OR Rader Pocket Cap…

12 06 2013
My 50 Mision cap...

My 50 Mision cap…

Often I tour with just a baseball cap on my head – particularly if it’s going to be hot all the time. It’s light, comfortable and keeps the sun out of my eyes. Oh yeah it stops people from noticing my common bad hair days on tour! ;)

Skid lid...

Skid lid…

If I judge that the tour has higher than normal risks of crashing [ie. technical MTBing or I am riding with Scott] I’ll wear a helmet.

My trusty toque...

My trusty toque…

I almost always have a toque with me on tour. Canada gets cold at night and in the AM even in the summer. Plus they make everyone look so sexy [see image above]… ;)

OR cap...

OR cap…

A toque folds up and can be crammed in any nook or cranny. The issue with a normal baseball cap is where do you stash it in bikepacking bags when not in use? It’s easy to screw up the brim and then you look goofy. If you are a goofy looking guy like me you don’t want to go further in that direction.

So small...

So small…

One option is a packable cap like this OR Radar Pocket Cap. It folds down into a small thin package that can be carried in a bag pocket without coming back out looking goofy. It weighs 50g for the gram counters and is made of rugged quick dry  nylon fabric.

Blue Steel? - perhaps not!

Blue Steel? – perhaps not!

This cap is non-adjustable and although I would normally wear a large or XL hat I’m fine in a medium size for the Radar. So beware if you are ordering online. It’s best to try this bad boy on or go one size smaller than normal.

If you are in Canada MEC.ca sells these.

These caps come in black, bright blue and tan.





DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks…

31 05 2013
Short pants + long socks...

Short pants + long socks…

I like capris for riding and camping in because they are adaptable from hot to cool temperatures. When it gets really chilly I layer a set of running tights underneath. For less cold days I like long socks with my capris. There are lots of long sock options, but one I sourced locally at MEC.ca was these DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks.

Side view...

Side view…

They are wool, they are long and they are black. Thin enough not to be too hot and thick enough to be useful. Layering these with my running tights should be nice and they can be rolled down if it gets hot.

If you are into more snazzy fashion look for colourful ski socks on sale now that winter is over.

Here is the DeFeet product page for these socks.

They cost $25 & 1yr warranty.





Summer Bikepacking Shoes…

30 05 2013
On the move...

On the move…

I’m trying to figure out what shoes best meet my needs for summer bikepacking trips.

  • all day pedalling comfort with MTB platforms
  • reasonable grip biking through technical sections
  • able to hike-a-bike comfortably for 4-5hrs at a time over rough ground
  • excellent traction off the bike
  • breathable
  • fast drying after rain or creek crossings
  • need to accept my semi-custom insoles
5.10 Impact Low...

5.10 Impact Low…

My favourite cycling shoe is this 5.10 Impact Low model. They are super comfortable, very durable, grip the pedals like glue and have great traction off the bike. The only downsides are 1) they take forever to dry if they get wet, 2) they are pretty heavy/overbuilt for touring and 3) they don’t breath all that well. If they dried fast I could live with everything else.

I really hate riding in wet feet so these are not a good choice if I think it might rain and/or I would have to carry my bike through any creeks/rivers.

Montrail trail runners...

Montrail trail runners…

I love these Montrail runners. They are super comfy and work great on/off the bike for touring. Although they dry faster and are more breathable than the 5.10′s they are not great in either category. They are also on their last legs having been shredded on many previous adventures – soles are almost worn away at the heel, cushioning is compressed and uppers are starting to tear. I just repaired the uppers with shoe goo so I could use them on my last tour, but Sharon laughed at me and said it was time to let them go. I probably will have to do that, but not until the end of the year! ;)

La Sportiva trail runners...

La Sportiva trail runners…

I bought these La Sportivas to replace the Montrails above, but never loved them enough to actually part with the old shoes. There is nothing wrong with the La Sportivas. They do everything well enough, but somehow the fit/performance just isn’t as good as I would like. On the plus side they are light and breathe/dry well. I’ve worn them enough that they are starting to fail at weak spots, but some strategic shoe gooing means they be good for another full year.

At the moment these are the best bikepacking shoe I own and when I have to throw the Montrails out they’ll keep me rolling until I find a replacement.

In terms of bikepacking downsides:

  • raised instep not uber grippy on the bike pedals [not awful, but just okay]
  • not as stable during hike-a-bike as my other shoes
  • lightweight construction not super durable [I'm okay with this as a trade off for fast drying]
Merrel Gaulley water shoes...

Merrel Gaulley water shoes…

I bought these Merrells when I broke my foot and needed a soft stretchy shoe to accommodate my swollen foot. They are water shoes which means they breathe and dry very fast, but they are very flexible and don’t offer much support. I have toured in water shoes before with no issues, but those tours did not involved any hike-a-bike over rough ground which my current trips seem to feature. These shoes also have a fairly non-aggressive sole so I don’t know how well they will do walking/pushing on steep loose terrain.

On the plus side is they fit me, they accept my insoles and they are paid for! ;)

I need to try a hike-a-bike tour with them and see if they work okay. They would definitely be my choice for a trip that I knew would involved a lot of wet feet.

Vibram Five Fingers...

Vibram Five Fingers…

So far I haven’t bothered with a second pair of shoes on tour. Wearing trail runners on my bike means they are comfy for wearing around camp and BC has barefoot friendly campsites [no thorns or sharp rocks] so I can just go without shoes if I need to air out my feet. However, I started to think that maybe carrying these Five Fingers wouldn’t be a bad idea. I could wear them during creek crossings to keep my main shoes/socks dry and they’d be fine in camp if I didn’t want to go barefoot. I could even ride or hike in them if I needed to. Plus they are also paid for! ;)

Most bikepackers who carry a second set of footwear seem to favour flip flops. Presumably for their lightweight, easy packing and low cost. That makes sense – except flip flops are pretty useless in a raging rocky creek or for anything more demanding then chilling in camp.

I’ll test the Five Fingers out this summer and see if they are worth hauling along or not.

Montrail Mountain Masochist trail runners...

Montrail Mountain Masochist trail runners…

I’ve got troublesome feet so I can’t simply order some shoes out of a catalogue and have much success. I’ve got to try on every pair that interests me and see what feels okay in the store. If I am hopeful I’ll buy a pair and wear them at home for a couple days to see what problems crop up once they are on my feet for several hours at a time. If that seems promising I start wearing them outside and give up any hope of returning them for a refund.

My success rate even with this sensible systematic approach is pretty grim. Shoes my feet really love are few and far between. I have given away quite a few pairs of shoes over the years that I thought were winners until an extended trip where their comfort was lacking. Which is why I’m starting to think of this now even though I can keep my La Sportivas going through to summer 2014. It could easily take that long to find a worthy successor! :(





Continental Trail King Tires Review and Renew…

27 05 2013
Fresh rubber...

Fresh rubber…

I love my Continental Trail King tires. I’ve used my first pair for over a year and had zero flats, burps or other issues. Just great traction and reliable performance.

So when I started to uncharacteristically spin my tire on steeper looser climbs I checked my rear tire and it was worn badly. Time for new rubber.

The new tires say Rubber Queen on them because that’s what Trail Kings are called in Europe. Different name, but same tire. I bought the UST version again. They are heavy, but I love the traction and how great they are to setup tubeless. I chose the 2.4″ size a second time because I love how the large diameter tire rolls over roots and rocks. Skinny tires aren’t faster if you get hung up in every tech section.

I’ve heard some good things about the Schwalbe Hans Damf tire, but I figure why mess with success?

I really can’t say one bad thing about these tires. I hope Continental makes a 650B version when I get a new mountain bike.

She's hefty...

She’s hefty…

I kept the old front tire as a spare...

I kept the old front tire as a spare…

The rear was toast...

The rear was toast…

The Stans sealant in the tires had dried up...

The Stans sealant in the tires had dried up…

Letting the tires seal...

Letting the tires seal…

I used CO2 to seat the tires...

I used CO2 to seat the tires…

My Nomad waiting for the new rubber...

My Nomad waiting for the new rubber…

No more slipping on climbs...

No more slipping on climbs…

Ready to ride...

Ready to ride…

Time to shred the new tires for another year...

Time to shred the new tires for another year…





Vargo Triad Stove Review

24 05 2013
Looks sexy...

Looks sexy…

These Vargo Triad Ti stoves look sexy, but work like crap. Don’t waste your time buying and returning it! =( I tried one of these out in 2008 and was disappointed. I figured they might have improved it since then so I bought another at MEC.ca.

I filled it with methyl hydrate which is the easiest alcohol fuel for me to source. Lighting it was no problem, but even with a windscreen and inside my garage it was unable to boil 2.5 cups of water that I typically need to rehydrate a camp meal. The water ended up warm, but not boiling.

With my usual Trangia burner I can boil that much water for a meal and if I am lucky boil another cup for tea.

Too bad!

Too bad!

I’ll go back to using my trusty Trangia and try some of the DIY beer can stoves for an ultralight option. This Triad is going back to MEC and I won’t waste my time trying them again.





Surly Krampus Build…

16 04 2013
Krampus in action...

Krampus in action…

I’ll hold off on a full blown review of this bike until the end of the summer so I can do it justice. Here is the build list for my Krampus for those who enjoy geeking out on such things.

Surly Krampus

  • medium frame [ST = 16.75" Eff TT = 24"] & Krampus fork
  • sparkly bass boat green
  • Race Face Evolve 100m 6 deg stem
  • Race Face Atlas AM bar [730mm 6 deg rise 9 deg sweep]
  • FSA Orbit Z headset
  • Ergon grips
  • Alfine 11 shifter
  • Shimano SLX brakes [180mm/160mm]
  • Thompson Elite seatpost
  • Brooks B17 saddle
  • Shimano Deore cranks w/ 32T Race Face chainring
  • NRG Slabalanche pedals
  • SRAM 9 speed chain
  • Stan’s Flows rim + Hope Pro2 hub
  • Stan’s Flow rim = Alfine 11 IGH
  • Surly Knard 120 tpi tires + 29 x 1.75″/2.5″ tubes
  • weight = 31.5lbs

The medium framed Krampus has a long TT and short ST. That makes swinging a leg over the bike easy, but limits the size of framebag you can fit inside. I’m used to MTBs with less standover clearance [like my Pugsley] and I’ve never injured my man bits. ;) I debated getting the large frame and using an 80mm stem to get a bigger frame triangle, but I decided the trade off of a longer wheelbase wasn’t worth it for our tight forest trails.

Click for Surly Krampus info page...

Click for Surly Krampus info page…

This is essentially the build kit from my On One Scandal 29er MTB transplanted to the Krampus. Surly very wisely didn’t go off the deep end with an obscure frame standard that would require parts nobody had on hand. Instead they made sure that if you have a 29er MTB you can swap your parts over to a Krampus and get rolling.

Ready for building up...

Ready for building up…

The main changes for the Krampus were a wider set of 710mm Race Face bars and a longer stem to dial in the fit. Even though the 650mm bars I used on the Scandal felt fine on it as soon as I sat on the Krampus I knew I wanted wider bars on this bike. The 730mm wide bars feel perfect.

The Stan’s Flow rims have an internal width of 22.5mm. They aren’t an ideal match for Surly’s 3.0″ wide Knard tire, but they are paid for and in my garage so I’m going to use them. So far they’ve been fine. I’m running tubes for now, but will switch to tubeless down the road when I move to some wider Rabbit Hole rims.

Enjoying the ride...

Enjoying the ride…

Click here for more Krampus photos.





2yrs of Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL Riding…

29 03 2013
Sharon eager to ride...

Sharon eager to ride…

It’s been a little over 2 years since we took home our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL. It’s 20″ wheeled travel tandem that packs into a suitcase and a half for travel or storage. This is our first tandem bicycle so our opinions are based on lots of Bike Friday riding, but near zero “normal” tandem rides.

I’m going to tackle 3 issues that were of concern when I was doing my pre-purchase research for this bike and discuss them now that we have some time under our tandem belts. If you want to read my previous tandem posts just click here and my tandem Flickr photos are here.

Maintenance

When I asked around in tandem forums about Bike Friday tandems I had several people tell me they required tons of maintenance to stay functional. That the shifting and braking would go out of whack and the frame needed to be checked and adjusted frequently. I’m lazy and I wasn’t super excited to spend a ton of time working on this bike. Since it’s a tandem it often sits all week and then gets pulled out last minute on the weekend when we decide to do something in town. Not having a reliable bike we can just jump on would curtail a lot of our tandem riding.

I’m happy to report that the tandem has been utterly reliable for us. I built it up following Bike Friday’s owner’s manual. It was my first Bike Friday build as my other Fridays came professionally assembled from the factory. So this bike was built up just like anyone who landed at a touring destination would build up their new tandem. The only maintenance I’ve done to it so far was adjusting the tension of the timing chain last week before the Victoria Populaire. That took 2mins and I took care of it outside a coffee shop while Sharon procured some java.

Handling

I was prepared for a significant learning curve when I got the tandem. I didn’t want to crash and kill Sharon’s tandem stoke. So I had a bunch of Sunday empty parking lot training sessions planned to ease into it. Our enthusiasm got the better of us and we ended up spending 3-4hrs on our first ride going into downtown to run errands. Perhaps it was my years of cargo bike experience, but the tandem was a no brainer to ride. We mixed it up with heavy car traffic that first ride with total confidence.

This spring we dusted off the tandem after a 3 month layoff and the first few pedal strokes were tentative, but after 30 seconds we felt right at home and started bombing around at full tilt. That gives us a lot of confidence when starting off a 100 person group ride in the middle of the pack where holding your line and reacting to other riders’ goofiness is a requirement.

Performance

Having owned a number of small wheeled recumbents and folding bikes I know that small wheels don’t equal slow, but that said they don’t automatically equal fast either. Combine that with the unknown performance just due to the fact it’s a tandem and I had some concerns we wouldn’t be satisfied with the bike’s performance for demanding rides.

As it turns out our speed over a significant distance [50-100kms] is a respectable 20kph which includes traffic lights and stop signs, etc… That’s with no training and we definitely have some extra power we could generate by syncing our pedal strokes better. During groups rides we end up right where we should be in terms of the riders and bikes we finish with. For a fully equipped touring bike powered by some middle age recreational cyclists our Bike Friday tandem isn’t letting us down.

For comparison my solo high performance rando bike average speed is ~25kph for longer rides.

I have no doubt that we could design and build a performance oriented tandem that would be faster, but for our current needs the ease of storage and touring capabilities of our Bike Friday are a better fit than a tandem designed to ride faster. We could also do more targeted training to get faster, but we prefer to blame any lack of speed on the bike, hills and/or wind! ;)

Seems like we have a winner...

Seems like we have a winner…

Sharon has been through a number of stoker bar options on the tandem. She couldn’t adapt to drop bars and she tried some flat bars with better results, but not total satisfaction. So we are now using some Thorn comfort bars with Ergon Grips that have built in bar ends. So far Sharon’s been happy with them and I think we’ll be sticking with this setup for the foreseeable future.





MEC Ace Sunglasses Review…

18 03 2013
MEC Ace Sunglasses...

MEC Ace Sunglasses…

I’ve been an Oakley sunglass whore for a couple decades. I love them, but they are expensive so as my Oakley lenses got scratched up and downgraded for more and more abusive use I decided to try some cheaper sunglasses as replacements.  I was at MEC.ca so I looked at what they had and these Ace sunglasses fit me pretty well.

I’ve used them for 6 months so far.

What I like:

  • optics are nice and clear
  • great for driving
  • they look a little nicer than my typical plastic framed sporty sunglasses
  • they fit my face
  • at $32 the price is reasonable
  • they come with a bag that doubles as a cleaning cloth
  • MEC is great about warranties and customer service
  • polarized  version available for $60
  • thin arms work well with most retention neck bands

What I don’t like:

  • frames are very flexible and small impacts bend them
  • lenses are heavy and glasses want to fly off my face if I’m making quick moves
  • starting to get scratched [about average in this department]
  • can’t really pack them in a bag unless I use a hard case or they will get bent

These sunglasses are working great for casual use. I like them a lot for driving my truck. They live on my face or get stored in the truck’s sunglass holder. I don’t like them so much for sporty use as they are not secure on my face due to the heavy lenses and not so grabby arms. Worse once you no longer need them on your face you have to be really careful or they be badly bent. They have been fixable every time I have bent them, but it takes a long time to get them back to a comfy shape.

For the price I would recommend them as a fashion sunglass or for driving. For active use I’d give them a miss.

I may buy a polarized pair to keep in the truck once I wear this pair out.





Ortlieb Repair…

6 03 2013
Buckle tear...

Buckle tear…

I had my first real Ortlieb failure. The buckles that close the roll top on my rear Ortlieb panniers both started to tear. I noticed it at home so it didn’t cause a problem.

Fresh buckle...

Fresh buckle…

I emailed Wayne at The Touring Store where I buy all my Ortlieb panniers and he mailed me some replacement parts for free. Thanks Wayne! :)

It's an easy fix with 2 bolts holing the buckle...

It’s an easy fix with 2 bolts holing the buckle…

Swapping in new buckles took a few minutes with a multi-tool. I checked the edges of the plastic frame to make sure they weren’t sharp. These are from the set of Ortliebs I lend to folks I tour with so it’s possible one of my friends got overly enthusiastic about tightening the buckles.

Ready to roll...

Ready to roll…

My Orlieb products have been virtually trouble free which is great, but it’s also nice to know that when stuff does go wrong I have a solid dealer to support me and that the product is designed to be easy to repair in the field.





Shimano Zee Derailleur Review…

22 02 2013
Photo: Matt Wragg @ Pink Bike...

Photo: Matt Wragg @ Pink Bike…

Click on the photo above to jump to a Pink Bike review of the Shimano Zee rear derailleur. I’m going to try one of these on my Nomad to quiten my ride on our chunky/rooty terrain. The Zee is pretty affordable and seems light enough while remaining durable.





The making of a KS Lev seatpost….

14 02 2013
lev

Photo: Matt Wragg via Pink Bike…

I love my height adjustable seatposts. They are one of the best upgrades to any mountain bike that gets ridden on technical terrain. At least that’s my opinion! I can’t imagine going back to a non-adjustable seatpost on my MTBs. The Kind Shock seatpost on my Nomad has been going strong for a couple years now. I ran into this article over at Pink Bike that walks you through how they are made. If that sort of thing is of interest click the image above.

Ksi900r adjustable seat post...

My Nomad’s Ksi900r adjustable seat post…





Velocity P35 Rims & Continental Trail King Tires Redux…

11 02 2013
Purple power...

Purple power…

I love the Velocity P35 rim and Continental Trail King 2.4″ tire combo. I was especially impressed how well the larger diameter tire rolled over chunky terrain and how precise the steering was with the wide tire and wide rim. For me there is no going back to “normal” MTB tires and rims. My next MTB will be a 650B rig with wide P35 rims and wide rubber. I suspect that will be the even better than my current setup.

Sharon's Nomad with my wheels...

Sharon’s Nomad with my P35 wheels…

Sharon listens to my gear babbling and smiles like she’s really listening, but I’m pretty sure it all comes across as “..blah blah blah tire blah blah blah bike blah blah blah traction…” However, just before I left for Baja I was so amped about how well my P35/Trail Kings were working vs. the “normal” rims/rubber combo she decided to try my wheels out on her Nomad while I was gone.

Old and new P35 wheels...

Old and new P35 wheels…

She went on her usual Dirt Girls rides with my wheels/tires. I didn’t really hear too much feedback on how it all worked for her, but as I was heading north I mentioned I’d need to swap my wheels back onto my bike and she’d be back on her old wheels. I was met with heavy resistance!!! Apparently she noticed the improved performance and didn’t want to go back to a “normal” setup again. I didn’t blame her, but I wanted my wheels back!

Rubber Queen 2.4" tires & Velocity P35 rims...

Rubber Queen 2.4″ tires & Velocity P35 rims…

So we compromised on the idea of getting her old wheels rebuilt with Velocity P35 rims and buying her some 2.4″ Trail King tires. In a hostage situation like this it is always best to give them what they want if you can. ;)

Sharon with her new bike bling...

Sharon with her new bike bling…

Since I was in the US at the time we were able to order rims straight from Velocity. That meant less hassles, cheaper cost and better colour selection. Getting Velocity rims in Canada can be a chore! I’ve got to say the anodized purple rims she got look super sweet – much nicer than my painted red P35s. Next time I need P35s I’ll be getting some of the anodized ones – they look better and the finish is more robust.

Pretty slick...

Pretty slick…

We got the rims swapped locally at Oak Bay Bikes and reused the old spokes. We grabbed a Stan’s Freeride Tubeless kit from the Russ Hayes Bike Shop. The tubeless setup would have been pretty straight forward like it was for my P35′s, but I didn’t read the instructions and relied on my faulty memory. Missing 1 small, but key step I struggled for a couple beers until I went back and read the instructions. After that it wasn’t very hard to get everything to seal and hold air. I would note we’ve always used the UST version of the Trail Kings. I’m not sure that’s necessary for a good tubeless setup, but it probably helps.

Rubber Queen aka Trail King tread detail...

Rubber Queen aka Trail King tread detail…

You’ll notice her tires are labelled Rubber Queen rather than Trail King. They are the same tire. For some reason in Europe they are called Rubber Queen and in North America they are called Trail King – perhaps the European name sounded to fetishistic for our prudish tastes?? ;)

Just enough clearance in the fork and frame...

Just enough clearance in the fork and frame…

All in all Sharon is stoked to have the new wheels/tires. She likes the way they look and the way they perform.

Sharon's Nomad ready to roll...

Sharon’s Nomad ready to roll…

BTW – Velocity P35 rims may now be called Blunt 35 rims. I’m not 100% on the name change, but that’s what I have heard and Sharon’s rims came labelled Blunt 35. It’s also possible it’s a Velocity USA vs. Velocity OZ thing and both model names may be in play.





Dinotte XML-3 & XML-1 Mountain Bike Light Review…

7 02 2013

I’ve been using a Dinotte XML-3 [~1000 lumens] and a Dinotte XML-1 [~400 lumens] for over a year now although only in winter as our summers feature uber long periods of daylight in Canada. They are great mountain bike lights and Dinotte has great customer service. MTBR.com did a review of these lights as well as a comparison with 48 other mountain bike lights so I figured I’d point you at that rather than reinventing the wheel. Besides it’s not like I can afford to buy 50 high bike lights to test and review! ;)

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal...

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal…

XML-3 LEDs...

XML-3 LEDs…

One thing I must point out is these are high powered mountain bike lights for use on trails or out in the middle of nowhere. They shine their powerful beams indiscriminately onto the trail, road and into people’s eyes if they are headed towards you on a bike or in a car. They are so powerful they will literally blind oncoming traffic. Just like driving around town at night with your high beam lights in your car is not cool – using these as commuter lights anywhere with other traffic is not cool. I suspect we aren’t too far from seeing these sorts of lights regulated for road/MUP use since the cost to lumens is so low now anyone can afford a devastatingly bright light. In Germany it would be illegal to use these lights on your bike on the road and I agree that’s the correct approach.

Dinotte XML-1 mounted to my helmet...

Dinotte XML-1 mounted to my helmet…

Here is my summary of what I like about these lights:

  • reasonable cost for brightness and quality
  • symmetric beam works well for mountain bike trail use
  • Dinotte provides excellent customer service
  • these lights are repairable if needed unlike disposal Chinese lights
  • my oldest Dinottes are 6yrs old and going strong with no repairs
  • all lights made in the USA
  • one of the easiest and best mounting systems I’ve used
  • available in both AA battery and L-Ion battery versions
  • small profile so they don’t look goofy or take up a ton of room on your bars if you have the installed day and night
XML-3 with L-Ion battery pack...

XML-3 with L-Ion battery pack…

If Dinotte ever made a light with a vertical cut off optic like the Edelux I’d buy one for city use.





Liquid Force 12m Envy Kite Porn…

19 12 2012

Sharon and her new 12m Liquid Force Envy kite…

Uber long pump shaft for less back strain…

So easy to pump up this kite!

Max-flow nozzle means 50% less pumping…

On a big kite less pumping is appreciated…

Stock gauge to make sure you get the pressure right…

12m size to fill out her 7m & 9m Envy quiver…

Be the Envy – indeed!

The bag is sweet looking and made to last…





Vibram Five Fingers KSO – Redux!

12 12 2012

Five Fingers KSO old & new…

After many repairs and a tube of Shoe Goo it was time to say goodbye to my Vibram Five Fingers KSO slippers. The tears between the toes were no longer practically repairable. I got a new pair on sale at MEC.ca. Although they have some serious flaws for watersport use they are still the best option for kiteboarding footwear.

Sadly the soles are brand new even though the uppers are thrashed…

I also bought a new bobbin of black thread and a fresh tube of Shoe Goo. Let the games begin! ;)





Dakine Kiteboard Hook Knife…

5 12 2012

Dakine Hook Knife…

One of the hazards of kiteboarding is becoming entangled in your kite’s lines or another kiter’s lines during an “incident”. If the kite powers up the thin spectra lines will cut through flesh like a razor. The only way to quickly free yourself is if you can cut the lines wrapped around you. That’s where a hook knife comes in handy. The Dakine knife shown above costs $10 and is small so it can be stashed on your person for quick access in an emergency. The hook knife blade is designed to cut lines easily while keeping fleshy bits away from the blade. That’s good because in a panic situation you are likely to be flailing around like a drunk octopus!

Dakine Nitrous harness and hook knife…

The real trick is how do you carry a hook knife with you while kiteboarding so it’s easy to access, doesn’t get lost and isn’t a hassle?

Dakine spreader bar and pad with hook knife installed…

If you are using a Dakine spreader bar and pad you’ve got a built in pocket on the pad pointing down. The pocket is big enough for the hook knife and there is some velcro to mate up with the knife’s pull tab so it stays secure until you need it.

Hook knife partially pulled out of the pad…

This setup is good, but has a couple issues:

  1. The knife can fall out of the pad’s pocket in use or when being transported. That’s not tragic as it only costs $10 so the occasional replacement knife isn’t a financial burden. You can help avoid lost knives by pushing it deep into the pad’s pocket and making sure the velcro is fully engaged with the knife’s pull tab. This makes losing the knife less likely at the expense of making pulling the knife out slightly harder. To my way of thinking that’s a reasonable trade off to ensure the knife is there when you need it.
  2. The pocket under the pad  isn’t ideal for emergency access because it’s going to be underwater, the knife’s pull tab is small, you may be wearing gloves and the bar area could be tangled in kite lines.

Dakine Hook Knife and sheath…

I think the best place for the knife would be on the breast of my impact vest where I could see it and easily access it in an emergency. I don’t know of any impact vests made with a knife pocket. However, the Dakine knife comes with nylon sheath that a crafty person could sew onto their impact vest. I haven’t bothered because the pad pocket solution is good enough for me given that a line entanglement is not a frequent occurrence, but if someone made an impact vest with a knife pocket I would buy it.

Note handy side pocket…

If you ride in surf shorts most of them have a side pocket for a wax comb/wax. You can put your hook knife in here. The access isn’t quite as convenient as the Dakine pad pocket, but it’s very secure so the knife won’t get lost.





Beachdog Kite Skimboard…

23 11 2012

Beachdog skimboard – click for more info…

Local Vancouver Island kiter Mark Bavis [aka Mark Two Dog] is one of the nice folks behind Elevation Kiteboarding School where Sharon got her lessons and became a solid kiteboarder. He’s also a dedicated skimboard rider who designed and sells the Beachdog skimboard.

Specs:

  • solid wood core
  • 3D deck pad
  • ABS walls
  • concave bottom
  • rocker tip to tail.
  • size: 130 x 50 cm
  • transparent wood core with black outline and graphics
  • comes with 3 fins [2 rear & 1 front]
  • comes with a Dakine bag
  • cost $495USD

I’ve seen lots of these skimboards at Nitnaht Lake this summer so my interest was peaked. I finally got to try one for a session at the end of the summer and I was hooked right away. I had some $$ in my pocket from a kiteboard I sold so it was easy to just turn the money around and invest in this board.

Here’s what I like about it so far:

  • small size which is easy to travel with and transport
  • robust construction which is hard to damage unlike a surfboard
  • flat rocker makes it ideal for lighter winds and going fast
  • comes with a full deck pad for high traction and some cushion on rough water
  • lightweight makes it easy to spin and jump
  • because it’s got tiny fins and is so tough I can ride into shallow water that would destroy my surfboards
  • it’s very loose so it can be spun around easily
  • can be ridden both ways if you gotta make a quick escape
  • can be ridden with 3 fins, 2 fins or without fins for lots of different options
  • looks sweet
  • I love that it comes with a bag….saves me having to buy one

Bottom line what rocks about this board is it makes those less than epic days super fun and really challenges my strapless riding. Every time you kite on this board it’s obvious it was designed by someone who loves to love to kitesurf with a skimboard.

Beachdog skimboard action…

Here is a review from The Kiteboarder Magazine which I generally agree with. I differ in that I didn’t find the Beachdog skim hard to ride at all and I am no Strapless God. ;) If you can ride a strapless surfboard comfortably riding this skim will not be a problem.

You can read a little 411 about skimboards for kiteboarding at this link.

Great work Mark – I hope you sell a ton of these.





Ortlieb Repair…

14 11 2012

A slight tear in the buckle strap…

I’ve been using Ortlieb products for 15yrs+ and never had a failure until one of the buckles that closes my roll top panniers started to tear.

Getting a set of spare buckles was easy…

I bought all my Ortlieb panniers from Wayne at the Touring Store so I emailed him and he sent me a set of brand new buckles.

Fresh buckle installed…

Ortlieb products are easy to work on so it only took two screws per pannier to remove and reinstall the new buckle. I did both panniers since I had two fresh buckles on hand. The whole process took about mins to complete.

Ortlieb repaired and ready to rumble…

Now these panniers are 100% I’m packing them for my Baja trip. There is a lot of beer and ice to be hauled! ;)





Iron Mend Wetsuit Repair Kit Review…

7 11 2012

My Promotion wetsuit…

I’ve been using this Promotion wetsuit for 4yrs of kiteboarding. It has seen better days for sure. I haven’t found a good local option for wetsuit repairs in Victoria BC. I can send this suit back to Promotion who will do a great repair at a reasonable cost, but the $25 shipping each way makes even a small $20 repair costly.

A tear starting on the right sleeve…

In general this wetsuit has been wearing evenly and has served me well so I hope to get another full year out of it before retiring it. I recently noticed a tear starting at one sleeve which is a high stress area every time you put the suit on or take it off. I wanted to fix the problem before it ripped all the way through and made matters more challenging.

Iron Mend repair kit…

I saw a $10 wetsuit repair kit at MEC.ca called Iron Mend and decided it was worth trying out. It’s basically a large iron-on patch with some heat shield paper to protect the wetsuit.

Patch cut to size and instructions…

The repair process is very simple:

  1. cut patch to size
  2. heat iron [not too hot]
  3. place patch over area needing repair
  4. place heat shield paper over patch
  5. 2 x 10 second applications of iron with firm pressure
  6. check patch
  7. apply iron again if needed

My iron didn’t have any temperature indications so I started low and bumped up the heat when the first attempt wasn’t gluing the patch down properly. You can keep applying the iron as many times as needed if it’s not hot enough, but you’ll ruin your wetsuit in one attempt if it’s too hot. So err on the side of too cool.

Patch applied…

The repair seems solid and unlike my usual ghetto Shoe Goo repairs it looks almost professional! ;) I’ll report back after 20 sessions in Baja and we’ll see how it holds up to daily use. I only used 1/8th of the kit so there are several more repairs left in it. I’m optimistic I can keep this suit rolling for at least another year.





New Tire Fail!

5 11 2012

Heading out to test some new rubber…

Got out on the new rubber I installed recently and the results were shocking!

First what was good?:

  • traction was excellent as expected
  • tubeless worked without any issues
  • smaller outer diameter meant slightly lower gearing
  • lighter tires + wheels accelerated a bit better
  • lighter wheels were more responsive to steering

Conditions were moist…

So what was the problem?

  • smaller wheels got hung up on roots/rocks/etc…
  • lower BB got loads of pedal and bashguard strikes
  • smaller tires gave much harsher ride even on a full suspension bike
  • steering less stable [more twitch]
  • overall slower  and less fun to ride bike

I like fat tires. That’s not a surprise, but I just didn’t appreciate how good I had it with the Trail Kings in 2.4″. I could measure the difference up front as ~20mm in overall diameter. The rear wasn’t as easy, but it looked to be the same if not a tad more. That’s ~10mm in BB height difference. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was.

2.25″ Ardents = 20mm clearance…

I rode trails I’m very familiar with on the TKs and at almost every point I was thinking this is not nearly as much fun as the old tires even with less grippy worn tread. The passive suspension action of big supple tires is amazing even on my 6″+ travel FS bike. It lets me tune the suspension for the medium to big hits and the tires deal with the low amplitude high frequency stuff.

2.4″ Trail Kings = 10mm clearance…

Owning a 29er the idea that wheels that are 3″ bigger give a different ride is not news to me, but really big wheels have downsides to go with the benefits. What shocked me is how much different 20mm in wheel diameter rides on my Nomad. That benefit comes with limited downsides since the wheels aren’t radically different in size/weight.

It’s all gone green…

What’s really funny is my riding has improved a lot over the last 2 years on my Nomad. Of course I attributed that to my general awesomeness! ;) But, now looking back I can see I kept going bigger on my tires until I was at the TKs on the P35s which is the largest tire that will fit the back of my Nomad. The big tires certainly played their part in the progression.

2.35″ Excavators…

So what’s the plan?

  • ride the 2.4″ Trail Kings
  • buy new 2.4″ TKs in 2013
  • get Sharon onto 2.4″ TK’s
  • sell these skinny tires – I’m never going back!

2.4″ Trail King…

Funny thing is as I was telling Sharon about my ride she was nodding her head to all my complaints about the skinny tires. Finally she said – “You mean you can fix all that with bigger rubber? When do I get some?”

Time wash the rig…

Not that there was a lot of doubt about waiting for a 650B 6″ travel all mountain FS rig, but now there is no doubt in my mind.





30T Andersen’s Machine Chainring…

29 10 2012

Extralite 30T ring on left and Anderesen’s 30T ring on right…

On a few of my bikes I am already running 1 x 8/11 drivetrains with an IGH. Typically the smallest chainring you can get for 104mm BCD cranks is 32T which limits the lower end of your gear range on this common crank type. So I was interested to try out the two 30T rings I found for 104mm BCD cranks. Extralite.com makes the one on the left and Andersen’s Machine makes the one on the right.

Extralite ring on the left is much thinner and lighter…

I decided to install the Andersen’s ring on my Nomad turning it into a 1×9 with a 30T x 11-34T cassette. The only reason I selected the Andersen’s ring is it looked more robust than the Extralite ring. I don’t care about weight on my Nomad, but it gets abused a lot so beefy is good. I should be able to flip the 30T ring around once it’s worn and wear it out going the other way to double its service life.

Filing of the crank arms is required…

The reason 30T rings are not common is that you get physical interference between the chain and crank on such a small ring. The solution is to file away a bit of the ring’s arms to create the needed clearance. This only takes a few seconds with a flat file. Don’t get carried away!

Clearance achieved!

The 30T ring bolts up in seconds and you are ready to rock.

Shimano 28T inner ring and Andersen’s Machine 30T ring mounted…

Shimano sells a 28T inner ring which can also be used to move your single ring drivetrain’s gear range around as required. Having a 28T/30T double is probably pointless as there isn’t enough difference between the rings to bother. The 30T ring is also spaced inwards a bit more than normal to help with chain clearance. This buggers up your indexed shifting setup with a granny.

30T ring installed on SLX cranks with bashguard…

Once installed on my Nomad the 30T ring provides a very useful low gear with a 34T cog on the cassette. Low enough to climb just about anything while still providing a reasonable high gear. With the uber wide range 11-36T cassettes available a 30T front ring makes a single ring drivetrain feasible for a lot of MTBers.

1×9 and loving it!

For my needs there is no reason not to go with a 1 x 8/9/10. Ultra low gearing results in too much torque which spins the rear wheel on techy climbs and the gear inches are too low to get me over the gnar in the one to three power strokes my puny legs have. By using a higher low end gear I can maintain speed as I approach some tech, I can’t break the back wheel free as easily and I can usually power over the tech before I lose steam.

I never need a big ring on my MTB. I’m riding fairly steep terrain so when I point the bike downhill I’m not looking to go any faster than gravity is powering me!

Funny thing is that 5yrs ago I would have told you that not having a triple on a mountain bike was crazy! 3yrs ago I would have said the same thing about a double ring setup. ;)





GPS Kit iPhone App…

24 10 2012

Never lost again!

Kurt turned me onto this iPhone mapping app called GPS Kit. It has user generated trail data for spots I ride on Vancouver Island which is why I like it. I’ve checked out other GPS apps folks have recommended, but content for my neck of the woods was lacking. The app costs $9.99 and downloading trail map data was free. Using this app at Partridge Hills we not only managed to avoid being lost in the woods for the very first time, but we actually were able to scout out some new trails [intentionally] and now that we know where they are on the map we’ll be able to go back and ride them again at will.

Awesome!

When almost all your trail riding is deep in the dark forest with no geographical landmarks to reference off of this sort of navigational aid is greatly appreciated :)

One issue with the trails shown is that you don’t know what they are like or if they are double-track, singletrack or a creek bed somebody hiked. OTOH I don’t mind exploring as long as I have some idea of where I am.

This is the GPS Kit marketing spew:

GPS Kit is a full-featured GPS system for the iPhone that combines all the functionality of expensive handheld units with the power of wireless technology. Using advanced technology optimized for the iPhone, GPS Kit offers a superbly easy-to-use system that puts data from a wide range of sensors at your fingertips.

Designed for outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting, camping, skiing, cycling, geocaching, mountain biking, motorcycling, off-roading, fishing, and other romping in or out of the backcountry–anywhere in the world.

“This absolutely crushes every other GPS app on the market.”  -Trevor H., PE, LEG.

“I use the iphone to record motorbike enduro tracks I ride at night. This app is the reason I bought the iPhone and it is awesome!” -Robert D, Australia

Highest Quality Mapping
→ Fastest maps in the App Store
→ Smooth, elegant interaction
→ Offline Mode enables use out of cell range & without data connection
→ Unlimited map types available using customization

Real-Time Friend Tracking with “Radar”✝
→ Only GPS tracking app that allows you to view friends’ position, heading, and speed on map in real-time
→ Instant chat on any of 1 million channels
→ Unlimited range–works across the entire world!
→ Personalized colors
→ Meet up at the game, on the hunt, or while traveling
→ Track your loved one’s adventures LIVE

Easy Data Handling
→ Mail links for Google Earth & map viewing–including mobile browsers!
→ View full-color thumbnails of previous outings and data sets
→ Group tracks and waypoints together to keep track of outings
→ Most options for export and import of tracks and waypoints
→ Open KML, KMZ, & GPX from Mail & Safari
→ Attach KML & GPX files to email
→ Export GPX & KML through iTunes for USB transfer
→ Share your adventures on Facebook and Twitter

Powerful Waypoints
→ Add photos and notes to waypoints that display on map
→ Drag map to reposition while coordinates update
→ UTM, USNG, MGRS
→ Long-press to quickly drop a waypoint
→ Navigate to waypoints using the magnetic compass (3GS, 4, iPad) or GPS compass (3G)
→ See distance to waypoint update in real-time on the map

Weather Stations – only in GPS Kit!
→ Create “weather stations” to get point forecasts
→ Get data specific to your favorite fishing hole, ski tour, etc.
→ Data provided by the National Weather Service
→ Unlimited number of stations
(U.S. Only)

Intelligent Data Collection
→ Uses maximum GPS accuracy
→ Real satellite positioning even without cell signal (only on 3G, 3GS, 4, iPad 3G)
→ Auto-segmentation of tracks avoids classic accidental huge lines and messed up tracks

Fully Customizable Dashboard
→ Gorgeous high contrast display for outdoor viewing
→ Huge variety of customizable parameters and units
→ Time, Trip Time, Track Time
→ Elevation Change
→ Custom Formatted Position (Lat/Long, UTM, MGRS, USNG)
→ Accuracy, Speed, Odometer, Avg Speed, Max Speed, Pace, Avg. Pace
→ Moving Time, Stopped Time, Direction
→ NEW: 3-Axis Inclinometer and Glide Ratio
→ Equally customizable dashboard cell on map

Loaded with Related Utilities
→ LED Flashlight (iPhone 4 only)
→ Double-tap home button for background mode (iOS4+)
→ Proximity sensor for quick in-and-out-of-your-pocket battery saving
→ Elevation and speed graphs with landscape mode
→ On-map tracking controls and timer
→ On-map ruler with multi-touch area measurements
→ Full retina interface (iPhone 4 only)

Screen shot of GPS Kit app…

I’ve only started using it so I’ll hold off on a review until the summer. So far it’s promising in terms of getting us out and riding areas that have always been a bit confusing. It’s not a perfect solution as my iPhone is expensive and doesn’t love being wet or getting dropped. It’s also an older 3GS model with less than stellar battery life and I don’t own a bike mount so I have to pull it out constantly to verify where I am. The iPhone screen also won’t work with my gloved fingers so that’s another hassle every time I want to see where we are.

I’m hopeful that I can use this app to learn my way around our local riding areas to the point where I don’t need to use it so often as a reference.





Blue Seal Sealant Review

16 10 2012

Photo: All Hail the Black Market Blog…

First off thanks to All Hail the Black Market Blog for being smart enough to take a picture of these tubes of Blue Seal Sealant before he used them or gave them away – unlike me! ;) I received 2 tubes of the stuff for free from the distributor to review last year. Seeing as my tubeless setups were all okay using Stan’s I didn’t feel like reinstalling my tires just to test the sealant. So I gave 1 tube to Scott and 1 tube to Kurt. Both were installing ghetto tubeless setups on their bikes.

I spent a lot of time helping Kurt get his mountain bike setup tubeless. It was a pain at first, but that’s because he’s using rims and tires that were not designed for a tubeless application. We eventually got the tires to hold air reliably with Blue Seal. I don’t think that’s any fault of the sealant. It was simply a tough application.

Scott’s setup worked as far I know. He had one front wheel burp that was not possible to reseal on the trail, but he’s running a ghetto tubeless setup as well so I wouldn’t blame that on the sealant. It seemed as messy to deal with as Stan’s when we tried to re-seat the tire. Sealant is gooey by nature.

There were no punctures during the test period. Although Kurt found a decent sized hole [ie. large thorn] in one of his tires during setup. It took a little bit for the hole to seal 100%, but it’s fine now. I had a similar sized hole in one of my 29er tires and it took several tries with Stan’s to seal. I couldn’t convince Kurt or Scott to run over nails to test the sealing properties of this product further. ;)

Blue Seal…

Here’s the manufacturer’s spew:

Finally and environmentally-sound, non toxic inner tube flat preventive. ALSO works with tubeless tires. It forms a seal using natural nano-fibers which harden up to form a plug when exposed to air. Doesn’t leave an oily or sticky mess like other sealant…you know what we mean if you’ve ever had to change a tube or tire that experience punctures with sealants. Applicator tube includes valve core removal tool.”

I have no way to evaluate the environmental claims of the product and we didn’t try putting any into tubes as a sealant.

Tire sealant like inner tubes is not a glory product. Unless it lets you down you really don’t notice it. Blue Seal worked fine with ghetto tubeless setups. If it was on the shelf at my LBS I’d be happy to use it.





New Liquid Force Envy 12m Kite…

5 10 2012

Sharon’s new 12M Envy…

I first laid my hands on a Liquid Force Envy in 2010 when KPS [Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham] lent me a demo to try. It was very well made and seemed like a fun kite that I figured would be good for my GF Sharon when she out grew the hand me down kites I gave her to learn on. As it turned out that’s exactly what happened and Sharon bought a 9m Envy last summer. After using it for a few months she picked up a 7m Envy. The 7m & 9m Envy really worked well for her. They are easy to fly, stable and they have lots of performance potential when you are ready to rock. The only problem was when things were light she had to go back the big old 12m hand me down kite. So she picked up a 12m Envy last week to round out her quiver. She’s fairly light so if she can’t ride a 12m kite it’s probably time to sip on a Margarita and get a tan ;)

LF Envy in action…

Her new kite looks like the one above, but with more blue in it. That’s good because her 7m & 9m kites are pink and I was hoping to borrow the 12m Envy when Sharon wasn’t using it. I lack a kite between my 10m & 17m sizes so I figure having lent her kites and boards to learn on it would only be fair if she lent me that 12m Envy from time to time. I’m happy it’s not hot pink ;)

Sharon showing some Liquid Force Envy love…

Besides the great construction and confidence inspiring performance we keep buying more Envys because Liquid Force stands behind their product offering superb customer service. At the dealer level Kite Paddle Surf has been fantastic about answering questions, providing setup tips and generally making sure we get the most from our kites. I contacted Liquid Force HQ about buying some replacement lines for one of Sharon’s kites after we cut them by accident and they sent us what we needed to fix the problem at no cost. Thanks!

I should note the Envy isn’t a beginner only kite. Although it’s plenty stable if you ask it to turn it will spin around on its axis nice and fast for a constant pull through a turn or to give you some hang time when you jump. I know lots of expert kiteboarders who ride them as the core of their quiver. My main kites will need replacing after next season and I’ll definitely be looking at the Liquid Force line up to see what they’ve got for me.

Now that Sharon has 3 new or nearly new Liquid Force kites she should be good in that department for a few seasons. I bet her next kiteboarding purchase will be a pink surfboard. ;)

BTW – I should also mention we really like the LF bar. It’s comfortable and the below the bar depower is easy to use. It provides 100% depower when you punch out from the chicken loop and the all plastic construction of the safety release means sand or corrosion won’t be an issue.

You can read my older posts about our LF Envys here.





Tioga Zero Pedals…

7 09 2012

Click image for product info…

I’m digging these ultra-low profile Zero MTB pedals from Tioga. I get frequent pedal to rock/root strikes on my Santa Cruz Nomad so these would make a nice upgrade. As a comparision these pedals are 4-7mm thick while the NRG low profile pedals on my Nomad at 17-18mm thick. They look dead easy to service as well and the sub-$100 cost puts them in a competitive price range to the other options I’d consider.

Click image to jump to Pink Bike and read what they have to say…

They work with all standard MTB cranks so retro-fitting is no problem. No spindle – just a huge inboard bearing. You can watch  a product video from Tioga here.





Buddy Flaps – Sharon’s Cross Check…

28 08 2012

Front Buddy Flap…

I bought Sharon a set of Buddy Flap mud flaps for her Surly Cross Check more than a year ago and just managed to get my lazy butt in gear to install them.

The complete set…

They are long thick vinyl flaps with reflective stickers applied. I’ve used them on both my LHT’s and been happy with them. I like the fact they come down nearly to the ground at the front for complete splash protection. I also like the custom graphics. The flaps themselves are quite durable, but the reflective sticker can be damaged. I suspect the nice folks at Buddy Flaps would send you a new sticker set to fix any damaged ones, but I haven’t asked them yet.

Rear Buddy Flap…

You can get all sorts of graphic options on your Buddy Flaps including custom images/text. The package comes complete with all the hardware you need to mount them. You just drill some holes in your fenders and bolt them on.

The old mudflaps…

Her old mud flaps worked fine, which, is part of the reason it took me so long to get the new flaps installed. However, the new flaps do look a lot nicer.

A happy bike commuter…

I’m still of the opinion that given the reasonable cost a set of Buddy Flaps is a great upgrade for any fendered bike. This customized touch makes us smile every time we climb aboard.





Jeff Jones Loop H-Bar Review…

27 08 2012

Jones Loop H-Bars on my Surly Pugsley…

I’ve been using the Titec version of Jeff Jones’ H-bar design for ~4yrs and liking it a lot for all day comfort. It provides 3 distinctly different hand/body positions as you move from the end of the bars to the middle cross bar to the forward position. The normal cruising position is with your hands on the rear part of the bar towards the ends. This give you lots of control and an upright riding posture. If you move your hands to the front on the bars you narrow and lower your riding position for better aerodynamics. I sort of think of these bars as drop bars for MTB shifters/brake levers.

Front view…

The Titec H-bar has a fairly short grip areas at the ends of the bar making positioning controls – particularly gripshift style shifters – a challenge. I’ve always managed to find a work around, but the resulting shifter and brake lever placement never made me happy on steep technical terrain.

Lately it seems that the Titec H-bar is hard to come by. I’m not sure if that’s because they are no longer making them or if there is just a hiccup in the production cycle. So I thought I would review the aluminum Loop H-bar which is sold direct by Jeff Jones. Getting your hands on a Loop H-bar shouldn’t be too hard.

Titec H-bar top & Loop H-bar bottom…

If you click on the image above you can read a detailed post discussing the differences between the the two versions of the H-bar. What should be obvious is that the Loop H-bar has a closed loop of material at the front of the bar and that the rear bar end portion is considerably longer than the Titec H-bar. The middle cross bar portion also meets the outside portion of the bars at different angles. The upshot of all this is that you have room to fit any controls & grips you want without a hassle. The forward loop also gives you some bar space to mount lights, GPS or other gadgets.

Tons of room for brake lever, shifter and grip…

There are a couple downsides to the Loop H-bar vs. the Titec H-bar:

  • Loop H-bar costs $120 vs. the $75 the Titec H-bar sold for when you could actually find them for sale
  • the extra grip length of the Loop H-bar shortens the effective top tube reach and requires a larger frame or longer stem

The Loop H-bar is probably a bit heavier due to the extra material up front, but I’m not a gram counter so it’s not something I worry about. You can get a cut version of the Loop H-bar from Jeff Jones that is similar [not identical] to the Titec H-bar and Jeff offers his bars in an expensive titanium version as well if you want to lighten your wallet.

The “loop” in the Loop H-bar…

My hope was that by getting an optimal placement of the grips/shifter and brake levers I’d really like these bars for technical riding. They work better than Titec H-bars when tackling steep gnarly MTB terrain, but I can’t say I love them for that application. While the Titec H-bars were poor for that type of riding I’d rate the Loop H-bars just okay. By comparison using a standard MTB riser bar on my Pugsley is much better when mountain biking than the Loop H-bar.

Now bars are a personal thing and Jeff Jones really promotes the use of Loop H-bars on his line of MTBs. So they work for some people. Just not me.

Shredding the gnar with my Loop H-bars…

On the other hand I do love these Loop H-bars for all the other non-technical riding I do. For a commuter bike or a touring rig they are ideal. You get a bunch of hand positions including one that’s reasonably aerodynamic. The main hand position at the end of the rear portion of the bars is particularly nice as it is relaxing for the body and hands are spread wide for lots of control on the bike. At the moment four of the bikes in our garage are equipped with either Titec or Loop H-bars.

Fully taped Titec H-bars…

You’ll notice that my Loop H-bar only have Ergon Grips on them and the rest of the bar is bare. The H-bar is totally functional without any tape for shorter rides. However, I’ve had issues with riding them for longer all day/multi-day trips – especially when it’s cold & wet. The bare metal gets slippery and sucks the heat from my hands. That’s not fun. I like a double wrap of cork tape on these bars once I’ve got my controls figured out. It gives a nice comfy place to hold onto. I’ll be wrapping my Loop H-bars sooner or later.





Need more traction…

23 08 2012

Lots of traction pins…

Sharon bought a pair of these low cost platform pedals for her Pugsley that were giving her a lot more grip than the pedals on her Santa Cruz Nomad. It was one of those problems she didn’t fully appreciate until she tried another setup that worked much better for her. Having confidence in your shoe + pedal interface is crucial for a mountain biker – especially one who is still learning a ton each ride. So she bought another pair of the same pedals and I installed them on her Nomad. She’ll keep the old pedals for a less demanding application like on a city bike.

5.10 shoes and grippy platform pedals make for a happy trail rider…

Platform pedals and sticky rubber 5.10 mountain bike shoes can be an amazingly effective combination for traction, comfort and ease of leaping off the bike during a fail techy move, but not all pedals grip your shoes as well as they should. It’s worth experimenting with a few models before you invest in a pair of new platforms.





Velocity P35 Rims Initial Review

15 08 2012

Velocity P35 rim and Hope Pro II hub…

I’ve been staying away from any bike bling websites this year to keep my limited bike budget in check. My plan has been to focus any $$ spent on existing bikes I am riding a lot. So naturally my Santa Cruz Nomad came to mind. I’ve been interested in trying out the wide Velocity P35 rims with Continental Trail King 2.4″ tires. My stock Nomad wheels are 4yrs old and have taken a beating so I figured a new set of hoops was a good investment and that way I’d always have a spare wheel in case of a failure.

P35′s setup tubeless…

Building up quality wheels from parts is expensive so I kept putting the project off as it felt like too much money to drop all at once. Then a generous friend bought me the Velocity P35 rims as a surprise gift [thanks!] which got the ball rolling. I hunted down a deal on the Hope Pro II hubs the following month and then a month later paid for the spokes/nipples/wheel building. It was hard to wait that long to get everything rolling, but teaching myself a little impulse control isn’t a bad thing!

Whoa that’s wide…old vs. new…

The difference in width between the stock DT Swiss 5.1D rim and the P35 is shocking. You gain at least 30% in width jumping to the wider rim with a weight gain of only 100g per wheel. The P35 is also said to be stiffer due to the width and profile of the rim.

Tubeless baby!

I’ve enjoyed the tubeless Continental Trail Kings on my Nomad’s stock rims so I wanted to setup the new wheels tubeless. They were easy to mount tubeless. I used a layer of Stan’s yellow tape with a Stan’s rubber freeride rim strip over top and a healthy dose of sealant. So far they have been 100% reliable losing next to no air.

These rims are painted which has resulted in the odd nick in the finish already. I would have preferred if they were anodized red. The P35 stickers looks lame, but they are starting to peel off so I’ll just complete the job and enjoy some unbranded rims. Overall the red wheels add a nice splash of colour to this bike and I’m counting on them to help it pop out of the frame in gloomy mountain bike action shots.

My Nomad before…

To be fair I had no complaints about my Nomad running the stock wheels. They’ve seen a minimal amount of maintenance and never given me any trouble.

After…

It’s hard to capture how damn wide these 2.4″ tires look mounted up to the P35 rims. The only word that comes to mind is – Massive! The profile is also a lot flatter without the excessive “light bulb” bulge that happens on the narrower rim. I used a pressure of 21psi rear and 18psi front. I may go lower yet. With the narrower stock rims I was running closer to 24/21psi. Combining the better tire profile and lower pressure I am expecting awesome traction from this setup – although I won’t fully get to test this out until it starts to rain in September.

Continental Trail King mounted on P35…

One issue to keep in mind is that wide rims and wide tires need a lot of frame clearance to fit well. This combo is pushing the capabilities of the rear end of the Nomad to the limit with just a little room to spare. Our wet weather riding doesn’t involve any sticky mud. If it did my rear wheel would probably lock up frequently.

What clearance?

Of course given the suspension capabilities of the Nomad I don’t think there really is a need for bigger rubber.

Love that red!

Summertime on the South Shore of Vancouver Island is the wrong time of the year to test traction as it’s dry and everything is hooking up well. So I’ll follow up on this review in the winter with an update on that front. What I can say so far is that the steering precision of my Nomad has gone from decent to laser beam like. I didn’t notice a problem in the past, but now I can ride just about any line I want with confidence that wherever I want my bike to go it will go – exactly. I chalk that up to having stiffer rims and most importantly a better tire profile. With the support of the wider P35 rims the tire doesn’t squirm as much laterally allowing for very accurate steering.

Hope Pro II hub…

The Hope Pro II hubs look lovely and have been working fine. I like the fact that these hubs are easily converted to any wheel standard with a set of low cost adapters. My Nomad is 4yrs old and although I plan to keep it another 4yrs it’s quite possible that a hard crash or the constant pounding it takes might necessitate a new frame or fork at some point. I wanted to make sure these wheels could be used on any new frame/fork standard I end up running. From what I hear these hubs are easy to service and don’t need frequent maintenance. I’m still on the same bearings in my DT Swiss hubs so I imagine I won’t be servicing the new Hope hubs for many years.

One thing to note about Hope rear hubs is that they make a very loud sound when freewheeling – definitely not trail ninja friendly.

Not a lot of clearance up front either…

I didn’t weigh these rims or wheels so I won’t talk much about that aspect other than to say wide rims and wide rubber are clearly not weight weenie items. However the specs on the P35′s show them to only be 100g heavier than the specs on my stock DT Swiss 5.1D rims. That’s not a tragically large weight penalty in my books for the increased traction potential and improved steering precision.

These wheels are photogenic…

My Nomad has two main missions in life 1) fun play bike 2) performance mountain bike. When I am riding by myself or with slower riders it’s the first mission and when I am trying to stay in contact with faster riders it’s the second. The new wheels with wide rubber really enhance the bike’s playfulness and my ability to descend faster with confidence. On the other hand the extra weight pushes an already heavy bike further away from being a speed demon on the flats and climbs.

Front end…

If money was no object I’d keep the Nomad as is for playful riding and build up a light/fast full suspension MTB for shredding with the rocket assisted riders. That’s not going to happen anytime soon so my back up plan is to clean up the stock DT Swiss wheels and mount up some narrower/lighter 2.2″ rubber for faster rides. That will give me 2 options I can swap back and forth in a few minutes with minimal cost.

More wheel porn…

Review Summary

Wide rims that work well with fat rubber. Ideal for the all mountain rider who values steering precision and traction over lightweight.

Pros:

  • stiff
  • improved steering precision with wide 2.4″ tire
  • look great
  • not too heavy for wide rim
  • built up true
  • easy to setup tubeless
  • expect improved traction [to be confirmed]

Cons:

  • heavier than a standard width rim
  • expensive to build custom wheelset
  • painted finish not as durable as anodization
  • wide rim + tire may not fit into some frames
  • cheap looking stickers that peel off easily




On One Scandal 29er Review…

8 08 2012

My On One Scandal 29er mountain bike in bikepacking mode…

Overall

The On One Scandal is a value priced lightweight aluminum 29er hardtail mountain frame with XC geometry and some interesting features like a tapered headset, dropper compatible seat tube and swappable dropouts for vertical or horizontal.

Lots of room for big rubber…

Construction

The tubes are big as you’d expect from an aluminum frame with decent industrial looking welds. The tapered headtube has a gusset at the downtube junction for added strength. The Dekerf-esque seat stays look nice and provide a lot of clearance for big rubber and mud. I got the black anodized finish which is robust and looks good with fairly subtle laser etched logos. For a low cost production frame the quality and attention to detail is very high. Frame weight is under 4lbs. I didn’t weigh my 19.5″ frame, but it was definitely not the usual 6lb Surly steel frame I’m used to. The swappable dropouts offer vertical or horizontal options that can be changed any time.

Gusset…

Here’s what On One has to say about the Scandal 29er:
“Our award winning Scandal is back in a new updated incarnation bringing even more to the big wheeled genre than before. Starting at the front, a new tapered head tube means big fork compatibility. Using our Smoothie Mixer taper headset standard, the Scandal 29 can take taper or straight steerer forks, and is even compatible with our new “slackset” to kick the head angle out for more all-mountain playful handling.

A curved seat tube gives better rear wheel clearance and takes a 31.6mm post, so is “dropper” compatible. Clamp size is 34.9mm.

Gear routing is under the BB for this model, so a bottom pull, low clamp, 34.9mm front mech is used.

BB shell is 68mm English threaded.

Out back, the frame gets the swapout treatment and is fitted as standard with our Type b2 vertical dropout for disc brake compatibility.

Rack mounts are integrated into the rear stays for those that want to do it a.

Frame tubing is a mix of 7046 high strength thin wall multi butted alloy main tubes and 7005 butted and shaped rear stays. Chainstays are bridge less with reinforcing gussets for increased fatigue strength and clearance.

Seatstays are classic on one wishbone style.

Two bottle mount points are fitted. One on the seat tube and one on the downtube. Seat tube one may be obstructed by a high mount front mech. Low mount mechs are possible only with a 42t or larger outer chainring. Sorry.

Likewise, brake hose routing should follow the top tube and seat tube guides due to possibility of interference with gear cabling on downtube.

Geometry is identical to classic Scandal and Inbred 29 geometry. 444mm rear stays with 72deg head angle on all but the 16in model which features a 71deg angle.

Frame weight is slightly more than previous models, but still certainly well under 4lb, which is best in class at this pricepoint.

Frame finish is either : “Super raw”. Rough brushed then anodised, with lazer graphics. This finish is factory raw so each frame is unique.Ano black. Blast finish with black anodise then lazer graphics.  Taiwan Racing Green paint with white outline graphics.

Scandal has our standard 2yr manufacturing defect warranty.”

On One Scandal 29er geometry chart…

Geometry

The Scandal 29er shares On One’s XC geometry with the Inbred and other On One frames. The steep headtube angle can be slackened by using a longer travel suspension fork and/or an On One slackset headset. I’m using a standard headset with a 100mm Rock Shox Reba RLT fork. The steering isn’t overly quick and although the Scandal isn’t the ideal weapon for our steep & techy local all mountain style trails it’s been fine when pressed into service.

Being scandalous in Sedona…

The Ride

My Scandal was built with bikepacking in mind:

  • large 19.5″ frame
  • Rock Shox Reba RLT 100mm fork
  • Alfine 11 IGH
  • Stan’s Flow rims
  • Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4″ tires
  • Porcelain Rocket bikepacking bags

For mountain bike touring and non-technical dirt/gravel riding it does very well. The handling is stable, but responsive. I’ve got the horizontal dropouts mounted and the IGH about mid-way back in them. Coupled with a large frame that gives me a pretty long wheelbase. The suspension fork and big wheels take the edge of rough surfaces. The wide supple tires roll well and provide excellent grip. The big wheels and rigid frame climb well. The large frame provides a stretched out riding position for covering ground efficiently and allows a decent sized frame bag to be used. The Alfine 11 provides a weatherproof drivetrain that can’t be damaged during a hike-a-bike or when the inevitable crash occurs.

When it comes to straight up mountain biking the Scandal 29er does great as long as the terrain doesn’t get too rough and steep. The steep angles and stiff frame are not BC all mountain riding friendly. That’s not really a fair test of an XC frame. Having said that the Scandal with a dropper post gets the job done on our local trails even though I’d rather be on my 6″ FS MTB most of the time. The frame has a ton of clearance for big rubber and mud which combined with an IGH make it an excellent winter mountain bike.

If I had bought the Scandal primarily for mountain biking I’d have picked an 18″ frame for a shorter wheelbase for more nimbleness and used a slack set to make the bike more stable on steep sections.

As a bikepacking rig or for XC riding the Scandal is a good choice. If your riding leans towards the steep gnar I’d look for a frame with slacker angles and for really rough terrain you’ll want a FS bike not a stiff aluminum hardtail.

Me and my Scandal with The Porcelain Rocket…

My Recommendation

For a value priced hardtail with a lot of versatility I don’t think you can go wrong with a Scandal 29er. The On One US store has them on sale at the moment for $299USD! The Scandal takes a rear rack, tapered forks as well as standard 1 1/8″ forks, dropper posts, derailleurs, IGHs, or SS/FG setups with clearance for 2.4″ wide 29er MTB rubber. That means you can do just about anything you want with this bike. You can get an On One Inbred 29er in steel if you prefer that frame material, but it will weigh 2lbs more.

If you want to ride all mountain/freeride terrain pick something else like a Canfield Nimble 9 or a Kona Honzo.

Horizontal dropouts with disc brake mounts inside the rear triangle so you can use any standard rack…