Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just Another Nothing Ride

Lately I've been riding just about every bike I have except my Supercal 29er, which is almost back together again after I robbed parts off of it to get my Ellsworth Truth going. The Supercal is waiting for its crankset to be returned from the Ells as soon as it gets a new crankset...let's just say it's in the works at this time.

Today though I wanted to ride the 650B Ellsworth Truth in an attempt to do my Cape Horn loop. Everything started out well...The first 20-miles of the ride up Asotin Creek I usually ride as fast as I can (time trial you could say) just for fun - yes I am sick since I think that such a thing is fun. Anyway, I was curious to find out how the 650B Ellsworth would compare to my past times on other bikes (including the Ells setup as a 26" only bike). My fastest time ever was on the my Supercal 29er this summer at 1:08, but that was with a smokin tailwind (cheater), otherwise my fastest time was 1:12 on the same bike. The 650B Ellsworth suprisingly rolled through in 1:13 today...yes I was shocked a bit since it was cooler (typically slows me down some) plus I have been riding much less and hogging down plenty of not-so-health (very sickly fattening) holiday yum - which translates into decreased fitness and added weight (which I'm just sure has mostly resulted in massive fatty deposits on the inside of my arterties...aka future heart attack). I'm still pondering my result, but one thing is clear - my tire choice (Bontrager Jones ACX Tubeless - rear and Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B - front) is fast even if my ass is feeling fat.

After the first 20-miles I ran into soft road conditions (mud) and then the road transitioned into these incredibly slick ice fields that were quite interesting to ride. The tires I had on did a good job of maintaining traction and I stayed upright through it all. Then came the soft snow over the ice...hmmm that was even more fun to slip-slide though.

And finally above the 3000' elevation level I ran into hard crap-crust snow - a cursed snow crust that is very difficult to ride though since it is so hard crusted, but not so hard that you can ride on top of it...end result is a huge amount of resistance to forward motion which tranlates into slow, time consuming, and high effort riding (good training stuff, but I'm not training). This stuff was only a few inches deep, which was just enough to make riding through it difficult. Several miles into the crap-crust I bagged my attempt to do the Horn since it became obvious that I was going to run out of daylight due to the slowed forward progress. The trip back down was a frigid, white-knuckle blast - stayed upright though. In the end it was a 60-mile trip to nowhere with a wee 3700 feet of climbing just for fun.

On my way up Asotin Creek I did see another rider on a cross-bike coming down...this was the first time I've ever seen anyone else riding a bike on this road (see tracks very rarely). He gave a wave as did I also, but I wanted to stop or turn around and talk to him, but I was on a mission doing an I'm-not-training-time-trial. Maybe I will see this person again sometime, maybe not.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Riding Experimental 650B Truth

The Truth experiment using a 650B front wheel (that's a 27.5-inch tire) is revealing much better results than I ever expected...actually I was not sure how it would ride or handle even though I spent an abundant amount of time designing this thing (I knew a total flop was possible and just part of the risk that goes with bike experimentation).

I put a lot of miles on the Truth as a 26"-wheeled only bike so I already had a feel for it's handling and biases in different situations. Since putting the 650B wheel up front I have put a the bike through a few "gentle" thrash tests...the ride results thus far are truly amazing in comparison the the 26" only wheels. Just to be sure I was not on some euphoric new-bike high I swapped the front wheel back to the 26" a few times and found that the 650B wheel up front was the only way to go in everything I rode through.

My test have mostly been at Hells Gate State Park - a place I am beyond familiar with that has a huge variety of trail conditions and geograghy...i.e. twisty-fast single-track, an uphill with some obstacle laden switchbacks, a steep downhill that is always full of rocks and sometimes slick muddy patches, short-fast rollers (some with 90-degree corners and off-camber turns), big-ass endo rocks, ruts galore, deep sand patches, billions of horse-hoof divets, small (but deadly) rock gardens, weeds, and sometimes snow. So far the 650B front wheel has me smiling big on everything...

Soaking up trail-noise: The 650B-wheel really made a difference in soaking up the smaller trail noise similar to what I have found riding 29ers. Trail noise in this riding area are horse-hoof divits, which have a tendency to rattle your teeth a bit even with the finest forks. But the larger front wheel really shined in this stuff. I rear suspension of the Truth works so well that I never really notice the bumps transmitting from the rear wheel...hmmm once again dare I say it works as Ellsworth advertises.

Endo testing: The 650B-wheel also proved to be much more endo proof - I actually tried to endo in my favorite deep V-shaped rut and couldn't make the bike do it with the 650B-wheel, but with the 26" wheel on front it wanted to endo every time.

Cornering - WOW is all I can say...I was appoaching these well-known-to-me turns just as I have thousands of times before (i.e. brake just before the apex then let up and rail though), but I started noticing I could take the corners faster and faster until I was not braking at all - a scary-thrill to say the least. Again, just to be sure I was not on some sort of super-human high I rode the Truth with 26" wheels and one of my 29ers through the same stuff and could not come anywhere near to speed in the same corners, then I did it again on the 650B Truth and was again railing through at unchecked high speeds. A large part of this ability I would say comes from the tires - the Pacenti Neo-Moto grips remarkably well, yet it is a nice large volume, fast rolling tire...a rare combination.

Rocks, ruts, and sand: The 650B rolls over the worst of it with ease...let's just say that there is a huge difference between the 26" only Truth and the 650B Truth and say enuf said.

I even took it out at night and rode the entire place (including the Devil's Slide) after it snowed - again I must say that the Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B tire is beyond impressive for traction...I did not slide out or ever loose control on the worst of it, I popped in/out of ruts with ease, and basically rode to the limits of my lights (which was stooopidly fast since I was doing this alone). The only problem I encountered was a face-to-face near death collision with a set of terrified running antlers attached to a wild-eyed deer (I'll bet I was a little wild-eyed at about the same time plus I was screaming as I was braking hard).

I'm still planning more "tests" (rides in disguise)...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

650B Truth?

650B tire size? Let's see now, mountain biking wheels come in the oldish standby size that supports 26-inch diameter tires (the so-called standard), then along came the 29er stuff (29-inch diameter tires), and now there is a new (actually quite an old standard) size that is 27.5-inches that has long been dubbed 650B (not to be confused with 650C).

Hmmm...this new-old 650B idea really peaked my interest since I have been seriously looking into the concept of building or buying a full-suspension 69er (that's a large 29er front wheel and a small 26" rear wheel on the same bike). Why?...I have tried several 29er full-sussy bikes and just never felt at home one. On the other extreme I found I have a preference for 26" full-sussy bikes, but I also found that I dislike the small front wheel (it's much more prone to endo action and I really hate going over the handle bars). So the whole bigger wheel in front and smaller wheel in back on a full-sussy bike made sense to me and I wanted to find out if it would be the ultimate super-butt squish ride for me.

So I was drooling all over Trek's new top Fuel 69er (actually I still am - yes I want one) when Kirk Pacenti alone had a real 650B mtb tire made - that man has some serious faith in the 650B tire size to pony up the $$$ to have one mass produced (yes it takes money to make a tire mold). After many obsessive "research" hours spent looking over the whole 650B thing I decided I was going to build a FS bike of my choosing and drooling that was like the Trek 69er, but built with a 650B tire up front vs. the overly large 29er tire up front.

My Ellsworth Truth is the bike I chose - you may recall that in earlier posts I said the bike was a rough draft...well that rough draft has come much nearer to completion with a Pacenti Neo-Moto 650Bx2.3 tire mounted to a Velocity Blunt 650B front wheel laced to a DT Swiss 240 disc hub (HOT!!!) that I just built up. I also enhanced the rear wheel with a Bontrager Jones ACX tubeless tire mounted onto Stans Notubes ZTR 355 rim laced to a DT Swiss 240 disc hub. More enhancements are still planned so I have the say the bike is still in draft form.

The ride with the 650B front wheel is better than I had hoped...more testing (time trials, long hauls, and pure sufferage) as weather permits, but so far all I can do wonder in awe...Is this a bike I will actually keep longer than a few months? Any bets?