Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cutting Your Own Steerer (or cheating your LBS out of $45)

Here's a quick post on how to cut your steerer tube yourself on your bike. Its not hard at all if you have basic tools and you are even modestly mechanically minded.

I recommend leaving your steerer tube long when you're setting up a new bike. This allows you to try different bar positions by swapping spacers around. It also makes it easier to sell your fork if you decide its not playing nice with your new frame. Here's a photo of my bike with an extra inch or so of steerer. I know... it looks odd. I'm used to being mocked so bring your best! When you're convinced that everything is dialed in its time to commit and size the steerer properly.

Next up, remove the headset cap and extra spacers:

Then, mark the steerer tube at the top of your stem. Press that sharpie in there hard to get to the corner and a nice straight line.

Now its time to remove your stem.

Now calm down... put down the power saw. Its not time to cut yet. You'll want 2-3mm of gap between the top of the stem and the top of the steerer tube. This is the part where you find out how much German heritage you have. If you get out your digital calipers you're more than 50% German (no matter what grandma says). Otherwise, you're just a slob like most of us. I scored a line with the cutter in the image below to give you an idea of what a proper cut looks like.

Make sure you check to see if your star nut is above or below the cut line. If its above press it down lower but don't go crazy. You don't want it too deep after you make your cut.

Ok, psycho its time... get to the cutting. Some people use a hacksaw with tape as a guide. I prefer using a pipe cutter because it gives a perfectly square line. You can also use the Park saw guide if you're going to be doing a lot of this. If you're using a pipe cutter be patient. Take several spins, tighten a little, several spins... you get the idea.

You'll hear a tink sound when the upper section separates. Its a glorious sound if you measured properly. If you didn't please contact my lawyer.

You can see I look like a seasoned pro with the star nut just in the right place. Would I lose any credibility if I admitted that I was lucky? Now its time to set the star nut to the proper depth. I recommend using a Park tool for this. Its cheap and it makes sure you don't press the star nut in crooked or damage the threads. Use a hammer and tap lightly. If you go nuts you run the risk of mucking up your headset.

Next you'll want to remove the slight burr that your pipe cutter left at the edge of the steerer tube. If you don't remove it you'll probably have trouble getting the stem and spacers on and off and it tips your buddies off that you do piggy work. File lightly and leave a nice chamfer all the way around. Keep the filings out of your headset. Bearings and metal shavings have a long standing feud so it never ends well when they hang out together.

Here's a shot of the steerer after being expertly filed. Its a little known secret that Moots used my filing as inspiration for their buttery smooth welds. Now you know.

The rest is easy! Make sure your fork is fully flush with the headset in the lower crown and put your stem back on. Don't tighten it yet. Add your stem cap and tighten it.

Next line up your bars with your tire and re-tighten your stem. If you have a Ritchey stem don't be ham fisted... there's a torque spec there for a reason.

Stand back and admire your work. Oh wait, I missed a step!!! Go post on the Weight Weenies forum that you saved 7/8 oz by re-sizing your steerer tube and wait to see if they figure out you're mocking them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blinglespeed madness

Remember a few months back when I posted the ten phases of singlespeeding? It got a little worse today. My new sexy, green Chris King singlespeed hubs showed up. It took a lot of phone work to find them since King has apparently decided to cut way back on inventory so lead time is 4 weeks. I'll be glad when this lean fad is over... yeah, I said it. Tomorrow the hubs are on their way to Mike Curiak to build into some XC & bike-packing wonder wheels.

Here's a quick update on my progress into singlespeed-dom. (updates in bold blue)

The Ten Phases of Singlespeeding

1. Build your first singlespeed --
inspired by others riding SS, you either convert an old bike or buy an entry level SS to get the flavor.. Ride it, ***** about how hard it is getting up the hills, think about where to ride next. Lather, rinse and repeat...Raleigh XXIX... check.

2. Upgrade madness -- the weight weenie / blinglespeed side takes over and you suddenly develop a need to upgrade. A combination of an empty bank account, an upset significant other or a weight weenie part failure ensues. You have parts shipped to work, so the wife won't see the bike parts you ordered. You start looking for ideas (like the MTBR SS forum) to further your obsession of the perfect SS. (note to Jenny: I didn't have any parts shipped to work)... Raleigh XXIX with lots of Ritchey WCS... check.

3. Gear ratios - your brain becomes obsessed with determining the optimum gear ratio for the upcoming race or given terrain. You temporarily lose focus on just riding and being one with your bike. Your library of forks, chain rings and cogs/cassettes starts to rival the selection at Supergo or Webcyclery.

I do not have an application on my laptop that calculates gear ratio, gain ratio, gear inches and development. I do not know in great detail the differences between these values because I read the ramblings of the late and great Sheldon Brown. OK, so I do... what of it?!

4. Realization - the entry level SS no longer is good enough. You convince yourself you need a better bike -- custom, SS specific, whatever.. Lynskey Ridgeline... check.

5. Purism - you realize that you're almost exclusively riding your SS. Your other bikes are collecting dust. Under your breath, you sometimes mock others riding gears and work your butt off to one-up them. You use your SS as a tool to brag or as an excuse / handicap (I geared too stiff for the course...) Start hating RockShox and Shimano just on principle, and start thinking rigid forks and DH tires are the better setup.

Check, check, check, check. Just for the record, I've always held a strong contempt for Shimano and still wish Suntour XC MicroDrive would make its proper return.

6. Laziness - you go out and upgrade to a "proper" SS. Now that you it, the upgrade and gear ratio obsessions are fulfilled. You get lazy, and start trashing your bike without taking care of it. You forget about checking tire pressures, chain tension, broken teeth and don't even consider about the consequences. A wonderful delusion, until the bike leaves you stranded 5 miles from your car, and your cell phone has no signal deep in the woods... Wha?! Never. Heresy!

7. Heresy - ride your SS so much, that when you ride your geared bike, you miss your SS. You take it one step further and actually sell off the geared bike(s) that you previously couldn't live without. Wha?! Ride a geared bike. Disgusting. Illogical. NEVER.

8. Fight club - start putting beer in your water bottles, grow some unusual facial hair (for the men), dress like a freak, and acquire the attitude that you don't give a **** about racing or beating the gearies. Riding a pink colored bike frame or wearing orange socks with your Birkenstocks to a bar after the ride doesn't even click to you as being strange. Jenny would probably tell you that most of this is nothing new.

9 (optional) Scorching - as if SS'ing isn't fringe enough, start thinking is an interesting alternative. Give it a go, maybe even get hooked. No fixie for me yet. This is an optional step.

10. Approach martyrdom - actually leave the clique by riding so much that few buddies can keep up with you. You become one with your bike. You simultaneously learn a level of humbleness and let your results speak for themselves. I am riding alone a lot lately. I'm still grounded enough to realize that I'm only a legend in my mind. Did I tell you about the time I won a downhill on a fully rigid bike? I digress...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Palmetto Trail to Foothills Trail & Back Again

I took a 3-day weekend to meet up with dad so we could explore possible connector loops between the Jocassee Gorges section of the Palmetto Trail and the Foothills Trail. We've done these trail sections before but the first time around we chose to hike out all the way to highway 178 then up to the FHT. That loop requires 4 miles or so of asphalt which can ruin the experience so we dedicated this trip to finding a more suitable connector. The plan:

1. Hike the Palmetto Trail to the 9 mile marker and camp there.
2. Scout an off trail route to the FHT or decide to test a few sections of double track that seem to head in the right direction.
3. Camp overnight on the FHT.
4. Come home.

Plans change - that's the beautiful thing about hiking. The point is to enjoy yourself so you adjust your schedule to suit. My last several trip posts have been gear focused and bordering on geeky. This one will focus on adventure and the beauty of being out there.

Here's our route on the map.

Day 1 is highlighted in yellow and is just a little over 9 miles (I forgot to start the track on my GPS at the very beginning of the walk).

Here's day 2 highlighted in yellow. We walked a little over 10 miles with the first mile or so being in very rough off-trail conditions. It was technically impassable with very dense laurel but we're tough (read stubborn) so we pushed our way through. I wouldn't recommend this route to anyone.

The woods were full of spring green and fresh blooms:

We started bright and early on Saturday morning with the choice of bush-whacking our way to the FHT or walking jeep trail. That's a no brainer, right? Adventure!

This is not a trail...

If there's no trail only a moron would go the steep way, right? What did you call me?

Getting better... now where's that trail?

There's that white blaze. I knew where I was the whole time. You doubted me?

We got to camp around 10:30 am which was much earlier than expected. We had a choice to make - hang out around camp for several hours or explore another connector back to the Palmetto Trail and head home. Explore, of course!

The new track took us down a solid rock ridge line for about a mile. Its a great hike down but it would be a steady and steep walk up.

There are beautiful vistas off of both sides of the ridge line.

Sometimes you forget the fun in the simple things.

Like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches burritos.

And the things you almost step on...

And waterfalls...

And good company...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Green

 DO NOT BUY LYNSKEY. My frame was an absolute noodle with rear end tire rub, squeaking, popping, dropped chains and general no-funnery. I spent a year bickering with several representatives at Lynskey (including the arrogant David Lynskey) only to be told that I needed to tighten my seat post clamp, lubricate my slider every 3 rides (what?!), etc. Ultimately the frame broke both in the sliders (hairline crack) and failed massively at the headtube-downtube junction. The original fix was going to be a replaced downtube but after lots of argument they finally sent a replacement frame. I sold the replacement frame without assembling it on Craigslist. I received an email soon after posting the frame for sale telling me that they were shocked that I was selling it without riding it and if they had known I was just going to sell it they wouldn't have offered a replacement frame. These guys are the friendliest people you'll ever meet when you're buying a new frame but it turns bad fast when things aren't going well. For those of you around bikes awhile this sounds a lot like the BS surrounding Litespeed under Lynskey's watch prior to the brand being sold off. Do youself a favor and give your hard earned money to people that actually ride and know how to design and support bikes. As always, you may have a wonderful experience unlike me but why take the chance?

First things first: Happy Easter!

Spring brings green, new beginnings and most importantly the warm weather I'm built for. I got a ride in yesterday and enjoyed much drier trails than we've had for the past few months. Unfortunately, the pollen is really bad this year. It kicked off a fun little asthma attack that I occasionally suffer from when I'm working hard. Here's a shot of the pollen on our front walk:

I'm in the process of building up some SWEET new 29er wheels for the Lynskey. They'll be green king hubs (SS of course) laced to Stan's 355 rims. Dave of Dave's Speeddream Wheels is doing all kinds of spoke voodoo that I didn't completely understand even though I've been geeking on bikes for nearly 30 years now. This winter has been tough on me with flats so I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to being free of tubes and pinch flats. I went with green for a few reasons - you don't see too many green bikes and when I was having beers with Martha Stewart she pointed out that it ties in with the Lynskey shamrock theme. As a side note, don't play drinking games with Martha. She developed quite a tolerance drinking homemade prison vodka.

While I'm waiting on Dave to build up the wheels I probably went a little overboard:

I also have a slick new cog that I picked up from RD at Shawnee recently. Its an ISAR Ti/Al two piece cog with the aluminum coated in green ceramic and a clear coat over the Ti gear ring. In case you weren't aware, its really bad karma to cover up Ti goodness with colors. Seriously bad. Don't do it.

Here's the 18t stainless King cog I'm replacing:

With some 19t sexy:

My frame bags from Epic Designs also came in late last week. They fit perfectly and Eric's workmanship is second to none. I'll document some trips in the next couple of weeks and let you know how the whole system works out.