Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Trina and myself visited family Bacon recently. A short hop on a plane and a skip on a train led us to the deep south of England and a beautiful day to sit with Ruth, Biff and the boys (William and Thomas) in their fantastic garden.

A major effort by W, T and me saw a successful ambush of the rest as they collected sloe berries for gin manufacture. Next we had a chance to sample some of Ruth's cookery. It's hard to describe, but when someone can cook, and I mean *cook*, it is a wonderful transcendence from simply eating. A passion for flavour, an innate sense of timing and texture with dish after dish. Truly inspiring.

We yabbered into the wee hours.

Next day saw a visit from a cross star and a man with a sheep with a mission. As the airports are still somewhat stuffed up following the seemingly forgotten chaos of a few weeks ago, I had not brought my own bike. Fortunately, Biff is both well endowed and generous in that department and as such I had a chance to spend some time riding a VooDoo Dambala using Pace RC31 forks and Biff's Jones One. I also had a small but informative time on an On One 29"er (ta Jenn).

I am going to return to Biff's Jones as it deserves an entry solely concentrating on its construction, finishing and ride characteristics. However, I shall refer to it in passing here.

When I started considering a new bike (which in fact was several months *before* purchasing the Kelly RoShamBo) a lot of effort was put into understanding steering geometry of bicycles. Not in an mtbr/Cloxxki style. In a scientific, known facts and proven builders' opinion sort-of-way.

One of the best things I read was the Zinn Bicycle Primer, where he discusses the stability of different geometries which yield the same trail. Previously, my misconception was that trail=trail=trail, and that it was 'god' when it came to working out how a bike would handle. This of course ignores the fact that a bike with a shallow head angle and high rake can have the same trail as one with the opposite. The handling will be different: one *must* be holistic.

If I had any complaints of the Kelly, it was that the front wheel had a tendency to 'tuck' when steering in steep (down) technical situations, usually in soft terrain. One can mimic this by holding the rear wheel up so the bike rests on the front, and tilting to the side. If the bike moves quickly to rotate the front wheel 'under' the imaginary rider, it will be quick/nervous in handling. If it moves more slowly, perhaps more stable, and if it doesn't really move, well, it will prolly feel that way on the trail. Knowwhatimean?

I was after 'the perfect balance': a nice trail number in the 70-80mm bracket (which seems to be about right for 29"ers, for me - the Kelly being 80.7mm) and stability not negating responsiveness in technical riding. A complex project, and one I am indebted to the internet postings of Mike Curiak for germinating.

The end result for me was a 71 degree head angle and 42 mm rake on the pace fork (yielding a trail of 79.9mm) and a rake of 45mm on the Black Sheep Ti fork (yielding a trail of 76.7mm). This will give me something to play with once the IF is built.

Rewind a little. I rode an On One 29"er and a VooDoo Dambala recently, as well as Biff's Jones One. Remember? what do you mean zzzzzzzz? right!

The On One felt stable but well mannered, long of limb and heavy (truth be told, but then it was a 'sensible' build) but settled and supportive (head angle 71 degree, trail 74.6mm as rake is 47mm, note the 18" frame has a 1 degree steeper head angle, making trail 67.9mm, the fork being 470mm length).

The Dambala actually required a good deal of bodily adaptation to ride through the twisting, buff singletrack adorning the South Downs. Both up and down, it required a great deal of weight over the bars for it to steer with the authority needed. It didn't seem to like leaning into turns as much as my Kelly for example. All this despite a head angle a mere 0.5 degree shallower(trail 79.9mm). All this shows the trail is but one thing. The front centre, ride height, bb height and chainstays must all be figured in...

The Jones? well, it rocked really. I haven't enjoyed riding a 26" wheel bike since I tried 29"ers, until now. A very, very special bike. It managed to be instantly familiar, without feeling too easy. It demanded work and speed, whilst rewarding calm, deliberate (and occasionally consequential) moves. In short it acted as a mirror for ones desires and skills. As such, it also acted as a natural foil to the others, in order to compare characteristics.

Some people maintain that you cannot tell the difference between 0.5 degrees here, a millimeter there. I disagree. I would say one can *adapt to these changes easily*, but should one? Depends if you have the time, inclination and admittedly money to throw at the issue.

For me, I just have my fingers crossed about the new one...

first pic is by singlespeedwidow, my beautiful wife.
second I nabbed from Simon Barnes, who has been taking truly epic shots this year...

Foo fighting

Back from a lovely week end in Aviemore. As some may know I wasn't exactly very well last week... seems to have mostly passed, but I am gled we got away at all. Managed to race albeit slowish...6th in masters which I can't complain about. The course was the classic Badaguish technical root and rock fest with one fire road climb per lap. As usual the technical sections were my strong point and allowed me to catch up each lap. This made up for being extremely wobbly (tho' not sick!) on the climbs. Marty raced too, despite having a almost sleepless night due to a noisy air conditioner. Resplendent on his new VooDoo and in pink Assos socks.

Thankyou to Susan and Trina (and new friend...) for supports.

The best aspect of the week end was enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Aviemore. It really is a 'mountain resort' and the Mountain Cafe allows healthy calorie loading for enjoying the freshest air.

Trina and myself rode around Rothiemurchas Estate and enjoyed another beautiful day and fine views of Cairngorm on Monday. I *really* enjoyed riding this area with my wife. There doesn't seem to be anything that brings out the happiness of just being on a bike as much as sharing it with someone you love, in a place you love.

I had felt this recently on a ride with Chris and Jac in the Pentlands near Edinburgh. No rush, no training zones, no particular need to do a distance or 'make it back here'. Just pure enjoyment shared with the like-est of like minds.

In other news: well done to all the peeps who battled the 3 peaks. Jenn scored 3rd (!) and everyone else showed the warrior hearts to finish the race and smile.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Next up

My thoughts on riding a Jones 26"er, a VooDoo Dambala, and an On One 29"er...still percolating...

Perfect prep...

In *that way*, I seem to have developed a lurgy right before my only xc race for this year. At the moment I'm not sure I can even get out the house, let alone anything else. Hoping for a miraculous recovery but I doubt it...

Crank it

My new bike is going to have 175mm cranks. So what? Well, I have been using 177.5mm cranks exclusively for 4 years. I swapped by circumstance not design: in essence I couldn't find a cold forged 5 arm crank with a square taper in anything *but* 177.5mm, so I bought 3 and had done with it. I felt they helped for pushing the singlespeed up steeper hills, but otherwise no major difference. Afterall, they were only 2.5mm longer than 'usual'.

I revisited this decision several weeks ago, when getting new cranks for the IF. Having ridden my friend Biff's Jones, I was impressed with the stiffness, power transfer and looks of the Jones mod'ed xtr cranks. So what length?

It is oft quoted there was a tendency for the old school 29"er riders to use shorter cranks. Indeed, rumor has it Wes Williams wouldn't have anything to do with cranks longer than 170mm. Perhaps this is more applicable to geared bikes (for spinning the gear) But one could also look at the track riders using 160-165 cranks, and they don't hang about when it is time to transfer power to the wheels (and neither are they universally short of stature).

I ordered 175mm, and I am glad I did. A more prolonged ride on Biff's bike this last week end led me to believe I can feel no detrimental difference whatsoever. A post on mtbr got me thinking further and after reading Leonard Zinn's diatribe on crank length, how to measure it and the pros and cons of changing, I decided to go all bio-mechanical. Turns out with my femur length, I should be using 170mm cranks, whereas with inside leg measurement I should be using 176-180mm length cranks. So there we go. Conclusions will be drawn after a prolonged time on the IF.

(pic courtesy of Jeff Jones)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For those about to rock...

We salute you!

The 3 peaks is this week end...a bunch of my friends are riding , and I wish them all bon chance.

Marty and myself will be hammering in the Cairngorm at the Aviemore xc event. Should be great, though inclement weather is a possibility...

Now all I need to do is minimise the trail tools, pack some energy spooch and put my 'fast' legs on...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Just about there

A few more parts, that is all. After this week end, I also have a lot more confidence in the parts I have collected. The wider, more robust rims should offer a better tyre profile, and allow a more persuasive style in the rocks. The carbon fork doesn't flutter or feel flimsy despite it's lack of weight. The H bars have a shim to allow a slightly improved interface, and the Thomson x4 seems to hold a little better than the original.

So, wheels to build and cranks awaited. Then it is time to put it together...just in time to have a few rides before breaking out the mothballs, and hitting cross season? Then back out for a (solo?) Strathpuffer ...


Well, I hope you enjoyed Talk Like a Pirate Day. I did. If you had any issues, perhaps a refresher will see you right afore mi'night, me hearty. Arrrrrr.

Sitting comfortably?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


After using this blog a little, I have learned that there is an etiquette to 'borrowing' pictures. I should apologise for not doing this properly in the past. Now, though, I'm going to pinch a few pictures to show a few more bent top tube bikes. I just love 'em.

A recent thread on mtbr discussed dropped top tubes and a
further opinion piece was provided by g-ted. My thoughts are simple: with proper design and the luxury of custom, quality manufacture, if I have my druthers, I'll go for super sloping top tubes every day of the week. They increase standover, and allow added compliance from the seat pin. Also, it looks sweet.

First a baby blue bombshell from Quiring Cycles. This one is from J-Rad.

Scott Quiring is a bomber fast racer, who at one time raced for Slingshot bikes. His site is cool, and his bikes well worth a look.

The next belongs to a lady by the name of Shontell, a Willits Brand with dual curved top and down tubes for clearance of forks and standover. Typically beautiful Willits craftsmanship. If you ride or are interested in 29"ers, Wes Williams of Willits Brand is someone you should know about.


Have you seen the video news available on Velonews? Some are very interesting. I would recommend the bicycle fitting videos for Cesar Grajales with Todd Carver and Andy Pruitt at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Good stuff. Pruitt is just as obnoxious as he comes across in the Specialized literature, however the fit process they go through is informative, although you may not agree with it.

Anyone who pays any attention to how films are made will recognise the computer mapping of the body in order to measure things objectively (rather than by hairy eyeball) and assess the biomechanical position of the rider. But it is still fascinating. One can't help but wonder about one's own position-afterall don't we all secretly believe we are thwarted world class riders? You may very well just have to fit that new, in-line post afterall...

The other video that is of great interest is the interview with Allen Lim (for his extensive bio see the link). His relationship with Floyd Landis is well known: he describes himself as Floyd Landis' number puncher. His main area of interest seems to be power output, and its measurement and use for training. Some of the numbers discussed are a little easy to gloss over (during the stage to Morzine, Floyd put out 281 watts for 5 hours...do a little poking around and find out what an average athlete's power output is and you may just be as surprised as I was.) but he is clearly animated, intelligent and his thoughts may well be useful to those looking to train more seriously.

See Velonews here.



Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In it to win it.

As is often said: to win it, you need to be in it. This can be applied to a lot of things but competition is paramount. For me, this means bike racing. Sometimes, I can't give my all during a race. Occasioanlly this is due to mechanical issues. During the last 5 races I have had (quick tot up) 9 punctures. Not a good average.

I was reading a blog belonging to a guy who has quite an impressive palmares. He has suffered numerous punctures over his last few races too. Dicky's minimal packing (amongst others) inspired me to drop the over-size pack and try to take a sensibly small set of tools, tubes and additional bunkum.

If you examine my recent experiences in the cold light of day, I dont think I have *particularly* suffered for carrying less kit. However, at the SSWC in Hellas, Stockholm, if I had carried the previous belt-and-braces CO2 and pump, as well as the old-me-2+ tubes, I would have been back in the game that bit sooner.

Does it make a *real* difference? Probably not: I'm unlikley to win after all. Does it bug me? Oh yes!.

I think the take home message is: consider this year another 'work in progress'. Every year (despite advancing age) I seem to do slightly better at the races. Mostly due to increased self-awareness in terms of preparation (fitness, food and fluid all playing their parts) and improved balance in the belt and braces equation.

Also I'd like to say a big G'day to Duncan, the real top fixed rider at SSWC (you there? hmmph, he's prolly off enjoying the Melbourne spring) for stopping to give me his pump before masterfully pedaling off into the distance.

pic lifted from Happy mtb forum poster.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


A little while ago now, I was talking to my friend Shaggy about this and that, mumbling and postulating. For some reason we got around to talking about Trimble mtb's. They were pretty wild back in the day. Sausage like spars of carbon fiber, with tiger stripes or polka dots.

I had a particular penchant for these frames and when I found out last year or so that Trimble might be back in the game, I asked about the possibility of a 29"er frame.

Due to some sort of disagreement between managers and investors and perhaps Brent Trimble and other project managers, Trimble is still a a name from the past.

The 29"er? well, it almost happened. Indeed, it looked like it had a lot of potential in terms of stand over, and clearance issues:

If you want to see more Trimbles, and get a little background info on these or any vintage bikes, set your main sail and take a heading for here.

Friday, September 01, 2006