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.

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 owe you a real update.

I promise, I’ll get you a real update soon. You hear a lot of “I’ve been busier than a one _______ _________ in a ___________.” (everyone can use their own favorite variation) running around, but in my case, I’ve actually been quite busy. I had family come to town, we finalized some stuff on that mountain bike trail, and I got a new job. I have managed to ride a few times as well. But all I really want to say in this post is, I owe you an update, and you’ll get it. Soon. Promise.

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….

Commentary, opinions, and musings brought about by a PinkBike article on “Trail Ownership”

Let me start by saying you don’t HAVE to read this pinkbike article to get something out of this post. But I do think it will help. So, here’s a link to the post so you can do some background before you read what I’ve got to say about the situation.

http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Who-owns-a-trail-2013.html

Now that you’ve read that, I’m going to cheat a little bit. I initially replied to this article in a conversation about it on http://forums.mtbr.com/ in the trail building and advocacy section. I’m going to past that here so that you can get a grasp on what my real knee jerk reaction to this was.

It’s an interesting article, no doubt about it. I think if common sense reigned supreme, there wouldn’t be any need for “rules” even if there was a trail boss for calling the shots on building a trail. Unfortunately, common sense is….uncommon at best. Which means there need to be rules of some sort. Unfortunately, you then get into the question of who gets to make those rules. Public land, where a club or organization is authorized to build and maintain trails? The trail boss gets to lay down the law, it may have to be approved by a parks director or someone like that, but the signs go up, and that’s it.

It gets more complicated if multiple groups are authorized to build and maintain trail on public land. If the organizations are butting heads, it’s going to be a mess. But multiple groups authorized on public land is my reality, every day. A mountain bike club (me), a hiking group, boy scouts – and the parks department doesn’t really care. They want the trails there because they understand that if they’re well designed, the people using the trails are “good” for the park and the community. But they don’t have the manpower or funds to maintain the trails. So it’s all “You want trails you deal with them. If we have to step in, they go away.” sort of thing. Fortunately, we (all three groups) interact well, and have excellent relationships established. As a result, conflicting trail ideas are usually handled easily by compromise, multiple routes through a section, or simple admission that “That section of trail was not originally authorized, but it was built by mountain bikers, it’s not suitable or desirable for hiking, so do as you please with it, we’re just glad someone is actually going to fix it.” – this sort of thing makes my day. We’ve had hikers take up mountain biking, mountain bikers take up hiking, and lots of crossover between groups on trail work days. Who owns the trail? It doesn’t matter, because we have a good understanding between groups, and all of us will speak up and tell someone when they’re doing something wrong (riding wet trails, for instance).

Since most of the article focuses on …trails built under the table…. I’ll talk about that for a second too. If I built the trail (I probably didn’t, but for the sake of argument) I don’t expect to find someone fundamentally altering the trail. That’d be grounds to end up as a new rolling contour feature on my trail. If someone else built the trail, I’m not going to fundamentally alter the trail in any way. In fact, I likely won’t do anything but ride it, unless I run into the person who built it, and they ask if I can lend a hand. On the other hand, trails like this, you frequently have no actual rights regarding the trail, other than simple protocol as stated above. When you build the trail, you have to accept that you live in a world full of idiots that you can’t control, and that eventually, one or more of them will show up, and do what idiots do. Eventually, that’s going to cause problems, but if you’re dealing with “under the table” trail, then you just have to expect this, and when the situation is exposed, you can either take up negotiations to make it above board, abandon it, go cry in your beer, or whatever. But you have to accept that you have limited (or zero) actual control over the situation. If you can’t accept that fundamental truth, move on.

So, if you’ve made it through that, you probably are either (A) bored out of your mind (B) ready to kill me because you disagree (C) nodding your head because you agree with me, (D) somewhere in between B and C or (E) you’re B because of A. If any of that makes you want to say something, I encourage you to use the comments section to have your say. Just be polite about it. I’ve got a bit more to say about it myself.

See, I thought about this for a while after I wrote it. I should clear a few things up. For those who don’t know, I AM the trails administrator, or trail boss, or whatever you want to call it (we call it administrator, because boss is a four letter word) for my local MTB club. Trail building, maintenance and safety falls into my lap. I work with land managers from two counties, two cities, and the TWRA. All of my trails are not only legal, they’re planned and approved, sometimes to a degree that annoys the land managers. I had one ask my why I couldn’t just build the trail instead of asking about conservation concerns. I told him it was because I didn’t want to put months of work into a trail to be told I couldn’t ride it because it interfered with something someone didn’t want a trail interfering with. That was when he started to understand, it got easier to get answers to questions, and he started to appreciate what I was doing. It was an interesting and eye opening experience for him, he had never worked with a trail builder before. Lets be clear. I haven’t, and won’t build trails on public land without approval or private land without permission. Years and years ago, we used to ride some trails on private land, but they were existing trails, and everyone in the neighborhood rode bikes on them. That all came to a halt when a housing development was put in the middle of the woods where “our” trails were.

I understand there are parts of the world, even parts of the US where trails can’t be legally built. There are well documented success stories of illegal trail builders and land managers finally sitting down after years of below board fighting and establishing relationships that resulted in great riding areas. Unfortunately, it will always be difficult for mountain bikers to establish and maintain a responsible image if things like illegal trail building are taking place. Right now, I have a piece of public land that I could build trail on, and I don’t think anyone would notice. I’ve written a proposal for that land, and had it turned down. Not because anyone is doing anything with the land, mind you, but because the managing body “has concerns” about putting trails out there. That’s an ongoing conversation. I reserve the right to pester said body about trails out there until they relent and allow it. But I’d rather be viewed as annoying and above board than sneaky and dishonest.

Ok, if you’ve built illegal trails I’m not calling you a shady lying character. I get it. I actually understand you, but look at where most land managers/owners are going to be coming from – you’ll find my description probably matches what they’ll say. They have a point, and so do you. So let’s get to the rat killing here.

Why is it so hard in some places to get authorization to build these trails on the up and up? Liability, sort of. Liability can be addressed in a number of very effective ways though. So that’s not really a valid reason. Concern for the environment? Don’t mountain bikers cause massive damage to areas where their trails are? No, not if the trails are designed and built correctly, and trail users respect things like trail conditions. But don’t mountain bikers pose a danger to other trail users? Don’t they run over hikers and stuff? Um, no. At least not riders who have been properly mentored and taught trail etiquette. See. the biggest problem with being able to build trails and ride legally on public land is misinformation and image.

Every time you’re on the trail with a bike, you represent everyone who wants to ride on a trail, or does ride on a trail. One slip up around the wrong person can damage the reputation of an entire group of trail users. It’s important to keep that in mind, and practice proper trail etiquette at all times. Because the reality of trail ownership, regardless of who is actually responsible for the trails, is that the community or land owner owns the trail. In every case, they will respond to feedback from users. Most land managers are smart enough to know the difference between something that’s a real problem, and someone who just likes to complain about other trail users, but why give anyone the excuse? People who complain for the sake of complaining will be ignored in the vast majority of cases, but other’s will be heard and questions will be asked, and future projects possibly jeopardized. Unless you want that on your hands, it doesn’t matter if you’re the trail boss, a guy who has never touched a shovel, someone who does their fair share of the work, you must yield ownership of the trail to EVERYONE who uses it.

…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.