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Tuesday, June 27

Killing Thyme

If you can actually get to the end of this post, you have proven that you are as proficient at wasting time as I am.  Things are slow here, and unless I take up some sort of additional hobby (or wheelie practice again), my idle hands are the devil's to fill.

When I have too much time on my dick beaters, I start looking at everything in my bike room and wondering...

The addition of the Dynaplug Air tool to my Tülbag added a tiny bit of weight to my load.   As much as I don't like wearing a pack, I really don't like overstuffed jersey pockets... especially when it's hot outside.  Fully unzipped jersey equals quite the floppy stretchy affair.

I took all my stuff to work to weigh the whole everything... because work is kinda slow in June and there's a scale that's accurate to one gram and I get bored.

I carry three loose Allen keys (4, 5, and 6mm) and a 8mm nubbbin.

58 grams

I could carry my Fix It Sticks which are three grams lighter and have a T25, but I find that when I'm in a hurry up situation, I fumble with them a bit.  I don't know how to explain my difficulties, but my race weary brain ends up dropping one bit or the other.  I keep them in my commuter fanny pack and that's where they stay.  I used to tell myself that separate Allens kept the value of the contents of my Tülbag down so its loss would be less painful, but then I bought the Dynaplug.  It's no longer expendable.

On my pegboard, I had the right stuff to make this:

A 5mm Allen, and the bits and pieces for 4, 6, and 8mm.  31 grams.

31 grams

So, 27 grams dropped right there, which happens to be rather convenient.

28 grams

My Dynaplug Air and deep custom spare plug/nozzle holder.

This is the chain tool I carry now (with holes drilled into it, so I can twist tie a spare link to it):

33 grams

I though my other tool might be lighter, but...

28 grams

Not that much, and I like the way that I have the spare link stored with the other tool, so I guess this one goes back on the pegboard until said time that I lose my current breaker.

Then there's the link itself (and twist tie):

5 grams

I haven't broken a link on a single speed EVER.  I still carry a chain tool and link, because I know if I left them at home... I would probably bust a chain on my next ride.

I carry an inflator head... despite the fact that the Dynaplug Air is in itself an inflator, and I also have an inflator attached to the CO2 in my Backcountry Research Race Strap.

21 grams

More paranoia.  I've never had an inflator fail on me, but I've read enough sad stories that have me worried enough to carry multiples.

More crap?

28 grams

A tire boot made from an old number plate, lotsa Gorilla tape wrapped around some packaging material from a Maxxis tire, a $20 bill (because $5 isn't always enough for a beer and $10 isn't always enough for a burrito in Breckenridge), and one glueless patch because...?  Dunno.  Just because.  Never used it.  Mebbe someday someone will.  I wonder if it's even sticky anymore?

And the Tülbag itself?

32 grams 

Kinda mandatory gear since it holds all the things, so whatever, but also this:

5 grams

I put a carabiner on the zipper pull.  If I have keys (house or car), I like to put them on there.  Modern car keys are just too chunky that I don't wanna put them inside the Tülbag, and I can reach back and feel my keys a hundred times during a bike ride so as to satiate that anal compulsion.  I did realize the other day how redundant this is, because both my house keys and car key have a carabiner on them already.

I am redundance personified.

Total?  183 grams.

What does that mean?

It means I killed about fifteen minutes at work and so did you.

Welcome.

Monday, June 26

Book of Normal

Planning a weekend ride with others. The texts start flying in spits and sputters on Friday.

"Which day are we going?"

"Where we gonna ride?"

"Who's coming?"

"Who's driving?"

etc.

It's a somewhat painful process.

Zac was the only one with an opinion as to the "where" part.  He wanted to go to Big Ivy.  I'd only ever been there once.  I hit up Eric "PMBAR Honcho" Wever for some intel.  He's basically poops on the Big Ivy idea and says we need to go to Hot Springs... which is more than three hours away, and assuming one stop at Bojangles and a gas station, more like three and a half.  Both ways.  For a day trip.

Up on a Sunday at 5:00AM, meet up with Bill Nye in the agreed upon location.  I ask, "Why don't we just go to Rocky Knob instead?"

Much less adventure but also much less time in a car.   I've only been there once, and I remember a magical playground that while lacking in overall mileage, it makes up for it in features, terrain, elevation, and happy fun times.  The audible is called. 

I call Zac, explain the feels, Daily shows up, and we're headed to Rocky Knob.

Hooray.

I took plenty of photos the first time we got on Stone Binge, but forgot to set the camera up correctly.  All blurs and trbl.

We hit pretty much everything out there, trail-wise.  Most of it twice.  Some of it thrice.

The ride was probably more of what I needed and less of what I didn't.

Not so much focused on how far we would go...

But how much fun we could have.

To be honest, a big mountain ride where we only really see each other at the top of a climb and the bottom of a descent would not have done as much to recharge the batteries.

But flying down Pumps Berms and Jumps a few times over and over... buneos.

Weekdays are such an agenda filled mess.  I need weekends that are less so sometimes.

So, the super bonus of getting up so ridiculously early was a day of riding in super cool temps in late June.  The humidity was so low, it felt like we were on another planet.  Off the mountain by 1:30PM, it was a no-brainer to head into Boone for a stop at Black Cat Burrito.

Two more open weekends to fill (one of them a four day weekend that I didn't ask for) before Dirt Rag Dirt Fest.  Yeth, I'm complaining about a mandated four day weekend.  I want my extended weekends when I want them, not when every other person in the US is out and about clogging up the works.  Pisgah gonna be like Disneyland come this Friday. 

If I wanted to be around so many people, I'd go to the mall.  On Black Friday.

Do people still go to the mall?  Are there still malls anyways?

What do normal people complain about?

Thursday, June 22

Handie Meh

That broken XTR Trail lever thing that happened moments before the last stage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic that had me riding with a glob of Gorilla Tape replacing the part that keeps my finger from slipping off the end?

It bothered me on a physical level as much as it did a mental level the entire day.  My chi was in a sad state.  Life was unbalanced.

It bothered me enough that the first time I stopped for gas on the way home the next day, I sent a text to both Donald and Bryan at Bike Source.

"Can you order please and thank."

After I unloaded the car of all my stage race paraphernalia, I went to work on the broken lever to see if first of all, I could remove it myself.  Secondly, would I be able to figure out how to put it back together?

It looked simple enough.

So, the new lever blade showed up the next week, and that evening I went about putting it all back into place after a long week of staring at my sad lever-less bike just sitting there.

The whole thing kinda has four pieces... sorta.  I mean, it comes out of the bag altogether, but when you go to slide the pivot pin back into place, you need to align the holes in the lever with the hole in the Servo Wave mechanism and the two tiny springs... which appear to be captured in place, but mebbe not.

It probably took me a half hour of struggling and most of a beer in my poorly lit bike room to get it all to agree to fit back together.

Now, if you've never fondled a Servo Wave equipped lever before, it has this little bit of play that allows you to pull the lever away from the direction of normal use.  All I know is that everything went back together and the brake actuated the pistons so whatever.

And then my next few rides were on my other bike and then I head to Kanawha State Forest and then I roll around in the parking lot and then I realize that something's wrong.

Shit.

The lever is just flopping around in the resting position.  It still makes the brakes work, but something is definitely not bueno in the world.

Were we incorrect in thinking that there was no left/right specificity for the lever blades?

Was something else wrong with the brake?

Did I not put the blade in correctly?

Ding ding.  More than likely.

I end up thinking about it the whole ride, frustrated with myself for not paying attention when I took it apart, but also that I didn't bother taking the bike outside for a spin when I was done.

Back at the hotel, I was so tempted to take it all apart.  I had tossed the Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX in my messenger bag before leaving home, thinking that it couldn't hurt to have it just in case I needed it.
I also knew that this was our "couples" vacation.  I shouldn't be in the hotel room messing with something just because my anal compulsion can't bear occupying same space with a malfunctioning bike part.  That doesn't mean I didn't think about it every fifteen minutes tho.

A long, sweaty drive home in the Honda Fit of Rage, unload the car, fill the washing machine with dirty clothes, hear The Pie jump in the shower... grab a beer and head down to the bike room.

I stare angrily at the confounding brake lever blade, and shine a light on the left one that was assembled correctly looking for a clue.  Put things in, pull them out, in, out, in, out... putting the pin back in place and taking it back out again.  The entire time, I'm thinking about the whole "The definition of insanity is..." thing.

There was a point when I thought about taking it to the shop.  They were still open, and they would get a good laugh at my expense.  I also considered just letting it wait until I had time later in the week, but I just couldn't.

At this point, it wasn't about fixing the lever on a bike I wasn't going to be riding for a week.  It was about victory or defeat.  I didn't want to be beat by a stupid bike part.

Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhh.

And then the whole assembly fell to the floor and the springs that I thought were captured were no longer.  They went... wherever it is that things go when they hit the floor in my bike room.  The Shadowy Place.

*sigh*

On my hands and knees, now cursing the soul of the person who knocked my bike over twenty days ago, unknowingly busting my lever.  I've lost at least one hour in labor and a small bit of my sanity at this point.

I find the springs and now look at the old lever and do what I can to make the two look alike (aside from the broke off bit) without blowing the springs out of that one as well.

I make the assumption that if what I was doing was wrong, I need to do the ass opposite.  Orientate the largest spring differently, shove it in place... the alignment of the tiny bits is awful.  Fiddle, wiggle, poke...

Success.

And that's what it was all about in the first place.  I go about the rest of my evening, and every time I pass the bike still sitting on the floor, I can't help but give the lever a squeeze.

Perfecting the Seven Minute Breakfast™.  Finding a rogue sock gone missing in a laundry incident.  Sorting out the reason why my air conditioning didn't work on a hot drive home from West Virginia.  Fixing a fucking brake lever... a second time... but correctly.

Little man victories.  No podiums.  No high fives.  No champagne.

But there's always beer.  Always.

Tuesday, June 20

Barring any unexpected circumstances

The never ending battle to prop of this crumbling infrastructure that makes up my human form continues.  My modified by Fattimagic shorty stem was only a piece of the puzzle.  A puzzle meant to address my rhomboid issue but one that brought even more bad things to light.

My hands that I did very bad things to doing trail work back in March continued to bother me... because I'm a moron, mostly.

The original 580mm crabon flat bar was way too narrow, but it's what I could get my hands on real quick like.  They did nothing to open up my chest while riding (something I wanted to do for my tight rhomboid muscle), so the search was on for something wider with a 26mm clamp diameter (or 25.4 with a beer can shim).

Shortly thereafter, these came into my world:

If the story is true, these bars were made by Moots for Mike Curiak... which makes sense.  If anyone could get Moots to do something custom and super neato, he could.

This bar is the same width as the ones on my Vertigo Meatplow V.7 and the Stickle Meatplow V.6.  Also, the reach on all three bikes is terribly close to one another... no wonder it feels right.  So my width issue was resolved, but I continued to do bad things to my hands.

Before the Fattimagic stem was done, I just started riding the carbon risers that were on my pump with the 50mm stem from my Stickle and some ESI Chunky grips that had come into my possession somehow.  I've had issues with using Chunky grips before on my mountain bike.  I'd assumed it was one thing or the other, but I eventually found my happy place with the Racer's Edge grips.

I figured it was just a stopgap measure until I got my bar situation figured out, and when I finally got my hands on the Moots bars, I went into the shop to get some new grips.  No Racer's Edge in stock... no patience to place an order... walk outta the store with a pair of Chunky grips.

Ride with them for weeks.  Rhomboid feeling better, not 100%, but better.  Hands still in pain on the daily tho.

What was it about Chunky grips I didn't like again?

I put my old ratty Racer's Edge grips on (yeth, I saved them) and guess what?

Two weeks later, my hand pain is all but gone.

If I had to take a stab at the hows and whys, mebbe it's my hands that are in correct proportion to my four apple tall height and their inability to get around the larger grip?  Mebbe it's the cushier grip that requires a little more squeezing to hold onto?  Dunno, but I'm glad that like most physical problems I've had, self-diagnosis and treatment or just plain ignoring them long enough has worked out once again.

Now if someone would just buy me this titanium quill stem bolt, everything should be super copacetic a-ok.

Monday, June 19

I'm older now

The best thing about my birthday weekend?

Limited time on social media and maximal time being social IRL.

The Pie and I drove up to Charleston, WV, walked over to Pies & Pints Pizzeria (not on account of the name), ate some killer cheese salads, picked up her registration materials for the five miler the next morning, grabbed our beer outta the fridge, and headed across the street from our hotel to enjoy Live on the Levee.   I had enough beer on top of a veggie-only lupper that when I went back to the hotel to take a leak, I couldn't find The Pie in the amphitheater when I came back, because... dark.   Had it not been for David "Cheese" McCormick finding me standing there looking across the crowd in a confused manner holding my giant bag of popcorn and a beer and pointing her out, mebbe I'd still be wandering around.

Anyways, kind of a late night considering she was gonna run five miles the next morning, and Cheese and Birdman were going to take me out to the Kanawha State (Tropical Rain) Forest for some mountain bike cycling.

6:40AM hasn't hurt that much in a long while.

I thought I'd ridden 95% of what's in Kanawha.  I was hoping for a ride time that would make getting up early worth it, but not make me ded in the process.   Davis Creek over to Middle Ridge, which is now a much longer trail thanks to the efforts a few riders in the area that care enough to do the dirty work.  I'm having to relearn the fact that West Virginia roots and rocks are the slipperiest surfaces on the planet when wet. 

My butt... puckers.

We get over to Wall Fork, a trail I couldn't find last time I was here.. and proceed with the getting of my ass handed to me.  Much excite doled out, and I stay on the bike for the most part, despite the fact that the bike and I weren't always on the trail.  Nice to get over my head sometimes, I guess.

We go up what Birdman tells me is the longest continuous climb in the area... which makes me feel slightly better.  I've ridden up it in the past, and it took part of my soul then.  Now I know why.

Over to Black Bear, a trail that I think I've only ridden dry, because wet... it's a whole nother trail.

More excite and butt puckering.  Birdman is patient with me.  I'm grateful.

We head over to the other side of the valley.  I think I've ridden every way possible back down to the main road.  I'm wrong.

We go down Pine Ridge (which was recently made bike legal), and more pants-shattening occurs.  Off cambers, switchbacks, rocks, roots, drops... general insanity.

Birdman says he rides out this way about three times a week.  No wonder he's so bueno on his new bike.  I doubt there's zero shat in his chamois at the end of the day.

Back at the hotel, share morning stories with The Pie, walk to Black Sheep Burritos and Brews... peruse a late breakfast menu.  Order huevos ranchero and wash it down with some Loud! IPAs... which feels weird eating a breakfast item with beer, but.... it's my birthday.

Pack up and drive to our other hotel.

Realize we both ded.  Walk to the Rite Aid for Gatorade to bring us back to normal.  Stop at the Criel Mound and learn some history while re-hydrating.  Back to the hotel for a face down in the pillow covered in drool nap.  Wake up.  Hot tub... in the presence of screaming soccer kids in town for a national tournament.   Can never get completely away from kids, I guess.

Dinner and then over to the Comedy Zone for an "intimate" performance (nice way of saying that everyone in town must be at the FestivAll downtown).  Doesn't matter.  I'm a fan of stand up, and I've never been in an audience of 28 people before.

Another late night and a glorious 9+ hours of sleep I don't normally get before having to drive back home to reality.

A most buenos 48th birthday to me with my favorite human.

I'll mention that I installed my brake lever last week with one of the spring things not where it should be, and although my brake functioned, I knew it was wrong, and it bothered the shit out of me from the moment I figured it out in the parking lot.  When I got home yesterday, I pretty much went straight to fixing it, which involved a flashlight and swearing and springs shooting all over the place and figuring shit out and more swearing and a half hour that felt like two days.

The good news is that it's back together the way it should be.

Happy birthday to me indeed.

Thursday, June 15

Forty Six & 2

Cover your eyes for a big sur...

Gawdammut.

I ruin everything.

Pardon the man rock reference, but I will be Forty Six & 2 (otherwise known as 48) this Saturday.

The Pie and I are heading up to Charleston, WV again to celebrate.  Here's hoping the "concert on the river" thing isn't a "concert under a river" thing like last year.

I hope to get some riding in at the Kanawha State Forest, The Pie is running a five miler that starts right across from our hotel, then dinner and whatnot at Black Sheep Burrito and Brews... because burritos... and brews, and then we're heading over to stay in another hotel where there's beer and a comedy club downstairs and a really old talking bird in the lobby

Come for the laughs, stay for the bird and strange people in the hot tub.

The weather's looking iffy, so I'm not sure how much maximizing of the great outdoors we'll get, but the concert is across the street from the hotel, and I've got plenty of Gore Tex to keep us dry enough to stand there and look at wet people drinking Bud Light.  If I can't ride trail, I'll probably just fart around the city on whatever bike I bring.  I love the old buildings in downtown Charleston, so buenos either way.

Lame post.  It's my birthday.  Cut me some slack. 

See yinzers when I get back.

Tuesday, June 13

Running out of room for all the sashes

I recently agreed to be a Topeak ambassador.

An offer I coulda refused, but didn't.

I have plenty of Topeak products that I rely rather heavily on in my bike room.  The digital air pressure gauge and torque wrench (also digital, natch) would be topping that list.  As expensive as the torque wrench is, it was cheaper than replacing crushed bars, stripped stems, wallowed-out slider bolts, ruined EBBs, etc.  I've had it for more than five years now... I think.  It sits nestled in its case, in a drawer, at the ready always.  The pressure gauge also has its own place, in an old Oakley case, on a shelf made from a fake PA license plate.

Other tools get mislaid about the bike room on a pretty consistent basis, but these will always be returned to their proper place.

There's at least three or four other Topeak items in my possession... the very portable floor pump that I keep in my car that I never use but my friends who seldom check their air pressure before leaving Charlotte do, the nicest chain tool on my pegboard... I can't remember everything.  I sure do like what I have tho, so why not support them?

As seems to be the case with taking on an ambassador role, I'm asked what I would want from said company, said company then sends me some of what I want, some things I didn't ask for... and a softball hat.

I'll get to the things that I didn't necessarily want because I didn't think I'd need them but are just handy enough that I can't deny how nifty they actually are eventually.

This is something I wanted:

The Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX.

I was thinking about how sweet this would be for traveling.  It has three different Nano TorqBits for 4, 5, and 6 Nm.  That's dope as hell, because I really don't wanna be guessing my torque if I'm tightening up a stem or brake lever at the Breck Epic.  I also don't like traveling with my D-Torq Wrench DX because it costs like a million dollars, and the internet pundits would have me believe that if I look at it the wrong way, it's gonna need to be sent back and calibrated...

Because a torque wrench that's in a home shop sees so much use and abuse?

So this little guy, the first night that I had it... it was sitting there on the bench.  I was replacing the broken lever blade on my XTR Trail brake.  There's a stupid set screw that's just as much of a pain in the ass to get to with a 2mm wrench as the reach adjustment on the XTR Race brakes.  I know just the tool on the pegboard I use for that job, a bent Allen key... no idea how I bent a 2mm Allen tho.

As I was reaching for it, I looked down at my new tool thing, all sprawled out earlier so I could admire it, and realized this was about 100% molar betterer than my bent Allen key.

Tiny ratchet plus extension plus 2mm bit was all the buenos in this tight spot.

While the Vertigo was already being worked on, I figured I'd take a look at my Viscoset.  See about mebbe swapping some plates around and adjusting the damping (or dampening if you're the type of person who says "front forks").

Pull everything apart, adjust some things, start to put it back together...

And realized that mebbe I could try one of the Nano TorqBits for the job.  Thomson recommends 5.5 Nm, but I've had some slippage in the past, so I go for 6 Nm.  The red bit.

So, I shoulda read the instructions first.  I'm used to my 4 Nm Ritchey Torqkey that I use on my stem face plate when I travel.  It kinda "releases" when you reach the proper torque.

This doesn't do that.

It lets out an audible click.  "Audible" if you don't have music playing loudly in the background... which I did.

Fortunately, I just missed the click.  I thought I was getting heavy handed, but when I double checked with the digital wrench, I was right at 6 Nm.  I tightened the other bolt with the music turned down this time...

*click*

Oh, there it is.

It is quiet, but when you know what you're listening for, it's noticeable enough.

Even tho it's not my bag, I would think that the size and versatility of this bundle of toolage would be good for Amateur Homeless Personing™.  Mebbe.  Dunno.  Seems like it tho.  Very complete and tidy.

I should really read instructions... and open my eyes a little bit.  I didn't even notice that the ratchet part could be used two different ways until I was over on the Topeak site grabbing images.

This is definitely going into my traveling tool bag bundle (AKA re-purposed toiletry bag).

Which, by the way, why doesn't someone make a tool bag like this?  It's the most practical thing I've ever seen for bike tools.  All those purpose-made tool rolls with slots for things just don't make sense to me because I carry mebbe two or three things that would work in them, but what about sealant and lube and brake pads and spare valve stems and patches and a chain ring and chain and CO2 and tubes and Dynaplugs... and stuff.

Something with just the right amount of organization and not everything tossed into a sack.  Am I asking for too much?

Prolly or else someone would already be making it.

More Topeak related posts when I have time to play with... two floor pumps?