natural line of travel.


Scramble Hill looks smooth. But It is not smooth. This segment is uneven and rutted. This segment is going to pack down and be a lot like public trails in this area.


I worked over "Tree Bash" quite a bit. I widened the turn. If you try to go to fast through this segment - bash!! - you hit a tree!

Part 2: Test Bike - Specialized Hardrock Sport

I am using the least capable mountain bike at my disposal to test the trail. My son outgrew his large frame Specialized hHrdrock Sport. I got it by default.


This bike is alternately called Little Rocky or Little Blackie.


This bike is pretty much the lowest-end mountain bike that works around here. Little Rocky has OK shifters but weak V--brakes. The front fork is none too good. If this bike can navigate the trail, any of my bikes can.

Part 3: Proposed Route

Here are some undeveloped segments.


Here is the proposed site for Trampoline Cutoff.


This the proposed site for Slippery Slope.


This is the location for No Return Trail.


Here is a picture of the route for the Outer Loop.

Part 4: Time Well Spent?

I have spent over 10 hours working on this trail system. I am only about half way done. Then I am going to need to maintain the trail system or mother nature will reclaim it. However, I should have one full loop done tonight.

Got to go to work. Thanks for reading my blog.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SQUIRRELLYONE 8/16/2012 8:36AM

    I'm glad you're enjoying all the work you're putting into this: for some, it might be consdiered "work"!

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JSTETSER 8/16/2012 6:29AM

    Nice work!

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NWFL59 8/15/2012 7:36PM

    emoticon trail dude! You must be a very efficient worker to have completed so much in only ten hours. I look forward to seeing its continued development and more about your test runs and future usage of your 'backyard' run. emoticon emoticon

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YOUNGNSMYLIE 8/15/2012 12:55PM

    This looks so awesome. Looks like it took you much more time then 10 hours! I can't wait to see the rest. emoticon

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CBAILEYC 8/15/2012 10:49AM

    As I read this sentence "If you try to go to fast through this segment - bash!! - you hit a tree!" I tried to imagine you saying it, and hearing a hint of GLEE in your voice as you did LOL
It looks great, Bruce. I'm also curious what the Mrs. thinks about the new landscaping theme.
emoticon

Now.. what tools are you using to clear all these trails? Is it all by hand?
Loving Trampoline Cutoff!
emoticon
C~

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LINDAKAY228 8/15/2012 10:11AM

    Love the trail you are building. Wish I had a few acres like that. Not necessarily to bike but for quick hikes when not much time. I love being in nature so much. You are really putting a lot of time and energy into it! Make sure you don't hit the tree LOL!

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LMB-ESQ 8/15/2012 8:27AM

    I wish I had half your energy! Where do you find the time? Reactions from your wife yet?

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MPLANE37 8/14/2012 10:47PM

    I thought you liked rough terrain. If I were you, I would simply mark a trail by some kind of visible wiring (may be also with some small bulbs for night time riding). That would be it!

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TWEETYKC00 8/14/2012 8:28PM

    Looks interesting. I can't wait to hear how the final outlook will be.

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NATPLUMMER 8/14/2012 6:58PM

    Good luck!!

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KKINNEA 8/14/2012 6:37PM

    The real question is what your wife will say when she returns! :)

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KAREN42BOYS 8/14/2012 6:34PM

    This looks very cool. Now you can test to your heart's delight and you could even do some coaching for novice mountain bikers in a controlled environment.

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Building a Bike Trail On My Property

Monday, August 13, 2012

Part 1: Easily Distracted

Yesterday, I decided I should muck-out the garage. We recently had our house appraised for refinancing. (BTW, the house appraisal went well. We are lowering our payment by $200 and reducing the payoff time by 5 years.) According to my wife, an honest woman, when the appraiser walked into the garage he said, "It looks like a bike shop exploded in here!"

Appraisers are hilarious people - NOT!


During the appraisal period I was putting a new stem, handlebars, derailleurs, chain, headset, fork and tires on my Giant Boulder SE to get it ready for sale to my grown 3rd son to use as a commuter bike.


We have a lot of two-wheel vehicles. Road bikes, mountain bikes, dirt motorcycles and a road motorcycle. I would rather travel on two wheels than four wheels any day.

As I started the fun task of cleaning the garage, I decided to do a bicycle tire test. I have spare wheels on my Camber, which was required due to a close encounter with drainage damage on a train that destroyed the Camber's original wheels.

Yes, I have spare bike wheels. Doesn't everybody?

Anyway, I wanted to see how well the Camber's Specialized Captain cross-country tires could handle very loose conditions. Little Stumpy has all-mountain Maxxis Minion "Super Tacky" tires. I was thinking of getting the Maxxis Minions for the Camber and wanted to make sure the increase in traction would be worth it.


The Specialized Captain has pretty small knobs. This tire rolls nicely on hardpack. The Camber came with this trail tire.


The Maxxis Minion has deep knobs and has great bite on loose trails. This tire has ramped center knobs and rolls pretty well. I put this tire on Little Stumpy after some sharp rocks ate the original XC racing tires.


I tested the tires on a loose berm on the side of road.


This trail formed over the years as a shortcut to the road from my house. Hen I take my dog for a walk, this the route he takes to get to the road.

The tires test showed that the Maxxis Minions are somewhat better than the Specialized Captains. However, this short little trail really did not put the tires to a real test.

Part 2: A Test Track- What a Great Idea!

As I did the tire test, I felt that the Camber suspension could use some tweaking. I adjusted the pressure in the forks and shocks and added some rebound. I tested the bike on some rocks between my upper and lower driveway.


This photo shows a short track through some rocks. This short little hill really does not put the suspension tweaks to the test.

Then I got an idea! I could build a test circuit on my property. I have a couple of acres of mountain land. The more I thought about the prospect of bike trails on my property the more I liked it. Here are the reasons:

(1) I can test bike modification near my workshop, make adjustments and re-test;
(2) I can work on my mountain biking skills in a controlled environment;
(3) If I crash, I am already home; and
(4) My wife is out of town!

Reason #4 is really important. My dear wife may take a dim view if I turn our property into a bike park. Nothing could be further from my mind.

Here is the plan:


This drawing is not to scale but it gives you an idea. Due North is straight up the page. The loops are between 1/4 to 1/2 mile long. I figure I will have about a mile of finished trail when I am done. I tried to make this map bigger. However, theSparkpeople image resize function keeps shrinking the map.

Part 3: Shovel, Pick, Rake and Saw

I just had a few hours before dark to get started. The lower part of my property has always been problematic. There is actually good topsoil in the lower area and Russian Thistles grow to huge proportions. I tackled this area first.


I dug up a million thistles and piled them off way off the trail. I then tackled a big mess by an old stump I call "Rocky Gap".


I made two ways through Rocky Gap. The easiest way in the "Smooth Route". There is another over a flat boulder. I actually moved a lot of dirt to make this section. I took these photos in the dark since I worked on the trail until sundown.


Here are the "S-Banks". I have some more work to do her to build up the banks. This should be a quick section. We have lots of fallen trees I can use to hold the dirt on the banks in place.


This is "Rocky Wash" This is purposely loose and bumpy. All the terrain features on my private trails are found on the public trails I ride.


This is what "Tree Bash" looks like. The bike is my son's Specialized Hardrock. I used this bike as a prop because it has a kickstand.


This is where outer loop is going to go. I was able to finish Tomato Patch, Rocky Wash, S-Banks, Rocky Gap, Rollers, Tree Bash and part of Loose Climb before it got dark.


This is Death Ravine. This is actually steeper and longer than the photo shows. My wife put this 1/2 barrel planter in the way so visitors would drive into the ravine. This barrel has to go! Or maybe I will move it a little bit.


Here is Deep Sandy Wash. This is an exact replica of Sandy Wash at Buffalo Creek.

I have some more work to do. But the other parts of my trail system will be pretty easy to get done.

Thanks for reading my blog.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SQUIRRELLYONE 8/16/2012 8:34AM

    Hope you get it done before you get into trouble!

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KA_JUN 8/15/2012 7:06PM

    Ahahaha, that's awesome, Bruce! I keep getting images in my head of your wife coming home to a fully built up pump track. emoticon

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TOOTHFUL99 8/14/2012 10:06AM

    Wow! That's a lot of work! Now, all of your friends can come to your house to play!

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YOUNGNSMYLIE 8/13/2012 11:39PM

    This is awesome! What a great blog...and what wife wouldn't love a bike park on her backyard? emoticon emoticon emoticon

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NATPLUMMER 8/13/2012 10:27PM

    Cool!

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PAMNANGEL 8/13/2012 8:53PM

    Great idea.

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LMB-ESQ 8/13/2012 8:43PM

    Love this idea! I'd love to have the land to build it on... whether or not I actually built it would almost be a moot point!

Good luck with it!

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KAREN42BOYS 8/13/2012 3:51PM

    You are one hard-working crazy man whose wife must adore you. A bike trail on your property is a nutty and practical notion. Great naming of your sections, too. Happy trails to you!

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BANDMAMAPC 8/13/2012 3:11PM

    More power to you! I still have to drive to my trail. If I had a trail behind my property, I would have no excuse. You are such a go getter!

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LOSER05 8/13/2012 2:26PM

    cool land my Beagle Buster would LOVE to run around out there. and you could open a bike shop emoticon

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CBAILEYC 8/13/2012 1:11PM

    While reason #4 made me laugh out loud (my coworkers gave me a funny look, which is really not that unusual), 3# makes the best sense to me!
emoticon teasing!

Looks like a great plan, and hopefully you and your wife's planter can learn to live in peace, harmony, and knobby tires!
emoticon
C~

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PATTERD707 8/13/2012 1:10PM

    Dude! I'm so jealous. How cool to have space to build your own mountain bike trail system. I love "Tree Bash," great name.

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BOILHAM 8/13/2012 12:31PM

  Interesting. emoticon

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LINDAKAY228 8/13/2012 12:29PM

    What a great idea! It also looks like you got a great workout (cross training LOL) in moving the dirt and other stuff and building the trail. Two tasks done with one plan.

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MAGGIE805 8/13/2012 12:23PM

    Very cool! emoticon

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NWFL59 8/13/2012 12:21PM

    Very interesting and emoticon emoticon emoticonSo is a video blog of the home trail in the future?

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KKINNEA 8/13/2012 12:20PM

    That is fantastic!!

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TAICHIDANCER 8/13/2012 12:07PM

    Awesome. But does your wife want visitors to drive into the ravine? ;-)

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The Tale of Two Bikes: Good Brakes and Bad Wheels

Friday, August 10, 2012

Part 1: Ultra Stumpy Has Great New Brakes

On Wednesday I took Ultra Stumpy to Flying J Ranch to put the new Shimano XT brakes to the test. The brakes had bedded-in nicely and seemed to be working great. Flying J is not too tough.



The Flying J Ranch is a Jefferson County open space park. The trail system is not too extensive. You can ride every trail in the park in less than an hour. Lots of people hike, jog and ride mountain bikes in this relaxed atmosphere.


Ultra Stumps resting as he catches his breath.


Big rocks! Everywhere are big rocks!

These are photos of Ultra Stumps in his element. For some reason, Ultra Stumps can find the absolute worst terrain in any trail system! We came over a rise just flying along. And wammo, there is was a rocky dry creek bed dead ahead. I hit the brakes and, miracles of miracles, the bike came to a completely controlled "panic" stop! I mean the bike stopped quickly. I did not end up on my face. I was not catapulted over the handlebars.

Wow!

I took this photo to commemorate the event. The new XT brakes are great!



The photo shows the climb out of the creek bed. Like I said, if there are any nasty trails nearby, Ultra Stumps is drawn to them like a bee to honey. Stumps just powered up and over these rocks, jumped a few fallen logs, bashed through a steep ravine, and was on a smooth trail in no time.

Part 2: Camber is Better Looking Dressed in Black

My new Camber got a make over. Here is the bike all dressed in white. As one of my Sparkfriends pointed-out, why would a company put white on a bike that plays in the dirt?



I guess the white saddle and handgrips look good in a showroom. The lower-end white Riva saddle was uncomfortable. In one ride, the white handgrips had turned dirty grey. I had a coupon for 20% off for accessories.


I bought a black Specialized Henge Pro saddle. Ultra Stumps came with this saddle so I knew it was comfortable.


I also popped for some black Specialized Grappler grips.



Here is the Camber all dressed in black. I think the bike looks a lot better.


The comfortable black grips go for a measly $25. These grips have locking rings and are easy to take off.


This is a nice saddle with titanium rails. This saddle retails for $120 and worth every penny. I paid $96 for the saddle. I had a coupon! The original white Riva saddle retails for $30 and was hard as a brick!


Here is a slightly different view of the Camber with the black grips and seat.

Part 3: Close Encounter with a Ditch

I took the Camber to Lair-of-the-Bear yesterday. This is a fairly easy place to ride. However, I am starting think that Little Cam has been taking lessons from Ultra Stumps. The Camber is a 26" bike that is really quite fierce! We were tearing along a flat section of a slightly rocky trail. We zipped around a tight blind curve. The blind curve had a reverse camber.

Note: A reverse camber curve banks to the outside. There are lots of these type of curves around here. A reverse camber curve can be a bit tricky.

Unfortunately, there was a big ditch traversing the trail right on the other side of the blind curve. Rats! I suppose some prudent people would have slowed down to go around a 90 degree blind curve. But Little Cam was having none of that slowing down stuff!

The instant I saw the gaping hole in the ground, I jammed on the brakes. In retrospect, hitting the brakes was a bad idea. Little Camby's back tire slid down the reverse camber. We hit the ditch at an oblique angle Bang! Bang! The suspension bottomed-out as we collided the ditch. Much to my surprise, we managed to make it through the ditch without a massive bloody accident!

I was fine. Little Cam was wounded. I looked down at Little Cam's front wheel. The rim was bent. Technically, the front wheel was "potato chipped". "Tacoed" is when the wheel is folded over like, well, a taco.

I took off the front wheel and slammed it against a big rock a few times. I got the wheel straight enough to ride the wobbly bike back to the parking lot. I was really surprised at the damage. We did not hit that ditch very hard. Last time I ruined a wheel was on Little Stumpy during an epic wipe-out! We are talking a high-speed endo with lots of bandages required!

Little Camby came with DT Swiss 445D wheels. These wheels are too darn light-weight and weak for a bike as fierce as a Little Camber! Even the rear wheel took a hit. The back rim is not bent but the wheel is out of true. Those DT Swiss wheels are going to the recycle bin.

I ordered a decent set of wheels. I bought a pair of Mavic EM-321 wheels from Bike Wheel Warehouse.


I put a one of these wheels on the front of Little Stumpy after I destroyed the original wheel. These wheels are strong. Little Stumps has done lots of hard trails with nary a whimper from the front wheel.


The cross-section shows how well the wheel is made. Take my word for it, this is a good design. For $210 a pair, which is cheap BTW, the wheels come with strong spokes and great Shimano XT hubs. The spokes are black and the hubs are black.

Little Cam looks good in black. Thanks for reading my blog.

Bruce

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DAVEINSEOUL 8/12/2012 8:04AM

    Ya gotta love that Specialized!

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ITSHOWYOULIVE 8/11/2012 11:33PM

    Cam looks great in black...too bad about his wheels. Not his fault. Under your tutelage and care Little Cam is going to learn all kinds of cool things :). Glad Ultra is feeling up to par and had a great ride. Sounds like some good times are ahead.

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CBAILEYC 8/11/2012 10:22AM

    Hooray for no catapulting!
emoticon
Little Cam DOES look good in black. Glad you both survived with only 'minor' injuries.
C~

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TOOTHFUL99 8/11/2012 9:32AM

    I bet your bike shop loves seeing you walk in the door. Kah-ching! lol

Hope everything is working well, now, and you stay safe!!

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MPLANE37 8/11/2012 1:08AM

    Faint bikes are not for you! You must have the toughest one. Otherwise you will destroy the bike and hurt yourself.

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KAREN42BOYS 8/11/2012 12:26AM

    You and your mighty steeds! Very fun read!

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CHRISKENANDKIDS 8/10/2012 10:21PM

    More power to you! You have some nasty trails there! Glad you like them! I would LOVE hiking them but would kill myself on a bike. :)

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BIONICBETH 8/10/2012 10:00PM

    Mavics are awesome...love mine.

Now...stop blaming the bike. We aren't buying it.

You are clearly a glutton for punishment. (All inappropriate remarks typed in have been immediately deleted.)

Ugh...boys...
<
BR>;-)

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LINDA7668 8/10/2012 7:48PM

    Sounds like you've had some great rides! Keep it up (without injuring yourself of course).
emoticon

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JSTETSER 8/10/2012 7:31PM

    You have 2 beautiful bikes. I bet the brakes on both of them work now!

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LMB-ESQ 8/10/2012 7:24PM

    Oh gee, and here I thought you were harboring some nerves getting back out there. Silly me!

Why do they make a bike with white trim that likes to play in the dirt? Easy.... white shows the dirt better, so that anyone who looks at it KNOWS you've been playing in the dirt! All the better to show off with!

And for the record, I paid more for my saddle than I paid for my whole bike. Granted my bike is over 20 years old and I didn't pay all that much for it, but still... it was worth every penny.

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KA_JUN 8/10/2012 4:14PM

    Nice blog and pics, Bruce! I just picked up some Lizard Skins Peatys grips, myself. Lock-ons are wonderful things to have when things get hairy. Ride on!

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LISAINMS 8/10/2012 1:57PM

    I will never understand why they put white tape or grip on bikes! Little Cam looks good all dressed up.

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NWFL59 8/10/2012 12:23PM

    Your improvements definitely make the bike's appearance look more in agreement with its functionality. Glad your pucker moment didn't result in more personal injuries and spurred you on to make your new trail bike safer and more useful for the type of runs you'll be doing with it on the other more challenging trails. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PJBONARRIGO 8/10/2012 11:33AM

    Whoo hooo! I loved reading about your adventures with the bikes. Black is better :-) emoticon

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Fast Bike, Quick Bike and Smooth Bike

Monday, August 06, 2012

Part 1: Brake Issue on Ultra Stumpy Solved!

I picked up Ultra Stumpy from the bike shop today. The horrendously dangerous Formula "The One"brakes that came on Ultra Stumpy are long gone. A much more predictable set of brakes, Shimano XTs, are now resting comfortably on Ultra Stumpy. The bike now is docile and predictable in braking performance. Ultra Stumpy is a sweet ride!


Ultra Stumpy is a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. The original brakes were made in Italy by Formula.



The service manager at the bike shop explained the problem. Formula bike brakes use DOT 5.1 brake fluid, which is a polyethylene glycol-based fluid and is designed to be hygroscopic. The translation is that Formula is using an automotive brake fluid that is formulated to absorb water. The ability for an automotive brake fluid to absorb water is advantageous because water in an automotive brake system is corrosive. As the DOT 5.1 brake fluid absorbs water two things happen: (1) the brake fluid expands, and (2) the boiling point of the brake fluid drops. An automobile has a large amount of free space in the master cylinder that allows the brake fluid to expand, and thus prevents a build-up of pressure at the wheel cylinders.

Are you still with me?

Not to put too fine a point on this, bicycle braking systems ain't the same as automobile braking systems. There is darn little space in hydraulic bicycle braking system for over-expansion of the brake fluid. It is a mystery to me why a bike maker would use automotive brake fluid in bike brakes.

The bike shop found that Ultra Stumpy's brake fluid was contaminated with water!

As the brakes heated during normal use, the contaminated brake fluid over-expanded causing the front brake to start dragging. The dragging caused the brakes to get very hot. The hot brake fluid had expanded until the slightest application of the brakes caused the front wheel to lock-up!

The front brake was a time-bomb!

When the front brake locked-up, my very expensive finely balanced mountain bike did what it was designed to do. Ultra Stumpy instantly responded and, thereby, became a death trap! Some less expensive bikes would have just skid when the front brake locked-up. Not Ultra Stumpy. Ultra Stumpy flipped forward, and in less than an eye-blink, hammered me into the ground!

The new Shimano XT brakes use traditional mineral oil as brake fluid, which does not absorb water and has an very high boiling point of 310°C (590°F). By comparison, the water contaminated DOT 5.1 brake fluid has a boiling point of 190 °C (374 °F). Mineral oil is dimensionally stable and is easier on moving parts than DOT 5.1 fluid. Cave paintings in France show hydraulic bike brakes being filled with mineral oil. Mineral oil is low tech perhaps. But it has worked in bike brakes since the dawn of time.


At no cost to me, the bike shop replaced the Formula Brakes with the tried-and-true Shimano mineral oil XT brakes.


They put on new rotors to match the XT brakes. I gave this new combination the acid test. The XT brakes are powerful, smooth and predictable. I think I am going to like these new brake a lot.

The service manager told me that he now knew how to get the Formula brakes working properly. I really wanted nothing to do with brakes that had hurt me twice! He got that.

Part 2: I Have a Fast Bike and a Smooth Bike - I want a Quick Bike

Alas, my trusty little hardtail, Little Stumpy, just doesn't cut the mustard anymore. Little Stumpy is a 2006 Stumpjumper Pro that was intended for sale in Great Britain. Somehow Little Stumpy ended up in the United States. Little Stumpy is a fiercely fast bike on a smooth single track or double track. Unfortunately, Little Stumpy is a handful on rough and/or rocky trails. In Colorado we have a lot of rough and rocky terrain.

I think I have become spoiled by the full suspension on Ultra Stumpy. During an ascent on a rocky trail, Ultra Stumpy's rear suspension keeps the rear tire in contact with the ground. The hardtail "suspension" on Little Stumpy tends to bounce off the trail. The result is loss of pedaling efficiency and some squirrely handling. Bikes are not airplanes and have cannot go around corners while airborne. On rough terrain Little Stumpy can get skittish in corners.

Little Stumpy does have a big advantage in that he is a very compact bike with 26" wheels. Baby Stumps can turn on a dime and give you 9 cents change! As long as he is in contact with the ground, he is extremely nimble! Little Stumpy is also very easy to jump and pump. Pumping over rolling terrain is a "free" way to get extra speed. Basically, you rise on the front side of a bump to get "light". You sink on the backside of the bump to get "heavy". You gain more speed on the backside than you lose on the frontside.


You may be able to see in this photo that Little Stumpy has a very short chainstay and a steep head tube angle. A big head tube angle is called "tight" steering.


Here is a diagram that shows some of the geometry of a bike. Little Stumpy's short wheelbase and a steep head tube angle equates to lightning-quick handling but less stability. Ultra Stumpy's longer wheelbase and less-steep (i.e. slack) head tube angle makes Ultra Stumpy quite stable on rough terrain but slower handling.

Touring road bikes tend to be stretched-out with slack steering making touring bikes very stable. My Allez sport road bike has a short wheelbase and tight steering giving my road bike amazing handling at the expense of stability.


My Specialized Allez is fun, fast and responsive. Compared to trail riding, street riding is silky smooth. This bike pedals smoothly, shifts smoothly and rides smoothly.

Part 3: Shopping for Quick Bike

I started thinking that there may be a full suspension bike out there that combines a full suspension with the lightning quick handling of a hardtail. Don't get me wrong. Ultra Stumpy is a great handling bike. But he has 29" wheels, which requires a longer wheelbase. Ultra Stumpy has a noticeably wider turning radius than Little Stumpy. Ultra Stumpy also has slack steering to improve stability in extreme conditions. The long wheelbase and "slow" steering requires greater body and bike separation in tight corners. Body and bike separation simply means you lean the bike at a steeper angle than your body. You also point your body where you want the bike to go.

I poured over bike specifications trying to decide what I wanted. I am what is known as a techno-nerd, which is another name for engineer. I also know that specifications don't tell the whole story. A bike is more than just the sum of it's parts.

I was pretty sure that I wanted a 26" full-suspension bike with 100mm to 130mm (4" to 5") of suspension travel. I test rode a number of bikes. Ideally, I wanted to keep the purchase price under $1,500.

Option 1: Scott Genius 40 (26" Wheels)


The Scott Genius 40 has a head tube angle of 68.5 degrees and a 1117mm (44") wheelbase. The suspension has two travel settings of 120mm and 150mm that are selectable by flipping switch on the handlebar. MSRP for this bike is $3099. Green Mountain Cyclery was asking $2,750 for a new Genius 40.

During the test ride, I found the Scott Genius to be pretty responsive and had a lot of nice features including a Fox 32 front fork. The bike had nice manners but was not what I wanted. The price was also an issue.

Option 2: Giant Yukon 26er

On the other end of the price spectrum was the Giant Yukon. I found this bike for sale at Campus Cycles for $929. A full suspension bike for under $1,000 from a reputable manufacture is hard to find.


The Giant Yukon has a head tube angle of 70.5 degrees (the bigger the number - the steeper the steering). The Yukon's wheel base is 42.9". This bike had steeper steering and a shorter wheelbase than the Scott. The Yukon had mechanical brakes and a low-end 100mm Suntour coil spring fork. The bike had 24-speeds and SRAM shifters. Not bad for $930.

Then I rode the Yukon. This bike is well behaved and very easy to ride. The riding position was more upright than I like. The bike struck me as docile. Surprisingly, this bike was slow to respond to rider input. The Yukon is a beginner's mountain bike and it felt dead. I could not get it back to the shop quick enough. If someone is looking for a docile full suspension mountain bike for a modest amount, this is it! Ultra Stumpy and Little Stumpy could run circles around this bike.

Option 3: Giant Trance X4 26er

I test rode the Giant Trance X4, which is a few notches above the Yukon.


The Trance has a 69.5 degree head tube angle and a 43.5 inch wheel base. The riding position is the traditional "forward lean" that I like. The brakes were Avid Elixir hydraulics that worked well. Suspension travel is 120mm. The fork was a coil spring RockShox XC 32. This bike felt a million times better than the Yukon, but still did not have the quick response I wanted. The bike was on sale for $1,350 so it was in my price range. I think this bike had a good frame and great geometry that was not served well by the inexpensive fork and rear shock. The next step up was the Trance X3 but the X3 is priced over $2,000.

I gave up on Giant.

Option 4: 26" Trek Fuel EX 5

The Trek Fuel EX 5 had the right stuff. Head tube angle is 68 degrees. The Wheelbase 1134mm (44.6"). The EX5 had an excellent suspension consisting of RockShox Recon air fork and RockShox Ario RL rear shock, which are really good components.


This bike is pretty. This bike was nimble and quick. Riding position was great and the SRAM X5 components were nice.

The problem with the Trek Fuel EX 5 was the price. Wheatridge Cyclery had the Trek for $1,869.99. Although, this price was close to my budget and was a great bike, I kept looking.

Option 5: Specialized Camber Comp 26

I have to admit I like Specialized bikes. I have bought a seven bikes since moving back to Colorado including: 2004 Giant Boulder SE , 2006 Women's Giant Boulder SE, 2006 Specialized Hardrock Sport, 2006 Specialized Stumpjumper Pro HT, 2008 Specialized Women' Myka Comp, 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert 29er and a 2012 Specialized Allez ​Comp ​Apex ​Mid-​Compact. (2 Giants and 5 Specialized)

I looked a at 2012 Specialized Camber Comp 26. The Camber has a 69 degree head tube angle and 1118mm (44") wheelbase.



I am not really fond of the white seat and white handgrips but that can be changed. This bike came with high-quality downhill pedals! I took the bike for a spin. Oh my! This bike put the the Scott, Trek and Giants to shame! This little Camber had the lightning quick handling of Little Stumpy and a full suspension to boot!

In short, the bike was amazing! The Camber Comp lists for $1,850. Wheatridge had in on sale for $1,650. I talked then down to $1,450! The bike was mine! I put it on lay-a-way. I paid-off the Camber on Friday when I got Ultra Stumpy back.

I have already sold my 2004 Giant Boulder SE, called "Big Red". The Hardrock and Little Stumpy are for sale.

Part 4: Quick Ride on a Quick Bike

I took the Camber to Pine Valley Ranch Park for a shake-down ride. Pine Valley Ranch Park is at the extreme North end of the "Epic" Buffalo Creek Bike trail complex.


I took Narrow Gauge Trail to Buck Gulch Trail. I took Buck Gulch Trail to Skipper then looped back on Strawberry Jack to Pine Valley Ranch.


Here is a side view of my Camber on the trail. I think this photo shows the steep steering angle and short wheelbase. This little bike dances down the trail. The reflectors have got to go. IMHO, a reflector on a mountain bike looks like a satellite dish on an outhouse!


This is a view down Narrow Gauge Trail. The trail has some nice rollers. The only issue is the trail is mostly decomposed Granite, which are like ball bearings. If you are a mountain biker, and this fast single track doesn't get your blood pumping, nothing will!


Pine Valley Ranch Park is popular. The South Platte River runs nearby and attracts kayakers.


During my ride, a close encounter with a willow bush took off the rear reflector. I picked up the broken reflector and put it in my pocket. Just doing my part to keep the trails neat and clean. I think the "CAMBER" graphic on the seat post looks good.

Part 5: The Verdict

I rode 6 miles in 27.54 minutes. Maximum grade was 41%. Average speed was 13.1 mph. Maximum speed was 27.9 mph. Maneuverability is fantastic. The Camber is quick, not fast, but quick. The bike handles rough terrain with ease. Getting the bike in the air to clear obstacles is child's play. The Tektro Draco hydraulic disc brakes work flawlessly. The stock flat downhill pedals are kind of fun. I bought a new set of Shimano clipless pedals I will install later.

What are the downsides? The stock saddle is tolerable but not very comfortable. The white hand grips have to go. These white grips looked dirty after about 2 minutes of riding. The only mechanical weakness is the crank. The chain rings are stamped steel and do not allow smooth shifting between between the rings. Surprisingly, the Shimano Alivio shifters and the Shimano SLX rear derailleur work really well.

I can get a great crank for $130 to $200 but I can live with the low-end crank for a while.

I like this bike. Thanks for reading my blog.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DOUBLEMME 8/8/2012 5:09AM

    emoticon

Excellent lesson!
Cycling forms part of my weekly training.
I resumed cycling quite recently, when my weight loss and strength of the bike have allowed me.
Before … I break too often the inner tubes ... ;)
Since May I cycled about 500 km.
Even if my cycling routes are not so binding as the Speedydog’s one, I believe that the technical knowledge of my bike and safety aspects are very important. The Speedydog’s blogs are a good opportunity to learn a lot.

emoticon

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TOOTHFUL99 8/7/2012 8:04AM

    Stupid question..Are you an engineer? You sure think like one! lol

Glad you got your brake issue figured out. Have some great adventures on the new bike!

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MPLANE37 8/6/2012 10:39PM

    You have some great bikes! Lucky you! If I had the money, I would too.

Merida is a Taiwanese brand, like Giant, it is sold eveywhere except US apparently http://www.merida-bikes.com/ . My first bike was Giant Sedona'92, hard tail and hard fork.

Comment edited on: 8/6/2012 10:50:47 PM

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CAROLYN1ALASKA 8/6/2012 6:04PM

    So glad to hear that your "iffy" set of brakes is gone. They sounded like an accident waiting to happen and I'm really sorry that you were the target.
Thanks for all the info too about the different bike choices. I'm too lazy to do the research and rely on DH, my "local engineer" to do it. I've been real happy with my Shimano XT brakes, and while my rides aren't as technical as yours, we do have lots of steep downhills here.

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ELYMWX 8/6/2012 12:28PM

    Now, just stay on that (shiny white) saddle, and minimize your facial gravel quotient!

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KA_JUN 8/6/2012 12:19PM

    Definitely glad to hear that the shop worked with you to resolve the brakes issue. Your horse should not have the capability to pile drive you into the ground, unless through user error vs. poor component design. Nice new rig for your stable! Ride on!

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NATPLUMMER 8/6/2012 11:44AM

    Yay for a proper braking system!
Yay for quick bike!!


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NWFL59 8/6/2012 11:12AM

    Excellent blog and analysis. I enjoyed reading about your search and the enthusiasm you have for selecting just the right ride equipment. I look forward tor future post of your injury free usage of said equipment! emoticon

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LISAINMS 8/6/2012 10:17AM

    Awesome purchase analysis. We just bought a Specialized Allez Elite for my husband and he is very happy with it. I'm in search of a new saddle for my Trek. Leaning toward a Cobb V-Flow Plus. Enjoy your new ride!

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BILL60 8/6/2012 8:47AM

    Sounds like fun, but I'll stick to my road bike. Much simpler.

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JSTETSER 8/6/2012 6:08AM

    Excellent bike! One day I want to buy a great bike!

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TWEETYKC00 8/6/2012 5:10AM

    Sweet Rides! I'm glad your brakes are ready to go like you are, no more head trips into the ground!

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ITSHOWYOULIVE 8/6/2012 2:06AM

    I am storing up all this info and someday I'm going to know exactly what I want when I go for a bike :). Interestingly, as I'm going down and looking at the different choices as soon as I saw the Camber my eyes opened wider and I went "ooooooh" that's the one-lol. Didn't even notice the white seat and grips, I was busy looking at that sleek body :) (Isn't that how it is with us girls, always about the body-lol). Agree those white accents aren't my favorite, seems like they'd turn black quickly enough on their own (eww), white that is difficult to clean just doesn't seem a logical choice for a bike designed for life in the dirt. Congrats on Ultra's fine recovery and the new family member!

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KAREN42BOYS 8/6/2012 1:43AM

    I love reading your posts when you get your full analytical geek on! I learn!

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DOUBLEMME 8/6/2012 1:28AM

    emoticon

excellent bike and excellent blog

emoticon

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