Friday, June 9

Kampf Trbl E-numb

I had a secret (or not so secret) weapon for the Pisgah 111K and the Trans-Sylvania Epic.


I was standing around after PMBAR drinking beer, as I'm apt to do, and found myself talking to a guy in a Cane Creek jersey.

"You work for Cane Creek?"

"Yep, my name is Bryan."

"I'm sorta sponsored by Cane Creek... although I have no idea who the current Dick Handler is there."

*confused look*

"Anyways... kind of a weird sponsor to have.  How many headsets does a guy need that have a 110 year warranty?"

"We have something new you might wanna know about..."

A conversation ensued about Hopey Dampers of the past, a new damping headset intended to solve the steering wobble of e-bikes, and possible applications outside that realm.  I used to be a huge proponent of the Hopey steering damper, on my 24 hour race bike and my Jr T equipped Santa Cruz Bullit... and my Crafwerks FRM 125.  It just helped the bike plow straight through stuff.  It was a-maz-ing.  It also needed servicing on a yearly basis that was kinda expensive... and mebbe when it came back from service it didn't always work as well as before??

Image from the internet, since my experiences were so long ago, and I'm not hunting for a picture of my bike from the early '00s.

I almost put a Hopey on my rigid single speed back in 2006.  I bought it, thought about it... couldn't do it.  Something about putting a laser sight on a Viking sword which turned into a wormhole of blog posts.  I never thought about it again.  Thank, Dog.

But this Viscoset.  So simple.  So clean.  So... unnoticeable.

It's not as sophisticated as the Hopey, for sure.  Without getting too into the details, the Hopey performed miracles.  On the fly adjustable, free return to center... it was dope.

This Viscoset.  Not adjustable on the fly.  No free return to center.  Would I like it or regret the time it took to install... and the added cost.

Added cost?

The Viscoset is 5mm taller than the regular 110 headset.  I only had 2.5mm of extra spare steer tube to play with on my ENVE frok.  So, if I wanted to play, I had to pay.  Get a new ENVE frok?  Meh.  Okay.

So, I get the new frok and headset, adjust the plates to mid-range damping...

Which wasn't the most difficult bit of mechanical nonsense I've ever done, but it took at least a half a beer to finish the job.

The next ride...

I was up in DuPont that weekend, my first ride with the Viscoset.  Fast gravel descents.  Bermy turns loaded with braking bumps.  Rooty singletrack.

It was quickly apparent to me that I wasn't going to be taking this off my bike any time soon.

Gravel turns.  The bike just held its line like a bullet train.  I went uncomfortably faster than normal but felt in control the whole time.

Braking bump-addled berms.  One of my rigid frok enemies.  I'm used to getting bumped off my line so much that I end up braking in the turn (trbl) and having to correct my steering.  I feel like I'm learning how to ride a bike all over again.  I know "how" I should be doing it, but the execution is lacking.

Brake before the turn, entering at the speed you will take it.
Look where you want to go... the exit of the turn.
Lean the bike between the legs, Enduro™ style.  Pedals level, hips centered over the tires to maintain traction.
Stay off the brakes.

Somewhere in the mix of it all, I do one thing wrong and then all of them once a bump/root/rock deflects my front wheel  Shit.  Pisses me off every time.

So, I'm flying down Ridgeline and the bike is handling... in an alien manner.

Not my video, but in case you wanna know what kinda trail I'm talking about.

Like I said, I know the "how" I should get down this, but it never works out 100% of the time.  Not even 75%.  It's a very disappointing feeling considering I've been riding mountain bikes for something like thirty years.

Anyways, alien technology.  Point and shoot.  We went down Ridgeline twice that day, and I went even faster on my second run.  I couldn't wait for the Pisgah 111K.  Spencer Branch, with it's brake-bumped corners and exposed rocky bits popping up randomly.  Oh so bueno.

And it was.  I have never railed down Spencer Branch that fast on a rigid bike.  Ever.  And that was after being on the bike for hours at race pace... mebbe 2/3 into an eight hour race.  Holy shit.  Stoke meter pegged.

There was no ride between the Pisgah 111k and the Trans-Sylvania Epic.  Four days later and I was riding the rocks and roots and whatnot of Central PA.  I still could not find any downside to the Viscoset.  Wet roots that would normally deflect my front wheel simply would not.  Stubborn rocks were simply plowed through with more abandon than normal... as long as I could keep the bike moving forward anyways.

I'm stoked on this thing, but what provides the alien technology damping?

"... a fluorocarbon gel between each layer provides maintenance free viscous damping"

So anyways, you can adjust the amount of damping by swapping the order of the plates.  Stupid me, I took it apart and only went one position lower than stock because... well mostly because I wanted to see what was inside there and how it all worked.  I plan on bumping it up to the next level before my next ride...

because I need to find out at what point it becomes too much of a good thing.

I'm not sure when that next ride will be tho.  I'm trying to sort out the wheel size dilemma (self-inflicted) on my By:Stickel Meatplow V.6 once and for all.  I rode it with 29" wheels mounted up for the first time in over a year, and on the same day Minnaar won a World Cup DH race on big hoops. I felt kinda "meh" about them on my "fun" bike.  Which I thought would be the total ass-opposite.

But this post isn't about that issue, which hopefully will sort itself out in the next two weeks.

So, Seal of Semi-Approval material?

I'm trying to think of a downside to this thing.  It weighs (slightly) more?  Eventually, some day down the road, I might have to put more fluorocarbon gel between the plates?  It didn't come wrapped in a Cane Creek t-shirt or spaghetti string tank top?

I don't have a Seal of Full Approval, so I'll stick with the "not wrapped in a t-shirt" thing and leave it at that.  As long as it continues to perform in the manner that it has been, It ain't going anywhere soon.

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