Archive for June, 2010

Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 on a Diet.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2010 by bencycles

My bike has seen a lot of modifications since it first left its boxy womb. I think it has about 3 stock parts left, if you count the frame and fork. I thought it would be fun to chronicle a bit of it since I’m a weight weenie and spend far too much time lurking web sights looking for light ideas. I should point out this is my race bike. A lot of this stuff is pretty durable, but most of the choices I make regarding what I use are based on weight reduction more than the need for long-term durability.  Having said that, racing is hard on parts and I want them to work flawlessly during a race, but I don’t buy lightweight race tires and expect to get a year’s worth of riding out of them.

It’s really cool that a guy can go to his local shop and buy a mountain bike off the floor that weighs under 20lbs stock. Frankly, that’s a pretty big deal. However, I like personalizing my bikes and one of the best ways to do that is to buy a new bike and switch out a bunch of the parts before my wife realizes what I’ve gone and done…

I suppose this post will… be just fine. ahem.

Gordon at B&L Bikes had some great ideas and was instrumental with my project and really helped dial it all in. Dude’s a master at tickling out those hidden grams. I like light, but my shits gotta work, too,  and he had it nailed. Thanks! If you’ve been riding a while, a lot of this stuff you can probably already do, either by cannibalizing a current bike or digging through your bike box with a bit of imagination.

Starting with a Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 in size XL ringing in at about 24.6 lbs, we cut some big weight just by pulling the tubes and swapping the heavy stock cassette for an XT 9spd I had lying around. Switching to a carbon bar and lighter stem also helped.

One of the biggest places I saved weight was by switching to the S-Works double crank.

This alone saved about .5lbs from the XT triple.

Though I suppose that crank might not be lying around in your bike box… I really think this crank played a big roll in how my bike eventually got to the state it’s in now. Once I felt the awesome potential of the double up front, I became more motivated to adapt my entire drivetrain to match. But at this point I think my bike was hovering around the 23-23.5lb mark with pedals.

That was a pretty good weight and it stayed like that for a while. I made some more mods, but they were more about improving shifting performance in the front than losing weight. I put XX rings up front and ended up putting a XX frnt der on as well which gave me super reliable front shifting. The only problem was I had to use an old twist shifter to work the front der properly. It worked fine, but I’m a trigger guy.

I also cut the excess steerer tube:

Lighter saddle and post:

Especially with Thomson Ti hardware:

And my bike was sitting happily at just under 23. At that weight, my bike was really feeling fast. A little weight reduction makes a huge difference. So much of mountain biking is breaking and turning and climbing and accelerating and lifting and hopping.  Every time you do any of those, a few grams here and a few grams there are working against you, even if just a tiny bit. But you add all those small changes in movement together over your ride; it accumulates into hundreds if not thousands of additive repetitions wearing you out. Sure, if you take 30g off your bike, your not gonna feel a thing, but if you do that in ten different places, it makes a difference.

And wheel mass is the most critical mass to lose. For simplicity, just think of it like this:


where the objects resistance to change (accelerating your wheel) is equal to the mass of its outermost weight (your rim and tire) multiplied by the radius of your wheel squared (yep, squared!). For a 29er, that can really add up. So of course, you need light rims and tires.

I chose Stans new Crest rims and had them built up with an old set of American Classic hubs to get me a 1507 g wheelset. Not ridiculously light, but strength and durability were also an important consideration since I plan to race Breck Epic with them. Even so, I saved almost an entire pound by switching to the new wheels. And that is something I can absolutely feel every time I turn my cranks.

Other fun weight weeny activities which weren’t remarkably expensive include:

Ashima rotors are a bit lighter than stock. Not as light as alloy, but a fraction of the price. Add some Ti hardware and your good to go. I should mention I prefer the performance of the Avid rotors but for two-hour Kenda Cup races, they are fine.

Gold alloy bolts for all the brake connections saves some weight on the race bike and looks sweet, taboot.

Oh, and I switched to a 140mm rotor in the back.

Plus, the gold bolts match my gold nipples! Everyone has red these days.

Alloy bolts for my levers, too. Ti bolts for the stem. The ESI grips are light, comfortable, and come in my favorite color. The Campy top cap is one of my favs.

So what with the wheels and all my sparkly bolts, my bike was down to 21.89 with pedals and bottle cage.

At this point, I was pretty much done.

Until I held this…

The XX cassette. Once I put that in my hand, I was a goner. That thing is light!

I had planned to upgrade to a 10spd drivetrain eventually, but my 9spd was working so well, I really hadn’t planned to do it so soon. But, well, you know… Breck epic is coming and I just need that 36 tooth in the back.

Which, with pedals and cage, has my bike down to this

Whoa Nelly! Pretty good for an XL 29er. Sweet, especially since the Conti Race King tires on there are 70g heavier ea compared to Specialized Fastrak LK S works tires.

Well at this point my bike is pretty sick. Without question the best mtb I’ve ever owned, and most of the parts are durable, real-world parts.



Kenda Cup West #6, Big Bear Shoot Out

Posted in Race/Ride reports on June 21, 2010 by bencycles

Well well well.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

That’s a nice little present for papa.  1st place at the Big Bear Shootout! In my opinion one of the hardest races of the series so far, though I’m starting to think they’re all hard. 7000 – 8000′ elevation mixed with dry hot air and a nice long 23.7 mile single-lap format had me burning inside and out. I know you mountain people will scoff at that altitude, but I live at the beach. I’m a flatlander and that shit hurt.

we drove up to Big Bear the morning before the race and stayed at a friend’s cabin. Good friends, indeed. It was nice to just hang out with the fam a little bit and take it easy. Going out on these “racecations” for the last three weeks has been taking its toll. I’m getting a little fuzzy mentally (OK, more fuzzy…) and physically it is hard to get recovered and also maintain decent race form when there’s a race every weekend. So Saturday I didn’t touch my bike. We rented a canoe on Big Bear lake and paddled around. It was pretty fun after the Prof and I came to a settlement on paddling technique (I think she won) and the sprout loved it.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Grabbed a fantastic burger at Get The Burger. Hands down the best burger joint up there. You have gotta try out those milkshakes. Damn.

Sunday. Mellow morning with a full breakfast and 11 AM start. For some reason, I was really nervous about this race. I usually get some butterflies at the line, but this thing had me straight up nervous. Too much time to think about it perhaps. The previous race result should have made me more confident, but instead, I was even more nervous that I couldn’t do well twice.

Fuck it. Time for a spin.

Suit up, prep my bottles and food, check the bike. It all looks good. Gordon at B&L Bikes had my bike dialed with a sweet new XX drivetrain. My shit is light tight clean and mean. 21.4lbs with pedals and cages on a XL 29er. I love it. My weight weenie darkside loves it. That’s win win.

Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6so clean and carefree at the start.

It’s go time. Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Get a good warm up for Big Bear. It’s a tough climb from the gun and cold lags go to the back.

I grab a wheel 5 riders back and set up camp for the climb. Get a good rhythm, a couple lengths farther than I like but I stay on my toes and grab the next wheel if the person in front so much as gives up half a length. Sitting in 3rd now. The pace is hard enough I know it’s there but not in the red.

Then Bam! Dude in front of me goes over the bars- on the climb! WTF?! his back wheel smashes into my bars, breaks my right shifter, twists my handlebars and has my break lever pointing to the sky. Well, that was unexpected…

I keep the leader in sight with one eye and assess with the other. Bike still pedals-that’s good, handlebars 10 degrees off, number plate dangling. Punch the brake lever and shifter back down with my fist as we keep grinding up the first hill. I have to reset my thumb lever every time I shift – it’s just like ’92 again, sweet!

Should I stop? Am I going to ride like this for the next 22 miles? The guys in front have no compassion. They just keep on riding. Guess I’m not stopping either. Lucky for me the handlebar bent towards the arm I broke last year which doesn’t extend fully anymore anyway. Hmm, that’s not so bad, actually…

The Bear Valley rider pulls away from me pretty easy like on the climbs. Maybe it’s the altitude or maybe he’s just a better climber. I push harder to keep him in sight. He’s pretty spry on that 26″ hardtail, but on my 29er I catch him easily on the descents. Hold his wheel on the climbs, make him work on the descents. 2 or 3 times repeat, then cut the cord and I’m on my own.

Then it’s just me and my demons. And that’s a long hard course if you are persuaded by what they have to say. I’ve noticed around mile 10-12 of any race, I usually go through a dark period of mental and physical discontent, but that if I take it easy and ride smart for a little bit, my rhythm comes back and I’m AOK again. This time was different. Nothing was coming back. Taking it easy wasn’t helping. I wasn’t AOK. Fuck. Climbing back up the Pineknot (?) section was the worst. The sun, the heat, my stomach. Nothing was working. Calm, calm, calm. Get to the jeep road. Regroup in my head a little. Get some food in me and hydrate.

Push through to Pirates and the lights turn on again. Then it’s a helter skelter spree of crazy down the mountain taking the worst lines imaginable just to pass lapped traffic. Definitely one of the most exciting and nerve racking parts of the course. The thrill of it all was putting some pep back in my legs.

What a freaking hard race.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Who’s the pretty boy, now?

That thing shattered me, and that’s what made it great.  But the best part (well, aside from winning at Big Bear, Whoop Whoop!) was suffering that bad and digging that deep and finding something in there that got me through. Bike racing is all in the head, but it takes a hell of a lot of physical pain to reach it. It’s a good feeling when I do.

Clean up the cabbin and drive home.
Big Bear Shootout / US Cup #6

Next up is a little time off the bike. Time for some yoga and a little surfing.


Kenda Cup West #5, Santa Barbara Bike Fest

Posted in Race/Ride reports on June 7, 2010 by bencycles

This one is my favorite:

And it comes with this:

Mmm mmm mmm. The view from that middle box is a nice treat. Winning The Elings Park race of the Kenda Cup this weekend was a great feeling. A lot of work goes into making those two hours of a race come out well. There is so much that can happen, with or without your control. Equipment, food, training,  family, work…  But that’s not news for anyone. I’m just basking a little.

Sunday morning we loaded the car and made the 3 h drive in just 4 hours, what with all the stops for me and my kid to take a pee. We must share the same bladder.

Got to the venue under a cloudy sky, my favorite! The park is right on the coast, but it was pretty warm at 11am. I still had plenty of time to scout the course and do a lap before my race. Good thing, too,as there was a lot of twisty singletrack with a couple of surprise turns on the descents hiding in the grass. The stutter bumps going into some of the steeper turns were really really brutal, too. Otherwise, the trail was smooth, fast, and flowee. I added 10psi to the fork and opened up the rebound a little so I could hit the descents hotter. This was gonna be fast.

30 minutes before the start and the cloud cover broke, unleashing a hellfire sun to cook us like tandoori chicken.

2 minutes. Count the riders, face check.

1 minute. Check what gear I’m in. Breath.

30 seconds. Right pedal up. Grab the brakes. Weight forward.  Why do I do this? Visualize.

Release. Everything goes away.

Grab a great start and gap the field going into the dirt. Back off a little. It’s gonna be two long hours. Where’s Garry? Look back to see his wheels on mine and the pack lined up. Climbing now. The hot stiffness of hard effort. Let him pass, recover, let him pace and keep close. We get a small gap on the group and I work like hell to stay on Garry’s wheel. Dude’s pretty fast in singletrack and were sliding skid turns through the tight descent. Up through the flowy section he’s starting to gap me. Stay smooth. Catch back on. It’s a good pace, the podium’s a lock if you keep it.

Garry grabs a gap on me. Outta sight in a heartbeat and I’m hurting from that start. Recover recover recover so I can catch him on the next climb. I see him up there. Keep him in sight. Count seconds at the yellow bush. He’s got a minute gap on me going into lap two and I’m thinking it’s a race for 2nd. Then I see him at the turnaround and I see his face. Pain. I get hungry again and push a little harder.

The third and fourth place guys are seconds behind. Maybe 30 feet back, trading places with each other, both coming for me. They aren’t gaining but neither am I. I’m faster here, they’re faster there. Always back there and I can’t break free.

Then I see him. Garry’s 50 yards away as we come out to a long smooth climb. Shit, I’m going. I’ll see you two later. I almost catch his wheel before we descend again. It’s right there, but then we make the left to descend again and he gets in front of the lapped traffic just at the descent and I’m stuck behind. Come on Come on Come on. Stay cool.

“that’s my guy up there, whenever you can”

A spot opens up, “Get that Fucker!” he yells as I come around. He lets me through and I hit those stutter bumps like a motherfuckn riot. Damn good thing I stiffened up that fork. Teeth clenched, knuckles white, growling from the insanity. Try to stay loose, but I think I’m gonna shake to pieces down that thing.

How does my bike not just fall apart and my bars not snap or my rotors not shear off? These are the things I contemplate as I’m descending faster than I should. “I have to do that section 3 more times?”

Climbing up the purgatory of that long road back to start it all over again, I catch Garry. Not looking good, it turns out he’s been sick all week and will eventually dnf on the day. Honestly, it’s probably the only way I’m gonna catch that guy so… I’ll take it!

“Ooh, I’m in 1st place now”

“Oh shit, I’m in 1st place now. I have two more laps to go, don’t fuck this up, smooooth”

So the next two laps are pretty much the same hellbound sufferfest of fun as the first two. Only, mentally, a whole lot more stressful now. The mentality of chasing is a whole lot different than the mentality of staying off the front. When you are chasing in a mtb race, your goal set is easy; catch the guy in front of you. Carrying it out might be a little harder, but the goal is simple.

But when no one is in front of me, well, how fast should I be going? Gotta keep my gap but I don’t want to take too many risks. What if I flat? Are the guys behind me gaining? All I have to do is drop my chain once and number 2 is gonna close that gap…. and on and on for two long laps.

Fantastic. So much drama. I claim to hate it but I fucking love it.

Anyway, I’m really windbagging this post. Like I said earlier, basking.

Look behind me. Zip up the jersey. Roll through the line. It hurts to stand.

Spend 4 hours in a car while my wife graciously drives us home and my daughter sleeps.


More Bits

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 by bencycles

There haven’t been too many mtb races since the Whiskey 50 which has been a few weeks now. The two races I’d been planning for got canceled on account of snow. I thought this place was a desert. Oh well, good stuff abounds, nonetheless. Me and the Sprout have been having loads of good times. She turned 3 this year. I’m amazed I could keep another human being alive for so long! Who knew?

Well, I suppose my wife deserves a little credit. anyhoo…

We checked out the new climbing gym in San Diego.

We rearanged her toys...

I did her hair.

She even shared her toys to help me sleep.

I’ve been tinkering with the bike, too, of course. “Project lighten up” has been in full gear to the delight of my inner weight weenie. I replaced a bunch of steel bolts with Ti and Al bolts thanks to the ridiculously supportive gents at Bee and Elle Bikes. Thanks Gordon! I also got a set of Ashima steel rotors.

Yes yes, I'm one of those guys...

Ooh, they are 20g lighter than stock. mmmm, 20 g (and 40g lighter than Shimano! each!). OK OK, I know, but they were cheap, plus I needed a second set for when my new race wheels arrive, the last piece to complete my “project lighten up” – arriving any day now.  My new wheels will be sending me subliminal messages while I ride.

Ride Harder Ben!

I know I have issues… And since I haven’t had any races lately, I’ve been seeking out new ways to exhibit my total extremeness. And I think I’ve got it figured out.

3 or 4 of these a day help me keep my edgy grit.

and of course, a wholesome lunch.

Strangely, gorging on empty calories and saturated fat still doesn’t fill the emptiness I feel deep inside…

… but these rides have been doing the job quite nicely!

Viejas desert bitch and Super awesome cuyamaca route.

I did these with local fast guy, Brent Prenzlow. That dude is efficient, fast, and tenaciously smooth on a cross bike. He’s not much different on a mountain bike. Going out on long mtb rides with him is great. Really good training for me, for a variety of reasons. Plus, we get in, git er done, and get out. Knock out 60 miles on the mtb in the morning and hang with the fam fam the rest of the day. That’s the kind of stuff that helps keep my facebook status as “in a relationship”, if you know what I mean.

Hmmm, what else? Well, in addition to being a weight weenie, I’m also kind of a junky for old school mountain bikes, so I’ll leave you with this final pic. I saw this riding around at the Kenda Cup in Fontana. On the one hand, I would have killed to have this bike back in the day. On the other hand, I thank my lucky stars I’m not riding that bike nowadays!

Shred Rad!