Saturday, July 30, 2016

Be Open: Mountain Bike Edition

First ride on my Giant Anthem SX

"Be open" is a decent mantra attributable to many different sages. After I bought a new mountain bike, I geeked out a little bit on the Bikerumor Suspension Setup guide which is packed full of useful info. One tidbit I gleaned from it is to run my new three setting shock and fork in "open" mode, which is something I had been wondering about. 

So many settings and adjustments, how should I get them all dialed in for optimal riding pleasure? Since setup is done in open mode, so the suspension guide advises, ride in open mode for best results. OK, I followed that advice to go for a spin on all this new-to-me tech: Fox full suspension, 27.5 wheels, disc brakes, aluminum frame, tubeless tires, 2x10 gearing, dropper post, 120mm fork, tapered head tube, thru-axles, something something super stiff bottom bracket. So how did it all work out?

The Green Machine needs a name. ADDENDUM: the green machine is now called "Shimmer".

It seemed like I got the suspension setup pretty close to good for this ride. For future reference, on this particular bike, for trail riding, I am going to shoot for "as soft as possible without bottoming out too much" as my guideline. I wasn't too far off from that for this test ride, and it was fantastic. The bike asked me to do things I could never do on my older and much-beloved front suspension Bontrager mountain bike. That bike is fun to ride, but the evidence from this morning's ride is that mountain biking technology has indeed moved along in the 18 years since I bought that bike with its 80mm "long travel" Judy XC front fork. 

As a side note, I put Mountain Speed Springs into that fork from the beginning, kept it serviced, and never had any issues with it. I kept it clean and packed with Slick Honey and fresh oil, and it served me well. However, a 2016 120mm Fox Float fork kicks its butt all every which way. An actual rear shock beats the crap out of a Cane Creek suspension seat post. With so many years since I mountain biked often gone by, I was fairly tentative on this tryout ride, but I could see where this is going, as the muscle memory started to revive, while new skills enabled by the new capabilities of this machine opened before me.

Trail 100, hello my old friend

I ran the tires with 30 psi which seemed just about right. When possible, I like to ride to the ride, which I did this morning, and I didn't want the tires too soft for the street. Tubeless is supposed to enable lower psi, but for a first ride, this seemed like a decent compromise pressure. I put the rear shock at the middle setting for the streets and that seemed about right. Trail 100 is not very technical or challenging, anyway, just a nice stretch of singletrack to practice on, within riding distance of my house. I did pick up a goathead thorn which hammered into the tire within about the first 15 feet of trail, which the sealant in the tubeless tire handled with no issues at all. It would have flatted a tire with a tube for sure.

What else? I played with the dropper post just because it's there, but I can't say there's any reason for it on the west-to-east stretch of Trail 100 I rode this morning. A dropper really needs both more aggressive riding technique than I currently possess, as well as a longer and gnarlier downhill than this trail has. We'll see about that sometime soon, I expect.

Anything else? I guess I liked the 27.5 wheels, although I can't say they are life-changing or vastly different from 26" wheels. Probably a little bit. Like 6% or so. The combination of all that new-to-me tech, however, did make a big difference, I'll say that. Easier uphill. Better downhill. More control when swoopy. Less fatigue through rocky sections. So much better traction because the wheels are more stuck to the ground by the suspension, even these slightly less knobby Schwalbe tires. I slid or spun almost not at all. Disc brakes with great modulation or control, barely need the front brake at all. All true. 

I wanted to take a nice, safe, yet varied ride to try out the new bike, and this stretch of Trail 100 plus the streets to get there was excellent for that. I really wanted to keep riding longer, but also didn't want to push myself too far the first time out. Save some for next time. Be open. I will be, and look forward to more mountain biking as the summer winds down here (ok there are at least two more months of heat to go), at places like Desert Vista trail, the McDowells, South Mountain, and farther afield. So many great trails in this area, so little time. But a good bike not only conquers rocks and trails, it calibrates time with delight and new challenges. I can't wait.

PS: It's called "Dreamy Draw" because there were once mercury mines in the area, so the story goes that the name comes from the effect of mercury vapors on the mind.      

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Removing Broken Stem Bolt with Chemistry / Alum

The components of the experiment: stem with broken bolt, alum powder

I think I did one or two posts back when I broke off one of the face plate bolts on this stem while using a torque wrench, and then tried to get the broken part out with drills and extractors and whatnot, but I can't find those posts. Partly I blame the custom blog search widget, which seemed quite useful and effective back in the day, but that now seems close to useless at finding old posts. So this particular new post has a particularly literal title in hopes that I may be able to find it someday, again, if the need arises.

The one kind-of-related old post I did find was "Improper Installation May Yield The Fastener", which certainly captures the sense of what I was feeling I had when I broke off a bolt using a torque wrench. Anyway, no matter what I tried, that broken bolt refused to come out. So rather than totally destroy the stem trying to remove it, I chucked it into the "may fix someday" box, and went on with life.

Lo, behold, I recently came across this video by Youtube mechanical wizard AvE about using an alum solution to remove broken studs from aluminum heads, which seemed to have potential for my broken bolt stuck in an aluminum stem situation. There's another one where he compares alum vs nitric acid for doing the job (alum wins). AvE is a kind of genius mechanical hacker from Canada, and I thank him for this information, in addition to his awesome "BOLTR" (Bored Of Lame Tool Reviews) teardown videos. His language is salty, but his engineering and machining is inspiring.

Before picture, broken off face bolt on the right

My plan is to mix up a concentrated solution of alum with heated water, then let the stem with the broken bolt chooch in there for a few days to see what happens. "Chooch" is a word that AvE uses often, and I like it. It's so hot in Phoenix right now that if I just leave the stem and solution outside, the heat out there should help the reaction along. Will it chooch? Watch this space for future updates. I'm hopeful. It would almost undo the lasting shame of twisting off a bolt with a torque wrench. Almost.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What if the sun rode a bicycle?

"Look, Look, Look" by John Randall Nelson, Scottsdale Waterfront (look through)

What if the sun rode a bicycle? This question fired into my brain as I happened upon this new work parked at the Scottsdale Waterfront by John Randall Nelson, who we've encountered before on this blog in the form of Anthropomorphic Bicyclist, and also in (I think) the "I Am Gravity's Cat" post. 

Or what if a cyclist rode so close to the sun that he or she merged with it? Either image works with this bright red bicycle sun porthole to the McDowell Mountains object almost pictograph thing. See, the text:

Those Ms look like cattle brands.The art itself looks more like a tattoo. Not sure if that bright red ink would be doable, or advisable, but my oh my it's a lovely glyph, isn't it?

"Build your personal brand" is supposed to be some sound, corporate-friendly advise, but what if your particular, peculiar brand is a scarlet bicycle sun glyph modeled after ancient rock art, the sight of which makes you want to hop a full suspension rig and blast it down rocky desert trails until the sun sets or the wheels fall off, whichever comes last? What if the cyclist became the sun? What if the cyclist rode so bright that he shone like the sun? What if nuclear fusion ensued? What if his spirit glowed like a thousand fires burning the desert night raising the perfume of mesquite and creosote so rich and ancient that his ego vaporized and he became a riding red glyph splattered across the rocks? Look, look: the sun, the ride, the bicycle.