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Asthma And New Bike Brakes

Monday, October 15, 2012

Part 1: Visit to the Pulmanologist

Lately, I have been experiencing some tightness in my chest. Ocassionally, I would run out of breath while running or riding a bike.

This doesn't happen to me! My legs give out. But I never run out of breath. I went to see my doctor. He ordered a EKG stress test. The result of the EKG was that my ticker is in great shape.

My doctor then referred my to a Pulmanologist. This took 6 weeks to get into see this lung doctor. I almost canceled my appointment. My lung capacity is really good. I went to see this lung doctor last Thursday. He ordered a lung capacity test. This test determined that I have 150% of normal lung capacity. I have tested at 180% of normal lung capacity in the past. I got a really big boiler room. It is a gift. I rely on my cardio-vascular fitness to ski, bike and run hard! But I have been sucking wind lately.

After an hour long examination, the lung doctor told me I have Asthma that is triggered by allergies. ASTHMA! No way! Unfortunately, his diagnosis made sense. Rats! The lung doctor has ordered additional tests. I have an inhaler and nebulizer to treat the symptoms in the meantime.

I still can't get my brain around this one!

Part 2: Shimano XT Brakes For My Specialized Camber

About a month ago, I got really frustrated with poor drivetrain on my 2012 Specialized Camber Comp. I bought a complete Shimano XT group, sans brakes, for my Camber. The results were dramatic. The bike performed perfectly.

The original Tektro hydraulic brakes were adequate. But I decided to take that last step and get the excellent Shimano XT brakes. I completed installing the new XT brakes today. Little Cam is now an astonishing good performing bike.

I opted for the silver version of the XT brakes. Shimano XT brakes also come in black. I thought the flashier silver XT brakes suited Little Cam better.

The front brake has a 180mm IceTech rotor. The IceTech rotor is a sandwich of stainless steel and aluminum. These rotors dissipate heat very quickly. The cooling fins on the caliper also dissipate a lot of heat. Hot brakes don't work very well.

The back brake has 160mm IceTech rotor. The XT brakes also release completely and don't add any drag.

The big advantage of these XT brakes is that a single finger on the brake lever is all that is all that is usually required. You get to keep four fingers on the hand grip which gives you more control.

If you need to hit the brakes hard, there is room on the levers for two fingers. Shimano XT brakes are so powerful, you don't need to use all your fingers.

Part 3: First Ride with New Brakes

The brakes have made a huge difference in controllabilty. Little Cam is really fast with the new brakes. I took Little Cam to Beaver Ranch for a short trail ride. We covered 8 miles in 30 minutes.

Distance: 8 miles
Time: 30 minutes
Average Speed: 16.1 mph
Fastest Speed: 28.5 mph

I used my nebulizer before the ride and took my inhaler. Little Cam flies now! I think 16.1 mph on rough dirt trails with lots of hills is pretty good for a old guy that can't breath well.

Thanks for reading my blog.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HEALTHY4JEANNE 10/24/2012 7:42AM


I let asthma consume me and all the progress I did 4 years ago! It was the worst mistake of my life. I have asthma that is triggered by allergies.. This time of year is the worst. That was when I ran into all my problems was doing a 5k this time of year.

Keep going to your doctor, get on the right meds and I am sure you and souped up bike will be breaking all of your own personal records!
:) Jeanne

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CBAILEYC 10/23/2012 12:17PM

    That is pretty awesome for "a old guy that can't breath well." Somehow, the image of SpeedyDog that we have does not jive with 'old guy' at all LOL
Hope the asthma thing gets handled well and properly, and that it doesn't slow you down in the least!

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MPLANE37 10/18/2012 11:52AM

    I want your bike. Any chance that can happen?

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LINDAKAY228 10/16/2012 11:17AM

    Glad that you found out what the problem is, even if it's hard to understand. It is pretty common to have asthma it seems. Hope it helps you.

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LMB-ESQ 10/15/2012 4:28PM

    Asthma! No kidding? Well, I guess it happens to the best of us. A bunch of my daughter's swim team buddies had asthma, and they all carried inhalers. Those kids were about as extreme in the athletic department as they come. So I guess nobody is immune. I would say a half hour on rough trails at 16.1 is great for an old asthmatic dude!

Glad you know all the technology about your bike! All I need for a good workout is a swimsuit, a pair of goggles, and a body of water!

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SHARONSUE58 10/15/2012 3:22PM

  I assume the doctor is checking to see what allergies you have. Allergies can affect you in alot of different ways. I recently went to a practitioner who uses a biofeedback machine. This machine is awsome. It can tell you alot! Such as I had some lung issues and she thought it was due to allergies(wasn't aware of), she found I was low in amino acids which might be attriibutable to my heart stress, and more. The machine treated me and felt better immediately. I haven't been working on my landscaping and that probably helped and I am drinking an energy drink with amino acids.

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    I have had asthma since college and it's a good thing that you found out what the problem is. I usually use my inhaler 15 minutes before any exercise and it makes a HUGE difference when I do. Good luck!

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KA_JUN 10/15/2012 2:19PM

    Hi Bruce, glad to hear you got a diagnosis. I found out, similar to you, that I have "exercise induced" asthma, typically occurring only when it's really cold. As G.I. Joe notes, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle." Little Cam looks fit and trim, ride on!

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FIREFLUTTERFLY 10/15/2012 12:24PM

    oh man, I'm sorry about the asthma. I've dealt with it for 20 years and it sucks. But hey if it's only triggered by allergies then you should be able to keep the asthma under control pretty easy.

good luck

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NATPLUMMER 10/15/2012 10:30AM

    Sorry about the asthma...at least you can treat it easily.
Excellent ride!! Go, Little Cam!!

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BILL60 10/15/2012 9:46AM

    Hang tough my friend.

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TWEETYKC00 10/15/2012 5:05AM

    Now with your inhaler in hand you can get Little Cam out and going. Just be careful until you can learn to adjust yourself to the asthma. I know it can be hard to handle sometimes, but you can do this!

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DOUGDC 10/15/2012 2:32AM

    Well, old guy who can't breathe well, I'm impressed by both Little Cam and by you. Great going. Once you're on your meds I don't think the asthma thing is going to slow you down, either. Take care of yourself as well as you're taking care of Little Cam and you'll both do well!


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New Bike - Well, Sort Of

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Part 1: Specialized Camber XT Pro

I got a call from Green Mountain Cyclery yesterday. They had completed installation the installation of the new Shimano XT. I dropped by the shop on the way home from work.

I walked in the door of the shop. One of the bike techs ask, "May I help you ?" I see a pretty white bike hanging from the ceiling by the back wheel with about 30 other bikes. "I am here to pick up my Specialized Camber Comp." The other bikes hanging near Little Cam look drab in comparison. The tech calls out, "Hey Sheldon, the guy is here to pick up the Camber." Evidently, Sheldon was the tech that worked on Little Cam.

Sheldon grabs Little Cam from the rack. He rolls out Little Cam and hands him over to me. He proudly says, "This is one sweet ride. Specialized has had the Camber dialed in for years. You are really gonna like the way it shifts now." Another tech working nearby says, "Yeah, that bike has a great frame and righteous suspension. The XT parts were a great choice. How much does the bike list for?" I answered, "$1,850 but I got it for $1,450. I got about $1,100 in upgrades including, the Mavic wheels, new tires, saddle, grips and the XT group." The tech walks over and looks at the tires. "Where did you get the Velociraptors?" I answer, "Brand new at REI." Sheldon chimes in, "Yeah, those tires have been THE tires for ages."

I realize I am talking to guys that work in a shop that does not sell Specialized bikes, Velociraptor tires, Mavic wheels or the Shimano XT parts. We make small talk for a while. Sheldon brings out a box with all my old parts inside. He rings up the total, "That will be $85." I hand over the cash and ask, "Is that all?" Sheldon says, "You brought all the parts. I just put them on."

I wheeled the bike out the door. Sheldon carried the box of bike parts. We shook hands and he said, "I think you are going to like the way the bike is set up." I thanked him profusely.

Part 2: Serious Bike

Here is a photo of Little Cam before his first serious trail ride on August 5th.

I spent a lot of time during this first ride dialing in the suspension. I didn't take Little Cam on anything too difficult. I had a great time. To my delight, I discovered that Little Cam was a ferocious little beast.

But in my opinion, Little Cam looked like a toy , a really pretty toy, but a toy none-the-less.

This factory photo shows the Camber's great lines and frame geometry. Inside all that cutesy white and red over-decoration beats the heart of a tiger!

Here is what Little Cam looks like today.

The bike is still too pretty but is now armed to the teeth. The "blingy" XT group looks good on the bike. I wanted to take some photos of Little Cam looking good. He is going to be heading into rough country and will be getting some battle scars.

Here is Little Cam in his element. The bike is ready for anything the Colorado back country can dish out.

Just jump on and ride. This photo shows the really short rear chainstay. I added a longer stem and flat handlebars. This makes the riding position more aggressive but has the added benefit of putting more weight on the front wheel. The odd Camber geometry works wonders, however, the front wheel gets very light on a steep ascent. The longer stem helps handling a lot.

This is a shot of the XT shifter for the crank rings. I have decided to replace the Tektro hydraulic brakes with XT IceTech brakes. I need to save up some more coin before I can buy new brakes. For now, the factory Tektro brakes work fine.

When I changed the Stem I bought carbon spacers. These really don't cut any weight. I just like the looks. The original stem was 90mm. The new stem is 110mm. I always felt a little cramped on Little Cam before I made this modification. The reach from seat post to handlebar is now 26.5" on Little Cam. Which, by coincidence is identical to the reach on Ultra Stumpy, Little Stumpy and my Allez road bike. Funny how that works.

Part 3: Test Ride

When I got home from the shop I took Little Cam for a ride. I was apprehensive. I spent a lot of money on the XT upgrades. If the shifting was still balky I was going to be really disappointed. Logically, I knew the shifting had to be better. But was it $734.78 better? Although I got a hefty discount on the XT group by shopping around, I still have a lot of money invested in an "entry-level" bike.

I jumped on the bike and headed up the driveway in way too high a gear. I hit the front shifter to drop it down a ring. *Snick* and it was down a ring instantaneously. The old components would never shift under such a heavy load. I rode Little Cam all over. The shifting was so quick and positive the only way I knew the gears had shifted was the difference in pedaling.

The XT components are magnificent! The upgrade was worth every penny! The bike feels so nice. The tech was close on weight reduction. The XT parts shaved 2.5 pounds off Little Cam. Even with the heavier wheels and tires, Little Cam weighs 28.5 pounds. But the real benefit is the way the bike feels. The bike shifts cleanly and quickly under any load. The XT crank also has lower friction bearings so pedaling is easier.

I am a really happy guy.

Thanks for reading my blog.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

HEALTHY4JEANNE 10/13/2012 7:56PM

    sweet bike...

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MPLANE37 10/6/2012 1:05PM

    The bike really looks great after the upgrades. Now is the time to race it. Any races coming up soon?

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CAROLYN1ALASKA 10/5/2012 8:49PM

    Great up-grade and you'll get some great rides in before the weather changes for the worse. I personally love the feeling that a bike performing to mechanical perfection gives me... especially since my body doesn't seem to perform to perfection any more!

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DOUGDC 10/5/2012 11:33AM

    I love riding, but the surgeon wants more healing time on my shoulder. 1-2 months before I'm back on the road. Meanwhile looking for a trainer I can mount the bike on in the garage.

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BILL60 10/5/2012 7:54AM

    You're a fanatic, just like me. You're on the trails and I'm on the road. Now match this: once a week I clean my Cuchi and follow it up with a wax job. Talk about pretty. HOOAAA!!

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SUSANBEAMON 10/5/2012 1:30AM

  that looks like a bike i'd get if i were riding any more, but i need three wheels these days.

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NWFL59 10/4/2012 9:49PM

    Sounds like you've got yourself another terrific bike for trail blazing adventures! emoticon

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HKARLSSON 10/4/2012 8:02PM

    YEAH!!!!! Now THAT'S a fine lookin' bike. I am totally jealous of your drive train.

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JSTETSER 10/4/2012 6:16PM

    Nice bike!

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NATPLUMMER 10/4/2012 4:04PM


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KA_JUN 10/4/2012 3:57PM

    There is something immensely satisfying with having a drivetrain that is smooth, dialed in, and relatively silent.

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BATCHICK 10/4/2012 1:22PM

    wow, bike nerd! I love riding my little $100 cruiser around town! emoticon

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CBAILEYC 10/4/2012 1:06PM

    I really enjoyed this blog. Not because I understood everything you talked about (I didn't LOL), but because of the ~way~ you talked about it all. Your enthusiasm comes through loud and clear.
I'm glad you're really happy!

Comment edited on: 10/4/2012 1:07:18 PM

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GYMRAT_AT44 10/4/2012 11:58AM

    Very nice! I just got a new bike myself - then fell over, LOL... but hey, got to start somewhere. Enjoy your rides!

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TWEETYKC00 10/4/2012 10:51AM


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LINDAKAY228 10/4/2012 10:51AM

    Nothing can stop you now from exploring everywhere you want !

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LOSER05 10/4/2012 10:47AM

    I'm happy for you emoticon
have fun on it

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RACEWELLWON 10/4/2012 10:46AM

    You should be a happy guy - looks spectacular- I am sure you are happy to able to ride before the weather changes - Awesome Bruce , have a nice ride. Wants pics please and full details of your ride - LIL Racer emoticon

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HOAGIE22 10/4/2012 10:42AM

  Git Er Dun!!!

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Ultra Stumpy and Me - Return to Bergen Peak

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Part 1: Theme Music

My SparkFriend, KA_JUN, often has theme music for his blogs. Here is my theme music for this blog.


Although this song was written and first performed by Bob Dylan, I like the 1967 version by the Byrds.

Part 2: That is Going to Leave a Mark

On July 25th, 2012, I had a really bad mountain bike accident on Bergen Peak. I was seriously injured. Here is a link to my blog regarding my face plant.


This was me shortly after I was glued back together.

The cause of the accident was faulty bike brakes. My Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert ("Ultra Stumpy") came with Formula brakes. The front brake fluid got contaminated with water and locked-up during a fast descent down the Bergen Peak Trail in Evergreen, Colorado.

The bike shop replaced these troublesome Formula brakes with Shimano XT brakes. I did a lot of riding of Ultra Stumpy to make sure the Shimano XT brakes were working well.

Part 3: Return to Bergen Peak

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;" Shakespeare - King Henry V

Ok, quoting The Bard is a little dramatic for a mountain bike ride. But as a pedaled toward Bergen Peak, and almost certain doom, I was a wee bit nervous. In a life filled with hospital stays due to accidents, 100's stitches and many broken bones, I had never felt as much pain as my July 25th bike accident on Bergen Peak.

My helmet saved my life!

I bought a new mountain bike helmet.

I got a Giro Phase helmet. This photo compares my new helmet with the Specialized helmet I destroyed during my accident.

I have been wearing my road bike helmet on my mountain bike, which is fine. However, mountain bike helmets offer more protection from frontal blows. Since I ripped my scalp open during the accident, I had to wait for my noggin to heal before I could be fitted for a new helmet.

Just as a reminder, here is Bergen Peak trail.

Bergen Peak is steep with lots of switchbacks.

Pictures don't do this trail justice. This is rough.

Not all of Bergen Peak Trail is horrible.

Fun boulder to fly over and catch some air!

Piece of cake!

Ultra Stumpy was made for this!

Part 3: Cut to the Chase

I successfully navigated 10 miles of Bergen Peak without a scratch! The new Shimano XT brakes performed flawlessly! Some parts of Bergen Peak have a 30% to 40% grade, which is very steep. You have to use your front brake. I was able to crawl down bad sections with my new brakes.

Here is how I did:

Ascent: 1,834 feet
Elevation: 9,260 feet
Time: 59.5 minutes
Average Speed: 10.2 mph
Maximum Speed: 28.3 mph

Part 4: Little Cam

Currently my Specialized Camber Comp is at Green Mountain Cyclery getting a transplant of the great components he deserves. The pros at Green Mountain Cyclery are installing a new XT Crank, XT Shifters, XT Derailuers, HG93 Chain, and new Jagwire shifting cable housings.

Green Mountain Cyclery has 80% of the floor space dedicated to the repair shop. For all this installation and tuning, the estimate is $85! The bike doc says this lightweight XT stuff will knock over 3 pounds off Little Cam.

Pretty cool.

Thanks for reading my blog.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMSMILEY88 10/15/2012 11:20AM

    I remember reading about your wreck this summer. I'm so happy you are healing nicely and back on the trails! I can't imagine riding trails like that!!! You are incredible. And, especially after that wreck! WAY TO GO!!!!

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RACEWELLWON 10/8/2012 11:57AM

    Hey Bruce - great music for this blog - you really took some blows , those contusions look nasty. Not a big pain killer fan either. Good thing for that Helmet. I can feel your legs burn from incline on that peak , but what a awesome ride. I can picture you flying in air ear to ear grin. Great Blog -LIL Racer

Comment edited on: 10/8/2012 11:58:03 AM

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LMB-ESQ 10/4/2012 5:15AM

    Nothing like getting back up on the horse! Or maybe in your case, we should be saying "return to the scene of the crime!"

Either way, glad to hear you're up to tackling that ride again.

Comment edited on: 10/4/2012 5:16:16 AM

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SUSANBEAMON 10/3/2012 1:43AM

  quite a story. i gave up riding my bike when my balance went wonky, i have MS, balance is unreliable. pictures are fantastic.

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NWFL59 10/2/2012 10:29PM

    I too like the Byrd's rendition. So glad you were ready to tackle that challenging trail and come through without any injury! WooHoo! Thanks for showing the helmet photos and the progress report on the update to your little cam. Seeing the rigors of that trail again makes me glad I live at sea level near the sea shore where we have to import rocks if we want them. Got lots of sand and bugs though. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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LINDAKAY228 10/2/2012 6:44PM

    Great job on getting back out there and facing your fears! Nothing I would ride a bike on and looks really scary to me but it's about what is important to you. Glad you were able to do it and got through it safely!

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HAKAPES 10/2/2012 5:29PM

    Man, you have stamina to get back there so quickly.
Those tracks look super-scary!

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NATPLUMMER 10/2/2012 1:37PM

    I just have to say OUCH!!! again.
Good for you for getting back on the bike after that one...and conquering the peak!

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PICKIE98 10/2/2012 1:29PM

    Holy concussion Batman!!!!!!! I am sitting here, not knowing what to type!!!!!!!!!!

Like, holy crap, that guy has ba--s!!! fer sure..
makes my pool laps look like baby first steps on a blanket!!!! I am deeply humbled... really..
As far as the Byrds song, IMHO, it is one of thepre/post poetic anti-war song of the Vietnam era. I actually DO think of Bill Shakespeare when I read the lyrics..

If you need some bubble wrap for a trek, I can load a truck up today!! LOL!
May your tires be balanced, your body in shape, your mind racing and your terrain a challenge!!

Comment edited on: 10/3/2012 3:31:33 PM

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CBAILEYC 10/2/2012 12:54PM

    It's great that you hit that trail (not literally with your head this time) and conquered it! Or at least conquered it as much as one can conquer a trail like that. Well done!
Double-hooray for the extra cushioning for your noggin in the new helmet, too.
emoticon emoticon

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STRIVER57 10/2/2012 9:56AM

    one of my lifetime favorite songs.
do you ride up the trail first?
very brave. glad it went better.

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KAREN42BOYS 10/2/2012 9:51AM

    Hurray! And I'm fine with quoting the bard when facing death defying moments. You really did your homework to ensure the ride went successfully.

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Bike Bling

Friday, September 28, 2012

Part 1: Bike Jargon on Colorado Public Radio

I was listing to Colorado Public Radio on the way to work. There is a spot on called "Colorado Matters", which covers topics of interest in the State.

The title of the spot was"Sorry, Leadville", and was an interview with M. John Fayhee who was plugging his book “Colorado Mountain Companion: A potpourri of useful miscellany from the highest parts of the highest state”. Here is the link to a recorded version:


For me, the most interesting part of the spot was the special jargon associated with certain activities like mountain biking and skiing. Mr. Fayhee related that he was sitting in a bar in Leadville and overheard a conversation between two mountain bikers. He said as he listened, he had no idea what information was being relayed between the two bikers. He also noted that the two men were his age and not teenagers. He decided to include in his book a section on the jargon, terms and vocabulary of common high-altitude activities in Colorado.

The interviewer, Zach Barr" decided to test Mr. Fayhee on mountain biking jargon. I listened with trepidation. If you don't know the lingo, then you are a either a poser, cleanie or worse - a fred!

The first question was "to taco?".

Great! I knew that one! I had taco'ed my front wheel on my Stumpjumper hardtail at Buffalo Creek. I was bombing down a gnarly downhill, hit a tank trap, went endo and cheese grated my knees and elbows. The front wheel was wonked-out and I had to do portage of the bike back to the rack.

The second question was "Three Hour Tour?". Ok, that stumped me. The answer is a short ride that turns into a long ride. The reference is from Gilligan's Island. BTW, a "long ride" is often called a "death march".

The third question was "WIld Pigs". I knew that one all too well. "Wild Pigs" are squealing brakes. My Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert (Ultra Stumpy) put me on my face after my squealing brakes overheated and locked-up.

I am sure that every activity has special Jargon. A sewing club probably uses colorful terms. A sewing club member may use derisive language to describe another member, "Mabel is such a pattern-wonk. She can't track a stitch unless it is pinned to paper!" Perhaps Mabel has comments of her own, "Ethel is such a techno-weenie. She's got an Ultra-Stitch 9000 and can't sew a straight line!" (Note: I am making this stuff-up but you get the idea.)

Jargon and slang is: (1) a way to communicate complex ideas very quickly, and; (2) a way to immediately identify someone as belonging to the group. Here is a link to a pretty good cycling glossary:


Quiz: Where would you expect to hear, "My gun time was 26:01, but my chip time was 25:41."

Part 2: Bike Bling

My darling 26" Specialized Camber Comp came from the factory with a great suspension and great frame. The bike fits the way I ride. Here is a cool video of a Specialized Camber 26.


The Camber is a lot of bike for under 20 benjamins. The Camber is quick. However, my Camber Comp would be a lot more suited where I ride with some techno-bling.

I ordered some great bling from on-line cycling stores. I saved a ton of money.

I got this Shimano XT crank for $199. The list is $380. This crank is super light, strong and blingy! High-end parts are pretty parts. This XT crank has 8 machined "short teeth" in the 44T ring, called "shift points". Shifting happens faster that 1/20th of a crank rotation. Sometimes the stock Alivio setup would take several crank rotations to shift.

The XT crank is also very rigid with low- friction bearings to efficiently transmit pedal strokes into motion. This is fast bling!

To help with the shifting chores I bought an XT front derailleur.

This upgraded XT derailleur is more rigid than the stock SLX; and is lighter, has finer adjustments, better spring and more precise motion. And is more blingy!

Of even greater importance is the rear derailleur. I bought a 9-speed XT Shadow rear derailleur.

The XT Shadow is a seriously good piece of bling! The XT components for a 3x9 are silver. The XT components for a 3x10 are black and look pretty cool. I decided to stick with the slightly out-of-date 27 speed. ( Note: 3 rings on the crank times 9 cogs on the rear equals 27 speeds.)

To round out the upgrade I got XT shifters. These shifters don't look very "blingy". However, these units are precise and smooth.

The red pointer shift indicators let you know what gear you are in. Your legs let you know which gear you are in.

I bought an XT Hyper-Glide 93 chain. Even the XT chain has bling.

This is a low friction chain with zinc and chrome plating for corrosion resistance.

I have high school football games to "ref" this weekend and won't be able to install my bling until Sunday. I am thinking of taking the bike down to Green Mountain Cyclery and having them install the bling.

Thanks for reading my blog.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RACEWELLWON 9/30/2012 10:30PM

    Great link - nice bling- really enjoyed .

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LINDAKAY228 9/29/2012 5:05PM

    Every group does have it's own jargon. To an outsider it can be a foreign language. But we each have our groups that we pick up the jargon in. By the way, I knew the answer to the quiz questions since I run a few races. But didn't know your bike jargon. But that's okay, cause none of us can know everything. I work with elderly and disabled and in my work group APS refers to Adult Protective Services. Our local news channel on tv, ( I live in a rural area in the southern part of New Mexico) comes from Albuquerque. I don't listen to the news often, but it always through me when I do and makes me think a minute when I hear them mention APS, which in their area refers to Albuquerque Public Schools. Whether its in our jobs or our hobbies we all have a special language :).
Your bling sounds awesome! Hope you get to try it all out soon!

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MPLANE37 9/29/2012 3:11PM

    Great blog. I get to learn what to look for in the next bike.

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LISAINMS 9/29/2012 1:21PM

    Nice bling! Thanks for the link. I found some great articles.

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BILL60 9/29/2012 9:51AM

    That's some real technical stuff. Us "roadies" try to keep it simple.

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NWFL59 9/28/2012 10:07PM

    At risk of sounding like a Freddie, your bling looks nice and of high quality. Hope you do a better job officiating your games than the NFL subs. Oiy! emoticon

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KA_JUN 9/28/2012 2:51PM

    Sweet, very interesting topic about the language of subcultures. Nice parts, for sure!

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NATPLUMMER 9/28/2012 1:23PM

    Nice bling!! :-)
Yes, I'm sure most...if not all, activities have jargon.
Have fun "reffing".

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HKARLSSON 9/28/2012 1:21PM

    Ooooooooooooo shiny! emoticon

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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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