Thursday, October 2

Just the Tipples

I was going to write about the upcoming 6 days of Living La Vida Bachelor and the options of big rides, nights of insobriety, a six hour race this Saturday (that is now canceled), and days of veggies and protein fueled weight loss.  No race, less options... mebbe I can do the ALL the things that are left.  Doubtful.

A thread that refuses to die on MTBR has inspired me to write a more specific topical post.  Specific, but an entire ramble of thoughts on multiple topics.  Bear with me, possibly learn something, or mock me on FaceBook later.

Back in 2006, when I had the opportunity to do the Trans Rockies after winning the Race Face XC Challenge contest, we (The Wonderboy and I), enjoyed the added benefit of having some support.  Every day, a mechanic we called Wrenchie (for no real reason) would go over our bikes, top to bottom.  I asked him why he was bothering, since we were both on rigid single speeds.

"You think you can ride your bike for three to six hours, day in, day out and not have things vibrate loose?"

"Well, I did..."

Three things have stuck with me from my college years that are relevant now.  One was a novel I had to read for some class I don't remember, Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart."  Another was the second law of thermodynamics, otherwise known as entropy.  The last thing was something a comedian once said...

"Life, death, and in between... maintenance."

I've been racing endurance style events since around 1999.  I've seen all manner of things lying on the trail or in the woods.  Tubes, bottles, tools, jackets, entire saddle bags, pumps, eyewear, keys, blinkies, CO2 cartridges... if someone carries it, someone has dropped it.  Long periods of saddle time, bouncing and jostling, blurry thought processes, poor planning, shitty equipment.  So many things to blame.

Here's some tips from a guy who over-thinks everything.

If you don't wanna lose anything, wear a pack.  Keep everything inside the zippered compartments and don't worry about anything ever again... other than your sweaty torso, tired shoulders and sore back.  Your shit is as secure as your brain can keep it.  You are the weak link here.  Countless times I have looked over at my friend's pack to see an open zipper.  I can see their brain start flashing back...

"When was the last time I opened it?"

Hopefully it wasn't before you started down Black Mountain from the top (remember, where you smoked your weed...).

Speaking of zippers, they do sometimes fail.  If you do carry a pack, do yourself (and your pack wearing buddies) a favor.  Toss seven or eight safety pins in your pack.  They can be a ride-saver and they only weigh as much as... I dunno, seven or eight safety pins.

The only other time I've seen a pack be a problem is when the user unloads half the shit they are carrying to get to the one tool they need and spreads everything out yard sale style in the woods.  Things get kicked, lost in the leaves... you name it.  Find and or create a clean work area, lest you lose something important.  You won't realize it's gone until you need it again... 

like your keys for example.

If I'm hyper-anal about anything, it's car keys.

If you're carrying them, please tell me you have them clipped to a lanyard, a tether or a carabiner.  Even if you are wearing a pack or using a saddle bag, remember that yard sale scenario I mentioned above.  I never leave my key tucked up in some hidey-hole in my car unless I'm traveling to a race with someone faster than me (or who might quit early).  Someone can smash my windows, but opening the door will set off the alarm if they don't use the key.  Everybody knows all/most of the spots you might put your key... why risk it?

I don't carry my key in my Tülbag.  I "biner" it to the mega zipper pull.

I don't wanna cram it on the inside.  Mostly because if I need to get to something inside, I'll have to remove my gigantor modern electronical key to get to it, and now I risk misplacing and/or losing it.  It's safe, and I'm not gonna drop it if someone asks to borrow my 4mm Allen or if I'm digging for my emergency $20 to buy beer.

I carry a full size chainring bolt and a spacer so it can be used with a single ring setup... even if I'm riding my single speed with a direct mount chainring.  Why?

Because one rider's lost chainring bolt can ruin a whole lot of other people's day.  I'm willing to bet most bent chainrings started with a loose and then missing bolt.  Checking your bolts is a great idea... if everybody does it.  Otherwise, carry one for anyone else to use.

Speaking of tightening bolts, take a tip from Wrenchie.  Check them.  When you're bored, grab a Y-wrench and go to town.  Just make sure they're snug when you hit 'em.  You don't have to add X amount of Newton meters with every tug..  Just make sure nothing is coming loose.

Yes, this is advice from a guy who had to tighten his front brake (to keep it from falling off and killing me) in the last race I did.  Also the same guy who blew his only chance to win the Shenandoah Mountain 100 because I installed my bottle cages with rotor bolts, one came way loose, and I wasn't carrying a T-25.  Do as I say, most definitely not as I do.  Learn from my mistakes, also not as I do.

More pointless advice.

Don't just put your stuff (whatever it may be) in a plastic bag and toss it in your jersey pocket... unless you can afford to lose it.  A gel gets launched in a crash?  You'll live.  Your phone gets tossed in a tumble (ahem... Peter)?  It sucks.  Plastic bags will keep your shit dry, and I guess that's a good thing if your phone is going to spend some alone time on Wheeler Pass at 12,000 feet.  The Tülbag and Fonbag have a purpose.  If you can find something similar you like to put in your jersey pockets, great.

But for the sake of all that makes sense, don't put things in ziploc bags and toss them in your jersey pockets.  Fonbags are $15, Tülbags are $11... your smart phone and tools are a whole lot more than that.

If you strap anything to anything, check it as often as you check your bolts.  Straps, saddle bags or just shit strapped to the outside of your pack or helmet.  It can get loose over time.  Repeated exposure to elements (rain, humidity, arid climates) and a certain amount of jostling and vibrations can affect the security of your load  This also falls under the "do as I say, not as I do" category.  I swear I try to remember, but I don't always do a great job.  One of the benefits of swapping between light tubes for racing and heavy tubes for general riding is that it forces me to check my strap on occasion, and for that matter, tube integrity.

Tube integrity.  No matter how you carry your tube, that thin (like .45mm to .90mm thin) butyl rubber can get holes in it.  Keep in mind that they were designed to hold air inside a much BURLIER rubber carcass of a tire.  Not rub up against your keys and tools, not be folded up tight enough to fit in your nostril or be taped to your stem for a year.  Want to throw it in your pack and forget about it?  Put it in a zip-loc bag with some talc, toss that in a sock, toss that in another sock, and never worry about it.  Otherwise, remember that the thin piece of rubber you're carrying around (however you choose to do it) might be the thing that stands between you finishing a ride and finding out how far of a walk it is back to the car.

Which in the case of riding something "epic" like Monarch Crest, can be like a million miles.

Carry some duct tape/Gorilla tape.

It's way too easy to carry it, wrapped around anything you can think of, and it will fix way too many issues.  That loose bottle cage that I spent too much time fiddling with a 4mm trying to jam it into a T-25 bolt, not wanting to damage my frame if they just ripped out?  Yeah, duct tape = winning.  Just like the duct tape I had wrapped around the pump I had in my pocket... that I totally forgot I had.  Broken shoe straps, missing zip ties, splinting broken parts, emergency medical supply... you name it.  THERE IS NO REASON TO NOT CARRY IT.

BTW: Backcountry Research has a sale going on right now.

Sale ends tomorrow on October 8th.  That's one thing.  The other is that they are shutting down for awhile very soon for "retooling" or something like that.  Get it now or don't for awhile, I guess.
That's all I can think of right now.  I'm taking tomorrow off... sleeping in just in case things get weird this weekend.


Anonymous said...

"a certain amount of jostling and vibrations can affect the security of your load" Sorry, this distracted me..

Rob said...

Thats funny you posted this, I've been riding my 2x10 for the last year with 1 of my 4 chainring bolts missing. Came close a few times to ending up on 1 or 2 (loose). Time to order up some spares.

Anonymous said...

Corporate shill.

patski said...

Was on a huge ride last summer, miles from any pickup point and one guy lost a cleat screw. One of the guys had two spares, just because....

Anonymous said...

As a fellow Honda Fitter, go to your dealership and get a "skeleton key" made. Leave that behemoth in the car and carry the ultralight skeleton key instead. Well-worth $5.50.

- p nut