I know how to build a bike so that it's ready to ride right out of the shop door. I worked for a mountain bike race team in the mid-90s and know what it takes to build a bike or work on a bike and promptly send it out for a race with the confidence that it's going to work like it's supposed to. So, when I built myself a new cross bike, and didn't get a chance to put any local miles on it (beyond a couple one mile commutes), I didn't have any worries about how it would function during its first ride on the Meet Your Maker Tour.
True to the confidence, the bike performed perfectly. No mid-ride cable adjustment. No handlebar tweaking. No seat position fiddling. Just clip in and ride. The real question is how did the US made frame ride compared to the Taiwan made frame? Honestly, I don't know. And by "I don't know," I mean I didn't notice any difference. I would say the two are pretty equivalent.
But, you certainly noticed something different, right? Yes. Yes, I did. First, the bike is noticeably lighter because I used much lighter parts. Not sure what the weight difference is, but I know the wheels are lighter and that probably is the most noticeable aspect. I'm super pleased with the Pacenti SL23 rim/White Industries combo. I built the wheels with DT Revolution spokes in front and on the left rear. The right rear spokes are DT Competition. DT alloy nipples were used front and rear as well. I used the Pacenti rims because after building up several sets, I know they are nice to work with and the channel profile is tubeless friendly. I wrapped two layers of tubeless tape and set up the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires tubeless with Orange Seal sealant with 40psi. I'm going to have to play with air pressure a bit, but 40 psi felt pretty good. I don't particularly care for the lower pressures that makes the tire feel squirmy.
One thing I do know is that on the descent down Coastal View Trail where many folks pinch flatted, I had not problems.
The other concern I had after riding my previous cross bike with a triple was the double I have on the new bike. I worried that I wouldn't have that perfect gear for climbing moderately steep grades. With my triple, that gear is my middle (34t) with the 30t large cog in back. I didn't even think about not having the "right" gear on the new bike as they all seemed to be right what ever the situation. I spent 99% of my time in the 40t ring in front and up to the 32t in back. There was a point climbing Diaz Ridge where I dropped to the 28 and used either the 25 or 28 in back. Overall, I was really pleased with the gearing choices. Some might say 40/28 with an 11-36 cassette! But I use my cross bike as my mountain bike and ride where most folks mountain bike so the range is needed. No, it's not cross racing gearing, but could be if needed.
The other aspect that worked well is the White Industries VBC crankset. I had no luck running 10 speed chains on White cranks a year ago or so. They just didn't like the narrower 10 speed chains. Didn't matter if the chain was Shimano, SRAM, or KMC, or if the derailleur was Shimano or SRAM. Now, I'm happy to say it works great. I spoke with Doug White earlier this week and asked him about this. He said they change the outer ring to work with 10 speed. He said it works great with 10 speed, provided the front derailleur is Shimano. For some reason, the SRAM front derailleur just doesn't work properly. I was running a Shimano CX70 front derailleur and it worked flawlessly.
The final note about the bike that I noticed was the SRAM Type 2 rear derailleur and that the chain was pretty quiet riding through the choppy stuff. The Type 2 derailleur has a clutch type mechanism in the B pivot that keeps chain tension high. As evident by the chainstay photo, there was little chain slapping on the chainstay. I like a quiet bike.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with how the bike performed. I pretty much dig this bike and look forward to riding it a lot more.
Last Sunday, about 50+ folks showed up in Mill Valley for the Meet Your Maker Tour cross ride up Mt. Tam and beyond. It's not really fair to call it a cross ride, although a cross bike does work best for this type of ride. In addition to the plentiful cross bikes in attendance, there were some mountain bikes, two mountain tandems, and one guy who ripped on his Hunter with road tires.
As per usual, with a posted ride time of 10:00, the cat herding began around 10:30. It's no easy task to get that many people going and as per the ride flyer stating it was a "no drop" ride, there were several lengthy-ish stops to let folks catch up. There was a bit of chomping at the bit to get going, but everyone was aware that the last riders to reach the waiting point need some rest time. Usually on no drop rides, once the stragglers catch up, it's time to go so the folks who would benefit from a bit of a respite, don't get one.
So, the route. I don't know if anyone created the route via some electronic device, but with that many people, I'm sure someone did. I don't even know how far we actually rode. All I know is that it was damn fun. From Mill Valley we rode up Railroad Grade to the West Point Inn. From there the track headed down to Muir Beach via Old Stage fire road to the Pantoll Ranger Station at the top of Panoramic Highway and then down Coastal View Trail. A short section on Hwy 1 brought us to the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach where liquid refueling was on tap. The fast descent on Coastal View Trail with some choppy trail sections resulted in a bunch of flats. I think everyone got air back in their tires.
From Muir Beach, we headed up Diaz Ridge Trail. By the time we got to the top of Diaz Ridge at the intersection with Miwok Trail, the day's shadows were getting a bit long and it was decided that some riders were going to head back down Panoramic Hwy to Mill Valley while 6 or 7 of opted for a longer route back via Miwok Trail to Tennessee Valley Rd. and back to Mill Valley via the road where more cold beer waited.
All in all, it was a damn fine day on the bike. Thanks to all the Makers for putting this and the other events together.
Climbing Railroad Grade
Climbing Railroad Grade
Climbing Railroad Grade
West Point Inn regroup
The descent down Coastal View Trail with Mt. Tam in the background
The climb up Diaz Ridge Trail
(What's playing: Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers Hey Stranger)
This coming Sunday the Meet Your Maker Tour comes to Marin for a ride up the flanks of Mt. Tam and across to the Marin Headlands. Thirty-seven miles of the best dirt road riding around. Perfect for a Black Mountain Cycles monster cross bike, just saying.
...except I bought my present myself. I mean why leave it to someone else to get you something you don't want. Only you know what you really want. And I really wanted a new bike. With new parts. Well, almost all new parts. (ed: like my birthday, but not actually.)
Several months ago, when Cameron Falconer and I worked together to make a small run of cross bikes, I slated one of the 62cm frames for myself. However, I tossed and turned over my inability to make a decision on how to build it. Or to build it in the first place because my current bike built works great. I had just done a 3+ hour ride to Fairfax and back via San Geronimo Ridge, a perfect on/off-road ride, and was really digging the bike. However, I had already sourced new parts for the new bike and built the wheels and told myself to just build it.
So I did. The first thing I did in choosing the parts for the new bike was to determine gearing. On my current bike, I run a 46/34/24 with a 13-30 cassette. I calculated my low gear and my high gear as they work well for my riding. I knew I was going to run a double crank and needed to know ring size I would need with an 11-36 cassette. It turned out that a 40/28 combo matched up almost spot on.
With that piece of the puzzle in place, my decision on wheels came down to wanting to run the Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires tubeless. I looked at H Plus Son Archetype, HED Belgium +, and Pacenti SL23 rims. Having built all three for customers, I knew they all built up very nice. I chose the Pacenti rim because the BG tire seated with only a floor pump and two layers of tubeless tape. And Kirk Pacenti is a friend of mine and I like using friend's parts.
Then the big question: SRAM or Shimano? I've been a long-time Shimano guy and would have continued with Shimano if Shimano's road shifters worked with their Shadow + rear derailleur. Having built several bikes with the new clutch type rear derailleurs, I knew I wanted to run one on the cross bike to keep chain tension up and noise down. Shimano's clutch type Shadow + derailleurs are only compatible with 10-speed mountain shifters, not road (STI or bar-con) shifters. Shimano's 9-speed mountain derailleur is compatible with 10-speed road shifters, but it's not available in a Shadow + design. SRAM, on the other hand, does make their 10-speed clutch type Type 2 mountain derailleur compatible with their 10-speed road shifters. So, SRAM it is.
The rest of the parts:
Salsa Cowbell 2 bars with Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers and SRAM TT500 bar-con shifters
Ritchey WCS 120mm stem
White Industries VBC 40/28 cranks with Phil bottom bracket
White Industries H2/H3 hubs (I stashed a set aside for myself as they were transitioning to the T11 hubs. The H3 rear hub is 10-speed max and builds with less dish which I like), Pacenti SL23 rims with DT Revolution and Competition spokes
Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road tires sealed tubeless with Orange Seal sealant
SRAM X9 Type 2 rear derailleur and a Shimano CX70 top pull front derailleur
Paul Mini-Moto brakes
Not all the parts I used are new. It's fun to repurpose old parts and in this case, I pulled out of my parts bins an XTR seatpost, WTB Rocket V seat, and some Shimano 959 clipless pedals.
What do I think? I think it rides pretty darn nice. Maybe a touch snappier feeling than the Taiwan sourced cross bike, but that's probably because the drivetrain is all new and fresh. I like it.
One more thing, I've been really liking the PRO Digital Carbon Smart Silicon handlebar tape. It's got a gel-like backing that gives a nice feel on the bars either with gloves or without. It's not slippery. It wraps smoothly. It is slightly oversized, but not huge. And best of all, it's not $40 like some of these designer tapes. Well, maybe that's not the best of all. The real best of all, is it's available in black only.