Saturday, March 30, 2013

To Convert to Tubless or Not to Convert to Tubeless: That is the Question

Way to much stuff.  Better to have an not need than need and not have.

Admittedly, I am lagging far behind in the world of tubeless tires, this is my first interaction with the magical world of tubeless tires.  The technology, maybe technique is a better word, has been around for a while.  I typically don't spend much time or resources on something unless I am convinced it is worth it.  Although I drank the cool aid (or should I say "latex sealant") I am still not convinced that they are worth it for me or the average rider.  They have been around a while and people still complain about getting their beads to seat and tires to seal.  The interweb is full of discussion on tips and tricks to get past stubborn setups, even for those specifically designed to be tubeless.  There is so much written about tubeless and countless youtube demonstrations, setting up tubeless tires should not be a mystery or an exercise on patience and/or futility, even though that is exactly what it turns into.

I spent the better part of the week trying to convert some wheels to a tubeless set up.  I spent $100 on stems, yellow tape, rim strips w/stems built in, and sealant.  I did the research and followed manufacturer's instructions.  In the end I prevailed but spent a day plus trying to get these bad boys to seat and seal.  In the end I returned the Stan's rim strips after I successfully did it for pennies on the dollar with Gorilla tape and Stan's stems.  

Weight--This does not matter to me because I am big and don't race.  I will still carry a spare inner tube just in case, but that is two less.
Flat protection--I will be using these for commuting to work.  This is key for me as I have often flatted on little pieces of glass or metal.  Could be beneficial in areas with small cacti or thorny things.  Could be beneficial in a race, which I don't do.
Traction--Riding at lower pressure to get better traction with out risking pinch flats.  I kind of care about this as I usually run 30 psi.

Challenge to Set Up--I am convinced this is why they are not the mainstream.  They can be messy if they don't seat right away.  They pretty much require an air compressor which most people don't have.  I don't have a ton of time to spend horsing around with wheels, I would rather be riding.
Require Routine Maintenance--The sealant drys up and must be replaced annually if not sooner.
Not Guaranteed to Hold Air--There are some cool videos showing a bike rolling over boards covered with nails.  There are no cool videos showing air burping out and tires separating from rims.  Spare inner tube should be carried just in case.
$$$$$--Wow.....I spent a ton of money on a few products.  Tubeless ready tires cost more than the equivalent tubed tire.  Stems and yellow tape add up.  Sealant is not cheap and I threw at least 8 ounces out from failed attempts.  


Salsa Semi 29er rims with Tubeless ready Continental Race Kings--Disclaimer--I set up a set of Salsa Semi 29er rims which have a sticker located on the stem hole that specifically states they are not to be set up tubeless.  I also have stood on the top of a ladder that states the top is not a step....and I lived.  So far they have worked very well.  I have great insurance and take full responsibility for my actions!  These are wider rims and need an air compressor.  I used Stan's yellow tape (the wide stuff) and a stem.  I could not get the bead out of the deep groove in this rim so I used a couple wraps of Gorilla tape to fill it in.  It seated nicely but required manipulation and the extra tape.

Giant PX 29er rims with not tubeless ready Tioga Psycho Genius tires--These rims are listed by Stan's as compatible with their systems.  These were a challenge to get seated even for older tires that have been stretched and ridden with tubes.  Really tough actually.  Again, I used Gorilla tape and I had to use levers to work the bead.  The people at the neighborhood gas station probably got tired of occupying their air compressor.

The jury is still out for me though when considering cost and time spent making them work.  I could have bought a lot of inner tubes and patch kits.  Yes it is a pain to pump up a tire on the trail but I don't ever recall hours to change a flat and get rolling.

 Of the four tires/wheels I set up no two had the same setup procedure and each required a lot of manipulation.  I can understand different rims/tire combos, but each one?  Mystery.  I could understand if a professional racer has them for weight savings and protection, they have a lot on the line if they flat.  For the average Joe, I would say it would be based on the environment and vegetation.

They Hold Air!  For the the mountain bike tinkerer.....they are a dream.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To Frame Save or Not To Frame Save: That is the Question?

I put a lot of miles on my Ogre last year and it needed a little overhaul.  I am not sure why, but the Ogre has become one of my favorites.  I suppose it is the combination of a number of things from fit, how it rides, and the fact that I feel like I can bang it around a little and don't worry about it's huge cost or chipping the beautiful Olive Drab paint.   I have stated before my only real complaint was that I am not real fond of some of the areas that collect water and show some surface rust.  So I decided to bite the bullet and treat the inside of the frame for piece of mind.  While it is not an "expensive" bike by today's standards, I do like to make things last as long as I can, especially if it is something I like.

To Frame Save or Not To Frame Save:  That is the question?

Holy Cow, I did not realize that this was such a controversial issue in the bicycling world.  There is a lot of discussion on the topic and not always friendly.  Surly Bikes has a FAQ on taking care of a steel frame.  They list a number of treatment options and even though I keep my bikes indoors but I figured I would do it to be safe.  I turned to the interweb to find both product and tips where I quickly found that there are three schools of thought when it comes to treating the inside of a bike frame.  

1.  "Do it"
2.  "Don't do it, it is Voodoo.  You are stupid and waste your money if you do it!"
3.  "Meh, I don't know if it works but it is cheap so why not!"

Oddly enough the second was the most passionate and many responses were borderline hostile.  After spending some time reading on it I went with option number 3.

The Secret Sauce! 

There are several options that I would have settled for:
1.  Boiled Linseed Oil 
2.  Boeshield T-9
3.  J.P. Weigle Frame Saver

I wasn't looking for a "pepto bismol" solution that only coats.  If I was going to spend some time I wanted something that fought rust too.  Besides, I don't even know what boiled linseed oil is.  I decided that I was going to use J.P. Weigle Frame Saver, heck for all I know all that is boiled linseed oil.  I went to my favorite LBS and they said it was currently out of stock at the distributer.  That seems to be a trend.  I tried a number of online sources before I changed my course.  I heard that AMSOIL Heavy Duty Metal Protector was essentially the same thing and a number of people said you could get it at any auto part store so I spent a day trying to get that to no avail.

Then I read where Boeshield T-9 which I use on my chain seals is great for metal protection.  I read a great article where it was the best for protecting metal surfaces on table saws and related woodworking equipment.  So I began the search for a spray can of T-9.......with equal results as before.  I walked into a bike shop to look for some T-9 when I saw a can of Frame Saver.  I spent days trying to find a suitable product and there is was.    

Treating the Frame:

This is not rocket surgery by any means but the last thing I want to do is clean up a huge mess.  I taped off all of the holes with a low tack masking tape and shoved some paper towel into the bottom bracket to absorb run off from the down tube.  The fumes from Frame Saver are pretty strong so I did it out in my garage.

Now it is a party!

Down Tube and Top Tube:  I sprayed frame saver into the Top Tube and Down Tube from the head tube openings.  Then I wadded up some paper towel, inserted it into the head tube and taped it off.  I left the Head Set cups in.  

Chain Stays:  I sprayed the Frame Saver into the chain stays through the bottom bracket holes.  Then I wadded up some paper towel and shoved it into the BB and taped it off.

Seat Stays:  This is where I had some problems.  Because the Seat Tube extends far above the point where the seat stays are welded on I could not get to them with the included straw.  This meant that I would have to spray it into the gas vent holes which the instructions very clearly state you should not as pressure and gas from the can cause Frame Saver to spray back out of the holes.  At this point I donned safety glasses!  Sure enough when I pulled the straw out, Frame Saver sprayed back out a bit.  This was a little messy.  Then I taped over the hole.

Seat Tube:  Sprayed then I put a little paper towel at the top and taped it off.

This thing:  This is the source of a lot of my rust.  Water sprays up there and little rusty orange rivers come out. I soaked this in Frame Saver and then taped it off.

Once I had every thing taped off I rotated the frame around every hour or so.  The next day I pulled the tape off and sprayed it again the same way.

After the second application I brought it into the house (still taped up) and the next day I pulled the tape off to let it dry completely.  This is where I ran into some trouble.  I had a 6:30 a.m. meeting and I wanted to take the tape off before I left for the day.  When I pulled the tape off of the seat stay hole Frame Saver shot out and sprayed all over my face and t-shirt.  It was 4:30 in the morning and I didn't have time to lose my eyesight.  I ran my face under the kitchen faucet for a while but my skin was irritated through out the day.  I don't even understand what would cause that.  It didn't spray back out when I pulled the straw out and it took a few seconds to to put tape over it so gas or pressure should have escaped.  Lesson learned.....wear eye pro!

Clean Up:  Over spray and leaks cleaned up easily with WD-40.  If I didn't plan on disassembling the bike I probably wouldn't do it.  If it is a brand new naked frame I would do it.  Meh!  We will see, if the little orange rivers stop than it was worth it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Two Week Weekend Project: Annual Ogre Bike Overhaul

Frame Prep
Saturday I finished what was supposed to be a "weekend" project....that I started two weeks ago.  Part of it was poor planning/timing the other part is due to the fact that I am slow.  I should have ordered the tires I wanted earlier but I was waiting for possible birthday presents in the form of $$$$.  I wanted to "rust proof" the inside of my frame and spent days trying to source the secret sauce to do it. 

This all stemmed from a basic bicycle maintenance course I enrolled in through a local community college.  I will make a long story short but many of the other students looked at both me and my bike with contempt.  I am sure that they ride really fancy bikes with only the finest matching component groups whereas, I pieced my beloved Surly Ogre together from a number of sources which included parts from my El Mariachi and various discount part vendors on-line.  Old and new parts can meet with mixed success. Lets face it a 5 year old used rear derailleur feels just like it sounds, old.  I also pieced it together with specific reasons. 

Don't judge me because I wanted to go Old School and put a 48 tooth chain ring on my fully rigid steel mountain bike.  If I wasn't supposed to, than why does Shimano still make them with a  mountain front derailleur to fit it.  Anyway I digress, I offered to let the instructor use my bike for demonstration in the hopes that it would get a free tune up.  It was in rough shape with loose axles, slightly bent rear derailleur, rubbing disc brakes (due to both bent rotors and the fact that the rear Ogre disc brake tab allows forward to rear movement based on gear vs single speed and various tire choices), and a plethora of minor problems.  It was a great example of why maintenance checks are important. 

I put thousands of miles on it last year and I decided that I would pull it apart and:

1.  Clean everything thoroughly and inspect the parts:  I succumbed to peer pressure and replaced the the 48 tooth with a 44 tooth chain ring, mainly because a Surly Ogre with a 48 tooth chain ring, a 2.1 inch tire, and Monkey Nuts requires a long chain.   I replaced the disc rotors (even the cheap ones are pricey), and I put a longer stem on in the hopes that I would feel less bunched up with the Jones Loop bar.

2.   I  hit the inside of the frame with Frame Saver, something I had been considering doing for a while.  While this is not rocket surgery, it will be a post of it's own.

3.  Replace tires with MTB specific tires vs a Cyclocross tire and go tubeless.  Nothing makes a bike feel brand new and pretty like a new set of tires.  I went with the Continental Race Kings, low rolling resistance though I am now thinking I should have gotten the 2.1 inch width, but whatever.  Tubeless set up will be a post of its own.

I am waiting for the weather to clear just a little bit more before I jump on it and mess it up now that it is "clean."  This year I am going to spend more time riding that gravel so I can say that I did it before it was really cool.

Monday, March 11, 2013

QC Fat Bike Ride: Enjoying the Muk!

A few weeks ago I participated in a local mountain bike club's group fat bike ride on the banks of the Mississippi River.  I am a fairly anti-social and typically don't join these clubs or participate in these activities.  I would like to say however, that this particular group is nice, unlike some others I have tried to ride with in the past.  It is not that I don't like people or their club activities (most of the time), it is mostly due to time constraints like work and family.  In this case the club is very welcoming, I just don't have the time to meet regularly and therefore I don't make a lot of friends. 
Anyway, I felt compelled to go on this ride and since it was a federal holiday weekend (four days off at home) my wife would quickly grow tired of me pestering her.  She is a good wife, she understands me and forced me to go.  The Mississippi River has been very low this year due to the drought which makes fat biking down the banks of the river a lot of fun.  
The idea behind this ride was to start in downtown Davenport, ride down the river bank, go around Credit Island, then cross a fancy bike bridge, and ride a mile or so down to a cozy little establishment called Dee's Enchanted Inn to eat and consume alcohol before returning.  It had about 70 people in attendance.  Not all of them were on fat bikes, but I would say the vast majority were.
Over all the ride was nice.  It was fun to see so many fat bikes and while I don't drink alcohol, I was mostly interested in the group ride.  So, when we stopped an hour or so into the ride (which was not a long way) for a beer break I was reminded of why I usually dislike group rides.  You are kind of stuck conforming to the group agenda.  It was about 25 degrees with a little wind and I was growing tired of standing around and happy to get rolling again.  I am not sure how some of them were able to ride home.     
One of the great things about fat bikes is how "easily" they roll through crazy terrain.   

No trails.....No problem. 

Big sticks, small logs, and random holes.....No Problem!!!

The conservationist in me was not fond of 70 people riding willy nilly through this area, however, this is not an overly fragile environment. After the river rises this spring it will wash away any trace of our presence. 

Fat Bikes everywhere!!!

Even more fat bikes.  I have loved 29ers since I got my first one.  I thought they were big.  Then I see a 29er parked next to a group of fat bikes and it looks skinny!  Clearly a 26 inch or 29er can and did ride over this terrain but I guarantee there is a clear difference in how they (both the bike and rider) feel while bush whacking.

Things started to get a little rowdy at Dee's so I packed up and headed back solo.  I found this to be the most enjoyable part of the ride.  I continued the ride around Credit Island.     

Long Shadows!

It was nice and sunny though the temperature did not warm up which made the ride back a little easier. 

Credit Island

As I rode through this channel I was suprised.  At first glance it appeared that life was going to get muddy but the water was frozen and mud was firm even though it looked like it was liquid. 

With low pressure, these tires are amazing on this type of terrain.  Logs, mud, and ice are much "easier" with fat tires.

Stern Wheeler on the Mississippi.  

I like the Endomorph tire and I am sad to see it go.  It does very well on terrain like this and I am not sure why Surly is ending production.

At the end of the day there was a little more partying than riding, that can be the danger of a group ride.  It was also advertised as that, so I am glad I took off early and returned solo.  I enjoy the peace that comes from riding.  The river is very high now, all of these places are now underwater and it could be years before the river is this low again.  I doubt I will ever ride it like this again.  I am grateful for the opportunity to get out and ride something different.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hennepin Canal: Fat Bike Edition

Saturday my wife kicked me out of the house and told me to go for a bike ride.  Apparently I was pestering her and getting the kids riled up.   So I packed up the Panzer and headed to Colona, IL to jump on the Hennepin Canal.  I was hoping for miles of well groomed snow thanks to snow machines (Alaska for Snow Mobile) and the cooler weather and heavy snow fall.  The tow path was a mix of conditions. 

I think I was a day or two late for great conditions, I had been thinking about riding earlier but I do have to work.  There was a mix of conditions from "dry," snow groomed by snow machines, mud, and every conceivable mix of those conditions with a high of about 25 degrees.  The ride was great just the same and I knocked out about 30 miles round trip.    

About 5 miles down the path I hit a stretch of several miles with consistent snow.  It was pleasant going out but on the way back it was a little warmer and the snow was a lot softer.  From an exercise standpoint it was good.   

The canal and locks are quite beautiful in the winter.  At one lock I came upon a bunch of ice "Frisbees."

 If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that as the ice broke up they just circulated around in the current and rounded off.  I don't know that I have seen anything like it before.  The path was nicely covered for several miles before the snow began to break up near Geneseo.

The Hennepin Canal is an interesting place to ride.  I enjoy the historical and engineering aspect of it.  When it was built it crossed a number of rivers and streams, a problem solved by building aqueducts.  Pictured above is an aqueduct built across Geneseo Creek allowing the barges to pass over it.

I think if the snow conditions were right, this trail would be outstanding for fat bikes.  I did see a couple of snow machines on the well covered portion of the trails and a few people as I got close to Geneseo.       

Friday, March 1, 2013

Live Life: The Joy of Pain and Agony of Winning

I feel bad for people who don't do anything. I am active, always have been.  I love adventure.  I crave adventure.  I am not content watching television, playing video games all night (sleeping most of the day), fantasy football, or those card games (magic stuff and Pokemon).  These things do not satisfy me and I don't believe it truly satisfies those people who become consumed by them.  Bodies and minds crave stimulating activity and exertion.  Humans were not designed to be idle and humans have not adapted well to a sedentary lifestyle. 

I wonder what kind of stories they will tell when they get old; "one time I found myself backed into a corner and I had to use my level 10 wizard to destroy your ogre and your spell of something pointless?" And by ogre I clearly am not speaking of the Surly Ogre on which I have embarked on challenging adventures. What will their obituary will say; "John spent his life sitting in his basement mostly in the dark mastering a video game and interacting with others like him instead of developing a relationship and exploring the wonders of the natural world." That rocks.
But not for me.  I often look at people in their fancy cars with heated seats while I am on my Mukluk at -15 degrees and 30 mph wind gusts.  As they look at me, I wonder if they wish they were riding a bike.  Then I realize that is a stupid question......of course they do.  Secretly I wish I had a heated seat.   

I come from a long line of people who do stuff. They got out of the comfort zone and competed; took action vs sit and let the world go by. 
They felt the joy of pain and agony that always accompanies winning!  Yes, I said that right.
We walked away from that one!
Now I am not saying that watching a sporting event or playing cards isn't a good pass time every now and then but those are not activities or hobbies in my opinion.  Those are sufficient to pass time but not to LIVE LIFE.  While my life is not always the adventure I want it to be; I constantly seek it out.  I have to balance everything in my life.  My kids, wife, and job consume most of my life but I have no regrets when it comes to living life to its fullest.  Fortunately they all provide enough adventure to satisfy enough to enjoy life.  The good thing is that I am still young and in good shape (no broken parts) and there is plenty of opportunity.
Winning!  The Chick on her way back before anyone else could get to the wall.
  My daughter is beginning to understand this a little.  Things are not often fun until you get good at them.  That is the joy of pain and agony of winning.  I want my kids to have activities that can be enjoyed for life (as long as the body is willing and capable of course).  I don't want them to sit around and play fantasy sports while reminiscing about how good they were once upon a time. 
I want them to enjoy the activity of life as I do.  That is why I love fly fishing, backpacking, and bicycling.  Each of these require activity (I don't fish from a chair).  I can tell stories of nearly drowning in pursuing fish in fast moving rivers and creeks.  I can tell of sleepless nights in the mountains of Montana and New Mexico, wondering if the lighting could get any closer while on mountain tops.  The list can and will continue to grow. 
Food For Thought, the world is changing!