Bent seat rails

Posted by SuperClydesdale on March 25, 2011 under Mountain Bikes, Seats, Surveys | Be the First to Comment

I remember when, during a massive wind storm, a huge tree fell across the road in front of my place.  The wind had been howling all night, and I knew all hell was breaking loose outside.   The following morning, I went outside and saw the tree, with a trunk probably four feet in diameter, resting on top of a very cool old VW station wagon.  The car looked relatively unscathed, other than the fact that it was being pressed down so hard that the body was practically touching the ground.  It was surprising how well the VW held up. It looked like if you lifted the tree off, you could open the door, start it up, and drive away.  I thought “damn, that VW is a strong ass car!”

As the hours passed, I was amazed to see the tree slowly crush the car.  By the middle of the day, the car was horribly disfigured as the weight of the tree steadily bent the metal. I thought, “damn, that tree is heavy!”

I was thinking of that poor VW the other day when I noticed that my bike looked a little odd when I took it out of the car before my last mountain bike ride.

Nothing says “damn you’re heavy” like bent seat rails.  Yes, somehow, my fat ass has managed to bend the damn seat rails.   I’ve been riding road bikes for many years, and never bent a seat rail.   This mountain biking thing is tough on components!

The seat is a  Specialized BG Phenom.  It’s the stock seat that came with the 2010 Stumpjumper.  In going to the Specialized web site, I think I have discovered the design flaw for a big guy seat:  hollow rails.  In an effort to shave off grams, Specialized uses hollow chromium rails.

As for chromium steel, they used chromium steel to contain King Kong.  Look how that worked out.

I think a 240 pounder like me needs solid rails.   Ideally, solid carbon steel.   I don’t care about a few grams.  I need strength and comfort.  I miss my ass hammock, aka the Selle An-Atomica, that I use on the road bike.

My riding is not too extreme.  I’m not a downhiller.  In fact, my mountain biking is comparable to how I played basketball during my “career” – which is to say the amount of air between me and the ground is usually pretty modest.  I was never nicknamed “Air Jack.”  Actually, my nickname was “The Hammer.”   As with soccer, I was a rather talentless hack — pretty good within about 10 feet of the rim, but as my ability to jump was curtailed by knee and ankle injuries, the floor and I became close friends.  We were rarely seen apart from one another.

My  massive weight bearing down over the jostles of the trail have, like that tree, just worn down the poor seat.  That poor seat – meant for someone else – just cannot take the steady beat of 240 pounds of ass on it.    Chromium Steel?  Ha!  I spit on your grave!

Time for a new seat, I’m afraid.

If you are a big dude and have a seat that has held up to your fat ass on a mountain bike, let me know by filling in survey below.  I will post responses when I get enough.

Have a great mountain bike seat recommendation for heavy riders?

Fill me in!
  • Who makes your seat? Example: Specialized
  • Example: Phenom
  • Enter your weight. Be honest... it's just us.
  • Rate this seat, with one star being worst, five being best. Do you recommend this seat to other heavy riders?
  • Any additional comments on this mountain bike seat?

Mountain biking at night

Posted by SuperClydesdale on January 10, 2011 under Commentary, Mountain Bikes | Be the First to Comment

I ran into my buddy Mark on Thursday — the same Mark that got me into my first night road ride a couple of months back .   He’d asked me to join him on a night mountain bike ride over the holidays, but I couldn’t swing it.   None of my other riding buddies are man enough to ride at night.  “Too cold,”, “too dark,”  “too many mountain lions.”  Whatever.   While I wanted to go out, I don’t think it’s the best idea to ride alone.   I’d been chomping at the bit to hit the dirt at night, and so I asked Mark, “why not tonight?”   Damn it if he didn’t take me up on it… that wasn’t the plan.  I wasn’t actually offering to ride in near freezing fog.

But, I was looking for a chance to try out my new lights, so when he accepted, I decided not to feign a sudden bought of explosive diarrhea.

On my last night ride, I had a low-end light that I used for my long-distance rides a couple of years ago when I was working on completing the California Triple Crown.    For a double century, I didn’t think I needed an ultra-bright light so much as something that would last a long time and keep me visible to passing cars.  That wouldn’t do –  I’m not going to take a crap light as my sole guide into the woods at night.  I knew that for mountain biking, I needed a brighter light.

In comes the NightRider 1400, aka “a little piece of the sun,”  a 1400-lumen flamethrower.   The NightRider is a ridiculously bright light — actually two lights side-by-side.  One light casts a floodlight-style beam, the other a spot light.   It’s almost certainly going to be brighter than whatever piece of trash anyone you’re riding with will  show up with.  They will be the moon to your sun, the bic lighter to your acetylene torch, the Mars Needs Women to your Mars Attacks.

To me, lights are a new category of bike bling  — a new way to demonstrate your commitment to the sport by outspending anyone else in your tribe.  Instead of trying to outride them, which is difficult and takes a lot of training, now you can just outshine the people you’re riding with.  Hey, everything is a competition.  I certainly was the most luminous rider on Thursday night.   I showed up blazing — I burned Mark’s retinas.  He’s legally blind now.

With 1400 lumens, you can blow through the battery pretty quick.   The NightRider guys have become very clever, allowing you to plug in and program the mode settings on the unit so that you can have up to four settings to suit your rides, with resulting battery life of 2-1/2 hours to 64 hours.   At full setting, with both lights blazing, you can melt paint, weld, or open a tanning salon.

I mounted the light on my helmet and readied myself for the 9PM start.   As night was falling, I kept an eye on the thermometer.   It was a balmy 39 degrees, and a dense fog was descending.   Great.

We rode from Mark’s house up to my favorite loop in a nearby State park.  There’s not a lot of climbing, probably 1800 feet over 20 miles, which is pretty tame by local mountain biking standards.   As a result, it’s a very fast loop.  A local racing group runs a racing series on part of it every summer.   Along the way, we met up with two other riders, both of whom are pretty strong riders.  So, there’s me and three fit, light guys.  Mark is very tall — 6′-6″, but he’s really skinny, he says around 190 pounds.  So, I knew that keeping up on the climbs was going to be a challenge.     I was right.   Mark and one of the other mystery men were very fast.   The other guy was apparently invited to make me not feel so bad.  I was on his tail for most of the climbs and technical parts.  I had to stay back a bit for fear of my NiteRider setting his jersey on fire.

It’s been a very wet winter so far this year, and the ground is saturated.  There’s a lot of puddles, the rock faces are damp, and many of the corners are squishy.  That makes for thought-provoking riding conditions even in the daylight.  Throw a dense fog blanket over the trail, and you’ve got a bizarre experience.  I felt like I was watching the undersea adventures of Jacques Cousteau — looking out of a submarine window at depths where the sun cannot penetrate — so far down that all you can see through a fisheye lens is about what’s directly in front of you.   The fog particulates looked like tiny snowflakes.    Trillions of them.

If it wasn’t for the fact that my feet were cold, and my glasses kept fogging up, and I had to blow snot every few minutes, I would have a hard time believing I was out there.  It was almost an out-of-body experience with all of the unusual sensory experiences happening at once.   It was almost too much.   While I can whip through this trail during the day, at night it was like an entirely different place.   I had no idea where I was at any given time.  Occasionally, I would spot a landmark, and I could approximate where I was, but for the most part, I was uncomfortably clueless.

For a dirt rookie like me, mountain biking during the day can be a challenge.   At night, it can be downright hairy.  A bizarre reaction to my first night ride in the dirt is that I struggled at times to keep the bike on the trail.   I had to step out of the pedals numerous times, half the time because I wandered off the trail and was going in a dangerous direction.

There were quite a number of mud puddles on the flatter parts of the ride.  Some of these were quite deep — 8 inches or so, which kicked up quite a bit of water on my feet and lower legs.  By the end of the ride, my feet were freezing.

The puddles in the flats are more of a nuisance than a hazard.  It’s the muddy turns that cause the thrills.   It’s like you’re riding with two flat tires.   The front end wants to slide out, the back end is fishtailing.   Not a big deal in the day, but at night its adding to the sensory load you’re trying to balance for the first time.

I discovered yet another thing that I am not good at (the list is growing) – mud collection prevention.  Near the end of the ride, I looked down and noticed that while I was caked with mud from the knees down.  Mark was practically spotless.  What’s up with that?   We went on the same damn ride!    There must be some technique I am not clued into yet that allows you emerge mud-free.

Remote Adjustable Seat Posts

Posted by SuperClydesdale on December 13, 2010 under Mountain Bikes | 2 Comments to Read

Recently, I was going down a nasty steep and rocky trail with my seat fully extended – normal height.   This is a situation where you have to get back over the seat to keep balanced and stable.   I didn’t want to take the time to actually lower the seat.  Even if my bike had a quick-release seat post clamp, I would have to stop, get off, lower the seat, then get back on.  I’m far too important to spend time on that.  My time is so incredibly valuable that stopping — even for an instant — is a significant blow to me.  Think of the possible economic output of a workhorse like me with 30-120 seconds of time on his hands.   People could lose their jobs if I stop to lower my seat.  Just the opportunity cost to me personally is huge.

Seriously, look at the number of things I could do later if I saved the time that it takes to lower my seat:

  • I could be in & out of a stock in my day-trading account.
  • I could change the channel on my DirecTV box.  Probably only once though – that thing is incredibly slow.  Do even try to scroll down in the guide screens – that’s a couple of seat lowerings.  I should have never switched from Dish Network.
  • I could write a haiku.  If I enjoyed haiku.
  • I could check my e-mail.
  • I could check my bids in eBay.
  • I could decide what stock to buy next  – that’s about how long it takes me.   I should probably stay in mutual funds, but where’s the fun in that?

Clearly, there are so very many things that I can do with two minutes of extra time.  Some of those have economic value, others cultural.    This clearly demonstrates that time is, indeed, of the essence.

In addition to opportunity cost, laziness is a factor.   My new mountain bike (Specialized Stumpjumper 29er hardtail)  came with a seat post clamp that requires an allen wrench to lower the seat.  That pretty much seals the deal on the raise-or-lower question.  Having to stop and use a multi-tool to lower my seat isn’t going to happen.  I know myself.  I would gladly fly over the handlebars and break my collarbone than stop and lower the seat post.   Actually, given the choice, I’d  pick lowering the seat post over a broken clavicle — but only after the fact.  My hindsight is 20/20.  I would  – nearly 100% of the time — choose to take my chances with a higher-than-optimal seat than spend a couple of minutes lowering it.

So, despite my total lack of ability and experience on a mountain bike, I recognize that the ability to quickly lower my seat post might be a good idea.    I’ve determined that perhaps what’s holding me back is that I haven’t got enough gadgets on my bike.

Of course, I could replace the seat post clamp with a quick-release version for less than $20, but why would I spend $20 to solve a problem when I know that a better, substantially more expensive solution exists?  At Interbike 2010, I took a look at the new Crank Brothers Joplin 4r, which is a remote-adjustable seat post.   For those of you new to the concept, a remote-adjustable post has a lever on the bars that allows you to lower the seat while riding.

Some adjustable seat posts have a lever under the seat.   Just reach down, pull the lever, and your body weight lowers the saddle.   I don’t want to have to take my hand off of the bars to lower the saddle.  Again, my time is just too valuable for that sort of thing.  Also, I think it would look like I’m scratching myself all the time.   I’ve got enough problems — I don’t want to be associated with that sort of thing.  “That Jack is an okay guy, but I think he’s got some hygiene issues – every time I ride with the guy, he’s scratching himself.”

.   For those of you new to the concept, a remote-adjustable post has a lever on the bars that allows you to lower the seat while riding.

Some adjustable seat posts have a lever under the seat.   Just reach down, pull the lever, and your body weight lowers the saddle.   I don’t want to have to take my hand off of the bars to lower the saddle.  Again, my time is just too valuable for that sort of thing.  Also, I think it would look like I’m scratching myself all the time.   I’ve got enough problems — I don’t want to be associated with that sort of thing.  “That Jack is an okay guy, but I think he’s got some hygiene issues – every time I ride with the guy, he’s scratching himself.”

The Crank Brothers Joplin 4r

The Crank Brothers Joplin 4r

What I wanted was the remote-adjustable seat post.  Although I considered four options for the seatpost, I got a sweet deal on the Joplin 4r, so I decided to go with that.   The others I considered, in addition to Crank Brothers, were Gravity Dropper (the highest rated of all on mtbr.com),  Specialized’s Command seatpost, and KS (Kind Shock).  Ironically, the Joplin was the lowest rated of all of these options on mtbr.com at 3.53 stars, but most of the reviews were for older models that Crank Brothers said the Joplin 4r addresses.

The Joplin 4r installs very easily — if you have any mechanic skills at all.   I put it on in about 20 minutes.   I understand from research that the Joplin – or any other adjustable seat post – will require routine maintenance, much like a fork.    Dirt and debris will get into the mechanism.  Some of the seat posts come with a rubber sleeve to impede dirt getting in, like a “shock sleeve,” and you can also buy them aftermarket pretty inexpensively ($8-$14).

I’ve been using the Joplin 4r on my last several rides, and although they have been pretty tame rides, there are a couple of stretches where I benefit from a lower seat.   One of these is a short but steep solid rock face with some boulders at the end.  One bad move there, and I’m over the bars onto solid granite (see my last post for the photo of my knee after I did just that about a week and a half ago).

The ability to lower the seat on the fly has made a huge difference.  I have been able to descend much faster and with more confidence.

With the Joplin 4r, I was able to press the lever just before I climbed onto the rocks, all while still pedaling along.   The seat lowers in a fraction of a second, and then when you’re done, you just press the lever again and the seat returns to the full extension, and at optimal height for ripping down single-track cross country trails, and for climbing.  Incidentally, I’ve heard that the Specialized Command has a bonus feature of springing back to full height very rapidly, sometimes with attention-getting results.  The Crank Brothers Joplin 4r returns at a safe & sane pace.

A Gravity Dropper seat post - with the boot to keep out dirt and debris. That comes with it, unlike the Crank Brothers posts.

The Joplin 4r has 4 inches of adjustability, and you can stop it anywhere along those 4”.   And, while 4 inches may not seem like a lot, it make a huge difference, and keeps the saddle high enough to allow you to still stabilize yourself my grabbing the saddle with your thighs as you descend.   While four inches may be a bit inadequate for… some things, it’s just about right for seat post adjustability for the cross-country trails I do.

Before buying the Joplin 4r, I researched four of the primary options on the market:

  • Crank Brothers Joplin – 3.53 out of 5 stars on mtbr.com, mostly on older versions.  Newest version seems to get better marks overall.
  • Gravity Dropper – the consistently highest-rated one on mtbr.com, with 4.44 out of 5 stars.   The one comment on mtbr.com that concerned me with Gravity Dropper was, “The 10-32 cap screws that secure the seat post to the seat frame rail are not strong enough for heavy riders. I broke one of the bolts on the first big drop. Also the cap screws require a english allan wrench to tighten, your multi tools will not work.”   If you go to http://gravitydropper.com/products , you can see all models and options.
  • Specialized – the Command is Specialized’s entre into the remote adjustable seatpost battle. A thorough review at .
  • KS (Kind Shock) – 3.95 out of 5 stars on mtbr.com.   KS has the largest range of adjustability at 5 inches.  Does size matter?   I guess if you’re doing big downhill, that extra inch could help.

Thank God for Tegaderm

Posted by SuperClydesdale on December 1, 2010 under Commentary, Mountain Bikes | Be the First to Comment

I learned a few things this weekend, in order:

  • A helmet cam will get you to try things that you might otherwise not, which led to the understanding that…
  • You need to scope out the landing zone the first time you try a new trail feature, which was caused by a lack of understanding that…
  • Momentum is important, which reminded me that…
  • Falling on rocks hurts, and that…
  • Some people are stupid, and reinforced that…
  • You’ll never get better if you don’t keep trying things a little out of your comfort zone, but luckily…
  • Tegaderm is the savior of mankind, and that…
  • My mountain bike looks like I bought it at a garage sale, but unfortunately…
  • Make sure you have a memory card in the helmet cam before you leave or you’ve injured yourself for nothing.

Mountain biking is introducing me to a lot of things.  Mud on my sunglasses, back, chest, shoes.   Logs.  Rocks.  Horses.  Lots of horses.   People shouting at me from horses.    Misguided “environmentalists” yelling at me about how I am ruining Earth.

Those are cool.   I love all those things.  Even the people yelling at me – I love a debate.

The downside, which I don’t love quite as much, is the cuts and abrasions that I am collecting as I push my boundaries, try new things, and end up spectacularly splayed on the rocks and dirt.  This weekend was a good one.  Now that I am doing things on the mountain bike that are at least approaching interesting, I had my new Hero HD helmet cam on.

There’s an interesting cause-and-effect of having a camera around.  Just ask the lucky ladies in the Girls Gone Wild videos.  I should do some body shots before I ride — I’d get back and have a “Clydesdales Gone Wild meets Jackass” video on my hands.  Probably some money in that.  Maybe in France?

I’ve been riding the same 17-mile loop a few times a week now for several weeks.  I know, 17 miles, really?  Hey, it’s on a mountain bike.   Screw you.

Anyway, I’ve become comfortable enough with the bike, the trail, and my skill level to start trying new things.  While some of these things, like riding over log piles, riding down logs, or jumping off of three-foot rocks, might be pretty tame to seasoned riders, to me each is a major accomplishment.   Over the last few weeks, I’ve spotted different features of the trail and decided that I would work up to attempting each one.

One note of advice for the newbie mountain biker:  make sure you check out the entire feature fully before trying to ride over it.

I imagine that soon I’ll be able to better react to surprises – like on my snowboard, where I can make it through just about anything the first time.  On the bike, I’m still a bit tentative, and that can spell disaster on a mountain bike.  Momentum has proven to be key – keep moving.  A moment of hesitation or a tap of the brakes at the wrong time can result in a momentum-stealing delay that leaves you without a lot of options.  Other than falling — there’s always that option.  That was the option I took this weekend.

Not that falling is a big deal, but when you do it on rocks without any padding, you’re going to remember it for a while.   And, not just falling.  I’ve done that, no problem.  But when the fall is preceded by your front tire hitting the ground hard with the bike at a greater than say… 75-degree angle, you’re really not falling so much as crashing.  Crashing is a much more active word.   To be launched over the handlebars onto a granite shelf, still clipped into the pedals…  ah, good times.

That was at about mile 7 of my 17-mile loop.    So, left knee, shin, elbow and shoulder all scraped up.  Knee actually bleeding pretty good, with blood running down the shin.  Luckily, it was all really superficial, so I got back on and resumed the ride.   Nothing broken, limited bruising.  But, with the gash in my knee just at the hem line of my mountain bike shorts, the blood was getting smeared all over my thigh and knee as I pedaled.  It looked spectacular — like I just emerged from battle.

I finished the loop, and hit pretty much every feature on the trail – all under the watchful eye of the helmet cam.  I went over every large rock, over the pile of logs, down logs, jumped off rocks at speed.  It’s somewhat of a graduation for me.  I’ve mastered this trail, ready for bigger, badder, more technical things.  So, I’m riding back, feeling great about myself, but looking like I was dragged out of a car wreck.

The ride back to the car is a series of fire roads.  Lots of other cyclists and people walking their dogs.  Groups of women out for walks.  The looks I was getting from people was hilarious.  They’d see this big guy coming, left leg just dripping in blood.  A look of surprise and revulsion.  Come to think of it, that’s a pretty normal reaction I get – maybe the rest is just in my head.

A couple miles from the car, I’m descending a little hill on a single-track trail, and see a woman on foot, placing a small log in the middle of the trail.  I don’t think much of it, until she moves to the middle of the trail to try to block me from passing.    She has a huge smile on her face, and she is gesturing for me to stop.  I figure, what the hell?  I can take this lady.  If it gets out of hand, I just push her down the hill, shout “… and don’t mess with Floyd Landis again!” and ride off.

She has a somewhat deranged look on her face — this weird Hare Krishna smile.  I figure this woman might be in distress.  Everyone else seemed pretty scared of the bleeding big man, and she’s flagging me down!

“Don’t you see what you’re doing?”  she says.

“I’m mountain biking,” I say.

“Don’t you see the damage you’re doing?” she says.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  I say.

“You’re causing erosion.  You’re ruining the area,” she says.

I’m thinking, if you hadn’t stepped in my way on a downhill trail, I wouldn’t have had to skid to a stop, dumbass.  But, I remain gentlemanly.  “The horses are the ones that are ripping up the trails.  Mountain bikes are mostly packing it down.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“Well, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say in as nice a way as you can say that.   I was a real gentleman this whole time.  Very contrary to my instincts, I assure you.

With that, I turn and ride over the log she just placed on the trail.  I’m sure that she thought that the small log was going to somehow keep a mountain bike from using the trail.  I should have told her that I’d prefer bigger logs, and helped her make a log feature.   But, that really pissed her off.  Once I rode over her log obstacle, she started screaming at me as I rode away.  Not sure what she was saying, but clearly she was pretty unhappy that her effort to impede my ride had no effect.

Oh well,  happy times.

Look at that spectacular leg. Just a massive tree trunk.

Back at the car, I can see that the bike shorts had really smeared the blood nicely.  Just spectacular.  The crappy camera on my Blackberry doesn’t do it justice.

I got home and started looking for ways of keeping a massive scab from forming which would cramp my style somewhat.  Unlike other (knuckle-dragging) mountain bikers, I actually am in a profession that requires me to dress up.  The main concern is the damn thing bleeding all day through my clothes.

In comes Tegaderm.  If you’ve never used this stuff, it’s made by 3M, and it’s the way to go for bad road-rash types of injuries.  It was recommended to me by some road racing friends of mine.  It’s a bit bizarre the first time you use it.  I peeled off the backing, and at first I couldn’t tell what was the part to put on the wound, and what part to throw away.  The Tegaderm patch just looks like a piece of cellophane, bordered with thin cardboard.  You place the thing over the wound, and press lightly from the center of the wound towards the outside.  Once you’re done, you pull away the cardboard border, and you’re left with something that looks like shrink wrap stuck very tightly to your body.

The steps are simple.  Clean up the wound really well with saline or soap and water.   Shave the hair all around the wound so that the Tegaderm patch can really adhere and seal the wound well.   Put on the Tegaderm patch, then leave it on until new skin covers the wound, or up to 7 days.  That’s it.   It never gets the hard scab that will crack and bleed, the healing process is greatly accelerated, and there’s much less scarring after the fact.

After I got all cleaned up, I was anxious to see my adventure on video, as well as to see the picture of the envirokrishna nut job that I encountered on the trail so that I could post it with this article.   The next time I see a story in the local paper, “Mountain Biker stabbed by deranged woman” I would have a great lead for the detectives.

Alas, my dumbassery continued, and I was dismayed to learn that I hadn’t put a memory card in the helmet cam.  Crap.  No video of my fall, no documentation of my kicking the trails’ ass.  No picture of the nut job.

What a total dumbass.

Mountain bike tires for heavy riders – Survey

Posted by SuperClydesdale on November 17, 2010 under Mountain Bike Tire Survey, Surveys | Be the First to Comment

The upcoming WTB Bronson 29er - supposed to be a great tire!

Note:  The 4/18/2011 update to Full Tire Survey with Comments.  It’s a PDF document.

My 29er came with S-Works Purgatory tires, but I am wondering if that’s going to be the right tire for me when the ground really gets wet this winter.  Right now in Northern California, the trails are pretty much damp hard pack, which is ideal.  However, when the rains really come in over the next couple of months, it’s going to be getting very muddy, so I’m thinking about a more aggressive tire, particularly in the front.

There’s some great reviews out there, and a lot of information, but almost everything leaves out an important detail:  rider weight.

There is virtually no information out there with respect to tires or tire pressure for heavy riders.  Without this information, much of the information is useless.

A great example of this is tubeless.  Tubeless sounds like the way to go in most cases.  You shed weight, and you can run at a lower pressure.  This means more grip, and can be a better ride quality as a lot of the chatter of the trail is absorbed by a squishier tire.  Also, with the goop that you put into the tubeless tires like Stan’s No Tubes tire sealant, you get great puncture resistance.  The fluid fills the hole and seals the leak.

I have friends that ride their tubeless tires at 20-26 PSI, and rave about how much grip the tires have over rocks and obstacles.   I can say with certainty that a 230 pound rider running 20-26 PSI is going to leave a debris trail.  Pieces of rim, shards of tire, teeth.  Blood.

Not going to happen.

So, whats a big guy to do?  I am getting pretty comfortable on the mountain bike.  I hit the little jumps on the trail, getting air off the rocks along the way.   Over logs.  I want an aggressive set-up, but I don’t want to destroy my wheels or burp out on a ride.

A burp is when you are riding tubeless and you do something like a hard corner or hit a rock and the bead of the tire is pushed/pulled off the rim just enough to let the air out of the tire.  The loss in pressure further reduces the force of the air pressure holding the tire to the rim.  Instant flat.

If I go tubeless, what’s a good PSI for a 230-poundrider (and all the associated crap that one rides with)?  There’s very little information on this.

Another question that is difficult to answer is what kind of tire to use.  A 150-pound rider is going to be using a different tire than a 230 pounder.  My buddy Joe (who weighs a scant 150 pounds) can ride his cyclocross bike on the trails I do, over all all of the rocks and everything – at high speed.  If I tried that, the rescue party would have an easy time finding me.  Just follow the bits of cyclocross bike to the scene of the horrific accident.

Mountain Bike Review has a great list of reader-provided reviews of mountain bike tires (29er tiresall other tires), but these are submitted by “average”weight riders.   I want to know what a good tire is for someone of 230 pounds riding over different types of soils and terrains.

Even if I find a good tread pattern to guide my fat ass over the trail, I want to get a tire beefy enough handle the wear and tear that I’ll put it through.  I need sidewalls that are durable.

There is no other way that I can see to get answers quickly, other than to ask the readers of this site.  I get many thousands of readers every month – and I hope there are as many mountain bikers as roadies on this site —  so let’s help each other.  Tell us:  what works for you?  What kind of tires, with what PSI, in what conditions?

Tires you like and tires that are durable.   Are you riding 29er?  Tubeless?  What do you use for different conditions, such as mud vs. hard back, sand, etc.?

The key drivers are conditions: Wet hardpack, Wet mud,  Dry loose, dry hardpack, Rough, wet rough…

And discipline:  XC, XC racing, downhill – I’m not interested in any other type of riding, and you shouldn’t be either.

If you are already sick of my pathetic ramblings, and wish to simply participate in the Mountain Bike Tire Survey, just scroll to the bottom of this article.  Loser.

Since you’re still reading this, then you are smart and have good taste.   You’re probably good looking as well.   Since I like to share valuable knowledge with smart, attractive people of good taset, read on…  another valuable cultural contribution awaits.

While discussing off-road disciplines, in the interest of being thorough, I cannot help but discuss the little-known discipline of mountain unicycling.  I actually was thinking of this on my last ride.  Some wild-ass daydream moment, and I was thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to try to ride a unicycle over this?”    Of course, no matter how ridiculous something is, you can bet that someone is doing it.

If you doubt me, watch the Dudesons in MTV2.  Better yet, don’t – your IQ will actually go down with each successive episode.  When you’re having a good day – maybe witness some random act of kindness — and are starting to think that mankind has a chance of making it to the next century, turn this show on.  The Dudesons makes Jersey Shore look like Masterpiece Theatre.

Mountain unicycling is… ridiculous.  No matter what sport you’re into, there’s always some loose fringe to it. And, they have an association dedicated to it.  And competitions.   People that were pretty good at the real sport, but not great – so they latch on to some weird variant that nobody else does so that they can claim expertise.

Well, I’ve got a message for you, fringe sport lackey:  its easy to be the best at something nobody else does.  By default, if you’re the only one doing it, you’re the best.  You are world champion!    You have a world land-speed record?  So what!  You were on a recumbant.  Nobody cares.   Like recumbants of the roads, mountain unicycling must have only one purpose:  to annoy and get in the way of their mainstream counterparts. World speed record on a recumbant?  How come I always have to pass you if you’re so damn fast?  Get the hell out of the way.

Additional comment on fringe sports

Many sports have them — these wierd ugly half sisters of the much more attractive real sport.  Some easy examples, and I welcome you to send me more:

Real Sport                        Fake Fringe Sport

Basketball                           Slamball

Mountain biking              Mountain unicyling

NFL                                       Canadian Football League

Road cycling                     Recumbant riding, BMX (for people older than 16)

Tennis                                  Paddle ball, paddle tennis

Bowling                               okay, bowling is already a fake, fringe sport

Skiing                                   Ski biking (other than this, which looks cool)

Snowboarding                  Snow skating

With each of these, as well as other activities that try to pass themselves off as sports (curling, poker, etc), I get a similar reaction:  I want to smack these people.

But, I digress.  Back to mountain bike tires, and the mountain bike tire survey for heavy riders.  Please fill it out, and when I get enough data I will make the results available.

And now, the Survey…

Update:  limited responses so far… come, on guys!   the response on this one is pathetic.  Put down the beer, and go out and trash some tires.  Let us know what is good and what sucks.

Results of the mountain bike survey as of  4/18/11 are available by downloading the following PDF:  Full Tire Survey with Comments.

Okay, now that you’ve sat through me rambling on for hundreds of words on end, the survey.  If’ you’re good. I will remove the commentary above at some point and just make the survey it’s own page.

  • Who makes your tire?
  • What model of tire (i.e., "Wierwolf 2.2, Purgatory 2.3, etc."). Just as much as you know. If all you know is the model, not width, then just enter than.
  • Examples: wet/mud, damp hardpack, dry loose, dry hardpack, rough, rocks, etc.
  • What type of riding do you recommend this tire for?
  • Do you ride this tire with inner tubes or with without (if its not a tubeless tire, you would be using something like Stan's No Tube).
  • Many riders use different tire tread patterns on front and back. If you do this, please enter a review of both your front and your rear tire.
  • What PSI do you run on this tire when used in front?
  • What PSI do you run on this tire when used in the rear?
  • Just you, not your bike, clothes, camelbak, cigarettes, or dufflebag full of cash. This is important, particularly with respect to PSI.
  • Any additional comments you'd like to make about this tire?

Chains for heavy riders

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 14, 2010 under Mountain Bikes, Road Bike Components | Be the First to Comment

I’ve ridden road bikes for many years over many tens of thousands of miles.  Over all those miles, I’ve never had a chain break.  One reason is that I’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining my chain, and replacing them when needed.    For those of you that do your own maintenance, you likely own a chain stretch meter that tells you when the chain has been stretched to the point that it will start degrading other parts of your drivetrain:  cassette, chain rings, and rear derailleur.  If the chain stretches out, and you keep riding, the chain will wear away the teeth on all three, and can make for sloppy shifting.

The chain is generally considered worn out when its stretched approximately 1% or more.   You may see even more conservative recommendations at .75% or even less.  My guess is that the people making those recommendations make chains for a living.

I’m a fast learner.  I realize that since I’ve never broken a road chain, and have twice broken a mountain bike chain — in two consecutive rides — mountain biking and road biking impart different loads on the chain.  That mountain bike chain was new — 50 miles on it.  The first time the chain broke, I was in the middle of a small creek.  No problem, wet shoes, I can deal with that.  The second time, I was on a short, steep climb.  Breaking a chain while climbing a steep hill will get your attention.  It may also drive your groin straight into the top bar of your frame, which is… what’s the word… exhilarating? No, that’s not it…

Side note:  It certainly inspires me to contact the product marketing manager at Specialized that spec’d the KMX x10 chain on my EVO hardtail 29er.  I think I’d like to offer him a hint of what the experience is like for a 230-pounder on a bike with that chain.   “Here, spread your legs a bit… just a little wider… there! “  Then I would wind up and drive my foot deep into his crotch.  “There we go!  That’s what the KMX chain feels like.  Good choice!”

But, I digress…

Oh, yeah...

At Interbike, I spent some time with Cantitou Road guys, who represent a number of manufacturers, one of which is Wippermann.  They were very excited about the Connex chain by Wippermann.  They noticed my Big Guys Rule T-Shirt, and assured me, “these chains are the most Clydesdale-proof chains on the market.”

Seeing how hungry I was for knowledge, they described the tests that Wippermann does on their chains to demonstrate their strength and durability.   I listened, but since it was after lunch, after a while my eyes kind of glossed over, and I kept thinking of the smoking hot tatted-up calendar girl at the Oneal booth…  I knew he was talking about bike parts, or something.

My chain breaking fiasco caused me to revisit that conversation.  If my initial experience on the 1×10 gearing of the 29er is any indication, I’m going to need the strongest possible chain for mountain-biking.

In typical form, I began to research chains.  The bike shops nearby are pretty much anecdotal “I hear these are great” type of recommendations.  I’m like Rainman, I need data  (I’m an excellent rider).

The only quality data that I can find is from Wippermann.  Apparently, these guys are the only ones that test the crap out of their chains against all major manufacturers and publish the results.  While I’m sure that the other manufacturers test their chains, they don’t seem to publish that data, so I am left to conclude that they are not proud of the results.  If I am incorrect, I would love to see other manufacturer’s data.

The Wippermann chain wear test results (source: wippermann.com). Click on to see full-size image.

Wippermann has done extensive testing in two areas:  chain wear, which manifests itself as chain stretch, and how much weight a chain can endure before breaking.

The Wippermann chain wear test is pretty comprehensive.  It tests with chain rings aligned, as well as at an angle sufficient to demonstrate a cross-chaining scenario, and simulates significant distance.  At various times, they stop to measure chain stretch.

The other test is the break test.  How much weight can a chain take before it fails.  The only improvement I could see on these tests is to do the break test at an angle, to simulate different gear ratio scenarios like they did on the chain wear test.  When my chain broke, I had the chain in the easiest gear on the cassette, and the front ring in the middle chain ring position.  Note: Since the EVO has only one chain ring up front, It’s always in that position.

Wippermann chain rankings based on load test. Surprise! Wippermann is #1! The "*" means a hollow-link chain.

The force required to break the various manufacturer's chains. Source: Wippermann.com, the "*" indicates a hollow-link chain.

You have to go with the data, and if the only data available is from Wippermann, then I’m going to have to go with it.  I just ordered a 10s8 chain for my Stumpjumper EVO 29er.  I’ve ordered a Connex 10s8 chain, and will report the on the success of this chain.  While this was not the king of the chain wear test, it did well on the chain break test, which is my primary concern.  For $44, that’s potentially a great deal.  It’s not much more than the KMX chain that provided such an enjoyable experience.

Wipperman's Connex connector. Comes with each chain, but a good idea to carry one of these with you in case of a chain break.

In addition to high strength, and promising better wear, the Wippermann Connex chains come with a sweet link, which is a very fast way to join the chain.  I’m also getting a Connex link to keep in my bag so that if my chain breaks again, I can quickly join it back together by removing the broken link, then inserting the Connex link to put the chain back together.    I think that whether you use a Connex link, or any other quick-link, it’s a huge timer saver to have one of these links with you.

I’ve also discovered another blogger who has some pretty good discussion on Shimano chain quality issues as well.   And the original report on Shimano Ultegra quality issues here.   He’s got a ton of other equipment failure discussions, most scary to me is the Crank Brothers Candy breakage, since thats whats on my 26er (and I have two sets still in the packaging).

Additional data:

Experimental examination of bicycle chain forces: http://www.springerlink.com/content/756433v33w114423/

Wippermann chain data:

Updates 2010 chain wear test:  http://www.cantitoeroad.com/uploads/landingpage/connex/Chainwear_Test_10_Speed_10-JUN-2010.pdf

Original 2007 Wippermann test http://www.cantitoeroad.com/uploads/landingpage/connex/Connex_Breaking_Load_Test_Results.pdf

The 29er experience

Posted by SuperClydesdale on October 9, 2010 under Commentary, Mountain Bikes | 4 Comments to Read

After a significant delay, I had a great message waiting for me on my answering machine when I got home two weeks ago.  For those of you younger than 25, an answering machine is a device that you plug your phone line into and it records voice messages from people that call your house when you are not at home.  They can leave messages for you, and you can play them when you come home.  Further information:   a phone line is a wire that runs to your house from the phone company.  It actually plugs into a device called a telephone.   A telephone can be thought of as a type of cell phone that can only be used at your house.   I know, it’s kind of weird, and it was designed by people who used to make channel dials on televisions… something else you’ve never heard of.  Check Wikipedia.

Anyway… the message said that my Specialized 29er EVO had arrived at the local bike shop.  Oh happy day!   I dropped the bag of groceries and sprinted to the car.

The bike is gorgeous.  Its flat black paint with black gloss decals.   Looks terrific.

The Stumpjumper 29er EVO. Sweet bike, but worth the wait?

EVO means “evolution” which I think means, “lets try this combination and see if it sells.”

Overall, I have to say that I love this bike.  I went with an aluminum frame, because a carbon mountain bike frame for someone who is (a) a terrible mountain bike rider, (b) the cheapest man alive, and (c) 230 pounds, would be a demonstration of mental fitness.  Anybody who matched the previously mentioned characteristics, yet bought a carbon-frame mountain bike should remanded to an appropriate institution.

The Specialized Stumpjumper 29er EVO is a hard-tail 29er in a 1×10 configuration, so its got no front derailleur, and a 10-speed derailleur/cassette in back.  My mission for the next month or two — before the weather turns nasty and the mud presents itself — it to determine, quite frankly, if I am man enough for this bike.  Can I handle a 10-speed (and with a 1×10, it’s just that — 10 speeds) up the climbs?   Mountain bike climbs are much steeper than most road bike climbs — just usually not as long.  But….   no safety net with only 10 gears.

I know, I know,  you’re thinking I’m an incredible wimp because you ride a single-speed.  Well, that’s great.  I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and there’s no level ground here.  The trails can be very steep for a very long time, and I really would prefer not to do the walk of shame.  It’s one thing to be forced to push it up a climb because you crashed in the middle, or were ill-prepared by being in the wrong gear at the wrong time.  It’s quite another to walk your bike because the hill is too steep.   Not going to do it.

A guy at another bike shop told me that should I be in doubt, and will be going on a significantly challenging hilly ride, I can always have a couple of different front chain rings at the house, and swap it out the night before a ride to make sure that I have the best gearing options for the ride.   He said that he does that, and he weighs 150 pounds.  Sounds like a reasonable option, should it come to that.

While I’ve only gone on five rides on this bike so far, and some thoughts:

  • The chain that comes on this thing is terrible.  I broke the chain on my fourth ride out, then again on my fifth ride.  I ended up with the chain so short that I had to ride to the bike shop in the middle of my ride today and get it replaced with a heavier-duty chain.  For heavy riders buying this bike, I wouldn’t even leave the shop with the chain that it comes with.  Have them swap it out before you take possession of the bike.  It’s that bad.  The stock chain is a KMC x10.  Bad product for a 230-pound rider trying to muscle up steep climbs in the wrong gear.  I had the shop put on a SRAM PC 1071, which is stronger chain.  Stock bikes typically come with very low-end chains and cassettes.  I can certainly attest to crappiness of the chain.  I will be writing more about Clydesdale-appropriate chains in subsequent articles.  I got the SRAM PM 1071 because thats what the shop had and because I was in the middle of a ride, not because I felt that this was the best possible chain for me.
  • The SRAM groupset works well, even under my heavy ass, with my moronic shifting patterns.
  • The hardtail makes it so much easier to climb.   It’s worth the change.
  • The 29-inch wheels make for a significantly faster ride.  The ride is smooth, and you can roll over much more than on the smaller 26-inch wheels.  On today’s ride there was a lot of sandy patches, and i was able to power through while my friend on a 26er got bogged down and ended up having to walk through sand.
  • The 1×10 gearing, with a 11-36 cassette on the back with a 33-tooth chain ring up front was fine for what I thrown at it so far.  The nastiest climb I’ve done so far is a sustained 18-20% grade of about a quarter mile.   I was able to stay on top of the low gear and kept moving nicely to the top with plenty still in the tank.   The real challenge will be climb out of  Knickerbocker Creek at Cool’s Olmstead Loop ride — hopefully do that soon.  That ride is a bear with a triple, so the 1×10 may be a challenge.
  • The 29er does not allow you to climb everything. Gravity and other Clydesdale-unfriendly laws of physics still apply.  You will be able to go over stuff so easily on a 29er that you will be lulled into a foolish overconfidence.  I had a rather amusing situation today that ended with me over the handlebars and on the ground.  I just bought a video camera with a chest-mount.  I wish I had that on today – it was one for the blooper reel.

While the Specialized Stumpjumper 29er EVO is a great bike, I don’t know that its worth the wait.  I had a multi-month wait to get mine, and my friend who ordered his before I did was informed last week that his will not be available until December.  There are great options out there in a 29er that your shop can easily convert to a 1x by simply replacing the front dérailleur with a chain guide.  I saw a Giant today that would be a terrific choice, and it’s in stock now.    The same is true for many other manufacturers.

But, a 29er (whether hardtail or full-suspension, Specialized, Giant, what have you) is the way to go.  I am going to sell my 26er.  I probably shouldn’t have said anything until I sold the 26er, but it you buy a 26er as your only mountain bike, then I think you’re making a mistake.