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Monday, June 26

Book of Normal

Planning a weekend ride with others. The texts start flying in spits and sputters on Friday.

"Which day are we going?"

"Where we gonna ride?"

"Who's coming?"

"Who's driving?"

etc.

It's a somewhat painful process.

Zac was the only one with an opinion as to the "where" part.  He wanted to go to Big Ivy.  I'd only ever been there once.  I hit up Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever for some intel.  He's basically poops on the Big Ivy idea and says we need to go to Hot Springs... which is more than three hours away, and assuming one stop at Bojangles and a gas station, more like three and a half.  Both ways.  For a day trip.

Up on a Sunday at 5:00AM, meet up with Bill Nye in the agreed upon location.  I ask, "Why don't we just go to Rocky Knob instead?"

Much less adventure but also much less time in a car.   I've only been there once, and I remember a magical playground that while lacking in overall mileage, it makes up for it in features, terrain, elevation, and happy fun times.  The audible is called. 

I call Zac, explain the feels, Daily shows up, and we're headed to Rocky Knob.

Hooray.

I took plenty of photos the first time we got on Stone Binge, but forgot to set the camera up correctly.  All blurs and trbl.

We hit pretty much everything out there, trail-wise.  Most of it twice.  Some of it thrice.

The ride was probably more of what I needed and less of what I didn't.

Not so much focused on how far we would go...

But how much fun we could have.

To be honest, a big mountain ride where we only really see each other at the top of a climb and the bottom of a descent would not have done as much to recharge the batteries.

But flying down Pumps Berms and Jumps a few times over and over... buneos.

Weekdays are such an agenda filled mess.  I need weekends that are less so sometimes.

So, the super bonus of getting up so ridiculously early was a day of riding in super cool temps in late June.  The humidity was so low, it felt like we were on another planet.  Off the mountain by 1:30PM, it was a no-brainer to head into Boone for a stop at Black Cat Burrito.

Two more open weekends to fill (one of them a four day weekend that I didn't ask for) before Dirt Rag Dirt Fest.  Yeth, I'm complaining about a mandated four day weekend.  I want my extended weekends when I want them, not when every other person in the US is out and about clogging up the works.  Pisgah gonna be like Disneyland come this Friday. 

If I wanted to be around so many people, I'd go to the mall.  On Black Friday.

Do people still go to the mall?  Are there still malls anyways?

What do normal people complain about?

Thursday, June 22

Handie Meh

That broken XTR Trail lever thing that happened moments before the last stage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic that had me riding with a glob of Gorilla Tape replacing the part that keeps my finger from slipping off the end?

It bothered me on a physical level as much as it did a mental level the entire day.  My chi was in a sad state.  Life was unbalanced.

It bothered me enough that the first time I stopped for gas on the way home the next day, I sent a text to both Donald and Bryan at Bike Source.

"Can you order please and thank."

After I unloaded the car of all my stage race paraphernalia, I went to work on the broken lever to see if first of all, I could remove it myself.  Secondly, would I be able to figure out how to put it back together?

It looked simple enough.

So, the new lever blade showed up the next week, and that evening I went about putting it all back into place after a long week of staring at my sad lever-less bike just sitting there.

The whole thing kinda has four pieces... sorta.  I mean, it comes out of the bag altogether, but when you go to slide the pivot pin back into place, you need to align the holes in the lever with the hole in the Servo Wave mechanism and the two tiny springs... which appear to be captured in place, but mebbe not.

It probably took me a half hour of struggling and most of a beer in my poorly lit bike room to get it all to agree to fit back together.

Now, if you've never fondled a Servo Wave equipped lever before, it has this little bit of play that allows you to pull the lever away from the direction of normal use.  All I know is that everything went back together and the brake actuated the pistons so whatever.

And then my next few rides were on my other bike and then I head to Kanawha State Forest and then I roll around in the parking lot and then I realize that something's wrong.

Shit.

The lever is just flopping around in the resting position.  It still makes the brakes work, but something is definitely not bueno in the world.

Were we incorrect in thinking that there was no left/right specificity for the lever blades?

Was something else wrong with the brake?

Did I not put the blade in correctly?

Ding ding.  More than likely.

I end up thinking about it the whole ride, frustrated with myself for not paying attention when I took it apart, but also that I didn't bother taking the bike outside for a spin when I was done.

Back at the hotel, I was so tempted to take it all apart.  I had tossed the Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX in my messenger bag before leaving home, thinking that it couldn't hurt to have it just in case I needed it.
I also knew that this was our "couples" vacation.  I shouldn't be in the hotel room messing with something just because my anal compulsion can't bear occupying same space with a malfunctioning bike part.  That doesn't mean I didn't think about it every fifteen minutes tho.

A long, sweaty drive home in the Honda Fit of Rage, unload the car, fill the washing machine with dirty clothes, hear The Pie jump in the shower... grab a beer and head down to the bike room.

I stare angrily at the confounding brake lever blade, and shine a light on the left one that was assembled correctly looking for a clue.  Put things in, pull them out, in, out, in, out... putting the pin back in place and taking it back out again.  The entire time, I'm thinking about the whole "The definition of insanity is..." thing.

There was a point when I thought about taking it to the shop.  They were still open, and they would get a good laugh at my expense.  I also considered just letting it wait until I had time later in the week, but I just couldn't.

At this point, it wasn't about fixing the lever on a bike I wasn't going to be riding for a week.  It was about victory or defeat.  I didn't want to be beat by a stupid bike part.

Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhh.

And then the whole assembly fell to the floor and the springs that I thought were captured were no longer.  They went... wherever it is that things go when they hit the floor in my bike room.  The Shadowy Place.

*sigh*

On my hands and knees, now cursing the soul of the person who knocked my bike over twenty days ago, unknowingly busting my lever.  I've lost at least one hour in labor and a small bit of my sanity at this point.

I find the springs and now look at the old lever and do what I can to make the two look alike (aside from the broke off bit) without blowing the springs out of that one as well.

I make the assumption that if what I was doing was wrong, I need to do the ass opposite.  Orientate the largest spring differently, shove it in place... the alignment of the tiny bits is awful.  Fiddle, wiggle, poke...

Success.

And that's what it was all about in the first place.  I go about the rest of my evening, and every time I pass the bike still sitting on the floor, I can't help but give the lever a squeeze.

Perfecting the Seven Minute Breakfast™.  Finding a rogue sock gone missing in a laundry incident.  Sorting out the reason why my air conditioning didn't work on a hot drive home from West Virginia.  Fixing a fucking brake lever... a second time... but correctly.

Little man victories.  No podiums.  No high fives.  No champagne.

But there's always beer.  Always.

Tuesday, June 20

Barring any unexpected circumstances

The never ending battle to prop of this crumbling infrastructure that makes up my human form continues.  My modified by Fattimagic shorty stem was only a piece of the puzzle.  A puzzle meant to address my rhomboid issue but one that brought even more bad things to light.

My hands that I did very bad things to doing trail work back in March continued to bother me... because I'm a moron, mostly.

The original 580mm crabon flat bar was way too narrow, but it's what I could get my hands on real quick like.  They did nothing to open up my chest while riding (something I wanted to do for my tight rhomboid muscle), so the search was on for something wider with a 26mm clamp diameter (or 25.4 with a beer can shim).

Shortly thereafter, these came into my world:

If the story is true, these bars were made by Moots for Mike Curiak... which makes sense.  If anyone could get Moots to do something custom and super neato, he could.

This bar is the same width as the ones on my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 and the Stickle Meatplow V.6.  Also, the reach on all three bikes is terribly close to one another... no wonder it feels right.  So my width issue was resolved, but I continued to do bad things to my hands.

Before the Fattimagic stem was done, I just started riding the carbon risers that were on my pump with the 50mm stem from my Stickle and some ESI Chunky grips that had come into my possession somehow.  I've had issues with using Chunky grips before on my mountain bike.  I'd assumed it was one thing or the other, but I eventually found my happy place with the Racer's Edge grips.

I figured it was just a stopgap measure until I got my bar situation figured out, and when I finally got my hands on the Moots bars, I went into the shop to get some new grips.  No Racer's Edge in stock... no patience to place an order... walk outta the store with a pair of Chunky grips.

Ride with them for weeks.  Rhomboid feeling better, not 100%, but better.  Hands still in pain on the daily tho.

What was it about Chunky grips I didn't like again?

I put my old ratty Racer's Edge grips on (yeth, I saved them) and guess what?

Two weeks later, my hand pain is all but gone.

If I had to take a stab at the hows and whys, mebbe it's my hands that are in correct proportion to my four apple tall height and their inability to get around the larger grip?  Mebbe it's the cushier grip that requires a little more squeezing to hold onto?  Dunno, but I'm glad that like most physical problems I've had, self-diagnosis and treatment or just plain ignoring them long enough has worked out once again.

Now if someone would just buy me this titanium quill stem bolt, everything should be super copacetic a-ok.

Monday, June 19

I'm older now

The best thing about my birthday weekend?

Limited time on social media and maximal time being social IRL.

The Pie and I drove up to Charleston, WV, walked over to Pies & Pints Pizzeria (not on account of the name), ate some killer cheese salads, picked up her registration materials for the five miler the next morning, grabbed our beer outta the fridge, and headed across the street from our hotel to enjoy Live on the Levee.   I had enough beer on top of a veggie-only lupper that when I went back to the hotel to take a leak, I couldn't find The Pie in the amphitheater when I came back, because... dark.   Had it not been for David "Cheese" McCormick finding me standing there looking across the crowd in a confused manner holding my giant bag of popcorn and a beer and pointing her out, mebbe I'd still be wandering around.

Anyways, kind of a late night considering she was gonna run five miles the next morning, and Cheese and Birdman were going to take me out to the Kanawha State (Tropical Rain) Forest for some mountain bike cycling.

6:40AM hasn't hurt that much in a long while.

I thought I'd ridden 95% of what's in Kanawha.  I was hoping for a ride time that would make getting up early worth it, but not make me ded in the process.   Davis Creek over to Middle Ridge, which is now a much longer trail thanks to the efforts a few riders in the area that care enough to do the dirty work.  I'm having to relearn the fact that West Virginia roots and rocks are the slipperiest surfaces on the planet when wet. 

My butt... puckers.

We get over to Wall Fork, a trail I couldn't find last time I was here.. and proceed with the getting of my ass handed to me.  Much excite doled out, and I stay on the bike for the most part, despite the fact that the bike and I weren't always on the trail.  Nice to get over my head sometimes, I guess.

We go up what Birdman tells me is the longest continuous climb in the area... which makes me feel slightly better.  I've ridden up it in the past, and it took part of my soul then.  Now I know why.

Over to Black Bear, a trail that I think I've only ridden dry, because wet... it's a whole nother trail.

More excite and butt puckering.  Birdman is patient with me.  I'm grateful.

We head over to the other side of the valley.  I think I've ridden every way possible back down to the main road.  I'm wrong.

We go down Pine Ridge (which was recently made bike legal), and more pants-shattening occurs.  Off cambers, switchbacks, rocks, roots, drops... general insanity.

Birdman says he rides out this way about three times a week.  No wonder he's so bueno on his new bike.  I doubt there's zero shat in his chamois at the end of the day.

Back at the hotel, share morning stories with The Pie, walk to Black Sheep Burritos and Brews... peruse a late breakfast menu.  Order huevos ranchero and wash it down with some Loud! IPAs... which feels weird eating a breakfast item with beer, but.... it's my birthday.

Pack up and drive to our other hotel.

Realize we both ded.  Walk to the Rite Aid for Gatorade to bring us back to normal.  Stop at the Criel Mound and learn some history while re-hydrating.  Back to the hotel for a face down in the pillow covered in drool nap.  Wake up.  Hot tub... in the presence of screaming soccer kids in town for a national tournament.   Can never get completely away from kids, I guess.

Dinner and then over to the Comedy Zone for an "intimate" performance (nice way of saying that everyone in town must be at the FestivAll downtown).  Doesn't matter.  I'm a fan of stand up, and I've never been in an audience of 28 people before.

Another late night and a glorious 9+ hours of sleep I don't normally get before having to drive back home to reality.

A most buenos 48th birthday to me with my favorite human.

I'll mention that I installed my brake lever last week with one of the spring things not where it should be, and although my brake functioned, I knew it was wrong, and it bothered the shit out of me from the moment I figured it out in the parking lot.  When I got home yesterday, I pretty much went straight to fixing it, which involved a flashlight and swearing and springs shooting all over the place and figuring shit out and more swearing and a half hour that felt like two days.

The good news is that it's back together the way it should be.

Happy birthday to me indeed.

Thursday, June 15

Forty Six & 2

Cover your eyes for a big sur...

Gawdammut.

I ruin everything.

Pardon the man rock reference, but I will be Forty Six & 2 (otherwise known as 48) this Saturday.

The Pie and I are heading up to Charleston, WV again to celebrate.  Here's hoping the "concert on the river" thing isn't a "concert under a river" thing like last year.

I hope to get some riding in at the Kanawha State Forest, The Pie is running a five miler that starts right across from our hotel, then dinner and whatnot at Black Sheep Burrito and Brews... because burritos... and brews, and then we're heading over to stay in another hotel where there's beer and a comedy club downstairs and a really old talking bird in the lobby

Come for the laughs, stay for the bird and strange people in the hot tub.

The weather's looking iffy, so I'm not sure how much maximizing of the great outdoors we'll get, but the concert is across the street from the hotel, and I've got plenty of Gore Tex to keep us dry enough to stand there and look at wet people drinking Bud Light.  If I can't ride trail, I'll probably just fart around the city on whatever bike I bring.  I love the old buildings in downtown Charleston, so buenos either way.

Lame post.  It's my birthday.  Cut me some slack. 

See yinzers when I get back.

Tuesday, June 13

Running out of room for all the sashes

I recently agreed to be a Topeak ambassador.

An offer I coulda refused, but didn't.

I have plenty of Topeak products that I rely rather heavily on in my bike room.  The digital air pressure gauge and torque wrench (also digital, natch) would be topping that list.  As expensive as the torque wrench is, it was cheaper than replacing crushed bars, stripped stems, wallowed-out slider bolts, ruined EBBs, etc.  I've had it for more than five years now... I think.  It sits nestled in its case, in a drawer, at the ready always.  The pressure gauge also has its own place, in an old Oakley case, on a shelf made from a fake PA license plate.

Other tools get mislaid about the bike room on a pretty consistent basis, but these will always be returned to their proper place.

There's at least three or four other Topeak items in my possession... the very portable floor pump that I keep in my car that I never use but my friends who seldom check their air pressure before leaving Charlotte do, the nicest chain tool on my pegboard... I can't remember everything.  I sure do like what I have tho, so why not support them?

As seems to be the case with taking on an ambassador role, I'm asked what I would want from said company, said company then sends me some of what I want, some things I didn't ask for... and a softball hat.

I'll get to the things that I didn't necessarily want because I didn't think I'd need them but are just handy enough that I can't deny how nifty they actually are eventually.

This is something I wanted:

The Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX.

I was thinking about how sweet this would be for traveling.  It has three different Nano TorqBits for 4, 5, and 6 Nm.  That's dope as hell, because I really don't wanna be guessing my torque if I'm tightening up a stem or brake lever at the Breck Epic.  I also don't like traveling with my D-Torq Wrench DX because it costs like a million dollars, and the internet pundits would have me believe that if I look at it the wrong way, it's gonna need to be sent back and calibrated...

Because a torque wrench that's in a home shop sees so much use and abuse?

So this little guy, the first night that I had it... it was sitting there on the bench.  I was replacing the broken lever blade on my XTR Trail brake.  There's a stupid set screw that's just as much of a pain in the ass to get to with a 2mm wrench as the reach adjustment on the XTR Race brakes.  I know just the tool on the pegboard I use for that job, a bent Allen key... no idea how I bent a 2mm Allen tho.

As I was reaching for it, I looked down at my new tool thing, all sprawled out earlier so I could admire it, and realized this was about 100% molar betterer than my bent Allen key.

Tiny ratchet plus extension plus 2mm bit was all the buenos in this tight spot.

While the Vertigo was already being worked on, I figured I'd take a look at my Viscoset.  See about mebbe swapping some plates around and adjusting the damping (or dampening if you're the type of person who says "front forks").

Pull everything apart, adjust some things, start to put it back together...

And realized that mebbe I could try one of the Nano TorqBits for the job.  Thomson recommends 5.5 Nm, but I've had some slippage in the past, so I go for 6 Nm.  The red bit.

So, I shoulda read the instructions first.  I'm used to my 4 Nm Ritchey Torqkey that I use on my stem face plate when I travel.  It kinda "releases" when you reach the proper torque.

This doesn't do that.

It lets out an audible click.  "Audible" if you don't have music playing loudly in the background... which I did.

Fortunately, I just missed the click.  I thought I was getting heavy handed, but when I double checked with the digital wrench, I was right at 6 Nm.  I tightened the other bolt with the music turned down this time...

*click*

Oh, there it is.

It is quiet, but when you know what you're listening for, it's noticeable enough.

Even tho it's not my bag, I would think that the size and versatility of this bundle of toolage would be good for Amateur Homeless Personing™.  Mebbe.  Dunno.  Seems like it tho.  Very complete and tidy.

I should really read instructions... and open my eyes a little bit.  I didn't even notice that the ratchet part could be used two different ways until I was over on the Topeak site grabbing images.

This is definitely going into my traveling tool bag bundle (AKA re-purposed toiletry bag).

Which, by the way, why doesn't someone make a tool bag like this?  It's the most practical thing I've ever seen for bike tools.  All those purpose-made tool rolls with slots for things just don't make sense to me because I carry mebbe two or three things that would work in them, but what about sealant and lube and brake pads and spare valve stems and patches and a chain ring and chain and CO2 and tubes and Dynaplugs... and stuff.

Something with just the right amount of organization and not everything tossed into a sack.  Am I asking for too much?

Prolly or else someone would already be making it.

More Topeak related posts when I have time to play with... two floor pumps?

Monday, June 12

Think I'm done thinking

I wanted to make a real decision.  Biased, totally, but real.

I basically have three "mountain bikes."

My Vertigo Meatplow V.7.  The go-to.  The "race" bike.  The bike I would last have pried from my cold, dead, arthritic fingers.  My twoo love.

The By:Stickle Meatplow V.6.  My "mountain" bike... mebbe "trail" bike.  The bike I've tried to replace or at least thought too much about way replacing too many times.  It's not perfect (because I couldn't see the future when it was made), but it be like it is because it do.

The Misfit Meatplow V.5.

As it sits currently, 38X18, fixed, brakeless, non-droopered... mebbe gets more saddle time than the rest of them.  The frok is different now thanks to Viscoset thing that saw me owning to ENVE MTN froks, but if you want a deal on a Niner frok... hit me up.  Anyways, great training and a somewhat safer way to go into the evening if I know beers are gonna be involved.  It's the embodiment of the joke about the pig with one leg that the farmer can't eat all at once because he loves it so much.  It's just a great bike that does what it does.

So... when I upgraded the wheels on the Vertigo... "upgraded?"

Heavier.  More spokes.  More weight... but more girth in the front.

Anyways, I ended up with a set of 24 spoke Industry Nine wheels on NOX Farlow rims... the lightest wheels I've had in a long time.  Doing nothing.  My brain wonders if the By:Stickel that has had 27.5 wheels on it for more than a year now, would be better suited with these on it.  Dunno.

All these downhillers.  Swapping to 29" wheels.  Faster.  Going down.  What am I doing wrong?

So, I decided it was time to make a choice one way or the other... with a certain amount of bias.

If I keep the 29" wheels on the By:Stickle, I can sell the 27.5" wheels and still have a backup set of wheels for the Vertigo.  This would be double good.

That bias in mind, and no real desire to collect data to compare and contrast and stare at, I figured I'd just do some riding and make the call... hoping the 29" wheels would win so I could sell off the unwanted things before non-Boost is ded.

A 29" wheel ride in Wilson Creek a week ago.  The very day that Minnaar won the World Cup DH on a bike equipped with big wheels.  The bike climbed pretty well, considering the 300 gram lighter wheelset.  But the descents... I felt like... just okay?

Another 29" wheel ride on Saturday.  Sherman Branch.  Local trail that I was reminded the reason I don't ride there is the return home traffic on Albemarle Road.  Where are those people going on a Saturday?

And Sunday.  27.5" wheels mounted back up.  Poston Park and Rocky Branch after dropping Nia off at summer camp.

The verdict?

There is nothing scientific about this.  Absolute.  The variables are many, and the data?  So subjective.

I had more "fun" on the 27.5 wheels.  Dammit.

It could be because of the super grippy 27.5 X 2.8 mid-plus Rekon ran at 17PSI.  Mebbe the girthy 2.35 Tomahawk on a wide rim... that fits so nicely in the chainstays and the yoke that was designed before 27.5 was a thing.

Perhaps the fact that my chainstay length is as short as possible with a 34 X 20 (16 3/8"), which would be the gear I'd run in the mountains and for super happy play time.  It could be the amount of beer I had the night before and the time that I rode the next day allowing for the processing of more/less toxins.  Dunno.

All I know is that the By:Stickel is staying 27.5 for as long as I can foresee.  It makes the bike different enough from my Vertigo that it feels like something else to do.  Is much bueno.  Not gonna fuck with bueno anymore.

Yeth, that means there is a set of 24 hole Industry Nine NOX wheels that are currently hanging on the wall.  Too good to put on a bike that gets ridden to "establishments."  So mebbe they're my Garvel Grindr™ wheels?  Mebbe what I'd mount up for racing when I use my Fox Stepcast... which is another thorn in my feels side.  It's the best 100mm fjork I've ever ridden, and yet it sits in the corner (upside down to keep the seals moist).  I don't wanna get rid of it because it's so awesome, but I really don't wanna use it, but if I get hurt...

This is what it's like being me.

I'm a bit of a mess.

So glad that Spencer decided to pay for some grips I was selling with beer yesterday, because it really cuts out the middle man and clears the thinky part out.