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Buying a Great Bike - One Part at a Time

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Part 1: I Expect a Lot out of a Bike

On August 3rd 2012 I brought home my new 2012 Specialized Camber Comp 26" full suspension mountain bike. The list price for the Camber Comp was $1,850. I haggled with the nice sales lady and got the price down to $1,450. This bike just happened to be the last 26" Camber Comp in Denver in my size, which is medium (19.5" to 20"). The 2013 bikes were just starting to hit the showrooms and Wheatridge Cyclery was ready to deal.

I wanted a full-suspension bike that was as nimble as my tried-and-true Specialized Stumpjumper Pro hardtail. This is a tall order. Little Stumpy is slashing mean machine on tight and twisting trail.

This photo is of my 2006 Stumpjumper Pro, also known as Little Stumpy.

Little Stumpy has the right stuff. For you techno-geeks here are components that Little Stumpy is packing:

• Frame: M4 Aluminum Alloy
• Front Fork: Rockshox Recon Silver Air with 100mm , remote lockout & rebound adjustment
• Shifters: Shimano XT M770 Rapidfire 9-Speed
• Front Derailleur: Shimano XT Top Swing 9 Speed
• Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT 9 Speed with SGS Long Cage
• Crankset: Shimano XT 22/32/44
• Cassette: 11-34 Shimano XT 9-Speed
• Chain: Shimano XT HG93
• Wheels: Tough Mavic EN321 26" with low-resistance Shimano Deore Hubs
• Tires: Maxxis Minion DhR 26 x 2.35"
• Brakes: Avid Juicy Hydraulic Disc with 160 mm rotors

Little Stumpy is joy to ride. Under all conditions, and any load, shifting is crisp, quick and silent. I could have just said Little Stumpy has a complete Shimano XT group and that would be enough.

The typical list price for an alloy hardtail with the XT group is $3,000 to $3,500. Little Stumpy is a pretty decent XC racing bike and a terror on a smooth single track.

Here is Little Stumpy's element. This is segment 1776 of the Colorado Trail. The surface is decomposed granite "ball bearings". Segment 1776 is typical of trails on the eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies, which tend to be darn slippery.

This is Little Stumpy before a ride in the rain on the Colorado Trail. The aggressive tread on the Maxxis Minion tires give Little Stumpy good traction on loose surfaces. The heavy duty sidewalls resist punctures from sharp rocks, of which are in abundant supply around here.

This is Little Stumpy after his battle with the elements. I did this ride on Little Stumpy on August 2nd, 2012, which was a week after my face had a close encounter with razor sharp rocks on Bergen Peak. Riding in the rain washed the blood off my shoes. I only rode five miles at an easy pace of 8 miles per hour with a maximum speed of 18 mph. I had just got the stitches out of my face and just wanted to take an easy ride. Ultra Stumpy was still in the bike hospital getting a brake-ectomy. I had yet to pick up the Camber, which I had on lay-a-way. I picked-up the Camber and my revived Ultra Stumpy on the same day.

Part 2: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In my quest for the ultimate in a nimble full suspension mountain bike, I tested bikes from Cannondale, Giant, Trek and Scott trying to find the perfect full-suspension razor-sharp handling ride. When I tested the Specialized Camber I was hooked. The 26” Camber is a wickedly responsive bike.

Here is the factory photo of the 2012 Specialized Camber Comp.

I knew that Specialized was dropping the 26" Camber in 2013. The 2013 Camber models all have twenty-nine inch wheels and are a lot more expensive. The 2013 Camber Comp now lists for $2,600.

Twenty-nine inch wheels are all the rage in the mountain biking community. I have a great “29er”. My 29er is a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon, which I call Ultra Stumpy. Ultra Stumpy is an "all mountain" bike with tons of plush suspension travel and slack steering. Ultra Stumpy can be extremely responsive but it requires a lot of work. Ultra Stumpy can take on very rough and rocky terrain with nary a whimper. Ultra Stumpy climbs like a homesick angle and, most importantly, is very fast.

Ultra Stumpy is stable at high speed. My Camber is a bit twitchy at high speed. Little Stumpy is also a bit twitchy at high speed. Here is the deal. All things being equal, you can't have both low speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.

Ultra Stumpy is a heck of a lot more nimble than some of the modestly priced 26" mountain bikes I tested. The reason is that Ultra Stumpy is a great all-around performer is that he is made of carbon and titanium; has a high-tech suspension; and is equipped with very high-end SRAM X0 and XX racing components.

Without going into details, Ultra Stumpy's rear derailleur costs more than the best mountain bike you can buy at a department store. Ultra Stumpy's rear derailleur is made from forged magnesium with titanium springs, ceramic bearings, carbon jockey wheels, and has a carbon fiber pulley cage. Why? This SRAM XX derailleur is a very complex mechanism that shifts faster than lightning - even under extreme pedal load.

All this whiz-bang stuff on my two Stumpjumpers is good. The Stumpy's are light-weight with great suspensions, pedal easily, shift beautifully and are extremely durable.

High performance bikes come with a high price tag. My pretty little Camber Comp did not come with a high price tag.

What is good about my Camber?

Little Cam is light and has a great suspension. The inexpensive Tectro hydraulic brakes work surprisingly well. The Camber is a pretty bike. The frame geometry is fantastic. The Camber is extremely nimble and responsive. Little Cam has a full-suspension and takes on rough terrain far better than Little Stumpy. It is a toss-up whether Little Cam or Little Stumpy is more maneuverable. Little Cam has the edge on Little Stumpy at higher speeds because the full suspension makes Little Cam smoother and more controllable.

What is bad?

Unfortunately, Little Cam has abysmal shifting and some really cheap components. Shimano makes eight component levels which include:

Cross Country/Back Country Components
1. XTR - (10 Speed) Top-End
2. Deore XT (9 and 10 speed)
3. SLX (9 and 10 speed)
4. Deore (9 speed)
Recreational Components
5. Alivio (8 and 9 speed)
6. Acera (8 and 9 speed)
7. Altus (8 speed)
8. Tourney (6, 7, 8 speed) – Low-end found on department-store bicycles

Components 1 through 4 on this list are found on very good mountain bikes. My Camber came with mixed quality parts:

Good Cross-Country Grade
- Front derailleur: SLX top-swing, bottom-pull
- Rear Derailleur: SLX Shadow 9-speed, SGS long cage

Mediocre Recreational Grade
- Shifters: Alivio 9-speed
- Crankset: Alivio 44/32/22

Crummy Recreational Grade
- Cassette (Rear Cogs): Tourney HG20 9-Speed 11-34T

What other bad stuff came on my Camber?

The original DT Swiss 445D wheels had only 28 spokes and went bye-bye on my second ride. I hit a washout at Lair-of-the-Bear. The front wheel bent into a shape that resembled a potato chip. Not surprisingly, this is called a "potato chipped" wheel.

The 26 x 2.0 Specialized "Captain" tires that came with my Camber were not bad, per se. However, these Captain tires are just next to useless where I ride.

This tire is actually popular with mountain bike riders on the Colorado front range. This tire provides good traction on smooth trails and rolls easily.

The Specialized Captain tires do not have deep enough tread for riding on decomposed granite. Nor do the Captain sidewalls provide enough resistance to punctures.

There are two prevalent types of rocks in this area: Pikes Peak Granite and Granitic Gneiss.

I just walked outside my house and picked up two rocks. The pink rock is Pikes Peak Granite. This pink granite weathers quickly when exposed to the elements. Trails around here are covered with this stuff, which causes tires like the Specialized Captain to slide around like a three legged hippo on mud!

The black rock is Granitic Gneiss. Gneiss is a hard metamorphic rock that typically has razor sharp edges and points. These black rocks are eaters of bike tires. Here is one of my Captain tires that had a close encounter with gneiss.

I am lucky I got to the car before the tire went flat. The tube was still kinda holding air but had sprung a small leak.

Part 3: Improving Little Cam

The lousy Alivio crank lost a tooth. The crank rings are made of cheap stamped steel and really suck. I likely hit a rock with this crank. I have hit many, many rocks with Little Stumpy's XT crank and never broke a tooth.

The Alivio crank goes for about $40 and is not up to snuff for a mean little bike like the Camber. As a stopgap measure I bought a Raceface Ride crank at my LBS for $100. The Raceface crank is made of strong alloy and is half the weigh of the clunky Alivio crank.

I was hopeful that the stronger crank would help the shifting. Unfortunately, the roots of the "bad" shifting are the Alivio shifters and the SLX derailleurs. Don't get me wrong. The Camber shifts pretty well for a modestly priced bike.

There is only one thing to do. Buy a better bike - one part at a time. The following parts will turn Little Cam into a super little machine:

What I already have:

Shimano HG80 Cassette $80
Specialized 110mm Stem $45
Forte Flat Handlebars $30
Carbon Stem Spacers $8
Mavic EN321 Wheels w/ XT Hubs $200
WTB Velociraptor 26x2.1 Tires $80
Specialized Grappler Grips $25
Specialized Henge Pro Saddle $130
XT Shadow Rear Deraliure $95
Shimano PD-530 Pedals $54

On order - expected this week:

XT Front E-Type Deraliure $54
XT Shifters Pods $128
XT 44/32/22 Crank $234
HG93 XT Chain $28

TOTAL $1,191

I bought the longer stem and flat handle bars to put a little more weight on the front tire for improved handling. This modification worked like a charm and gives me the more aggressive riding posture that I prefer.

Here is Little Cam so far. He is a work in progress.

The Mavic wheels are bullet proof!

These wheels have 32 heavy-duty spokes and fast rollingShimano XT hubs. These wheels were custom hand made and are absolutely true.

I put WTB Velociraptor tires on Little Cam. The WTB Velociraptor tires are tough and very aggressive.

This is the comparison between the new WTB front tire and the old Captain tire.

This is the comparison between the Captain and the WTB rear tire. The WTB tires have different tread patterns for front and rear.

These new tires are magic. I took Little Cam to Flying J Ranch yesterday. Over some pretty ugly terrain, Little Cam was unstoppable. Over 10 miles, I average 12 mph and climbed 1,500 feet. I hit 22 mph on some pretty trecherous stuff through very close and dense trees.

Now, I gotta get the Camber shifting like my Stumpjumpers. The total price tag for my one-of-kind Camber will be $2,650, which is includes the $1,450 purchase price plus $1,200 in upgrades. I still think this is a bargain.

Thanks for reading my blog.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MPLANE37 9/28/2012 4:00PM

    You have told a wonderful story. Great to convert a mediocre bike to a superb one. Unfortunately they run pretty expensive for most people. It is at least good to know what is the best, the mediocre and the worst.

Comment edited on: 9/28/2012 4:00:40 PM

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SYNCHRODAD 9/27/2012 9:12PM

    An absolutely fascinating blog. What clarity! Glad your bling showed up. Thanks for a great blog.

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RACEWELLWON 9/24/2012 8:09PM

    Little Stump was my Nick Name in High School - I had to laugh, long story - happy to hear your stitches were removed , that was a close call. Love the new bike - good job on haggling - Me , I still ride my Huffy Backwater - of course I am not riding Mountain trails here in Chi Town but , you should try dodging the traffic :-) Actually we do have some nice trails all over the City , some are a challenge. Good Luck on your new bike. LIL Racer emoticon

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NWFL59 9/23/2012 10:39PM

    Sounds like you're definitely in your element and experiencing the joy of modification. You engineers are notorious for unending mods. emoticon

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KAREN42BOYS 9/23/2012 10:09PM

    I love reading these blogs! Makes me appreciate the room to grow in a bike. If you were local, I'd make you help figure out if/what my bike needs, even though it's a roadbike.

Comment edited on: 9/23/2012 10:09:57 PM

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NATPLUMMER 9/23/2012 10:07PM

    emoticon I bought my husband a bike for his birthday and he's been fixing it up, too.

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PATTERD707 9/23/2012 10:06PM

    my mountain biking friends talk a lot more about maintenance than my roadie friends (I have a GT road bike myself), is it more expensive to MB?

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ROXYZMOM 9/23/2012 8:36PM

    Wow! Biking can be an expensive, dangerous sport! Must be a great workout in your area. We basically have dirt trails here.

I enjoyed reading your blog. Your excitement about biking screams out of it! Good for you on finding a sport that you love! ...be careful!

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TWEETYKC00 9/23/2012 8:32PM

    Wow, it's amazing the kinds of bikes out there and everything they can do!

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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!

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HEALTHIERKEN 8/20/2012 10:46AM

    Stunning! Spectacular!

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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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    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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    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?

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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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  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.

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

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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


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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!

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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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MAGGIENCALI 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.


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.


  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!
Little Cam DOES look good in black. Glad you both survived with only 'minor' injuries.

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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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    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.)


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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).

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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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