Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 19: Buying and Selling Sites

I did a dawn ride through the metro park. Ye Olde Trek meets Ye Olde Truck:

Rather than yet another daily ride report, which can grow as tedious to write as they must be to read, I'm going to discuss what sites I regularly use for buying and selling:

1. classifieds
One of the best things about this site is that they charge $2 to place an ad. It's enough of a barrier to keep out the spamming that you see on Craigslist, so the resulting ads are higher quality. It usually has a good selection for buying and an often knowledgeable base for selling.

2. Craigslist
Occasionally, I get lucky and sell something here. Rarely do I buy anything, since there's so much junk to sort through. However, for things like my vintage Trek, which have a high shipping cost relative to their purchase cost, it can work out OK.

3. Our local club website
We changed web servers about a year ago, and this site still hasn't recovered the traffic of the old site. But it's sometimes a nice way to meet local bikers.

4. ebay
I almost never sell on ebay--too expensive with all of their assorted fees. But it's a good spot to buy, with a good search engine. The link above, by the way, is my daily search of items that currently interest me.

5. iBOB list
This is a Google group I belong to. Mostly road stuff, but it's a congenial group that makes for easy and honest transactions.

Those five are my main tools. I also use the RBW list, classifieds, and the paceline forums classifieds, but those are all second tier sites for me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 18: Krampus at Chestnut Ridge

Since I ended up coming home early from my road trip, I had a free, unplanned day today. I guess I could have cancelled my vacation day and gone to work, but what are the chances of that actually happening?

After watching Kate's dance class, I headed south for Chestnut Ridge. It was a warm day and the trail was in decent shape (at least, with use of the wet weather bypass). I soon met a rider walking his bike down the trail. Flat tire, slow leak, no tools. Unfortunately, we found that my patch kit glue was dry, so we dry fit a patch and pumped it as best we could. It was more or less holding air--maybe enough for him to ride back to the parking lot.

I continued climbing up to the barn for a breather:

Past the barn, I spotted another rider on an orange Kona Unit a couple of switchbacks behind me. My goal was to keep ahead of him.

I stopped for a few pictures here and there:

This reminds that I should frame saver my frame, or it might look like this pipe sometime around 2154.

I pulled into the parking lot just ahead of orange Kona Unit guy. I felt good about that, until I saw that he was on a single speed... and then he told me had ridden from Columbus, and had 38 miles down that day. Oh. To my credit, he had a number plate on his bike from his last race, and was training for the Mohican 100 next month. Good luck orange Kona Unit guy!

The Big K did pretty well for me this trip. No mechanical issues. I enjoyed the handling on the short, bumpy downhills that CR is full of. Perhaps due to the slacker front end or the big tires, I found myself coming into some corners too hot for what is, after all, still a rigid bike. But no crashes or close calls, just some sore body parts at the end. No danger of me racing the Mohican 100.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 17: My Ten Rules of Bike Buying

(I pre-wrote this post as I'm on a short road trip with my brother. Probably no biking today
edit: we got home early. I pulled the Buzz off the for sale rack and did a lap around Avery Park)


I buy and sell more bikes than any reasonable person probably should. Through the years, I've developed a few lessons learned that I've been meaning to pull together. These aren't your typical Bicycling magazine buyer's guide tips (eg, "pick a shop, not a bike", "fit is the most important thing", or "don't forget to budget for a jersey, helmet and gloves!" because God forbid you ride in a T shirt). No, these are specific to me, but perhaps some have broader application.

Rule 1: Just because it's a deal, doesn't mean you should buy it.
Especially at year end time, it's relatively easy to find bargains: 50% off new prices aren't impossible to find. However, our market is pretty efficient, so those half off values likely reflect the value of that model, which will show up come resale time.

I'm also trying to get into the mode of thinking which current bike the new bike would supplant. If I can't readily identify a current bike to be broomed out the door, maybe I don't really need new one.

Rule 2: Price doesn't matter
I haven't seen any positive correlation between how much I spend on a bike, and how much fun I have on it. Shouldn't an expensive, new, light, high tech wonder bike be more fun? Not in my experience. Indeed, I see more of a negative correlation: the less I spend on a bike, the more I tend to like it (the "cheap and cheerful" effect). Maybe it's due to lower expectations. Maybe it's because I'm not worried about damaging the bike or it's resale value. Maybe it's simply lower expectations. In any case, I had more fun rides on my $79 Performance Access than I did on my I-don't-even-want-to-think-about-it more expensive custom 29er.

More expensive bikes are typically lighter, but that makes zero difference out in the real world.

Rule 3: Used, not new.
Oftentimes on forums, a newbie will ask what bike to buy with X budget. Helpful but misguided people will tell him to get something used, due to the better value. This is true, but not particularly helpful--if you're asking for buying advice from strangers, you probably don't know what models are out there, how they fit you, how much they should cost, or how to adjust and repair them when you do get the bike. On the other hand, if you know what you want, buying used can save you a quick 40-60% over a new price. Bike depreciation is steep, and experienced buyers should take advantage of it.

Another brilliant thing about bicycle buying is the transaction costs are so limited. If you buy a new motorcycle or car, for instance, you immediately have to pay for tax, license, and insurance, all sunk costs. If you buy a used frame and don't like it, you're probably out only $50 for shipping, unless you paid way too much in an ebay frenzy.

Rule 4: Test rides are nice, but not a magic bullet.
Another buyer's guide catechism is "test ride, test ride, test ride." Maybe this works in Southern California where shops stock all the latest models. Try finding an XL steel mountain bike frame to test ride in Ohio (if you find one, please let me know). Furthermore, what's a test ride really tell you? New bikes are fun, so it's always exciting to throw a leg over something new. But it's also going to feel odd and different, and you probably won't ride it long enough to really understand the details of it. And taking a "test ride" by riding a lap around the parking lot on a mountain bike is almost useless. Maybe it will give you an idea of fit, but...

Rule 5: Fit is important, but not THAT important.
A second brilliant thing about bikes is their adjustability. Back when I was into motorcycles, you basically couldn't change the fit in big ways (well, yes you could, but it's much more difficult). Need more legroom? Go buy a different machine. Compare that to a bicycle, where you can adjust the seat post on any bike over a 10" range. Stems and handlebars are widely available in any size or shape you could imagine to tweak your fit. As long as your bike is ballpark close, you can make it work. For instance, I shoot for an effective top tube of 630mm on my mountain bikes, but I can work with anything in the range of 615~645mm.

I'll take a moment here and talk about professional fitting. Another typical piece of advice is that this is a worthwhile addition, maybe a requirement. I admit I'm ignorant here: I've never paid a bike shop guy $150 to look at me on a bike. But there's only three points that matter: your feet, your butt, and your hands. So move those points around until you're comfortable. And this will change over time: I can run my bars lower in the fall than in the spring, for instance. Listen to your body and make changes.

Somehow, cyclists have managed for over a hundred years without pro fits. It's a pretty recent fad.

Rule 6: Look out for "box checkers."
Maybe from my engineering background, but I'm particularly susceptible to this. I'll work up a list of requirements (this head tube length, that chainstay length, these dropouts, etc), and eventually find a bike that checks those boxes. In my experience, the overall bike is often disappointing. For example, my OS Blackbuck turned out like this: skinny steel tubes, check! Tall head tube, check! Split shell EBB, check! But those goofy curved seatstays didn't appeal to my traditional senses, I never grew to like them, and eventually got rid of it. Twice.

Rule 7: But think hard about "negative box checkers."
I'm going to call "negative box checkers" a list of things you know you don't like or don't want in a new bike. Based on your past experience, these are things that have soured you on previous bikes. Use that hard won experience and avoid them in the future.

For me, examples of these are:
- aluminum hardtail frames
- short head tubes
- track ends with gears and discs
- too short of a seat post extension (it just looks wrong)
- slack front ends
- oddball standards that don't have more merit than demerit (PF30, I'm looking at you)
- caliper brakes on road bikes
(d'oh, my new Krampus has half these features... call me a hypocrite)

This can change, though. I'm slowly warming up to slacker front ends. Maybe.

Rule 8: Never custom
Sometimes, you can make up enough requirements that a bike that checks them all is hard to find. Then, you decide to get a custom frame instead. The problem here is that your expectations get too high, and the custom may not deliver. Also, why doesn't the market already supply that combination you want so bad? Is it because no one else has your subtle taste, or is it because that combination doesn't have any value? And when your custom dream frame doesn't work and you eventually sell it, prepare for a bloodbath on resale value. Ask me how I know.

If you're 6'7" with a 32" inseam, you have my permission to get a custom frame. I'm mostly making this point so I can re-read it when I think I need to go custom in the future.

Rule 9: Don't buy the same bike again.
Sometimes, a box checker is so appealing that I think it will be better the second time around. Vooddoo Dambala. Salsa Casseroll. That Blackbuck. If you didn't like a bike the first time around, you probably won't like it the second time, either (the exception, of course, is if you had to sell it the first time for financial or spousal reasons)

Rule 10: Just buy it, and don't be afraid to sell it
Buy with your heart. If you like the way a bike looks, it mostly fits you, and will match your riding style, get it. It's just a bike. It doesn't require the level of commitment of a marriage. Or of owning a cat. If a bike doesn't work for you, doesn't appeal to you, dump it and move on. It's only hardware, and nothing is irreplaceable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 16: A History of My 26" Mountain Bikes

(I'm leaving soon for a short road trip with my brother. I headed out for a token ride in the pre-dawn chill, but it was so quiet and pleasant to be out--event at 25 degrees--that I took a longer loop through the nature preserve. I stopped to enjoy the sight of the full moon reflecting on a misty pond. I may have to do more dawn patrol rides)


Regular reader(s) of my blog have probably already seen the history of my full suspension bikes, hardtail 29ers, and road/cross bikes. What, they've probably been wondering during sleepless nights, about the old school mountain bikes? Today we can allow them to rest easy.

My first mountain bike was a 1990 Giant Rincon, purchased as I graduated high school, from Bob's Bikes, in Portland, Oregon:

(not my bike pictured). I just bought it for riding around campus, so Bob's sized me up on a 23" frame. However, shortly thereafter, I started mountain biking with my friend Jason Stuart (who, BTW, had an envy worthy Bridgestone MB-1, and BTW, still rides it), and decided I wanted a bit more clearance. A month later, I sold it to get something else. Can you tell where this all started?

The Giant Giant's replacement was the creaky Nishiki:

(also not my bike pictured, I ordered white but got black with very 90s white spiderwebs, in a 21" size). I remember poring through the catalog, actually believing all the ad copy about the benefits of wishbone seatstays and straight forks. Of course, I finally just had a 30 pound rigid bike with awful first generation STI components. But I had fun with it, aside from what turned out to be a creaky seatpost.

I kept the Nishiki for an entire year, until I picked up a used Specialized Stumpjumper. I remember walking two miles to the seller's house, since I couldn't ride two bikes back and didn't know anyone with a car. It was maybe a '91 model, black with my first suspension:

Which worked so well that I bought a rigid Ritchey Logic fork that summer.

That Stumpjumper lasted until the summer between my junior and senior years, when I found a nicer Stump on closeout at Gregg's Greenlake. $1300, marked down to just $600, how could I resist?

(yep, my bike shown now) Full Suntour XC-Pro, Microdrive with greaseguard, it was a beautiful machine. It weighed right around 25.5 pounds, light for the time but somehow considered pretty heavy now. I guess we were tougher then. I rode Stumpy for probably 10 years before selling it. Really, I probably could have used the next size up from the 20.5" size I had...

I went on a brief titanium fling with a Habanero (shown with current owner Charles):

$1000 for a Chinese ti frame was a deal then, now you can get a custom ChiTi frame delivered to your door for that much.

I finally realized my MB-1 envy when I got a used '94 MB-1:

It was nice for the time, but too small. But note my Allsop stem!

I knew pretty much everything about bikes by that point, so while I debated between a Gunnar and a Voodoo, I finally applied all my know-how and got a Curtlo custom for not much more outlay:

Of course, once I got it, I immediately got bitten hard by the single speed bug, and it spent several years with a chain tensioner band-aid on it. As a historical note, I captured the inaugural Ohio Single Speed State Championship (B division) with this frame.

A long period of 29ers, and then...

I picked up a all original '91 MB-2, 55cm, probably my correct size:

Turns out, Billy Joel was right: the good ol' days weren't always good. The butt up, head down position just didn't appeal anymore after riding more modern bikes. And whoever thought toe clips on mountain bikes were a good idea?

I had an idea that a 69er might be the best of both worlds: short in the back for easy lifting of the front wheel, and a big wheel in the front to tackle obstacles and provide steering stability. I decided to try this theory with a Trek frame I picked up cheap (like, $40 cheap) on ebay:

It had a lot that appealed to me: made in the US, rim brakes or disc, rack mounts, etc. But it was designed for an 80mm 26" sus fork, and my big wheel choppered out the front too much for good handling. It also had all the ride suppleness of a softball bat.

I wasn't ready to give up on the idea of a 69er, though, trying it later with a Voodoo Bizango:

It was designed for a longer fork, so it worked much better with the big front wheel. It was also able to fit 650B wheels. Why did I sell it then? I'm not sure, and I wouldn't mind having it right now.

I picked up a Surly Troll at a swap meet in this condition:

I liked the frame, even though it was quite stiff, and ran it both as a 26er and a 650B. I finally sold the frameset, for about what I paid for the whole package, but I still use the Bontrager Scandium (!) wheels off it on my FSR (I sold the brakes and recently the tires as well) Probably one of my best deals, money wise.

Which brings us to the Breezer, which I've written about recently:

Another 69er attempt, which again didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. It's also just too small for me, so it will be for sale soon. I still think the 69er idea has merit, if I can just find the right frame/fork combination. My latest idea is to find another Voodoo, a Soma Analog, or maybe a Surly 1x1, pair it with the fork from a Singular Gryphon (relatively short at 445mm and 55mm offset to quicken up the handling), and add a Knard up front and a Dirt Wizard in the rear. 69er+! At least I wouldn't see myself coming and going out on the trail.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 15: A Chilly Crosscheck Run, and Selle AnAtomica Notes

Two pairs of pants, long sleeve shirt, two jackets, balaclava, and my warmest winter gloves... this for a ride in mid April. I started out with my second warmest gloves, but turned back after a few hundred yards to get the warmer pair. What happened to our nice weather?

A little patch of snow was left over from this morning's snowfall, up against the blooming daffodils:

I loaded up the CC for a ride to the library and the post office. I had to mail off some pedals that an iBob had purchased this afternoon.

Now that I've ridden it for a bit, I'll make some comments about the new Selle AnAtomica saddle I picked up this winter:

On the plus side, it looks great, and carries my saddle bag.

On the minus side, it's not particularly comfortable so far, and a bigger issue is the way the sides flare out. Compared to my B17N:

(black on black doesn't show up that well, surprisingly). The SA is quite a bit wider in the mid portion, about 15mm wider than the Brooks right in front of the seatpost, and worse, the edges don't point down, but at maybe a 30* angle. I can feel the skived edge of the leather pointing into my thighs as I pedal. It hasn't been terrible yet, but I could see it growing very uncomfortable on a longer ride with lighter clothing.

Two other issue with my CC in this setup:

- the fork is juddering again. I thought I had fixed this some new, less sloppy V brakes, but I think the heavy weight of dyno hub exacerbates this.

- my hands aren't as comfortable on the grip area as they were with the Buzz setup with the same bar. I think this is due to my inner tube + bar tape combo vs. the rubber mountain bike grips I used on the Buzz.

If the Buzz doesn't sell, I wouldn't be too heartbroken to change it back to utility duties again. Maybe strip off the gaudy green paint and put a clear coat spray over bare metal. That would put the CC back where it belongs, as a fixed gear bike with AT-2 style bars. Which would give me two very similar bikes. Hmm.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 14: Deer and Bones

The rain had stopped by dinner time, but that still meant it was too wet for a playground ride. When Henry and Sam realized that, they decided to stay home and play computer games instead. Kate and I had a nice father/daughter ride:

We looped around along the creek and spotted a pair of white tailed giant forest rats:

And then we found this surprise laying in the grass:

Two interesting things to see in probably less than a mile of riding.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 13: Surly Krampus Review and Ride

The trail at Alum Creek was finally marginally acceptable to ride, and my folks had the kids for the day, and it was 70 degrees by 11:00 this morning, making an unusually good day to be out. I loaded up my bike gear, dropped off the kids, and headed for the trail.

My previous rides on the Krampus haven't gone well, due to various  mechanical issues. However, a new (used) chain from my bin seems to have solved the issues, and the drivetrain gave me no issues at all today:

My setup is an X7 rear derailer with a Shimano 11-36 nine speed cassette, driven by a 32t rings on some sort of old Sugino 94 BCD five bolt crank. Grip shift isn't so popular these days, but I still like it:

A 700mm wide Bontrager riser bar with a 70mm stem give me a pretty modern cockpit. The brakes are Shimano Deore hyraulic, my first time with hydros. They work well once I got them setup. That wasn't easy the first time around.

Overall, I had a good time on the Krampus. I didn't get the eye-opening revelation I had when I first demo'd it, but I think that's partly due to my spring "fitness."  The biggest demerit I could find with the Krampus was that it was hard to get it going. Sure, the big, heavy tires are naturally slower to get up to speed, but I think I'll be able to manage it better in a few months. Then again, those big tires were great across the many small roots at Alum Creek--they just seemed to disappear beneath me. And there are a LOT of roots at Alum.

On the other hand, the tires aren't as competent at bigger hits. Several times today I bottomed at the front, the rear, or both ends of the bike, getting the wince-inducing feeling of my rims hitting the trail. Clearly, my tire pressure was too soft for my speed and my line choice (I was running 13~15 psi); this is something I'll have to experiment with.

Handling was a bit of a surprise for me. The Krampus is about two degrees slacker up front than my typical 29ers, and in the past I haven't been a fan of lazy front ends. However, for whatever reason, the Krampus was able to steer capably around the trail. Perhaps the big tires make pinpoint line selection less important. I also appreciated the shorter rear end of the Big K--I have the wheel slammed forward, for a chainstay length of around 445mm, and I was able to pop the front end up as needed.

Vik B has described the Krampus as a rigid bike with extra cushion, not a full suspension replacement, and I think that's a very accurate description. The 29+ wheels are great on small roots, but bigger hits--and by bigger, I mean larger than two inches or so--still require you to use your rigid bike skills to move smoothly along. When I got home from my ride today, I took my 26" FSR out for a quick spin up and down the street. I had a thought that the Krampus could replace the FSR, but now I don't see it: the FSR handles big bumps much more capably than the Big K. This is starting a rethink of my recent Need-Want-Have assessment.