Sunday, March 25, 2012

A scientific analysis of why SPDs are the shit.

I have been mountain biking long enough at this point to develop some fairly strong opinions about what parts work and what sucks, as have most who have been riding for a decade or more.

Knowing what works and sticking with what works are two entirely different things.

Sometimes you just want to try something new. I am usually let down by new parts I try but that doesn't stop me from continuing to do so.

Most recently I strayed from my tried and true Shimano pedals and I realized I have now tried most of the SPD (mountain) type pedals out there. Hmmm, that would make for a decent rundown/comparison test here I thought...

So yeah, hopefully this is useful info for anyone curious about the differences in the plethora of pedals systems available. I will give  a quick recap of the nature of each pedals system as it comes to mind. I don't feel like looking up specs online...anyone can do that for themselves, this is merely some of my experiences with them.

Lots of people ride Times, especially XC type people. This was the first set of clipless pedals I rode when I was 15 and I liked them fine. I had the low end ATAC Aliums and they were bomber. I was eventually lured away by the promise of light weight and better mud shedding from Eggbeaters. I recently tried another pair of the new Time ATAC Roc S pedals and was somewhat unhappy with them. The release tension was very high and there is no way to change the rotational angle of the cleats on the bottom of the shoe. This is dumb, not everyones feet point straight forward. Those of you with the shoe rubbed crankarms know whats up. Mechanically TIMEs are awesome, except for the ones made with the square bars on the pedal body. Don't get those, they break easy.

Crank Brothers
On paper, Eggbeaters look awesome. They look awesome in person too but I think they suck. I went through numerous pair and was not happy with any of them. If you bang a rock it releases your shoe. The ones I had need to be rebuilt frequently, which is easy to do but not really something I want to do to pass the time. Then there was the actual breakage issue. Different pedals, different problems but I had a few broken pairs. On the upside they are light and work well in mud. Pass on these. These also eff up the bottom of shoes unless you use the protector plate thingy.

Speedplay Frogs are an oddball here in that they do not use spring tension to hold your foot. There is a mechanical stop that keeps your foot held in until you twist it about 20 degrees to release. I can't comment on durability since I only rode them twice before returning them but they look weak and frail. I didn't like the feel of the Frogs at all. It is tough to tell when you are clicked in or out since there is very little tactile feedback, this is a bad thing on anything technical. I also hated the free float but many love it. Probably decent pedals and worth a shot if you need tons of float for your knees or some other biomechanical wonkiness going on.

Good old Shimano SPDs. I have used these the past five years and they seem as close to perfect as an MTB pedals can get. They have a small amount of free float side to side and a wide range of tension adjustment. You can fine tune the angle the cleat sits on the shoe side to side and also on a rotational axis. I broke a set of XTRs years ago but the warranty replacements are going strong. All the Shimano pedals I own have been insanely durable through rock strikes, mud, whatever. My favorite model is the M540, one up the ladder from the bargain M520. I like the feel better than the XTRs and they are just as durable while being pretty cheap. $50 bucks or so most places.

There are some oddballs out there like Bebops and Wellgos that I missed I know, but this should cover the major stuff out there. I'm sure plenty disagree with me on this but I'm sticking to my guns and my SPDs. Good luck to the rest of you searching for that perfect pedal. Try some Shimanos, they are pretty damn good.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Of freewheels and folly.

...or something like that.

Melissa went out of town to the beach with her mom this weekend which left me lots of bike, grill, and beer time. Care in prioritizing these three past times was crucial and I messed it up.

I went to my buddy Danny's Friday night for a St. Pattys party which is like every other party that exists except people wear and drink green. Genius, right? The plan was to limit the intake so I could get up early and ride Saturday. After five minutes inside the place, some car bombs appeared and my judgement making prevented me from doing anything other than eating green cookies and drinking some very dark beer all night. Ahhh, oh well.

I woke up dehydrated Saturday, rode dehydrated, and stayed dehydrated all day. Effin' dumb. I have done this before and the last half of the ride is always bad. Saturday was 87 degrees here and I ran out of sweat an hour in. I knew the ride would suck heading out the door around noon but was determined to test my new gear choice for the Nature Boy, a 39 x 19.

56 gear inches. I did the same 50 mile ride as the week before on the 39 x 17 and was just as fast despite the sloshy alcohol belly...the 19 stays and the 18 will remain unopened and get sent back. Feels good to have settled on a gear for Iowa. The current issue will be finding someone to go crew for us...know anyone? Basically they would get a free trip, eats, and beer for the weekend. Holler at me if so.

The cookout never happened. Next weekend.

I hit trails at Oak Mountain for seven or eight hours Sunday, something like that. Nothing fast, just enjoying the ride. I got in 63 trail miles and it felt easy. I guess that is good. I rode part of the ride with a couple of my friends who are just getting into mountain biking and enjoyed it. Obvious as it is, trails look way different depending on your speed. Duh. I think I enjoyed the slow riding (normally I would be bored and inpatient) because they were riding well and having fun. I think the hardest part of learning to ride a trail is where and how much to brake, although someone getting into it might say the climbs? Who knows.

Michael still races autocross and I used to. We agreed it is wayyyy easier learning to drive a car fast. There is just so much more shit to think about on a bike.

The house is weird, empty, and quiet right now...very ready for my girl to be back. The dogs miss her too, I think. The six o clock batshit freakout is still in effect even though nobody is pulling in the driveway. It is crazy.

But yeah. Iowa. Gotta find someone to go with us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring styles.

...and to think I made it 26 years without a pair.

Belt vs. suspender comparison test coming soon.

Brought to you by the great folks at Backcountry Research, new 2012 stuff is up on the website. Check it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Testing, one, two, three

I took last weekend mostly off riding after a mini mental meltdown that could have been easily avoided.

After Southern Cross, I immediately began some hard rides early in the week when I should have rested and come Friday I was beat. Exhausted. Live and learn. Instead of force myself to ride, I worked on some household projects and generally took it easy.

Resting works, who would have thought? My legs came around the past week and I wanted to capitalize on my now rejuvenated limbs with a test run at the JCC. This is the only trail I can ride to from my house (around 15 minutes) and I always time it to use as a benchmark of sorts. Having the Garmin on the bike has made this much easier since it will pick out trail segments. I am always in question of how much gadgets affect my happiness when riding and the Edge 500 seems to be a positive addition so far...

Anyway, JCC is about 4 miles long with ohhhh 500 ft. or so elevation gain. Lots of switchbacks and rocks, generally just a short ass kicker of a trail. I have been shooting for a sub 24 minute time since I started riding out there years ago. Whaddaya know, Friday was the day.

23:30. It didn't seem super hard either.

Saturday I set out to do some testing with the Trans Iowa bike setup with Schwalbe Marathon Extreme tires set up tubeless on Stans rims and a 39x17 gear. I did a fairly tough loop around Birmingham with 48 miles and 4600 ft. of climbing with the bike loaded up. In three hours I was done and fairly beat. 16 mph was much faster than I expected to be on this bike and a good indicator I needed a bit easier gear.

Well, how the heck do you pick out a gear for a singlespeed? Well, there are a few ways but here is a psuedo scientific one.

I took a gander at the Rabbit Gear Calculator and plugged in a few different ratios. The first thing you have to figure out is a cadence you are comfortable with for an extended period. I knew from past races and rides done with the Powertap when I had one that this range for me was 70-80 RPM. Then match up that cadence with the planned speed for your ride and you have a gear that is in a reasonable range...voila, 39x18 should be close. This is around 58 gear inches and goes along with Guitar Ted's suggestion HERE for a range from high 50s to low 60s.

Side note on gearing: With a 39T chainring, every cog change moves the axle approximately 3mm. Adding or subtracting a link moves axle forward or backward approximately 13mm. Figure out yours via FixMeUp.

I have a White Industries 18T freewheel on the way. This one will the heavy duty trials version which I hear makes more pleasing buzzing sound affects than the standard version.

As I close in towards Iowa I will try and update more with my bike setup which actually isn't too far from done.

Friday, March 2, 2012

All City Nature Boy build revamp.

The Nature Boy now completes my trifecta of bikes with what has become my favorite bar around - the Niner Flat Top 9. 710mm and 9 degrees sweep seems to be most agreeable to my upper limbs. The carbon one is the shit but I only have one on the mountain bike...

The Nature Boy will be my bike for Trans Iowa and the DK200 this year. All that will be changed is the wheel, tire and cog setup from pavement mode as shown here to gravel mode. The rest of the stuff is pretty obvious from the pictures but if ya gotta ask go ahead and ask.

XTR Vs. Awesome stoppers.
Velocity Dyad rims to Surly hubs with double butted spokes and brass nipples.
Tires are whatever 28 or 32c thing that happens to be around the house.
15T fixed Surly cog for a 39/15.

Stans ZTR Arch rims to Surly hubs with double butted spokes and brass nipples.
Schwalbe Marathon Extreme 35C or Michelin Mud2 30c.
17T White Industries freewheel

The bike fits and rides smooooth. Hopefully I will be getting some nice long rides on this coming up the next few months.

Aaaand from way out in left field.

Steve Tilford is the fucking man. If you haven't read what he writes go ahead and do so. Seems like he would be a cool guy to have a beer with...lots of good old dude racing stories (think Bob Roll) and plenty of common sense thinking. I actually thought I saw him at Southern Cross last weekend and was about to go up and start a conversation and whatever part remains of my internal Don't Be a Dumbshit alert system went off and I realized it was in all reality not Steve Tilford. Then I rode off, went into full on dumbshit mode, took off my warm clothes and went to go race 50 miles with 40 degree temps.