Monday, April 28, 2014

2 minute reviews

Reviews on products are pretty popular. Like the majority of folks, I don't make enough to buy whatever, whenever and spend a good deal of time looking for and reading reviews of a product the peaks my interest. So in the spirit of helping you spend that hard-earned money, I'm going to roll out some short reviews on whatever it is that pops into my mind on a given day.

Why call them 2 minute reviews? Because that's the amount of time it'll take to type them up (I'm a slow typer, so they're 5-10min reviews in reality.) (I'm also lacking in creativity this morning. If you have a better idea for a name, leave it in the comments.) Fast and easy, the American way. Most of them will be on smaller products that don't get all the glitter and glamor, but make a significant difference in my on the bike life. 

Lets get started

Halo Headband

I live in the desert. It gets hot and I sweat a lot. Sweat quickly overwhelms the pads in my helmet and I wind up spraying salt water all over my sunglasses. Then it's hard to see and then I crash. Hence, my excitement when I found this little gem. What's even better is that it works exactly as they claim it does. The rubber "gutter" directs sweat to the edges of your face and away from your eyes. I've done plenty of rides where I can wring this sucker out and fill a shot glass, but not have a single drop on my glasses. WIN

Bar Fly 3.0 MTB Mount

I enjoy having data to ride/train with. I like having that data in a place that is easily and reliably viewed. I use a Garmin Edge 510 and am pretty pleased with it, but the stock rubber band mounts leave something to be desired on the mountain bike. For one thing, it's a challenge to find a good spot on the bars where the computer isn't on a funky angle. I've also found that after a bit of trail riding, I look down expecting to see numbers and instead get a full moon view of the computer's backside. I then rotate the thing back up and a few minutes later it's down again. And finally, putting the mount on the bars leaves the computer nicely exposed to the hazards of a crash, as it protrudes from the bar more than any of the other controls.

Enter the Bar Fly 3.0. It solve all of the above issues. A plastic arm mounts around the bar and holds the computer directly over the stem/topcap. The computer doesn't budge and is always smiling at you from where it was originally positioned. It sits lower than the top of the bar and is much better protected. It has a lifetime crash replacement warranty. It looks much cleaner than having a computer mounted on the bars. Style matters:)

Note: I did recently manage to break my mount. A stupid tumble on a trail I've ridden a ton and a perfect direct hit. Aside from the computer, nothing else took a hit. The mount broke, but the computer came out A okay. I think the plastic mount is a better choice than metal mounts since they would be much less forgiving in the same circumstance. I sent in the warranty form, a photo, and $7 and they've got a new mount on the way.

Assos Chamois Creme

The deep, dark secret to lots of saddle time. After you get over feeling like you shartted in your chamois and the cooling mint tingle kicks in, the miles of sitting on your ass roll by easily. This stuff saves lots of embarrassing bow-legged walking and scratching. What more needs to be said.

Monday, April 21, 2014

On the Up with OneUp

Do you have trouble getting up?

Do you suffer from a lack of stamina?

Do you have pale, skinny legs and a 1x10 drivetrain?

Does your significant other with XO1/XX1 point and laugh at your diminutive 36t cog?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, here's your $90 solution.

What comes in the bag: 40t, 16t, spacer, and sticker
Since mid-winter there have been a couple of solutions for riders wanting a larger range cassette without the cost of going to Sram's 11speed system. OneUp Components was the first to introduce a 42t hack for 1x10 users and Wolf Tooth shortly followed. As a huge fan of 1x setups and keeping, or even increasing, my current high range while also adding a lower climbing gear with a fraction of the cost? Sign me up!

I tired out a 42t cog at first. I really liked the low gear and put a good number of miles on it, but there were some downsides. First, my XT derailleur was pretty well maxed out on B tension. This significantly slowed shifting in the higher gears and I had a few slips of the chain when really laying on the pedals. (I've heard Sram X9/X0 is better for the 42t hack) Second, you've got to drop a lesser cog to create space for the larger cog. Typically, you're going to drop the 17t or maybe 15t. This gives you a pretty good gap in gearing and overall cog size with 13-15-19 or 13-17-19. I tried with both the 15 and 17 out. Shifting sucked. In addition, the change in gearing was too large. It'd be too high or too low to remain efficient. I tried placing a 16t cog from a road cassette in place of the 17 and 15. Shifting was even worse.

I went back and forth, taking the cog off and putting it back on again. The gear was great, the overall performance was not. I was bummed. I was looking for things in my closet to sell so I could just go 11speed.

Then OneUp popped out the 40t. Followed shortly by a correctly ramped 16t cog. Hope returned. I stopped setting up my yard sale. I placed an order.

The removed 17&15t cogs
I took off the 17t, 15t, and a cog spacer. On went the OneUp spacer, 40t, 16t.

Words to live by

Setup for the 40t doesn't require the use of a longer B limit screw like the 42t did. There is even quite a few threads still showing. Chain wrap on my 11t cog losses one tooth of engagement. So far everything is looking good. Time for a ride.

Having now put ~200miles on my 40/16t setup, I'm confident in saying it is a huge improvement over my previous 42t. All my gripes with the 42t setup are cured by the 40/16 combo.

Shifting up and down the ENTIRE cassette is much more smooth. There is still a tiny bit of hesitation going up 13-16-19 if you are trying to make the shift under a high load, but it is far superior to the 15-19 jump. The change in cadence from 19-16-13 is much better, as well. Having ridden 40miles on the road in training and to/from the trails, I can say the gearing jumps are only noticeable on the road. Once on the trail, it's a non-issue.

I haven't had any problems with chain slippage, even when pushing out 1000+ watts.

I've not had one instance of the chain dropping down the cassette while back pedaling.


A 42t is a noticeably lower gear than the 40t, but 40t is still much better than 36t. My current 36 ring/40t is lower than the 34 ring/36t I had previously.

Shifting isn't as good as stock, but it is more than acceptable. Even for racing use.

That's really about it for any issues.

Bottom line?

OneUp Component's 40/16 combo is awesome. I'll be happily using it to save energy on races from Colorado to Whislter, BC.

Race ready

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thoughts on the new Santa Cruz Nomad

I've had quite a few people get in touch through the blog and online messages asking my thoughts on the new Santa Cruz Nomad and the Bronson, so I figured it'd make sense to put them down in an easy to find spot.

New 2014 Nomad
First off, as much as I wish I have, I have not ridden the 2014 Nomad. I rode and raced a Tallboy LT last year and am putting in the miles on a Bronson this year. All are or will be great bikes, no doubt about that.

So Bronson or Nomad? That's the big question.

If you want the now answer: Bronson

And the horribly old school 2013/14 Bronson
 If you want to know why, read on...

I like the Bronson a lot. It's a fast and fun bike. I've been collecting PRs on most of my local trails with less effort than on my Tallboy LT. Corners super well, quick in techy stuff but still stable. Pedals and climbs great. Def a solid bike and a great quiver of one. Every now and then it feels a little shaky on high speed, loose stuff (think old, sandy, eroded reclaimed double track at 35mph), but reminding yourself to look further ahead calms things down. Adding the Cane Creek Double Barrel didn't hurt, either.

Nomad looks killer on paper. I'd love to take the Miami Vice version out. I would guess that it may not be the best "bike of one", depending on where/what you ride. Pretty dang slack and long travel with what is probably tuned to be quite plush would give up some pedaling ability. For US Enduro races, I don't think the Nomad would be the best tool since most of our races are not overly techy, rough, steep and require more pedal power. (Keystone and Whistler are exceptions. I'm sure/hopeful there's a few more, too) All guesses till there's some people with time on them.

If you're into longer, alpine rides and big descents or general trail riding, it could make for a more trying day, but I'd love for people to report back saying that it pedals well enough to be an all day bike or a race bike.

Personally, until there's more feedback on the Nomad, I'm going to keep the Bronson. It's the only bike I've got. It can climb pretty damn quick and it can go down even faster. Simply not a lot of compromise for a rough and wild trail or race bike. It's a killer one bike to own.

If I could afford it, a Tallboy LT and Nomad would be a dream setup...