Friday, July 31, 2009

Winwood Purist Rigid Fork Upgrade

Rode the Winwood fork today. I did about all I could do on it in our local riding area.

Pavement: riding posture is better with the handlebar about 3cm higher than before.

La Falla trail: This is a rocky climb. The last pitch is difficult on a single speed. Need speed get through a gravelly patch then power for the next 15 meters or so. Fairly steep. But 90% of this climb is mental. I blew it the first time. My rear tire was a bit low and that threw me off. I put more air in the tire and tried again. The second time I cleaned it easily, steering up the best line.

Fausto trail: The top part of this trail starts with a rutted entry, then a wide steep downhill switchback with a rut on the inside. It exits the switchback on a steep single track on a steep scree-like surface. The trail levels out for about 50 m, then there is sweeping downhill 180* turn to the next terrace. The goes along parallelling the upper part of the trail for 50 meters, then does a sweeping downhill 90* turn to "The Rails". Again the fork performed better than expected. The fork felt more solid (not flexy) in the upper switchback. The fork was smooth, taking up the shock of the trail. I rode faster than previous descents.

The Rails: A concrete two-track. Fast downhill...steep. I let the bike rip down this slope. I felt a little high speed wobble, hit the brakes a bit, and hit the gravel parking lot at speed. Bled off more speed, entered onto the second half The Rails (more concrete two-track) which is steeper. I rode the brakes down, controlling my speed. Again the fork felt predictable through this section.

The Flats: This is the back road on El Morro. Just a flat dirt road along the Caribbean. The ride was smooth.

Acuario (climbing): This is a steep limestone climb. I cleaned it, again steering for the best line. The front end did not come up, the bike steered where I wanted it to go. Very nice.

Acuario (descending): Reverse the climb. I bombed down this faster than on the steel Ritchey fork. The bike felt more stable and smoother.

Overall: The fork gets a thumbs up on its first ride. I like it!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Fork for Merlin

Today I finally rode the Merlin (lately I've been sleeping late). First thing I notice when getting on the bike was the height of the handlebar...they felt extremely low compared to my other bikes (in the U.S.A.). This handlebar height has been bothering me for a while but the steerer tube was cut too short, more in fashion of times 13 years ago. I needed a new fork with a longer steerer tube, therefore last winter I ordered a new fork. I needed to find a fork with similar crown-to-dropout length to the original fork. I also wanted a fairly light/strong fork, not to take away from the performance of the bike. I settled on a Winwood carbon fiber fork as a compromise. I had the local bicycle shop install the fork and a new Chris King headset. I rode the fork down a short set of stairs on the way home, and it felt very good. The handlebar height is better, and the fork stability on the stairs felt spot-on. More riding/testing to come.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

At A Crossroad

This year will mark my 10th year in Venezuela. I've witnessed the evolution of Hugo Chavez as president and the downward spiral of a country. I have gotten out of debt, gotten married, and bought our first home. This past 4-week visit back home to New Mexico was an eye-opener. I realized I am missing out on some really good stuff. I am not getting any younger and would like to spend my remaining productive years in the USA where I can participate in the things I like to do. This will be my last year here. I want to sell our condo, and move on.

2008 Rocky Mountain Vertex Team (scandium)

I bought my used 2008 Vertex Team at the recommendation of a friend who is a Rocky Mountain expert and aficionado. This frame was used, with the previous owner being a Vancouver area Rocky Mountain sales rep.
I bought the frame and Reba fork for a good price and decided to build it on the cheap. It has a mix of old and new parts, and therefore is not as light as it could be, but it comes in at a respectable 24 lbs, 10oz. The used parts came off my Litespeed which was totally rebuilt this past summer with all new parts.

The build...
frame: 2008 Vertex Team (scandium tubes)
fork: 2008(?) Rockshox Reba
headset: Cane Creek (from Litespeed)
stem: no-name freebee (100 mm) (from Litespeed)
handlebar: flat carbon (about 24" wide) (from my Litespeed)
shifters/brake levers: XT (old school integrated units from Litespeed)
grips: RaceFace (already on handlebar)
front/rear derailleurs: XT (older units off the Litespeed...still shift well)
seat/seatpost: WTB Pure V w/cromo rails/Kore seatpost (from Litespeed)
brakes: Avid BB7 disc (new) with upgraded rotors
crankset: RaceFace Deus 42:32:22 (new)
pedals: Shimano XTR spd
chain: XTR (new)
cassette: XT 11:34 (new)
wheelset: American Classic 26" disc (new)
tubes/tires: Continental tubes/WTB MutanoRaptor 2.4" (new)

The Ride: Wow! Not much of a difference in feel from titanium to scandium. This bike is quick, easy to ride, and does everything a lightweight, well balanced bike does; it climbs like a mountain goat, descends predictably, and is very smooth on the rocks, and washboard alike. One major difference is the sound of a rock hit on the downtube. Titanium goes "ping!" and the scandium has a high pitched thuddish "tink!" like a bb hitting an aluminum can.

Overall, I really like this bike. I like it so much, I left it in the USA, not wanting to risk losing it here in Venezuela. I am planning on moving back to the USA after this year, so I'll be able to enjoy riding it every day in the future.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Back in easy trip

Back in Venezuela. Had zero problems at customs. My residente visa was still valid even though my passport is nearly expired and now have a new passport. The Venezuelan customs agent seemed apathetic and didn't care one way or the other since I hadn't had the chance to complete my entry form.

When I sent my roller-duffel bags through the X-ray machine, they only questioned the Chinese wok I had bought. It showed up as a big opaque disk. Other than the interior hallway to the domestic airport not working, I had to go back to the old way of getting there by walking outside and make the 500 meter walk awkwardly pulling the two roller-duffel bags.

BTW...don't count on Jeep brand luggage being very durable or rugged. Needing a 2nd suitcase, I bought the duffel at Wal-Mart (I tried boycotting Wal-Mart this trip...did pretty good) because it was large and relatively cheap. After one flight, the pull out handle does not deploy because it got bent by baggage handlers somewhere between ELP and CCS. My Lands End duffel has now made about 10 round-trip international flights and is showing very little damage or wear. Simple, rugged , and well made.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Road Tripping

Been road tripping in New Mexico. I wanted to go see friends in Arizona, but always get waylaid here. Here are some highlights.

Ranch art on the Continental Divide, near Horse Springs, NM.

The VLA (Very Large Array) radio telescope on the Plains of San Augustine, near Datil, NM.

Scuba diving the Blue Hole at Santa Rosa, NM
Mountain biking on the White Mesa near San Ysidro, NM.
Indian Tacos at the Jemez Pueblo, NM.

The El Rey Inn, Santa Fe, NM

Evangelo's, Santa Fe, NM

Riding the Dale Ball trail system, Santa Fe, NM

Cool sewer cover, Santa Fe, NM

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Gila Cliff Dwellings

Daniel has landed safely into Silver City. Been giving him a crash course of the area. First stop after mom's backyard was David's backyard. After that encounter, he thought for sure he had landed in the Twilight Zone.

Yesterday we drove out to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. It was the first time I've been out there in a while. It is still a fascinating place.

We drove back via highway 35. After crossing the Continental Divide and dropping into the Upper Mimbres valley, I spotted a montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) crossing the road. It was smaller than a Gambel's quail, and the pattern on its face was very distinctive. This may have been a lucky once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a rare bird in the U.S.A.
Daniel is enjoying Silver City and the Gila. It has been a completely new experience for him.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Las Cruces, Phoenix, the Gila, and Solpugids

Been busy while on vacation. Thursday, I spent the day with my mom in Las Cruces. We bought stuff. Friday afternoon I ended up going with Tour Divide riders Paul, Trevor, and Per, to Phoenix. Paul had rented a Dodge Caravan to get them to Phoenix where they could take a direct British Airways flight to London. Problem was they needed to get it back to Silver City, so that was my job. We had dinner at Ruby Tuesdays across from their hotel. Its one of typical American feed troughs with an obnoxious, somewhat insulting and indifferent waitress. The TD riders were still in carbo-loading mode and chowed down on extra french fries and cheese cake and a second beer. After dinner I took off and drove the van back to Silver City. Pretty uneventful. Around Benson, AZ, I was getting pretty bored and sleepy, so I pulled out my camera just to have some fun. Some of the pics turned out pretty surreal.
I stopped in Lordsburg for some coffee, then headed up to Silver City. I got in at 2:00 AM.


Saturday (yesterday), after only 4 hours sleep, I drove up to Signal Peak in the Gila, the site of our mountain bike race. I rode 2/3 of the intermediate lap which was probably around 15 miles of total riding.
I was feeling very lazy and slow up the hills. I got onto the "New Trail" and was taking a break and eating an energy bar when I came across a group of single speed riders from Sierra Vista, AZ. I rode with them, so it forced me to pick up my pace a bit. I had to walk up a couple of grades, but on the downhill sections I did pretty good. Betto, is the single speed champ of our local Signal Peak Challenge. I hung out at the AZ camp for a while, had a couple of Pacificos, then headed back to my car. At the car I meet an old time Grant County couple who kind of knew me. They gave me a Budweiser while we visited.


Later in the evening a friend and I went down to the brew-pub and listened to Melanie Zipen. She was great!
When we were leaving, saw a solpugid scurry across the patio. They distance cousins to spiders, and are very strange critters. It was a busy but rewarding Thursday - Saturday.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

More Tour Divide Riders

More Tour Divide riders! These 3 guys came through town; Per Nilsson Eklof, Trevor Browne, and Paul Howard. Per was real hardcore riding a rigid Karate Monkey. They should be finishing up tomorrow, riding into Antelope Wells around 1:00 PM.
Yeehaw to Per, Trevor, and Paul!

Other things today, I rode the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) "South" this morning. This ride is becoming my benchmark. It was the first ride I did when arriving from Venezuela. I suffered big time from the altitude. On today's ride, I assume I was still tired from South Boundary Ride, but I cleaned everything. I didn't need to stop and breath like the past. The new SID Team fork is way better than the old SID. The steering is now precise and plush. Nice!

South Boundary Trail, Carson Nat. Forest, NM, USA

Preface: Last week when I went to Gallup, I left my Litespeed and Vertex with Steiner. He completely rebuilt the Litespeed so that the only original part of the bike is the titanium frame. The new Rock Shox SID and new Avid Ultimate V-brakes are incredible!This past Sunday, 5 July, I finally rode the world famous South Boundary Trail near Taos, NM. Steiner picked Jim and I up around 7:30 in the morning and we headed up the road in his small pick-up. We made a quick breakfast stop in Santa Fe (breakfast burritos for me and Steiner) we continued on north to Taos.In Taos, we met Cory and Sean, brothers who had driven up from Albuquerque as well. We left their car at the Taos Visitor's Center and piled their bikes and gear into/onto the 4-door mini-truck and we all piled in and headed up to our start point at Garcia Park.
We decided to do an out-and-back towards Angel Fire. Not sure what park we ended up at, but we took a break near the high point of the trail, 10,700 ft. We were probably between 10,500 and 10,600 ft above sea-level. To get to that spot, I climbed mostly in my middle chainring, but only when I was going down did I realize how steep it was. No wonder I was breathing hard!Back at Garcia Park we took another break before heading towards Taos.

The rest of the trip was mostly downhill. We rolled through meadows, groves of aspens, and as we decended, thick patches of oak. These miniture oaks grew only shoulder high and had flexy limbs that hurt if they bent back and sprung back to hit you. Their root systems made the trail a bit more challenging as well.
The trail itself ranged from smooth single track, to rooty sections, baby heads (rocks stuck in the ground) and finally a steep, stair-steppy, deserty finish. The last 4 miles of that steep stuff was very challenging, but not impossible. It reminded me a lot of the Gila conditions.

Overall, it was super fun! The Artist's Ale and vegitarian green chile stew made it worth it.
Ready to do some more challenges!