Sunday, April 21, 2019


I've been running Hopey steering dampers on my snowbikes for ~10 years.  I've written a lot about them here and elsewhere so I won't belabor that point. Essential, in a word.

Tried a Hopey on a dirt/mountain bike once.  Once.  Hate is not too strong a word.  Bled, finished the ride, then removed it.

The Viscoset is different.  Similar idea, different execution.  Stacked one on top of the Hopey on my snowbike last winter.  Loved it.  Ran 'em both at full max damping.  LOVED.

Installed it on this Fatillac on a whim.  Figured I'd ride it once, hate it, remove it, and call it good.  Nope.  Running it at full max damping.

So far I notice a lot less wandering of the front wheel when climbing.  And a lot less oversteer in corners.

It's staying.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The wilderness that remains.

The Reverend and I did a little tour not too long ago.  In so doing we got to see, sense, smell a chunk of the desert southwest waking up from winter and stretching her arms toward spring.

There's nothing particularly special about the place we chose.  It is much the same as all the lands around it.  We picked our route not so much for what it has as what it lacks: official protections.  So much of the land within this region is federally protected -- Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Lake Mead National Recreation Area. 

These protected parks are much needed and heavily used by people recreating in RV's, powerboats, jet skis, houseboats, and many, many helicopters.  There are still rules against riding sans road in those parks, and we have to play by those rules.  

Clearly these parks aren't wilderness anymore.  Parts of them are wild for sure, but not wilderness and definitely not Wilderness.  They have become a managed -- almost catered -- experience and you can feel it in many ways.  Perhaps in every way.  When craving a wilderness experience as I have been recently, the parks simply don't scratch the itch.

As yet there aren't many places nearby that have embraced the silence and lack of impact of bicycles.  Not enough money in it is my guess.  

But the raw desert outside of the parks still inspires, and so we found a way to link a derelict double track with washes and a short stretch of ephemeral creek to create a figure 8 of sorts, and thereby to immerse ourselves into the wilderness that remains.

What we saw was earth, sky, stars, rock.  What we felt was engaged, plus a little wind on our cheeks.  What we smelled was mud, silt, dust, dirt, occasional and welcome greenery.  What we are left with is a sense of relief.  And renewal.

In a word, spring.

Thanks for checkin' in.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Divide stories: Ground beef.

I'd left Steamboat at sunset.  Narrowly avoided rolling right up into the business end of a skunk while still on pavement.  Swerved left while she dodged right, and the encounter was over before my heart rate had peaked.  Note to self: saving batteries by running lights on low may not always pay dividends.  I rolled into the deepening gloam sensing impending rain, hoping it would stay beyond that western ridge.  A bit later I forded a small creek, taking great care to link stepping stones to keep feet dry.  Red skies at night, sailors delight?   Wet shoes at dusk, campers disgust.  Resumed riding, noting the glint of frost in grassy meadows, the steam from sensed but not seen rivulets.  Relaxed briefly knowing it was more likely to snow than rain.  Stiffened back up when considering what would happen to the surface conditions if it were to snow then rain. 

Deep into the evening I arrived at a creek of indeterminate depth. Dropped the bike and walked, poked, prodded to find a way across.  None obvious without foot submersion.  Paused to appreciate currently dry toes, socks, shoes.  Paused longer to consider how they'd feel in the wee hours -- once wetted -- as small flakes began to twirl through my headlamp beam. Decided to bivy until daylight.

Woke in the early gloam, shivering not from uncertainty, anxiety or fear, but from straight up brute cold. Not too cold to have prepared for, but colder than I did prepare for.  Travel light, freeze at night.  Moments later I splash across that stream -- the one that halted progress. Water warmer than air, shin deep, welcoming.  Back to riding, the cold breeze created by said motion chills my feet, literally freezes my shoes.  Noting the mini icicles hanging off my Lakes I have the presence of mind to wrench feet loose of pedals before stopping, forestalling an awkward fall, an injury.

Cues show a climb looming.  Legs protest but the rest of me welcomes the exertion: Work equals heat.  Rhythm is sought but not found.  Saddle sores complain so I shift and squirm to find a position that appeases them.  Good.  Now hands complain.  All will get their chance today - take a number, wait your turn.  Dieseling along up the grade a noise approaches.  Fluid by any measure compared to my labored breath and arrhythmic jerking.  A ranch truck, going my way, barely moving faster than I when the road would allow so much more.  Being respectful, maybe.  Not wanting to disturb the delicate compromise between painful feet, ass, and hands, I fail to lift a hand to wave as it passes, but exaggerate a nod of the head.  No response from within the truck.  So loud is the exhaust I can no longer hear my own ragged exhalations.

Then a new noise - something like sandpaper, perhaps 10 grit rasping across sandstone?  A rope off the bumper of the truck is looped over the neck of a cow, one that appears intact if not healthy, aside from the fact that it seems to be melting into the road as it is dragged along.  1/3 of it has already been consumed by this process.  So even is the erosion that the upper 2/3 of the carcass could pass for a live ruminant were you to prop it in a field with the correct aspect turned to. Behind the cow the road is painted green: the color of alpine grasses recently consumed but as yet undigested.  The smell that follows is not of grasses, not of beef, not of exhaust.  It is unearthly, sickening.  Not rot precisely but a cousin perhaps.  Between dry heaves, still metronomically ticking over 98rpm, I think my thanks for not yet having eaten this morning, knowing the contents of my gut would quickly join that of the cow's on the now-slick road. 

Minutes pass as the truck slowly opens a gap.  Never before have I wished that a driver were less respectful, if indeed that is what’s happening.  Perhaps it isn’t.  Perhaps he has no destination in mind, intends to drive until only a sodden end of rope remains, then to get on to his chores before the morning is too far advanced.  I glance at my cues and note that my next turn is a mere half mile away.  Anyone can do anything for seven more minutes, even if they don’t want to.

With the otherworldly scent still thick in my nose I begin descending toward the Colorado. Miles of descent, steep and slick with melting frost turning the surface ice-like.  Frozen hands, frozen feet — what I would give to switch the warm blood from my nose to either of those.  Bottomed out in fog, soaked head to toe, I zing zing across the bridge and begin climbing out.  Knees complain, ankles throb, neck is unwilling to suspend its ponderous load.  Another glance at the cues: Something like 56 miles, mostly uphill, to the next town with promise of a burger, a shake, new hope. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

B Fat Fatillac.

I don't know exactly how long it's been.  Maybe 5 or 6 years?  I think it was 2013 when I first fiddled with 29+ tires, and the world just hasn't looked the same since.

But lots of people have ridden Plus tires.  They feel different from everything that came before, but still sort of normal.  Like, normal, but with more cush and additional privileges bestowed upon the rider.

I briefly rode 26 x 4" tires and they were crazy capable but equally slow.  That phase burned hot, bright -- but only briefly before I moved on.

Where I really turned a corner was when I started riding B Fat, aka 27.5 x 3.8" tires.

There is something about this combo that just works for me as a daily driver on the Colorado Plateau.  The ability to run high single digit pressures is part of it.  The capability of 5" or 6" of travel suspending the rider above those meats is another.   

There are other options for this wheelsize out there -- I've ridden every one I could get my hands on -- but it took Devin Lenz and his fabrication wizardry to dial in the geometry.  

Tires this size will never approach the climbing speed of a 29 x ~2.5" setup.  But the rougher the trail, the more chossy the line, the more %^&$ed up the landing, the more B Fat shines.  

I don't enjoy crowds so as they continue to flock to my current home trails I find myself riding more of the fringe routes and lots of off piste.  This chassis shines at that sort of thing: Plump tires to smooth out the rough, low gearing to tractor up, um, anything, sporty geometry to keep me grinning when things point down, and tying it all together is supple, tractable, tunable suspension that can be (and has been!) dialed to suit me.  Or you.

It's not much of a secret that I did unspeakable things to my body in the years that I was harassed by endurance racing demons.  I'm paying that bill now.  I need a cushy, compliant ride or I'm limited on how long I can ride, or how often.  I'm delaying ankle fusion as long as I can because that's a one-way street, and in that hopefully substantial interim the Fatillac pictured here is my ticket to ride.

I mentioned above that I turned a corner when I started riding B Fat.  It's sort of like eating plain macaroni every day and being perfectly fine with it.  Then one day you discover that you can has cheese...

The past few years have seen a steady stream of manufacturers offering bikes that can be swapped from 29 x 2.5" wheels to 27.5 x 2.8".  Choices are good, right?  The bummer is that that size of 29" tire is so harsh, and that variant of a 27.5" tire is so short.  From where I sit that combo is literally the worst of both worlds -- unless we're talking 26".  Which we aren't.

In a similar vein I have a second wheelset with 29 x 2.8" tires that I can quick-switch into this bike when needed.  I spent ~30 minutes micro shimming the rotors out such that no brake adjustments are needed: When I want to swap wheels for a ride it's a ~2 minute job and out the door I go.

But that's rare.  I like cush -- pretty much require it -- and the calm, competent cushiness of the B Fat Fatillac has been a revelation this spring.

Our trails have only been dry enough to ride for ~3 weeks, and in that time I've repeatedly torched my legs while incinerating endorphins (and grinning ear to ear) 6 days out of every 7.

It's not for everyone.  No one bike is.  If you like chunky, chossy, messy trails, or exploring washes and off piste, or steamrolling through babyheads...

Don't hesitate with questions.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Alpackalypse for sale.

Size small.  Not quite a year old.  Very, very good condition.

It has all the bells and whistles you'd expect of a top-end whitewater boat: Vectran fabric, Cargo Fly, internal storage "twinkies", and an inflatable backband/hip hook setup.  

I don't have an offside roll due to an old shoulder injury, but I can roll this boat fairly easily -- even in aerated water -- on my onside.  The limiter in rolling it, for me, has always been being able to set up onside.  If I can get there I'm ~90%.  If the current or a subsurface boulder or wall prevent getting there, well, you know what happens next...

I'm 5'10", meaning I should have been in a medium size boat.  I like fitting my boats *tight* -- like a climbing shoe -- so I always size down.  In the pic above you can see that the foot pad is shiny new, and that's because I never used it.  The boat only fits me with that pad removed.  

In short, this boat is a great fit for paddlers in the ~5'5" to 5'8" range *if using the foot pad*.  It'll fit a 5'10" or 5'11" paddler with the foot pad removed.

In the pic above you can see a small red spot in the middle of the seat.  I glued a buckle here to clip my camera bag to, but eventually went to a different system.  So I snipped the buckle off but the aquaseal blob remains.  ALSO -- you can see that the seat has a big, wide shiny spot right about in the sweet spot where your butt parks.  That's also aquaseal -- I put a few big patches on the seat that keep me from slipping around, especially when rolling up.  Works great.  

I just gave the boat a close one over and although there are lots of scuffs, there are no holes, no cuts.  No repairs have been done to the hull, nor have any been needed.  In the pic above you can see that there are two factory-installed reinforcing patches under butt and feet -- the most common wear spots when paddling low volume creeks.

The yellow rope "oh shit" handles on each end of the boat are sewn to the grab loops.  I've still not found a good way to tie a long-lasting knot with rope this thick, so instead of worrying about the knot coming free at a bad time, I just sew them in there.  Really clean, plus less bulk when packed.

Below, with internal storage "twinkies" and inflation bag at left, and with sprayskirt installed.

Not pictured, and not something I could get to show up well in a picture since everything is black: These boats normally have a fabric "sleeve" into which you slide the seat.  I didn't like that sleeve, so I cut it out -- cleanly -- and replaced it with a plate glued to the floor, through which I ran a strap that secures the seat to the floor.  It's simple and effective and when you're packing up to hike in or hike out you can use that same strap to bundle the boat down tight.

Lastly, it has a simple, clean, nifty webbing daisy chain *inside* the zippered hull, so that you can actually secure big, bulky items (like a Clean Mountain Can or Canyon Keg as your groover) tight to the hull to prevent them shifting around when getting after it.

When new this boat was $2175.

Selling this one, now, for $1600 shipped to the lower 48.

Happy to ship to Canada, AK, EU, or Oz, just expect shipping to be a chunk higher.

Don't delay:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sounds of Sunday.

What happens when you leave the computer off, leave the phone at home, roll out the driveway on the bike, and follow your nose?

Life happens.  In all of its complex simplicity.

There are lots of ways to exit a weekend feeling both relaxed and fulfilled.  This was one of them.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The proverbial break.

Last week I took one.  Both from work and from the usual haunts.

I traced a meandering route south into the Sonoran, west across the Mojave, north into the tippytoes of the Sierra, then northeast back to the Colorado Plateau.

I found and embraced enormous quantities of bedrock, silly amounts of wildflowers, seasonably warm temps, honey light, hero dirt, my beautiful wife, unexpected amounts of water, and a few Trader Joes.

I expected tortoises in Palm Desert, but not turtles.  Sigh.

I witnessed Brian learning to embrace his inner huck monkey.

I saw so many seeds, of a sort.

I spectated Thor threading a line through the hole that (nearly) ate Camp Verde.

Foggy, rainy rides in the Mojave are exquisite, to be embraced and savored.  We did that -- right up until the rain came in sideways, driven on a wind.  And then we fled for shelter.

The only thing I found more of in Prescott than granite were giggles.  29+ tires with new (old) school geo have that effect, and no one ever seems to expect it.

Boulder bashing is de rigueur in the southern Sierra.

As is granite sliding.

As, apparently, are poppies.

We found oodles of high quality singletrack on the fringe of the mojave, some of it recently constructed to very high standards.  Most of it filthy with humanity in ways that we don't understand but should probably learn to.

A week is never enough time but it's the time that I had.  Seeing, sensing, touching, and smelling new landscapes energizes me like nothing else.  Back to the grind for now, but enthused about everything thanks to that brief, essential break.

Thanks for checkin' in.