A Shawnee Black Friday 2016

It has been a long standing tradition for a Black Friday Mountain Bike Ride to be held every year for at least ten years if not longer.  The ride originated when riders from Kentucky came to the Millstone Lake / Jackson Falls area to do some daredevil free riding on the rocks and bluffs, all of us XC oriented riders would follow along and watch the chaos unfold. Eventually the freeriders stopped showing up and the ride evolved into an epic Shawnee cross country ride and that’s exactly what we got in 2016.

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Fourteen riders showed up, we parked in downtown Eddyville and took a mile cruise down Washington street where the road devolves into trail.  I was in the lead and probably going a bit too fast when the road  turned to dirt with a bit of mud and leaves on top.  My front wheel did a slight drift and I knew right then that it was going to be a slick ride.  We had rain on Wednesday and Thursday didn’t do much to dry it out.  The trail had a slick coating of mud in many places that made traction somewhat scarce.

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We took the riders up to Jackson Hole where we parked our bikes and walked into the Natural area to see the rocky bluff waterfall and took some pictures.

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Around 10 miles in the group split, half taking a shorter route and some of us taking an extra loop.  I had been feeling very good up to this point, but it seemed like the trail kept getting slicker and my bike more  weighed down with mud.  My legs were doing OK, but my upper body and arms were exhausted from the tense handling.  I’m running Continental Race Kings which were floaty in the slick stuff but I saw Big Hit Barry sliding around with his big  Minion enduro tires.

Black Friday 2016 Matt

We all made it back OK, and despite the conditions it was an awesome ride, we got 20 miles, one broken spoke was our only mechanical. I know Big Hit Barry went down at least once, but with his catlike reflexes he wasn’t injured.

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Just another awesome ride in the Shawnee.

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How to Cut a Steer Tube and Other Stuff

With winter quickly approaching it’s time to get the gravel bike ready for action.  My Jake the Snake Cross frame came with this fork with enough steer tube for a huge bike.  I’ve been to lazy to cut it off until last night.  I used my “barndoor” method of horizontal hacksaw.  It’s important to leave a metal spacer above your stem so that you don’t hack up your stem, unless your stem is junk and you don’t care.  The resulting cut will be completely flush which means you’ll need a small spacer for the top cap to work properly.

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I’ve done this on several bikes and it has always produced a mostly level smooth cut, it takes about 15 minutes too, which is way shorter then it would take to remove the fork and use a miter box.

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I also removed my rear cantilever brake and replaced it with an XTR linear pull set that I found in a box of old junk.  These were my dream brakes in 1998.  To use linear pull brakes with road levers you need a Problem Solver Travel Agent instead of the standard noodle.  Installing the Travel Agent took a few tries to get right, but wasn’t too complicated.

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The resulting brake is a bit more powerful then regular road calipers.  I had been using Scott Pedersen Self Energizing rear Cantilever brake which had too much power.  On a gravel ride a few months ago I accidentally locked the rear wheel up on a high speed decent, it was a bit scary.

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Specialized MTB Sport Shoes Review

I’ve done enough rides now on the Specialized mountain bike Sport shoe to know what I think about it.  They are good, not great, but good.  I had some Specalized Comp MTB shoes around 15 years ago that were a naturey green and brown, and though my memory may not serve me as well they were better then these and about 40 dollars cheaper.  In fact those shoes are so popular that they are available all over ebay.  Maybe I should have bought some of those.

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The Sport is pretty much the cheapest shoe that Specialized offers and it’s 100 bucks.  It has a plastic sole and 3 Velcro straps and its black.  Like all specialized shoes it has the 1.5 degree varus wedge built into the sole which works excellent for me and just about everyone else in the world.  You can put cleats on them, that’s about it when it comes to technology.  They feel pretty light and weigh in a 350 grams for a small pair according to the website.

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My old Sport shoes, the best ever!

Lets start with looks, the shoes look good, they’ve got that carbon stealth look, all black and grey, subdued branding.  They say sport in small letters so they don’t scream out, I’VE GOT ENTRY LEVEL SHOES!”  The black of course is great, except when it gets dirty, which is why I prefer a dirt colored shoe since I rarely wash them.  Still the plasticy materials clean up nice.

Next lets go to the sole.  The sole is a plasticy rubberized material it seems tough enough to me and if offers a good grip on slick stuff.  One rider told me that the traction knobs on his sport shoes broke off early, but so far mine seem stout.

So really the most important thing, comfort and fit.  That’s where these shoes lose points.  Comfort wise they are great when pedaling at he beginning of the ride.  I want a mountain bike shoe that’s stiff enough for good and comfortable pedaling but flexible enough to scramble up 20 percent rocky trails when I’ve got to dismount.   They do that OK, but the straps don’t seem to offer a secure fit, especially when walking.

The biggest issue I have are the straps.  they are simply not long enough.  When I pull them tight there isn’t enough Velcro catching to get a real secure lock and over the course of the ride they get looser.  Since so much of hook part of the Velcro is exposed to trail conditions it’s always muddy so When I try to tighten them later in the ride they won’t hook up.  Later in the ride they seem too loose.

If you’re thinking that I bought shoes that were too small, I tried both 46 and 45.  46 were a bit long but the straps were equally as short as the 45s which felt just right in length.  I wear 45 in most shoes including Specialized road shoes.

So why are the old specialized shoes better.  They were dirt colored for one, but more importantly they had two long straps that worked better, and even more importantly they had laces under the straps.  Velcro straps on mountain bike shoes just aren’t that good of an idea, especially for the top strap.

The 150 dollar comp shoes include a boa enclosure for the top strap.  This is probably a much better system, but I’d be worried about breaking it since I bash my shoes alot, also the shoes look pretty much the same other than that boa, which isn’t worth 50 more dollars.  For 120 dollars they have the 2FO cliplite lace up shoes which looks like a pair of running shoes with cleat holes.

After about 10 harsh mountain bike rides where the shoes were subjected to mud baths, creek crossings, and multiple rock bashing’s they are cleaning up very well.  The materials seem to be tough, and I don’t believe durability will be an issue.  If they hold up they will be well worth the 100 bucks. I’m hoping to get years out of these like I did my last pair of specialized sport shoes.

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Awesome Fall Weather at Miller Grove Cemetery

This Veteran’s Day weekend has been fantastic for mountain biking.  Temps have got down around freezing overnight but warmed enough for summer riding attire during the day.   Friday four of us put in at Neighbor’s road and went down to Hayes Creek Canyon.  JW was leading the ride and directed us on mostly good trails then gave us a history lesson at Miller Grove Cemetery.

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Miller Grove was a community of freed slaves formed in 1844 that once numbered over 100 people.  The only remaining vestige of the community is the cemetery which has two large markers and supposedly around hundred other grave sites.  It’s really quite amazing to think that a settlement once stood in this area.

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The trails around Eddyville are really excellent, especially when they are dry.  The horse traffic is pretty intense in the area, though we didn’t see a soul in the forest Friday or today.  Yeah it was so much fun that I returned with a different small group to do a similar ride today.

In the words of my good friend Drew, we’ve been out here riding bikes in the Shawnee for 34 years.  Come on out and join us!

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Not a Political Post I Promise & SCUD Report

I’ve been thinking for weeks about writing a big political manifesto laying out my case and explaining my views on this year’s political election.  Well it’s November 7th, but I don’t really think I can conjure the mental fortitude to write anything substantial so I’ll just sum up my feelings about the candidates.

Like many I’m not particularly excited about our candidates, even those third party ones.  I voted for Ralph Nader in my first election back in 2000 and we all saw how that turned out.  So how about this year?  Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are both goofballs who are not qualified for president.  Then of course we have Trump,  a mentally deranged jerk who isn’t qualified to be mayor of Bedrock.  Finally that leaves Hillary who has already served two terms as president.

Well anyway vote for who you want, and if you happen to live in New Hampshire, Florida or Ohio, actually consider your vote since it makes a difference.

Hey lets talk about bikes. I recently spruced up THE SCUD with a snazzy new narrow wide chain ring, then popped off the bash guard and little ring.  Finally I removed the front derailleur and shifter so I have the hot new drivetrain everyone’s going wild about, 1×7.  Well OK, maybe its not the newest thing on the block, but it worked really well.

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I also purchased some new wheels and tires from bikesdirect.com  They had some incredibly cheap Shimano/Mavic wheels with Continental Race King tires and tubes installed.  The wheels cost 179 with free shipping.  Considering the tires and tubes would set me back about 120 dollars I think I got quite a bargain.  The wheels aren’t light, aren’t fancy, but they should be durable and most importantly they were cheap.

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I got in a ride yesterday at the world famous Dogpen with my pals Joe, Drew and Moe.  Trails were phenomenal.  They were dry and even a bit dusty.  The massive horse traffic has ground them up and  made them fast.  In fact Moe was holding back alot especially on the downhills because we knew how many horseback riders were out and safety is always our primary concern.

Joe and Drew are both riding with little bells on their handlebars that emit a constant ring.  I thought I might find this annoying, but if anything it was kind of nice.  The ringing was like sonar.  I could always hear the other guys, long before I could see them and the cheery ringing bells did wonders to raise my spirits.

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The Continental Race Kings proved to be a fantastic tire for the conditions.  It was the smoothest rolling tire I’ve ever rode, on the hardpack dirt it was silent, in the mud it pulled as well as any tire.  It did slip once when I tried to make a 45 degree turn on slick rock coated with mud and slime and wet moss, but I would have needed traction spikes to turn on that stuff.

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The bike was about 3 pounds lighter with the 1x and new wheels and it did feel a bit lighter but I’m sure that was in my mind and not real.  My last few rides have been on my old 26 inch bike and it’s always so amazing to return to a 29er.  I was rolling through rocks that would have stopped me in my tracks on the 26 inch bike.

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Maybe there was a few muddy places, but just a few.

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Goodbye Six13 – Hello Tarmac

I’ve been riding my Cannondale Six13 for a few years now and I’ve really loved it.  It was really sad to see the little mark in the paint I discovered last year had become a full blown crack.  It appears that these bikes have a tendency to snap around the rear drop outs and my Six13 is just about ready to go.  A couple months ago I stopped riding it and switched back to my CAAD9.  Now the CAAD9 is a fine bike, but its a 58 and I’ve to find that 56cm fits me better.

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For years I’ve been telling my Dad that he would benefit from a more compliant bike, something like a Roubaix or Domane.  The frame he’s been looking for finally became available at a price he couldn’t turn down.  Now he’s the proud owner of a very sharp Roubaix SL4.  The Tarmac frame he’s been riding was dismantled and allocated to me as an early Christmas Gift.

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The Six13 may have had some carbon in it but I could never really tell it from any other bike I rode.  In fact I rarely can tell a difference between bikes other then simple saddle and handlebar positions.  They generally all feel alike to me.   I got a chance to test out my new bike on ride with Mom and Dad this morning. The Tarmac Expert is the first all Carbon bike I’ve ever ridden but early in the ride I really couldn’t tell any difference, seemed like any other bike to me.

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Dad was riding  faster on his new Roubaix, which I attributed to new bike syndrome, and I was struggling to keep up with them.  I realized a few miles in that my seatpost was about about a centimeter to low and a too far back.  Fixing that got me feeling much better on the Tarmac.  We were cruising down Walnut Grove road, which we ride alot. its rough oil and chip and it causes me to search the smoothest sections of pavement.  I realized I was riding through the rough areas and that the entire road felt much smoother.  Now this of course could be in my head, but I tried to pay close attention to road surfaces as the ride continued and I was sold that the carbon Tarmac had a more compliant ride then the bikes I’m used to.

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Eventually I traded bikes for a test ride of the Roubaix SL4.  Just rolling down the road I couldn’t feel anything different.  Eventually  I took off at a full sprint down a rough oil and chip road.  I settled into a big gear, put my weight back and churned out a fast pace.  I rolled right through a rough section of road without unweighting the saddle and the sensation was much like blasting through a rough section of trail on a full suspension bike.  A jarring shock that would have cause my wheels to skip felt as if it was absorbed at least enough to keep the bike firmly planted.  Again this could have been in my head, but it seemed to work.

It was a fantastic maiden voyage for me and I’m pumped to get in shape and see what this bike can do next season.

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Crab Night

chinese buffetLast night Shauna and I needed a bit of a diversion so we headed over to the “Hong Kong Mongolian Grill” for Crab Night.  In case you’re not familiar,  this is one of those ubiquitous Chinese Style buffets that serves everything from Sushi to Pizza on it’s many food bars.  On weekend nights they put out some more exotic items such as crab legs and frog legs.  Back in the day when I was about 50 pounds heavier we went to these places alot, but lately the Hong Kong is a rare treat.  Last night was the first time we’ve been to the crab legs buffet in many years and it reminded me of the last time we went which we said would be our last.

The Crab Guys

Circa 2006 was the last time we visited the crab leg buffet.  Like most patrons we each took one or two crab legs and then giggled over the astoundingly ridiculous difficulty in getting any meat out of these monstrosities.  As we were playing with our crab cracking device and trying to maintain some level of dignity a couple gentleman came in and were seated nearby us.  These guys both laid out towels on the table and then headed to the bar.  To our surprise they returned with every single crab leg on the bar, three entire plates overflowing with crustaceans.

So you're suppose to eat that?

So you’re suppose to eat that?

They each placed towels in their laps and stuffed them into their T-shirts like bibs.  Then they went to town.  They demolished those crab legs, I mean there was butter sauce in the air, and chunks of crab meat flying around.  They would crack, tear, rip and suck out the juices then grab another leg.   In short order they had finished their three plates.

Shauna and I were up browsing the bar when the worker brought out a fresh new batch of crab legs.  I pulled a leg out of the batch but the Crab Guys swooped in and cut me off.  They began hauling out those legs two at a time, filling their plates.  Before Shauna could even get one they had taken every leg back to their table.  It became painfully obvious, they were here for one reason to eat every crab leg possible.  I gave them dirty looks but they didn’t notice.

The workers came out and and began to speak in their language rapidly, then pointed at the crab guys who were again ripping through the plates of crab legs and leaving mounds of exoskeleton on their table.  Soon the workers had a new strategy, two or three crab legs at a time, but they were gone in seconds.  Before long there was a group of patrons standing around the crab bar holding plates and staring at the kitchen.  One of the crab guys waited for a few minutes then took his plate back to the kitchen door.  He opened the door and loudly spoke, “You’re out of crab out here.”

Like the Donald Trump campaign it was equal parts hilarious and horrifying, and also like the campaign we couldn’t stop watching to see what would happen next.  For the next hour at least one of the Crab Guys would stand guard at the crab bar and wait for the workers to bring out small batches of crab then hasten them to their table.  They seemed oblivious to the fact that every person in the restaurant was projecting angry looks and veiled criticism their way.

Eventually we left, but the crab guys were still waiting for more crab, who knows they still may be waiting.  For years I’ve always wondered if the Crab Guys are still out there terrorizing Mongolian Grills and Hibachi bars on crab night.  If you guys are, crack open a leg for me will yeah.

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