Tour des Suds 2017 – Park City, Utah

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Tour des Suds is an annual mountain bike race in Park City to raise money for the Mountain Trails Foundation which builds so many of the trail in the area. Some treat it as a real race and some as a costume party and some try to do both. The race is a 7 mile climb to Empire Pass and we were blessed with great weather this year. One of the highlights for me is the knowledge that the return to the party back in City Park means a fun descent on Park City’s excellent singletrack.

I chose to start in the middle of the pack and enjoy the climb up rather than pretend to race. I chatted with other riders and enjoyed the creativity of the costumes. Occasionally we would stop on the singletrack and wait a minute or so while riders got moving again but everyone was chill and not aggro about passing where I was riding. There was even a beer/whisky hand-up about 5 miles up the mountain which surprised me for Mormon Utah.

This guy below carved a ‘helmet’ out of a watermelon and somehow rode all the way up. He told me it was very hot but he didn’t have time to cut vents.

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We all convened back in City Park for race and costume awards. One of the awards was for the oldest finisher – he was 79 – and he finished just a little bit behind me. Even more impressive was the youngest finisher – the boy who won this was only 6!

Thanks Mountain Trails for a great event.

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Below is the author at the top of the race

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Ten Seconds of Kindness

2017-09-11 11.22.29Not only does the Mountain Trails Foundation in Park City do a great job building and maintaining trails in the area for hikers, bikers (both dirt and snow), skiers and dog walkers, they also do an excellent job educating users without a lecturing tone. This 10 Seconds of Kindness is a great model. I’ve always thought it is just as easy for bike riders to leave  a good impression as a bad one. If I’m on a great descent and things are feeling great I hate to stop but in the grand scheme of things stopping for another trail user just isn’t that big a deal. I stop, chat a bit and start again and I’m having fun again just like that. Thanks Mountain Trails for all that you do!

Why E-Bikes Are a Threat to Mountain Bike Trail Access

 

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Image courtesy of Honda

The typical discussion on the question of e-bike access to non-motorized trails typically goes something like this:

Proponent: “Why are you against e-bikes? They are quiet and don’t damage the trails”

Anti: “Because they will hurt our access to trails”

Proponent: “They shouldn’t – they are just like regular mountain bikes but with some help for the rider – they don’t hurt the trails”

Anti: “They are motorized – don’t you get it? They will get faster and faster as technology improves”

Proponent: “But they don’t have a throttle”

This typically goes on and on and there is never a resolution just like most discussions on social media. Multiple government agencies have come out with rulings that e-bikes should not be allowed on trails that exclude motorized vehicles. The whole motor vs non-motor seems obvious to me but some agencies haven’t ruled on the issue and some do allow e-bikes on trails. Some specifically allow them for people with a disability. I assume that the rules on e-bikes will be clarified over the next 2-3 years as the industry ramps up their offerings. E-bikes won’t sell unless people have a place to ride them so there is a fair bit of money lining up to change the laws to allow e-bikes on more trails.

I’ve been involved in MTB advocacy in some form or another since 1993 and I do see e-bikes as a threat. The sky is not falling – YET – but manufacturers and some vocal e-bike users want to change the laws so that e-bikes are allowed on trails that don’t currently allow them. It’s very hard to believe that this effort won’t affect those of us who choose not to ride with motor power. In general, the proponents argue that because e-bikes don’t have a throttle and are battery powered that they should be treated as a different class from internal combustion motorcycles. Industry types and some agencies may buy this distinction but I think it will be lost on the general public who, sensibly, will see a bike with a motor and ask, “Why can’t I ride my motorcycle on those trails?”.

My imaginary conversation between a member of the public and an elected official or administrator goes like this:

Public: “I was out on the Crest yesterday and I noticed that there were several people on electric mountain bikes. That’s really cool that you allow motor bikes up there now – thanks!”

Administrator: “Well, actually those are e-bikes – they are pedal-assisted bicycles, not motorized bikes”.

Public: “I don’t understand – they have motors, right?”

Administrator: “Well, they have 500 Watt electric motors but they don’t have a throttle”

Public: “So how do they work if they don’t have a throttle?”

Administrator: “Well you have to pedal and the motor helps out – sort of like the old mopeds”

Public: “So how do you know that the motor is only 500 Watts?”

Administrator: “Well we don’t know unless we inspect them”

Public: “How often do you inspect them?”

Administrator: “Never – we don’t have the budget for that”

Public: “So, riders could modify the drive system to make it faster?”

Administrator: “In theory, yes, but we haven’t seen that happen.”

Public: “So I’ve got a CRF125 and it would be great to ride it on these trails with my daughter on her CRF50 – so it’s OK if I ride up on the Crest?”

Administrator: “No – sorry – it has a gas motor and a throttle so you can’t ride it on non-motorized trails”

Public: “Wait – you just said that bikes with electric motors are OK – I don’t get it”

Administrator: “Yes, but those don’t have a throttle”

Public: “That seems totally arbitrary – they have a motor but you allow them on non-motorized trails??!! I need to talk to someone at the Forest Service – this is ridiculous. If they can ride electric motorbikes up there I should be able to ride my dirt bike there, too.”

Like I say this is my imagination working – the conversation won’t go exactly like this but will likely be similar. Next step is that the people who ride dirt bikes get their lobbyists and industry groups involved and Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Husqvarna, etc. see an opportunity to sell MX bikes and ATV’s in greater numbers. The government gets pressured and are left with a simple choice – allow e-bikes and other motorized vehicles or do a blanket ban on all motorized vehicles. A few people decide to use e-bikes on multi-use trails even where they are not allowed. Hikers and equestrians complain to the administrators. Since the administrators can’t easily tell the difference between (for example) a Specialized Turbo Levo Fattie and a non-motorized MTB, they are left with no choice but banning all MTB’s from those trails.

That’s one way you may lose access. Do you have other scenarios? Let me know.

Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration Pack Review

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Osprey Raptor 14

My go-to Ergon riding pack for 10 years was getting old. Broken zipper pulls and a few other issues so I started looking around for a replacement. Osprey packs are ubiquitous and I have a great winter backcountry pack from Osprey that has felt right on me since the first day I put it on. So, I checked out the Osprey packs first. Osprey really seems to sweat the details and you get the feeling that their designers are passionate riders who care about how other riders use their packs.

I’m one of those guys who seems to be the ‘rescue’ rider in the group. Not because I have any training or skills but just because I don’t leave anyone behind. I’ve fixed chains and flats for strangers. I’ve bailed out bonking noobs with food. On any but the shortest ride I have 2 tubes and a first aid kit. I wanted a pack big enough for extras and also capable of holding the removable chinguard from my Bell helmet. The Raptor 14 is big enough for all this, plus it compresses down for smaller loads.

Things I like:

  • Zippered pockets on the belt that are ideal for Clif bars and other snacks.
  • Integrated tool roll on the bottom gives easy access to your tools and holds them tight so they aren’t clanking around on a ride.
  • Magnetic attachment for the hydration tube to secure it to your pack. This works great every time and keeps the tube from dangling.
  • Small outer zippered pocket that is ideal for wallet and phone.  And has a clip for keys. Even the little clip has a protrusion on it making it easier to open.
  • Hydration bladder closure. I thought this would be more clumsy than the Camelbak screw-cap closure but the sliding feature is super-repeatable and easy to use. No more leaks like I would get about 1 out of 10 times with the Camelbak. Plus, it’s easier to get excess air out of the bladder before sealing than with the screw cap Camelbak uses.
  • Helmet attachment gizmo that can be used to secure my chinguard.

When I talk about the details one small but impressive one is the clip that secures the zipper for the tool roll. This one ensures that the zipper can’t come open while riding which could leave your tools spread out over your favorite trail.

I’ve just left a month of riding Moab behind with 20 rides while I was there. In that time, I haven’t encountered a single negative to the pack. I’ll do a follow-up review in 6 months or so. If you have an Osprey let me know what you think.

Helmet attachment

Helmet clip is on an adjustable elastic cord

 

Room for chinguard

Easy to attach the chinguard to the outside of the pack

 

Helmet clip and chinguard

Using the helmet clip to secure the chinguard

 

Sunglass pocket

Lined sunglass pocket

 

Magnet

Magnetic clip secures the tube

 

Tool roll

The tool roll holds everything you need and rolls up into the bottom of the pack

 

Zipper clip

Tool roll zipper has this little clip to ensure it doesn’t open during your ride

Pedal Assist – Just Another Marketing Term

Interesting to see this sign at a trailhead in Moab the other day. The BLM had to post both ‘No e-bikes’ and ‘No pedal assist’ since the bike industry has pushed ‘pedal assist’ as the preferred deceptive marketing term. I hadn’t made the connection until I saw this, but ‘pedal assist’ doesn’t sound like you have a motor – it just sounds like magic that helps you pedal. 

With the lack of technical fluency of most of the population, I can’t blame the rider for not understanding that their pedal assist bike has a motor. Glad to see the BLM is holding the line on keeping motors off these trails. There are plenty of trails around Moab where motors are allowed – so I hope the BLM and other agencies continue to hold the line on this. 

Turn off the music


There are 2 types of riders when it comes to the subject of listening to music while riding; those who do and those who don’t. Pretty basic. 

But in the category of music listeners there are a number of variants. Those who are reasonably responsible who use just one earbud so they can hear other trail users, those who don’t give a shit about other users and use 2 earbuds ensuring that they are a danger to other users, and the totally self-centered who play their music through a Bluetooth speaker that basically says ‘I don’t care about your outdoor experience, I’m going to impose my crappy music on you’. 

Both of these last 2 suck, but for different reasons. With the 2-earbud rider at least they only piss me off when they do something stupid like turn in front of me as I’m passing them because they couldn’t here me call ‘On your left’. Fortunately, this has only happened a few times and hasn’t been disastrous yet because I expect it to happen when the rider doesn’t acknowledge me. 

The Bluetooth rider is more clueless. He (and it has been a ‘he’ 100% of the time) thinks everyone wants to hear his music. Or maybe – ‘chicks dig it’. All I can promise is that for every 100 trail users he encounters, 100 won’t like his music. Either they don’t want to hear music (or phone calls, or motors, or any of the things they are escaping from) when they are on the trail. Or they just think, ‘your music sucks’. I can’t choose NOT to hear your music – you can choose to turn it off. 

So – just turn it off – don’t be a wanker. 

KS LEV Dropper Post Long-Term Review 

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I’ve ridden a number of dropper posts since about 2008. From the early days, I’ve sampled the Gravity Dropper, Crank Brothers Joplin, Fox DOSS and ended up buying the Kind Shock LEV in early 2014. For those of you who still haven’t bought a dropper post I’ll say that it’s one of the best upgrades you can make on your bike no matter what kind of bike you are riding – even a hardtail. If you like going fast downhill (or even if you don’t) it will give you more control and confidence. You’ll lower your center of gravity which gives more control in cornering and particularly on steep downhills the dropper will make you feel that you won’t go over the bars. If you’re riding flat to rolling non-technical terrain keep that fixed seatpost but if you are riding anything else and want to have more fun, get a dropper post!

One of my primary considerations whenever I buy bike parts is to get something reliable. Weight and other performance issues are important but always secondary to reliability. If I have to spend too much time fixing something it takes away from my ride time. If you have ever walked a few miles to get back to the trailhead due to a broken part, I guarantee that you won’t be thinking, ‘I’m so glad I saved 50 grams on that part – it failed but it sure is light!’. My experience with Crank Brothers several years ago was with a failed seatpost that wouldn’t return to the top. That pretty much ruined the rest of my ride trying to pedal uphill with a seat 5 inches below the correct climbing height. I knew a few MTB tour guides who were leading multi-day rides and carried a backup seatpost in their packs since they couldn’t fully trust the dropper posts they were running. That wasn’t for me.

So, in 2014 when I was shopping, the consensus was that the Rock Shox Reverb and the KS LEV were the most reliable posts. I tried them both in a shop and settled on the KS. It seemed particularly solid and the shop owner said he had fewer returns for repairs than with the RS post. The Fox DOSS was also out at that time but didn’t have as much of a track record so I wrote that one off.

Installation and Setup:

My bike (Yeti ASR 5C) didn’t allow for internal cable routing but the setup wasn’t really an issue. The external cable routing was clean and has never been a problem. Some early generation dropper posts had cables attached to the moving portion of the post (usually right at the seat mounting) which meant that the cable moved on the bike as you went up and down with the post. This was particularly annoying on the Crank Brothers Joplin as the cable housing would sometimes hit my leg or hang up on the frame somewhere. The LEV had a clean attachment to the top of the fixed portion of the post. The only weak point the shop warned me was the cover over the cable attachment that often fell off during use. The solution was to put a tie-wrap around the cover. Easy solution – but sort of disappointing to get a brand-new post and have to throw a band-aid on it right from the start. But hey – it works.

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Tie-wrap band-aid

The post has an air cartridge to move the post. The Schrader valve is on the top of the post and requires you to remove the saddle to adjust the pressure. Sort of a hassle, but I’ve only set the pressure once and haven’t lost any air so I haven’t had to add air all this time.

The seatpost head uses the preferred 2-bolt attachment so adjusting the seat angle is easy and very secure. I’m not a big fan of button head screws as are used on the LEV since the hex size is usually a size smaller than a socket head cap screw. With the socket head cap screw you are less likely to strip out the hex if you are a ham-fisted mechanic. I understand the use of a button head since it is less likely to injure the rider in a crash than a socket head cap screw. So I’m just careful to fully engage the hex key and watch my torque.

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Out of the box there was a bit of side-to-side play (rotation) of the post but it was quite small and not noticeable when riding the bike. It’s more pronounced now than when I got the post but it is still just barely noticeable when riding and doesn’t bother me. I know some people who care a lot about these details so if you are one of those people you might not like it.

On the trail:

One of the key issues with any post is the remote lever design. The ergonomics and feel of the lever are critical. You want the lever to be located in a good position so that access is good – the most critical time to drop the post is just before a technical section and that is the last time you want your hand off the bar trying to activate a lever. The lever shouldn’t require too much force or throw (travel). It should also have enough ‘feel’ so you can detect the release point and know when the post will move. The KS lever meets all the critical criteria. I initially thought it might be a bit small but I’ve come to like it. If you’re running ODI lock-on grips the lever even integrates with the grip. Take off the inside collar and the clamp of the KS lever just slides onto the grip. Nice detail.

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Return speed:

Some dropper posts have an adjustment for the speed that the post goes to the up position. The return speed on the LEV is governed only by the initial air pressure setting and the speed has always seemed fine to me. Just fast enough and very consistent.

Reliability:

This post has been pretty much bullet proof. I rode it for 2 1/2 years before the first issue popped up. There was a noticeable clunking and a bit of stickiness when moving up to the top position. I assumed that I would have to send it back for service but I opted for the very simple sealhead service as described here http://blog.artscyclery.com/mountain/ask-a-mechanic-service-and-maintain-your-kind-shock-lev-dropper-post/ This was surprisingly easy and put the post back to like-new condition after just 30 minutes of effort.

Overall:

The LEV is a good post. Reliable and consistent performance and it hasn’t let me down. I’m starting to shop for a new bike and I definitely want a KS post on my next bike.