February 22, 2013

The SHITR In Trail Runner Magazine

Here it is, the day we have all been waiting for, The SHITR is now officially famous, it is written up in Trail Runner Magazine.   Read the full story here: The Joy of the Non-Race

February 19, 2013

Gravel Bike - Evolution

Don't build this bike.

If you could stand to follow this build all the way from post1 through post 10, you know I had been using an Ebay Cannondale CAAD7 frame for the base of the build.  I was pretty excited about an American made CX bike with disc brakes.  But, as I added more and more mileage to the frame, the original small idiosyncrasies I found starting growing into big downers. Since I plan to ride some high mileage races this year (Cedar Cross, DK200) I really needed to have it dialed in as close to perfect as I could get it.  The things I couldn’t get around were:

Front wheel toe overlap.  Why would a bike mfg design a geometry that allows your toes to hit the wheel when turning?  It’s beyond me.  At best, this is absolutely annoying and at worst it’s downright dangerous.  It’s probably partly my fault for setting the cleats on my shoes so far back, but they have to be there to avoid those damn hotspots.

Limited tire size.  I literally had to cram 35c tires in the frame.  They were so close to rubbing but I went with it because it ‘is what is’.  I should have had 30 or 32c on this frame.  Any amount of mud or sand collecting on the rear seatstays would likely lock the wheel up.  I really wanted to ride 40c tires for the added comfort and controlabilty in wet and/or loose gravel.

Geometry.  I think the Cannondale geometry was designed for short cx races.  It felt fast, but always twitchy.  I was constantly focused on the steering, working through the heavier graveled sections of road  slower than I wanted.  It gave me that unsteady feeling of sitting up too high ‘on-top’ of the bike.  I like the feeling of being ‘in’ the bike.  Wish I knew how to explain that better.  I first discovered that feeling on my Superfly and now I want all my bikes to feel that way.

Road Buzz.  This is probably the aluminum fork and frame.  I’ve read plenty of frame reviews and this is the reason people give for not liking aluminum.  Take that buzz on the road to gravel and it gets more magnified.  This is kind of a minor thing compared to the other reasons, but it was still there. I bet a carbon fork would've fixed it.

I could live with the buzz, I didn’t like the geometry.  But I really hated the toe overlap and limited tire size.  I tried to think my way through solutions to these problems and I kept coming back to the same one:  New frame.

So I obsessively read my way through a half million reviews, thousands of blog stalks, hundreds of conversations and as I narrowed my search down, a month went by.  Then I did it all over again, narrowed my search even further and another month went by.  I finally decided on a Salsa Vaya.  Salsa calls it their "road adventure bike, designed to handle any ‘road’ surface, from pavement to gravel."
The Vaya has a long wheelbase = no toe overlap.  Takes up to 42c tires (and it looks like it could even go bigger than that).  Middle of the road geometry (touring meet racing).  And a steel frame means goodbye road buzz.

Now that my frame search was more specific.  I bombarded Craigslist and Ebay and all the forums I could find.  Constantly looking for used 56cm Vaya frames.  There was nothing out there, not a single hit in a month of searching.  God bless my angelic wife for finally putting an end to my suffering!  And No, she didn’t smother me with a pillow.  She ordered a brand new Vaya frame for my birthday eve/first birthday/second birthday/post birthday/Christmas combo!!

 The 10 part blog build of the Cannondale turned into a one hour part-swap-fest.  Everything swapped over easily to the Vaya and only left me with a mild cable length problem that I’ll get to someday.

While I was doing all the part swapping I also put on the bigger 700 x 40c Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires I was wanting.  They fit great with plenty of room to spare.  I also replaced those crappy road bike handlebars with some Salsa Cowbell II bars and wrapped them up in lizardskins tape.

These bars are short reach, shallow drop, and have the lower legs flared out at a 12 degree angle.  I'm gonna tell you they are the best drop bars I've ever ridden.  If I ever get on my road bike again, I will have to replace the fancy-schmancy carbon bars for one of these.

I've got a lot of riding to do this spring, I'll get another post out to let you know how the Evolution to Perfection is progressing.

February 1, 2013

The SHITR Made The Big Time

The SHITR hit the big time...  It made the Adventure Blog, an international Adventure Racing Magazine.  Yep, that's right, the SHITR is now known world wide.  If you would like to read the article, you can find it at the link below.