Long term report, what works and what breaks

Etiketter

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After a fall season of more or less daily riding I have gathered a few impression about what seems to hold up. As a disclaimer, I am not a heavy guy. I am not a freerider either, even if I do the occasional jump or drop. What I am is a guy that rides lots, in big, rocky terrain. And when I decide to hit a line, I don’t think about possible bike damage. If I think I can do it without hurting myself, I do it. No consideration to bottomed out suspension, sharp rocks or big impacts is taken. And sometimes I run out of talent, leading to all kinds of damage-inducing events.

...and a bit of me!

Possibility for damage

Allright, with all that presentation out of the way, I will just tediously go through the specs piece by piece. If I by the end of this post have any readers left, maybe I will post a funny youtube video or something as a prize. So here goes…

The only pic I had of the bike with up to date spec

The only pic I had of the bike with up to date spec

Frame: Stumpjumper evo carbon. Yea, still in one piece (sort of). The upper headset bearing race is an aluminium affair glued into the carbon head tube. At some point it decided to let go of the frame and do its own thing.

I noticed by the paint cracking in a perfect circle a couple of millimeters below the top of the head tube, right in the intersection between carbon and aluminium. I glued it back with the strongest epoxy I could find and it seems fine, but time will tell…

Tubes and epoxy, trying to make head tube and headset race happy together

Inner tubes and epoxy, trying to make head tube and headset race happy together

Otherwise there is not much, a bunch of scratches in the once shiny paintwork, and that bent downtube is very prone to catch all sharp rocks flung up by the front wheel, which brings me neatly to…

Frame protection: Rockguardz. Brilliant piece of kit, 35quid to save my oh-shit-are-you-serious-priced frame. One smashed to delamination in three places, went on top of a new one that is now also showing signs of delamination in one spot. As I said, brilliant kit, but next time I will ask for a dh strength version. They are made to order, so it should be possible. The only niggle is that they don’t protect the stupidly routed cable underneith of the down tube, but on the other hand the cables are easily rerouted under the top tube and on the chain stays instead.

Rock fodder, the sensible choice in rocky terrain

Rock fodder, the sensible choice in rocky terrain

Squishy bits: Bos Deville 140mm forks from beginning of 2011 season, still going strong. Changed the seals for the second time in October, service is super straightforward. And in my opinion it is still better damped than all the shiny Pikes people tend to show up with these days. The Fox rear shock showed signs of tiredness and got replaced by a Monarch plus, and my impressions are very positive. No more compression spiking, and a rebound damping that actually does its job. More words in another post, this will be long enough as it is and is supposed to focus on longevity and not on performance.

Drivetrain: It seems like my Shimano SLX rear derallieur get sloppy in the clutch after a certain amount of rattling down rocky trails. I put a fresh one on before coming down to Spain in August, and replaced it mid October. It had developed a slop that no amount of clutch-tensioning seems to solve. It is the first time I actually wear out an RD before smashing it to bits, it has to say something about Shimanos clutches or my line choices. When it comes to the wear bits in the beginning of November I replaced the Mavic 10s chain I had been running since spring, and the brand new (xt) chain still meshes perfectly with the XT cassette, the Wolftooth 42t cog and the 32t N/W Raceface front ring. However, the OneUp 16t cog seems to be made of cheese, showing notable wear and not meshing with the chain even though it is the most recent addition to the drive train. Luckily it can be flipped, effectively doubling its short life. It messes up the shift ramps, but changing gear is still smooth enough for me. Anyway, a steel 16t cog would be better.

Clean and shiny with new chain and flipped 16t cog made of cheese

Clean and shiny with new chain and flipped 16t cog made of cheese. Somehow I managed to break a tooth of the big sprocket, but it does not seem to impact performance.

Upon coming home to Sweden, I flipped the front ring over since the teeth were showing some signs of wear. Double life again, I hope.

Brakes: I got my Saint brakes in September, and they have been perfect ever since (except for the rock that punctured the down tube routed hose, but I can’t blame the brakes for that). Pad life has been impressive to say the least. I changed the front pads in the beginning of November, after two solid months of riding, the rear ones are getting thin but do still work. On the front the new pads I mounted were some third party affair that seem to wear a lot faster than the real, expensive Shimano deal. Next time I will buy originals.

Wheels: Replaced the bearings in the old Hope front hub once this season, as I do every season. Old style Flow rim still holds up, front wheels in general seem to last well for me. On the rear I have the original Roval Traverse whatever wheel with DT hub internals and stupid straight pull spokes. I had to replace the rim with a Flow EX after a couple of months, the original one was just done. I chalk it up to wear and tear, I don’t suspect the Flow will last significantly better.

I snapped a couple of spokes during the season, but all was crash related. I truly detest working on that wheel, the aluminium (yes, that is how it is spelled dammit!) nipples always get a bit of friction in the threads and the spokes then turn in the hub instead of the nipple turning on the spoke, really annoying. If I ever go straight pull again, I will get bladed spokes so there is at least something to hold on to when the spokes start to spin. DT Swiss hub internals have been solid, just as expected, but I do miss the pickup of my old Kings.

Fresh Flows, partly worn french rubber, mint view

Fresh Flows, slightly worn french rubber, mint view

The other stuff seem to have made it just fine. The RaceFace Half Nelson grips seem to wear very slowly, as long as one uses proper bar end plugs (I have Hopes). Bottom bracket is still smooth, so are the headset bearings. Cranks, bars, stem and all that have made it, a bit scratched up but still solid. Anything else would be cause for serious internet bashing I guess. Even the pedals, E thirteens immensely grippy but expensive lg1, have made it with just a bit of chipping in the plastic and a little bit of play, not bad.

Time to hold on tight to those grips

Time to hold on tight to those grips

I serviced the KS Lev seatpost when I came home, since it was getting a little bit spongy. Now that I have done it a couple of times it is a painless and relatively quick procedure to replace the fluid and make sure the air is only in the right places. It is now back to being as smooth and solid as ever. It seems to be another one of those ”once in a season” things.

The Michelin WildRokr2 rubber has been holding up allright, even if especially the rear lost a bit of edge hold on loose surfaces towards the end of the stay in Spain. After two months of riding, I think that is fair.

To those who made it all the way, good work! Your boredom threshold is impressive indeed. Here you go, how about a picture from my current home turf?

Andrea catching me on one of my lunch ride trails

Andrea catching me on one of my lunch ride trails, small bike and everything.

Still not happy? How about a kitten so small she fits in my hand?

Little girl holding on tight with claws and everythig

Little girl holding on tight with claws and everythig

Memory lane, a bumpy ride

Etiketter

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While roaming the internets this morning I came across this:

It really made me think, and memories from last february came back. Many key factors from the tragic accident in Montana were the same as we had. We also had a touchy snowpack, were in low angle terrain, and I too triggered an upwards propagation that ultimately fractured way above us and brought half the hillside down. Therefore, I can truly say that this last accident in Montana could very well have been me. I lucked out, and for that I am grateful. I am even more grateful that Andrea and Maria made it out in one (admittedly quite badly beaten up) piece.

Spending all autumn doing skids and wheelies in Spain gave me some time to reflect, both on that specific incident and on life in general. In my naiveness and hurry to get back on the horse I thought that after the first weeks of introspection I had found closure and I had learned my lesson from what happened. It turns out, not very surprising, that there will probably will always be reason to go back to what happened that day and learn new lessons.

For now, I have realised that we should not have been where we were, even if I still believe that given our being there, we did most things right until we let our guard down. However, by going on that exploratory mission we put ourselves in an unnecessarily difficult situation, calling upon acute on point observation and decision making. In effect, by going on exploration instead of just heading to known terrain when the snow was touchy and visibility was poor at best, we put all trust in our ability to make the exact right calls in spite of difficult circumstances.

A more conservative approach would have been to head over to more familiar terrain. If we knew every little cliff, dip and rise in our surroundings, our decision making would still be just as crucial, but much easier to execute.

With this in mind, I hope to never forget about that day, when I nearly lost two friends (and myself), and that I will still learn new things from that experience for a long time.

I can only begin to imagine the feeling of shoveling out your touring partner from almost 2m depth after seeing him or her getting swept, and my heart goes out to everyone involved in the accident at Henderson Mountain. I cannot exaggerate my selfish happiness and gratitude that when I was in that situation, my friends and partners Andrea and Maria made it out, thank you so much girls!

Team AMM picture from the Bonneville salt flats, UT. Courtesy of David

Team AMM picture from the Bonneville salt flats, UT. Courtesy of David. There is nothing like a salt desert for making all pics look like album covers. Except for our funny faces, that is.

A wee trip to Motril

Etiketter

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To kill my ongoing cold I decided to tag along on a trip down to Motril, a little more than an hour’s drive away from Monachil. The plan was to check out the downhill track, do a couple of laps and just have a good time.

It turned out that some riding was just what I needed. (Surprise surprise!) In the morning I felt like roadkill, but the further the day went the better I got. The track was really good, dusty and flowy with good jumps and drops, and a couple of steep sections thrown in as well. Like La Zubia, but more technical, steeper and more fun. I like! I managed to grab a couple of pics of parts of the gang, thanks for letting me come along!

Mainly jumps and dust

Mainly jumps and dust

A bit of climbing

A bit of climbing

A bit of air

A bit of air

A bit of steep

A bit of steep

...and a bit of me!

…and a bit of me!

And the new shock? So far, promising. No spiking, controlled rebound, lots of traction. No harsh bottoming out, but I did bottom it with 33% sag. It was well deserved though, landing and g-out. I will elaborate more on the subject when the jury is back in.

Finally, some new toys

Etiketter

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What is black, chubby and fully user serviceable?

Fat vs skinny, black vs gold

Fat vs skinny, black vs gold

To give just a little bit more stick to this dead horse, I was never quite happy with the stock Fox ctd factory trail adjust boost valve kashiblingbling (puh) shock on the Stumpy. A wallowy but yet spiky compression feel and a rebound that felt either too fast on big compression or too slow in the beginning of the stroke, supplemented by severe heating issues and more or less lockout in midstroke during longer descents have me suspecting that it might need service or something. I did an air can service, including new seals, but to no avail. It will be interesting to see if a proper service and Push tuning can sort it out. I refuse to believe that everyone can ride with such crappy performance without complaining. Or am I just overly sensitive? Might well be, I’m used to big downhill shocks or Bos, maybe I am just spoiled.

Anyway, after a lot of looking around at last I got my hands on the very elusive Rockshox Monarch Plus RC3 DebonAir 2015 (seriously, who comes up with these names?) with the silly proprietary Specialized mounting system. For under 350€, it seems to represent very good value indeed compared to the competition; The Fox Float X is north of 700€, and so is the Bos Kirk (and out of those two, I know for sure which one I would blow my money on). The new Marzocchi 053 S3C2R (seriously? That must be the worst name for a rear shock ever, or at least since the Roco that everyone misspells as the name of a sing long retired old male adult film contributor with a very specific niche) is around 500€ which is right in between, but reliability is unproven, availability is nil and performance unknown.But it looks sharp.

Not that any of this matters, since for us stuck with Specialized and their proprietary mounting there is only the choice between a Float CTD, the Monarch+ or trying to bodge together the CTD with a stock FloatX, apparently Mojo can do it but total price is like two or three Monarch+, so why bother.

There we go, Monarch Plus it is. Mounted on the bike, and with 11 13 bars in the air can (160 188 psi for those of you who are still imperial) I get a nice 33% sag. (I had to edit the pressure figures, as it turns out that the negative chamber is huge and by the time they had equalised and everything was in balance I had added air four times in half bar increments). The car park bounce test in the open setting suggests a lively feel with nice progression towards the end stroke, but of course extensive trail time is needed to say anything proper. If I can just leave my cold behind and become a proper functioning person again, I might even do some back to back tests with the ctd to see what is what. Maybe tomorrow…

Golden sunset emergency photography…

Etiketter

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…and the results? Another ”Olive branch in front of some clouds and a setting sun” pic. Sorry about that.

Clouds and olive branches smothered in golden light, almost as common as poorly edited gopro videos nowadays

Clouds and olive branches smothered in golden light, almost as common as poorly edited gopro videos nowadays

I can try to compensate by adding a bunch of other pictures.

Hold on buddy!

Hold on buddy!

Fruits, sky and hills

Fruits, sky and hills

Golden hills in golden light

Golden hills in golden light

Weird composition, but for some reason I like it

Weird composition, but for some reason I like it

A mixed bag of fall and summer

A mixed bag of fall and summer

As a treat for all of you who made it all the way to the end, how about a dog making a funny face?

A dog that just ate a fly

A dog that just ate a fly

Sketches of Spain

Etiketter

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Just a couple of pics of what I did the other day when I had the day off and all to myself.

Morning mist greets me

Morning mist greets me

The sun rises above the ridge to my right, autumn colours are starting to show

The sun rises above the ridge to my right, autumn colours are starting to show

Big views at the end of the (first) climb

Big views at the end of the (first) climb. Granada lies far down in the valley

Oooh, that ridge looks nice to ride

Oooh, that ridge looks nice to ride

The stumpy enjoys being up there

The stumpy enjoys being up there

Follow the ridge...

Follow the ridge…

Rocky trails in the woods to finish off

Rocky trails in the woods to finish off

I guess it was a total of around 1500m descending, and of course the same climbing. Just a wee loop in my backyard really. And for those of you who have not figured out the title yet, think about Miles!

Trying to be a bit artsy

Etiketter

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We had a day of low hanging clouds and rain today. Not very common around these parts, but the trails will be better for it. Tomorrow it will be all tacky hero dirt goodness, and I will be out for a big day in the hills. Another great thing with the clouds is that they bring a fantastic sunset, and having been sitting still sending out job applications all day I was eager to grab the camera and stretch my legs a bit. The results are maybe not the best, but at least I did try.

Just more of the same?

That is not dirt on the lens

The hills have never looked this spectacular before

The hills have never looked this spectacular before

Mist and clouds still lingering after the rain

Mist and clouds still lingering after the rain

Olive branch and water droplets

Olive branch and water droplets

Golden hour table tennis

Golden hour table tennis

Living the dream

Etiketter

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After a few hectic weeks we finally have a couple of down days, and I thought I would grab the chance to show how I live…

This is where I live, behind the olive tree and underneath the figues

This is where I live, behind the olive tree and underneath the figs

One of my neighbors, all very friendly

One of my neighbors, all very friendly

My backyard for the time being

My backyard for the time being

Way down there is Granada, as seen from my home

Way down there is Granada, as seen from my home

…and bits of my workplace, which is also my playground

Cycle lane climb with jagged limestone peaks as a price at the horizon

Cycle lane climb with jagged limestone peaks as a price at the horizon

Small sample of how my office usually looks

Small sample of how my office usually looks

Racing the sunset home

Racing the sunset home

Dream job, in a dream place for sure! Riding full days 5 to seven days a week can be hard on the equipment though. These past days I have rebuilt my rear suspension, changes seals on the forks (to be honest, that was due already when I came here) and smashed a Rockguardz downtube protector.

Cables smashed, Rockguardz saved the frame

Cables smashed, Rockguardz saved the frame

I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am that I had the guard, otherwise i am fairly certain that I right now would be searching for a new frame. One frame per season is enough I think. Take care out there and mind the sharp rocks, Sierra Nevada is full of them.

Not another gear blog again…Stumpy evo so far and compared to the venerable Five

Etiketter

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As you might nor might not know, I dented the poor orange and had to get a last minute replacement. Thanks to good friends and a bit of luck a Stumpy evo frame fell into my hands. As I have said, the geometry is very similar to the Five, and almost all components are the same.

Orange Five, newly built in the beginning of 2013

Orange Five, newly built in the beginning of 2013

I rode the Five for two more or less full seasons, in everything from Wyoming and Colorado to Norway and France. I feel quite confident that I got to know the bike really well, and even if I for obvious reasons can’t ride the Five and the Evo back to back, I still should be able to pick out various differences.

I have now ridden the Evo more or less every day since I came to Spain, and many days I have put in 2000m of descending or more. In other words, I have descended thousands of meters and climbed thousands of meters on the Evo and think that I know it well enough to be able to give a first impression at least.

Stumpy Evo, save for the front wheel mostly covered in dust

Stumpy Evo, mostly covered in dust save for the front wheel

Starting off, the Evo is about 8mm shorter in the reach than the Five. This does not sound that much, but it makes a difference. It feels more agile at low speeds and when playing around, but when pushing it at higher speed and in corners it is not as easy to find the sweet spot for weight distribution as it was on the Five. Probably contributing to this feeling is the 5mm shorter chain stays on the Evo, further reducing the wheel base. Don’t get me wrong, the evo is still plenty stable, but the Five was even more so.

However, the upside of the short chainstays (I think, it might be more to it than that) is the uncanny ability of the Evo to be steered by heels and hips, sort of riding the back wheel. The only other bike I have ridden that gave the same sensation was a Spec Demo, making me think that this is something Specialized look for specifically when they tune in the handling of their bikes. I like it, a lot. Maybe not the fastest way to ride, but it sure is fun.

Then there are a couple of practicalities with the Evo that are annoying:

1: Headset. Why o why campy style internal instead of a proper head tube that I could put a Hope or Cane Creek headset in. It is just unnecessary and creaky and stupid.

2: Kinked seat tube. Limits my maximum seat post insertion, which is annoying. Right now I have my KS Lev 150mm inserted as far down as it goes, and I could do with a couple more centimeters lower. I lucked out, but could just as easily have ended up with a lot of seat post travel I could not use.

3: Press fit bottom bracket. I just cant see the point. Remind me again what was wrong with my xtr970 cranks? Light, stiff and cheap (used). Pick all three.

4: Swoopy down tube. Makes the bike harder to carry for long bike carries. Yes, I know that most people don’t carry their bikes up mountains, but I do. And a straight down tube gives better weight distribution when the bike is on my back, it is as simple as that.

5: The Evo is lighter. It does not make much of a difference to me as soon as I am actually riding instead of lifting the bike in the parking lot, but nevertheless it is lighter.

6: Stiffness. I think that the rear end of the Evo is a bit stiffer, it just has a tad more solid feel to it. But it might just be my imagination, back to back testing is needed to confirm.

Then there is the suspension design, probably the biggest difference between the two frames. The Five is a high single pivot with a lot of antisquat designed in, the Evo a horst link with very little. Specialized themselves usually talk about ”active suspension” and such, and the blunt way to say it is that by construction the Evo is not a very pedal efficient design. Of course, it can be remedied with tons of low speed compression in the shock, but that is besides the point, and negatively affect small bump compliance. So why do they do it then?

As I see it from trying both these bikes, there is an obvious downside to a design with lots of antisquat. Essentially, antisquat is obtained by making the chain tension counteract pedaling induced weight shift. This all sounds fine, but that also means that when the suspension goes through its travel, it will pull on the pedals. The Evo has a very ”quiet” feel in the pedals when descending rough terrain compared to the Five. This makes probably an even bigger impact for riders on flat pedals, like me. The quiet feel makes it easier to keep control of the bike and ride it actively instead of just holding on for dear life. So even if the Five is more efficient, I actually prefer the slightly ”mushy” Evo. And actually, when pedaling over rough ground, the Evo tracks the ground better and does not hang up as much on roots and rocks, since the rear suspension is more decouples from pedal input.

Speaking about single pivot vs Horst/FSR, some people claim that the Horst remains active when the rear brake is on. That might be true, but to be honest I can’t tell the difference. Maybe I am just not sensitive enough, or maybe it has to do with riding style as well.

Another big difference is the rear shocks. The Five had a Bos Vipr, the Evo has a Fox ctd kashibling blahblahblah (with specific mounting as well, unfortunately). As you might guess, I prefer the Bos. It has a completely different feel to it, it does not wallow or lie deep in the travel, it just gives me as much as I need. Not more, and not less. Big part of this I think has to do with rebound damping. The Fox always seem to have to much or too little. Either it packs up, or it lacks control and wants to send me over the bars, and often I get the feeling that it is doing both at the same time. Especially after big hits there is a lot of pogo-stick feeling at the rear end. The Bos gives the impression to have super fast rebound, but is still controlled after big hits. I think it just has to do with superior hydraulics, the Bos has a lot more speed sensitivity in the rebound. It might be a matter of personal preference as well, but I always felt happier with the style of rebound the Bos offers. The compression damping is also more controlled on the Bos, but the difference is not as discernible to me.

So there it is, a bit of a comparison between two very similar and different bikes. If I got to design my dream bike from these experiences, it would be an Evo with a 10-15mm longer reach (but not higher seat tube, it is already high enough!) and possibility to mount a Bos shock. That sounds an awful lot like a Kona Process, if they could just make the chainstays a wee bit shorter. The low single pivot might in theory behave like the Horst of the Evo, and then I would see if the brake characteristics actually affect my riding style.

An ode to climbing.

Etiketter

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I know, as a mountain biker or snowboarder I am probably supposed to hate climbing, but hard as I might try, I just don’t.

You know how it goes, as the road start heading upwards everyone goes on at a good clip, talk cheerfully to each other and pretend that it is not hard. This usually lasts from everything between one and fifteen minutes depending on the group and gradient. As the road or track gains elevation, gears are dropped one by one and all of a sudden everyone shuts the hell up and just try to settle into their rhythm, spinning along and trying to minimise damage to legs and lungs. Some are still pretending that it doesn’t hurt, but the majority of the group have dropped the charade.

The Spanish sun beating down on us as Pedro spins along

The Spanish sun beating down on us as Pedro spins along

Give it twenty more minutes and my mind has usually began drifting off in various directions, partly due to the monotony and partly due to the will to escape from the suffering. If the gradient is manageable, I will then just sit there and occasionally return from wherever my mind is drifting to look at the view change gears.

Glaciers coming and going behind the clouds keep us entertained as we climb the Stelvio

Glaciers coming and going behind the clouds keep us entertained as we climb the Stelvio

On snow, it’s a different story. Some climbs are pure monotony and are dealt with by just spacing out, but more often there is constant terrain management involved. When setting a skin track, line choices are infinite. Finding the path of least exposure to hazards and wind is a constant puzzle, and at the same time trying to optimise efficiency is something that keeps my mind focused full time.

Andrea and me minimising exposure on Albright, Grand Teton National Park

Andrea and me minimising exposure on Albright, Grand Teton National Park

Then there is always the anticipation. On the other side of the climb, there will be a descent. It might be an old favourite, happiness guaranteed, or something new, untried and exciting. The potential to find the best ever line or trail is always there, enticing me to keep going.

Discovering new playgrounds in Norway

Discovering new playgrounds in Norway

Both on dirt, tarmac and snow, there is always the thrill of discovering what is behind the next turn, col or summit. A new view, new terrain opening up and new playgrounds to be discovered. Add in the chemical happiness created by the body itself, a powerful drug in endless supply that can only be bought for sweat and pain, that elevates the senses and deepens new impressions, and I can’t see how you could not love climbing.

Sunset summit rewards on Kvalöja, Norway

Sunset summit rewards on Kvalöja, Norway

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