Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tried and liked - 2010


Elephant Bike
This was just a matter of time. I never seriously considered a custom bike. But when Alex finished his Gifford, and there was no such thing as the (now) pending rSogn, then I really had no choice. This is a great bike and I don't have a single regret about getting it. It's fast enough. It's comfy. It's pretty. It's versatile. I'll ride it for a long time.

Fake down, micro puffer
I just reviewed this vest a few weeks ago. The shocker here is that fake down works well. I've avoided it for a long time. This scrawny little vest is just as warm as any comparable down I've worn. I'm going to try and get my mitts on a down sleeping bag this year. The whole "wet/rainy with fake down" scenario is an interesting one for me. I've been caught a number of times in light/medium rain with this vest. It gets wet, but doesn't lose it's insulative properties. I've had wet issues with my down sleeping bag, especially with the bivvy. For one-nighters it's not a big deal, but for multi-dayers, it sucks.

Last December, I froze my ass with Patrick. The night I sat freezing, I promised myself that I'd get a bivy. And I did. I got a basic REI middle-of-the-roader, the REI Minimalist Bivy. I'm going to do a proper review on it by end of next camping season, but generally, I'd recommend it to a friend.
I did 4 or 5 overnighters with the bivvy this year and it was great. On two of those nights we had rain, one was solid rain and I had a rain fly too. An early year overnighter got pretty cold. In all cases, I was happy. There were some minor condensation issues, but nothing impossible. For quick overnighters when it's not super warm, I'm thinking a bivy is hard to beat.

Sew-ups, aka Tubulars
About a year ago, Glen let me borrow a bike with sew-ups on it. I think they were about 26mm wide, which is off-the-charts-narrow for me. And they were just really comfy. And fast. And cushy.

This year for CX, I found a crazy deal on ebay on an old tubular wheelset in great condition. I ran 34mm Challenge CX tires on it and loved it. Same deal: fast, comfy, cushy, and really grippy.

I'm pondering building up a tubular wheelset for the 747 and running the Challenge Paris-Roubaix 29mm tires. Just pondering at this point.

Stuff that's not stuff

National Forest cycling

How this obvious method of recreation has escaped me for so long is a mystery. I've done a short tour in a National Forest before, but it was a full day's drive to get there. We have great NF land all over the place in our own neighborhood and it's great riding: low traffic, great vistas, easy camping, water everywhere. I carried on about NF riding some more in Out There Monthly.

Even lower air pressure
I've never been one for skinny high pressure tires. My "fast" bike has skinny 27 mm (real 29 mm) tires at 80 psi. By road bike standards that fat and sloppy. But mountain type bikes should have fat tires and lower pressure and this year I've really embraced lower pressure for trail/off road/snow travel. The obvious low pressure application here has been the Pugsley, but the sleeper has been with my Rawland.

If you've ridden with me then you've heard me go on and on and on about how much I love the Quasi-moto tires, and I do love them -- for fast trail riding and dirt road exploration, I maintain that they can't be beat: fast and supple and easy handling. But later in the summer, I put the old Neo-motos back on the Rawland and ran them low and it's been rad. For snow and for trails, low pressure (I'm guessing about 25 psi) just makes for a different ride. Even on familiar trails.

Rack building
Like buying an Elephant, I always figured building a rack was also a matter of time. And Pat dialed in a process and opened his shop up to us, so this was the year. I really enjoy the process. I need to get in there and ramp it up so I can finish and let the next guy start - a queue is forming. But man, I need to figure out a way to keep doing this. Liza's bike needs a proper rack. Once you see the possibilities, the idea of hacking an out-of-the-box rack on a nice bike is unacceptable.

Producing stuff isn't the only reason to enjoy building racks. It's like baking bread or any other skilled activity -- the process is really satisfying, so is getting better at it and learning how to do it efficiently.

I asked Glen last night which he likes more: the process or the product. He said "yes."

And hanging out with Pat in his garage and enjoying the company of other rack-obsessed people is hard to beat too.

Air travel with bike
Taking the coupled RB-T with me to a family trip to Alaska was a beautiful thing. The whole travel-with-a-bike thing was easy and I didn't run into any of the issues that I feared or that you read about online. The bike survived. I didn't get charged extra by the airlines because it was a bike. It was easy to set up and tear down. What's not to love?

Publishing bikey stuff outside of Spokane
This is pretty-horn tooty, but this *is* a blog afterall, so I'm going to indulge. This year I decided to ramp up the bike-writing stuff a bit. I have an endless supply of bike-related opinion to impose upon the world so it only seems natural to extend my reach as much as I can.

The first thing was an article about Elephant Bikes in the April edition of Road magazine. Thanks to Pat, we have a soft copy of the Road article here. Getting this published was the result of Ben Tobin's magic. Ben took the pictures for the article. Really, anytime you have words next to Tobin-pics, the words are just filler. But I'll take what I can get.

Emboldened by the Road column, I sent off a piece to Bicycle Times about building up Jon's Kogswell. Again, my ace in the hole was to load it up with Tobin photos. That published in September of this year. You can download the pdf of the article here.

I've got some heady goals for this year and even headier goals for a couple years out. I'm keeping them to myself, but check back in a year and I'll let you know if I'm on track.


erik said...

i've enjoyed reading over the past year!

EvilElf said...

What a great year! Thanks for the inspiration, as usual...

Michael said...

Yeah, you need to add Cycling Spokane to the list!

I'm allergic to down and so I've used a lot of "fake down" over the years, Primaloft works really well and holds up over time.