My trustworthy steed over the past year is about to get another owner. I sold my Open today. Why? you may ask. Well, since starting at Specialized in May I knew it was just a matter of time before I make the full commitment to the brand. I grew up riding a Specialized. My first mountain bike was one. Also, having been invited to the Specialized Muscle Milk team, I figured it was in good form to ride one. I easily could have kept my Open, but I knew it would see less and less saddle time over time. It's an incredible bike. One of the best I've ever ridden, but it's time to pass the torch on. I'm striving towards keeping a small quiver of bikes, one road bike and one mountain bike. That's it.
I've got a new Specialized bike coming my way very soon. I've patiently been waiting for the new Epics to arrive, which are currently in production, but I've managed, through good graces of working for the company, to hold one for myself. It should be arriving in the next week or so, and I'm pretty excited to throw my leg over it. My Open will soon begin to see less and less miles as I transition over to the new bike, especially since I'll be racing with the Specialized Muscle Milk team next season. I went with an Epic Expert World Cup instead of the S-Works model. The graphics are more subdued and more my taste, and the weight difference isn't too bad for a bike that roughly half the cost. Great value if you ask me.
Nibali watches over my steed. This week I've been on every lunch ride at work, a first considering the two days my dog, Marlow, is with me. Tomorrow I plan on riding into work, skipping the Friday Worlds race. It feels good to get in some solid and consistent miles in this week. I hope to keep it up during the fall and especially the winter.
Greetings from Eurobike, the worlds largest bicycle trade show. Almost every bike brand known to man is here showing off their new wares. It's so overwhelming. After a while you get glossed over by the same things, carbon wheels, 650b, e-bikes, matte black, vertical compliance, and it keeps going on. I spent my time roaming the booths searching for something I haven't seen before.
We're only here a couple of days. It's really cool to be here, but I'm so ready to head back home and ride my bike.
My parts arrived on time. I had to pay a premium price to have everything delivered in a day, but it was worth it. Tapping out the old bottom bracket was nerve-racking, as I was afraid I'd damage my frame. I banged away with a hammer and the proper tool in place. They eventually popped out. The problem I overlooked was that I didn't have a bearing press! What am I going to do? I tried using a quick release skewer as a makeshift press, but knew that wasn't going to work. Then I had the brilliant idea of using my crank set as the press. I carefully set the cups into the frame. The large diameter spindle of the Rotor cranks provided a great way to align the cups properly. I continued to torque down the cranks, an 1/4" at a time until both sides were completely flush to the frame.
I spent most of the evening getting my drivetrain back in order as well as setting up my wheels with new tires and sealant. I need to buy an air compressor because there's nothing more frustrating than trying to set up tubeless tires.
I tore apart my drivetrain and found that I had fried the drive side of my bottom bracket. Bearings came spilling out. Luckily the Rotor 3D+ crankset, which run a BBright configuration, uses a regular press-fit 30 shell. Cool. Now all I need is a new bottom bracket, and a tool to knock it out. Ordered. I also went with a fresh set of Racing Ralph tires. It's really cutting it close, but I'm confident I can fix the bottom bracket, install new tires, do a proper tune up and pack it all up before I leave for Leadville on Friday. Wish me luck.
I set up my new Look S-Track pedals the other day and got to take them out for a test spin. Setup was easy, and the initial click in was just as nice. They're a bit harder to get into that the Eggbeaters I've been running the past couple of years, but I've always felt that they were too easy to get in and out. The S-Track retention is very secure and confident feeling. The cleats themselves have small elastomer inserts that interface with the large metal band. The recessed outer surface is meant to interface with most tread patterns of mountain bike shoes. The kit comes with extra elastomer inserts as well as shims to get the most contact surface possible.
Upon first pedal stroke I could immediately tell the difference the design of these pedals make. They do have a slight degree of float, but I prefer pedals with less anyway. They just feel solid all around. I'm hoping the bearings hold up better than my old Eggbeaters, as I've had two pairs seize up on me as well as a broken wing. Stay tuned for a long-term test.
My new Look S-Track pedals came today. The build on these look pretty promising. I hope they last and outperform the series of Eggbeaters that have failed me the past couple of years. I've ready plenty of decent reviews, and think they'll be perfect. They feature a design that has the most contact surface of any clip-less style pedal, producing the best power transfer. I went with the Race version which have needle bearings and aluminum deflectors. I'll spend some time properly setting them up and breaking them in throughout the week. Full review to come.
You all may have seen the 2014 launch from Specialized last week, which includes mountain and road bikes, but this beauty has all of my attention. The new S-Works Epic has been redesigned with a new frame and Brain tweaks, and introduces the S.W.A.T. kit (storage, water, air and tools). There are two versions of the Epic, the Marathon and World Cup. The main differences of the World Cup (pictured above) is that it can only run a 1x drivetrain, has slightly short chain stays, which are mega fat, a slightly longer top tube and steep head tube angle. This makes a really tight handling bike suited to my style of riding/racing. I have yet to throw my leg over one to see for myself, but I have seen and even touched this stunner. Can't wait to get one.
Rapid prototyping is underway at Specialized for an aero helmet for dogs. It fits dogs of all sizes and shapes. We've got two riders, Punk Ass (above) and Marlow (after the break). It includes built in eye protection for maximum head-time out the car window. It's just the pipe cleaner wireframe, but soon it'll have a protective shell.
Even Marlow feels more aerodynamic with his ears tucked in. Stay tuned for more product updates.
Well that was fast. I got a call mid-day from Mikes Bikes telling me that my fork is fixed and ready to be picked up. Yes! Just in time for a Thursday morning ride as well as a race down in Monterey this Saturday. I left work a little early and rushed on over to pick it up.
I was really stressed out yesterday that I'd potentially be out of racing on Saturday or not having a mountain bike for some time if I had to send my fork out to RockShox to be fixed. It's happened before. Luckily Mikes was there to save the day. Their mechanics were super nice and knowledgeable and able to turn it around in less than a day. I highly recommend them.
This morning I pulled my rig out for my usual Tuesday morning Dawn Patrol ride and found my suspension fork completely flat. I definitely busted a seal riding the craziness that is Skeggs. I was super bummed considering it's a relatively brand new fork, granted I've put in a ton of hours to warrant servicing. I sent word out to my riding buddies, and got a ton of great replies and recommendations. Ultimately I went with taking it into Mikes Bikes who said they had that build kit and could turn it around in a day.
I got a new gadget today. It's the Up fitness band from Jawbone. It tracks your steps, activity and sleep through a very sleek and minimal band. It syncs to a beautiful app that can extrapolate a lot of useful data and presents them in user-friendly way. I'm pretty excited to have this as another training tool, allowing me to track my sleep and calorie intake. I still have to log in my training rides manually, but hopefully in the future there'll be some sort of Strava or Garmin integration to streamline everything.
The band itself seems well constructed and unobtrusive. It doesn't look too bad either, but I'm such a stickler for accessories, which is why I went with black. They packed in a lot of technology in this thin and lightweight band, without too much in the way of visual feedback. There's a tiny flat button on one end that triggers a number of features, but most of the settings lie within the app itself.
While I don't like the idea of having to log in everything I eat, the UP system streamline a lot of popular meals and foods by having a list of photos to choose from. You just pick and choose and the app will add it up. You can also scan bar codes as well as type in entries manually. Last year I used a fitness app that had similar features, and it was interesting to see how many calories I needed to consume to keep up with my active training schedule.
The secret sauce of the UP system is the level of insights it gives you once you've logged in a healthy number of entries. It can show you things you otherwise wouldn't have guessed about your sleep behavior, eating habits and general activity level. I consider myself a highly active person who watches what they eat most of the time and is religious about getting enough rest. I'm looking forward to see how UP can make a difference. Stay tuned for a follow-up review.
My new tires arrived the other day. I'm trying out the Maxxis Ikons with their EXO sidewall protection. They definitely feel beefier, but not too heavy. They're roughly 80 grams heavier per tire than my Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, a weight penalty I notice slightly, but it could just be in my head. The first noticeable quality of the tire is the large casing and overall volume. Next is the how well they grip, but I'll get into that after the break.
I took them out on my local neighborhood trail system around Mt. Sutro. It hasn't rained much this past week so the dirt was nice and tacky. Not too dry or too wet. Perfect conditions.
Spinning on the road leading up to the trails it felt like they rolled better than the Racing Ralphs, despite lab tests showing otherwise. There wasn't a noticeable scratchy sound, where tread is digging into the pavement like on the Ralphs, but a nice hum.
The Ikons immediately hooked up on the hard-pack singletrack. They also cornered more nicely than the Racing Ralphs. I think it's due to the knob spacing, but Ikons felt more predictable leaning into the turns. I even put more body english to see if I could get them to break their line. Right now I'm running 23 psi in the front and 24 psi in the rear, but because they're so much bigger I think I could go a pound or two, given my low body weight.
While the test is really too soon to give a solid review I think these tires are a really great. I'm looking forward to testing them out in the Headlands where there's more loose over hard-pack and fire roads. I have full confidence in the tire casing, which are super thick. I probably won't rip these, but it's better to be safe than sorry, especially if more of my rides and races are longer. I don't ever want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere ever again.
My main concern for the moment is that these tires aren't officially tubeless ready. I've been onto a few forums where people say the tire casing develops a blister of sorts, where the tread starts to delaminate from the casing. Scary. Hopefully that issue won't happen to me, but I hope Maxxis continues to evolve this tire.
This weekend I'm doing my first race of the season, Old Caz in Occidental, CA, part of the Grasshopper Adventure Series. While the site says the course is more suited for a cyclocross bike I think these tires and my bike will do just fine.
After slicing my sidewall wide open on an evening ride last night I'm searching for the best XC tire. I love the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in general. They've been my tire of choice these days, however I've been hearing too many stories of how thin their side-walls are. They do make a SnakeSkin version, which comes at a cost and added weight penalty, but at this point I'm done being a weight weenie when it comes to tires. The downside is that the SnakeSkin version of the Ralphs are nowhere to be found. My only other gripe against the tire is that the tread wears too quickly.
My second favorite tire goes to the Specialized Fast Trak (pictured above). They're predictable, but not quite as grippy as the Racing Ralph. My search continues, and after a few conversations with a few buddies of mine I'm narrowing my field down to the Racing Ralph SnakeSkin, if I can find them, and the Maxxis Ikon EXO. These peaked my interest in that they're high volume, tough casing, roll fairly well, and come in at a very respectable 580 grams per tire. That's about 30+ grams compared to the Ralphs and Fast Trak, each with their respective thicker casings.
What say you? Can you recommend anything better than the Ikon, Ralphs or Fast Trak? Suggestions welcomed. I'm done worrying about getting stranded because of tire failure, especially if I'm committed to longer endurance/marathon XC distances.