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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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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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