Aluminum Fatback

31 01 2010

Photo: Speedway Cycles Aluminum Fatback

Speedway Cycles now has an aluminum version of their Fatback frame/fork selling for $600 and it comes in sizes as small as 14″.

The Fatback uses:

  • 100mm e-type derailleur
  • 165mm rear hub spacing
  • 135mm fork
  • 120mm tire clearance – that’s 4.7″
  • available in pink!

Klaus’ Photos

31 01 2010

Photo: Klaus Kommoss

One of the interesting people I’ve run into in Baja several times over the years is Klaus Kommoss.  When my path crosses with his it’s always a treat to share some time chatting about life and our travels.  Klaus has posted some of the great photos he takes in Baja and other spots around the world on his Flickr site.  It’s definitely worth a look.

Memories of the Summer

30 01 2010


Cheating Family

29 01 2010


Typically I don’t waste much bandwidth on doping in cycling.  However, this article on Velonews just made me think WTF???  So your boyfriend and father of your child gets caught doping so what do you do???….keep on doping and get caught yourself. Idiotic…the only thing that can top this is if their kid goes on to be a pro cyclist and gets caught doping….=-)

Moab Warhol Moment

29 01 2010

Part of a Moab Parks Display

I was stoked to be contacted by Jason from the Sand Flats Recreation Area in Moab asking to use a photo I took last year when I was biking in Moab for a new display they were setting up.  I got a free annual pass for the area which I hope to use at least once or twice this year when I ride the Porcupine Rim Trail.   I’ll have to snap a photo of me standing next to my own photo at the display when I’m there next time….=-)

Baja SUP Report

28 01 2010

Kristin cools off

I’m really glad I took some stand up paddle boards [SUPs] to La Ventana Baja with me this year.  Although I was really keen on kiteboarding, many days started off with no wind and calm seas ideal for a SUP session.  This was a great way to start the day and get an upper body workout.  It was also really nice to see the marine life and coast of the La Ventana area from a SUP.  Kiteboarding is a very active sport and you just don’t get the same amount of time to quietly observe the area you are in.  SUP in the AM is a bit like doing yoga when you get up.  It’s athletic, but in a calm meditative sort of way.  The other advantage to flatwater SUP is you can take pretty much anyone out and they can learn the basics in 5 mins and have fun.  That’s definitely not true of kiteboarding!

There was a 7 day stretch with little to no wind early on during my stay in La Ventana and the SUPs [as well as the Surly Pugsleys] proved critical to keeping occupied and burning some energy while we waited for the wind to return.

As far as flatwater SUP goes the La Ventana area has a lot to offer with mile after mile of coast line to explore.  There is also the potential for long downwinders if you are in the mood for more challenge.

Sharon SUPing it up!

On the surfing side of the SUP equation La Ventana doesn’t normally get ocean swell so there isn’t a great surf break there. However, it does get wind driven swell from further North in the Sea of Cortez which does result in some breaks forming from time to time.  I didn’t end up surfing at all while in La Ventana.  This was largely due to the fact that I had decided not to drive my truck while I was in Baja and none of the breaks that did form where close enough to paddle to.  The other consideration that affected my decision was that I didn’t have anyone to learn to surf with so I was a bit leery of tackling that alone and possibly getting injured.

If you are keen to SUP surf in the La Ventana area you certainly can get some surfing in locally and within a 2hr drive there are some excellent surf breaks on the Pacific Ocean side of the Baja, such as at Todo Santos.  When the wind looks grim you can load up your truck and head East for a couple days to take advantage of the swell.

photo: Balmoral Boards

Not wanting to end the trip without making some progress towards becoming a SUP surfer I stopped in Santa Barbara, CA to get a lesson from the folks at Stand Up Paddle Sports.  I’m really glad I did!  I learned soooo much in my time in the water and I really appreciated the trouble I could have have gotten into trying to figure this out on my own.  Catching my first real wave was amazing!  The acceleration and power behind me was impressive and it felt so smooth and peaceful at the same time.  My stoke was brought back to reality when I rode the wave deep inside the area where the waves were breaking and had to battle my way back out with wave after wave crashing over me and my 11′ board.  Tumbling underwater, bouncing off rocks and fending off my huge board was quite the ordeal.  I sure was glad there was an expert surfer/lifeguard looking out for me and giving me tips on how to work my way back out beyond the breaking zone.

They say that the first ride hooks you for life.  I can believe it!  Even though I had been worked hard and had to struggle to get back out of the break I was excited and ready to catch my next wave…=-)

Thorn Nomad MK2

27 01 2010

Thorn's new Nomad MK2

Thorn has revamped their Nomad S&S touring bike by:

  • offering the frame with or without the S&S couplers
  • changing the frame and fork to be compatible with 80-100mm suspension forks
  • offering new colours [gloss yellow and matte black]
  • offering 6 sizes vs. 5 for the Mk1

Here is the Nomad Mk2 brochure in PDF.

My Thorn Nomad S&S MK1

I think having an option for a bike without S&S couplers is a great idea.  I know that it put off a lot of potential buyers who didn’t want the extra cost of a feature they had no intention of using.  I’m not sure how many Nomad MK2 owners will fit a 100mm suspension fork?  The Mk1 frame was offered with an 80mm fork which seems like plenty if you want suspension on your touring bike.  My guess is most Nomad MK1s and MK2s will remain as rigid bikes for simplicity and reliability.

Overall I can’t argue with any of the changes.  They are sensible and will either make people happy or will not cause any issues if you aren’t interested in them.

Burton EST Bindings – not Old Skool!

27 01 2010

Burton Supermodel snowboard with EST bindings...

Most snowboard manufacturers still use a 4 hole disc system to attach the bindings to the board.  That’s what I’ve been using for the last 20 years or so.  It works well and allows almost 180 degrees of adjustment of your bindings.  The downside is that it requires two large metal plates or some similarly stiff inserts to be built into the snowboard so you have 8 or so holes at each foot position to allow the bindings to be adjusted laterally as needed for each rider.

Burton has decided to move to a new system using a flexible channel and only two bolts per binding to hold it onto the board.  This is good because it allows the board to flex naturally and is very easy to adjust if you want to move your bindings around – say to the rear for a big dump of powder.  However, there are a few problems with the new system:

  • you only have 2 bolts holding each foot to the board so a loose bolt is a huge problem whereas with the old 4 bolt per binding system it was not much of a big deal.  Check your binding bolts every ride!
  • the binding hardware is totally unique to Burton.  If you loose one you’ll be screwed unless there is a Burton dealer close at hand.  Definitely get two spare bolts/nuts.
  • EST bindings have a limited range of stance angles for each binding [27 deg on the front and 12 deg on the rear foot].  If you ride high angles you are going to be out of luck.
  • EST bindings can’t be adjusted for as narrow a stance as traditional bindings.
  • EST bindings are not common so if you break a binding you can’t just throw another one on to get you through your trip unless it’s also an EST binding.  There is a way around this by getting an adapter disc from your Burton dealer which it makes sense to carry with you on a longer trip just in case.

Traditional Burton bindings with EST adapter...

I’ve tried my Burton Supermodel with EST bindings and they just don’t offer enough stance angle adjustment and I can’t get my feet close enough to each other to be comfortable.  I’m currently running 30 deg front/18 deg rear with a 19″ stance width.  I’m using a traditional style Burton Mission binding with an EST adapter disc provided for free by my local Burton dealer.  This gives me almost all the advantages of the EST system with nearly unlimited stance angles and a narrower stance width.

I should point out that for most new riders the EST bindings give more than enough adjustment since current trends in snowboarding are towards low stance angles and twin tip boards.  So don’t worry about it unless you have been snowboarding for 10 years+ and want to run an old skool setup.  I started in 1991 and at some points was running angles as high as 55 front and 45 rear!!

Shred Ready for Big Heads…

26 01 2010

Where is Vik?

I’ve got a Shred Ready Super Scrappy helmet I wear for kiteboarding [you can see a better photo of it here] it fits okay, but the chin straps are short enough that I can only wear it when they are maxed out and there is no extra room for adjustment.  This means I can’t wear a skull cap or wetsuit hood underneath it.  That’s too bad because Shred Ready makes some nice helmets and I like them better than any other water-sport helmets I’ve seen and tried.

I do have a big head, but nothing extreme and I’ve never had any issues with other helmets I’ve tried for biking, paragliding, climbing or snowboarding.  I tried another model of their helmets – the TDub, but it had exactly the same problem.  Bummer as I would like to be able to wear a some cold weather head gear under my helmet.

I contacted Shred Ready about the problem and they advised me their new production run of helmets has a longer chin strap – sweet!  The stock currently in stores is likely to be the old stock with shorter chin straps.  So if you are having the same issue I am hold off for as while or contact the manufacturer directly.

Tdub in white for visibility....

I’ll be picking up a TDub [stronger and more protection than the Super Scrappy] as soon as I can find a new version with the longer straps.  BTW – if you are thinking about getting a helmet for kiteboarding I just want to point out that dark colours are not ideal.  If you look at my photo above that’s the part of you sticking out of the water when you are not up and riding.  If you need help, particularly if the waves are building, it will be hard for anyone to spot you.  My new helmet will be bright white!

If you are in Canada MEC sells Shred Ready helmets, but they are currently still selling the older stock with shorter straps….fine if your head is not uber large!

Polar Opposites!

25 01 2010

Not the Baja!

I can’t complain…a day of snowboarding is better than a lot of things I can think of, but at the same time I can’t help think about how nice it would be to be walking down a beach in Mexico with my kiteboarding gear getting ready for 3-4hrs of splashing around in the ocean.  It’s nice to be home in a lot of ways, but I’m having a hard time with the cold.  I’ll adapt given some time and until then I’ll just grin and bear it.

I’ve got to do an overhaul on my Pugsley’s disc brakes because the pads have become contaminated with oil.  I’m hoping to get that done in the next couple days and then start my winter mountain biking campaign in earnest.  Between the Pugsley and as much snowboarding as my job will allow I’ll manage to smile until spring arrives.

My motivation to find a way to escape the Canadian winter completely is growing year by year…

Free Winterstick All Mtn Snowboard…

23 01 2010

Winterstick Snowboard

Update: the board is spoken for – thanks!

I’m giving away the snowboard shown above [no bindings incl.] to anyone who wants to pick it up from me in Calgary.  It’s a Winterstick All Mountain ~162cm.  It’s a stiff fast board that’s in good condition and could be used for a couple more seasons of shredding.

I was going to keep it as my rock board for poor condition riding so I didn’t damage my main board, but I don’t have any bindings that fit it and I’m just not all that likely to bother heading to the mountains if there isn’t a good base and some decent snow.  So I’d rather see someone else riding it than just continuing to store it.

2010 Birthday Wishlist…

23 01 2010

The desert can make you crazy....

I’m coming up on my 41st b-day at the end of March.  Getting older doesn’t bug me, but I do feel like I better get stuff done in the time I have left.  Especially while my health is good and I have some decent athletic capacity.  So I’ve been thinking about what I want for my birthday this year.

My list so far:

  1. dance all night under a full moon in the Mojave Desert
  2. ride the full Porcupine Rim trail in Moab
  3. get in 2 more days of SUP surfing lessons somewhere with a lot of Great White Sharks!!

I’m going to do my best to make all three happen, but I’ll happily settle for 2 out of 3…=-)

Congrats Gary!

22 01 2010

Gary's Surly Pugsley in the making...

Gary, a blog reader and a member of the Surly Pugsley Google Group, is about to become the proud owner of this new Pugsley NC Cyclery [photos above/below belong to them] built for him.  Excellent choice of a Shimano Alfine IGH and I’m liking the new Pugsley frame colour.

The finished product...

Enjoy the new ride Gary!…=-)

Wear an impact vest…

21 01 2010

My trusty Dakine Impact vest logo

One piece of gear every kiteboarder should own and use is an impact vest.  This is basically a bit of thin body armour your wear on top of your rash guard or wetsuit to distribute the force of hitting the water during a crash.  At slow speeds water is reasonably soft, but as you move faster hitting the water can be a punishing experience.  Crashing is a normal part of a kiteboarding session – especially if you are jumping and/or tying new tricks.  So being prepared for a hard landing makes sense.

Dakine Matrix Impact Vest

I’ve been using a Dakine Matrix impact vest since about day 4 of my first kiteboarding season.  Not only does it provide protection to my torso it also adds a bit of flotation so I bob on the water without expending a lot of energy when I’m in the water.

I’ve been using it so long that I started to take it for granted.  Then one day in Baja I was jumping off waves and tweaked my ribs on a couple bad landings.  I was riding along thinking “ impact vest is supposed to protect me from this stuff…” when I reached down to adjust it I realized I had forgotten my impact vest for the first time all season.  Needless to say I will be sure I’m wearing when I head out for a session in 2010.

Wearing my impact vest

Washing your hands – Just Do It!

20 01 2010

Hand washing made easy.

This is one of the most important item of gear I carry on any trip.  Why?  It doesn’t matter how awesome your touring bike is, how killer your kiteboarding setup or how many times you’ve been to Calcutta…if you don’t keep your hands clean you will get sick. Being sick ruin a trip and is never fun.  The most important way to stay healthy is to wash your hands regularly and especially after high risk activities like going to the bathroom, touching raw meat or shaking hands with a large group of people.

Most people don’t wash their hands properly with soap and water so hand sanitizer is a good option for traveling.  Especially since it doesn’t require water or a towel.  It’s cheap and now widely available.  A little goes a long way.  I’ve spent 3 months in India with a few tubes of the stuff.

My record for staying healthy on the road is nearly perfect and frequent hand washing is definitely a major part of the reason.

Waist, Shorts or Seat Harness?

19 01 2010

Two Dakine Kiteboarding Harnesses

One thing you learn pretty quick when you start kiteboarding is that you need to be really comfortable with the harness you are using because that’s the piece of gear that transfers all the power of your kite to your body and then to your board.  As a total novice I went with a Dakine Renegade waist harness [on the left above] simply because that’s what a lot of riders use.  A waist harness is simple.  It wraps around your waist just below your ribs.  The benefits are that they are uncomplicated.  They go on easily and give you lots of freedom of movement. The downside [in my experience] is that they can move around and can be uncomfortable if they move upwards impeding your breathing.  Now I need to be clear that a lot of people use this type of harness and like ’em, but there are also quite a few people that have found them uncomfortable.

A Dakine Fusion seat harness

Another option is a sit style harnesses.  These come in two varieties: the shorts harness [shown in the top image on the right] and the seat harness [shown above].  Both harnesses have a few things in common: they have leg loops and waist belt that keep the harness firmly in place, they place the point the kite is pulling from lower than a waist harness.  The seat harness has a lot more structure and gives excellent support to the lower back, but you sacrifice some mobility in exchange for the support.  The shorts harness give you more mobility and are quite minimal, but the leg loops ensure the harness remains in place.  The downside to these harnesses is that they are more bulky and more complicated than a waist harness.  So they take more time/effort to put on and reduce your mobility somewhat.  As well the since you are pulled from lower on the body they may make some advanced tricks more challenging.

Since I didn’t have a lot of luck with the waist harness I tried a Dakine Nitrous short harness and sold my waist harness.  I found the shorts style harness to be very comfortable and it allows me to move very well on the water without too much restriction.  The lower pull point of the kite is something I prefer, but I’m not doing anything very advanced yet so I may have issues with that as my skills grow.  To be fair I should point out the more advanced rider I sold my waist harness to loves it and has no issues with it riding up.

My personal experience is that of the 10-15 kiteboarders I’ve spent time with [mostly beginners, but some advanced riders as well] 75% tried waist harnesses and switched to a shorts or seat harness.  I haven’t run into anyone that started with a shorts or seat harness and was unhappy with them.

Obviously if you can demo all three styles before you buy that’s a great idea.  If you can’t and are trying to decide what to buy my advice is pick a shorts or seat style harness.  I think you’ll be more likely to be happy than going with a waist harness to start.  If you are trying to choose between the shorts and seat style harnesses I’d say go with the shorts unless you have lower back issues in which case try a seat harness due to the added support it provides.

Bottom line is that a harness is a critical piece of your kiteboarding gear.  Don’t cut corners here and if you are unhappy with what you have sell it ASAP and try something else.

Colin testing my waist harness before buying it...

Xtracycle Side Rack Protection

18 01 2010

Using an old tire to protect your rig...

I found this idea posted on the Surly Blog and thought it was crafty enough to warrant reposting.  Not surprisingly it originally came from Devo.  If 2010 sees me change accommodations and get the garage I’ve being dreaming about I will definitely give this a shot since I will be able to leave my Surly Big Dummy all setup and ready to roll.

Thanks Ian!

15 01 2010

Ian on the far right in his white Quest velomobile

Well I’m not stoked to be stranded so close to home for so many days [looks like it will be Monday before I’m rolling again…=-(], but on the plus side I got to meet Ian a local recumbent/crankforward/xtracycle enthusiast I’ve been chatting with online for a long time.  Even better he showed me his cool fleet of bikes – the prize being his lovely white Quest velomobile.  I’ve never seen a velomobile so that was very cool.  It’s a sleek machine that would be ideal for a cold/wet weather commute.

I gotta say that even though Ian has some uber cool bikes the thing I was most jealous of was the 3 car garage he has ’em in!!!!….=-)  Heck a one car garage would rock my world, but a 3 car garage is a dream scenario.

Thanks Ian for an enjoyable diversion in Kennewick, WA…=-)

It’s all relative…

15 01 2010

I thought my new truck was kinda big...

...until I saw this one!

La Ventana Photos….

14 01 2010

Hanging with Deanna on the playa....

Most of my La Ventana photos have been posted on Flickr here.  A few more may get posted over the next couple weeks.

I’m nearly home so this blog should be getting some regular attention shortly.  I’m only a day’s drive from Calgary, but my newly installed transmission failed after 8-9 days of driving so I’m stuck in Kennewick WA for a few days while a new one gets shipped to me and installed.  At least this time it’s a warranty repair that won’t cost me anything [other than hotel and food]. Seems like I picked an opportune time to replace my truck.  I won’t be taking the old one too far from home again!

Although I can’t say I was happy to leave La Ventana if I had to go home before summer this was as good a time as any.  I am looking forward to getting the Pugsley out in the snow and getting as much value from my season’s pass at Castle Mtn as I can.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season…now it’s time to welcome in 2010 and make the most of the time we have!…=-)