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Thursday, July 22

The Van with One Red Shoe 1/3 Tour: Pt 1

Yeth, I'm back early.  I can't remember where I left off, so where do I begin?

Member that I got a new bike the day Bill Nye left Charlotte and headed west with all my stuff on his three week van life experience?

Member that he took the Vassago Meatplow V.8 with him but left the front wheel in my driveway?

I member.

I ended up taking advantage of an upgrade to a first class flight so I could bring my new bike in an EVOC case and my forgotten front wheel in a cardboard box for "free."  I was thinking it was better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  I didn't tell Bill Nye that I was bringing it tho, as his van was packed to the gills already, and I was bringing my new bike... and the EVOC case.  He'd even disassembled the Vassago as much as possible to pack it as tightly as he could to make room for all my extra extras already.  I figured telling him that I was adding a wheel box would add to his stress levels.

So, up at 5:00AM EST, land in Park City at noon MT, and then I'm building a bike in a hot parking lot at the start of the Self-Shuttle Wasatch Crest Loop by 1:30 PM.  It's a nice 18 mile loop that gets close to 10,000 feet high... you know,  just to shake the legs out. 

I have to admit, it was pleasant to lock the suspension out, click through the gears, and ride relatively effortlessly.  It really felt like "being on vacation."

These poor Hostess Cupcakes never got to live up to their full potential.

Up the pavement to Guardsman Pass...

until we finally hit trail.  So strange to go up a section dubbed "Puke Hill" and be able to climb it seated at almost 9,900 feet above sea level.  Gears are so fascinating.

Bill Nye looking resplendent high above it all.

We finally topped out and got to the good stuff.  A single track ribbon that promised to deliver 2,500 feet of descent over the next five miles.  Bill Nye took off, I paused for a second to make sure my fanny pack was all zippered up, started to roll... and hit what was probably the only rock in the trail for three hundred yards...

Pfffftttt... pfffftttt... pfffftttt... pfffftttt...

Shit.  Pinch flat.  Come on sealant, do your job.  

And it did (BTW: I swear by TruckerCo Cream II sealant).  The tire was soft, but I figured I'd slow roll up to Bill Nye and borrow his pump.  No need to blow a CO2 this soon into the trip (my pump was attached to my Vassago... or it used to be... Bill Nye had removed the mount from the bike to ready it for the new bike).  Catch up to Bill Nye, let him know what's up, marvel at the huge clot of sealant between the tire's treads...

and that's when I see the crack in my crabon rim.  My new crabon rim.  Eleven days, five rides, eighty miles... cracked rim.  Day one of what was supposed to be a seven day adventure.  Shit.

Well, at least I have a spare bike, albeit it's in pieces in the back of the van.

So begins the best part of the entire ride, Bill Nye doing his thing, me babying my damaged wheel down the mountain.

Bill Nye riding the spine right before the turn down to Desolation Lake...

until he wasn't riding the spine.

He went down kinda hard on his left hand.  It was going to be "this kinda trip," I guess.  He did shake it off and went back and rode it successfully.  Then we rode all the way back down to the van.  It woulda been a shredder of a descent, but I didn't want my wheel to fail catastrophically... I dunno how a cracked rim should behave or not.

Back at the van and on the road and trying to coordinate with Matt McFee of Hermosa Tours about when he could join us for the Plunge to Palisade and heading into a remote camp spot where cell phones don't work and we barely squeak out a plan to meet him the next morning at his house in Grand Junction just before losing contact with the outside world.

My literal world of shit.  The bike that I just built out of the case hours ago now being broke down to fit in the van so I could bust out the single speed that had been disassembled to squash into a spot in the van so I could build it all back up and get it ready to plunge to be then shoved in next to Bill Nye's bike until the morning.

When you tryna tap the rockies but the rockies tapped you.

BTW: I'd posted an image of the broken rim on social media, and shortly thereafter, took it down.  Once I realized it was brewing into a shit storm, and I was headed to the middle of nowhere to sleep on BLM land, I knew I'd wake up to something I didn't wanna deal with.  Sorry not sorry.  Specialized has a two year warranty for this kinda thing, and I'm just going to write this off as a fluke.

Sure, I'm gonna replace it with Industry Nine wheels sooner or later.  Dat sealant scab tho.

Tuesday, July 13

Scrambled Legs and Damn

Good lorb.  I bought my soft-sided travel case back in the summer of 2019 when I realized I was heading towards the better and shorter end of my YOLO life experience.  When I found an EVOC on some miraculous super sale, I went ahead and threw down my money.  I've never been happier about traveling with a bike, and quite greedily, I've told friends when asked if they can borrow it, my only expectation is that they buy me a new one if it gets damaged.  I've had too many fucked up pieces of luggage and not one but two hard shell travel cases rendered unusable in the past.

Anyways, I got to travel with it once, and then Covid, and then two years later, I'm flying again.  

Suffice to say, after pulling it down from the attic, I was staring at a pile of plastic sticks and poles and scratching my head because I forgot everything I knew about how this thing works.

Although I'm flying out Thursday morning, I'm waiting to pack my bike until Wednesday.  I'm holding on to the dream that some Race Face riser bars are going to show up (not magically, I ordered them) before I leave.  I'm having a hard time mentally dealing with the fact that my controls could rip my frame apart... in a wreck just like the last two doozies I've enjoyed in the past four or so months.

I upgraded my HandUp bandana with some closed cell foam, and my clamps are loose enough that they'll spin on the bars on impact (theoretically) for the time being.

Pretty sure the riser bar won't solve all my woes.  The SRAM brake levers are H-U-G-E.  Not the actually lever so much as the body itself.  I've got some Shimano XT brakes on hold at Bike Source... but I can't put them on because I'm missing the matchmaker do-dad that makes SRAM and Shimano play nice.  I woulda bought them a week ago, but who knew a bike shop would have something in stock nowadays?

Speaking of XT anything, I also bought some XT pedals because I don't wanna swap pedals from bike to bike to go for a ride.  That said, this is my first non-XTR pedal in almost two decades?  I dunno if it's because I don't feel like I'm an XTR level rider or if the price jump from XT to XTR finally broke me, but I definitely blinked.  My days of new XTR components are ded like single speeds and 26" wheels and things being "in stock." 

I've considered naming this bike "The Money Pit," but what bike isn't?

Had I read through the 106 page Epic EVO discussion on MTBR, mebbe I woulda known this top tube issue was a problem and been able to do something about it before heading west.  Now I'm just gonna do my best to not wreck whilst risking my biscuit.  This solution I found in the thread seemed a little too extreme.

After the brakes get put on and I get my Cane Creek Hellbender bottom bracket that will let me mount some crabon Race Face warranty crunks, I'm probably going to pump said brakes on any more "improvements."  Unfortunately/fortunately, Industry Nine is slammed, so even if I order some wheels, they won't be here any time soon... but also I won't have to come up with new wheel money for awhile.  Best I can hope for is a Merry Christmas.

Same with a Fox Step Cast 34... which would take a 160mm rotor... which means buying a new rotor.

Oh, yeah.  Here's something strange...

That SID Select + that only has 120mm of travel has a minimum rotor size of 180mm.  When did that become a thing?   Not for nothing, but I weigh 135lbs (give or take), and modern brakes are a beautiful thing.  The 180 rotor weighs 20 grams more than a 160, which might seem like nothing, but to a guy who unashamedly spent his spare time Sunday evening swapping steel rotor and brake mount bolts to titanium, it's a thing.  Also for a guy who travels with ONE spare 160mm rotor just in case shit goes sideways?

Things will be dark here for, jeebus... almost two weeks.  I've got too much on my plate right now, and this trip is coming at me like a full-on blitzkreig.  Here's hoping I keep it upright till then and don't ever need this spare derailleur hanger that I spent an hour trying to figure out how to never forget... because friends don't ride with friends who don't carry spare derailleur hangers on epic backcountry adventures.

Ever.  Peroid.

But mebbe sometimes.

Thursday, July 8

(un)Perfect Timing

Not only did I buy a new squishy shifty bike just a few days before going back to being a 9-5 Monday through Friday full time bike messenger schlub who no longer has every other week off with nothing to do but ride bikes, I managed to mistime a few other things.  On the very same day that I found out I was purchasing a new mountain bike, I was perusing the Maxxis grassroots to see what was in stock, being that July was the start of the second half of the "season."

qu'Est-ce que c'est?

I don't know when the 2.8 version of the Rekon(+) came out.  I recently (a year and a half ago?) went from a Rekon 2.6 and jumped over to the Forekaster 2.6 only occasionally mounting my DHR+ 3.0 for shits and absolute giggles.  Despite owning a fully capable bike now, I still intend to do Breck Epic on my turgid SS.  It was only available in the 60TPI non-3C compound (woulda preferred the lighter/stickier 120TPI 3C), but I need to get some riding in before Breck to see if this is the tire... although I plan on doing quite a bit of shifting and squishing in the near future... so when am I gonna do that?  So stoked to have another chubby option in my rubber quiver.

That's only mounted on a 28mm rim and not the suggested minimum width of 39mm, but it's also suggested that you shouldn't eat a whole can of Pringles® in on sitting so whatever.  And yeth, I became the proud owner of a set of cheap calipers so I can answer dumb questions on MTBR.

Another poorly timed acquisition?

Not the Wahoo, but the new UTF Multi-Mount from Topeak.  That's a shitty picture but I knew I'd be able to rip a better one from the internet.


Why is this thing perfectly late to my life?  Well, as I said, I'm no longer working every other week, so I'm spending less time riding.  With fewer days off, mountain biking will be my first choice any time I can squeeze it in, so my garvel bike will be collecting dust for awhile.  That said, this allowed me to tidily mount a daytime running light (SAFETY FIRST) under my Wahoo.

And as you can see in the image I pulled from the Topeak site, you can mount up your GoPro to get all that garvel action footie to make sick edits... but more than likely just capture footage of drivers being assholes for use in insurance claims.

Womp womp.

Anyways, it's a sturdy and space saving way to mount stuff to your bars, and if people like anything about garvel, it's about attaching as many bags and gadgets and gizmos to them as possible.

Now to try and convince myself to grab the turgid SS and run into obstacles trying to figure out the correct tire pressure for my tweener fatty tire.

Wednesday, July 7

How's it going?

 So far, so good.

I got in my first ride on my EVO Epic (or Epic EVO... I need to learn what this bike is called) on Saturday.  My legs were tired from thirty four miles in DuPont the day before.  My shins were splinted from the dumb run/walk home Friday night.  All I know is that I was had an absolute blast... but getting used to how these gear things work is gonna take some time.  Obviously, climbing is going to take some adaptation to and probably some different muscles I don't have at the moment.  That said, I forgot to put a wheel sensor on, and at about fifteen miles in (but not really because GPS doesn't track trail rides for shit), my Wahoo stopped showing my movement entirely.  So get home, go to STRAVA so I can see how far my ride really was by recalculating... and I see that I'd set something like ten PRs on that ride.

I don't normally pay attention to that stuff, and hardly ever look at STRAVA because my Wahoo tells me what I want to know (calories burned that I can replace with beer and food), but it was hard to ignore all those yellow PR medal things.

And that was without even trying because I really have no idea what's what segment-wise anywhere.

Mr Donald Butler of Bike Source said I'd have my first complaint in six days.  If we're counting the day I paid for it... here we go.

125 millimeters of droop was okay... ummm... ten years ago?  I'm using 175 or more right now on my other bikes, and this is currently the most "capable" bike I own.  Hell, my garvel and my bar bike have 125mm of droop. I've done the measurements, and I can fit at least a 150 (or a 170 reduced to 155 with a 28 gram penalty).  That's gotta happen soon.

SRAM brakes.  I'd love to complain, but so far, they work.  I don't know how to bleed them, but I could learn.  I don't like having to keep two different kinds of pads on the pegboard, but I could.  So be it... for now.  Also, new brakes are expensive.

The SID fork... just like the SRAM brakes... it works.  Well enough.  I'm a Fox man tho, and I have spare seals and oil and a limited knowledge on how to put them in the places they go.  BUT Fox inventory is limited right now... so there's that.  And then, if I get a new fork, do I over-fork it and potentially ruin a bike I kinda like already?  Dunno.

Wheels.  I love my Industry Nine wheels.  The lack of engagement with the stock DT Swiss 350 hub is... disconcerting.  Oh... that clunk.  I cringe when I hear it.  That said, money + wait times - settling - effort = ?  Also, I have no idea which color goes well with burnt Donald.

Also my droopy and shifty bits bang my top tube.  I've gotten used to my high zoot hard tails and never having to worry about this issue.  Makes me a little nervous since I done went OTB pretty hard twice this year in a manner that woulda really doinked the top tube of this bike.  Mebbe I wouldn't have wrecked on this bike tho?

I like the SWAT tool under the cage that comes stock with the bike, but no chain tool means I still gotta carry something somewhere.  Mebbe I'll wrap one of my tiny chain tools up inside my toob or something.

Other than that?

The bike came stock with some kinda X1 Eagle aluminum crank with a steel 30 tooth chain ring, and it's like the internet doesn't know it even exists.  I don't know how much it weighs, I think 30 is on the small side for an XC'ish bike, and because it's DUB, I can't put the new crabon Race Face cranks I still have on there without buying a new bottom bracket.  That said, they are pretty low profile and not too hideous... so there's that.  At least knowing that a new 32 tooth alloy ring will drop almost 60 grams just like that is comforting.

I also swapped out the stock saddle to an Ergon, the 60mm Specialized stem for a 50mm Easton, and I stole the pedals off another bike because I don't have enough pedals... or I have too many bikes.

Yeth, I have too few pedals.

Not too many bikes tho.

I didn't think I'd have room in my world for a third mountain bike, but I can still see where I'd want this bike, a long travel single speed, and a rigid single speed.  It's hard to feel like this piece of plastic has a soul, being that I have such an attachment with both my metal bikes.  I assure you that if you spend enough time walking up the sides of mountains talking to your bike, and you'll develop a certain unhealthy relationship with it.  This bike is a shit load of fun AND mebbe I shouldn't be romanticizing over material objects.

Mebbe.

On the plus side (since I dove deep on anything I might consider negative), this might be the bike I've been wanting ever since I bought that OG Tallboy a million years ago.  The geometry is so close to the Bronson (HTA, STA, wheelbase, chainstay length, and ETT).  It's nuts that this is an "XC bike" in 2021.  I had the Epic EVO (or EVO Epic?) hanging over my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 and noticed something that stuck out immediately.  Although the chainstays are only 10mm longer on the Spesh, the wheelbase is almost @100mm longer.  When I'm cornering, my chin is right over the stem where it belongs without even trying, and I'm sure there's a reason for it, but gawdammit it just works.

So obvs I'm rethinking everything I think I know about single speeds and optimal geometry for a rigid single speed VS fjorked and my brow furrows and...


I'll just sit on my wallet for now.

Tuesday, July 6

Yeth, Again

The short story is that I bought a(nother) new full suspension bike with gears.

Of course there's a long story.

Obviously, my history with this type of bike since 2004 is spotty at best.  Since then, I've tried it three times (not counting mebbe a couple 26" bikes I won that were totally not me to begin with).  My Tallboy was old school XC with a shit 2X drivetrain that constantly dropped chain over bumpy terrain.  Single speeded then ded.

My Specialized Stumpjumper FSR EVO predates semi-modern geometry by a a year or two.  It rode like a tank.  

It was ded after 47 days.

Most recently, the Santa Cruz Bronson.  I convinced myself I wanted 27.5 wheels (because I'm a sucker), I needed 150mm of travel (because Pisgah), and as long as I bought a high zoot model, how could I be disappoint?  Turns out that 27.5 blows donkeys, 150mm of travel was too much for 90% of the riding I was doing, and good components can't save the wrong bike.  Single speeded then ded.

Not here on the blerhg so much, but definitely on social media, I've shared my excite for a certain new crop of bikes.  Full suspension "XC" bikes with modern geometry and two water bottles where they belong (inside the front triangle).  I don't know who was first, but Cannondale, Rocky Mountain, Specialized, Santa Cruz, Scott, Kona(?), etc were jumping on the bandwagon.  With all the riding I was getting done with my every other week schedule starting all the way back in March '20, I started thinking that would be a good time to give it a try... well over a year ago.

Only problem being that it was near impossible to buy a bike.  Inventories were/are so low and demand so high, my local bike shop wasn't even taking down payments on new bikes because they had no idea what they'd be getting or when.  I decided it was hopeless.  I'd just enjoy my single speed life, being slightly jealous when my geared riding partners clean a technical climb I can't imagine attempting or being gapped off the back when I can't get my 32X19 to go any faster.  I'm used to it, and what ego I have left is used to it as well.

But...

This past Friday, I got a Facebook message from a Bike Source employee (unnamed because I don't know if he wants blown up or not).

"There might be a Medium Spesh Epic Evo Expert coming in to the shop today…"

Well shit.

Lots of questions and googling commenced.  How much?  Am I a medium guy?  How long do I have to make a decision?  Is it red?

"It's gloss redwood."

Dammit.  I hate red bikes.  So much so that when Topeak recently asked me for a short bio for an Ambassador of the Week post, I felt it was something people needed to know about me.

I turned the bike down... rethought my stance... decided I'd stop by the shop after work to see just how red the bike really is.

Whilst this is all going down IN REAL TIME, Bill Nye is coming over to my house to let himself in and grab all my stuff for our Van with One Red Shoe Tour 2021.  Of course, I'm thinking if I bought this bike, I'd love to have it out west... quite possibly to have another week filled with regrets like when I took the JaBronsSSon to Sedona years ago.  He's gotta get going and can't be dicking around till 5:30PM when I'd theoretically be shitting or getting off the pot.

So, stop at the shop, open the box... the red is more of an orange.  I don't mind orange.  If I buy this bike, I might be full of regrets soon enough... but bike resale values are insane right now.  The risk of sadness is minimal, aside from the imminent internet shame and verbal "told you so" abuse.  If I don't buy this bike NOW, it might be a year or more before the opportunity comes again.  Go have a conversation with your LBS employee about how nuts things still are in the "industry."  I am 52 years old.  You only YOLO once, and I'm closer to being done YOLO'ing every day.

Fuck it.  Slap down the plastic. The Dude says he can build it tomorrow morning... and the shop is closed Sunday and Monday... but I'm supposed to lead a ride in DuPont all day long on Saturday... and The Pie is coming home from Florida in a half hour... and I haven't picked up Boppit from doggy day care yet OR cleaned the house in that way that I do before The Pie comes home from a long trip to make it appear that I didn't live like an animal for nine days...

Ride from Bike Source over to the doggy day care.  Bill Nye calls me but I can't talk.  Walk/run home with Boppit's leash in one hand, tarck bike in the other, messenger bag bouncing around on my back.  I ran enough of the distance that my shins still hurt this morning.  Call Bill Nye back... and he tells me that he forgot the front wheel of the Vassago Meatplow V.8 in my driveway.  Awesome.  Problem number one.  Put the DuPont ride on hold because I really wanna get the bike on Saturday so I can ride it some before I think I'm gonna stick it in a travel case and fly it out west... I mean, it's either that or fly with my abandoned front wheel.  The Pie comes home and now our grandson toddler is in the mix and I reach out to The Dude and he agrees to drop off the built bike after the shop closes and all is good in the world of Dick.

I get to go to DuPont and ride a rigid single speed whilst without me doing much of anything, a magical squishy shifty bike that I had no idea I was buying when I woke up the day before just shows up at my house.





More about new bike soon...

Thursday, July 1

The Van with One Red Shoe Tour

Firstly, I'm missing the Tour de Burg, like right now.  It's starting today, and because this is the last official week of the A/B Team scenario at work, I couldn't take time off.

Whatever.  Cookies crumble.

GAWDAMMIT.

Just the idea of going back to work every week like a normal human leaves me feeling exhausted.  I'd better take a vacation soon, so it looks like it's crappening again...

Bill Nye had been dangling a carrot in my face (not a euphemism) for the past couple months.  He was going to be on the return leg of an extended van life trip in July and wanted some company.  My hands were tied until my work situation settled into some sense of normalcy where I could take some time off that wrapped into overlapping weeks.  Now that time is upon me like Mitch McConnell on a can of Filibuster Flavored Pringles®.

This trip is completely planned out... and by completely, I mean he's gonna come grab my stuff today, and then two weeks later, I'll be reunited with my stuff in Park City UT.  I'll miss my stuff and my bike with squish and mebbe my favorite travel mug and probably some random tool I thought I could live without but then can't.  After my belongings and I (and Bill Nye) meet up, it'll be a grab bag of fun and good times.

The only real timeline we have is to meet up with the curmudgeonly leader of Hermosa Tours, Matt McFee.  We haven't see his sour ass since our trip to Sedona back in... 2018?  We're hoping that it all times out so that we can grab a shuttle and hit the Palisade Plunge on July 18th or so. 

Supposedly, our timing is better than our planning abilities, as this is mebbe kinda sorta gonna be the first week you can ride all the way down from the tippy top.  Thirty two miles and six thousand feet of descending sounds very buenos to me.

But other than that, what are we doing... other than blowing peoples' minds?

Dunno.  Part of the west is on fire, the rest of it feels like it probably is too.  Anything is on the table.  Bike parks (with no full face helmet rule), shuttles, adventures, big cities (I said "cities"), tiny towns...

And a bunch of staring out the windshield.

Monday, June 28

Burn all the witches and reroute all the ditches

Dragula etc.

Can't believe I got to ride not one but two former trail cum ditches (member when Watts's shop Revolution Cycles was referred to as a "bike shop cum bar?") in the past week.  New Upper Lower Black and then, as part of a much bigger loop, a new and improved and almost finished Yancey Ridge.

To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into on Saturday.  I only knew that The Pie was outta town, Boppit had boarding booked so I could be irresponsible, and three ding dongs already had a "plan," so why not go along with whatever it is.

Up at 6:00, drop my dahg at the boarders at 7:00, roll in to Big 'n Buttery's strange mountain farm at 9:00... and watch them eat breakfast and futz about till 10:00... as I shoulda expected.

So as we rolled outta Big 'n Buttery's driveway and immediately banged a hard right, cut through a ditch, and started riding up a dilapidated, overgrown road bed, I asked "How long is this ride?  Like twenty or forty miles?"

"Yeth."

I have two slices of pizza and we started the ride at the top of a mountain so we'll have to get back up there eventually...

Headquarters...

to Harper's Creek to snack time.

Down Raider's Camp to second snack time at Betsy's...

where I only had a Coke and a small bag of Doritos because mebbe someone said we might come back here later which means hot dogs for supper.

Then the long haul over to Yancey Ridge.

I "love" the climb to get here.  Nothing like passing Jeeps and whatnot struggling with the gnar gnar.

That's Mount Dick out there in the distance.

There's been a ton of work done on Yancey.  Loads of drainage added, the trail has been shifted to get it outta some ugly places, and I was able to clean all the climby bits on a single speed... which was pretty nifty.

Eventually we made our way down to where the work is "to be continued," pretty much a reroute that will eliminate the lower ditch sections that have made Yancey infamous.

So we were treated to mebbe our last shot at said ditches.






I took these pictures at the outside edge of the turn from one ditch into the next with a huge wash to my left that drained right into ditch #2.  It's a pretty dire situation.  Of course, some would like to see the ditches remain.  Personally, I can foresee a day when all of us who fondly reminisce about the times we used to ride down ditches will be dead, and a new generations of riders will sit around campfires and talk about the ditch heroes of yesteryear. 

Out of the ditches for what will be my final time (mebbe?) and on towards home... with no second stop at Betsy's and me running on close to empty and thirty miles in my legs and more than ten to go and mostly up.  I stopped about 2/3 of the way up to sit in a ditch, contemplate life, and wait for the others... when look who rolls up?

Watts was out here graveling with his little frands for the weekend.  That's some kinda Pisgah magic that put us in the same place at the same time (although on different kinds of bikes and rides).  Come to find out, they were all staying at Barnyard's cabin which happened to be a hop, skip, and a jump from Big 'n Buttery's place.

So I asked if I could come crash their party... you know, once we finished our ride.

Most Wilson Creek rides look the ass opposite of this, ending in smiles of joy not taxed smirks of relief.

High five and fistings and head over to join Watts and Barnyard and Silas and Eric... and a whole bunch of other frands of frands and then out for Mexican food.

Felt good to be back in the Van of Constant Sorrow.

Good.  Just good.  They also have "Margaritas" too.

And then a beer run before heading back to the woods to sleep.

Honestly one of the best days I've had in a long time.  A dick beater of a ride with frands on some favorite trails followed by Mexican food and campfire beers with some other frands.  What an incredible way to end this era of bizarro world before going back to full time work again.