Friday, August 29, 2014

Long term Alfine 11 Review - I took that shit off my bike

Man.  I ran that hub for a long time.  And in a way it was great.  But in another way it really sucked.  I just didn't realize it.

It started a few months ago.  I pulled it off and set my bike up singlespeed.  But fuck me if I'm going to push a singlespeed around Vancouver.  So back on it went.

Then I rode to work and left my bike there overnight.  And came in the next day to find a giant puddle of Alfine oil under my bike.

That lead to a bit of a hunt and I finally just decided to buy one of those Sunrace bolt on derailleur hangars and be done with it.  Now?  Man.  Now, this bike just hauls ass all over the place.  Honestly.  It's just so much faster and easier than with that Alfine 11 pig holding me back.

I know.  I read about drag within internally geared hubs and I wrote it off.  I ignored it.  I thought that it couldn't possibly be that big of a deal.  But it is.  Those hubs are boat anchors.

So.  There you have it.  Alfine 11:
1) A bit of a pain in the ass to set up the first time.
2) Drags.
3) Leaks.
4) But looks pretty cool.
5) And it's kind of awesome to be able to shift whenever you want.

Oh.  I should mention.  I had a belt drive too, which was probably a tiny bit of the extra drag.  But not much.

Internally geared hubs are not our salvation.  Thank god I didn't put an effort into setting up a hardtail for the trails with one.

Wheel Paths

Talking about wheel path is probably not where we should start.

But I feel good about this topic.  It’s easy enough for anybody to understand, but there’s some technical info in here that even the internet suspension gurus are probably going to be interested in.  And we’re definitely going to start busting some heads.
We start here because wheel path has got to be the biggest topic of bullshit ever created by bicycle suspension marketers.  Talk to some people and you will be convinced you’d be winning world cup DH’s if you could just get the optimum wheel path.  Rearward.  “Vertical”.  I hope the guy who thought of “near vertical” is a millionaire because of it.  Thankfully, this seems to be slowly changing.  Santa Cruz has been setting people straight for years, and even Specialized is coming around to telling people not to worry about it.

Single Pivots

We’re going to start by looking at the simplest bikes to understand, single pivots.  Nobody needs to be told that the wheel path on a single pivot is an arc centered at the pivot point.  You know this.  You learned it in elementary school or college or something, depending on whether or not you were schooled in the British Columbia public education system.
Here we have 8 theoretical 6 inch travel bikes, with 8 different theoretical pivot locations and 8 corresponding theoretical wheel paths.  Let’s zoom in (I’ve also sketched in a 32 tooth middle ring and a 20 tooth cog for perspective).
From here, we can start to see some patterns.  Pivots 1 and 2 are our high pivot locations.  Notice that swingarm length doesn’t have much impact at all.  These pivots offer the most rearward swinging arcs, which is theoretically what everybody wants, and why we get bikes like this:
Pivots 3 and 4 correspond with a medium pivot, roughly in line with a middle chainring.  Once again, swingarm length has little input.  The path looks pretty damn close to "near vertical" to me.

Pivots 5 and 6 are extremely low, 6 being concentrically around the bottom bracket and 5 at some imaginary point directly in front of the bottom bracket.  We’re starting to see some spread due to swingarm length and a some forward arc.  We notice that a shorter swingarm leads to more forward arc.

Taking things to an extreme, we have 7 and 8, way below the bottom bracket.  We get a lot of spread due to swingarm length and start to see some extreme forward arc.

So great, Dave.  You showed us a bunch of single pivot wheel paths, many of them in impossible locations for bikes that don’t exist.  So let’s start to overlay some real bikes over this diagram (shown in red).  We’ll start with the Santa Cruz Bronson.
Which pretty much overlays our single pivot 3 and 4 examples.

Then the Ghost.
Which pretty much overlays our single pivot 3 and 4 examples.

And the Heckler.
Which....ahhh...pretty much overlays our single pivot 3 and 4 examples.

Three totally different bikes.  Three totally similar wheel paths.

Let’s throw them all on one diagram, just for kicks.  I’m not even going to bother labelling them, because there’s no point.

They all look so similar, I should probably come to the conclusion that I’ve doing something wrong.  In fact, they’re way more similar than even I expected, causing me to go back and double check everything yet again.  But there isn’t a mistake.  This is what wheel paths look like.  Even the fanciest bikes with “complex” wheel paths are really only deviating a few millimeters here and there from simple arcs (and there are reasons for this that we will talk about later...oh...nice teaser Dave!).  There’s other things going on...but dramatically different wheel paths are not one of them.  Especially in shorter travel lengths.  Those diagrams they’re showing on their website?  Gross exaggerations of the actual curve.

And you shouldn’t worry about wheel path.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Classic Article #1

I'll put "classic" in quotation marks...but there's a couple of NSMB stories that seem to have been scrubbed from the Interwebs that I kind of miss.  Reproduced here in its shameful entirety.  Some shots by me, some by Margus.  Man...this is some real Web 1.0 shit.  Just really terrible.  I'm going to own it though.  Original publish date is sometime in late 2003 I think.  Wow.  10 Years.

Confessions of a Delirious Mind
(Behind the Scenes of a “Professional” Film Shoot)

This isn’t really a story about a ride.  This is more a story about doing something different.  It’s about getting off your ass and seizing opportunities presented to you.  Too often we sit around and live for tomorrow.  We stick with a job that we don’t like.  We save our vacation days for the big trip next year.  This is sad.  Anyhow, I was presented with an opportunity that would have been really easy to dismiss.  There were about 50 reasons to say ‘no’ to this ride.  Even after I said ‘yes’ I wasn’t sure that it was even going to be fun.  All I knew was that this was one of those things that won’t come around very often.  It was one of those things that, good or bad, I would always remember.  So here it goes.

It began as an afternoon of dirt jumping.  As of 3:30 in the afternoon, we were supposed to meet up at six for an evening session.  By five the plan had changed drastically.  So, rather than heading out riding, I saddled up my ball glove and headed for a slo-pitch/ass-kiss session to talk my boss into giving me the next day off.  He did, so I was off.

I guess it wasn’t that simple.  Doing anything with Cory and Ambrose is a sketchy proposition.  Throw Margus into the mix and you may as well be planning a trip to the zoo with a Kindergarten class after slipping half of them sleeping pills and the other half speed.  Plans change.  People yell.  It gets ugly sometimes. 

The plan was to film a six-hour night-ride epic that flowed into the following morning.  The footage was to be used in Pist-N-Broke’s next video, Back in the Saddle Again.  This was rather ambitious, especially considering the dysfunctional nature or our group.  Still, something about it was intriguing.  I knew that it would beat the piss out of me and I’d be miserable for much of the time.  I knew that Cory would yell a lot and Margus would probably get us lost.  But I also knew it would be a hell of a lot more exciting than another Thursday at work.
If you think they look tired now, you should smell them later.  Actually, even now they smell pretty bad. - Cory Leclerc and Margus Riga
So off we headed.  Two cars.  Four people.  One in the morning.  We were on the bikes at three.  I was dead by six.  The novelty of the star-soaked night and a larger than life Mars quickly wore off.  I guess that any time you start out for what you know will be at least a four hour climb, you can kind of figure that you won’t be feeling all that great within a short period of time.  Still, I wasn’t prepared for this.  What started as a ‘ride’ quickly developed into a hike-a-bike.  Well, for me anyhow.  My legs felt like shit by four.  I was hungry by five.  I felt like crawling into a ditch by six.  Between six and 6:30 I probably made about 200 feet of progress (seriously).  I stopped every few feet and snapped pictures as the Sun started to rise.  I’d like to say it was the scenery that kept me riveted in place but I was seriously doubting my ability to complete this ride and remembering why I didn’t really do much in the way of cross-country anymore.  But I’d driven a few hours, climbed for three and taken the day off work so quitting and sitting in the car wasn’t something I was about to do.
An Ass-Riveting View
At about the time that my spirit was cracking the sun was rising and I caught my first glimpse of the peak.  With the sun shining and my objective in sight, I was a new man.  My baby steps turned into that of a half-grown chimp.  I focused my mind on chicks and booze and amazingly dragged my beer-fattened ass to the top.  I arrived to one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed.  Four-and-a-half hours of climbing and I can honestly say it was worth it and I’d barely had the opportunity to plop my dumper on my bike seat.  I was happy and we hadn’t even started going down.
Spirits are crushed easier with snow on the ground. – Dave Tolnai (Photo – Margus Riga)

There’s no way to describe the feeling of being surrounded by snow-capped peaks bathed in early morning light on a amazingly warm August morning, all the while scarfing down the most fantastic tasting burrito you’ve ever wrapped your mouth around.  As I was the last to hobble my carcass to the top, the rest was short-lived.  The filmer/photographer types were eager to make use of the lighting, so off we trekked across the alpine.

It was probably another hour or two until we reached ‘down’.  The first few hundred meters of trail were incredibly sketchy.  I used muscles that I never knew existed just trying to keep my bike pointed in a straight line.  It was a little worrisome thinking that all of that climbing would be a gigantic waste as I would be unable to ride faster than a walking pace once we hit the trails.  After a short period of time it became easier as I could finally stop thinking about things and just ride.  I guess it helped that we soon stumbled upon some of the flowiest, fun to ride trails I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.  It was also becoming painfully obvious that the estimated two hours down was a little far-fetched.
Filming Excitement! – Ambrose Weingart and Margus Riga
The Payoff? – Cory Leclerc
As we rolled on we left the alpine and entered some beautiful forest/meadows.  We soon figured out that stopping and resting wasn’t a good idea as any conversation quickly turned into an argument.  Take away somebody’s food and sleep and force them to ride their bike a long ways and things can turn nasty.  If you ever do something like this make sure it’s with people who don’t hold grudges.  So, we stopped stopping, we stopped arguing and we continued riding.  We had about an hour more of meadowy forests with fast, gentle singletrack.  From there it popped into the woods, got a little more technical and a lot more turny.  That lasted for a while, and with an hour of trail left everybody agreed that they’d seen enough singletrack for one day.  We put the cameras away and focused on getting our asses back to the cars.  We popped out at the bottom and  “Five-Minute” Margus assured us it was a quick climb to the road and then 5-10 minutes to the bottom.  If the next hour of riding had required up rather than down I would have killed him.  Seriously.  Actually, we were all too exhausted to do any damage to Margus who was easily in the best shape of us all.  So it probably would have just resulted in a stern glare and maybe a bit of a lecture.  We finally rolled up to the cars and there it was.  1:30pm.  Ten-and-a-half hours on a bike.  Stupid.  Just absolutely stupid.
The Payoff. - Cory Leclerc and Dave Tolnai (photo – Margus Riga)

But that wasn’t it.  Imagine driving 2 hours in the heat and traffic and then getting to Vancouver for rush hour after staying up all night and being on your bike far longer than you ever have in your life.  My actions bordered on delirious and at one point I was yelling at a vanload of construction workers who tried to force their way in front of me.  I survived and rolled into bed at about the time I would normally be getting home from work.

Honestly – huck this, huck that, stunt here, skinny there is fine, but nothing can beat a nice stretch of downhill singletrack.  Sometimes I fear we’ve lost the meaning of what took us out riding in the first place and we’ve misplaced the concept of a trail.  Six hours of downhill through peaks and beside glacial lakes was enough to remind me that there is way more to riding than is shown in the average video.  Fair enough, I was riding a 9-inch travel bike with an 8-inch fork with only a middle ring, so I can’t really claim to be too much of a purist.  But I could easily have been enjoying myself just as much on ... well... maybe on something with five and five.

My whole point is that people are too wrapped up in their day-to-day lives.  Too focused on tomorrow.  Hell, I’m 26 and I’m trapped in the life of an old person.  I’m more bitter than Michael Jackson trapped in an old-folks home for the weekend.  I’m focused on rent and car payments and being sober for work in the morning.  Even in our tiny little cycling world everybody is focused on the right bikes, the right clothes and the biggest gap on the newest trail.  It’s all bullshit.  Sometimes it feels good to take a step back, fuck the consequences and live for the moment.  Do something you wouldn’t normally do.  I did and I experienced one of the coolest, stupidest days I will ever remember.