Archive for February, 2010

Sagebrush Safari

Posted in 1 on February 28, 2010 by bencycles

Just did the first race of the Kenda Cup West series and Im really happy with how it went. On the podium with a 2nd place finish in the cat 1 35-39 bracket! sweet. I was really nervous coming into this race for a few reasons. I’d done well at a couple races before this one but they were smaller and shorter. Sagebrush Safari, the name of the event, is a long oldschool format with a lot of climbing and a big crowd. Plus I was sick this week and hadn’t been riding. I figured I would either do really well from all the rest or just die withing the first 30 minutes. The only way to know was to do the damn thing. With a big field, I really just wanted to make the top 60% so I’d lock in an invite to the invitational Unification race and get that monkey off my back.

The course starts on a paved road with a long steep climb. I stayed mellow and just spun in the top 10 trying to warm up since I got there late and couldn’t warm up before the race. Feeling good, but not confident it would last, I kept in the top 5 ’till we hit the climb and a guy took off. No one responded so I figured I’d better throw down… Grabbed a gap on the group and kept the guy in sight. For a little while.

The race was game on the entire time after that. No rest. It was hard to know who was in my division since there were so many guys and gals out there. I just raced ’em all.

Which brings up a couple observations: First, it was rad to see so many people out racing mountain bikes! I really hope that enthusiasm for mountain biking sticks around. Second, I could tell it was a lot of peoples first race of the season with their new bikes. Lots of people making adjustments on new gear along the trail. You think you have your bike dialed until you race it and that’s where you find the details. I was glad to have done a couple “B” races to sort my new bike out before Sagebrush so I could go into that race knowing at least my gear was gonna be dialed even if I wasn’t.

My bike worked really well with the new 39×26 front double. It felt just right and worked really well under those muddy conditions.

Also, now that the Sprout is getting older (3 in may!?), traveling to and being at races is getting a little easier on us (er, mostly my wife…Thanks!). The Sprout is so interactive now and independent. It’s a huge help, plus it’s amazing to see this little person becoming more and more of a person. Now if we can just find the secret recipe to avoid the hour of meltdown we get upon our return from a long day of racing. I think the combination of playing with a bunch of new kids, being out in the sun and weather all day, not getting a good nap in the car, and not eating enough (she is such a distracted bird about eating) contribute to her just completely unwinding in the known environment of home via total disintegration. With all 3 of us exhausted from the long day, that hour can be tough until we all get some food in our stomachs. After she eats and we chill on the couch together for a bit watching Elmo, things are right as rain again.

Also, I brewed a new batch of beer the night before the race.

Sweet! Except I came home from the race to see the yeast had really gone wild and was shooting up a fine misty geyser of sticky fermenting beer all over the walls and ceiling! Oops. I removed the bubbler and replace it with a large tube to allow the kraeusen to drain into a separate container rather than spray all over my walls. I’ll rack it into a secondary fermenter tomorrow and load it with a handful of oak chips and dry hop it with some more cascade hops for aroma. The house smells really good!


More Changes

Posted in 1 on February 24, 2010 by bencycles

Besides trying to find a blog theme I like, I’ve been tinkering with my bike some more. I spend way too much time thinking about my gear. I’m such a gear dork. And I’m listening to Bauhaus which means I’m beyond hope…

Anyways… Gordon at B&L Bikes had replaced the stock triple on my new bike for the Sworks mtb double:
Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

It was a big improvement from the wider stance of a triple because I find the narrower width to be more comfortable on longer rides. Plus I think doubles perform better in races and if the middle ring were just a little smaller I’d never need the…. blah blah blah.

The double is my holly grail, apparently.

The stock double set up on the crank was a 42 x 26. During the last couple races I found the 42 a little big for my skinny legs and I was spending the majority of the time in the last 3 gears of the cassette but then when I’d drop to the 26, I was loosing too much gear and would have to upshift a couple times to get my rhythm back.  I wanted to tighten up the range by reducing the size of my big ring. So I just got this put on:

Because the spider is replaceable on the Specialized crank,  Gordon was able to swap out the spider/ring assembly and set me up with XX rings in the 26X39 combo I crave. I’m running them on a 9spd drivetrain with a shifter/derailleur designed for a triple and, at least riding around the neighborhood, they shift really really well. Much smoother transition compared to the 26X42 combo. Can’t wait to try it out this weekend.

Posted in 1 on February 21, 2010 by bencycles

This is from Racers and Chasers at Cahuilla Creek last week. Me and Brent at the front of the Pro/Expert start. I think I was ahead of Brent for a good 30 seconds…

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 – The New Black

Posted in Race/Ride reports on February 15, 2010 by bencycles

I picked up my new ride from B&L Bikes last week.
Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29
I have so much bike lust at the moment, ridiculous!

It took a lot of searching, but Gordon managed to track one down in my size somewhere up in LA. Then somehow finagled it down here and finally into my greedy little hands! Those guys at B&L Bikes really went out of their way to get that bike to me, thanks! Any brick and mortar can load their floor full of fancy gear but it’s the people in the store that make the place. Having worked at various bike shops nearly 10 years before graduating college, I think good service is a rarity in the industry and all too easy to overlook sometimes. The guys at B & L have that mix of bike knowledge and friendly that’s hard to come by.

Anyway, how ’bout that bike?

Well, the S-works 29er was pretty much exactly the bike I would have dreamed up for myself, but alas, the price tag was a bit out of my league. The next model down with a frame that has the same geometry and made from the same mold as the S-works is half the price. True, the parts aren’t as flashy as all that XX action, but I figured with a few choice upgrades I could have a bike almost as rad and save some cash to buy my kid shoes, too.

Out of the box, I think the Expert was around 24.5 lbs or so. Not too bad for a XL 29er out of the box. But being the weight weenie that I am, a couple parts deserved attention. The first to go was the stock triple XT crank which I immediately swapped out for the mega dope S-works carbon double crank.
Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

In addition to looking rad it also narrowed my q-factor and dropped a cool half pound from the bike. Plus it gives me the option to upgrade to a XX spider in the future if I want to run SRAM double rings. The bike has removable bb cups, so you can run a traditional bb or pop the cups out and run the Sworks. Nice.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

The bike came stock with a 143mm saddle which is a bit wide for my skinny ass. Gordon suggested the new Henge saddle in the 130mm width. It has more padding than the Phenom saddle and is still pretty light. The shape feels good, too. The Thomson post saves a few more grams from stock and is a proven post I trust.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29
I swapped out the stock cassette for a 11-34 XT I had lying around. The 36 cog of the stock cassette might have been handy with the double setup, but that thing was a doorstop. The gold chain was a nice touch Gordon added. Pimp, eh?

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

In the cockpit I switched out the stock alloy bar (which is wider and has a shape I like – might put it back on) for a carbon flat bar I was running on my old bike. The controls are all stock. I absolutely love those Avid Elixir CR SL brakes. Good modulation and more power than my XT’s. The grips are thicker than I’m used to So I’ll probably put some ESI grips on soon.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

Swapped the Stem for a nice light Deda and put my Campy carbon top cap on. I’ve had that same top cap on every bike I’ve raced since about ’99. We’ve seen a lot together. The glossy carbon weave of the frame is stunning in the light. I got a lot of double takes at the race with this thing. It’s a good looking bike.

With the parts I swapped out, the bike is weighing in at about 22.9 lbs – and that’s still with the stock wheels, which while good solid wheels for training, are heavier than what I would like to be racing on. That might have to wait to see if I get a bonus from work, though. My kid needs shoes, ya know. Plus they came tubeless ready. Gordon didn’t have to do any taping, just throw some sealant in and air up the tires.

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29
Every bike needs a name.

So hows it ride?


I picked it up on a Thursday and my first real ride on it was at the Racers and Chasers series that Saturday. I was a bit hesitant to race it without getting familiar with it first, but when I picked it up, the thing looked so good, there was no way I wasn’t gonna try it. Gordon at B & L had my cockpit dialed. I literally jumped on the thing and road it. sweet.

I’ll be honest, the first thing I noticed was it’s a hard tail. It’s been a good 9 years since I’ve owned a hardtail and I did notice the stiffness in the rear end. But really what this means is the timing is just different. With full suspension, I think weighting and un-weighting the wheels over really rough sections is timed a little earlier than with a hardtail, and I had to get used to that. I usually load the suspension and then float over rough sections, but with the hardtail I can wait till I’m a little closer to the section before I compress the bike to float over a section.

By the third and fourth laps of the race, I was really starting to feel comfortable on the bike. It actually started to feel more comfortable the more I rode the bike. Probably because I was getting used to the bike and started relaxing into it more. With my full suspension bikes, they usually start to feel a little dead and unresponsive twords the end of a race when I’m getting tired, but not this thing. It was still feeling spry on lap four.

My old bike had a really steep head angle (72 deg) and 26″ wheels which could be a little unforgiving if I wasn’t paying attention at the bar. I prefer the slacker angle of the Stumpy and because it has the massive carbon headtube and tapered steerer tube on the Fox fork, the front end feels much more solid and tracks through turns better. I thought the stock tires were fantastic. Really a nice feeling tire to ride. I raced them with about 28 – 30 psi (I weigh 165 lbs wet) and felt like I could take the pressure down next time.

Hmm, let’s see: I took out a new bike that was completely different from what I had before and without really ever riding it first, won my race.

I’d say I like my new bike.