Thursday, June 28, 2012

7 1/2 hours and 4 random friend sitings...

It's not too often that I throw the bike in the car to drive to the start of a ride, but on Monday, that's exactly what went down.  A friend was in town and wanted to get out on a long ride to initiate his new Clément MSO tires.  Mike Cherney is a long time fixture in the North Bay riding scene.  Knows everyone and loves to ride long distances on fat-tired road/cross bikes.  He was staying in Bolinas so I put together a loop that included pavement, multiple varieties of dirt, and lunch that started and ended in Bolinas.  

We hit the road at about 10:30 and pedaled up the pavement on Bo-Fax Road and then across Ridgecrest to Laurel Dell trail where we would get into the dirt.  This post also doubles as a ride report on the Clément MSO tires so there will be interjections on their performance.  Up the road with a touch over 40psi, the tires were super smooth and pedaled seemingly as easy as any road tire.  

We hit Laurel Dell and were treated to a bit of a descent through the big trees before the trail started rolling.  It's interesting that the Laurel Del Trail ends at Rock Springs-Lagunitas trail at a higher elevation than at it's beginning.  It's a deceiving section of trail, but throws a bunch of variety to test the tires - from buff fire road dirt to chunky rock beds.  Echoing my feeling about how well the tires rolled over the rocks, Chern exclaimed that they just floated over the rocky sections.  

From Laurel Dell, we headed over to the descent down steep Rocky Ridge to the dam between Bon Tempe and Alpine Lakes.  This is a really steep, loose, rocky descent and the tires were a bit skittery.  A bit less air pressure would have helped, but a bit of caution against pinch flats won out over stopping to let air out.  At least for me.  Chern let a bit out and was more comfortable on the descent.  

We made our way over to Shaver Grade and then into Fairfax where we lunched on brats with sauerkraut and beer at Gestalt Häus.  Loaded up with protein and carbs, we headed back up Shaver Grade to Eldridge Grade.  It was our plan to take Eldridge up to Mt. Tam.  At the start of the trail by the school, we came across a couple of other riders on cross bikes.  I recognized one as John, who is a regular at Black Mountain Cycles.  Well, actually, I recognized his bike because he was on his orange Black Mountain Cycles cross bike with Panaracer Firecross 45 tires.  We rode and chatted a bit until we got to 5 corners.  From there we beared left to get to Eldridge Grade and they continued up Shaver.  

A bit further up Eldridge we were in the process of being overtaken by a rider when the rider called out "Hey Cherney!"  Two friends who hadn't seen each other for a while with a chance meeting on the trail.  One from Berkeley and one from up in Trinity County.  I'd heard of Emile through local rider and all-around good guy, George Hope.  He'd heard of me through George as well so we finally got a chance to meet.  We rode with Emile for a while and discovered it was his birthday and was out for a solo birthday ride.  What a great day for a ride.  

Up the last stretches, we played cat and mouse with a couple of young guys hiking up the grade.  As we stopped to take pictures or pee, they would catch us.  We were pedaling at a steady pace and the upper sections of Eldridge are pretty rocky and technical for cross bikes.  At the top of the grade, we stopped to refuel and slip arm warmers back on.  The hikers caught us and asked Chern "how old are you?"  They were pleasantly amazed when he answered "65."  The kid who asked was 20.  Chern imparted some pearls of wisdom on what it takes to get to 65 and still be in great shape and off we went down Railroad Grade.  

Railroad is a fast, somewhat smooth descent.  However smooth it may be, there are still sharp rocks that sneak up on you.  Remember back when Chern let a bit of air out of his tires?  Yep, pinch flat.  A quick 5 minute tube change and we were back on the trail down to West Point Inn and then down Old Stage Fire Road to the Pantoll ranger station.  We opted to climb Pantoll Rd. back to Ridgecrest which put us back on Bo-Fax Road and a 10 minute descent back to Bolinas.  On the descent, we came across a couple of friends and customers - Ward from Bolinas and Anthony from Una Pizza on his Pegoretti.

Seven and a half hours later we were back in Bolinas where Cherney's brother treated us to a super tasty home-made pasta dinner.  Thanks for the great ride, Chern!

On Rocky Ridge above Bon Tempe (top) and Alpine Lakes.
Picture takers
Taking pictures of the picture taker.

 Gestalt Haus

 Five Corners.  We'll go left and up.  John on his orange Black Mountain Cycles cross bike.

That Willits is one of the first 28ers.  You can thank that bike for your 29er.

Looking out towards San Francisco from Eldridge Grade.
Back to Bolinas down Ridgecrest.

(What's playing:  Elvis Costello There's a Story in Your Voice)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

And we're back...

Actually, the "we're" is simply "I'm," but who's counting.  Conversing in the third person is much more intriguing.  What I am trying to say is that I'm back at the shop and maintaining regular hours.  Sometimes, I get pretty caught up in trying to keep the shop open to service the needs of cyclists riding through town.  However, I cannot be there all the time, every time someone shreds a tire or goes through their stash of tubes.  

I did try a little experiment last Sunday when I was gone.  I left an small assortment of tubes out at the front door with a sign that read "Honor System Tubes - Slip $5 under the door for each tube you need."  Worked well.  There was a five spot under the door for each missing tube.  Five bucks is less than what I charge for tubes in the shop, but I figured slipping a fiver under the door was easier than slipping $6.50 under the door. 

I did hear of a rider who had a blown out tire and was in need of a new one.  By coincidence, a local rider happened by and actually got the rider set up with a new tire so it all worked out and I didn't get any hate messages left on my voice mail or taped to the front door.  

And I came back to the shop to a fresh order of water bottles.  Specialized sent me some samples of their Purist bottles a while back.  I've been using them and really liking them.  One of the reasons I like them better than the standard Specialized Big Mouth bottles is they hold more water.  The small Purist holds 22 oz. compared to 20 oz. in the standard small and 26 oz. in the large Purist to the 24 oz in the standard large.  But, I do have both types in the shop.  There's a whole bunch of info on the Purist bottle page, but basically, the inside is treated to not stain or retain odors so you get water tasting water.  Water tasting water unless the water that comes out of your tap tastes like dirt, then you'll still get water that tastes like dirt.  Better tasting dirt, they're great bottles, but they don't work miracles.  They cost a buck more by size than the standard bottles, but so far, they are selling 2:1, based on yesterday's sales.  

Like everything else, bottle prices have risen steadily.  Purist Black Mountain Cycles bottles are $10 for a large and $9 for a small.  Standard bottles are $7 for a small and $8 for a large.  Still a bargain for something that lasts for years.  And combined with the stainless King Cage, it's a great combo since the stainless cage doesn't blacken the bottles like an aluminum cage does.  


(What's playing:  Some Velvet Evening Shooting the Breeze)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just a reminder...

Just a reminder about shop hours this week.
Closed today, Sunday.
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Probably will be in the shop for a bit in the middle of the day on Monday.
Will be open Thursday and Friday, but will likely open late - potentially between 12 and 1.

Back to regular hours on Saturday.

Have fun and ride lots.

Highway 1

(What's playing:  roosters crowing in the yard)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Color me not...

A recent Guitar Ted post got me thinking about color and bikes.  In the post, he mentions that his "boss at my first bike shop gig said something to the effect that, "Cycling is a colorful sport. Your kit and your gear should reflect that."  I don't recall my old boss at the bike shop in the '80s - early '90s saying anything like that or saying anything to the contrary.  However, I believe I got some of my thoughts on bike style from him and it is clear that my personal bike style is reflected through my love of black and white photography.  

You see, I personally don't like any color splashes on my bike.  To me, the parts must be black or silver.  Bar tape is one exception, but only when it works with something else on the bike, like say a color in the decal.  The frame is also an exception.  I've got frames that are red, blue, orange, lavender...heck, I've got four frames that are orange or have orange in them.  I'm not against color.  However, every one of those frames is built up with black and silver parts.  Bar tape on all is black. 

How did I make it through the time period of the '90s unscathed by the anodize phase?  During this time period I was also in product development and deeply involved in the spec process of bikes.  I've spec'd many a bike with blue or purple anodized parts.  I thought they looked really great dressed up in colors.  I just didn't want to duplicate those on my personal bikes.  To me, the bike is elegant and the simplicity of black or silver parts shows that the bike is meant to be ridden and not really talked about.  I'm not one to stand out in a crowd by having flash on my bike. 

I realize that this all makes me pretty boring.  Heck, I'd also be okay with a daily uniform too.  One trend in current bikes that seems to go against all my monotone theme is all the cable housing colors coming out on new bikes.  Cable housings and tires that match the frame colors.  It's just too much.  And I see owners with their new colorful bikes who stop by my shop on a weekend ride who have just shredded one of their red or blue or white or... tires, busted a derailleur cable and have fouled the housing.  They need replacements to get home.  I carry only black tires and either black or gray cable housings.  It is not uncommon for someone with a shredded rear tire to also replace the front tire because they want the tire color to match.  I'm completely okay with that, but at the same time, think "really?"  

In the end, go with what you like.  Your choice works for you and because it works for you, it works for me too.  

shop 002
Whole lot of boring here.  

(What's playing:  Billie Holliday Comes Love)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

600th post...

Thought I'd use this space that is the 600th published post and say "thanks."  Thanks to everyone who has supported Black Mountain Cycles by either visiting the shop, buying a water bottle, or just enjoying it in your own special way.  

I also want to use this space to let folks know that Black Mountain Cycles is going to be closed for a few days next week.  Yep, taking some time off.  The shop will be closed Sunday, June 17 thru Wednesday, June 20.  The shop will be open on Thursday, June 21 and through the weekend.  

But in the mean time, it's full-speed ahead this week.  First up was this sweet Seven ti/carbon mix.  

Thanks everyone!

First order of business was rewrapping the bars after replacing shift cables.

(What's playing:  Toots & the Maytals Monkey Man)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tire Tuesday Pt. 2...

Tire Tuesday Part 2,  is an attempt to do some inventory reduction, I realize I have way too many Vee Rubber 12 and XCX tires in stock.  So, while supplies last you can purchase a pair of XCX 29 x 1.75 or a pair of the V12 29 x 1.95 tires for $75 shipped to any of the lower 48 states.  California residents ad 8% sales tax.  To order, you can call with a credit card number or paypal the money to blackmtncycles (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know that you want either the XCX or 12 tires.  That's $81 total to a California address or $75 out of state.  


(What's playing:   Peter Murphy Indigo Eyes)

Tire Tuesday Pt. 1...

Tires, tires, and more tires.  Still really digging the Clément X'Plor MSO tires.  Word from the guys at Clément is that a 50mm version is in the works.  Now we're talking.  That's going to be a goodun.  In the mean time the 40mm version is working quite nicely.  

I put the MSO to another test on a 3 hour loop last Sunday.  Plenty of asphalt, dirt path, fire roads, and a few fairly technical, rocky sections.  Continued to work great.  In anticipation of more pavement, I bumped the air pressure up to a hair under 40 up front and a hair over 40 in back.  I also bumped the pressure up simply because the San Geronimo Ridge Trail (my ultimate destination) is quite a bit more rocky than my other rides have been.  Again, the tire performed quite nicely and took all that it was given without incident.  Even the 15 miles or so back on the road at 40psi, the tire felt great.  Great enough to allow me to wind it up a bit to sit in with a group of roadies who came past me.  That is until I opted for the dirt Cross Marin Trail instead of the road.  

And in the "more good news category," the 120tpi version is now also available.  The 120tpi version also features a dual rubber compound.  This is noticeable to the touch.  The side knobs have a much more tacky feel.  This will probably aid in traction.  I have to wear out the 60tpi versions on my bike first before I throw on the 120's.  While weight is not a huge factor, you cannot ignore the fact that the 120tpi version is 100g lighter at 420g (as weighed on my scale).  One hundred grams saved on one tire is significant.  And the $15 bump from the 60tpi version is reasonable given the weight savings.  MSO tires in stock now and for sale.

SG Ridge Trail
The initial climb is a lot like this - smooth, pine needle covered, and steep.

Kent Lake / Bolinas Ridge
The view of Bolinas Ridge and Kent Lake from San Geronimo Ridge.

Pine Mountain
Pine Mountain with Mt. Tam peeking through the notch.

Rocky Climb
San Geronimo Ridge is just a little rocky.  The MSO handled this stuff very nicely.

This was supposed be a shot of gravel because we don't have much gravel out here.  This patch was only about 75 yards long.

(What's playing:  Son Volt Mystifies Me)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Interesting observation...

While perusing's coverage of the Dauphiné, I noticed the coverage of the rider's lightened bikes for the climbing stages.  There are a lot of methods the teams employee to lighten a rider's bike.  Race leader, Bradley Wiggins, employed a couple of bikes with custom built light wheels.  One element that was not employed to drop the weight on the bikes was the use of stupid light, non-functional quick releases.  Instead, each wheelset used Dura Ace quick releases to secure the wheels to the bike.  Lesson to be learned there.  A solid wheel to frame/fork connection is vital to a secure feeling bike (and maybe pleasing the sponsors), but I prefer to go with their use as being the only acceptable QR to mechanic and rider and I'm sticking with it.

And yes, it is possible that the Dura Ace quick releases were one tool used to keep the weight above the minimum limit, but, somehow, I don't think so.  Those quick releases look well used too.

Image © James Huang/BikeRadar

(What's playing:  R.E.M. Catapult)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Weights and measures...

I just realized I posted reviews of two tires and didn't list actual widths or weights for either tire.  Heresy?  Maybe.  The level of detail that drives me these days isn't in gram counting or caliper scrutinizing.  It's in the subjective.  Did they work to my expectations?  Did I have fun?  

At a certain level, tires are going to weigh an acceptable amount.  A high quality tire like the Clément X'Plor MSO is going to weigh what it weighs.  There's nothing added to increase the weight and there's nothing taken out to make it stupid light.  There are lighter tires, but in order to get a tire lighter, there are certain things that the manufacturer is going to have to do to lighten it.  Thinner casing, fewer and smaller knobs.  I don't really want a super thin casing that's going to cut easier.  And there are heavier tires with all kinds of belts and reinforcements.  I don't need reinforced tires for where I ride and my riding style.  Some folks need that.  I don't.  

I'm personally not interested in knowing if a tire is exactly the size noted on the sidewall.  I know that almost all tires are under their claimed size.  And I'm okay with that.  When I buy a tire that's marked as 40, I know that it's going to be close.  However, since I do own a bike shop and customers will ask those questions, I'll dutifully measure, weigh, and reply with the answer.  And then it's likely I'll forget the exact number until asked again.  

My review of the Clément X'Plor MSO could have been simplified down to "The Clément X'Plor MSO was a blast to ride on both dirt and pavement.  Smooth, comfortable, and suitable to my riding style.  They are a 700c x 40 size and felt good when I hefted one in my hand.  The artwork was also clean and simple, not in your face loud.  I like them."

And if anyone wants to know the exact size and weight, I will measure them and weigh them for you. But really, they are fun regardless of those details.  

(What's playing:  Ike & Tina Turner Crazy About You Baby)

Tale of two tires, part 2...

There's been some pretty great releases of new larger volume tires recently.  Vee Rubber listed a whole slew of tires (too many in too short of a window) that are supposed to be coming down the pike in the 40 to 50mm width range.  However, I have my doubts that they will actually bring all the tires they list on their website to market.  Hopefully, I'm wrong, but the guy they hired to perform this task and market the brand has left after a short stint.  

One company that does seem to be stepping up to the plate and hitting home runs is Clément Tires.  One of the key aspects to a successful new product introduction is a steady growth plan.  Introduce a few great products to start and then make successful product introductions as follow ups.  Clément did that with the introduction of some great 'cross racing tires.  They followed that up with a super riding road clincher, the Strada LGG.  Their newest tire to become available is the X'Plor MSO tire in size 40.

The X'Plor MSO (MSO is the airport designation for Missoula, MT, home base for Adventure Cycling) is the most recent release.  It's only available in a 40 size and in a 60tpi or 120tpi version.  The 60tpi version was received first (120tpi tires are on the way), so the 60tpi is what I'll offer as my first ride impressions.

The X'Plor MSO tire is pretty darn close in design to my favorite (now discontinued) cross tire, the WTB Interwolf 38.  Needless to say, I was pretty excited to give the MSO tires a go.  Before I got out to the trails, the first couple of rides were commuting on them.  Now, I don't have a huge commute (one mile each way), but the commute has a short, fast descent with a sharp left hander at the bottom.  One of those corners that people usually brake heavily on, but I have it pretty dialed and can hit it at full speed.  The Clément MSO handled the hard, asphalt corner with great confidence.  But, this wasn't dirt.

So, one morning last week, I got ready to ride my favorite loop.  The Inverness Ridge loop is a good test of a cross tire.  If it works well on this loop, it'll likely work well anywhere.  I started out with about 45-50 psi and the tires were nice and fast on the road.  Once the trail turned to dirt (of the slippery decomposed granite type), the higher pressure was evident as the tire started loosing traction when I rose out of the saddle.  I stopped and released some air with 3 or 4 taps on the presta valve.  The change was immediately apparent as the tires hooked up much better.  I did stop once more to see what a few more taps on the valve to release a bit more air would do and it was even better.  

When the trail turned down, I noticed a similar skating on the front end that I experienced with the Vee12 tires.  Releasing a bit of pressure up front, eased that feeling.  With some air out of the front and rear, I was curious how they would handle descending the steep paved section back to town.  No problems there.  In the end, I think I ended up with about 36 psi up front and 38psi in back.  And that's what I set the tires to on subsequent rides.  

What did I think?  They were damn fun tires.  Pretty optimal for my riding style and where I ride.  I took them on the Inverness Ridge loop several times and a Bolinas Ridge out and back once.  These are the kind of tires that you want to keep on your bike until they are worn out and then put on a fresh set.  Definitely going to clear off a space on my tire wall to keep a supply of these tires in the shop.  

Interwolf vs. MSO
WTB Interwolf on the left, Clement X'Plor MSO on the right.

 Clement X'Plor MSO 40
After several rides, still looking good.

Clement X'Plor MSO 40
The clearance of the MSO 40 in my cross frame.

Clement X'Plor MSO 40
Fork clearance.

Inverness Ridge Trail
Hard to see here, but this is a steep, marbly descent with twists and turns and water bars.

And again, the loose, steep climb.

(What's playing:  Credence Clearwater Revival I Put A Spell On You)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tale of two tires...

Tire One

For the past 3 years or so, I have been trying to burn through a stash of cross tires I collected over the years of product management where tire companies throw tires at you in hopes of their getting spec on your bikes.  Those days are long gone, but the tires weren't.  My favorite tire out of all the cross tires I received was the 38mm WTB Interwolf with the high-end casing and folding bead.  Unfortunately, WTB discontinued this tire.  

I wore out my last Interwolf several months ago and the mental spiral has been deep.  At the time, a new tire from Vee Rubber came out:  the 12.  It's a really nice riding tire if your frame can fit a 1.95 x 29 tire.  Mine can.  I still really like this tire, but it didn't perform so great on my favorite cross loop.  This loop consists of about 5 miles on the road with a one mile road climb and then a dirt climb up a decomposed granite, loose trail.  In all fairness, not a lot of tires hook up well in steep, loose D.G.  However, the 12's really made the climb difficult.  I spent too much time concentrating on trying not to spin the rear tire in my 34/30 for the first 2/3 of the climb and then really had a hard time hooking them up when the climb got steeper and I dropped down to my 24.  

With the climb out of the way, it's a paved section to the beginning of a single-track descent on nice trail with plenty of pine needles.  The 12 did great here.  The next section of trail is a double-track on more decomposed granite that is fairly buff.  Again, good performers here.  However, the last 50 feet of this trail is a fairly steep descent to a short 50 feet of pavement before the fire road section starts.  It's this last steep descent that causes a lot of tires to be overtaxed.  Heavy braking, cornering...this was too much for the 12s and both the front and rear were continually losing traction.  The rear expectedly, the front unexpectedly, which causes some of those pucker moments.  

Upright, and on to the fire road that leads to a pavement descent back to sea level, the tires were great on the gentle rolling fire road and superb on the paved descent.  I fiddled a bit with air pressure and felt like the tires worked best at about 35 - 38.  Lower than that and they squirmed descending fast on the pavement pushing hard through corners.  I don't like that feeling.  I felt that they worked great at Annadel St. Park, but only so-so on my Inverness Ridge Loop.  The dirt conditions are very different between the two.  I've spent a lot of time riding decomposed granite trails in SoCal and am fairly adept at them.  For those unfamiliar with a decomposed granite trail, think of a super hard-packed trail (kind of like your kitchen floor) and then toss a bunch of ball bearings on the floor.  Yeah, slippery.  Well, that's kind of an exaggeration, but only kind of.

So, this all boils down to the Vee 12 being a good tire on the road, on dirt roads with moderate grades, and on dirt trails with somewhat tacky dirt.  If this is your riding, this is a good choice if you want the feel of a large volume tire.

Here's the best I could do to show the condition of the trail.  This section is probably a 10% grade and has all kinds of promise of lost traction.

Bolinas Ridge
 The 12 worked really well on terrain like this on Bolinas Ridge - and in fact it worked nicely on the whole of Bo-Ridge.

Vee 12
A refresher as to what the 12 looks like.

Next tire:  Clement X'Plor MSO 40.
(What's playing:  The English Beat Mirror in the Bathroom)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sometimes you just hit it right...

Went for a ride up and back on Bolinas Ridge Sunday morning.  My preferred route is to ride down Hwy. 1 to the Randall trailhead and turn up Randall, which is a 1.7 mile 900' climb up a pretty nice service road.  From there, I usually pedal north a bit, head down Shafter Trail to access the San Geronimo Ridge trail.  Sunday, I made a right and headed south to the southern terminus of the Bolinas Ridge Trail, turned around and headed back, further putting miles on the new Clement X'Plor MSO 40 tires (more about them later).  

When I left, it was overcast with the promise of sun later in the morning.  I hit the top of Randall, made my right on Bolinas Ridge and within a short distance came across a pretty spectacular setting where the overcast was lifting and with the sun filtering through the trees through the light fog, left a striking visual of the rays.  Within moments of taking these shots, the effect was all but gone.  Damn good timing.  

Bolinas Ridge

Bolinas Ridge

Bolinas Ridge

(What's playing:  KWMR Hippie From Olema)