Some thoughts on tubeless bike tire tech, and random food for thought.

Tubeless. I know, most people don’t think there’s a debate, but there is. I converted the SX-C2 wheels on my Giant to tubeless using only Stans yellow rim tape. It works fine with the RaRa’s that came on the bike, but the Tioga Psycho Genius and the Conti Mountain King I was running on it won’t seat on those wheels, not even with an air compressor. Having decided after an exhausting and treacherous ride this morning that the WTB Nano I’d been running on the back of the SS was finally toast, I endeavored to mount said Tioga on the Pacenti wheel on the back of the single speed. It was completely drama free. So what’s this with a debate?

I’ve heard people who ride quite a bit, and have a lot to do with bikes say that tubeless is not worth the trouble, it doesn’t work, etc. – and not to try it. I can’t help but think this is complete hog wash. No, those tires didn’t mount to the SX-C2 wheels, but then, Giant doesn’t rate those as tubeless compatible wheels, either. It’s also fairly well known that there are some tire and rim combinations that simply don’t work, even though both may be “Tubeless Compatible” in their own way. The bottom line is, do a little home work, and be prepared to improvise, should the need arise. I don’t run stupid low pressures in my tires, I weigh about 220 with a loaded Camel Back on, and run 30psi in the rear, and 25 in the front. I’ve not had an issue with burping, I haven’t had a flat since I started running tubeless, and the difference that the 2-4 psi less in the tires makes both in ride quality AND traction is noticeable, welcome, and huge.

So, if you’re on the fence, give it a whirl. Tech has come a long way in the past couple of years towards making tubeless better and easier.

Also, your random musical thought for the day: Joe Strummer would have been 61 years old today.

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Trail Updates

It turns out, building trail can keep you very busy. But it’s a rewarding kind of busy. Lets see if I can give you an idea of what’s going down.

Machine built trail starts out looking a lot like hand built trail, except for the machine in the middle of the whole works.

Machine built trail starts out looking a lot like hand built trail, except for the machine in the middle of the whole works.

The local municipal parks and rec department has graciously made land and a machine available for the building of trails. Our local IMBA group worked on the design, and layout started up as soon as everyone was on the same page.

Fresh machine built trail is always a bit messy.

Fresh machine built trail is always a bit messy.

Just because there’s a machine, it’s not all easy work. After cutting the main bench, all the clean up, back blending, and such is hand work. Turning this into what the every day rider recognizes and single track is easier than hand benching, but only by about half.

This is a worst case scenario for cleaning up behind a machine.

This is a worst case scenario for cleaning up behind a machine.

This short drop down into a gully is all the machine can manage. The majority of the digging work is done though, the grade is ridable, and it’s short enough to be sustainable in spite of a higher than normal grade. Unfortunately, finishing this still involves moving a lot of dirt, and cutting all those roots out.

Hard work pays off. This is the finished crossing.

Hard work pays off. This is the finished crossing.

This is the same grade entrance to the gully as pictured above.  Here you can see the trail cut down both banks of the gully for the crossing. Both cuts are protected by structure in the bank (rocks, trees, stumps) against the worst of the current when the water gets up. The bottom of the crossing has since been armored with a rock/clay/sand mixture that shouldn’t wash for a long, long time.

This is the first switchback, built as an in-sloped turn.

This is the first switchback, built as an in-sloped turn.

 

This turn took about an hour for two people to put together after the excavator went through. The trick to getting dirt to sculpt right is the right amount of water. When you have to rely on rain for that water, it can be interesting to get your timing right.

Not all of the trail is being machine built.

Not all of the trail is being machine built.

 

The hand built section above shows two routes, one more XC, one more AM. The problem with the AM side, is that the radius of the dip is very close to the radius of some wheels. Tricky.

Sometimes you just have to pile up a bunch of dirt.

Sometimes you just have to pile up a bunch of dirt.

The trail above seems to be heading straight for a large pile of dirt. In a sense, it is. In what may be the best example of combining machine built and hand built trail, the above pile of dirt was shaped into a nice berm, to get you turned around and going the other direction, shooting you around the …sideways…growing maple tree.

The berm.

The berm.

 

There’s much more to come, and I’ll be quite busy for a while yet. The reward for all this work will be a 5 mile loop through the woods. A loop that should be challenging, fun, rewarding, and hopefully an asset to the community where it’s being built.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In which you get an update, but no pictures. Yet.

There’s a big reason I’ve been busy and not posting a lot lately. It’s not a good reason…or it is a good reason, but it’s no excuse. Something like that. I mentioned when I owed you an update that I got a new job. I also mentioned that I’d finalized a few things on that new mountain bike trail. That’s really dodging the issue a bit. The truth is, I got a job with the city parks and recreation department that new trail is in. My job is…building trails. So, I have paid time to spend building trails with an mini excavator owned by the city, that I don’t have to pay for, or buy fuel for. Really, all I have to do is show up and build trail. And train volunteers who want to help. So most Saturdays, we have volunteer crews out there. This is in addition to the work days we still run on our existing local trails on the first and third Sundays. That’s sort of a wreck too.

Recently, an property owner adjoining the park where our existing trails are had their property logged. We discovered that some of the trail originally built in the park….isn’t. So the section of trail that the loggers did their thing over top of is destroyed, and we’re building a re-routed section that stays inside the park. If I’m honest, the most impressive thing so far about this situation has been the lack of finger pointing by the groups in the park about who was at fault for the trail being on private property. So far, everyone is just sucking it up and helping build the re-route. Which is nice.

And don’t think that my being too busy to post has in any way hampered my riding. It hasn’t. I’ve had some great rides lately, both because they really were great rides, or because they maybe were marred by some mechanical difficulties, but the company and just the fact that we were out riding made them great. And really, isn’t that the important thing? On one ride a couple of weeks ago, my Single Speed started making an alarming creaking sound rather suddenly. It was so bad I was afraid I’d broken the frame. I got home, put the bike in the stand, and took the bottom bracket appart, cleaned everything up, threads, bearings, frame, all of it. I check the frame very closely for cracks, but didn’t find any. I put the bottom bracket back in, and torqued everything down right, and gave it a try. Behold, it worked beautifully, and was silent. While I would like to upgrade the Single Speed to a nice Ti frame (Lynskey?) I must say I was relieved to not HAVE to do so.

The last two times I’ve ridden the Anthem, I’ve been plagued by pinch flats. This is more confounding than normal because I checked the tire pressures, I’m running exactly what I’ve always run, I weigh the same, and yet two rides in a row, I’ve found snake bite holes in my tube after a rather jarring impact on the back wheel. Which either means I’m riding worse than I was, or I’m going faster than I was and it’s thrown my timing off, or just causing me to hit harder and pinching. Either way, it’s frustrating. As such, I’ve decided to consider this new fangled tubeless technology. Although, you could argue, I’ve gone about it backwards.

I converted the rear wheel of the Single Speed to tubeless. Yes, just the rear wheel of the Single Speed. Here’s why, lest you think my crazy(er). The tires on the SS (WTB Exiwolf front and Nano rear) have both been victims of sharp rocks – cut right through. But running with tubes, that’s not a huge problem, because the cuts are in the tread. It also happens, that the Pacenti rims on the SS are designed to be tubeless compatible. I have a set of Racing Ralphs that I took off my Anthem – I can’t say I was horrible impressed with them, especially on the front. I was going to grab one of those and throw it on the back of the SS, since I decided I would “use both of them up” on the back of the SS since I don’t think they’ll cause me traction issues there. The surprise came when I let the air out of the Nano and went to break the bead to remove the tire. It was HARD to get it to release. So, just for giggles, I took the tube out, put the tubeless valve stem (the only one my LBS had…another reason I only did the rear) in the rim, and put the tire back on. A quick shot with the air compressor and the beads seated just like they should, and it blew a bunch of air out of the hole in the tread, like I knew it would. But it looked good around the bead. So I took the tire off, put a good old fashion patch on the inside of the hole in the tread, put the tire back on, seated the bead (cheating alert) then let the air out, took the valve core out, and dumped in my Stans juice. Put all that back together and inflated it, and sealed everything up and….presto. Tubeless. Like it had a brain. So how is it?

It’s great. I dropped the pressure from 32 psi to 30 psi. I took it for it’s single track shake down this morning. The grip was outrageous. 2 psi made a lot of difference. The feel was also much better, the ride as a whole was less harsh. I rode the bike pretty hard, hit some off camber roots, jumped it, carved some hard turns, and basically tried to make it burp, but it held like a champ. So now I need to do the front. And I need to figure out how to deal with the S-XC2 rims on my Anthem – a full Stans rim strip kit, or just some stans tape? Ah well, I’ll figure it out.

I’ll hit y’all again soon with pictures. I’ve got trail pictures, flower pictures, pictures I probably don’t remember taking, and probably pictures of me playing with fire.

I’m not dead. Yet.

I know it’s been a while since I posted. Sorry. I’ve been a busy man. I’ve spent three days out of the last two…or has it been three?..weeks in meetings with a local city government about a new trail system at a park. I dedicated bike trail system. I’ve also been on the property a couple of times, and made some very interesting discoveries. Including that I’m going to be building a LOT of elevated trail over a creek on the property. Each crossing – and I’m aiming for two – will need 40 to 60 yards of deck elevated to an unknown height as of yet, but I’m guessing at least 2 feet. I’ll know for sure when the water goes back down. I’m very excited about this project though, because I really do feel like mountain bikers finally are getting cut loose in this area to build a real playground.

Speaking of playing, I have gotten some playing in. Our Saturday Social last week was fun, we had a good turnout and picked up a few new folks. One of the new folks we picked up was a seasoned rider who had never been in the park before. Four of us ended up doing over 7 miles giving him the guided tour. Here’s the group about halfway through the first loop. Y’all will get used to seeing this barn. It’s a real landmark on our trails.

April 6th Social ride. There are three participants not including myself who are not in frame.

April 6th Social ride. There are three participants not including myself who are not in frame.

Late in the ride I had a bit of a spill. Honestly, after a couple of days, it didn’t feel that bad. The only real problem with it, is that I still can’t explain how it happened. You know those old cartoons, where someone pulls the rug out from under someone, and they go completely horizontal, and come crashing to the ground? Well, that’s what happened. I was riding into a switchback, and *boom*, I was laying on the ground. No idea. But that brings me to a tip. You’re thinking, hey, weren’t you carrying  a camera? Yep, I sure was.

The camera I carry on my rides isn’t something I’d get all broken up about if it got destroyed in a fall. Still, who wants to break a camera? I carry my old Canon Digital Rebel XT. I have a gizmo called a Capture Clip (Peak Designs) on the strap of my Camel Back. I can get all crazy and bunny hop stuff and jump things with the camera on this thing and it doesn’t smack me in the face or anything else. It’s pretty sweet. Even sweeter is the fact that in this crash, it not only held the camera, but again, the camera didn’t hit me in the face or anything, and when I stood back up, the camera worked. In fact, I carried with me the next day at Rotary. When we, you guessed it, did trail work.

We’ve had a trouble spot for some time where the trail is on flat ground because it has to be. It’s the lowest spot on this bit of flat ground right before you get to the creek. So when it rains, a bunch of run off from where a pump station was put in flows off the hill and onto the trail, and sits there. That’s a problem. Here’s a picture I took (with my camera that survived my strange spill) of the solution, and the four guys that worked with me to help finish out this somewhat drawn out project.

These guys worked super hard with me April 7th to get this turnpike finished. We did in one day what would have taken two days on either of my other work days out here. Bravo chaps. Bravo.

These guys worked super hard with me April 7th to get this turnpike finished. We did in one day what would have taken two days on either of my other work days out here. Bravo chaps. Bravo.

You can see an old section of turnpike disappearing out of the frame at the back, and the new section extends to where I’m standing to take the picture. It’s a lot of work, but it should allow water to pass through in a few places, and run further down to a low spot with a lot of drainage into the creek, keeping the trail from being wet and muddy after rains. We’ll find out today I guess.

Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been up to, in short. I’ve got a full day ahead, that includes another Saturday social. But first, I have to go haul a couple of tons of gravel for a friend….

…in which I ride alone, so I can ride.

I keep a close eye on the weather. I work outside. I play outside. And people rely on me to make judgement calls about trails around here at times. So earlier in the week, as I was looking at the weather, I decided this weekend would be a terrible time for mountain biking, because we all know you shouldn’t ride wet trails. Thursday, on the other hand, was beautiful. I put the my single speed in the truck, and took off for Rotary Park after lunch. There, I rode what is pretty much my standard loop encompassing pretty much every trail in the park, netting me a distance of right at 7 miles, with about 800 feet of climbing. It was quite a good ride, I had a lot of fun on it, and had the sense that I’m starting to regain some of the fitness that I dropped off during the winter.

After the ride, on a whim, I dropped by my LBS and chatted at them for a few minutes. They were curious about how the wheels they’d built me were holding up, so I let the wheel builder take a look at them. He was suitably impressed with their condition. He (Richard, to put a name to him) had asked me about them previously, and I told him they were still true, and seemed to be holding up well. He was under the impression they hadn’t been used very hard yet, but I quickly disabused him of that notion by pointing out that my chain was way too tight. I mis-timed a j-hop over a couple logs in a low place and hit the back wheel hard enough to re-tension the chain. After explaining that, Richard checked the tightness of the bolts on the back wheel, and finding that they weren’t at all loose, he briefly double checked the rear wheel to see if it was in fact, still true. Yes, it was. All this by way of saying, my Pacentti TL28’s are holding up nicely on my single speed. I suppose that means that sometime soon I’ll have to update my Bikes page with some more of my bikes, huh?

And now for the Metal.

I don’t want to trip anyone up here. The name of this blog is CliplessMetal. Yes, I ride with clipless pedals. And I have a tendency towards heavy metal. Ok, it’s all rock and roll, some of it’s just heavier. And I really like all kinds of music. But being a metal head, in my industry, in the area that I live in kind of puts me in my own little orbit. For those of you tuning in to hear about a bike ride, let me get that out of the way for you.

This past Saturday, our Social ride wasn’t as social as we hope it will be when we organize these things. Which is to say, that threatening weather kept most people away. Still, four of us showed up, and got in a good ride. Because of the impending weather, I didn’t carry a camera with me, so you don’t get any pictures this time. But we did ride, near as makes no difference, 7 miles according to my GPS  gadgetry. All that with an average speed of 6.6 mph and 850ish feet of climbing may not make it the fastest ride in history, but that’s not the point is it? And that impending weather? It rolled in about 20 minutes after we finished riding, and stuck around for 48 hours.

Now, about that metal thing. If you aren’t in the music industry, you may not have noticed, but new albums are released on Tuesdays. Today was one Tuesday I’ve waited rather anxiously for. See, back in 1997, this upstart band had the temerity to release a single (nay, a whole album!) that sounded like nothing before. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Sevendust secured a place in my personal music history by becoming one of only a handful of bands that I’d never heard of prior to hearing one of their songs on the radio, at which time I immediately proceeded to a record store….remember those? – and bought the album. The song was Black. Today, Sevendust released Black Out the Sun. Of course, if you have the ability to read this far, you can probably infer that I’ve already bought the album. I listened to it twice through between the store I had to drive to to buy it, and the time I got home. At which point, I imported into iTunes.

Now, I could probably make a whole post about my thoughts on music, formats, and listening apparatuses , but suffice to say I’m listening to the album a third time through as I type this, with the mode of transduction being a pair of Sennheiser HD650 head phones. For now, I’ll leave the comments regarding the head phones at this: They are very revealing of problems. As a result, I’m careful about being overly critical of problems I hear when I’m listening to lossy audio files, but when something sounds good, these things never lie.

Black Out the Sun is a monument of heavy, riff driven guitars and big drums. The melodious styling of the vocals are a testament of past works, verification that there’s really something to sing about. The songs on this album are like the faith of the band, painted on a sign, and posted for the world to see. It’s their hearts, worn on their sleeves, as they stand in the spotlight of the worlds stage. The guys have families now, they aren’t kids anymore, and their music is bearing out a more mature world perspective. It’s not just angst, rage, good times, and old friends, it’s a commentary, genuine insight. You don’t have to like it, but you should at least respect it.

When I write something like this up, most people want to know if I have a favorite song. People who know me asked of the last Sevendust album (Cold Day Memory) if there was another Black on that album. Has anything reached out to me, have I latched onto something that was musically, fundamentally life/perspective altering the way Black was. The short answer is ..maybe. The first single from the album is Decay. The video for that song is out today. You can, of course, watch it in the same place you can watch almost any music video you want…not MTV, but YouTube. Have a link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy_9ql5c4go  The song is almost a perfect image of what a Sevendust song should be, if you want to look at it like that.

But that’s not the song that really has my attention. Til Death is a powerhouse of a song about being proud of your faith. It’s done in a very open way, regardless of what you believe, believe it strongly enough to be bold about it. It’s a fantastic statement. But that’s not the song that really scratched my ears either. Nope, the song that has me backing up at the end and listening again is Dark AM. I won’t bother to try to break the song down and tell you what I hear, but the guitars invite you to experience their pain, and you find it it’s an addictive sort of pain. The whole song opens up, rises and falls, then leaves you hanging, want more, like a drug. Yeah, it’s pretty good.

But look, the whole album is good. There’s not a song on the album I’m not willing to listen to in order to get to the next one. It’s not as big a deal as it used to be, but on vinyl and tape, skipping a song was almost more trouble than it was worth, and we listened to whole albums. With CD’s we skipped around to the songs we liked. With iTunes or whatever, we only buy the tracks we want! If you’re one of those people, don’t do it this time. Buy the whole bleeding thing, it’s that good.

And on that note, next week, more rides to post about, plus, I’m likely to be back in Bells Bend working on more trail out there before too long.

The week in review.

Normally, I would try to do more of a post per ride or issue, or whatever. But the way things have been going I’m fortunate to be able to have time for this update. Ok, that may be a bit of a dramatization, but seriously. Here we go.

It rained early in the week, and then it got nice. It stayed warm and sunny with a light breeze until late Thursday evening. When it rained again. Fortunately, it didn’t rain much. The trails would have been ok on Friday, but I avoided them just to be safe, and went to the rail trail. Friday was a special occasion for a ride. My son just got a new bike, his first 26″ MTB. It isn’t a huge step up from the 24″ youth bike he was riding, but then again, it is. It’s a bit lighter, it’s made with slightly more durable components, and it has disc brakes. The bike he got is a Giant Revel 1. It’s a great ride, and the guys at the LBS did a great job setting it up for him. I should post a picture of the floor tag that was on the bike just to prove how great the guys at the LBS are, but maybe I’ll do that later.

Anyhow, my son and I did 8 miles on the paved section of the trail. It’s a pretty trail, it runs along the flood plain of the Cumberland River, through a little community called Chapmansboro. It crosses a creek, where there’s a good sized old railroad bridge. It’s a flat trail, with pretty views, and an easy ride for anyone to get acquainted with a new bike. It would be enough to say that both of my children have learned to ride bikes on this trail because my yard is too steep for small children.

Saturday morning, I started out my day with a treat. The first Formula 1 qualifying session of the new season. That was cut short, and I won’t go on about why. It didn’t matter, I had work to do anyway. I set off for Bells Bend Park to meet up with the guys from SORBA MidTN. There’s some new single track going in out there. It’s a gateway trail, something designed for beginners to cut their teeth on. It will only amount to 4 or 5 miles when it’s all done, but it’s slow going because the first section of trail is going into re-growth woods. By nature, it’s very thick, and while that makes the trail building slow work, it makes the trail special. It’s like a tunnel through an impenetrable wilderness. When this trail is done, it may be designed for beginners, but it will be an enchanting, relaxing ride for anyone when pushing the limits isn’t in the cards. I stayed there til mid day, then bolted north for some trail time, on a bike.

The our group met up for the Saturday Social, and unsurprisingly, most of the crowd was different than last week, but they were mostly still regulars. I pulled one of my standard charge-ahead-and-take-pictures maneuvers at one point and caught some of the folks riding over an up-and-over that can be rolled, jumped like a table top, or pretty much anything in between. So without further delay….

Here comes a regular. This angry, chain smoking German bloke isn't really all that bad a guy. In fact, I rather like him. He's converted that Canondale to 650b as well. He's got nothing but good to say about it. He's also a good hand to have around when you're building trail. He helped build that structure he's riding on......

Here comes a regular. This angry, chain smoking German bloke isn’t really all that bad a guy. In fact, I rather like him. He’s converted that Canondale to 650b as well. He’s got nothing but good to say about it. He’s also a good hand to have around when you’re building trail. He helped build that structure he’s riding on….

I have to confess, this is the first time I'm aware of this rider had been out with us. I was pleased as punch to see someone else on a rigid single speed.

I have to confess, this is the first time I’m aware of this rider had been out with us. I was pleased as punch to see someone else on a rigid single speed.

You might recognize Richard from last week's pictures. He's back again. For what it's worth, this is Richard of esbk.co infamy, and he's the bike mechanic who laced up the angry German bloke's wheels.

You might recognize Richard from last week’s pictures. He’s back again. For what it’s worth, this is Richard of esbk.co infamy, and he’s the bike mechanic who laced up the angry German bloke’s wheels.

Here's another of our regulars. We see him quite a lot.

Here’s another of our regulars. We see him quite a lot.

Finally, I’ve got a rare treat. I’m usually behind the camera, not in front of it, but I did let Richard play with the camera for a minute, so there’s a picture of me, featuring my trusty single speed.

IMG_3860-SS-crop

We did a little over 6 miles, with around 870 feet of climbing. It’s a little more than we do on some of our socials, but it’s not that long a ride in the grand scheme of things. I will say that for this time of the year, coming out of all the rain we’ve had recently that’s prevented a lot of riding, it felt really good. I’m looking forward to the groups picking up as the weather evens out and people get back into the swing of these Saturday afternoon rides.