Browsing articles in "cycling"

Cycling can be humbling…

Over the Holidays, I was lucky enough to spend some time with both my immediate and extended family on my Dad’s side. It was a blast. My family is so spread out across the country it’s a never ending struggle to see one another.

My grandparents live in Arkansas, and the weather this year was mild nationwide, but the high temps there were in the 50′s. I took a couple bikes down with us so that Jon (younger brother) and I could do a little riding. The weather in KC had been pretty rainy and dismal, and I’d been busy finishing my place in River Market, and so I was out of shape, and a little rusty to say the least.

See Proof:

I have no idea how this really happened.

Sometimes a little embarrassment is a good thing.

I was proud of Jon though. He tore it up, and had no significant falls. He was taking big drops left and right on my single speed, rigid suspension 29er I built earlier in the year.


China Bike – A Carbon Rigid Single Speed 29er experiment

By Josh  //  cycling, MTB  //  25 Comments

NOTE: At the request of some friends from MTBR, I’ve added a gallery of all of the pics I’ve taken regarding this build.


I’m taking the plunge. I have a few buddies who have single speed mountain bikes, and riding with them using 20+ gears when they only have 1 available just seems unfair.
Other reasons for this project are that I wanted to try buying a frame directly from the source (chinese manufacturer), instead of through 3-4 additional hands, and that it seems like a fun bike to add to my stable.

The Process…

I sourced the frame a mixture of ways: I knew I wanted to go carbon, and 29er if possible (greatly due to the fact that I love my Santa Cruz Tallboy frame). To get inspiration, I was reading a forum thread on looking for single speed bike info & pictures, and realized that buying the frame direct from the manufacturer was an actual possibility.

That led me to eBay, where I didn’t find a carbon 29er frame for sale on there, but within a listing for a 26″ wheel frame I noticed a seller put in a picture with text in it inviting people to inquire about a carbon 29er frame. I did, and eventually found my way to They have several carbon 29er frames available, and I opted for what they call the MTB854 (many pictures to follow). I chose them over competitors mostly because they also had a carbon rigid 29er fork available, and they had a 21″ frame option.

Costs & Parts…

MTB854 frame direct from china -29er BB30 $600 1110g
Fork Carbon Rigid direct from china - tapered QR $130 606g
Seatpost Carbon direct from china $50 234g
Handlebar direct from china – MHD901-640mm $50.00 198g
Stem direct from china – SM301-120mm $50.00 152g
Headset Spacers   $10 16g
Headset direct from chinese manufacturer $15 104g
Shipping from China (two orders worth) $154  
Crank X0 BB30 2X10 Carbon Crankset 26×39 175mm $395 658g – unmodified
Chainring Homebrew Components 32 teeth $45  
Cog Homebrew Components 18 teeth $44  
bottom bracket SRAM BB30 Bearing Assembly    
Chain – 3/32" SRAM PC-991HP Chain 9-Speed $37.99 .62lbs/281g
Seatclamp Colorado Cyclist – Hope Bolt 34.9mm Red $26.99 24g
tensioner Treefort Bikes – Surly Singleator $36.95 124g
Rotors included with brakes   232g
Brakes SRAM XO Disc Brake Set 160mm $490 1.47lbs/666g
SS spacer kit Treefort Bikes – Surly Spacer Kit $29.99 44g
Skewers easton included with wheelset   124g
Front Wheel Easton EA90 XC 29\” Disc QR Front $435 772g
Rear Wheel Easton EA90 XC 29\” Disc QR Rear $490 952g
Front Tire The Captain Control 2Bliss 29×2.2 $55 760g
Rear Tire The Captain Control 2Bliss 29×2.0 $55 674g
Grips Ergon GX1 Leichtbau Grip $39.99  
Pedals eggbeaters    

Parts from China

MTB854 21″ Frame Geometry
As I mentioned before, one of the primary goals was to see what buying a frame direct from a manufacturer overseas was like. Since I do importing for a living, I had a fairly good idea of how it would work, but several things took place along the way I couldn’t foresee.
I ordered a 21″ frame. I sent probably around 10 emails confirming specs and stuff from the manufacturer. The components I ordered were easier to come by than the frame and fork. Once I found a company that had both the frame and fork in stock and available, I pulled the trigger. The manufacturer stated that they had a 3K, 12K, and UD weave available for all of the frames. Via email, Ally with informed me that the only finish they had was 3K. No big deal to me, as all of the other components I had ordered were 3K (it’s a classic weave after all).
When the parts arrived though the finish of the frame was UD Gloss! Not a deal breaker by any means, but it was still different than stated in our agreement. I emailed them about it looking for a discount, but had virtually no luck. They told me they’d throw in a free water bottle in my next order. Ridiculous. I ordered some additional parts from them so we’ll see if it shows up.
Overall the parts from them seem to be great. The frame uses an integrated headset, and the brand is Token, which I’ve never heard of before, but according to their website, they make some nice stuff so we’ll see.
Below are some pictures and weights of the chinese procured parts from gotobike.

Lessons Learned…

USE FIBER GRIP on your seatpost. I made the mistake of forgetting to do this on my first ride, and broke my seatpost clamp bolt trying to get the smooth surfaces to bind.

The Finished Product – V1 – Chain Tensioner

All of the parts for the bike finally arrived. I had to wait for 4 weeks to get the cog and the chainring from Homebrew Components. I bought the SRAM XO crank purposely because it did not use a built in spider. I wanted a removable one so that I could run the spiderless chain ring.
It was very easy to swap out, and doing so provided a weight savings on of 160 grams. Even better it’s pretty looking ;).

For the mean time I’m running a Surly Singeator, which helps keep tension on the chain. It works really well, but I’m also going to be trying an alternative tensioning system in the next couple weeks, which brings me to part 2…

The Finished Product – V2 – Beer Components EBB

Since I’m new to the Single Speed MTB world, there were a few things that I had to learn about. The most important of which is chain line and chain tension. Chain line is an easy enough concept, and is even easier to accomplish with a good set of spacers.

Chain tension though, is a little more complicated, not because it’s a tricky concept to wrap your head around, it’s actually simple. What’s confusing is that there are enough was to accomplish tension it’ll make your head spin! Frames with Horizontal dropouts are the best option normally for a single speed setup because they are easy to create tension and super easy to adjust.
Since I opted to save some money buying my frame direct from the carbon manufacturer in China, I was limited to the dropout selection they had available, which in my case was a traditional vertical dropout that you would usually use with a geared setup.

Traditionally, if you have a vertical dropout, you’re going to be forced to use something like the Singlenator I used originally above. But, one of the coolest things about the frame I purchased is that the Bottom Bracket shell is made to the BB30 spec, which is a relatively new system that allows for the bearings to be directly pressed into the bracket, eliminating the need to have threaded BB cups that are made of metal, and therefore increase the weight of your bike.

The BB30 bottom bracket cup is larger in diameter then a threaded external bottom bracket, which allows enough space for an ECCENTRIC BOTTOM BRACKET! An Eccentric Bottom Bracket (EBB) allows you to “twist” the crank so that you can get tension in the chain at the bottom bracket, eliminating the need for a spring loaded tensioner in the rear.
The benefits of this are:

  • potential weight savings
  • cleaner looks
  • other things I’m sure I’ll come up with
  • To my knowledge there’s only one company that offers an eccentric bottom bracket for a BB30 cup, Beer Components. I have one on the way, and as soon as I get my hands on it I’ll install it complete with pics.

    much much more to come…


    Planning for the Womble Epic ride

    By Josh  //  cycling, MTB, Trips  //  2 Comments

    I’m planning another IMBA Epic ride. The trail is called the Womble Trial. Apparently a Womble is the Midwestern equivalent of Sasquatch, which adds another element of fear to an already treacherous route.

    This time however, I’m going to have my brother in tow, which should make it epic on many more levels. I’m excited, enthralled, elated even with the prospect of running through all 38 miles in one day. If successful, It will be the longest singletrack distance I’ve ever accomplished. 24 miles on the Berryman Epic was my previously longest distance, and it was intense, pushed me to my limits even. I was fighting daylight, shortage of water, and Missouri (aka misery) summer heat on that ride, so I think the increase in mileage can be completed with pacing, spring temps, and a SteriPEN to clean creek water.

    Here’s is the route as ridden by someone else:

    Note: It’s fairly difficult to GPS data on the trail, despite it’s being famous.

    The Plan

    AS of now the plan is for Jon (said brother) and I to take off on a Friday, drive to (and stay at) the Highway 27 Fishing Village which is located at what would be the end of the route. It’s as close to equidistant for the two of us, which is one of the reasons that Womble seemed like a good choice for the trip. We’d get a shuttle to run us out to the start point, and then ride flawlessly and without event (yeah right) ending at the village.

    If we’re feeling up to it and want to take an extra day off work, there’s a skills course and trail that’s about an hour away from camp to play on. Updates and more planning coming later.

    Map & Images of Prospective Route

    Links For Reference & Planning

  • IMBA Womble Page
  • BTtrails Womble Page
  • Trimble Outdoors Womble Page
  • Dirt Rag Magazine review of Womble Trail
  • Great Blog Post On Womble Ride
  • Jul

    Three Cheers For Spontaneity!

    By Josh  //  cycling, MTB, Trips  //  2 Comments

    Wide Open Kansas Sky

    The Stage

    Lately I’ve been feeling that my life has been getting a little too predictable. I know in reality that no one’s life is really the same, nor does anyone’s life really stay the same. It can, however start feeling the same, and while there is a very very small amount of comfort in that feeling, for the most part I loathe it. I want to be free, and ever changing, because I believe that change breeds innovation and improvement, and who can’t use those things, right?

    KC to Fancy CreekAnyways, so I’m sitting in Kansas City on Saturday afternoon, getting stir crazy. It’s going to rain (boring), Emily has a show (so I’m on my own). I’m pondering what to do with the evening, and the only option I can think of is to continue to plow through the seasons of Mad Men (which is excellent), but I keep getting upset at the fact that because of the impending rain, I won’t be able to ride my MTB for a couple days.
    Then it dawns on me: Get the F out of town. Perfect, but to where? Long story short I found a great candidate, Fancy Creek Trail. I’d never been there before, it’s only 2.5 hours away, and a quick weather check showed sunny through Tuesday!
    I grabbed some stuff (much more than I really needed in retrospect) and took off on a course for adventure.

    The Trip

    Driving from torrential downpour to sunny sky’s is always kind of fun.  It was a rejuvenating experience for me to make the transition, and made an already enjoyable trip just that much better.

    Me at a Rest Area Near Topeka, KS.I knew I was going to need to get some more food than I scrounged up from home (from home I found beer, colby-jack cheese, a Fiber One Bar, and a Nectarine), and as I was making a mental list, I realized I had forgot something else, toilet paper.  Luckily there was a rest area on the side of the road (near Topeka), and I thought, what better way to recoup some of my tax money then taking a roll from the rest stop?  I thought it only appropriate to document it with a photo from said rest area.


    Provisions-YumI got into Manhattan, and even though I had never been there was able to locate a grocery store with relative ease. I want in and picked up some food. Hot dogs, buns, chips, and then some granola, cookies, bananas and beef jerky, all of the essentials for successful camping and biking. I threw it all in the car and headed north out of Manhattan to my final destination around 7PM.


    Campsite 4I arrived at the campsite without any trouble around 7:30PM.  I was selecting a campsite was pretty easy since there were only 2 options that had trees where I needed them to be for my Hennessy Hammock tent (more on that to come).  Campsite number 4 it was.  The other upside to this spot was that it had a tie-in trail to the main Fancy Creek Trail system right next to it.  You couldn’t have a more convenient campsite.

    First thing to do was set up my sleeping area.  I’d been gifted a extremely clever contraption called a Hennessy Hammock for christmas about a year back, and I hadn’t had a chance to try it out yet. Hennesy Hammock packedI figured it was a great opportunity since I was by myself, had a truck to sleep in as backup, and cold weather wouldn’t be an issue (the low for the evening was 71 degrees).

    The hammock is light (3 lbs total) and uses no poles, so it’s super packable.  I tied it between two tree and viola! it was ready to go.  I would estimate it took me about 10 minutes since it was my first time.  I think I could do it again in about 5.

    It’s pretty unconventional.Inside Hennessy Hammock There’s a full rain fly option, (which I have), and the upper portion of the hammock is comprised of highly breathable mesh. The hammock is designed so that when your in it you adjust your body diagonally in relation to the ropes that the hammock is hanging, this way you can flat, and even on your side.  It’s really comfortable!

    The hammock doesn’t even use zippers.  There’s a slit in the bottom center that runs for half of the length of the hammock.  The slit is lined with velcro, and so you tear it open, sit down, lift your legs, and your body weight closes it.  This was my lovely campsiteIt’s ridiculously well thought out and proved to be the best camping sleep I’ve ever encountered.  I highly recommend it to any serious camper.

    The Evening

    From there on the night was coming fast and ended up being pretty simple. I forgot a saw or axe, so I broke up some deadfall I found. My knees and hands were less than happy about that, but I wanted a fire!! I also forgot lighter fluid, the simplest way to make a fire, so as an alternative, I gathered up some evergreen sheddings. They worked like a charm and I had a booming fire going just as darkness fell. I cooked hot dogs, ate chips and drank beer to my hearts content, all the while enjoying the fire.

    I think I ended up going to sleep around 11:00PM. I slept pretty. I was woken several times because their was raging party taking place in the area. I thought this was pretty interesting because the campsite had a host who was present. I figured that thy would have broke up a huge party like that pretty quickly especially since it lasted literally all night. The only thing I can figure is that it’s a semi-normal occurrence and that the noise was coming from private property, so the camp host and rangers had no control. The worst part of that was the partier’s incredibly poor taste in music. At one point everyone was cheering for a song, and when I recognized it I laughed and cringed at the same time. The song was Nookie by Limp Bizkit.

    The Morning

    When I finally got up in the morning I was feeling pretty good. I had gone to the truck around 4:30 to get a light jacket, which I used as a blanket. I had brought a sleeping bag, but that would have been way too much. The light rain shell was just perfect.

    Food was on my mind.  I grabbed a banana, some cereal, and water, and ate my fill.  I had forgot a bowl (or any kind of utensils for that matter) so I had to shove my hand into the cereal box, grabbing handfuls at a time.

    Camping Hands Are Kind of GrossThat got me to thinking about how dirty my hands get when I’m camping.  I mean, I can rinse my hands with water a million times, but under my nails always is out of control!  I’m a messy camping kid.

    Anyways, I finished eating, and got to work tearing down the hammock.  It was very easy and took all of 5 minutes to complete.  I love the Hennessy Hammock.

    From there I really had nothing to do, but go on a bike ride.

    The Ride

    Since there was only one other group in the entire campsite (and they were far away from being in eye shot), I was able to change into my riding gear in the open.  I can see the appeal of being naked outdoors, but on the flip side of that, all I could think about was how much more access I was giving bugs to my skin.  So I gingerly put on a bib and riding shirt, changed into my shoes and got the other various things I’d  need for the ride ready.

    Fancy Creek Trail MapI was taking a Deuter Race-liteX (which is the best bladder backpack in the world) with about 1.5 liter’s of water.  Normally on a trail I’ve not ridden before, I’d take a little more water, but I knew a loop was only about 6-7 miles so I figured I could carry a lighter load and stop in-between laps to re-fill.  I packed a banana and some Gu energy chews.  I find popping 3-4 of these an hour vastly improves my endurance (especially on hot days when I’m sweating electrolytes at record pace).

    When I got to the tie-in trail that was supposed to take me to the main trail system, there was a problem.  No one had used or maintained that piece of trail this season, and so consequentially it was horribly overgrown.  It was hardly ridable.  I had to get off at several points and duck down really low to get through sections where the trees had been unkept.  I started to think that the entire trail system might be in this state of neglect, in which case it was going to be a long and uncomfortable day!

    A Corridor Cut through treesAfter about 1/2 mile of that I hit the main trail, and it looked to be in much better condition.  Since it was nearly impossible to notice the trail I came in on, I marked a big arrow in the dirt of the trail so I could find where I would exit from (I was dreading taking that section of trail again) and also I could mark my laps.

    The first lap was horrible (as is usually the case with a trail that hasn’t been ridden for 3-4 days). Spiders of all kinds like to build their webs between trees, and since trails go between two trees quite often, I ran into well over 500 webs. The spiders were all shapes and sizes. I know as a general rule of thumb the spiders that create webs in tis pattern aren’t poisonous, but any time you run face first into a spider the size of a quarter it’s disconcerting.

    Kansas meets CO: The Flint HillsThe normal pattern in this case is hit web on face, if spider is in peripheral vision then take a free hand as soon as possible and brush across the brim of your helmet, flicking your hand after to ensure the spider falls off the web that’s inevitably stuck to your glove hand. About every 5-10 minutes I came to a full stop and tried my best to de-spider and de-web my body and bike. Despite web after web, I was committed to the adventure of exploring the trail in it’s entirety. After that first lap though things improved.

    The second lap (because I had already cleared them) was web free, leaving me to go much faster. Knowing what’s coming around the corners helps a lot with speed and successfully making it over obstacles as well. I really had a great time on that second lap, but the realization that I needed to start heading back home was looming in the back of my head.

    I decided not to fill my water back up after the first lap because I didn’t want to navigate through that horrible tie-in again, and I was starting to get low on water after that second lap. I decided to get off the trail at a point where it crossed a road, and head back to camp.

    The feeling of the trail was nice.  At times I felt like I was back in Colorado, and other times I felt like I was in Kansas.  There was a constant mashup of the two distinct climates. The smell was all Colorado, or New Mexico, with the thick smell of evergreens hanging in the air.

    I arrived back at campsite #4, hot, exhausted, and sweaty. I dried off, did a final spider and tick check, and headed for home. So would I go again? you bet! It was a blast, and I think even if you didn’t like biking, it’d make for a good hiking destination also. It felt like a miniature Colorado, and since I love it there, I enjoyed Fancy Creek Trail.

    This picture doesn't do this justice. Super steep and rocky grade. This is me in all my splendor after a summer ride. Stats from Fancy Creek ride

    Garmin Connect Route:


    Why I Bonked on my 1st Century Attempt.

    By Josh  //  cycling, road  //  No Comments

    Friday – bad idea born

    On this past friday night (let the record note 5/21/10), it popped in my head that I could ride one hundred miles in one day, and then of course I thought that since I could I should.  The plan was set then I’d wake up the next morning and do it.

    Saturday – bad idea executed

    9am – I woke up, rolled over and went to to plot a route for my first century ride.  I came up with something I thought looked pretty good based on an0ther ride I’d found.  I would ride to Lawrence and back.  It met the obvious 100 mile criteria, as well as several less important ones.  It had a place to stop along the way that would have drinks, and to top it off it sounded cool. Question- “What’d you do today?”  Answer-”Not much… just biked to Lawrence & back.” (applause and celebration)

    The Proposed Route:

    I’m lucky enough to have a Garmin Edge 500, which has a cool map function.  I downloaded the route to it, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to rain.  Hooray! only showed 5% chance of rain.  Unfortunately I then noticed that the high for the day was to be 95 degrees, and that there were expected wind gusts of 40 mph.  This in hindsight is precisely the moment I should have chosen to shorten my route, and postponed my attack for another day.  I was excited though, and thought it would simply make my accomplishment a little more impressive.

    I was hungry then, so I put on a bib, threw some sunblock on my legs and arms (forgot about my face) and went downstairs to nourish.  I ate the following:

    • 2 butterscotch oatmeal cookies made by my lovely wife Emily (estimated 240 calories)
    • 1 Chobani Blueberry greek yogurt (140 calories)
    • 1 Lo Carb Monster energy drink ( 0 calories)

    So my total caloric breakfast intake was 380 calories ( that will come into play later).

    I filled up my two water bottles (with water), finished suiting up and headed off.  I planned on grabbing a couple Shot Bloks (energy supplements for intense workouts) from my normally boundless supply, but when I went to get them I realized that all I had was one pack left.  I didn’t think this was a very big deal, because I ride 3-4 times a week for distances of 30-45 miles without using Bloks, and I figured I could find them at whatever gas station I stopped at along the route.

    10am – I was on the road, and loving it.  I had my iPhone pumping good tunes, it was sunny out, and aside from the wind I was fighting, I was feeling good.

    11am – I was still feeling okay, I hadn’t drank any water until around now, and while I was having to steadily fight the wind, it still wasn’t that bad because the winds was blowing North, and I was heading mainly west.

    11:05am – I turned South heading directly into the wind. This was where things started to get tough mentally. I had no idea where I was, and I had no idea how long I was going to be cycling directly into the wind. My average speed over this dead south section was 12mph (normally I average around 20 mph).

    11:15am – Started heading West again.  There are occasional hills but nothing too bad.  I’m starting to wonder how long this is actually going to take me to complete.  At this point I’m 40 miles into the trek and 1 hour and 38 minutes.  It’s right around this point that I enter the closest things to mountains that can exist in Kansas.  I’m back heading South again & that combined with a hill puts a serious hurt on my legs.  I’m back heading west again, and come up on a series of incline gains that take me up 192′ in 1 mile.

    12:05pm – FINALLY heading North!  I have the wind to my back, and I’m going downhill.  I’m feeling recharged.  I still had no idea where I was until I started to recognize the southwest side of Lawrence.  It was almost at that exact moment though my pre-planned route had me turn west again to head over to Clinton Lake.  I followed it, but around 12:15 I couldn’t take it anymore, and had to pull off for a break.  I stretched, drank a bottle of water and ate my Shot Bloks.  I felt like the time was good because I was close to Lawrence (which was theoretically my halfway point).  I started up again and about 2 miles down the road both of my quads cramped simultaneously.  I was kind of in shock because I knew how much longer I still had to go.  I pulled off and found a RC airplane flying field that was empty.  There was a shelter, so I got out of the sun, and tried to rest and stretch for a while.  I rested for about 20 minutes and started up again.
    I made it around the lake and started heading back into and through Lawrence. I got up to 6th street and had to stop again. I knew I needed some fuel bad. I picked up 2-20oz gatorades & a PowerBar. I drank one of the Gatorade’s and ate the Powerbar. I knew it would take a while for any of the junk I ingested to actually get to my muscles, but on the other hand sitting at the gas station getting sandblasted from the wind gusts wasn’t much fun either, so I started off again.

    Making it up the hill on Iowa by the dorms combined with timing traffic lights caused my quads to cramp up again, but I cleared the hill and rather than stopping decided to try and work through the cramps. I was feeling better, made it to Haskell, had to turn south again into the wind and that’s when I realized that failure was eminent. I was not going to be able to accomplish the goal. Every major muscle group in my body was cramping at this point. Quads, hams, calves,even my arms were cramping. I tried to gather myself and got another drink (60oz Vitamin Water), an apple and a bag of chips. I have almost no memory of this time. I was exhausted and disoriented. I called a friend (who graciously came and picked me up), I tossed my bike in his car, and headed home.

    Actual Stats From My Trip:

    Could I Have Done It?

    What did I do wrong? Could I have accomplished my goal?
    While I’ll never really know for sure, I think I could have made it 100 miles if I’d done even one of the following differently.

    1. First and foremost: hydrate better. I should have started out with Gatorade instead of water. I lost a ton of electrolytes and salt from the high temps, and I didn’t replenish them often enough during my ride. I also should have brought more fluid along. Two bottles in 50 miles isn’t enough. drinking more could have easily eliminated my cramps, and gotten me home.
    2. Eat better:  I didn’t eat enough early on, and certainly didn’t eat enough throughout my ride.  Doing this could also have made the ride a success.
    3. Account for the weather:  I picked a really bad day to attempt my first century ride, and had I picked a better day, my chances would have improved a lot.

    All in all, while it was painful, I learned a lot of valuable stuff.  I wish that I had thought a little more ahead of time before setting myself up for failure, but after all isn’t that what life is about?  Failure and learning? ;)

    Quotes I Like…

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Plato

    We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ~Epictetus

    Anyone who trades liberty for security, deserves neither liberty nor security. ~Benjamin Franklin

    Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as they do it from religeous conviction. ~Blaise Pascal

    When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching. ~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton