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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Part 1: Not a Novice
I am lucky enough to own one of the best mountain bikes made. On memorial day weekend, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR ("Full Suspension Response") Carbon Expert 29er. I have spent two full months building my skills to fully utilize this sophisticated machine.
I am not a novice mountain biker.
I started trail riding when the majority of mountain bikes where not far removed from road bikes. Back in the day, affordable mountain bikes had no suspension. The so called "mountain bikes" were steel road bikes with flat handle bars, knobbly tires and lower gearing.
In 1981, the first mass-produced mountain bike was introduced by a company that made bike tires called "Specialized". The bike was called the "Stumpjumper".
This is a photo of the 1981 Stumpjumper. The first "Stumpy" is displayed in the Smithsonian Institute. The first mountain bikes were crude, heavy and expensive at $750 in 1981 dollars.
Bike retailers were skeptical about the whole idea of "big BMX Bikes" for adults. The first shipment of Stumpys sold out in six days. The sport of mountain biking was born.
In 1982 I had just finished graduate school. $750 was a heck of a lot of money back then. I bought a knock-off Stumpjumper made by Huffy for $200. The Huffy was awful but it could handle dirt. I rode the Huffy until if fell apart.
I moved from Colorado to Texas and rode my mountain bike on the rough dirt roads through the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio. SInce my house was the furthest north point in San Antonio, I just rolled down my driveway and pedaled about 250 yards right into the Hill Country.
I got a used Giant 1993 Giant Acapulco mountain bike upon returning to Colorado in 1996.
I gave the Acapulco to my 3rd son for transportation while he was in college. The bike got stolen. This was the tough old days when 95% of mountain bikes were rigid. I bought a Giant Boulder SE in 2004. This was the first bike I owned that had a front suspension.
I still own this bike, which I call "Big Red". In 2006 I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper Pro, which I call "Little Stumpy".
I have been riding mountain bikes for 30 years. I know what I am doing.
Part 2: Technical Trail
On Wednesday, July 25th 2012, my good friend Jason and I took the afternoon off to go for a ride up Bergen Peak in Evergreen, Colorado.
The trailhead is at 7,600 feet. The summit is at 9,708 feet. The trail is 10.9 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,108 feet. The trail is rated as "Advanced".
Jason's Yeti mountain bike is still in the shop. He had arranged for a demo of a new Yeti SB 66 29er.
We started the ascent together. Ultra Stumpy was climbing up the rocky trail like it was levitating! Jason kept saying about the Yeti, "I gotta get me one of these!" The trail is steep and rocky.
This is what is known as a technical trail.
Bergen Peak trail is a series of switchbacks.
This trial very tricky on both the ascent and descent. The way the trial erodes invariably leaves a exposed granite boulders directly above the switchbacks.
As you approach a switchback, you move into a defensive position with a flat back and your hips behind the seat. On any smooth spot above the switchback you check your speed by braking. As you roll into the boulders you release the brake and let the suspension deflect. As you free roll trough the rocks, you focus on the switchback ahead. Once over the rocks, you clip out of the downhill pedal. You skid the rear wheel and pivot through 90 degrees until your bike is pointing down the lower part of the trail. You drop onto the lower trail and then you pedal to the next switchback.
This is a photo of the defensive position on a mountain bike. Your hips are behind the seat. This bike just happens to be a Specialized Stumpjumper similar to mine.
On this day, I had the suspension on my Stumpjumper dialed-in. The bike was floating over monster boulders. I was rocking and rolling! I was flowing down the trail. The only discordant note was my front brake had starting to squeal like a wild pig. The front brake was dragging and squealing even when released.
This was a warning. There was something wrong with the brake. But everything was working well and the bike was flying. It felt so good!
Part 3: The Mother of All Mountain Bike Accidents
As I ripped down the trail I saw a particular nasty section coming. I am ready! I am in perfect position on the bike. I squeeze both my brake levers with my index fingers to check my speed.
Then white hot searing pain!!
The world had gone black except for stars. The Universe was void except for pain. The front brake had locked-up. The bike flipped forward so fast I was still holding the handle bars when my face smashed into the razor sharp rocks in the middle of the trail.
Then there was nothing.
I don't know how long I was out. I came to and tried to pick myself off the ground. There are no words to describe the agony. I staggered to my feet and dragged my bike over to the berm on the side of the trail. There was blood everywhere. I sat down on the cool grass.
I tried to remember where I was. I then noticed there was a man standing over me. His lips were moving but he was making no sound. The nice green forest then started to turn white. I lay back on the grass. The world was spinning. The pain was intense.
I heard someone say, "Hey, hey, are you OK?" I opened my eyes and saw the world had regained it's color and I could hear again. I recognized the man standing over me as a hiker I had passed way up the trail.
He said, "I have a first aid kit. I think I can stop the bleeding." I thought about a mountain biker I helped patch-up at Buffalo Creek. What goes around - comes around.
I tried to ask the angel-of-mercy, who was then digging through his pack , "What is your name?" I could barely talk and blood splattered out of my mouth with each word. But he understood. He said, "My name is David." I mumbled, 'My name is Bruce." Pleased to meet you. I crashed my bike. I feel terrible."
I reached up with my quivering right hand and touched my face. I was shocked when I felt a bottomless laceration in my upper lip. I felt the inside of my mouth with my tongue. My mouth was a tatter of torn flesh. My lips were torn and bleeding. I had two broken teeth. My chin was bruised and bleeding. My neck hurt really badly. My left knee was bruised bleeding and swollen.
I took off my helmet. Even in my dazed stupor I knew my helmet was toast. I guess that was a $100 well spent.
David handed me a gauze and told me to put pressure on my upper lip to stop the bleeding. He then fashioned a bandage from gauze and tape and applied it to my lip. I got to my feet and picked up my bike. We started down the trail together.
I was still pretty shaky. I asked David, "What do you do for a living?" He answered, "I am an Attorney. I do civil litigation." We chatted about law and natural resources. About a 1/4 mile down the trail Jason was waiting for me. I shook hands with David and thanked him profusely.
Jason shook his head, "Man, you look like hell." I swung my leg over my bike and said, " Let's go, I think I may need some medical attention." Jason nodded, "Yeah, I think so. Are you sure you can ride?" I replied, "I am not sure I can even walk. There is only one way to find out if I can ride." I jumped in the saddle and took off.
I felt totally relaxed. I hit the gas and flew down the rest of the trail. I left Jason in the dust. I fisted my left hand grip and did not touch my front brakes again. I managed to make it to the doctor's office 10 minutes before closing.
Part 4: Root Cause Analysis
First let me say I am not a happy camper that the front brake locked-up again. The first time the front brake locked-up was on Apex trail a couple of weeks ago. The bike shop where I bought the bike had a chance to repair the brake. They simply adjusted the brakes and warned me that the brakes get touchy when hot. Everything seemed OK during my next rides. I did about 5 miles at Three Sisters and 4 miles at Green Mountain. Both these trails are pretty easy.
The Bergen Peak Trail and Apex Trail have the terrain that my Stumpjumper was made for. Under these difficult condition, just when I need precise braking, the front brake has locked up.
I am not happy with the bike store. I took my bike back to the store on Friday. I have to say I got pretty angry when the tech insinuated that it was my fault. Of course, I was hurting pretty badly at the time. I informed him that I have been riding mountain bikes since before he was born and I did not over-brake!
I checked on mountain bike forums and found that this problem crops-up from time-to-time. I also talked to a good bike tech at another shop that does a lot of work for me on my out-of-warranty bikes. He races bikes with the same brakes I have on my bike. He said the the problem is likely improper brake bleeding. He said if there is too much brake fluid in the system, the brake starts to drag when they are used a lot because of heat build up. This dragging causes the brakes to get even hotter. Hence, the squealing pig sound. He said once the brake is abnormally hot, the brake will then lockup at the slightest pressure.
The fix is to disassemble the brake and replace any component that shows any sign of overheating. The fluid has to be flushed and replaced. The brakes have to bled with the caliper fully retracted using factory tools.
These Formula brakes are very powerful so any problem is magnified. I discovered on the mountain bike forums that these brakes have a rather bad reputation as dangerous.
Part 5: Damage Assessment
Other than a malfunctioning front brake, my Stumpjumper is fine. I did not fair so well. In order of severity, here goes:
Deep gash in upper lip that required 12 stitches
Two broken teeth that are fitted with temp crowns
Soft tissue damage in neck from whiplash
Deep bone bruises and abrasions on chin
Badly cut lips
Severely torn mouth tissue
Severely bruised and cut right elbow
Severely bruised and cut left knee
Too many other minor cuts and bruises to count
I can't chew anything and I am getting really tired of broth! The doctor prescribed Vicodin but I hate the way it makes me feel "doped-up". I only took one Vicodin pill.
This is me!
This is my elbow when I finally got home. It looks worse now.
I have lots of cuts and bruises all over me.
Part 6: Always Wear a Bike Helmet
The guy at the bike shop that works on my non-warranty bikes tells me that a lot of his customers won't buy a bike helmet when they buy a bike. His customers say they will not be going very fast. I was going only going 15 or 16 miles an hour when I planted my face on a rock. He wants my ruined helmet as a demonstration piece.
My helmet did a good job and saved me a lot more severe injuries. My helmet really took a blow.
There was a lot of blood on my helmet. The holes in the shell for the visor are totally deformed.
Here is a shot of the crushed styrofoam on the inside of my helmet. This helmet is now only good for a display. This was an expensive helmet.
I am tired now. Thanks for reading my blog.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Part One: "Why do you fall off your bike so much?"
On Tuesday afternoon my friend Jason and I decided to bike on dirt. We decided to take on Apex trail near Golden, Colorado. Jason was armed with his 26" Yeti 575, which is very capable dual suspension bike.
I had selected my Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon 29.
Jason's Yeti is a quicker handling bike. My bike is better at tacking obstacles. Both bikes are extraordinary machines. On moderately difficult terrain, Ultra Stumpy can clobber Jason's Yeti. On trails that are narrow with tight turns, Jason's Yeti is quicker that Ultra Stumpy.
You pay your money and take your chances. On Apex trail you are taking some big chances. To make a long story short, at the end of the day both bikes needed repairs and both riders needed a bandage or two. I think Jason's bike took a bigger hit than my bike. But my body took a mongo hit. Jason was just a bit banged up.
I feel like I was beaten over every inch of my body by a baseball bat. My knee was toast. The various parts of me that weren't leaking blood were bruised. My helmet needs to be replaced.
When my wife saw my injuries she inquired, "Why do you fall off your bike so much?"
Part 2: "I fell off my bike just once!"
I am not particularly clumsy. But I do get banged-up quite a bit. I may take a few chances occasionally. And Apex trail is just downright hard!
I did not get a photo of the trail sign that read, " Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate." which translates to "Abandon hope all ye who enter here." - See Dante's Inferno - inscription on the gates of hell.
Apex trail is nine miles of razor sharp boulders. These are very big rocks on a really steep trail. I know this looks like a fun ascent. Take my word for it - this is a tough climb.
Apex was constructed in the 1870's as a toll road to reach the high altitude gold fields. Erosion has made it a rather challenging mountain bike trail that is rated as "Most Difficult".
The switchbacks are rough and rocky with very loose surfaces. You have to keep pedaling and keep your weight distribution perfectly balanced. This is draining. It is very easy to fall over backwards or spin out.
This section is called the rock slide. We came upon a guy that had ripped open his front tire and destroyed his front rim. He was in a daze and was trying to fix his blown inner tube. He was a mess.
Part 3: Front Brake Lockup - That Is Going to Leave a Mark
Apex is an out and back trail. Ultra Stumpy can handle a fast descent over mean and nasty terrain. On the decent my front brake was making an unfamiliar squeaking noise. There was a place on the trail where there was a 3 foot jump followed by an amazingly steep downhill stretch. I was going way too fast and would be airborne for a long ways. I wanted to hit this jump at a controlled rate of speed so I could so I could get a slight rear-tire-first landing. I touched my front and rear brake. The powerful hydraulic front disc brake locked-up! OH SH_T!
I was catapulted into space.
My knee smashed into the rear shifter as I went over the handle bars. My knee shattered the forged alloy shifter mount like a dry stick of wood. It felt like my knee had been hit by a hammer. I pulled my hands into my mid-section and tried to tuck myself into a ball.
There are no good options at this point. I struck the ground after falling forever. I had a surprisingly soft landing but it still hurt. Both me and the bike were tumbling over and over and over.
We were both wounded.
How we made it out over there I have no earthly idea. I walked the bike a little ways and got back in the saddle. We had two more miles of hell before we got back to the car.
I only fell off that one time.
Part 4: Ultra Stumpy is in the Bike Hospital
I have no idea why the front brake locked up. Neither did the service manager at the bike hospital. I told him that the front brake was touchy. He took the Stumps for a test ride. He touched the front brake and did an epic front wheel stand. The only reason he did not go endo was he was not going very fast. He exclaimed, "Son of a B-----". He recommended a complete crash analysis. I agreed. The Stumps should be released this Friday.
Part 5: Jason's Yeti is Destroyed
Jason hit a washout and dropped off the trail into an abyss. He twisted his bike's rear triangle and tacoed his rear wheel. He went off the bike sideways and was OK.
Part 6: Road Biking
Tomorrow we are going road biking. We figure we can ride against traffic on the center line of the freeway and play chicken with on coming traffic and have less chance of getting killed than on our mountain bikes.
Get An Email Alert Each Time SPEEDYDOG Posts