Riding Styles

There may be a need for another category of biking. I'm sure someone has coined a snazzy term for the riding I'm thinking about. But I know of nothing that describes riding a bike into the woods at a casual pace with no intention of technical riding or speed. It's a type of riding that could be done on just about any bike... but is done on trails. It's not mountain biking. Yes, I do it on my mountain bike. But I could do it on any of my worthy steeds.
I do it fairly often (and when I'm not doing it, I often dream of this type of riding). I pack a lunch or a book or a hammock or a thermos of coffee or all of the above. I casually ride through the woods looking at all the nature and creation around me. I stop along the way for lots of pictures and observation. Sometimes I sweat, but not always.
If I find a spot I like, I sit for a bit and snack. I might even fall asleep if the moment allows. It's quite serene.

But I don't know what to call this riding? I know what bike commuting is. I know what recreational roadies do. I can easily identify mountain biking. But what about this? What do you call this? Pondero does a similar thing he calls "micro-tours." I like that. But his micro-tours are usually on pavement. Is this an off-road micro-tour? That's a lot of hyphenation. Any suggestions?

Get out there.


Introducing: The Long Haul Trucker

Well, there's another bicycle in the garage. Last night, I finished building a Long Haul Trucker for my wife, Angie. She's never had a road bike before. She's never had something that she could ride for more than quick, short distances. Now she could ride across the country.

It started a few weeks ago when she said that she'd like to start riding more on her own. Up to this point, her rides were always family rides. But the two-wheeled sirens had been singing their songs in her ears. She wanted a real bike and I wanted to give her one.

Shortly after she expressed a desire to do more real riding, I saw Tim was replacing his LHT (with a bombtastic Troll, I might add). I inquired, we met up and I procured the frame a couple weeks ago. In the meantime, I'd been unloading all of my unused bicycle and kayak gear on Craigslist. The Redline, a bike frame and kayak skirt later, I had the cash I needed to get her some legit components.

I've been building up shipping boxes in my office and heading over to Bike Green Lexington on my lunch break to try and surprise Angie with the bike. Last night, Jason came over to the house and the magic began to happen.
26" wheeled frame. Easton bars and cheapo stem... like $1.99 cheap. But I had to cut corners whenever I could.
The brake hoods are Tektro. They're long-pull levers, which means they'll work with v-brakes. I wanted lots of stopping power since she'll be pulling kiddos in a trailer. I've got a nice set of cantilever 'cross brakes on my Cross Check, but they aren't great for stopping 100lbs of kid behind you. I was a little concerned about how well these would work. But honestly, I was very impressed with my preliminary spin around the block. They seem to do what they say they'll do. The v-brakes offer lots of stopping power, and they offer the leverage they needs to push them.
My big splurge on this bike was the bar-end shifters. I wanted something that would work well with little maintenance and she was a fan on the bar-ends when she's ridden the Cross Check. Adding these to the build would make our bikes pretty comparable, too, which I liked. I love the bar-ends. And now I've got a couple bikes with more interchangeable parts. Jason was my cockpit man last night. He ran cables, installed shifters, wrapped the bars and tuned it all up. Big help. Big thanks for coming, J.
My evening was spent installing all the other parts. For the used (previously loved?) stuff that went on this bike, I gave it all a good scrubbing before I put it on. I wanted it all to look perfect and work perfect.
And for the most part, it is. Angie came home and loved it. She was totally surprised. Jason turned his head as she gave me kisses of gratitude and the three of us talked about bikes and bike adventures until we were too sleepy to stand. I'm very pleased with this build. My only oversight was one brake cable. I'll drop by the shop today and pick one up. And after a few more minutes of bike maintenance, the LHT will live.

Again, big thanks to Jason as a friend for helping me build and also to Jason as a Bike Green Lex manager for helping me process through and purchase parts. I'm glad it all came together to be a legit ride for my favorite person on earth.

Get out there.


Newfound Xtracycle Love

Yesterday's lunch ride was upon my long bike... and it was delightful.

Quite honestly, this bike has been a dark shadow in my stable. I've had so many frustrations with the internally geared hub that have led me to parking it for the majority of the last six months or so. I struggled to get it tuned up and keep it tuned up. And every time I rode it, it made me dislike it more and more. Recently, though, I did all the research and spent the necessary time getting it tuned to perfection. It's so different that the conventional derailleur set-up that I'm used to working on, that I just put off doing it right. But, alas, it is now in great working order.

Yesterday, I needed it to pick up some stuff at the bike shop and the Xtracycle is quite useful for those utilitarian type errands. I rolled it into the shop and Jason, the shop's manager, was commenting on how great the design and use of the Xtracyle is. As I rolled back to work (shifting quite nicely, I might add), I was excited about this bike once again. It really is an amazing machine. It allows me to do things by bike that I could have never done before. When I do the work of maintaining this tool to function properly, it continues to deliver on doing the work it was made to do.

I love the Xtracycle.

Get out there.


Scrubbing Day

Yesterday was spent doing lots of chores around the house. One of those chores was cleaning an old set of 26" wheels I had laying around for a special project.

I regret not taking a "before" shot of this stuff. Both front and rear hubs were completely black with grease and grime. And I honestly thought this cassette was a black metal before I started cleaning it. With determination of having a nice looking set of wheels, I took the cassette off and completely disassembled it, scrubbed it all with steel wool, then put it back together.

The result is much better. I'll be excited to show you all what secret project I've got up my sleeve when it all gets finished.

Get out there.


Bikey Day in Louisville

I was in Louisville all day yesterday doing bikey stuff. It started with coffee with Tim at Heine Brothers. We've been talking about connecting for a while. So we spent a good hour chatting up bikes, blogs and Kentucky riding. He's ridden a lot of miles in Kentucky and has a lot of insight on roads in our fine state. It was great to connect with him. I highly recommend you check out his blog.

Next, I headed over to Justin's house. He's in town from Africa for a few months. So we were looking forward to catching up. Justin is the guy I rode with back in college when I got my first semi-legit mountain bike. We reminisced about old mountain bike stories and the crashes of yesteryear. But our goal was to spend the day riding. So we hopped on our bikes, rode to get some lunch, then pedaled to Cherokee Park for some trail riding.
A friend of his let him borrow his LiteSpeed titanium MTB for his time here in the states. It's a fantastic loaner bike.
We fought our way through the heat and overgrowth for a good part of the afternoon. Cherokee has great trails for sitting in a fairly populated part of the city. But, alas, we eventually pedaled our way back to his place so I could make it back to Lexington at a decent time.

It was a great day meeting a new friend and hanging with an old friend... all centered around riding bikes. Good stuff.

Get out there.


Roadside Mechanical

Today was one of "those" mornings. I didn't sleep well last night and left the house later than I should have. I realized that my commuter bike had a flat tire and my floor pump was at work. Add to that the fact that I couldn't find either of my mini-pumps (Where do these things go?... Oh, yeah. My sons pretend like they are guns and shoot one another with air. They're probably in a toy box somewhere.) So I was forced to take the Xtracycle that's been giving me a little guff inside that snazzy internally geared hub. Yes, it's that hub that supposedly gives no guff. Yet the guff had me on the side of the road several times today.
The fine tuning on these things is pretty annoying. Any little bit of cable movement causes it to come out of tune. It's got no wiggle room. And putting it on a long bike means there's lots of cable to relocate itself. And since you can't see the gears, you have to play with the barrel adjuster, ride for a bit and then play with it some more. A quarter turn of the barrel adjuster too much will throw it off. Then your pedals spin out of control and you're left with no gears at all. It takes a lot more love than a simple drivetrain system. But once it's set up, it should stay that way... in theory.

I'm happy to say that I think I got it all finished. And my boyscoutedness had me loaded with zip ties to keep those cables in place. So I think everything is going to stay put for a while. So I finished the job after stopping three times and was a bit fuming. But it didn't take long to cool off.
My final stop had me starting the ride back up next to a field of wildflowers. It was quite a nice view that you can't see from the road that I would take if I were going to work in a car.

And, oh... I forgot this pic from yesterday.
There was a dead groundhog in the middle of the MTB trail yesterday morning. Is that trail-kill? The MTB equivalent to road-kill? It has to be, right? Animals just don't die in midstride walking across a path, do they? So someone hit it with their bike? Anyway, whoever killed it just left it there. That's Jason using a stick to give it a proper burial (or at least giving it the honor of not being run over time and time again). I thought you guys would appreciate me sharing that.

I digress.

I made it to work only five minutes later than normal. So all is well and my mood has settled. Now for coffee.

Get out there.


Troll's New Shoes

It's sad to say that the Redline 925 is in the hands of another owner. After finishing the build-up of the single speed Cross Check, I no longer had need for the Redline in my stable. I loved that bike. But it's time had come.

The first thing I did with the 925 funds was head to Bike Green Lex to pick up some wider rubber for the Troll. The Troll has clearance for massive tires and I was ready to push the limit.
I came home with a set of Michelin Hots. They're 2.5" enduro tires that will fit my needs pretty well here on Kentucky trails. I wanted something that would offer a little more cushion on the Troll's rigid frame but still perform well in the cross country setting. Most of the super-wide MTB tires out there are really downhill specific. These offered a little from both worlds.

I rode them for the first time today at minimum recommended pressure (35 lbs). I will probably go a little less for normal rides and could drop them down significantly more if the occasion called for it. They certainly have the flexibility.

I was blown away by the grip on the trails. After becoming fairly familiar with our local trails, I know where to slow down. I know where my front tire is going to slide out. I know when to use more caution. Today, though, I found myself planted firmly into the dirt on aggressive turns. I'm sure it's a combination of softer rubber, better tread pattern and width. But it was noticeable better. I was very pleased.
Clearance on the Troll wasn't an issue at all. The left photo is the rear. There's still a half inch on each side. And the front still dwarfs these massive tires. Nowhere close.
Overall, I'm very pleased. They felt great. They added the bounciness that I was hoping for and were a great deal at retail cost. That's hard to beat.

Get out there.


July Fourth

I spent yesterday morning in the woods with a couple of guys on mountain bikes. Jeff, Jason and I woke up early to hit up the local trails at Veteran's Park. Jason's been nursing an injured wrist from a wreck he had a few weeks ago. So this was his first ride on the new trails out there.
He rode a Kona Hei Hei 29 from Bike Green Lexington, where he's the manager. It's their demo bike (for anyone that wants to try it) and it's a blast to ride.

Here are some of my thoughts on the little bit that I rode it yesterday (which was very limited because I was wearing shoes with clipless cleats on the bottom and the Hei Hei was rocking platform pedals)...

I love riding a 29er. Yesterday wasn't my first experience on one, though. I've always loved it. I had the option to go 29er when I bought the Troll. It's brother, the Ogre, is the exact same setup with 29er wheels versus the Troll's more standard 26". I opted for the more common size to have more opportunities for swapping out later. But I do love 29" wheels on the trails. They really feel like the roll over everything so much easier.

Full suspension? I liked it. Of course I liked it. Do I feel like it's necessary for the riding we do here in Kentucky? Probably not. Once again, I err on the side of versatility. It's great on those rooty, rocky, bumpy sections when you want to zoom over them. But riding this bike made me appreciate my decision to go with the fully rigid Troll. Perhaps it's just because it is my bike, that I still prefer it over this high dollar rig, but I do still prefer it for my everyday riding conditions. 

Hydraulic discs? Here's where I get a little envious. Yes, they did take a few minutes to get used to. The fine touch of braking is different than v-brakes or mechanical discs. But the consistency... oh, the consistency. You don't have that cable stretching sensation that you do with mechanical discs. The amount that you pull on that lever is the amount that you brake. No more. No less. I certainly enjoyed my few minutes with those brakes.

Overall, the Hei Hei felt awesome. But if anything, I was never thinking about evaluating a Kona Hei Hei. I was only evaluating those three aspects; 29er, suspension and hydraulic discs. So if you want an honest opinion of that specific bike, you can head to Bike Green Lexington and check it out for a demo yourself :)

Get out there.


Trail Storm Damage

I'm always amazed at how quickly weather can change the landscape. Today's trail ride was a great sign of that. We had huge winds come through on Sunday night and it did a number on the trees at the park.
Some places caused an entire detour. Some, like the photo above, just made you duck your head to pass.
In this pic, the trail is covered on the left while a new trail is being blazed on the right where the Troll is parked.
Lots of debris was just stretching across the trail. At one point, I zoomed through a branch that was covered in thorns. I spent about three minutes picking 15 or 20 thorns out of my arms and legs. Not fun.

It's so cool that mother nature changes things so quickly. It takes so much effort to build these trails, and one gust of wind can drop a tree right in the middle of it. So cool.

Get out there.