Bikes: Always there, always will be

gorgeLike so many blogs gone stale, I haven’t made a post here in almost seven years.

So much has changed since then.  Not just for me personally, but for the world as well.  Through it all, the one thing that has stayed consistent for me is my love of bikes. 

What’s new?  Well, gravel became a thing.  And of course, I love it.   Tubeless, disc brakes and electronic shifting are legit.  A lot has changed, but not the part that really matters. 

I’m talking about the feeling of being connected to the outdoors, through a bicycle.  The thrill of railing a corner, feeling at one with the machine you’re on.  Feeling your tires float over whatever surface you’re tackling.  The wind in your face as it blows across your ears, and the familiar sting in your legs draw your attention away from your worries and into the moment.  Just for a little while, you’re free, and reminded you’re capable of so much more than you were aware just hours ago.

That’s what keeps me coming back, and why I’ll never stop.

Tubeless: Trying something new

I’ve been running tubeless tires in cyclocross since 2006.  My go-to setup has always been Stan’s 29er rims and a decent quality clincher tire.

However, Stans discountinued all rim brake rims.  While I do have a disc brake bike, I don’t want to use it for cyclocross.  Plus, there’s this:


It's the second time this has happened to me with a Stans rim.  It’s kind of a bummer because there is no fixing this.  So I’m going to try something new.  There’s been a lot of growth in the road/cx tubeless arena, so I have more reliable options than before.

I looked around, and WTB’s ChrisCross looks great.  They are the same width as my Stans rims, but have a different bead hook design that looks fantastic.  And hopefully, these are a little more durable:


Time for a rebuild.  I’ll post results later, after I’ve had a chance to smack them around in the woods.

GoPro Video: The slideshow of the 21st century


I’ve had a GoPro for a good year or more now, and I haven’t done much with it.  My daughter made some cool horse jumping helmet cam videos, and now I’ve finally mounted the camera to my bike to try it out.   It’s kind of cool being able to watch a reply of a ride from a slightly different perspective.  I’m still figuring out how to capture decent quality footage.

Around this time of year, I dust off the ol’ cyclocross bike and head into the local woods.  This is my favorite place in those woods:

My friend Adnan and I had a fun time last weekend.  The idea was to each take video and combine our individual lame footage to produce one slightly less lame video.  However, my GoPro was dead (battery) before I even made it into the park.  So here’s what he got from a different trail, Firelane 7:

Next time, we’ll try to make something more awesome.

1x Cyclocross Drivetrains just got WAY more awesome

I’ve been running a single chainring setup since 2008.  Only one chainring up front is great, mainly because it helps prevent your chain from falling off.  Through my trials and experience, a dual guard setup was always the way to go.  Until now!

SRAM has released a specialized component group for 1x cyclocross, the CX1.   That’s pretty nice stuff, so if budget is no option, go for it!  However, I decided to do it my way.  I’ll show you what I did, but first, here’s what all the tech is about:

No more chain guards!
Dual chainring guards work GREAT, but are a big pain to set up and maintain.  For one, getting the spacing right so the inside guard doesn’t rub on the chainstay is painstaking.  I finally got my last setup right by running BBG ultralight guards, as small as I could to mate with a 38t chainring.  The guards are really thin, and I needed every mm I could get.  Also, setting up these guards requires the use of spacers, and they are a pain to slide in place while you’re assembling your chainring sandwich.  Taking the whole thing apart is no fun, but you have to do it because grass and mud get jammed in there sometimes, and there is no way to clean it out after a certain level of accumulation.  Dual guards work, but they are a pain.  Now, there’s a better way!

Narrow Wide Chainrings
Narrow-wide chainrings are brilliant.  The idea, as you might have guessed, is the width of the chainring teeth alternate – wide, narrow, repeat.  Take a look at a bike chain:


See how the inner plates are more narrow than the outer plates?  And you see how they alternate?   The teeth on a narrow-wide chainring match up to this pattern.  So the fat teeth only fit in the outer plates.  Obviously, you can only have even numbered tooth count chainrings.  This is good stuff, because it really grabs hold of the chain.  I was pretty amazed by how well it works.  I think this works well enough to lose the chainring guards, but I didn’t stop there.

Chain Slap
A big reason chains fall off in cyclocross is chain slap.  The chain bounces around, becomes slack, and it starts to come off the chainring.  So when you coast down a big bumpy hill in your smallest cog, the slack in your chain makes it prone to bounce, and it could come off the chainring.  This is caused by the rear derailleur moving all over the place.  It happens a lot.

One way to address this is to run a single ring up front, because you don’t need as long of a chain, and you keep more tension in the system.  The smaller the spread between your biggest and smallest gear, the tighter your chain can be.  However, chains can still bounce off, and you can certainly hear your chain slapping the frame as you bomb down a bumpy hill.  Now, there is something to help with that!

Clutch Derailleurs
Clutch derailleurs help prevent chain slap.  The spring tension is higher and they are designed to not fly forward like a typical bike derailleur (rear).   It was first used for downhill or other MTB uses, but now this tech comes with SRAM’s CX1.  I’m sure other component makers will follow suit. 

Paring a clutch derailleur with a narrow-wide chainring takes out the two factors that cause your chain to fall off.  The chainrings hold the chain on and help prevent it from sliding off.  The derailleur keeps the chain from slapping, which causes slack.

SRAM makes “Type 2” MTB derailleurs, which are clutch equipped.  Shimano also makes a MTB clutch derailleur, but it mounts to the frame using a different standard that no Cyclocross bike will have.  So it’s looking like SRAM or nothing right now.  Your shifter options are okay – you can run SRAM or Campy shifters.  I’m using 10spd campy shifters with a 10spd SRAM type 2 derailleur, and it works great.  Shifts better than my road bike, actually.

My setup
My setup is working GREAT.  I’m using a SRAM 10spd drivetrain:

  • Race Face Narrow-wide chainring (I’m running 44t)
  • 10spd cassette (I’m running 11-32)
  • SRAM XO 10spd Type 2 (clutch) rear derailleur

(click to enlarge)

Currently, there are a few options for narrow-wide chainrings.  They all are based on the same principle and it looks to me like the execution is similar:

So that’s my setup this year.  I’ve got a dozen rides in, including a lot of fast, bumpy downhills.  I’ve had no problems at all, and I’ve not once heard the chain slap the frame.  I’m very confident the chain will not fall off, ever. 

Crunchy good times are coming

TR0C3911The weather is about to cool off.  The air will be crisp and moist.  The leaves will flash their grand finale before falling to the ground and giving us something crunchy to ride on.  Maybe it's time I come out of this summer hibernation and start writing some thoughts down. 

I've done two pre-season races so far, just to get a little feeling going:

Krugers Crossing
Krugers is pretty cool when it's not a huge bog of corn husk fortified mud stucco.    It started raining during my race, the hard ground got a nice slick layer of snot on it, and I slipped out on a turn.  I received minor raspberries and one snapped derailleur hanger.  Game over.  Even on the dry days, we loose derailleur hangers at Krugers.

Het Meer
I've always wanted to try this race.  It's at Vancouver lake, and has some sand in it.  It was fun, but I was in no condition to race.  I was even slower than normal.  But it was a fun, long course and nice to get out there.

I have some work to do.  Chainlines to dial in.  G-springs to replace.  Cleats to position properly.    And I also can't forget kids to hug and bills to pay.    I'll try to have some fun this Fall.

Road tires on 29er rims

Can you run road tires on a 29er wheel?  

I have a couple sets of Stan's ZTR 355 29er wheels that I use for Cyclocross.   Those rims have a maximum PSI that always kept me from running road tires on them during the off-season.

Then I started thinking...that can't be right.  So I did some math to calculate the pressure on the rim based on tire size.  Below is a list of tire sizes and inflation pressure, all put the same amount of tension pressure on the rim:




Tire Width


2.1" (MTB) 50psi
23c 116psi
25c 107psi
28c 95psi
32c 83psi
34c 78psi


So yes, you can run road tires on a 29er rim.   Obviously, you wouldn't run 700x21 or probably even 700x23 tires on fat rims.   IMO 25c or 28c tires should be fine.

Baker City Stage Race

1045148_10151527354495665_1106696557_nI knew this was going to be hard, but I'd forgotten how hard it really was.  Baker City was, like the rest of Oregon, HOT.   I've never drank so much water in my life.  However, we did our best and dealt with it just like everyone else.   In the end, nobody on the team was in a significant place in the GC, but we all finished the damn thing.  That's more than a third of our category can say.  My teammates were looking at this as a weekend training camp, and I am now in complete agreement with that.

It was really hot.  On top of that, there were some really big hills.  I thought I was doing fine until the peloton punched it up a big climb.   Then, I hurt, couldn't breath, couldn't cool off, and just went backwards.  Trying to chase back on was just a cruel joke, gaining ground just to be spit off the back again for the next climb. 

Stage 1 was 72 miles, very hot, and hilly.  Stage 4 was like that, with an additional 28 miles and a big mountain to climb at the end.   After being dropped and squeezing out all the energy I had left trying to catch back up, the darkness set in just trying to finish the day.  It hurt.  A lot.

What to take away
I would much rather race to compete, rather than race to participate.  I was not adequately prepared to compete.  Just survive. 

I know how my body works, and when it's really hot, it does not perform well.  I just hope to be better acclimated to whatever weather is in store next time.  This race really was a lesson in coping with the heat.  It's just one more thing you need to learn to overcome.  This helped a lot because I really had no choice but to keep going.

In the end, I got some good training in, and I'm happy to be on the road again.  There's plenty of time before cyclocross starts.  I'm going to try and enjoy this for a while.

Back into the roadie thing

I've been out of the road racing scene for a long time now.  With all that's been going on, I really haven't had the time or energy to train for it, let alone race.

However, I'm about to get back into it with the Baker City Cycling Classic.    My teammates Richard and Monty have been training pretty hard this year; I've never seen them ride so fast before.  Me, I never found the time or motivation to train.  In May, I found myself hopelessly out of shape.  I considered dropping out of the race, but decided I would just ride my ass off and trust my body would come around enough to survive. 

When you are in really good condition, it's a lot of fun to go fast.  But when you get out of condition, you really miss it.  You ride with your peers and find you can't keep up, or you try to do things your body once was capable of but not any longer.   My teammates have been really going after it this year, and they are deservedly going very fast right now.  Me, I am blessed with health, but I've chosen to not take advantage of that like I should.  There are always other stresses, distractions, etc.  You still need to take care of yourself.  This race is a good catalyst for me to do that.

I suffered heavily riding with the boys in May.  They killed me.  Finally, one week away from the race, I can finally hang with them.  Where I was once just fighting for dear life to stay on their wheel, now I can take pulls and participate in the throw-downs.   I've still not caught up to them but given the right conditions I can at least hold my own.  I'm happy about that.  Very happy.

So here we go; one week until Baker City.  It's kind of special for me because I did this race ten years ago.   Time flies.  I am glad to be getting back into shape, and hope I can keep it going into an improved cyclocross season.

However, first things first, and now it's all about Baker City.  There are four stages spread over three days:

  1. Hilly, wind blown 72 miles on Friday
  2. Time Trial, Saturday morning
  3. Crit, Saturday afternoon
  4. Death march, 102 miles in the mountains

I hope I survive to the end.  I'm not just going to sit in and see if I can finish.  I want to help my team if I can.  We'll see how it goes.  I'll write a recap after each stage.

CX Update

PIR1It's been a while.  I did a couple more Wednesday nighters since my last post.  I'm slowly getting better, and I'm really having fun.

Today's race was at PIR.  It rained yesterday, so I was really hoping for some good mud on the course.  There was indeed mud, but it firmed up pretty good by the time we were done.   Not what I was hoping for, but maybe I'll get some soupy slippery awesomeness at Barton in a couple weeks.

My results are still underwhelming.  My back is usually the weak link.  I go hard until it wears out, die for a couple laps, then go hard again for as long as it lasts.  I finished the race today able to talk comfortably (not terribly out of breath), but as soon as I sat down I realized I was completely exhausted.  Seems weird to me.   I'm gonna try some things to fix that.  Adnan (Aeolus Endurance) gave me some core exercises to try.  And of course I have to stretch.

The course was fun.  There was plenty of slippery, tight corners.  Often, choosing the primo line meant getting smacked in the face by a pine tree.  I had a good time and improved a thing or two in technique.  But I'm still slow and I'm not really going for it with the technical stuff.  I could do more, but I think I play it safe because I'm so tired and messing up will just slow me down and make me more tired.  I just need to, you know, go for it. 

Cross Crusade #1 - Alpenrose

Alpenrose1Today, 1,399 of my fellow cyclocross nuts and I reined down on Alpenrose dairy.  It was a zoo.  Actually, I've been to the zoo, and it was much more crowded at Alpenrose.  The sport is beyond huge here in PDX. 

I arrived at the venue less than an hour before the start of my race.  Normally, that means no pre ride.  But AHA!  I was there Yesterday and I DID get to pre-ride.  In your face, Alpenrose!

So naturally, since I had all the twists and off-camber turns dialed in, I crushed it today.  Right?

Ummmm, no.  

Short  story:  I didn't fare as well as last year, and I didn't do so hot last year.  Long story:

I got passed by so many people, I lost count.  It was very hot and dusty out there, and I hate hot and dusty.  The course was awesome and well designed for a fit bike racer.  For me, it was torture.

I felt like a shriveled up raisin 1/2 way through, but I crawled on.  I ran out of gas 3/4 of the way through.  Seeing stars and dizzy, I just wanted something to eat.  Maybe a popsicle.  But I slothed onward.  Finally, I heard the announcer declare LAST LAP.  In truth, I thought the last three laps were last laps.  I didn't know what was going on.

Anyway, I did hear the last lap bell, and I felt a faint glimmer of hope.  One more lap:  All I had to do is ride one more time around before I could go score that popsicle.  Do it for the popsicle.

I didn't make it.  I crashed, not far from the finish line.  I was trying to catch the two guys in front of me, slid out in some thick dust and flatted my front tire.  I considered jogging to the finish, but I was too wobbly to do that.  I just walked to the tent to find some shade, pack up my stuff, and get going.

I seldom DNF, but I did today.  Looking forward to some eventual improvement in the fitness department, and some cooler weather.  

I never did get that popsicle.

Photo courtesy Dave Bussey

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