Bikey Stuff

Managed to get 7 days on the bike (sort-of) in a row and although I have some slight remnants of the cough and am still a bit stuffy, I feel good. I was hoping to get a longer ride in today, but the rain is coming down and it's not too warm outside. If it wouldn't be my 8th straight day on the bike and I wasn't trying to ward off pneumonia, I'd do it anyway, but I think I'll settle for a session with Coach Troy and his painful Strendurance videos.

I spent this weekend riding with the Director of State Parks, the Commissioners, some rangers, a Regional Manager, and many of their spouses. It was a great opportunity to be an ambassador for the mountain biking community here in Washington and to discuss ways in which the State Parks system could advance recreational opportunities for mountain bikers. We rode roughly 28 miles of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (a cross-state railroad corridor that has been converted to trail) on Saturday through beautiful Yakima Canyon and then met back up on Sunday morning right down the road in North Bend to ride a snow-free section here on the west side of the pass.

You can read my full report from the weekend right here. And see some photos here and here.

I hurried home after my ride with the State Parks officials on Sunday and took Kristin down to Henry's Ridge to get out on some singletrack. I had forgotten how many switchbacks there were down there so it was a bit more advanced than I wanted. Nevertheless, despite a number of falls (Kristin is riding clipless pedals) and some prolonged hyper-ventilation due to nervousness, she eventually settled into a nice groove and got the hang of it. I rode along in front of her calling out wheel placement and when to coast, sit, stand, pedal and after a short break on a gravel path she was able to climb back into the woods and make it all the way down one of the trails without any hiccups -- she even cleaned the switchbacks and made it over the roots without falling! I was very happy.

We just have to work on her self-sufficiency. As in, making sure she has her wallet with her so the next time we get carded in the bar of a Mexican restaurant afterwards, we can still have a beer and watch the Mariners game and not be forced into the dining room with the screaming children.

Kristin is signed up for this weekend's "Boot Camp" mountain biking school and is then going to go on a beginner's ride at Tolt with my friend Erik on Sunday. Tolt can be a pretty technical place for beginners due to the tight twists and turns and plethora of roots, but I trust Erik will keep the pace slow and select a tame bunch of trails for the Boot Camp grads that will be accompanying him.

I dropped my road bike off at Performance Bike yesterday to get the free warranty tune-up, get a new rear cassette and chain on it, and to get the rear wheel repaired. Turns out the rear wheel is toast. I bent it beyond repair on Friday's ride (I suspected as much). Also, I'm told I can't go to a 32-tooth rear cog (for RAMROD) without going to long-cage rear derailleur.

So here's the dilemma, do I sink upwards of $400 worth of new wheels and drivetrain parts onto a bike I purchased for $950 (originally listed at $1899) when I'm already unhappy with how weak the frame is and how badly it flexes at the bottom bracket when I'm pedaling hard or do I look for a new road bike?

With half the drivetrain (again, for RAMROD) and wheels (I no longer trust the front wheel and don't want a mis-matched pair) needing replacing there's little money to save by buying a new frame and moving over the crankset and brakes. Especially since most bikes that can be bought as a frame only tend to be a bit higher end. I don't need a high-end road bike, just something to do some training on and the occasional century ride. But I don't want an ugly franken-bike either. I have to want to ride it.

I'd be happy to stick with my budget store-brand Scattante bike if the frame was stiffer at the bottom bracket, but looking down and seeing the frame flex so much laterally doesn't instill much confidence, not to mention it wastes a ton of energy and has gotten to be a sore spot for me when I'm riding.

This isn't a decision I can make slowly, as each day that passes without a working road bike is another day closer to the Native Planet Classic and RAMROD.


Maarten said...

Wow, Kristin is a trooper for continuing after that! (But then I get the sense you two are well-matched that way...)

You want a 32t cog because the bike isn't a triple? Hmmm. I'm tempted to say something like "why don't you just do RAMROD on your singlespeed 29er?" *ducks*

Anyway, the reason I was commenting.. I've read arguments in the past that bottom bracket flex is not a waste of energy, because in unflexing it propels the next pedal swing forward. Not sure if I buy it myself. I'm more of a sit & spin smoothly guy myself--don't mash enough to really worry about the flex.

What material is the frame? A bunch of flex would worry me less in a steel frame than an aluminum one.

Your rear hub is probably still fine. You could spend $50 on a new rim (hmmm, $65 for Mavic OpenPro at Universal) and $35 for spokes and rebuild it yourself for about $100. (I just did this with a MTB wheel and so far it's still straight after 2 rides. :-) :-)

Ultegra GS (med cage) derailleur on sale at Universal for $99... might be last year's.

Doug Walsh said...

Thanks maarten. The bike is aluminum and when I say if flexes, I mean a good inch or so when I'm climbing. It's really kind of scary to see it.

I can climb Zoo Hill in Issaquah on the current gearing and I'm sure I could manage on the 30t at RAMROD, but those climbs aren't as steep but they are a lot longer.

I was thinking about just having another wheel built up but around the hub. We'll see. I'm a bit tight for time on this as the Native Planet Classic is in 2.5 weeks and I have a lot of catching up to do since I was sick.

PB said a medium cage Rear Ultegra would be $99, but by the time i get the new cassette and chain on there and the wheel(s) I might just be better off selling the bike and getting something a bit more enjoyable anyway. We'll see.

Cary Westerbeck said...

As a five time RAMROD veteran and former bike mechanic of 7 years, I must put in my 2 cents (and I'll stop patting myself on the back now).

First, you sound ample strong enough to spin a standard or compact road crank with a 12-25 cassette on RAMROD. I don't think I was fitter than you are now when I did my RAMRODS and that was always fine. A 32 is overkill IMHO. You'll be fine with a standard road double and a 12-25 or maybe 12-26.

As for the new bike: do it. You will want to ride a new carbon bike a lot more than your current ride. I adore riding my road bike. I just bought a new carbon Eddie Merckx and I ride it at every opportunity I can. In my opinion, the Ultegra level carbon frame Scattante bikes are a great value and would vastly outperform your aluminum bike. It's the Scattante CFR Race Road:

I don't like the Tektro brakes, but those can be replaced with some Ultegra for pretty cheap if you felt so inclined. It's a deal @ $1699.

You may also want to look at LeMond or Felt. They had some decent prices for Ultegra level carbon bikes.

That was more than two cents, but you get my drift.

Happy training.


Doug Walsh said...

Thanks for the post, Cary. I have a road bike update coming later this week.