Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Want it Wednesday: Kenda Nevegals (Tires and Self Discovery)

This week’s Want it Wednesday is the Kenda Nevegal. It’s just a tire but I think it is one of the best all around tire. Everyone is confident they figured out what is the best all around tire, the only difference is I am right.

I just bought Sue a used set of Kenda Nevegals off the MMBA classifieds, 29 inch version of the tires I am currently using, because that poor girl hits the ground often. They are more aggressive than the tires she is currently using so I think this might be the trick.

I went through a lot of tires before I settled on Nevegals. I purged about half my used tires when I moved into an apartment but the tires I have left show an evolution in my way of thinking. I can trace my current collection of tires back to 2004. Back then I used parts like a fragile Scott thermal plastic bar (that snapped in two, like a twig), flimsy Kooka Racha brake levers, and a super flexy RockShox Indy SL to keep the weight of my Litespeed under 21 lbs. To make this bike a total deathtrap, I used 1.5 Geax semi-slick tires. These tires were light and had low rolling resistance but going around corners was downright scary. They were a poor choice for racing but worked out well when I put them on a spare wheelset for riding on dirt roads.

The Geax were completely useless in slick conditions so I used 1.5 Continental Cross Country tires when racing in the rain. These tires were slippery in the rain. I think all tires are slippery in the rain but mud would cling to the Cross Countrys making them heavy and slippery. They served a second life as OK cross tires when I cobbled up my Felt mountain bike to race cyclocross. At first they discontinued the Kevlar version of this tire, then they discontinued it all together. My theory is the kind of people who would want this tire migrated over to cyclocross bikes.

I went to Maxxis Maxxlite 310s when I bought my Felt in 2006. They only weighed 310 grams and were a little less sketchy than the Gearx but they were still sketchy, and prone to flats; another poor choice. I quickly replaced the Maxxlites with Continental Twister Supersonics. I really liked these tires. They only weighed 370 grams and were a huge improvement over the Maxxis. In the brief period of time I did OK as a racer, these were the tires I used. I was horrified when Continental stopped selling them in the States. The only issue I had with Twisters was they wore out quickly and they did not work well when they were worn. I had to replace them a few times a season. If they were still available here I might still be using them, on dry, non-technical trails anyway.

I replaced my Twister Supersonics with Hutchinson Pythons. Pythons were about 100 grams heaver than the Twisters, which was still pretty light, and had a little better traction, at least on hard packed trails. Their Marketing hook back in 2007 was they were high volume tires. They may have been on to something because all tires seemed to have migrated to a high volume design; I don’t see this even mentioned anymore. I learned my lesson about watching a tire I like get discontinued so I stocked up on Pythons. I still have a supply of brand new Pythons that I should probably think about selling. I think Pythons enjoyed a bit of a boon when they were quick to jump on the 29er tubeless bandwagon. I though tubeless 29 inch tires was just a fad. I’m not always right.

The Tomac Type-X I bought off the Kenda race team in 2010 came with 1.9 Kenda Karmas. I know pro teams use the tires their sponsors tell them to use but apparently Karmas are capable of winning races even if I’m not. I was happy with these tires and put a set on my Inglis single speed too but sometimes my bikes would get a little loose around corners. Last year I put a 1.9 Kenda Nevegal on my front wheel and this seemed like the way to go. The rear tire would start to slide around corners but it was very controllable and served as a gentle tap on my shoulder that I should pay attention before my front tire started to washout. The only real issue I had with this set up was a little tire spin on steep, loose climbs.

I knew the trail would be slick at Mud, Sweat, and Beers so I went through my tire collection looking for a rear tire with a little more tread. I found a brand new 1.9 Nevegal that I honestly do not remember buying. It worked out perfect. I intended to put the Karma back on after the race but I rode at Maybury before I had a chance. The bike hooked up really nice so I will keep this combination for a while. If I can find a Kenda Slant Six for less than $30, I will put that on back to save weight and improve the rolling resistance. I think I have it all figured out; it only took me 16 years.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fixing Creaks and Emotional Distress

In addition to a detachable showerhead for cleaning bicycles, Sue gave me a roll of plumbers tape for Christmas to fix my Tomac’s creaking bottom bracket; the best 75 cent gift ever. I didn’t get around to taping the bottom bracket thread until last night. This project gave me a chance to use my super expensive XTR crankset removal tool and to inspect the Wheels Manufacturing bottom bracket, which, incidentally, still rolls smooth. I’m officially keen on the use of ceramic bearings in a bottom bracket.

I started working on my bike after the girls were in bed so I didn’t finish up until late. I test rode the bicycle through the halls of my apartment complex which, of course, is the best place to test ride a bicycle: it is protected from the elements, well lit, acoustically perfect for zeroing in on creaks, and carpeting provides excellent traction for sprints. And it feels like you are going really, really fast when there are walls two feet on either side of you. Sometimes I feel like a 14 year old boy trapped in a middle-aged man’s body.

Creaks from my bicycle drive me nuts. I envision creaks diverting energy away from my rear wheel, rediculous. I start to wonder if the creaks I hear aren’t the carbon fibers shearing in the frame, ready to impale me with a splintered carbon fiber top tube which would seriously suck because I really like my Tomac Type-X and it has been discontinued. When I hear my bike creak at a race I get self-conscious, as if I showed up unprepared, or like I’m sitting on a bus with a whining child on my lap. It isn’t clear if the plumbers tape was a gift to elevate the emotional distress caused by unfortunate noises coming from my bicycle or if it was given to me because I complain about said noises incessantly during rides. Either way, all is quiet now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some Days Are Perfect

Saturday I made plans to ride with Brad at Island Lake. He seems to have converted solidly over to his single speed so I decided to take out my Inglis for the first time this year. I hadn't put my new(ish) Fox Forx on yet; I figured this would be a good time to change it. Changing a fork should only take 10 minutes but often I run into problems, like the old brake cables aren't long enough or the star nut goes into the fork tube crooked, especially when I decide to change the fork 10 minutes before I have to leave. And I do not like being late for a ride, certainly not when I'm riding with someone whom I don't ride with often. I miss my garage where I had a work bench set up with all my tools and parts. Working in an apartment is like living out of a suitcase, you have most of what you need but it is just inconvenient. Amazingly, I installed the Fox Forx is in less than 10 minutes. The fork worked perfect, like I assumed it would.

It began to pour right before I got to the trailhead. I would have turned around but figured Brad was already there so I should at least show up. It rained hard all around Island Lake but only rained on the trail briefly, just long enough to mat down the sandy sections. I guess god decided to cut me a little break. It was a perfect ride. I forgot how much I loved my single speed. As I was leaving the trailhead I saw Hometown Bicycles was having an event there at Island Lake. I stopped by and they fed me lunch. As I was leaving the picnic FedEx called and said they had a package for me at their Canton office. I stopped by FedEx on my way home. It was my Santa Cruz Stigmata. The girl went back to get it. I offered to carry it to the front desk for her since it was a large box. She said not to worry, it was surprisingly light. I smiled to myself; of course it was. The bike was perfect. Sometimes everything just falls into place.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Want it Wednesday: Salsa Mukluk

These week’s Want it Wednesday is the fat tire Salsa Mukluk. Oh man this bike is so stupid I cannot believe I want one so bad. I think full suspension is silly excess and I am suspicious of 29ers (though I’m starting to like both) yet here I sit lusting after a 34 lb. bike with 3.8” wide tires (that's tyres for my friends in the UK). In the neighborhood where I grew up there was a kid whose dad somehow laced Yamaha dirt bike rims to the Sunshine hubs on his Schwinn Scrambler. We all made fun of him but I secretly envied his bicycle. Maybe my affection for the Mukluk is just some type of manifestation of unresolved childhood issues. Who knows.

I considered trying to write a real review but, as a rule, I try to keep my posts to 400 words or less to match my puppy-like attention span. Plus I would probably just plagiarize this review. The first time I saw a Mukluk, or Surly Pugsley (I honestly can’t tell the difference), I just rolled my eyes; what a silly set up. People started showing up on winter rides with fat tire bikes and they began to make sense. Daniell Musto averaged 17.2 MPH this spring at Barry-Roubaix on a Mukluk. Daniell is a local pro so I am under no delusion I could make one go 17.2 MPH. When I raced expert, sometimes I would see her briefly as she lapped me, skinny little legs with a Slingshot tattoo flying up climbs. Anyway, the Mukluk isn’t as slow and lumbering as it looks.

Last weekend there was a bike demo at the Vasa trail. I rode the Vasa on a borrowed BMC but tried out a Mukluk on the BMX track by the trail head. It really is an interesting ride. It rolls over everything, like a tank. Someone else was on the BMX track with a borrowed Mukluk. We were both as giddy as 11 year old boys, a sure sign a bicycle is doing what it is suppose to. Or maybe that’s just another manifestation of unresolved childhood issues. Either way, it is a very cool bike.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mud, Sweat, Beers, and Riding Bicycles I Don't Own

Saturday was my first race of the year. I finished in the middle of Sport. I’m not exactly disappointed since I finished where I assumed I would, I’m just frustrated. Very frustrated. But I’m keeping this positive. My Tomac worked flawlessly as usual, 20.5 lbs of crisp shifting carbon fiber goodness. I finished, changed, and made it to the beer tent before it rained. I guess this makes it a good race.

After the race, Sue and I went to a Derby party. I met the host last winter at a birthday party; he was interested in the Chevy Volt and I knew enough about this car to carry on a conversation. Saturday he introduced me to someone who imported electric bikes from China. I suppose since I know a little about the electrification of the automobile and I had just done a bike race, they assumed I knew something about electric bikes; I don’t, but had fun trying the bicycles out. One model had a motor in the rear wheel which I have seen before. The other model had a motor in the bottom bracket that assisted your pedaling. This was interesting. Twisting the throttle rocketed you up from a Cat V racer to Fabian Cacellara just like that. One of the old men watching was from Sweden and said he sees bike like this there. He said old roadies use them to drop young racers practicing on climbs, turning to smile at the kids as they pass. I see the charm in these bicycles.

Sunday morning Sue and I left early for a ride, trying to beat the rain. I don’t mind riding in bad weather so much but rain and mud is hard on bicycles. Sue pointed out BMC was having a demo day. You don’t say? We went to the display and faked mild interest so we could ride their bikes and leave ours protected and comfy in the back of the truck. I chose the Speedfox, a full suspension 29er with SRAM XO, not the kind of bike I would buy but I thought it would be interesting to ride. It was actually a really nice bike; I forgot how smooth full suspension was and it almost convinced me that 29 inch wheels are the way to go. It had wide tires and a more upright riding position; a good bike when I give up racing, better than an electric bike anyway. I’m not ready to give up just yet.