Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh man it's total gridlock

Thought I would snap a photo of my grueling commute to work. Sometimes it can get pretty congested with squirrel crossings and chipmunk frolicking but I manage to persevere and push through day after day for the 6 minutes or so it takes to get to and from. Thought I'd share and let you all know it's not just fun and games in my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sick of the snow

Not exactly. More like sick and can't enjoy the snow (that's the view from my bedroom window). Last night started feeling pretty crappy and couldn't sleep. Bed was spinning, had the cold sweats, got the bucket ready. I got up and made camp on the recliner and started watching some strange late night CBC movie, I thought the movie was going to be good but it really wasn't. Actually started feeling better after an hour or so. Stomach settled and the temperature regulator started working again. Made some cheapo Campbell's vegetable soup and that hit the spot. Went back to bed around 3am and got a solid sleep. Now I have a bit of a sore throat and I'm a little dizzy but really I thought it was going to be much worse.
Anyways so now I am stuck indoors which I must admit as far as relaxing and time wasting, I'm one of the best. Kind of a bummer that I can't go out and enjoy the 30cm or so of new snow that fell overnight. Still snowing. Maybe Andrew will be able to get out the big groomer and we can open the rest of the trails at Hardwood for the weekend. Not that I'm ready to do anything but the easy loops yet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wintertime Blahs

Well despite the title there is no such thing going on here. Made myself productive today on one of my randomly scheduled days off. Was able to get my hands dirty again putting a new, er well different, throttle body in my Civic. Trying to figure out the stutter under load and crappy idle at start up in warm humid temps. Figured it was probably the throttle positioning sensor so rather then try to adjust that (which I hear is a pain in the ass) I just took the easy route and bolted on a whole different TB. Took five minutes and seems to be running fine but I haven't had the chance to drive it yet so we'll see. The real test will be when I drive it in warm temps again, ahem South Carolina.
Also got a chance to throw my Price Chopper turkey in the oven, turned out damn good for my first one. Now it's turkey soup, pasta, sandwiches, rice, chili, kebab, for the next week, delicious.
Other than that I shot over to Hardwood for a quick night ski. Another 15cm or so of snow fell throughout the day and I must say the skiing was phenomenal. I was having a great time out there in the powder and it should set up perfectly when it is groomed overnight. After my short ski I was off to my weekly Tuesday suffer fest over at the Hardwood inn. We are doing general strength training in all sorts of fun ways that my body has never experienced. Usually incapacitates me in one way or another for a couple of days after. Hope to get in a good 2 hour ski tomorrow, that should loosen up the stiffness in the body but also wear me out pretty good.
Anyways that is it for now. Hope you are enjoying your winter as much as I, impossible not to when you live 500m from Hardwood.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

South Carolina Pricing Update

Hey folks,
thought I would add some incentive to those who like to leave everything to the last minute. Prices for the house in South Carolina will go up as of February 1st 2010. The cost will be $20 more per week/person and $30 more per week/couple. It is a big help for me to get the money from you earlier because it helps with organising the house and paying the massive rent. So if you are not "cheque in the mail" status by February 1st then the increased pricing will apply.
So in summary:
Now until January 31st, 2010
Price per person is $160 week/person
Price per couple is $200 week/couple

After February 1st, 2010
Price per person is $180/week/person
Price per couple is $230/week/couple

That is all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

South Carolina House Pics

Sorry I realise that I didn't have any pictures of the house posted. I've put some in the "House Info" post so you can find them here, and there.
p.s. a mountain bike tour makes an excellent Christmas present :-D

Top View
Master Bedroom

One of two lofts with their own full bathrooms

Dining/Kitchen area

Pool Room

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm baaaaaack!!!!

And better than ever. New computer and now wireless high speed makes me much more efficient than trying to do everything on my cell phone. I am amazed at how strong of a signal I get, must be new tech in these rocket sticks, and I'm also impressed at the speed. Hopefully I can keep to my 5GB/month limit..........errrrr damn you 21MB/s !!

Testing - WTB Silverado Saddle

This shows the relief cutouts on the bottom.

WTB Silverado Team Saddle

Out of the box
Quite noticeable upon first encounter of this saddle is the low profile. Now it seems the trend of saddles has taken a minimalistic turn for the potentially worse. This is contributing to larger and thicker chamois to make up for the reduced padding at the saddle level. This is sort of the case with the WTB but in a subtle manor. It sort of sits in the middle between cushy and slab of wood. On the under side you can see some cut outs for pressure point relief which is helpful because this saddle is somewhat pointy in the hind quarters.

On the trail
Ok so this area is very subjective I know. What’s good for some is horrible for others, this saddle is no exception. It definitely brings out the love it or hate it opinions, there seems to be no middle ground for those just trying to get by on a universal saddle.
It seems to be tailored quite well to my bony ass. When I first used it I actually hated it. Rode it twice then took it off my bike and put on an Arionne which I was also using on my road bike at the time. Well for one reason or another I ended up coming back to the Silverado. I think it was because I needed to use it out of necessity having sold all of my other saddles at the time. I gave it a good two weeks and it really started to grow on me. Not only was I breaking it in, it seemed to be breaking me in too, lol. I must say out of all the saddles I’ve used, this one is the least prone to giving me saddle sores and never bothers me in the one area that I always seemed to get them before. I have put a lot of hours and miles on the Silverado, using it on a number of different bikes including my hardtail. Took me a while to warm up to it but I’m glad I did because it seems to fit me very well now.
The profile offers very little in the way of seating positions. At the same token it takes very little effort to slide forward into a climbing posture. It is fairly wide at the back and offers decent support but is still easy to pass through the legs for particularly harrowing descents. Probably more suited to a race saddle due to its singular position capacity and minimal padding. That said though I have done many a 4-6 hour ride with no complaints, but then again I am hardcore ;-)

Specs and features (actual)
Length: 28cm
Stack Height: 4.5cm
Rail Length: 7.5cm
Weight: 245grams
The saddle is pretty low profile, a nice characteristic for its intended use as a mountain bike saddle. Has a relatively low stack height, not too long, slender width but flares out fairly wide at the back.

If you are looking for a cheap and light saddle this is about as good as it gets without getting too cheap. It comes in a couple different varieties with Ti rails and leather that are a bit more spendy. Still not too high in price though and they drop a couple grams. If you get a chance to ride one, make sure you get a couple good rides on it before you judge whether it is a good fit for you or not. I’d say it is on my short list of go-to saddles if I need something cheap and fairly light to throw on a bike. I would and have bought this saddle after market, which is a pretty good indicator if I like something or not. I give the Silverado two buns up.

-light weight
-nice mountain biking profile

-love it or hate it fit
-no flash

Performance: 13.5 cm of snow out of a projected 16cm
Value: $3000.00 on your Christmas credit card out of $3150.00

An illustration of its tapered profile. Narrow at the front, wider at the back.

A bit of a hammock to the mid section. Just enough to be comfortable without making your butt gravitate right into it.

The adjustment on the rails.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Testing - Avid Elixir R Hydraulic Disk Brake Review

Out of the box
Well first impressions of this brake are great. It has a nice beefy look and great attention to detail. There is no bulky reservoir, it is nicely integrated into the master cylinder (aka brake lever). I instantly look for features like banjo fittings and pad retaining system. More on that stuff later.
The G3 rotors look great though I wish there was a centre-lock version.

On the trail

This is where the Elixir's really show their stuff. Braking power is among the best I've experienced. Even after some mileage it doesn't seem like they are suffering from rotor glaze at all. They still perform like new with that bitey metallic feel. This could be attributed to the aggressive slotting (or cut-outs) in the rotor. I can't tell yet if this will adversely affect pad life but a new, larger surface area pad should offset any extra wear from the new rotor.
Talk about power! These things are 1 finger braking at its finest. Not too grabby but keep adding pressure and the brake responds with a nice linear power curve with zero sponge (ahem Juicy).

Technical features
Lets talk about banjo mounts. I like em, they are easy to work on and give you an adjustable hose entry angle (no perverted jokes please). The Elixir R doesn't have them which is a bit of a shame. Saving grace is that they actually come on the upgraded CR model so it gives you an excuse to spend the extra $.
The master cylinder has an "easy" adjust lever position dial built in. It adjusts how far the lever sits from the bar, it has nothing to do with lever throw. There was a lever throw adjust on most of the Juicy models which really didn't seem to do much. Back to the Elixir "easy" adjust dial which really isn't easy to turn at all. Seems to get jammed up and mostly has to be adjusted while gloveless. Not a huge deal since you only really need to adjust it once to your liking and never touch it again.
The new pad retaining system uses a bolt like many Shimano systems to securely hold the pad and is waaaaay easier than that crappy Juicy system which sucked. With the Elixir you just loosen and remove the small Torx bolt and pop the old pads out and new ones in. Tighten the bolt back up and go ride.
The master cylinder may look beefy but it actually has a very small footprint on the bar. It does have a fairly long profile, especially for one finger braking, but thanks to its accommodating shape I easily mounted it to the inside of my XT shifters.

I think this brake is my new number one. I'm not going to completely jump to conclusions here since I don't have a ton of hours on it and I have yet to bleed one. I already like it a pile more than the Juicy which was really a sub par brake with a lot of issues. I love how solid it feels with a nice snappy return action and no mush. It is sexy to boot. Specifically the Elixir R is the best brake I've used in the $200 category.

- light weight (Elixir R is actually lighter than the fancy carbon CR model)
- price
- braking power and consistency
- looks

- no banjo mounts on Elixir R caliper
- lever reach adjustment dial is hard to turn
- no Avid centre-lock rotor option

Value - 22 delicious advent calendar chocolates
Performance - 15 feet out of an 18 foot tall Griswold family Christmas tree.

Lever Profile, rather long but mounts inside shifter.

Cool G3 rotor. Great braking.

Pads just drop in. I didn't even have to take the wheel off.

Adjustment Dial. Hard to use, half of it is hidden by the shifter.

New, larger pads don't help with power but do accommodate a larger caliper piston which does increase clamping force.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One legged drills and Porsche spills

Just finished up a short fun one legged drill ride. One leg at a time for one minute at a time for just 20min. Boy if you ever want to feel useless on a bike give this a shot. Flex your abs and squeeze you butt for core stability and to support your hip flexors. Good little drill to compliment your program.

Oh and just on a side note I was sorta in a car wreck as a passenger in a $150 000 GT3. Hit the wall in turn 3 at Mosport at about 100km/h. No harm done to me or driver except mild whiplash but my heart does go out to the family of the GT3.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November Nights

So how is your November training going? Pffff training in November, yeah right.....right? Anyways no matter what you do don't be afraid to throw a leg over. Frozen dirt is super tacky and rolls fast, it's a good time and no damn bugs. The key is clothing in layers. I was at about Def con 2 tonight.

Light booties, gloves, touque, and my good friend SCMR-16 is how you do tempo rides in November. A good pair of clear glasses keep your eyes from glazing over.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Testing - Trail Tech SCMR-16 Bicycle Light

Every once in a while a product comes along that redefines your standards. It transforms you into a rolling salesman much to the annoyance of anyone caught in your path. The Trail Tech my friends is one of those products. Let me summarize it like this for you; it is more than twice as bright and half the price of anything else worth comparing to it.
Now this is not a flavour of the month thing for me. I used to night ride a ton in the winter when I lived in a town that didn't get so much white stuff. I have owned this light for 4 years now and put a ton of mileage on it. The SCMR-16 was conceived by the company Trail Tech for motorcycles and ATV's. Some riders have even used it in the prestigious and insane Paris-Dakar rally. It was designed to be hardwired right to your motorized vehicles power supply. Enter BatterySpace, sort of a slightly sketchy 3rd party battery company that offered a Lithium Ion battery solution to power this beast.
Though I had my concerns about the reliability of the battery I forged ahead and went through with the order.
After a lot of use I must say I have no complaints about my BatterySpace experience but I have still heard bad reviews so I don't give them a full recommendation. Trail Tech now offers complete cycling kits with LiIon batteries so I would suggest buying straight from them which my friend did.

Out of the Box

First thing that struck me was the bulk of the headlamp. Actually it came with a cheap useless bar mount and was never really designed to be used as a helmet light but that wasn't going to stop me. I jimmy rigged it with some strapping, a cut apart NiteRider mount, and half of a scotch tape roll core. The light got its own designated helmet courtesy of my old Giro Monza that didn't match my new kit (no one can tell in the dark). Soon to be moved to my Bell Sweep, going with the new Volt next year.
The battery is contained in a large-ish waterbottle but is surprisingly light. Everything connects together nicely with one way plugs which have a screw collar to keep them secure. A simple on/off switch which mounts on the helmet is easy to operate. All wiring was done by BatterySpace and I have no complaints.

The Details
The battery is a powerhouse and gets me about 3 hours of light, even after 4 years. It takes about 7 hours to charge, roughly twice as long as others but you gotta remember it is powering a 30 watt HID which is 2x the wattage.
Like I mentioned the bulb is a 30 watt HID which produces a ridiculous 1850 lumens. To put that into perspective, the $900 top of the line NiteRider is 900 lumens. There are two beam patterns to chose from, spot and flood. I chose flood which is perfect for singletrack. My friend has the spot which throws insanely far and is a newer slightly slimmer design.
The light can get hot, especially in warmer summer nights. It has an auto shutoff to prevent meltdown which can be abrupt and terrifying as day instantly turns to night. It turns itself back on when it cools down which is pretty cool.

Out on Trail
The good part about the extra power is that there is no real hot spot. I don't even need to point the light, it is just bright everywhere. It is a warm white light, not blue, and creates very little shadow effect giving great depth perception. Crazy though I still feel like I could use more light. I can out ride the reach of the flood on doubletrack so I was toying with the idea of running the flood on the bar and a spot on the head. This is just me being picky though. Ride this light on the road or around town at night and laugh as cars stop and flash their highbeams, drunk teenagers scream and run (no joke). Me and my friend also had a city bus stop to take a closer look fearing the apocalypse. This light is all business and does its job very well. I would buy another one in a heartbeat and probably will.

30 watt HID
1850 lumens
11.1 volt 10400mAh battery
$379 USD

Bright is an understatement
Very good value
Auto heat switch prevents melting

Big and heavy
Gets hot

Value - 1800 lumens out of 1850 lumens
Performance - 9000 mAh out of 10400 mAh

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

First Flakes

Well there was no denying or ignoring it. Small patches of sunshine were broken up by bouts of showers, sleet, hail, and yes big ol snowflakes. Got me thinking of last year and how the snow came fast and plentifull mid November and stayed for the season. Don't get me wrong, I love the snow. Can't wait to get out skate skiing again at Hardwood.
Also coming up is a yearly tradition of mine, The Tall Pines Rally. See I like motorsports almost as much as I like cycling. Snow always makes this event more interesting. You should check it out if you get the chance. Come watch celebraties like Dave Mirra and Ken Block throw down against the pros. Check out this link for more info.
Keep er sideways,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Don't know if you've noticed but lately the quality of my photos have definitely declined. I am having to do everthing with my cellphone right now after my laptop crapped out. I should be getting a new one in the next month or so. Needless to say it sorta sucks not having a computer but with modern smartphones they really aren't the necessity they used to be. It definitely sucks to have to buy a new one but I can only last so long looking at a tiny screen.

Joel Barton

Welcome to the family wee Joel. Born October 26th in the 7.5lb range. Joel is nephew #2 for me and Mary(sister) and Joe's first child.
Went to Peterborough today for a visit and he was lookin' good in his Halloween p.j's. Now back to Barrie after eating my moms groceries :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Testing - 2009 Giant Anthem X1

The Bike
Well it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that when I needed a bike to use in between sexy race steeds my first choice was Giant. Lucky for me Cycle Solutions had what I was looking for and helped me out. Really the component spec on this bike is more than adequate for racing save except the wheelset.

Out of the Box

Again, really impressive package. The paint quality is superb and the orange is really vibrant. Works well with the white and brushed aluminum and the white rocker arms are a nice touch. Everything works well together though the XT trigger shifters need a little encouragement to mesh with the Avid Elixir's. Luckily you can remove the gear indicators so you can run the shifter inside the brake levers on the bar.
SID Team is a nice high end fork with all the adjustment you need. Only flaw is the rebound adjustment dial which is tucked away up the bottom of the one leg and is really hard to turn. I had to use pliers on mine. Also I have noticed a lot of flawed lower castings on the SID's where the wheel doesn't fit perfectly centred. I have already seen a few go to warranty and mine is off centre as well.
Shifting is full XT with the exception of the XTR Shadow rear derailleur, nice. Even XT cranks and rear cassette prove no cut corners for the shifting.
RaceFace provides a Deus seatpost and stem as well as a really nice Next carbon riser bar.
Mavic 717 rims with WTB Laserdisc hubs are a bit of a disappointment. They are underspec'd and would be the first thing I would upgrade if I was racing the bike. They work well enough but there is weight savings to be had.
Finally the Michelin XC Dry 2 tires are amazing. I have run these before and forgotten how much I love them. I think I might race on them most of next season.

The Frame
Really not too much to report over my previous X0 write up. The X1 comes with an RP2 shock which only has 1 level of propedal vs the RP23 which has 3. Didn't care though cause I never use propedal with the Anthem X anyway. The rest of the frame is identical to the X0. Check out my Anthem X0 review for more detail.

The Ride
I know it was only 3 weeks since I had my X0 but wow these bikes always surprise me. The X1 is an absolute rocket with almost identical feel to the X0 save for the 1.5lbs of extra weight. The bike is just so much fun to ride and I'm really glad I still have one around.
Again more detail in my previous X0 review.

Final Thoughts
If you want an out of the box perfect race bike then look no further. The wheelset is more than adequate for most and the 2010 Anthem X1 addresses this by being spec'd with a full XT Tubeless wheelset. Inversely the Anthem X series of bikes is perfectly mannered as a ride all day cross country cruiser. The Anthem X rides as good as it looks. Take one for a spin and see what everyone is talking about.

-the ride
-bang for buck
-very well spec'd drivetrain

-SID's are a little sketchy
-cheap wheelset

Performance - 9 Halloween fun sized Snickers bars out of 10 bars
Value - 8 tonnes of fallen leaves on your lawn out of 10 tonnes

Nice Paint

Off center SID, wheel is closer to the disk leg.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Testing - 2009 Trek Madone 5.2 Pro

Out of the Box
First thing I noticed when I popped open the box was the shapely carbon top tube. Second thing I noticed was the huge chip in the paint. How does that pass quality control?
I must say the frame is very stunning. The Bontrager parts are co-ordinated well with the overall visual theme of the bike. At a glance the whole package comes together quite nicely. Look closer and some of the details start to disappoint. Like I said, big chip in the paint, also the decal on the seatstay bridge right behind the post was crooked. Look closer and you can see lumps at the tube junctures where they meet the lugs since this frame isn't a monocoque. I have never liked Trek's paint methods. Don't get me wrong they look good but they rely on decals way too much which leave awful ridges and they bubble & peel within a couple years. They really need to raise the bar in this area. My new Madone was an improvement over previous generations but still not great.
That is my only real complaint. Other observations are personal preference stuff but their paint is a true flaw of the brand.

The New Frame
It is a beautiful assortment of tubing that finally has all the nice finishing features of other modern bicycle manufacturers. Three main features are now the integrated (zero stack) headset, press-in bottom bracket, and semi compact geometry (sloping top tube). Worth some mention is the "seat mast" which really just functions as a reverse seat post where the sleeve slides over the short mast. The sleeve can slide up and down the mast for adjustment, no cutting.

The Ride
Everything about this bike screams neutral, not a bad thing! Chain stays are a little longer, top tube is a little shorter than what I have been used to (Giant TCR Advanced). This was the pro fit too, they also offer a version with even more upright geometry and compact crankset. The Madone is a great ride all day bike. It requires very little attention when cruising along, taking off your jacket, grabbing a bottle or a powerbar.
It does need a little encouragement on technical descents but the oversized integrated bottom bracket overcomes the geometry to deliver a decent sprint.

Overall Impression
The Madone is a pretty impressive package. It came very well spec'd for the price and mine weighed only 16.5lbs with Look Keo Sprint pedals. I'm not a huge fan of the house brand Bontrager parts though. Would have preferred some Mavic hoops and Easton hardware but that's just me.
One big pain in the ass is the seatpost. Specifically where the saddle is mounted. The ball/socket design doesn't work very well. It is easy to mount crooked and bend the seat, it is hard to adjust angle, and impossible to make a small change after fully tightened. It took me, a professional mechanic, 1 hour and 45 minutes to get the stupid thing right. I dare not adjust it now. Pleeease change this so I don't have to listen to people complain about it or get me to adjust it for them.
In short if you want a slick package with all the bells & whistles, light weight (very light!), and user friendly geometry then this is the ride for you. Especially if you're not sure what you like the Madone is a safe bet. If you want something with a little more zip and personality you might want to skip it.

-Finally an integrated headset & semi compact geometry
-Beefy press fit BB junction
-Light weight
-Nice curves
-Easy to ride

-Crappy paint finish
-Infuriating seat post
-No zing

Value - 10 gears out of Super Record
Performance - $6 out of a Sir John A MacDonald.

Nice complete package

Beefy BB junction

The big chip

Crooked decal

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Testing: 2009 Giant Anthem X0

First Impressions
Other than a few personal preference tweaks the bike came very well equipped at Giant's usual amazing low price. I was a little disappointed this year that the bike came fully SRAM spec'd since I am more of a Shimano fan. Also not big on Rockshox (don't care for their compression characteristics) so I promptly swapped out the SID World Cup in favour of the Magura Durin SL. Other than the fork, any changes were purely cosmetic.
Giant's many years of aluminum experience are really shown off in the new Anthem X. Each tube has been shaped and manipulated for low weight with no compromises to strength or stiffness.

New Frame
A few changes were in store for 2009 and the already successful Anthem frame. I guess Giant figured the super aggressive geometry and sharp handling characteristics of their first Maestro XC incarnation were not for the masses. They were probably right but personally I love twitchy bikes.
Geometry has been slackened some. Head tube angle isn't so steep, top tube is a little shorter, and handlebars sit a little higher.
Main design changes include increased rear suspension travel from 3.5" to 4" with the front end now designed for a 100mm fork from 80mm. The shock now sits vertically like all other Maestro designs and utilizes the same mounting location and hardware as the lower rocker arm. The lower rocker arm has been increased in length which is designed to increase small bump sensitivity.

Out of the Box
Right away you can notice the attention to detail. Only parts on the bike that weren't super high end were the RaceFace Deus crankset/BB and XT level chain. No other punches were pulled, even the XTR cassette/front derailleur, Juicy Ultimate brakes with Ti hardware, SID World Cup, and Crossmax SL wheels are all top of the line.
Paint has been excellent for the past couple of years by using real paint and clever masking. This minimizes the use of cheesy decals which can peel and lift even under clear coat.

The Ride
Well this really is the crowning jewel of any Maestro equipped bike I've ridden. Bike suffers from zero perceived chain induced pedal bob. Some say with Maestro that you can get some bob in the small ring but I've never spent any time there on my bikes :-)
Suspension remains fully active under braking, climbing, accelerating, you name it. It handles any square edge hits and chatter while climbing extremely well and when pushed on the descents behaves very predictably. Suspension seems to squat down through the corners and holds a very stable centre of gravity. Steering is still very quick and the bike can be flicked left to right very quickly.
Be advised, this is not an ideal bike for mashers. If your body weight is shifting around while seated or standing the suspension is going to move around. The bike can still be ridden extremely aggressively and excels when pushed hard. Just make sure to refine your pedal stroke and learn how to ride smoothly to extract its full potential.

Final Thoughts
O.k. It should be painfully obvious by now that I love this bike. It is, in fact, the best dual suspension I have ever ridden for XC. I was continuously amazed at how comfortable and easy it is to ride this machine. Amazed because of the animal beneath that would come out when you really pushed and asked a lot. In a world of marketing and companies telling us we need 5-6 inches of travel for XC I ask you to try a nimble, shorter travel bike and carve up some singletrack. You might be surprised to find what you thought you needed and what actually suits your riding needs to be a very different thing. Just try em out & ride what works.

-light weight
-superior Maestro suspension design
-more small bump compliance

-RaceFace Deus cranks are good but not great
-cheap chromo WTB saddle
-not for mashers

Value - level 9 volume out of a Spinal Tap amp
Performance - 365 days out of a leap year

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Testing: Crank Brothers Cobalt XC Wheelset

I decided late last season that in 2009 I wanted to try Crank Brothers new Cobalt XC wheelset. Main reasons being both that I like to try new stuff and also because I thought they would match my new Anthem X0 perfectly.
Aesthetically the wheels are amazing. They have an overbuilt but minimalist look to them. I get tons of comments and compliments about them. If you own them you better learn if you like them and why. You are going to get asked that a lot.

The ride
What can I say....they roll along quite unspectacularly, which should be thought of as a good thing. They made it through my season drama free with just one loose spoke. They are fairly light which helps with steering and suspension responsiveness. They sealed up tubeless really easily and I only burped air once at Tremblant which was entirely my fault.

Specs and tech notes
Like I mentioned besides the loose spoke the wheels stayed very true. Bearings all remained intact and smooth rolling. The hubs utilize multiple cartridge bearings like many wheels and are super easy to take apart, mostly tool free. This includes disassembly for servicing including freewheel maintenance. Weight is a safe 1500grams, which is fairly common for this price range and is equal to their Shimano XTR and Mavic Crossmax SL rivals. Spoke tension is adjusted via the long blue spoke nipples where the stainless spokes thread in about 1/2 way through the diameter of the wheel. They are no more difficult to true than conventional wheel designs.
I did have some issues with the freewheel sporadically making a loud metallic pop. I also experienced this with my XTR 970 wheels last year. It's like the pawls don't fully engage and eventually pop into place under load. I experimented with different grease viscosity's and eventually found success with a fairly light coating of Rockshox Redrum which all but eliminated the ping.
On another note I also had a strange occurrence with the Cobalt's. I mounted up some Tubeless Ready Hutchinson Piranha's and have been running those for the past couple months. I kept having the tires slide on the rims under braking. Not hugely noticeable while riding but you could see it adding up over time since I always line the label up with the valve stem. Now I'm not sure if this was the tires or rims or both since I didn't run any different tires for any length of time. So just something to look out for. Could have just been a fluke so I'll have to investigate further.

My Impressions
So what do I think of the Cobalt's? They served their purpose very well. They made my bike look great, kept rolling along problem free, and even stayed perfectly true. I must say from a functional perspective these wheels really offer nothing special. Any design differences compared to Mavic or Shimano can really only be considered gimmicks. Despite this I was still very happy with them and would recommend them just as I would the XTR's and Crossmax's. Pretty much go for the ones that match your bike.

-easy tire sealing

Needs Work

-freewheel engagement

Value - 3 Power Rangers out of 5
Performance - One dozen delicious doughnuts out of a bakers dozen.

Actual weight
Front wheel - 703grams
Rear wheel - 860grams
Front skewer - 60grams
Rear skewer - 64grams
Valve stems - 6grams each

The Cobalts look pretty.

Tire sliding on rim. Note the valve stem used to be lined up in the middle of the printing on the tire.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Long live the king :-P

Soooo Paul's Dirty Enduro.... stayed in Peterborough with the family to cut down on travel time, err I mean to visit.
Was cold the morning of when I got up at a less than favorable 5am. Picked up my friend Dave who decided to take a crack at the 100km route for the first time. Got to the forest center good and early which was probably a bit of a waste cause we just ended up sitting in the car in the parking lot to stay warm.
Race started at 8am as the sun was just starting to rise. Headed out at a pretty hard tempo. Despite this a group of 10 leaders stayed together for the 1st hour and a bit. I broke off the front about 1/4 of the way through. Not gonna lie, I put on the MP3 player, settled into what I thought was a pretty high tempo and figured that was that.
Well at about the 40km mark I was surprised to notice another rider only 15 seconds or so back. I got a little bit larger of a gap before the 1/2 way point and had a short stop for new bottles which helped extend my lead even more. I settled back into my high tempo and figured I was checkin' out. That was not the case! Was caught again at about the 60km mark by one rider and we rode together. I could tell he was stronger because I would get a little gap in the twisties and he would catch up very quickly on a hill or open section. Got another gap at the 70km mark when he got a puncture. After another 30 min on my own he caught back up, Stan's had sealed the small puncture. He rode right by me this time and I had nothing in my legs to do anything about it. I was at about the 90+ km mark when I got to a part on a forest access road where I knew there should be a turn but there were no arrows. I looked down the trail and just caught a glimpse of a pink ribbon which we'd been following.
Well I cruised in the last <10km where I found out that he hadn't made the turn and would finish 5min or so after me.
There you have it. I wasn't the fastest rider there that day but I did cross the line first lol. Gonna have to train next time if I want to go for #6.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This just in!

I have decided that next year I will do a 24 hour race solo since it is something I've wanted to do for a very long time. Just giv'r.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Marzocchi deserves to fail as a company.

Today I had to change the remote lockout cable and housing on a Corsa. If you have ever had to do this you understand. Makes DT Swiss look logical.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Saturday September 19th. Paul's Dirty Enduro

Event info here:
Coming up on the 19th will be my favorite race of the year. Not only do we get to raise a bunch of money for the Canadian Mental Health Association but I also get to ride 100km's of awesome trails. If you have never done this event and are thinking about it I highly recommend you try it out. There are 100km, 60km, 30km, and 15km options. This year I will be gunning for my 5th overall win in a row in the 100km division. Please support the CMHA and me in my ride by clicking on the link and making a donation of any size.
Event report to come after the event.
King Ben

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sold - 2008 Kona Kula


O-Cup #7. Kelso

I have always enjoyed racing at Kelso. I was a little disappointed with the course last year since it really lacked a good downhill. I headed down to pre-ride on Saturday afternoon with the expectation that the recent rain showers would leave my pristine Anthem mud ridden once again. Well fortunately by the time I had gotten there the course was pretty much all dried out with the exception of some slippery rocks and a couple puddles, I stayed clean.
I was incredibly impressed with the course. The usual long grind up the fire road led into some amazingly fast double and single track. There was the usual twistier stuff up top with some rock overs that was ridden the faster direction. About half way through we got a great rocky drop descent where you could really keep some scary speed if willing. This led you down to the main DH which was more open and also amazingly fast and fun. After that you shot out of the woods, rode down an open patch and hit the brakes late and hard for the last little rocky trail before heading back up to the top once more. There was some fast double track which led pretty quickly into the last descent which was tighter and added nice variety. In short, 2 big climbs, 2 awesome super long descents, and some great lightning fast single track for good measure. It truly was Provincials worthy.
I was pretty casual about the whole weekend. I know I haven't really been training. Been too busy having fun doing other stuff like eating cake. Honestly didn't expect to have a great race. I was relying on residual fitness from earlier in the year. One advantage I had was the whole 135lb body weight thing which comes in handy for a course with tons of climbing. Plus I've been mountain biking so much that my single track riding is the best it has ever been.
Race started out at a fairly reasonable pace. Kept a good spin going and didn't go into my red zone. I really didn't think that I had the fitness to maintain a hard pace and I didn't want to completely blow up having already done that at Mountainview. Was climbing well and the single track was flying by. I started picking up a few spots and was probably around 12th place by the 3rd lap. I had dropped Danny Souter and Haydn Boucher by the start of the 3rd lap and was right up on Ryan Atkins. I passed Ryan at the top of the first climb and he looked tired. I gassed it a little to see if I could get a gap but he was determined to stay with me. He actually managed to drop me by the start of the 5th lap and Danny had caught back up too. Since all of my laps times were so close I attribute this to them changing their pace and not me since I didn't want to put in that extra effort due to the lack of endurance. That is until the last lap. I still had some legs left and decided I better leave them on the hill. I caught and passed Danny back 1/2 way up the first climb on the last lap. He hung with me until the next pitch where I attacked again and decided to try and maintain that pace until the finish. I actually caught another rider, Mark Batty about 1/2 way through the lap and continued to hold a gap on Danny. I could still look back and see that I only had a 100m on him so I had to keep the head down and the drool flowing to not lose some spots. Lets be honest here, it's the last race of the year so you better put in a good effort or you're gonna regret it all winter.
So I held on and finished 10th. I was pleased with that result but more importantly I was glad I could push myself so hard and I was really glad that the course was so much fun. This one will go down as one of my favorite events so far.
Found a couple good pics courtesy of some folks.
Still have Pauls Dirty Enduro to look forward too so until then enjoy the late summer single track.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How-To: Clean cartridge bearings

Ok so here is a run down of what cartridge bearings are, why you should keep them clean, and how clean them. Cartridge bearings are a complete bearing unit. They are used in many different places on a bike from the bottom bracket to the wheels and headset ect. Some you might not be able to get access to for proper cleaning, this might include cartridge bearings in your bottom bracket or suspension pivots.
Cartridge bearings consist of an inner bearing race, ball bearings (often in their own retainer), an outer race, and seals of some sort.
Today I overhauled the bearings in my XO rear derailleur pulleys. It should be pretty obvious by the photos why it needed to be done. Benefits are much longer bearing life which leads to less rotating resistance and catastrophic failure.
To properly service a cartridge bearing you need to be able to access both rubber seals. If you can't and it is turning rough (or not turning at all) then chances are you just have to replace it since pressing out a bearing usually damages it in some capacity. I may cover cartridge bearing removal and installation in a later post.

So first things first, I removed the derailleur from my bike and removed the pulley wheels from my derailleur.
Step 1: Isolate the bearing you are going to be working on.

Step 2: Remove any dust shrouds or bushings that might be in the way. You can now see the cartridge bearing complete with rubber seal. The rubber seal has a number on it which can be used at a bearing shop or bicycle shop if a new bearing is needed.

Step 3: Remove the rubber dust shields (both sides will have one in some capacity). I use a pin and gently pry under the seal and lift the cover off. Be careful not to do any damage to the seal. Most seals have a brass or metal core that can be easily bent.

Step 4: Inspect the bearing. This is a really good, really dirty example. To think I also did this in June, didn't take long for the dirt to find its way back in. I also clean the rubber/brass dust shields with a rag being careful not to bend them.

Step 5: Flush the bearing out with degreaser. I use Finish Line Speed Degreaser because it blasts out under pressure and doesn't need to be rinsed. You can also use a chain citrus degreaser but be sure to rinse it well. I also blast out the bearing with an air compressor nozzle to ensure thorough dirt/old grease removal.

After cleaning.

Step 6: Pack the bearing with grease. Run a liberal bead all along the ball bearings. Having a grease gun really helps to make this clean and easy. Not rocket science to do it without one just a little bit messier. Make sure you use a good quality bearing grease. Pack both sides equally.

After packing.

Step 7: Spin the bearing in your fingers to work the grease into the balls. If there are any grease voids opened up by this then squirt a little more in to ensure full coverage. Push the dust seals back into place (brass side in) and wipe off excess grease.

You're done! Just that easy. Cartridge bearings can be slightly high maintenance. It's not hard for them to become contaminated. Check areas like your headset, pulleys, and bottom bracket regularly by turning them with your fingers and feeling for roughness. Sometimes even after cleaning they will be rough. If the race or balls are scratched then there is nothing you can do other than replace them.