Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekend at Tahoe

The SF Bay Area has so many places to go riding and I have not been to many of them yet. But the trails around Lake Tahoe have always attracted me, for obvious reasons. I found it to be somewhat confusing to place all trail names people on talk about on the map, so for starters, I planned to ride from Spooner Lake both north towards Mt. Rose, as well as south, towards Kingsbury Grade. The Nevada side of the Tahoe Rim Trail and surrounding trails can be ridden as a point to point epic ride providing you have a shuttle car.
I know that distance would be a one day piece of cake for my friend John, an ultra-cyclist and the current GDR record holder, but I was glad he agreed to splitting the ride into two days.

This year of record snowfall, some trails remain closed, but despite warm temperatures, it looked like spring in the high country.

Saturday was an even day, so we headed north from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake

and climbed the Hobart jeep road to a fantastic vista point from which you can see both Marlette and Lake Tahoe. These two lakes are 2000 vertical feet apart, yet look like a 2D map from that perspective:

 We almost reached the ski lifts at Diamond Peak, but due to my rapidly dwindling aerobic fitness and overall poor adjustment to the altitude, we decided to head back via the Flume trail.

Sunday had to be a shorter day, so we headed south on the TRT starting again at Spooner Lake and crossing Hwy 50 to the trailhead. This was an out and back ride on a singletrack trail, even though several jeep roads in the area allowed for loops. The singletrack was a tough climb for 6.5 miles with some rocky sections at the top.

The trail leveled off but became littered with sharp rocks around the Bench, where we turned back.

The descent down to highway 50 took us less than half the time we needed for the climb, but this was one of the most fun downhills I ever rode. Technical enough to keep you focused but not scary, fast flowing trail with switchbacks. Of course, I inhaled all the dust John kicked up, but that means I rode almost as fast as he did on the downhill.
This was definitely my kind of mountain biking, sunny, warm, dry, great views and good company.

New Wheelset Test

The wheels on my full suspension bike started to go. Actually, just the rear wheel. Spoke nipples broke one after another. I guess I was lucky to have just one broken during the BCBR, but that race finished the rear wheel off. As I understand it, the aluminum nipple threads eventually seize onto the spoke threads and the whole wheel becomes less flexible and the nipples shear at the rim under load.
After quite a bit of research, I found these American Classic 26 Tubeless wheels, under 1500g a pair!

I thought the white rims and red anodized hubs would go nicely with the already brightly colored Mojo (nuclear pesto). More importantly, a recommendation from my engineer friend John sealed the deal - apparently the rear hub pawls engage via a friction plate, meaning the hub is going to engage even when gunked up, perhaps even better than clean!

Add smooth, 23mm deep, aerodynamic rims and two white spokes pointing to the tube valve, tubeless compatibility, all resulting in a bling looking wheels. The cassette mounted with a spacer and the disc brakes needed just a minimum amount of adjustment.

The real world test was done under totally unscientific conditions (new environment, no direct comparison, no objective measures etc.) on the Tahoe Rim Trail between 7500 and 8500 feet of elevation. Whatever the beneficial effect of 250 grams less of rotating mass over my old wheels, it was all lost due to my physical struggle on the first day. However, the second day of riding included a fast downhill on pretty technical rocky trails, and I can confidently say that the wheels felt totally stiff and solid, and in combination with my tried Schwalbe Nobby Nics greatly tolerated all my piloting errors. Nice job, Bill Shook!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Small Stuff

I sometimes think about big changes in ones life, such as a new job, loss of a job, moving cross country or across the globe, preparing for a 7-day stage race etc.  and how I rarely consider the big "projects" as something that would make me nervous.
It's the small stuff that drives me crazy, especially when high end, expensive products break. I know, every material product, biking products notwithstanding, is designed and made to have an infinite lifespan. I believe that buying high(-er) end gear means it will last longer and I trust brand names. I guess it is genetic, my father once said "Never buy anything made in China!". I really don't know what he buys these days, probably nothing if he follows his rule....

Anyways, three examples of small stuff breaking happened over the last couple of weeks: first, it was my new Giro Xar helmet. This helmet is fantastic, fits me well and is very adjustable. But the adjustable strap at the back of the helmet is held to the harness by two tiny plastic tabs, as you can see in this picture:

After stuffing the helmet in a gear bag at the BCBR, these two little pieces of plastic sheared off, leaving the whole harness just hanging there. Needless to say, the good guys at the Passion Trails Bike shop replaced the helmet for a brand new one, no questions asked. But now I am afraid to squish the lid or even put it down with the harness facing downwards.

Next, my new Specialized Comp shoes, with fancy buckles, had a defect after just couple of rides. The buckle attachment on the right shoe had a stripped thread. The fix was easy, I moved the buckle into the second hole where I hope it will stay tightened with the help of blue loctite.

And finally, another spoke nipple broke during my last ride. Since it was the third one in couple of weeks, I think the aluminum nipples are toast. Now this FSA 300 XC wheelset is not new, I have been using it for about 6 years now, so perhaps it is time for new wheels.

I better check the country of origin of these products, but I think we all know the answer. The good news is, there is always something to improve on and upgrading biking gear is fun!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Triple Digit Weekend

Not every bike ride is recorded in this blog. For that, the Garmin Connect site is pretty good. This blog is meant to be a place for interesting rides, achievements such as stage races, new places etc. Last weekend was not really remarkable in terms of neither the mileage nor places I rode. But I think that it sort of represented what kinds of rides one can do in the Bay Area: on Friday, I bike commuted to work. My work commute is 18.5 miles each way, my average speed is always the same 14.3mph and I arrive at work within a span of 3-4 minutes ride to ride. I only commute once a week, but those 10mi out of 18.5 are on the Sawyer Camp trail and the natural scenery, wildlife and weather change so much that is never boring.
Then on Saturday my colleague from work and I rode what I call "The Small Coastal Loop", Canada to Woodside, OLH to Skyline, down to San Gregorio on 84, up Tunitas Creek Rd followed by the never boring Kings Mountain Rd descent, and the usual headwind on the last few miles of Canada Rd going north. Again, I rode the exact same route in June, but is was different this time. Contrary to my expectation, it was sunny on the coast, and the climb up Tunitas felt really easy.
Finally, on Sunday, Marketa and I took our 29er hardtails to the Skyline to the Sea trail from Waddel Creek beach into Big Basin Redwoods park. This time, it was foggy as expected, but not windy and the 60F felt almost warm. The trail was a mix of deep dust and muddy sections where the redwoods runoff flowed onto the trail, so we ended up looking like real mountain bikers.

So all in all not very impressive 40+60+10 (rounded up) mile rides adding to 110 miles in three days, but all diverse and fun. Thinking of it, is there any reason why one could not bike 35 miles every single day?