Brilliance!

It’s not too often that I talk about companies or products here.  I have talked about some cycling, running and triathlon related products over the years, especially once I’m confident that it’s something that I like.

This is one of those times.

Actually, a moment to rave about some phenomenal customer support from one of the companies.

The company is Light & Motion, creators of personal lighting systems for pretty much any activity you want to engage in, on ground, in the air or in the water.

The story:

I bought a set of Stella 300 Dual headlights back in autumn of 2009.  I needed them for my bicycle commute to/from work in Germany.  If you’ve lived in Germany, the winters are cold and dark.  Very dark.  Especially if you spend a large amount of time riding through the forest, hoping to dodge any deer or boar that want to cross the trail.

Brilliant riding!

They treated me extremely well through 3.5 brutal German winters, including two in a row that the German weather service declared “the worst in 40 years”, followed by “the worst in 41 years”.

Days like this:

Winter Riding in Germany

Except when I was commuting, it was pitch black except for what the Stella would illuminate.  Which on a snowy ride like this, pretty much everything was illuminated for a good 30-40 yards ahead.

Like I said, brilliant riding.

Here in Oregon, I don’t need them for daily commutes, instead breaking them out on occasion, like every Monday to get home from the bike polo game.  A couple of months ago I realized they were not working as they had, or should.  So I contacted Light & Motion.

A bit of talking back and forth and they suggested that I send it in for a look.  Which I did.

They arrived back at my front door today, an almost completely brand new set.

Looking at the work order, it mentions that they replaced the cable (that runs between the battery and the lights) as well as changed out the lights.  In other words, they rebuilt a new set, which is great since they no longer make this model.

So the lights are almost five years old and completely rebuilt.

They covered it under warranty work!

The quote that they gave me prior to the work was extremely reasonable, coming in at around 1/10 the cost of buying a new light kit.  I was pleased with that, knowing that their standard warranty length is two years.  But three years after that point, they still covered it.

Amazing service that was completely unexpected.  Unexpected, but greatly appreciated.

Broadcasting their excellence to the world is the least I can do.

So if you’re in the market for headlamps or headlights or dive lights, buy from Light & Motion.

I know any lights I buy in the future will be from them.

 

Picnic View

The lunch view for three of the past four days.

Picnic View

The first two days were over the weekend as part of the Pacific Crest Trails Association (PCTA) Trail Skills College that I mentioned in my last post.  We did quite a bit of work on this stretch of the PCT and were rewarded with this view to sit and enjoy as we ate our lunches.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, I had to go back this week.  I was taking pictures of the work in progress, but forgot to get pictures of the finished product on Sunday afternoon.  Luckily this spot is only a 20 mile drive away, then a mile or so down the trail.

Goddess and I headed there today so I could get my pictures and she could see a bit of our work.

So what did we do?

On Friday, we spent the day clearing quite a few fallen trees, learning how to use a one- and two-person crosscut saws and a few other tools.  A couple of the logs were quite large and took all five of us to move them off the path.  It was tiring, but rewarding, work.

On Saturday and Sunday, we learned different trail rehabilitation methods.  While the sawing has specific techniques that are pretty straightforward to understand, trail rehabilitation requires a bit more imagination, being able to envision how water would flow on, over and across the trail, then control that flow so the trail isn’t damaged.  It’s not only a physical task, but mental as well.  One that I quite enjoy.

Now that the schooling is over, I’ll have to start looking for teams to get out and work with.

Especially if it’s with the great people that I got to meet and work with this past weekend.

 

Movement

A marker to adventure.

PCT Tree

We’re just a few miles from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  You might remember other posts with pictures of the trail marker.

For the past six weeks I’ve been reading all of the blog posts on the PCT Journalist.  The Journalist is the collection of blogs from many of the thru-hikers, many of whom started at the US-Mexican border down in California back in April.  It’s quite interesting to read their stories, good and bad.

Thru-hiking the trail (all 2,663 miles of it) isn’t something that we’re discussing in this house.  Well, there might have been a mention or two, surprising first brought up by Goddess.

I know I’ll keep her.

But we use sections of the trail quite often, especially as I get out in the wilderness and look for places to take pictures.

Anyway, I’ll be giving back a bit this weekend, attending the PCT Association’s Trail Skills College, which happens to be held right up the road.  Close enough that I can be there in 45 minutes, far enough away that it’s a fun little camping trip.

After that, checking the schedules to see where work needs to be done.  We’ve stumbled across tree falls that have blocked the PCT, although I’m sure those are cleared already.  But there are plenty of others, plus trail repairs and erosion mitigation.

All things that need to be done, yet are another excuse to get out in the wilderness.

Good stuff.

———————————————————–

Over the weekend, I’ll be disconnected, which is a great thing.  But I will be thinking about bicycle races.  There are plenty going on right now or starting this weekend that are all pretty impressive in their own rights.  What makes the races even better is that, thanks to technology, we can follow in real time.

  • The pros are racing in France in the Critérium du Dauphiné, where many are using it as their final tune-up race before next month’s Tour de France.
  • We’re just over 36 hours into this year’s Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,000 mile fully supported time trial, running from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.  The racers sleep but an hour or two a day, otherwise they’re on the bike.  This year’s leader is the defending champion (7 days, 22 hours, 52 minutes) and he’s already put a sizeable lead over the rest of the solo racers.  But it’s still early, as he’s at 700 miles in, near the Four Corners area and hasn’t stopped for a nap yet.  Live tracking here -> http://tractalis.com/raam2014/ .  The teams start on Saturday, and being able to relay across the country, they’ll catch up to the solo leaders about four days later.  It’s impressive to watch.
  • This year’s Trans Am Bike Race started last Saturday in Astoria, OR and wends its way eastward to Yorktown, VA.  It’s longer than RAAM, clocking in at 4,223 miles, but it’s fully self-supported.  No outside help.  The racers carry whatever they need, buying food along the way (with no outside help) or grabbing a hotel room if they need it.  The idea is to work on your own to get from one coast to another.  There isn’t a time limit, so some riders may be out there for over a month; this differs from RAAM, which does have a time cut-off.  Live tracking here -> http://trackleaders.com/transam14
  • Finally, this year’s Tour Divide will have its official kickoff tomorrow, 13 June.  This race runs north to south, crossing both the Trans Am Bike Race and the RAAM routes.  Those races tend towards road bicycles; the Tour Divide leans heavily towards mountain bikes, as it runs the roads at trails that follow the continental divide from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the US-Mexican border in New Mexico.  The Trans Am Bike Race actually borrowed its rules from the Tour Divide – it’s a  solo effort where the rider must be self-sufficient, only resupplying or sleeping in locations that are available to all other riders; no help from friends, family or strangers.  Live tracking here (once they get started) -> http://tourdivide.org/leaderboard

Plenty of goodness there.  Amazing efforts and tests of endurance in each one.

Fun to watch.

But don’t forget to get out there and do something yourself!

Yeah…

Goddess and I moved here a bit over a year ago, initially so I could go to bike school.  Then Goddess started her school and will finish in another month.

Our goal was to use this area as a springboard to look around the western US for a place to settle.  At least as far as I can settle, having never lived anywhere longer than five years.

But the place sure has grown on us.

Especially when this is just 25 minutes from the house, a spot where I saw only two other people in three hours.

Yeah, I could get used to this.

Rogue Sunset

Looking northwest from the edge of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument towards Ashland and Medford, along the length of the Rogue Valley.

Shasta Cumulus

Mount Shasta, California, as viewed from the foot of Pilot Rock, Jackson County, Oregon.

Shasta Cumulus

Very fitting for this vernal equinox.  It marks the end of the winter that never was for us.  It wasn’t much of one for the Shasta area either, although they were able to open one ski run for a week, thanks to man-made snow (the Shasta ski area is low on the mountain, below the snow line you can see above).

If you are tracking to the minute, the actual vernal equinox is today, 20 March 2014 at 16:47UTC.  Click here to see what time that means for your time zone.

Just remember, that doesn’t mean that summer is here.  It just means the next few months are going to be bits of summer and bits of winter.

Just today I was riding my mountain bike on a mountain adjacent to where this was taken, at about the same elevation (5,300′).  The day after this picture was taken, we got snow down below this level.  Today I was in shorts, riding through the forest, snow and mud splashing everywhere.

Cold splats against bare sweaty skin.

A bit of summer, a bit of winter.

Good Fun

Last night was a first for me, playing bicycle polo.

It was quite a bit of fun.

Although I’ll need to get a new bicycle for it if I continue to play.

Oh darn.

It’s fast-paced and frenetic.

Bike Polo

This group plays in a parking garage, so the court is narrow and short, just enough space for six cyclists rushing for the ball, braking, turning and occasionally crashing.  The whole time, laughs echo around the court.

That’s the right attitude.

I’ll be back.

Mud in the Teeth

It’s New Year’s Day.  I’m grinning ear to ear as I drive up to the ski lodge.

Although it should be only have a grin, since I won’t be skiing.

We had what looked like a great start to the ski season with a good dumping in early December.  But that’s been it.  Temperatures on the mountain have been in the 40’s and 50’s since.  There’s patches of ice in some of the shadows, but certainly nothing that anyone with skis would even look at.

But that means the trails are open for biking.  And we’re making lemonade.

Mud in the Teeth

You might recall that I built this bicycle myself, although the last time you saw it, it was much cleaner than this.

I’ve been using and abusing it, trying to get a feel for this bike compared to my old mountain bike.  The change from 26″ to 29″ wheels is huge, especially how quickly the 29er accelerates out of turns and downhill.  Not to mention how it rolls over and through the rock gardens.  It’s an interesting exercise to short circuit the reasoning and accelerate through a section of large rocks; the faster, the easier it is to stay upright.

But all of this riding, through the rocks and off sweet jumps, means that my handbuilt wheels are taking a beating.  I expected that.  As a matter of fact, I did not use any thread-locking compound on the spokes, knowing the wheels would move out of true easier, but the lack of compound would make it easier to true them.  Today was the day that the real wheel let me know that I’d been pushing it pretty well as the tire started rubbing the frame.  A few adjustments and I was back on the trail.  A few more rock gardens and sweet jumps and it was rubbing again.  No matter.  I knew I’d get home.

But my trailside adjustments got me to thinking about how many race reports I’ve read over the years where folks who had spent the better part of a year, thousands of dollars on equipment, thousands of dollars on travel, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears, only to be sidelined during a race because of a simple mechanical.  Simple as in not being able to change a flat, simple as in not being able to recognize and adjust a dragging brake.  It always pains me to read those reports, knowing the expense of money, time and energy to get to a long race.

What’s really odd is it isn’t always the age groupers.  I’ve read more than a few race reports from pro triathletes sitting on the side of the road, waiting for neutral support, because they can’t change out a flat tubular tire.  Even when they are carrying the spare.

I just don’t get it.

Most bicycle shops will hold classes on how to do basic bicycle maintenance.  Nothing fancy, just the skills required to get you back on the ride, instead of hitching a ride home.

BTW, here’s a clean video of one of the local trails, Catwalk.  Not much in the way of rock gardens, except for a small patch at the beginning.  But it’s fast, swoopy, narrow and steep.  In other words, good fun!

And by the time I get home, I have plenty of mud in my teeth too.

Mount Shasta View

Although this was taken only eight days ago, it sure seems a lot longer than that.  It’s been a busy week, but a good week.

That and the fact that I know the view looks nothing like that this morning.  Yesterday we received 4-6″ of snow in just a few short hours and we’re 5,500′ below the summit of Mount Ashland, from which this photo was taken.  I know the mountain received quite a bit too, as I was able to watch it all day on a webcam.  By mid-afternoon, a few hardy folks were up there in the middle of it, strapping on their snowboards and trying to eke out a run in the few inches of snow covering the rocks.

They weren’t having much success.

Anyway, this picture was taken on Thanksgiving afternoon.  It was a balmy day in the 50’s.  Enough to get us sweating on the approach to the summit, which sounds more impressive than the reality that we parked about a mile away from the summit, just a couple of hundred feet lower in elevation.

As you can see, a beautiful day.  A grand view of Mount Shasta, some 54 miles distant, as the crow flies.

Mount Shasta View

It was a great Thanksgiving, spending the day with friends we haven’t seen since 2006, all of us taking pics and looking at things in our own unique ways.  It’s always fun to see how two (or three or four or more) people can stand side by side, take pictures and come out with significantly different images.

For their take on the view, please browse over to their post at Welliver Photography.

Handbuilt Titanium 29er Mountain Bike

For those of you following my blog these past few months, you know that I’ve been going to the United Bicycle Institute (UBI) to learn not only how to work on bicycles as a mechanic, but also to learn how to build frames.

I’ve gone one class left, but I’m far enough along now that I can honestly say that I’ve completely built my own bike.  In this case, a mountain bike frame made of titanium tubing, joined by TIG welding (a new skill for me), custom built to my own specifications.

It is what’s known as a 29er mountain bike, built around 29-inch wheels.  Traditionally, mountain bikes had 26-inch wheels (click this link to see the size difference) but a few years ago some smart folks decided to make the wheels as large as a standard road bicycle (29″/700C).  There are advantages (as well as some disadvantages) to the larger size, but since I already have a 14 year old 26″ mountain bike, it was time to try out the “new” technology.

Not only is the titanium frame completely built by me, but so are the wheels.  Custom made for this purpose.  That’s another skill I learned at UBI.  These wheels gave me fits that we didn’t encounter in school, but with the skills I learned, I figured out how to overcome the issues and turn out two pretty darn perfect wheels.  The last set I built was for my road bicycle, which doesn’t have to deal with the impacts and forces that these will have to endure.  For the first few weeks, I’ll cringe just a bit as I bash these through the rocks, over the roots and off jumps.

The color scheme was really dictated by my front shock.  It was the end of season sales, so I jumped on a great deal before class even started.  As you’ll see in a moment, it’s aluminum, white, black and red.

The black and red work really, really well with the bare titanium frame.

Don’t you think?

And before someone gives me a hard time about mismatched front and rear tires (you know who you are), after discussing with a local bike shop owner, I bought the Continental Mountain King 2.4’s, knowing that they run small, much closer to a 2.2.  When we built the bike we measured and figured that 2.2’s would fit fine in the rear triangle.  Well, a few mis-strokes of the file and some other decisions along the way, plus the fact that the titanium pulls like crazy when it’s heated and that almost-2.2 tire needed at least another 2mm of clearance on the knobs for it to work.

Since it’s a small independently owned shop, he wasn’t as keen as I to swap out the entire set just so I could have matching tires; I understand that.  So for now I’m running a 2.4 with very aggressive knobs up front (where I personally want them) and a less aggressive 2.1 in back.

The three pics immediately above were taken right before the yesterday’s maiden run up the fire road and back down the singletrack.  I picked my path purposefully to not be too technical, since there was a lot I needed to get used to.  For one, the bike is an upgrade from my 26” mountain bike that I bought in 1999, so these wheels were going to accelerate and roll across obstacles differently.  Plus, the handlebars are a good 200mm (almost 8”) wider, so I needed to get used to those before I hit the narrow paths between the trees.  Also, the SRAM X7 drivetrain shifting is quite a bit different than my 15 year old Shimano XT drivetrain.

So best to go (somewhat) gentle while I work things out.

Not two minutes into the downhill portion of the run, the bike showed me who’s boss.  It will take a few days for the skin from my hip to ankle to return.

But I can’t wait to ride it again.


Build details:

– Handbuilt titanium frame – .035 tubing; 74° Seat Tube; 70° Head Tube; Effective Top Tube  Length – 630mm; Bottom Bracket Drop 58mm; Chainstay Length 450mm

– Handbuilt wheels – Shimano XT M629 Centerlock hubs; Sapim Race 2.0/1.8/2.0 Double Butted Black Spokes; DT Swiss M520 29″ Disc Rims

– Fork – Manitou Tower Pro – 120mm of travel

– Headset – Chris King Red Sotto Voce

– Stem – Spank Spike 50mm, 0° rise

– Handlebar – Spank Spike EVO 777mm

– Disc Brakes – Shimano SLX; Centerlock hub mount; 160mm rotors

– Drivetrain – SRAM X7, 3×10 (yes, that’s 30 separate speeds, although it really means that there are ~24 usable gears).  There are five gear combinations that are between 1:1 (22×22) and 1:0.61 (22×36).  Those sure made riding up the steeper parts of the fire road more comfortable.

– Seatpost – FSA SL-K Carbon Fiber, 0° offset

– Saddle – Diety Pinner Downhill

Huge thanks to Mike DeSalvo (who, other than Goddess, is the only one to see this bike in person so far) and Rich Arvizo (UBI) for getting me through the frame build.  I’m already looking forward to the steel TIG class in March.