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.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Part 1: A Short History of My Bikes - Learning to Ride
I learned to ride a bike when I was 6 years-old. I may have been able to balance a bike before then. But back in the day, bikes were big. I had to grow to a sufficient height to reach the pedals on a 24" Schwinn "fat tire". Of course, in 1963 there was no such thing as a "fat tire" or "cruiser". A bike was a bike. We had a beat-up old blue Schwinn of indeterminate age. My two brothers and I used this bike to learn how to ride a "two-wheeler". My brother, Mike, is 6 years older than me and the bike was old when he learned to ride it.
We called the old Schwinn "Blue Bird". This photo is not of Blue Bird. But the color and general condition is pretty darn close. My dad and older brother taught me how to ride the heavy monster on the dirt roads in Golden, Colorado. I peeled off quite a bit of skin before I learned to ride. My general tendency to fall off bikes is a trend that continues to this day.
Part 2: Dangerous Bike
For the first 4 years of my bike riding adventure I rode old hand-me-down bikes. Some were pretty darn ugly and one was down-right dangerous. The dangerous bike was named "Crazy Crate", because you had to be crazy to ride it.
The goose neck snapped on Crazy Crate one summer day when I rode it off a curb. The handel bars came completely loose. I fell head-first off the bike and ripped a huge gash in my chest on the sharp remains of the broken gooseneck. My face smashed into the concrete gutter that was full of gravel. I saw stars. The evil bike then ran over top of me. I was hurt really badly.
Part 3: My First New Bike
I was 10 years-old and in 5th grade in 1967. On December 25th, 1967 I got my first new bike. Santa had left me a 26" gold Schwinn Typhoon! This bike was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I didn't even open the rest of my gifts. I put on my coat, stocking hat and mittens. Grabbed my bike and headed out into the freezing Colorado winter weather. I was in heaven! These old Schwinns were well made by American craftspeople in Chicago. The bike was flawless and gleamed in the cold white winter sunlight. I rode Goldie a zillion miles.
In the summer my friends and I would race our bikes 8 miles to a swimming pool. We would swim all day, then race our bikes back home. Goldie was a great bike.
Part 4: My First Road Bike
When I was thirteen I got a paper route. By this time we had moved from small-town Golden to the Denver suburbs. I converted my solid Schwinn Typhoon into a paper bike. I got "long horn" handlebars and a spoke guard. I hung huge canvas paper bags off the handlebars emblazoned with "Rocky Mountain News". The "News" was a morning paper. Before school the district manager would drop bundles of papers on my driveway. I would fold the papers with rubber bands; load the papers into the canvas bags and pedal out in the quiet darkness of a sleeping suburb. I delivered over 100 papers and pedaled for miles. I got one and half cents for each paper I delivered. I made $1.50 a day.
I saved up my money. After three months I had earned enough money to buy my dream bike; a brand new 1971 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed for $90.
I added a "lightweight" hollow chrome moly front fork. I had the bike shop wrap the handlebars with black tape rather than the stock brown tape. I bought toe clips. The bike was metallic brown and it was amazingly fast. More Schwinn Varsity bikes were made than any other derailleur bike. This was my first major purchase. The Varsity is completely obsolete by today's standards. Back in 1971, it was a lot of bike for the money.
Part 5: Selling Bikes
In 1973 I was 16 years old. I worked for a lawn care company in the summer for $2.00 an hour. I saved my money to buy my first car. I wanted a sports car. I found a really pretty baby blue 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite.
The Bugeye was perfect and had only 35,000 miles on it. I didn't quite have the $500 asking price. So I sold my bikes. I got $25 for the Typhoon and $50 for the Varsity. (BTW - I kept the Bugeye for 20 years. I sold it to raise part of the down payment for our first house.)
Part 6: Colorado Rocky Mountain Bikes
Our first house was in Conifer, Colorado. With a growing family, I was buying a lot of bikes; all for the kids. My wife took it upon herself to go to Target and buy bikes for her and me. Unfortunately, she purchased Huffy Granite mountain bikes. I think her idea was we would go on family bike rides. She didn't count on my sons and I racing each other. My wife and daughter would tool along totally disgusted by the juvenile behavior of the "boys". To this day, many years later, my wife and daughter refuse to ride with my sons and me.
This is a Huffy Granite. Rigid fork and 15 speeds. You can buy this bike today for about $100. Even though these are cheap bikes, they were durable and we rode the daylights out of them.
My wife and I moved around for some years. We lived in San Antonio, Texas. We moved from Texas to Maryland. Finally we moved back to Colorado and bought another house in the mountains. By this time the Huffys were long gone.
It was time to buy some good bikes.
In 2006, I bought my first good mountain bike; a Giant Boulder SE I call "Big Red".
In 2007 I bought a Giant Boulder SE for my Daughter Katie, and a Specialized Hardrock Sport for my son Andy.
In 2008 I bought my wife a Specialized Myka Comp (She was riding a horrid Mongoose and I had to force the new bike on her for her birthday - she loves the Myka)
In 2009, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper HT Pro Comp (Sworks) called "Little Stumpy"
In 2012 I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. I call this bike "Ultra Stumpy"
Part 7: Buying a Road Bike
I don't mean to brag, but I know a fair amount about mountain bikes. On the other hand, I had no idea what road bikes were all about. I asked for some advice on the Spark Cycling Team forum. It is tough to ask for advice when you know zip about a subject. I was pretty certain that road bike technology may have moved ahead a smidgen since 1971.
I live in a place with a lot of rough dirt roads. I thought I wanted a road bike that I could ride from my house and over the vast number of rough paved and gravel roads in my area. They make such bikes. Giant sells the Roam and the Escape.
Giant Roam 0 for $820.
Specialized sells a bike called the Cross Trail.
This bike has some great features for $770.
However, the Crosstrail and the Roam look a lot like bikes I already own. So I did an experiment. I took my Boulder Giant SE and converted into a more dual purpose bike. I bought easy rolling semi-slicks and changed the rear cogs to something more road worthy.
The results of the conversion of Big Red is not an unqualified success. The bike is far more roadable. I covered 18 miles on pavement, concrete paths and hardpack paths. The course was rolling hills. My average speed was 9.1 mph with a top end of 32 mph. The gearing was a little too tall for the hills but the bike was smooth. I can keep fiddling with the bike. But I think the concept is sound. The mountain bike geometry made Big Red extremely maneuverable and responsive with the new tires.
I had considered the purchase of the excellent Specialized Tricross. This bike can handle dirt roads and has the gearing for mountain touring.
I test rode this bike and it impressed me to pieces. But would I really use a touring bike? I decided that I ride for fun and thrills.
I like bikes that scare me.
The Tricross was friendly, smooth and well behaved. It had plenty of speed but the speed felt smooth and stable. The Tricross is a multi-use bike that does not compromise. While I was at Wheatridge Cyclery on Saturday, they sold 4 out of 5 Tricross bikes. The only reason they didn't sell all five Tricross bikes is that I was test riding one!
They put a courtesy hold on the Tricross for me when I left on Saturday. I decided that on Sunday I would test ride a few pure road bikes. I already had a good handle on Big Red as a multi-purpose bike. I decided I would ride the Specialized Allez Mid Comp Compact and the Trek 2.1C. Both bikes had the SRAM APEX components that I liked on the Tricross.
I arrived 5 minutes after the store opened at noon and it was already packed. I told the sales guy I wanted to try the 2.1C and the Allez. They didn't have the Trek in my size. So I grabbed a 54cm Allez. The sales guy told me where I could go to get a real feeling for the bike.
I liked the white and red graphics. I crossed 38th Avenue and hit the gas. The bike surged like it was shot out of a cannon. My goodness that bike was fast! The Allez is a sport/comp bike with a light alloy frame and carbon fork.
I checked the handling. The bike was like a razor! I came up on a sharp corner. I accelerated toward the corner. I waited for the last split second, then counter steered and snapped the bike into a steep lean while shifting my weight to the outside. The bike zipped around the corner like it was on rails.
It scared the bejabbers out of me!
In other words, I was in love. I found my bike! I started cruising back to the shop at an easy pace. On one street was a traffic monitor that would flash your speed. The thing clocked me at 26 mph. I hit the gas and managed to get the sign to say "30". It was effortless.
I was on a 54 cm frame. But it felt a little tight. The sales guy told me to grab the 56 cm frame bike. There was a guy looking at the 56 cm bike when I grabbed it. He then put his hand on the handle bar. It was the last Allez in the store. He gave up his attempt to restrain the bike. The 56 cm frame was right for me. I bought the bike.
I had the shop wrap the bars in black just like I had done with my Schwinn Varsity in 1971. I also bought an upgraded black saddle. I bought black bottle cages, road pedals and road shoes.
This is my bike. The woman's version of this bike has the black saddle, which I thought looked better.
I think the bike looks like it is ready to spring forward.
Here is my new road bike next to Ultra Stumpy. I know Ultra Stumpy looks huge. Ultra Stumpy has huge suspension travel and sits very high for rock clearance.
Part 8: First Ride
My co-worker and good friend, Jason, bought a Specialized Tarmac SL4 over the weekend. After work we hit the road. We covered a little over 14 miles in about an hour. That includes stopping at traffic lights and getting stuck in slow traffic. I cannot believe how much ground those bikes can cover in such a short time.
This is fun.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Part 1: Serious Chest Congestion
Since March of this year I have had an elephant sitting on my chest. I have been coughing and wheezing a lot. I tired quickly and had no zip. My doctor prescribed antibiotics, steroid inhalers, Musinex and Albuterol. The Albuterol was to be taken 5 times a day via a nebulizer.
All these medications were intended to open up my lungs and get rid of great gobs of mucus. Yeah, I know, not a pretty picture. The story gets better.
Part 2: Tests, Tests and More Tests
By mid-May my condition had only improved slightly. I now had a hippo sitting on my chest. I was also experiencing a lot of pain in my chest. The doctor took an x-ray of my chest to test for pneumonia. I did not have pneumonia.
He then put me through a lung capacity test. This is where not having a baseline is deceiving. My lungs capacity was 115% of normal. Under normal circumstances, my lung capacity test at 140% normal. I have a huge boiler room. The only parameter that was low was the rate I could fill and discharge my lungs, which was only 79% of normal. It just hurt to breathe!
My doctor then brought in a portable Electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. His assistant stuck a bunch of electrodes on me.
The results of my EKG were picture perfect.
I have known my doctor for 18 years. We engage in friendly banter. He says, "Bruce, I am going to order a Stress Echo test." I reply, "Doc, I don't know what the heck that is. But I am pretty sure, that if there is only one thing that I got that is good, it’s my ticker." He smiles, "The three most likely causes of your symptoms are bronchitis, pneumonia or congestive heart failure. I just want to rule out anything that is going to kill you!" It is really hard to argue at this point. I say, "Ok, write me script for two weeks of the big guns antibiotic and I will go get the test." My lung congestion had a bacteria component and I had a sinus infection.
Part 3: Smart Little Cookie
My wife is a smart little cookie. I told her my throat felt constricted and I had trouble swallowing. My sinus were swollen and hurt badly. She said, "You have allergies." That is the reason you cannot kick your bronchitis." I shrugged, "Ok, what can I do about it?" She grabbed a box out of the cupboard and handed it to me. She goes, "Take this Allegra-D. I would die without it." I start taking the Allegra. All of a sudden all the different meds start working. My chest still hurts but the congestion starts to clear up.
Part 4: Stress Echo Test
On May 30th I am scheduled for the Stress Echo Test at South Denver Cardiology. The place looks like the Taj Mahal.
This is facility has 68,000 square feet. There are factories that are smaller! Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. I am sure that most major metro areas have several big heart centers.
I get to the Heart Center early and check-in. I have my running stuff with me. This test requires the victim - er - patient to walk on a treadmill. I couldn't drink any coffee before the test. So I am barely awake. Here is a link that explains the Echo Stress Test.
I noted that the Echo Stress Test is supposed to be "painless and harmless". Yeah, right!
They call me back and show me a locker room where I can change. I change into my running clothes and put on my trusty Nike Zoom Vomeros. A really cute girl technician leads me back to the torture chamber - er - examination room. There is a pretty young woman sitting at the ultra-sound machine. A smiling blond runway model walks over and introduces herself. She is the cardiologist. The cute girl asks me to take off my shirt. She shaves part of my chest and glues a zillion electrode patches on me. She then attaches 700 pounds of wires to the patches. She puts a blood pressure cuff on my right arm and an oxygen saturation sensor on my left finger.
I am convinced this is high school career day and the seasoned staff is going to walk in any second.
This picture shows a fraction of the electrodes. I had electrodes all over me.
The cute girl says, “PB 120 over 80; oxygen saturation 99%." I ask, "Is that good." In a surprised tone she say, "Oh yes, that is very good." The pretty woman at the ultra-sound types this information into her terminal. They tell me to lie down on a small bed by the ultra-sound machine on my side. The pretty woman plugs my wiring harness into the ultra-sound machine, she then grabs the freezing ultra-sound sensor and tries to push the sensor through my chest to my backbone. She says, "Resting heart rate is 54 BPM." I ask, "Is that good." I am pretty sure she thought her machine was broken. She simply says, "Yeah. Please breath normally." When someone stabs you with a metal probe that is one degree above absolute zero it is hard to breath normally!
But I got to see my heart working.
This is not my heart. But it should give you the idea of what the ultra-sound shows.
After getting a lot of images of my ticker, I am unplugged from the ultra-sound terminal and led to the medical treadmill.
They plug my wires and blood pressure cuff into the terminal next to the treadmill. The fun is about to begin. The runway model comes over. She points to a pain chart on the wall in front of me, "The chart is there so you can tell us how you feel. Level 1 is normal. Level 10 is excruciating agony." I ask, "How long is this going to take?" She looks at my size and graying hair and say, "Not long. Maybe 8 to 10 minutes. Just until you hit your exercise heart rate." I ask, "How fast is that?" She answers, "166 beats per minute."
I almost blurt out, "Listen doc, my heart has never gone that fast EVER! My heart just won't go that fast!"
The cute girl starts the treadmill. I can see my heart rate and EKG readout. She sets treadmill at a brisk walk. After 5 minutes, my heart rate hits 80 beats per minute. She asks me how I feel. I tell her I feel fine. She says, "I need to turn up the speed. Is that Ok?" I answer, "Sure". She turns up the speed to a slow jog. She has the incline set at maximum. My heart rate slowly goes to 100 beats per minute. I have already been on the machine 10 minutes. The runway model asks, "Where is your level of pain." I say, "About a 2." She responds with a concerned voice, "Can you keep going?" I nod and say, "Yes". The cute girl turns up the speed. At this point I am running. My heart rate hits 120 and then 130. I have been on the treadmill for 15 minutes. The runway model asks, "Can you keep going?" I say, Yup." She adds, “We need you heart rate at least at 140." The cute girl cranks the treadmill up again. I am pretty sure it is maxed.
I have monitored my heart rate during exercise. 131 bpm is all the faster it goes. At 25 minutes my heart rate hits 138. The runway model calls it good. Now I have to hurry over to the ultra-sound. I lay down on my side. Some of the electrodes on my side have slipped off. I am drenched in sweat. My heart is running like a well-oiled machine, but it has already slipped down to under 130 beats per minute. I am feeling dizzy. I needed to cool down. My chest really hurts!
So much for "painless and harmless".
Part 5: Conclusion
I had a very bad case of bacterial and viral bronchitis aggravated by allergies. My heart is in superb shape. The chest pain was caused by pleurisy. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the lungs. This inflammation was caused by the chronic bronchitis. I treated the pleurisy with Aleve. My bronchitis is practically gone.
Part 6: I Can Ride! I Can Run.
I have been working my way back to fitness slowly. I managed to run a 5K in 31:07. That is way off my normal pace but I have not been running in months.
Yesterday, I took Ultra Stumpy up Red Cone Peak. I have been riding a lot of technical trails and wanted to relax.
This bike is amazing. Is shifts quickly and silently even under heavy load.
The way up to Red Cone is rough.
The climb up Red Cone starts at 9,000 feet and tops out at 12,801 feet.
This is the summit of Red Cone. I averaged 10.5 mph on the ascent and 27.3 mph on the descent. Top speed was 44.7 mph. I could have gone faster but the road was too rough. The descent was a rush.
I am back!
Thanks for reading my blog.
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