October 31, 2011

Difference Between the British and Chimps - Caught on Helmet Cam

On its own, this is a hilarious video from Britain. Those British accents kill me - I watch too many British comedies I guess. But when you take the audio and put it with the right monkey video - magic. I found this on Dirt.

October 28, 2011

Live the Dream - Safe Cycling

Wanna start something buddy? As cyclists, lets make this our safety mantra when we drive our less classy vehicles. Start a trend.

1.5 to Survive 

In the USA I guess this would be:

4 ft 11 to Survive  
or if you need to rhyme
4 ft 11 so I don't go to heaven 
(before my time that is, not overall)

OK not too snappy, try this:
Give Me 3

October 23, 2011

Clone Hirame Pump Head Review

I found it on Ebay listed as "Hirame Yoko Style Pump adaptor - 300psi, disc wheel", but it seems to originate here. In my haste I didn't notice the term "Style". These things seem to come in a variety of shapes, but all the same style. The version I bought looks very similar to the Hirame. Not my fault I didn't see it was a clone - right?
Here's the real Hirame

So, how well does it work? Seems to work fine. And seems to work in the same manner as the Hirame, which looks like the most finished version. Basically, you put the head on the valve stem, then finger tighten the barrel adjuster (you may have to loosen it first to get it on there), then clamp the lever down.

Works on  smooth valve stems as well as threaded ones. Grabs better on the threaded ones as you might expect. But then you have to loosen the barrel adjuster to get it off too.

This one is called a Tanaka
In terms of usability, it is sometimes hard to get your fingers in the disk wheel cutout to tighten the barrel adjuster enough. The barrel adjuster has to be firmly screwed down to stay on the valve stem. I find myself wondering why there isn't a more aggressive cam action on the lever. That would make it less important to screw down the barrel adjuster. The camming action is very minimal. Perhaps that is the difference from the original Hirame, but I don't think so. The Hirame seems to have the same tighten-the-barrel-adjuster operating instructions. But I have never seen one in person.

And here is the one I bought. Doesn't have its own name.
The other aggravation is that the lever throw is just a bit too wide - approximately 90 degrees as for the Tanaka photo and a bit wider than in its own photo. It just barely fits into the slot on my disk wheel when the lever is fully open. It a fiddly thing getting it in there and I had to make sure I had just the right valve stem extender to take advantage of the widest part of my disk cutout. Not an issue on a non-disk wheel of course.

Can you get the big psi as advertised, without the someone holding it on while you pump, or vice versa? Yes you can. Although there are some fiddly bits as mentioned above, you can overcome those and get it to work. Initially, when I received this thing, I was pretty disappointed and thought it was a POS. But after playing with it a bit and figuring out how it is supposed to work, I can get it to work fine.

Other advantages? Well it seems to be the cheapest version of this design. And it was readily available on Ebay. I couldn't find anybody who would sell me the real Hirame at the time (of course I stupidly thought this was the real Hirame). I'm now comfortable with my purchase. And I do have a spare rubber washer too! Having never seen one, I still kinda wish it was a real Hirame though.

January 20, 2014 Update: Still using the clone and have had no problems at all. The rubber washer is getting a bit worn now so I will have to figure out where the heck I put the spare soon - maybe next winter. In retrospect, I'm pretty happy with it. At a race someone borrowed my pump and couldn't get it to work. So there does seem to be a knack required, or at least a bit of patience.  I have it attached to an 80's vintage Silca so it looks pretty old school and this head fits the retro look very well. Funny how many comments I get. The old battered pump is considered cool again. But bonus! People don't bother me for my pump when I'm prepping for a TT.

October 17, 2011

African Antelope Takes Out A Mountain Biker

This is a pretty cool video - looks like the antelope thingy is intentionally going for the guy. You can see that the guy is watching it before he gets hit. No way you could not put this on the web. Crazy African mountain biking.

Little known fact - I too have had a cycling encounter with wildlife, right here in Canada. No one to video it though. I t-boned a deer that jumped out of the bushes in front of me while I was on the way to work. I was going down a steep hill and doing about 65 km/hr. And this is what my helmet looked like as a result. Yeah, it hurt a lot. And yeah, the deer just ran away. No concussion though. Good message: Wear that helmet.

October 15, 2011

Ridley X-Fire Cyclocross Frame Review

My Hot Unit - Just a Few Hours Post-Race
I thought I better get this posted as I've been racing on this frame for 3 years now. It looks like Ridley will update the X-fire for 2012 but keep this one around as the "Rival" model. Or perhaps not, depending on where on the Web you look. I am definitely seeing some good prices on this frameset now compared to when I bought it. The X-fire is (was) Ridley's second best cross bike and was substantially cheaper than the top of the line X-night. It uses a conventional seatpost versus the integrated seat post of the X-night. Compared to the updated 2012 version of the X-fire, mine has external vs internal cabling and a standard bottom bracket vs the press-fit version of BB30 - the PF30 standard (I'm getting tired of the ongoing creation of new bottom bracket types). I have to admit that the new bike looks nicer, but I already have a white TT bike and it is a hassle to keep clean. Like the look, hate wiping greasy finger prints off it all the time. So I'm OK with black.

The X-fire is an interesting bike these days. Everyone seems to be going to a sloping top tube, but this bike has a straight top tube - parallel to the ground, even for 2012. Consequently, it looks kind of large, even when it's your size - the seatpost doesn't protrude as much as usual. Looks a little old school I guess, but it is designed to be cross-specific. Ridley is a Belgian company so the cross pedigree is there in spades with the win record to prove it. The straight top tube does give you lots of room to shoulder your bike when you want to run with it and it is right there when you want to grab it to go over the barriers. But the frame does fit a bit oddly. I think you can go 2 cm smaller on your usual frame size. Best to fit one in person as they don't fit as you'd expect relative to other bikes.

The frame also has a nice high bottom bracket. Compared to my road bike it is about 2 cm higher. That gives you more clearance for bumps and roots and allows you to pedal at more extreme lean angles on corners and on steeper side slopes. All good.

Lots of tire clearance. The widest tires I have used have been 34 mm but they still had plenty of room.

The frame is extremely beefy. Big headtube, very thick chainstays, huge fork blades. Massive tubes that look to withstand lots of crashes. Good thing as mine has slid out on me many times and even been run over once. There are scratches and chips, but I can't see that any of them have made it down to the real carbon layer. I did put a chainstay protector on it as there is lots of chain slap in cross and if you don't, it will get pretty beaten up. Actually, you should do that for all carbon frames - road, TT or whatever - and even metal frames if you don't like the look of chipped paint. Another advantage of the large top tube is that it makes for a comfortable carry on your shoulder. The flat bottom shape of the top tube helps as well.

2012 X-Fire PF30
Because the frame is carbon, it is reasonably light. My bike weighs 7.71 kg (17 lbs) in full racing dress - with my 1190 g carbon tubular wheels, red crank and shifters, rival derailleurs, and my eggbeater pedals. This seems to be comparable to the new X-Fire which is supposedly 17.75 lbs without pedals, Ultegra components and heavier aluminum clincher wheels.

In terms of ride, I find the bike as comfortable as can be expected and suited to racing cross. I certainly don't notice the ride being unduly uncomfortable when I'm gasping for air. No cross bike is going to ride like a cadillac on a cross course anyways. It has a tall head tube relative to a road bike which gives a slightly more upright riding position. Certainly wind resistance isn't usually a big factor in cross. But gasping for air is always a factor and the more upright position helps with that. It corners better than I do. It seems to be quite efficient and I have used it on the road occasionally and found that it sprints very well. Of course, looking at the tubes it is pretty obvious it must be stiff.

Nice bike. If you don't believe me take a look at what the experts say. Look around and see if you can find a deal on this frame. If you can't or don't want to, take a look at the new X-fire frame. Although it's Ridley's second tier cross frame, this frame has won lots of euro and North American races at the highest levels and I expect the new one will too. It has even been a pro team bike for Paris-Roubaix.  I'm certainly enjoying mine, although not quite as successfully as that.

Of course, you can enjoy cross on any cross bike. The Nashbar frame would let you get out there and have just as much fun.

January 15, 2014 Update: Still riding this frame. It is still a beauty, and I don't see the need to go to hydraulics, despite the intense marketing effort. I am also quite happy to have a threaded bottom bracket too. No creaking!

October 12, 2011

Reality Sucks? Maybe She Does. But You Definitely Suck GM!

You can cover your eyes all you want to man, she's not looking at your face, she's checking out your package. And she likes what she sees - a man who knows how to ride. Apparently her name is Reality. You should get her number.

Pretty hilarious ad when you think about it. Who came up with this vintage concept? Somebody from Mad Men? The hilarious part is this is current. I wonder why GM needed a bailout with ideas like these?

More interesting - those are definitely vintage brake levers on that baby. Probably a 1970s Peugot. I had one of those. Steel is real, even for handlebars, seatposts, cranks and rims.

20 October 2011 Update: Ha Ha - Good one Giant. And now we have confirmation about Reality sucking and all that.

October 09, 2011

Challenge Grifo and Fango Cross Tire Review

This fall I have been racing with Challenge tires. Last year, we were post-race socializing with one of the local racers who was having a very good season. He said that his Challenge tires were giving him at least 5 positions in a race compared to his previous tires. I was using the Tufo Flexus Primus tires and thought they were pretty decent, although I had never tried the Challenge tires. Now, being a curious fellow...perhaps make that a fellow who was curious...I thought I should give them a try. Everyone knows I could use 5 positions in any cross race I have ever raced. At least 5. Eight or nine would be almost optimal.

Well, how do they perform? I have to admit that the Challenge tires are clearly superior to the Tufo tires. I definitely get better grip and seldom slide out. Even if I slide a bit, it seems easy to bring the bike back back under control and continue merrily on my way. In one race known for its steep technical off-camber turns, I was using the Fango in back and was regularly sliding on one 180 corner where the ground was torn up. But the slides were controlled which is unusual for me. I have only slid out once this year, which is unprecedented for me. I have had some very good races on the Challenge tires although my power meter says I earned them. I do find that the tires simply seem to roll faster than the Tufos at the same tire pressure - noticeably faster. They are a bit narrower which helps in the thick grass we have on some courses. I'm sure the Dugasts are a notch better again, but the price/durabilty ratio seems to be unfavourable from all accounts. Price definitely is an issue for the Dugasts.

In terms of Fango vs Grifo, I find the Grifo works well for all the courses to date, except the very technical one mentioned above where I put on the Fango in back. Of course we haven't yet had to race on frozen ground with the top layer thawing out slightly or on snow/slush. When that happens, I will put on the Fangos front and back as I expect the extra rubber on the sides will be very helpful.

Now there is no doubt that the Tufos are durable tires but they don't provide the traction the Challenges do. They slide on grass where the Challenges grab and I can make it up dead grass slopes first try with the Challenges that I could not with multiple tries with the Tufos. The Tufos are definitey not as supple which everyone tells us is the wholly grail for traction. But I think the lugs are also a bit too close together so they don't dig as well in the grass. They are great training tires as they last a long time, but they won't be my race tires again for our courses which are mostly grass - not rocks, etc. By the way, I have bottomed out on the Challenge tires on a number of occasions with no pinch flats. Although our courses are mostly grass, we have lots of roots and various types of concrete, wood and asphalt lips we hit. I normally run them at about 28-32 lbs depending on tree roots etc. and I weigh 155 lbs. I have a couple of hundred km on them, mostly racing and riding to/from races. I haven't had any issues with the tread separating from the casing as some have noted. They are dirtier looking after a bit of use if that is a problem for you. It's not for me.

So I've learned my lesson. I won't pronounce these the best cross tires ever. But they are the best cross tires I have tried and are pretty reasonably priced. They are my "go to" tires now. Do I get 5 positions out of them? Maybe I do.

Rear tire on the left - only a tiny amount of wear
November 12, 2011 Update - another season over.... Definitely my best season and I ain't getting any younger. I think the tires are partly responsible for that. They roll faster and grip better than the Tufos, no doubt about that. Crash rate was almost non-existent this year. And I had no issues with tire construction at all - no tread separation that others have complained about. Three tires got the call up - two grifos and one fango. The fango only got to race once, the grifos did the other 10. The back grifo has only minor cosmetic wear. The front is good as new. There was also about 4-5 hours training on the grifos.

The verdict - my tufo tires are only trainers now. Good tires for bombing around and they wear like iron, but not up to the "Challenges" of racing. The Challenge tires aren't used for much training as they wear faster (until I wear out my Tufos). That's why they grip so well. No training that includes pavement for these babies. They are my racing tires from now on. And they are cheaper than the tufos.

October 07, 2011

Nashbar X Aluminum Cyclocross Frame Review

I needed (more like wanted) a cyclocross bike to ride to work, winter and summer. I had pretty well all the parts I needed and I didn't want to spend much on a bike that is going to get thrashed by road salt in winter. Voila the Nashbar frame. Listed at 99$ when I bought it this summer, but I see now they have inflated to $114.

I have over 1500 km on it now and so I feel I have a good understanding of the quality of the frame. So how is it? Definitely the best value for the money out there that I have seen. Really, it is a pretty nice frame painted in a nice stealth black with only an X on the headtube (so no one knows it is a cheap Nashbar bike but you). I've actually had compliments on it. As if I care because this bike is meant to be expendable. Commuting will end its life prematurely through salt corrosion, grit, etc. It always does as the commuter doesn't get the TLC the expensive bikes get. It's a short but happy life as it gets to go for a ride almost every day, winter and summer.

The bike rides and handles just fine. I did notice that the bottom bracket is more like a road bike - a tad low for a cross bike, but you would have no problem racing this frame if that was your inclination. But you will rub your pedal at less of a lean angle than you would on a cyclocross frame costing 10X to 15X more money. Seems like a good trade-off.

I read the reviews about difficulties with fitting cranks that use 53 tooth rings. Nashbar must have fixed that problem because my SRAM crank fits fine with a 53T. I tried two different models too. As if most of us actually need a 53T for commuting and especially cross except on downhills and hurricane tailwinds.

I bought the Nashbar carbon cyclocross fork for it, so the fork cost more than the frame. But the steel fork weight put me off. Plus steel sucks in winter commuting salt. The carbon fork is not a very nice fork cosmetically. Pretty rough, but it is a pretty cheap carbon fork. It seems to work and ride fine and given its beefiness, I'm guessing it is fairly bullet proof. No brake chatter to date. It does seem to be a bit wider than my road hub axle though. That's only a minor irritation.

With this fork and frame, you can put on disk brakes if you want. But why would I do that when I can get very good Tektro 926 v-brakes, very cheap.

I have seen this frame available as a built up bike on the Nashbar site too. Good deal, but only in 9-speed drivetrain. Doesn't seem to be listed today though.

You really can't touch this frame for quality for the money. Highly recommended for all sorts of cycling where you want the ability to use wider tires. No trouble fitting 700x35 studded winter tires with fenders.And here's a secret.... If you wait and watch the Nashbar site (or get on the mailing list and get an email about every day) you will be able to get it for 20% off!!! Patience pays, not much, but it does pay. Like this weekend for instance! Make sure you read the fine print though - the 20% only includes bikes and frames some of the time.

May 23, 2011 Update - She ain't beautiful, but she's mine. Here she is - kinda homely actually. A purebred commuter version with about 5000 km on her now. Working just as well as new. Strip off the fenders and rack and put some light wheels on there and I think she would be a decent cross bike.

January 15, 2014 Update: Still using this bike for a commuter bike and for a training bike on really crappy days. Have had to replace brakes, hubs, etc. due to corrosion from salt on the roads and bike path, but the frame just keeps ticking and ticking. Rode it today in a major chinook through lots of water and ice. No problemo. Best value cross/commuter bike frame out there.

October 03, 2011

Sidi Dominator Mountain Bike (Cross) Shoe Review

There's nothing like a fine Italian leather shoe. Well not leather exactly. More like lorica. But that's OK because the only dancing these shoes do is on the pedals (and sand, mud, water, snow, etc.).

Lorica is very tough stuff. These are my second set of these shoes, the first having worked fine for a long time. I can't actually remember when I bought them, but it was several? ten? years ago. I had to get a shoemaker to sew a leather patch into the heel cup - the nylon lining was wearing through and I was losing foam. The top velcro straps didn't want to velcro anymore, so I replaced the loop portion - myself using contact cement and sewed in velcro loop material. And the soles were fairly worn (but still entirely serviceable). But, as the Dude would say, the lorica abides. After I don't know how many times getting soaking wet and muddy. Still, I figured it was time to relegate these babies to backup/commuter duty and get me a new pair.

And guess what? My first local bike store was out of stock. But the second HAD THEM ON CLOSEOUT SALE! How lucky was that? But they are dumping Sidis - boo. Newly purchased on Saturday morning, the shoes did TWO cross races this past weekend. And were just as comfortable as the old pair. The top buckle design has changed, as has the layout of the velcro straps. And these shoes seem to be warmer than the old pair which is a good thing for cross in these Canadian parts. They look very similar to my old ones overall. They seem to work just as well for biking as well as running through sand. I smoked a guy on the final lap sand pit run through on Saturday.

Actually, the full lorica upper is a good thing pretty much all the time in the Rockies. And it keeps most of the sand out. But full lorica may be too warm in some climates. There is a mesh version on the Sidi web site, but I've never seen it in person.

Mine weighed 380g each without cleats, size 44.

Now you can buy the Spiders which seem to be pretty much the same shoe but with replaceable soles for not too much extra cash. They come in full lorica or with mesh inserts for hotter climates. In my experience, it would take a lot of walking while you were biking to wear the soles out on the Dominators to the point where you really can't cope and need new ones. I think you will certainly need to replace the shoe lining before that happened as I did and probably other shoe parts too. Nice thing about Sidis, you can buy new buckles, insoles, etc. Although the only time I have had to was when the dog chewed the straps (except for the velcro not velcroing as noted above). By the way, don't be afraid to support your local cobbler. They fix shoes well for ridiculous (cheap) prices.

Or you could buy the Dragons for a lot more cash and get a twisty buckle instead of the top velcro strap. I suppose its lighter, but it doesn't seem to be looking at posted weights. Must be stiffer I guess. I hate that heel cup doodad though - at least it hurts my feet on my road shoes. They are far too shiny for me.

Bottom line: the Dominators are aptly named. Not cheap, but not outrageous like the Dragons. I like 'em big time. I believe they are the best Sidi mountain bike shoe value for the money. Very durable.

Feb. 10, 2014 Update: Well a little disappointment with the Sidis. To be fair, they did get a tremendous amount of use this past summer in my quest to become a mediocre mountain biker. They did get thoroughly soaked through many times fording streams, etc. in the wet year we had. And they get used in winter below freezing temperatures too. Anyways, the sole of the left shoe now has a slight bulge upwards right under the ball of my foot. I can't feel it with my foot in the shoe, but the ball of my foot was getting sore in a way I have never experienced before. I finally realized it was worse after hard rides with these shoes. I can feel the bulge with my hand. Too bad as the uppers and sole still have lots of life left in them. I'm guessing the foot bed material couldn't handle the wet and dry cycles. Really, that was only about 2 years of use. By far the worst record for any Sidi shoe I have ever had. Looking at new shoes, I find the Sidis a bit on the expensive side for what you get. So I'm looking at other options for replacement. Sorry, Mr. Sidi.