Mountain Bike Failures Adding Up


My current Alfine setup on the Dos Niner with chain tensioner.

My last three mountain bike rides have all been problematic.  A few weeks ago a errant log took me down and broke my saddle.  Last week my rear popped out of the drop out and I didn’t have a 15mm wrench to tighten it back down.  Yesterday my chain tensioner wouldn’t hold my chain on.

It was brutally hot yesterday, which is strange because it’s been unseasonably cool this July.  For instance, today, July 28th the high is 78.  Yesterday it was in the mid 90s with a heat index around 100.  Yesterday on this muggy day 8 folks met up at the Ruby trailhead for a mountain bike ride.  Luke drove his new van, which I think may be one of the best vehicles for travelling that I’ve ever seen.  Feels like you’re in a car, but has the cargo capacity of a van.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no clear cut veteran ride leader here.  Luke and I were probably the most knowledgeable about the trail system, which is never a good sign.  Luke asked me if it was two hours to the gravel pile.  He might as well asked me if it was two hours to the oak tree.  I was like, yeap and took off.  My chain feel off in 15 seconds of riding.  This is not how you want a big group ride to start.

I messed around with the chain tensioner for a minute and got it working and rode the next couple of miles with the group but then the chain started falling again.  I sent them on and started walking.  After about a mile I got the idea to try and keep the chain on the axle of the tensioner and the pulley.  That seemed to work.  It didn’t sound good but it worked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI started the route I thought Luke might be on backwards but never could connect up with them.  Luke proved that he was a capable ride leader, I ran into them coming out the woods around 11:57.  When I got off my bike it was noon exactly, the guys had said they needed to be back by noon.

As for my bike problem, don’t blame the chain tensioner, blame the mechanic. With the cool weather this week maybe I can actually take a succesful mountain bike ride.

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Making Salsa

Dad brought us by a bucket of tomatoes and peppers today from his garden and we made Salsa from them, well actually we made salsa about from one third of them.  There really was no recipe, Shauna had made some in the past and it went pretty well so I followed her directions.  Of course I’ve never been real good at following directions to the letter, I had to throw in a few of my own spices.

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Sunflowers are Easy to Grow

A few years ago I bought some sunflower seeds and planted them in the back yard.  I no longer have to buy seeds or plant.  If I didn’t mow the yard it would be completely covered in sunflowers.  They spring up everywhere.  I’m amazed by these things.  While growing they turn to follow the sun, and they grow so quickly to such amazing height.  It’s pretty awesome.

They spread out around our fish pond this year which I thought looked kind of cool.  We had a willow tree in the back yard that died last summer.  I yanked out a sunflower growing in the middle of the yard and put it in the hole left from the willow, didn’t expect it to take, but it did.

Took some pictures in the backyard today, used a polarizing filter and then a red filter for some interesting effects.

864A6807 864A6801 864A6798 864A6791 864A6787 864A6786 864A6785 864A6783 864A6781 864A6780 864A6778 864A6776 864A6775 IMG_0532


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Bald Knob Ride 2014 – Crashing with Shon

Three rides this week, three mishaps.

Shaun's ride could have went South here when he picked up this rather large stick in his rear triangle, but nothing bad happened.

Shaun’s ride could have went South here when he picked up this rather large stick in his rear triangle, but nothing bad happened.

Ride 1 Sunday:

Riding with my pal Shaun, who drove a long way to ride some East Side trails with me.  15 minutes into the ride my bike is snagged by a log and I’m thrown on the ground hard.  I’m not hurt, but my the saddle on my Dos Niner is broke.  The rail popped out.  After 10 minutes trying to fix it I gave up and walked back to the car.

Ride 2 Thursday:

Riding with my pal Drew, who drove a short way to take us to Eagle Mountain.  Conditions were excellent, like so good you can’t believe it’s July.  The temps were like 70s, the ground was dry, the trails were opened up.  All is great.  My back wheel pops out on a climb.  The back wheel on my Salsa has an Alfine hub and it’s bolted on.  Silly me forgot to bring a 15mm wrench.  Opps.  I gave up and walked back to the car.

Ride 3 Friday:

Riding with my other pal Shon, (how many ways can you spell Sean anway?) we both drove a ways to meet up on the infamous, WOLF CREEK ROAD.  We did a 60 mile ride with about 5000 feet of climbing and almost no flat roads.  We climbed to the famous, BALD KNOB CROSS in Alto Pass, it was a big day.

As the ride began I wasn’t feeling quite right, my entire metabolism felt stunted, like I’d just ate 5 pounds of slow cheese.  Maybe I need more then 5 hours of sleep per night?  Maybe it was the fact I’d forgot to drink my caffeinated beverage?  Anyway, Shon is excellent shape and is dropping me on the hills.  You know when Phil Ligget says a rider has heavy legs, that was me, my legs were too heavy to really get moving.  I was dreading the beating I would take up Bald Knob, and was considering bailing out on that part, but I persevered.

Shon at Bald Knob

Shon at Bald Knob

At the top of Bald Knob I bought a Mountain Dew, that seemed to change my entire outlook on life.  No longer was I tired with heavy legs, now I was light as a feather and full of energy.  As we approached Cobden I came off Skyline road at full speed and stood to climb.  A small dog came off a nearby porch and started YELPING.  I was like, “Want some Dog,” and I started sprinting.  It turned out to be a mistake because this dog really did “want some”  he wanted to put my ass on the ground.  He ran beside me for a second then darted right in front of my front wheel while I was in mid sprint.  My wheel rolled up on his back but couldn’t find enough traction to stay upright as the Dog bolted.  I went down on the same side as I’d crashed Sunday.

Matt at Bald Knob

Matt at Bald Knob

Luckily I wasn’t hurt and my bike was fine.  Several nice people stopped to see if I needed help.  That’s twice in one week I crashed with a Shaun behind me.  The rest of the ride was fine, in fact I started giving Shon some company on the climbs.  According to Strava I set a PR on almost every climb I did today, even the ones I thought I was sucking on.  Hmm.

Despite the mishaps it was still a good week of riding, luckily I’m no worse for wear and I learned a valuable lesson about racing dogs.

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Shimano PD-M545 Freeride Pedal Review

864A6770 864A6771When I originally envisioned this blog it would be all about reviews of gear that I had abused well past its prime.  It was going to be called Worn Out Reviews.  Time to get back to basics with the Shimano PD-M545 pedal.

The PD-M545 was a Shimano innovation of adding a supportive cage around the clipless pedal.  It seems like when I first saw these there were connected with more X-TREME forms of cycling like, BMX, Freeride and Downhill.  The idea cage would provide more support for your shoe when you’re on the edge, they would also allow decent pedal control when even when unclipped.

As you can see I’ve gotten the good from these things, I’ve had them since around 2006 I think and I bought them used on ebay for 30 dollars, so, yeah I think I got my money’s worth.  Shimano stuff is just good, it’s built good and it works good, these pedals are no exception.  They offered trouble free performance for years, and when they started offering trouble performance I just kept using them.

What they looked like before I got em.

What they looked like before I got em.

The cage is spring loaded to keep the pedal at a good angle for engagement relative to the cage.  The springs broke a couple years ago but I found that I really couldn’t tell a difference without them.  Not long after that the cap that kept the cage even with the pedal broke so the cage was just kind of floating, but they still worked well.

Really they worked well right up to the last few rides I used them.  Getting in and out of the pedals has become harder, even after cleaning and greasing them.  I needed about twice as much ankle rotation to unclip the right pedal which is not good.  Besides the bearings are completely shot, like you can move the pedals around several mm on their axles.  They are just shot, worn out, and ready to go.

As far as performance, I loved the cage.  With regular SPDs sometimes you may not get clipped in and your foot may slop off the pedal, with these there is no slip.  You can get a good grip on the pedal even unclipped.  Besides that clipping in is much easier with the big platform to guide your foot.  It just feels better to have the larger more supportive pedal.

I can’t say it’s a huge deal but it was possible to feel the support of the cage on your feet, especially in the really rough stuff when you’re off the saddle.  Just like all the old standby PD-M540 they offer excellent engagement, even in bad conditions.  The only time they don’t work is snow.

The only drawback is the weight, they are 200 grams heavier then the PD-M540 which I also use.  You can spend alot of money to shed 200 grams from a bike part, but in some cases it’s well worth the extra weight.   With the PD-M545 the extra weight pays dividens when you’re trying to keep your feet on your pedals through a rock garden.

It makes me sad to see these go, but I’ll be on the lookout for some replacements.


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Computer Upgrade Doesn’t Go As Planned

The system.

The system.

I realized I hadn’t purchased a single computer item in a long time, and combined with the fact that I’ve been wanting to try out a few new computer games I decided I needed to do a bit of upgrading.  My system is about 3 years old, it was a budget system but I was going for “bang for the buck” when I built it.  It’s been fantastic.

I was checking out video cards and found a huge deal and rebate on a Radeon HD 7850.  I remember this card was in the upper two hundreds not that long ago and I could buy it for much less then a 100 bucks.  If I was interested in the next generation of high resolutions graphics this was the card to get.

My old video card is a Nvidia GTS 250.  It’s a fine card, but it’s getting a bit old and it used alot of power and made a lot of heat.  It had a huge fan that makes a ton of noise when the cards in use, sounds like a vaccum in my computer.

The Old GTS 250.  Vaccum cleaner card.

The Old GTS 250. Vaccum cleaner card.

So  I got the new card, dropped it in without thinking and start up the computer.  Windows fails to boot, will not boot to safe mode, and pretty much just throws up when I try to do anything.  I was looking into using my installation USB key to try to recover Windows but accidently installed a new version.

Here’s where things get weird.  I’ve had multiple Windows installs on one hard drive before with no issue.  Once it completed installing and rebooted windows asked me which install I wanted to start.  I went with the new one and it started up then immeditatly rebooted.  When it started up again the old Windows was gone along with everything on my hard drive.  It’s as if I did a clean install on a formated disk.  Wow.  3 years worth of installed programs and files gone.

The New 7850, two quiet fans.

The New 7850, two quiet fans.

But all is not lost.  I had bought a external hard drive and backed up all my important files not that long ago.  In fact this was a blessing in disguise because my new Windows install is fast, I’d forgotten how good a new install is.  Windows 7 has been the most rock solid OS I’ve used, not a single problem, but 3 years without a refresh and your OS starts to get a bit laggy.

Now I’ll just be busy installing programs for the next week, but it’ll give me the opportunity to upgrade those as well.  It’s kind of fun to create problems for yourself.

A fresh new windows desktop.

A fresh new windows desktop.

Oh and the new card is whisper quiet, and much faster then the old one.  Now I just have to find some games that need it.


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The WIld West

So a guy was out riding his bike on the rail trail at 3 AM.  He had just finished up his shift driving trucks and was riding home.  He encountered a driver who was angry that he was riding his bike at night and a verbal altercation ensued.  Later as the rider was making his way through Muddy an ATV comes up from behind him and hits him.  The ATV then backs up so he can run over his bike again.

I can’t fathom this, it sounds more like fiction then reality.  Today’s reality feels like fiction to me.  Remember how Biff Henderson had changed Hill Valley in Back to the Future part II.  Biff made millions of dollars when his future self gave him a sports almanac.  He had turned Hill Valley into a Dystopian nightmare.

I don’t know about the rest of the world but the town I live in is awash in drugs and poverty.  There is little opportunity and little hope, but there have been some big changes lately.  Lots of new development.  New convenience stores, liquor stores, a gun shop and gambling parlors; gas, guns, gambling and grog, those are our growth areas.   As Illinois has been wrestling with falling revenue and skyrocketing pension obligations somebody thought a good idea to make money would be legalizing video gambling, it’s alot easier to gamble when you’re liquored up.   I’m sure the state planned on making a little money with the concealed carry law.

Maybe some folks are nostalgic for the Wild West of TV and movies, I just hope we don’t devolve to shootouts and I certainly hope someone doesn’t decide to run me over with his horse.

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