Thursday, November 3, 2016

New Bike day! 2011 Specialized Enduro Comp

Yep! you read that title right: its new bike day. What is the flavor today you ask?

2011 Specialized Enduro Comp

So...those of you know know me in person will attest to the idea that I am a cheapskate: I never buy brand new when it comes to significant purchases like cars or bikes. I really want that brand new all carbon 29er enduro but at the end of the day I simply cannot come to terms with spending the better part of $10,000 on a car, let alone a bike!

Me and eBay go way back though. Way further than craigslist could hope to go! I have bought vehicles and paintball gear and all sorts of useless chinese junk through ebay and now i have bought a complete, albeit used, bicycle!

Of course this idea comes with lots of unknowns and puts a LOT of trust in the seller. This is not always well founded trust.
But it is usually enough of a good deal to me to take that risk and worry about the details later. This bike was one of the "worry about the details later" moments just like the Porsche adventure was.

I did get a complete bicycle and not a box of rocks, so at least I have that going for me. I ended up paying about $950, once shipping was added on, for a well abused 6 year old bike. maybe not the best of gambles but it should be fun to ride once I spend a bunch more money on it!

This is what she looks like assembled and out of the box. 
Per the ebay ad I already know the following:
  • Rear triangle was replaced with a piece from a 2012. Gives the bike a 12x142 rear axle.
  • Rear Easton Havoc wheel has a pretty big dent in it.
  • Lots of paint scuffs and chips.
  • Thompson Elite seat post
Now for the things I have discovered since unwrapping and setting it up tonight:
  • LOTS of scuffs and paint chips. Way more than anticipated and clearly from trail use not just "from the cheap bike rack I used" stuff.
  • Tires are original, and full of tubeless goo, and have bent presta valves. But do take air and appear to hold at least for a few minutes!
  • Handlebars are from BlkMrkt. Hubba hubba!
  • Seat is an old Bontrager junker...will probably replace with the WTB Speed on the old hardrock.
  • front brake master cylinder is shot. pushes fluid out of the gasket somehow.
  • Shock needs a rebuild. oil comes out when pumping the pressure up.
  • Cranks are badly beaten and at least one is bent.
  • Rear derailleur hanger is bent, possibly from shipping as pictured above. Hard to tell if the derailleur itself is bent.
  • Fork should probably be rebuilt while I am at it.
  • Should probably replace the suspension bearings while I am tearing things up.
Thats all I have so far.  Looking forward to some, hopefully, easy wrenching and tuning!

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

2013 Trek Rumblefish

So I wanted to do a little bike check to tell everybody about what I have been riding this year, for the most part. I have wanted a full squish pretty much from the get-go but until this last season I have not had the drive or resources ($$$) to make it a reality. I definitely do not see a full squish as a starting point for beginning riders, but once you have the basics down the compliance of full suspension sure is nice.

2013 Trek Rumblefish
So I bought this bike used from a nice talkative guy on the south side of the cities. there were a few mods that he had done that I thought were useless to me but I also thought that they showed that the bike was not beat up by him. Unlike me using a bike...

So we agreed on $1100 and I took the bike home. I didn't even know how to remove the QR15 front axle that day so I tried to fit it inside the truck cab and that wasn't even close so i ended up flopping it in the back. It has since rode many miles in the back of the ole Chevy!

I took the riser post off of the fork and the silly flame grips off and returned the bike to a mostly stock configuration. I checked the pressure in the shock and fork and rode around the yard until I thought the ergonomics felt good.  I took a few bits apart to grease and check the condition of bearings but for the most part everything was in good shape if a little dusty from sitting in the guys garage for a while.

First Ride.
Myself, Bryan and our coworker and former classmate Shawn met up to ride some trails non of us had hit before. We hit up Carver Lake Park, which is awesome with great technical features for the more trialsy riders. then we went down the road to Battle Creek trails area. This was an area none of us knew and we parked at the top where there is poor trail signage. There are some wicked narrow and technical descents and sure enough I got caught out trying to keep up with those two ya-hoos.
I hit a little kicker along a bank thinking the guys had hit it and as soon as my front tire came up I regretted it, panic braked and when I came down the bike stopped and I went OTB and the bike tumbled down the trail. Unknown until a week later I bent both the handlebars and one of the saddle rails in this off.

I didn't get significantly injured, besides my pride, so I considered it a good day.

I also rode my first MTB race at Elm Creek on this bike over the summer. I didn't finish very high but I still had a blast doing it. I can see doing lots of XC on this bike but after riding it at Spirit Mountain a few times, and my experience at Battle Creek, I am not sure if I will keep it for the long haul. I will likely post a new update once that fate becomes clearer...

Change comes from within

Hey all,

Thanks for suffering through this transformation of the website and changes to the blog. I still dont have things sorted out but I need a place to play with some new features and options. Unfortunately I am no longer able to keep the blog and youtube channel free from ads; this is simply a sad fact of life that I am not able to devote the resources to keep things going out of my own pocket indefinitely. My plan is to offer products that reflect me and the lifestyle that i promote through this blog and my youtube videos and hopefully branded items like shirts and stickers and the like. I know these are lofty dreams but you have to start somewhere!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Article about suspension and theory

Night light review

Hey all,

I was going to do a video review of this light, but I decided to return it before I even had a chance to shoot any footage. As you will notice at the link above this light only costs about $18. That should be setting off alarm bells in your brain that this product is so incredibly cheap that it cannot be good. I am here to confirm that idea for you.

It arrived in an unmarked brown cardboard box with kanji written on it. I opened the box and found all of the components to be in decent condition after shipment. Unfortunately all of the components are of very cheap quality and build. The rounded portion for clamping to a handlebar is designed for a 25mm or 1" handlebar so it was not going to work well for me as I run 31.8mm bars on any bike that I would ride at night.

The included "headband" was also of low quality. It had a small round plastic section that was on the front where I assume you were supposed to use all of the handlebar circular pieces to mount the light. This all made the whole assembly rather bulky and awkward.

I had to get one just to see what $18 gets you, but I cannot suggest it to anybody I know. Consider one of the lights below as an alternative. Sadly I have not had them in hand to evaluate if they are better or not but at least they come from a known cycle related company.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Night train

So I went biking with my buddy Shawn on Friday. We left my house for Elm Creek at about 5:30. PM. We had light for the first half hour or so, and then the darkness unfolded. Shawn had some baller lights he had borrowed from his brother that put out enough light for me to ride by! My single Innova headlight and cheap headlamp barely gave me enough light to pedal by let alone bomb the expert runs in GrizzLand. Shawn fell down once early trying to ride a skinny, and I hit a tree in the darkness and ended up sprawled out down the trail. Nothing damaged that I know of yet.
I think the moral of the story is that if I do a night ride again I need some firepower in the lights department!
Ride on,

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

2010 Specialized Hardrock Disc

Thought I would give a little more detail on a couple of my bikes, to help flesh out what I do around here.
As I have recently mentioned I bought this 2010 Hardrock off of for the princely sum of $150. It was as original as they come.
I think this picture was the day I bought it. It still has the specialized tires on it even!

Since I was getting more into bicycles when I bought this one, I decided to go through and do some clean up and simple maintenance that i knew how to do. I took the fork apart and cleaned and re-greased it. I also rinsed and re-packed the headset bearings while I was in there. I tried to lube the cables and clean and adjust the derailleurs. I also replaced the clanky BB with a cheap Shimano one.

And then I rode it for a while. It was great! I could ride over way more rugged terrain without having my fillings or kidneys fall out. It had disc brakes so I learned what good brakes felt like. things were wonderful.

Of course I couldn't leave things alone! Why have disc brakes if you aren't going to hydraulic, right? Here comes our friend eBay: $60 for a full set of Tektro china specials, with all the hardware and discs even!
Then a new seat. Then some new stems to play with ergonomics.
Then some pedals to replace the poly original ones. Cheap Wellgo pedals. Work wonders over the worn out stock poly ones.

The chain and sprockets start looking poorly so I buy a new cassette, a new chain, and decide to take the raceface crankset off of a frame I got and freshen up the whole drivetrain. I learn how to adjust derailleurs correctly this time.

Finally I bend the wheels one too many times. Brian, the mechnic at my LBS, says "these things can't be trued correctly. I got it straight but if you hit too many more bumps its probably going to pop right back to where it was." So off to the internet! what looks robust: Azonic Outlaws! they cost twice as much as the bike but they come in green so it happens. May as well put some of these aggressive looking Michelin ATs on it while I am in there.

Lots of time and money spent on this rig. I just took it out for a ride today as a matter of fact: since I have been recently riding my XC bike this thing feel terrible. but it is still light, flickable, and nimle feeling comapred to my 33lb full squish. :) Experience it a terrible thing sometimes.


Some Two Wheeled History

When I read other blogs, and watch people's videos online, I frequently wonder "Who are these people, and what is their background?" So today I wanted to take a little walk back in time to share with you all a little bit of my bicycle background.

As a young little whipper-snapper I had many crumby bikes that I have very little memory of. 20" banana seat bikes that were pink with tassels kind of stuff. I am going to skip over those! The first "real" bike that my mother bought me was a Trek 800 Mountain Track:
This is not the exact bike i owned, I sadly cannot find any pictures of it right now. It was bought new, had a rack and panniers even! I rode this thing all over the Keweenaw Peninsula and around Price County Wisconsin. It was awesome. I even got a Vetta C15 computer for it at some point! I thought it was so cool. I used to go down the street from my mom's house to some old tailing piles and try to jump the thing. Of course i knew nothing about jumping bikes and didn't really have any friends that were into bikes so I just ovaled out the headset and kept riding it. I had this bike until 2009ish when I went off to college and started riding to campus and back. I soon realized that the bike bought for me in grade school no longer fit me!
Then one day in my sophomore year in college I spotted a bike that had been sitting chained to a bike rack since I started college and thought "self: if you take that bike at least it will stop being so rusty, and it will probably fit you." Of course i never thought "self: if you take that bike you are technically stealing." college students, I tell ya!
Another pesky Trek. This time with a blown out BB, non-functional fork, and no seat.
I bought a seat post and a seat from the local Scheels store and rode this bike for the rest of my time in college. At the end of my time there, when I had purchased another bike, I quietly left this bike at the exact rack that I had taken it from all those years earlier.

Eventually I thought I needed a bigger frame again. So Craigslist was now a thing in my life so I kept my eyes on it and sure enough a "large" framed Bianchi Timberwolf popped up one day for $75 and I had to have it:
I slapped some balloon tires (CST Cyclops, I knew nothing about tires at this point obviously) to replace the leaky old ones that came on it and away I went again!
This bike I rode until I had moved back to Minnesota, at which time I discovered single-track. So clearly this towering behemoth of a bike was not the thing for singletrack. It must have been an extra-large frame measuring in the 22"+ range.
Next I bought an old Cannondale M300se:

I sought this bike out rather than taking what landed in my lap, for the first time. The Bianchi had been very functional but being a steel frame it weighed a ton. So when I decided I wanted a bike for this new-fangled single track stuff I decided i needed to have a lighter weight bike. I rode this bike around Elm Creek MTB Trails for a season before thinking "gee I sure could use a suspension fork" which I proptly identified the headtube of this featherweight as being too small for most modern forks. rascals. Time to buy again! Note- I do still own this bike, though I put road tires on it for something to ride around the neighborhood. It has surprisingly good handling and geo for a bike that is 20 years old. I am tempted to put nobbies on it and go try my hand at single track with it, just for fun.

Now things start to get interesting and a little more modern:
2010 Specialized Hardrock
This was another craigslist find. It was listed a few miles up the road from my house at the time and the ad was fairly old without any pictures. but for $150 I was willing to take a look as MTB prices were just starting to take off at this time. The guy said it was his sons, off to college and didn't want it anymore. Frame size 19" and aside form some scratches in the decals and fork it looked to be in good condition so I brought it home. This is when things really started taking off for me: I started to really enjoy single track riding, I started meeting other people that ride, I started tinkering with this bike's bits and pieces and really learning, in earnest, about working on bikes and when things do when you change them. Things also escalate quickly, the next few bikes have all come within the last two seasons:

2008 Specialized P.Street dirt jump bike:

2007 Norco Evolution trials bike:
Zoo! Pitbull trials bike, which I don't currently have a picture of for some reason.
And this season I graduated up to a full squish 2013 Trek Rumblefish 29er which even with all of its comfort, I still am not certain of some days.

Then there are the GFs bikes:
2000ish Specialized Hardrock Ultra. Her first good bike, It was in great shape and with some decent tires served her well for two seasons of singletrack. Now sold.
Replaced the Hardrock with a 2015 Specialized Lynx 27.5er. A distinct improvement over a 15 year old, mens frame. I wasn't sure about it when she started looking, especially when it is "i like the color of that one" but she was clearly more comfortable on it and it had lots of good modern technical aspects that will allow me to upgrade it if she decides she wants more.
2008 Specialized cirrus
She said she wanted to get into weekly road rides at the LBS. I believed her and found this beauty for $180 on craigslist. I knew I would be bringing it home before the guy even said anything. A solid like flat-bar urban bike. 

And then there are a bunch of random bikes that came and went over time.

Yes that is a 650B women's road bike. Crazy lightweight and also tiny.
A 1960s 27 inch unicycle a friend gave me.
And we haven't even talked about motorcycles yet! Perhaps another time.

And there is what used to be a garage in all its glory.


Video fun

Hey everybody! Some of you might already know this but: I have a YouTube channel! Well sort of.

Yup, that's it. As of today I have posted 12 videos in all the years of my membership but as of late I have been watching lots of videos lately. This has inspired me to get back into the attempt of making my own videos.

Channels like Seth's Bike Hacks and Phil Kmetz along with more commercial yet cool channels like Park Tool really make me want to get back into the idea of making videos for other people to enjoy. Back when I used my GoPro camera in California I really enjoyed being able to share my experiences. Then I bought Adobe Premiere and things got more complicated...but again youtube helps a guy out and now i feel like I have some level of fumbling confidence.

Of course in the years since California I managed to somehow break my old GoPro 2: I decided I should just purchase a new one, possibly a session? Enter stage left: our favorite online mass marketplace. It turns out GoPro is no longer the one and only, thanks China, and now I can get a GoPro knockoff for stupid cheap: Wespire Action Camera 2.0. Of course when the camera is that cheap i can't just buy that: I have to buy a bunch of stupid cheap accessories too!

So far I have bought:

So far I am back into video for about $130 which is still less than one single gopro brand camera would set me back. Crazy.

The only item I have not purchased that seems to be popular now is a powered gimbal. I am looking at some on the ole Amazon but I have not decided if I want to go that route just yet. I will see how a couple videos turn out with this knock-off camera and then decided if I buy the gimbal or save up for a GoPro Session.

So keep tuned in while I get things up and rolling. And feel free to watch all 12 of my sweet videos I have posted.

Thanks for reading! -G

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First race! Yay

Hey all! Long time since any real posts or updates. Tonight I, and Leann, rode in my first MTB race, and finished! It was a pretty laid back local affair held at my "home" track of Elm Creek Preserve Trails. I finished 65 out of 75 or so with a time of 1:01.22. I did pass a handful of people but one mis-step going over an optional obstacle cost me early on, then a janky rear derailleur and soggy brakes lost me confidence.
Thanks to Shawn Hoffman for telling me about the races, wish I had heard about them sooner! Good job to the other Polaris nerds that come out and rode as well!
Over all I thought it was an awesome time, and a well spent $15! Big shout out to Three Rivers Park system and Maple Grove Cycle for providing all of the support.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What the heck industry!?

Okay I have a bone to pick with the latest batch of cycling magazines I have been browsing. I have read in multiple locations "save up your money and just buy a new bike because we all know the bike companies get a huge discount when they buy components by the truckload"

Wtf. These writers and editors apearantly have never bought a used bike? Why would I save up $2000 (cheapest HT stumpjumper at Erika's today) rather than spend $400 on a fork for my $150 Hardrock? That seems to go against the most basic rule of cycling, IMHO: go out and ride.

I am tired of the blatant commercialism of all the publications I used to read regularly. Whether it be bike mags, car mags, audio, you name it they all have shitty commercialism creating huge market changing trends.

What is wrong with a 26" bike wheel? Nothing. What is a + size tire? Why not just call it wide? Who cares about carbon, if you aren't made of money you better not!

*rabble rabble rabble*

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Well, since I am writing bike blog posts I will update on the squad.

Leann's old Specialized Hardrock Ultra is sold. Since I bought her the Cirrus I knew she would not be riding it any longer, and the geometry I never cared for so I was not planning on riding it much. $60 to some craigslist random.

The BMW R1100S is sold! I will miss this bike as it was incredible the few times I got to ride it. Unfortunately I recognized that it was simply taking up space and being a resource sucker. I sent it on to the next, hopefully, happy owner. A younger guy from St. Cloud that is into bikes and had other projects. $2000 in the pocket. Time to find a nice DH bike... :D

happy pedaling!

Fun with chainlines and building trials bikes

More old draft posts that I am coming back to so that I have more content! yay.

So as readers will know, I ditched the rear wheel that came on my $180 Trials bike in favor of some new trials oriented parts. I kept the Alex DX32 rim but threw out the crappy hub and spokes.

I purchased a used Echo 135mm trials hub and some DT spokes from and dove into my first adventure with wheel building. Lacing is easy I figured out. I followed the Sheldon Brown article about wheel building and had no real problems.

Where I ran into problems was trueing and tensioning. I now own a Park Tool TM-1, and am looking for a second had dish gauge or might build my own soon. Ultimately I corrected the dish of my rear wheel just using the frame as a guide and it has not given me any problems. At least not in terms of the wheel construction! :)

I also put a FFW crankset on the bike at the same time to facilitate the rear wheel. This gave me heartache because I had purchased the wrong bottom bracket and thought all my chainline spacings were messed up. As it turns out I simply put things together wrong.

I was trying to use an Echo 18t bashring under my Echo Freewheel on a set of Brethe bike cranks. The problem I did not notice the first time around is that the crankarm and bash ring were interfering with each other causing everything to bind up and look crooked. I put the bashring in the mill and shaved a channel into it and everything fits fine! The bashing was on $20 used of of OTN, for the record.

Thats all for tonight. happy pedaling!

2009 Specialized Cirrus

Well, again I started this post a while back when we picked up the bike but had not had a good chance to update it and finish typing.

So I bought Leann a road bike. She has long complained about how much she wants a road bike so that she can go on rides form the house. I see no problem in hoping on a MTB and adding some air for a nice recreational pedal around the park, but women think differently.

So I did a little craigslist browsing and VIOLA! or something.

a very nice condition Specialized Cirrus in 54cm size. nice metallic white in largely original condition.

First things first: get rid of the crappy changes that previous owner had done and make it more suitable for biking 150 miles. Remove and discard old MTB seat and install Leann's body geometry seat. remove crappy walmart plastic flat pedals and install simple VP clip-ins. Remove and discard squishy grips and install some decent modern clamp-on grips.

I also did some easy maintenance. Popped the pedals and bottom bracket out to clean and regrease threads. a few squirts of lube into the brake and shifter cables. Clean and lube of the chain.

And that is it. so far Leann has got one flat on the front after we went for a ride, luckily had recently had a sale and I stocked up on 700 tubes!

And that is it so far. Leann seems to enjoy it and we go out for rides. happy pedaling!

Bike MS150!

Hey everybody!
It is that time of year again, just like on NPR, where I come out and ask for a few of your hard-earned dollars to support what I believe is a good cause. This is the second year that I am riding for a cause and I hope that readers will at least consider making a contribution: Even if it is not to me! Be grateful for what you have and generous with the resources you are blessed with. Whether it is a monetary donation to a campaign like mine or helping an elderly neighbor with their yard-work; be a better person this summer.

thank you,
Gabe Johnston