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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.


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Ya gotta love that Specialized!
    1926 days ago
    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.
    1927 days ago
    Hooray for no catapulting!
    Little Cam DOES look good in black. Glad you both survived with only 'minor' injuries.
    1927 days ago
    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!!
    1927 days ago
  • MPLANE37
    Faint bikes are not for you! You must have the toughest one. Otherwise you will destroy the bike and hurt yourself.
    1928 days ago
    You and your mighty steeds! Very fun read!
    1928 days ago
    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. :)
    1928 days ago
    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.)

    1928 days ago
  • LINDA7668
    Sounds like you've had some great rides! Keep it up (without injuring yourself of course).
    1928 days ago
    You have 2 beautiful bikes. I bet the brakes on both of them work now!
    1928 days ago
    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.
    1928 days ago
  • KA_JUN
    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!
    1928 days ago
    I will never understand why they put white tape or grip on bikes! Little Cam looks good all dressed up.
    1928 days ago
  • NWFL59
    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
    1928 days ago
    Whoo hooo! I loved reading about your adventures with the bikes. Black is better :-) emoticon
    1928 days ago
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