Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Wheel Destroyer Strikes Again

I happen to enjoy riding in the dark.  Strangely, I feel that the darkness makes my illuminated self more visible to the other people, cars and bikes on the road.  So this morning, I headed out extra early for a ride that would get me to the office still in the darkness.  And heading up Alexander to the Bridge, I got passed by a group of three guys (not unusual).  Rather than let them pass me like I usually do, I tried my damnedest to close the gap.  Upon reaching the peak, I gave up, totally gassed from keeping up.  On the path down to the Bridge, I rolled unconsciously just trying to catch my breath.  All of a sudden, I hit something in the road and was almost ejected from the bike.  At the same time, I heard a huge crack coming from the rear wheel.

Crap.  Did I really just snap another frame?  Not my new steel frame?!?  At best I cracked the wheel.  Crap, crap, crap.  I immediately felt that uncomfortable wobble coming from the back wheel going flat.  I pulled over, flipped the bike onto the handlebars and got to work.  Pulling the rear wheel from the frame, besides the tube being flat, I was caught off guard by the cassette falling off the wheel to the ground.  Usually the wheel and cassette are physically attached to each other.  I changed the tube, jammed the wheel back together with the cassette in place and flipped the bike over.  I checked the wheel and frame but couldn’t find any cracks.  I got the chain lined up and quickly realized that there would be no shifting for the rest of the ride.  Making it to my parking stall, I was thrilled to be in one piece.

After work, I was impressed with myself that the rear tube held its air.  I opted for the Ferry ride home and rode straight to the bike shop.  Under the shop’s lighting, upon dismantling the rear wheel, and the cassette falling to the floor again, it became obvious that the rear hub was struggling.  I was informed that there is an axel inside the hub, which is almost impossible to damage, that I succeeded in snapping in half.  Woohoo!!  A new hub has been ordered and we can hopefully make the repairs.  Otherwise, its another $400 for a new Velocity wheel.  I must say, however, that these Deep V Wheels are the best wheels that I have ever ridden.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

And here she is ...

The new ride has arrived.  She’s a beauty and ready for action.  Upon first inspection, we are going to need to make a few upgrades before the bike is fully dialed in.  First off, the blue and white motif include a white seat and white bar tape.  Knowing my sloppiness – both mechanical and riding conditions – it will be a short time before the white tape looks like an Egyptian Mummy, not to mention the nastiness that comes out of my arse leaking out on that seat.  Of greater consequence, the bike came with a fancy new set of race wheels.  The Ultegra hubs are nice, but the 20-some spoke set-up will be shredded at the first sign of the Wheel Destroyer.  I'm going to put my old Velocity Deep V's on this bike and sell the new wheels.  God knows, the Deep V's, while seemingly bullet proof, are almost six months old.  They are destined to fall prey to WD shortly.  I will take the cash from the new wheels to buy a new set of Velocities.

I am psyched for the Ultegra group.  I will report back on that in an upcoming entry.  And the skinny steel tubes look like nothing compared to the thick carbon stuff.  I look forward to having a new bike to further understand the ‘feel’ of a bike.  This myth of stiffness versus flexibility should be highlighted with the steel frame.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

'Steel for Real'

The new bike has been ordered.  No more plastic bikes for this FatGuy.  I opted for a local brand, Breezer, and their steel model, The Venturi.  Breezer is better known for their mountain bikes.  But I have heard good things about the road bike, and their attention to detail in the construction and geometry.  Also, I opted for the upgrade to full Ultegra.  I have come a long way from the $550 internet bike days.  Stay tuned.

As an aside, Joe Breezer is a Marin guy, and a founding father of Tam.  And Joe blasted past me a few times during the Dirt Fondo. I like the Marin County connection on this bike and hope to serve its namesake proud.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are you kidding me?!?!?

The FatGuy Wheel Destroyer does it again.  As well documented in my May 14, 2012 blog entry, I am a bit rough on cheap carbon frames.  My  fancy new Fuji 1.0 frame was a significant upgrade from the bottom-of-the-line Scattante which lasted me a whopping seven months and 3,500 miles.  The new Fuji looked cooler, rode nicer and weighed a pound less.  But in the end, carbon and plastic can not hold up to the power that is the Wheel Destroyer Torque Machine.  The Fuji Stealth Bomber lasted a whopping four and a half months and 2,811 miles before surrendering to the Torque Monster that is this FatGuy.

On a seemingly slow ride home, I was begging my buddy Peter to ride up the incredibly steep Vineyard Avenue on our way home.  It is a quick, maybe 25 yard pitch of north of 30 degrees.  After a little prodding, Peter relented and we were off.  We went up Lagunitas towards Natalie Coffin Greene, made a right on Glenwood and cruised up the hill.  On the downhill, I picked up some speed and got ahead of Peter.  I looked both ways at the Bolinas Avenue stop sign, not exactly stopping but slowing considerably.  As I crossed the intersection onto Vineyard, I geared up into the big ring to do the normal power pull up the hill (high cadence/low gears is for long hauls).  As I made it half way up the pitch, my pace slowed and the cranking began.  I got about two revolutions of the cranks into the hill when SNAP right, SNAP left brought me to a complete stop.  I didn’t fall off the bike but the rear wheel did its best not to completely rip off of the bike. I knew immediately what had happened.  Another chain stay destroyed.  I looked down to confirm the fatal flaw and Peter’s face told it all.  He was laughing out loud and applauding my effort.

This frame destruction is a moment that Peter and I will share for the rest of our lives.  I feel that it has brought us infinitely closer as friends and cycling compatriots.  And it is always good to have a witness as to my destructive capabilities.

Now for the aftermath.  Do I really have to go through this with performance again?  They continue to take care of me but I am growing concerned that this is a representation of the manufacturers that they carry.  Performance doesn’t really sell steel or titanium bikes.  And I clearly need something that I cannot break.  No more plastic BS for me.  Ultra light is unnecessary and, frankly, a waste of money on the FatGuy.  Do I hold out for a cash refund to buy something elsewhere?  Do I go for the aluminum bike with high-end components?  I do like the difference between Tiagra and SRAM Force.  Will the jump to Ultegra, Dura Ace or SRAM Red be that much greater?

I offered the manager of Performance the following:  Either give me $5,000 in store credit and I will spend it immediately or $3,000 in cash and I promise to never come into the store again.  They may be better cutting their losses with the cash.  We shall see.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My First Strava KOM – Oak Street, San Anselmo

My buddy John gave me a call having decided to start commuting on his bike to work.  A great idea if you ask me.  And it makes even more sense for him as he lives in San Anselmo and works at Larkspur Landing.  This is a 5-6 mile commute that is almost entirely flat … except for the fact that Jon lives at the top of one of the highest hills in San Anselmo.  Couple that with the fact that John did not have a bike and he had not been on one in about ten years.  But John is a total stud, runs a lot and works out like a champion.  So this was still doable.  I suggested that he should ride up the hill a few times before just dropping four-figures on a new bike.  We coordinated that he would come to our place and borrow my mountain bike – the MTB is my only bike with a triple, and he would certainly need the extra gears going up that hill – ride to work on his own and then we would ride home, facing the hill together.

On our soft pedal from his office, I did my best to psyche John up for the hill.  He assured me that it was going to be no problem, that he had run the hill dozens of times.  He claimed that the hill was just under a mile and it wasn’t too steep.  Having driven the hill in my car previously, I agreed with the mile-ish claim, but the steepness was one to question.  I told John that I assumed the ride would take 15 minutes at a pretty reasonable pace – four miles per hour up the one mile hill was a pretty safe bet.  John scoffed at my estimation and told me that he could run up the hill faster than that.  I didn’t doubt that claim but knew that the ride would be pretty slow.  So I offered a bet of over/under 13 minutes for his time and took the over for a round of drinks at Marinitas.  Again, John sneered and eagerly took the bet on the premise that he could get there under 13 minutes with the caveat that he could either ride or run to the finish line.  I agreed that the finish line stood fixed and he could ride or run so long as if he ran, he brought the bike with him.

As we approached his hill, I reset the Garmin, we rested for a few minutes to give him his best lungs and then we took off.  I dropped him within the first few hundred yards, but that was to be expected.  I got in to granny gear and recited my pain mantra as I pedaled.  Today, the song in my head was ‘Humps to the Boulevard’ by Rodney O and Joe Cooley.  There were come crazy steep parts to the hill, several short stints north of 20 percent grades.  A few times, my pace slowed to that uncomfortable 0% grade where I am going too slow for the Garmin to do the math to register the grade on the computer dashboard.  And I had forgotten that the last few houses on Oak Street were located behind a locked mechanical gate.  And John neglected to give me the code to the door.  So as I approached the top, I had to dismount the bike and carry the bike (in my clipped shoes) around the gate through a dirt path. I jumped back on the bike to gut out the final few hundred yards.  

Not knowing exactly where the Strava segment started and stopped, I rode through the finish line that John and I agreed to just to be sure that I got it all.  I then pedaled back to the finish line with the Garmin reading somewhere in the 11 minute range.  I was worried that I set the bar too low and was going to lose the bet.  But I took the Garmin out of the holster and held it up so John could see the times when he crossed.  After soe time passing, I began to hear John panting coming around the bend.  And then he surfaced, on his feet, running as hard as he could, wheeling the bike next to him.  I held the Garmin out and he read the time as he crossed, 13 minutes 23 seconds.  Sweet Magaritas!!  

My Strava time turned out to be a mixed blessing.  It seems that Oak Street is a popular course for mountain bikers, and not roadies – no surprise.  I took the King of the Mountain with a time of 10.33, a full 1.13 ahead of the guy in second place.  But Strava is not too well represented on Oak Street, my being only the third person to trip the segment.  But I will take it … my first KOM, number one out of three.  I guess I should hit the hill again to see if I can best my previous time.  Otherwise, I will leave 10.33 for John as something to strive for.  Reach higher that the FatGuy, Johnny.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Moto II is delivered

To close the loop on the Moto build-up, the bike was delivered to me on Tuesday, 10/3.  The total damage for my ‘free’ bike was over $300.  But I feel like I still got a decent deal.  I upgraded from the crappy old Tiagra group into a SRAM Force group.  And the difference between the two is immense.  Regardless of the SRAM double-shifting, there is a noticeable difference when the chain settles in the new gear in the cassette.  It is hard to wrote about ‘feel’ but I will do my best.  On the Tiagra, the chain kinda fell into the new gear.  On the SRAM, it feels like to actually pick up the chain and drop it securely into place.  The re is no rattle or in-between gears.  It just feels solid.  Also, as I have mentioned in the past, the Moto Cross is just a more comfortable bike.  I am not sure if it is the aluminum or the beefy cross geometry, but I am way more confident on the downhills and just peddling.  Kinda fun.

The maiden voyage for the Moto was my commute to work this morning.  I met up with the MoMiles crew – on a Wednesday, no less – which was seven strong.  The Moto got many accolades for the mere newness and shininess of the cassette.  With a few rides under her belt, I am sure that she will blend back into the masses.  It was also noticed that I was riding on 35mm knobby tires.  I used this as an excuse for my usual slowness.  

The ride itself was pretty standard and the bike felt great.  I did want to cause a little ruckus on her maiden voyage, so after reaching Chrissy Field, I took off knowing full well that at lease Bryan and Mo would take the bait.  When I looked back, Mo was nowhere to be seen, but Bryan was in my draft and hammering to keep up.  After the light at the yacht club, Bryan made his move and he dropped me before Fort Mason.  The data shows that I set two PRs and a second place on the big one, Chrissy field to Fort Mason.  It was a Pyrrhic victory as Bryan drafted me into beating my PR by 11 seconds.  I’m sticking with the story that I would have held the pace if it were not for the knobby tires.  When I change those bad-boys out, I’m going back to get my record.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Money Pit

I had a feeling that building up the Moto could end up being a bad idea.  My 'free' frame and 'free' SRAM parts turned into a few bucks to ship the frame and a few bucks to buy cables plus $100 to build up the bike.  Next change order ... I got the call on Saturday that one of the SRAM Force shifters was not working.  At $500 a pair, the shop was 'doing me a favor' by selling me a single shifter for $190.  And, of course, I dropped off all my old parts at the Hippy Bike Co-Op on Friday because Amy wanted me to get my crap out of the garage.  Full retail, baby.

This SRAM Force crap better be sweet because my free upgrade just passed the $300 mark.  Grumble.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Replacement Frame Update, Part Three

Wohoo ... new frame arrived yesterday.  I dropped her off at the shop for her build.  I am anxious to ride the SRAM Force group as I have never used SRAM before.  From what I have read, the short-click versus long-click takes a little getting used to.  But my commuter is almost ready.  Maybe by the weekend.  Fired up. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mechanical Log

I am going to use this blog to help keep track of the mechanical issues and upgrades that I make to the bikes.  Rumor has it that I am hard on bikes.  Hmmm ...

Fuji Road - New front derailleur ($40) and chain/cassette clean-up.  First broken spoke on the rear wheel replaced (hopefully not the start of a trend).  Odometer read, 2,150 miles.

Fuji 29er - Replacement front wheel (free / warranty).  Odometer read, 194 miles

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Replacement Frame Update, Part Two

As we last left the replacement frame issue, it was going to cost me $260 to get a free warranty replacement of a $200 frame.  Grumble, grumble.

After talking with several times, they were super helpful and went along with my out-of-the-box thinking.  See if you follow my thinking … to allow the warranty replacement, they needed to physically see the crack in the bottom bracket, on the bike, in their shop in Texas.  I suggested that, to save on shipping, I would cut the frame with a hack saw along the two chain stays, seat tube and down tube.  This would leave me with just the bottom bracket and a few inches of the tubes for viewing and confirmation of the crack.  It would also reduce the shipping costs of the old frame from $130 to less than $10.  After a discussion with his people, they agreed and I was onto the task of chopping up the bike.

I was disappointed to learn, when cutting aluminum with a Dremel, that no sparks flew.  I had gotten my son all excited to see the fireworks.  He still got a kick out of grinding away at the bike with a power too.  But the rooster tail of sparks would have been an added bonus.  We boxed up the bottom bracket and forked over the $8 and change for shipping.

Stay tuned.