Saturday, September 25, 2010

Its The Little Things - Shawnee Trail Bike & Performance Coating

The backpacking, bikepacking & mountain biking community is filled with good people. One of the people I've had the pleasure of meeting in the mountain biking community is RD Dale (crazy8 on from Shawnee Trail Bike & Performance Coating. I can't say enough about RD as a person and his products & services are top notch. We met when I started searching for a unique crank set for my new single speed build. I'm currently riding a set of XTR960 cranks that RD modified for single speed riding and love them. My set is polished only but you can see on RD's website that there are a lot of ceramic coating options available. In my opinion, these cranks dead sexy after getting the Shimano branding off of them. Another nice benefit is that the cranks are recycled (pun intended) from the crowd that needs the latest and greatest Shimano gear and leave behind perfectly good cranks for the landfill. You can see in the photo below I don't baby my drivetrain. Its there to push me up, down, over or through what I want. If it breaks, that's weakness leaving my kit. ;)

I also run gears that were cut by Homebrewed Components and then coated by RD at Shawnee. These gears are single speed specific, light without sacrificing durability and just as important as all of that, they're made by a cottage industry builder. I'm particularly impressed with my two-piece cog. It has an aluminum base (coated in green to fit with my Irish motif) with a titanium ring rivited to the base. Lightweight and endlessly durable. The photo below is of the gear after roughly 500 miles of nasty trail. Impressive.

Last, but not least, I asked RD if he'd help me out with my tent stakes. You'll find several brands of UL stakes on the market with orange paint on the top to help with visibility. The paint is needed because its easy to lose the small ti UL stakes in the leaves. Unfortunately for me, my mild red-green color blindness dulls the contrast of orange paint in leaves and pine straw. I had RD coat the stakes in yellow and its a HUGE difference. Its unlikely I'll ever mistakenly misplace one of these babies... they practically glow in the dark!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Its The Little Things - Multi-tool Simplification

Multi-tools offered in the cycling industry are trash. Its a rule like gravity or that the guy that you're riding with for the first time will tell you he used to ride semi-pro only AFTER making you break your lungs trying to keep up with him. (I still enjoyed the ride, Kelly) To add insult to injury, they're also expensive. I recently cobbled together an upgrade to my Crank Brothers Multi-17 so I thought I'd share...

The Crank Brothers tool weighs in at 6 1/8 oz (172g). This widget includes 6 hex keys, 2 Torx bits, a flat bladed screwdriver and a chain tool that has features that look like spoke wrenches and box end wrenches included. The tools in general are low end junk. The chain tool in particular stands out to me. It is clearly designed by some sadist that hates cyclists and takes delight in destroying their gear. The chain tool itself is almost impossible to use since its semi-permanently attached to the multi-tool. You feel like you are working without the benefit of thumbs when you try to repair a busted chain on the trail. Just to add a little sizzle to the whole thing, the designer also threw in spoke mangler wrenches that are expertly toleranced to guarantee rounding out your nipples. There are also two box end openings to destroy various nuts on your bike if you're still not quite on the verge of having an aneurysm on the trail. So, in summary, bike multi-tools are:

  1. Heavy.
  2. They're cheaply made.
  3. They include things you don't need.
  4. They feel the need to add features like the spoke wrench & box end wrench openings that are so poorly made they only serve to destroy your gear.
  5. The ergonomics are so bad you can hardly use things like the chain tool.
  6. They rust ... immediately.

I replaced them with a simple, reversible ratchet driver, specific bits that I need for my particular gear & a Park chain tool. The ratchet, and the five bits (5mm hex, 4mm hex, 2.5mm hex, T10 & T25) weigh 2 3/8 oz (67g). I got the ratchet in the photo from my contacts in the Taiwan / China sourcing work that I do with my job. If your job doesn't require that you take the 1,000 hour flight (coach) to Asia, Amazon carries a few like this for cheap. I'm using Apex brand bits because I can get them easily from work and they're really good stuff. If you go this route, do yourself the favor of contacting an industrial supply house and get high quality tools. Nothing sucks more than cheap tools. Add a Park Tool CT5 chain tool and you have all of the same functionality, significantly higher quality tools, better ergonomics & less weight.

Go ride!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The plan included me being on the trail and roughly 20% done with the TNGA. Instead I made the hard call early on Day 1 to drop out to minimize the aggravation factor of being picked up somewhere in North Georgia. It was crystal clear that my single-speed climbing kung-fu was weak in comparison to the gravel climbing I had in front of me. I failed. I didn't properly prepare. As I write this it looks like 5 of us have dropped out completely in the first full day. Its a tough ride. I did learn a few things, however:

  1. Don't be lazy. I didn't train enough. I could have forced myself through a night or two before being completely wiped out but none of it would have been fun. Obviously, an adventure on this scale will be a physical challenge but if you're not ready for it physically, the beating takes all of the fun out of it. I wasn't ready.
  2. I no longer consider the claimed 56,000 ft of climbing to be some sort of GSP glitch. This course means business and its particularly grueling in the first section. If you're planning on riding this one next year do intervals & climb the steepest trails you can find... a lot.
  3. Don't rely on the other singlespeed riders to show up. In other words, plan to ride alone. Ultimately, 36 signed up and 18 people started.Everyone had gears and disappeared not long after the first few climbs. The GPS track provided by Dave Muse was solid but you still manage to make wrong turns here and there. Have a stupid proof way of processing the cue sheets on the run.
  4. Have a more comprehensive plan. Carrying 5d of food seemed like a good idea. I didn't have to worry about where I stop. I was 100% self-sufficient. Unfortunately, the associated weight only compounded the fact that I wasn't ready to climb that much on a SS (or a geared bike more than likely).
  5. Stan's sealant is magic. On the way out the TNGA decided to give me a little kick in the pants and cut my rear tire. I stopped the air with my finger which gave the sealant a moment to set up in the hole. Its solid... zero leak. Magic!
With all of that said, I still had a great ride on Saturday. The downhills on the way out confirmed that the climbing on the way in was brutal. On one section in particular I started from the top at a dead standstill. By the time I reached the bottom I topped 30mph without any pedaling. That's steep! The weather was perfect - sunny, cool, a little bit of a breeze.

The guys organizing the race did a really nice job getting everyone organized. You can keep up with this year's race at . You can also get interesting updates at: