Monday, June 20, 2011

Leave it to Beaver

Maxxis Beaver 29er tire - first ride. 

I was on the lookout for some 29er tires. I'd just built up my Karate Monkey and had blooded it with its first Cyclocross race and it went well - with CX tires, now I needed some MTB tires if I was to venture further afield in more comfort and control.

Given that I am not currently rich enough to have proper 29er wheels, I needed some 29er tires that would work well enough on my current wheels (Mavic open-pros road wheels). I did a bit of Googling and found that its not unheard of for people to use 29er tires on 700cc road rims, but it was advisable not to go too wide. I managed to find a cheap Kenda Karma 1.9 somewhere for the rear, so I just needed a front. A quick look online and I spied something called a Maxxis Beaver. I googled it up, and could only see two references to it at all. Everyone else was either testing prototypes from the factory or had just got them and hadn't put any real miles on them.


I clicked "buy", and 18 hours later there was fresh Beaver on my desk! A  29 x 2.00 tire designed for use in mud and challenging conditions... apparently. There is nothing about them on the Maxxis website, this was just from some PR fluff I came across. They had a nice sticky feel to them and weighed in at a scant 553 grams. How can a 29er tire be lighter than most of my 26ers? They didn't have scary thin looking sidewalls or tiny knobs. The did have the EXC specification which is supposed to offer high TPI count and lightweight "advantages".

Anyway. The day after the sunday cyclocross race I came down with a very bad case of dysentery that had me out of action for most of the week. A real shame as it was forecasted to bucket down by the weekend. I snuck out on thursday in the early dawn to see how the Beaver held up on the Danzig track, which was trying to dry out after the previous week's downpours. Danzig is a slippery muddy pig in the wet, so it was a good test. It wasn't as bad as I had seen it in the past so thought I would give Big Weta a crack as well.

The combination of the Karma on the back, and Beaver up front was was giving me very good braking. I wasn't constantly locking up like I do on my Superlight, but then again, the Superlight has powerful disc brakes, and presumably a smaller braking patch. Cornering was pretty much as expected on a bicycle in the mud. No real surprises, only me continually surprised that it takes a while to get used to no suspension on the front after 15 years of having a suspension fork!

It got a bit squirrley near the bottom of Big Weta and I had a magnetic tree experience and ended up trying to embrace the sky as I went over the bank. Thankfully there was lots of damp rotting plant matter to soften my fall. It was still a bit dark, but darker still down the bank. I hauled myself out on a Ponga frond after documenting my stupidity in Gonzo style.

I checked the tires and they were still working well enough. A fair bit of sticky mud build-up in between the wide-ish spaced knobs, but nothing that was hampering traction. If it was wetter, there would have been less mud stuck on the tires for sure. Danzig's combination of drying mud and pine needles can be pretty crappy if you get it at the wrong time on the wrong tire.

This was only my first ride on the Beaver, and given that it has pelted down non-stop since then, I will have to go out again and try it in even wetter conditions.

* No Beaver/s were harmed in this test and I paid full screaming retail for the tire. I am in no way affiated with the Beaver/Maxxis family although its true I once lived in a town which was to be called "Beaver Town" but which thankfully settled on Blenheim as a name.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mud glorious mud!

We had a good day today at round 1 of this years new and improved BikeHutt Cyclo-Cross series. It was my first serious outing on my new Surly Karate Monkey so I was hoping all my DIY mechanicing would hold together. I had a 42 mm tire on the front and a 38 on the back so riding out to the event on the road was a doddle. I stopped for some more "moody" shots on the side of the road while the bike was still clean.


The course itself was the most enjoyable one I have done so far, and either it was longer, or I was fitter, because I didn't get lapped which was good. It would have been an excellent course for a single-speed set-up and I reckon I only used two gears on the back as it was.  I diced with Mike Thomson early on in the race and he was on his Masi CX bike set up in Single Speed mode, no way I could hang with him. The Karate Monkey worked flawlessly and although it picked up a bit of mud it didn't impact on gears or anything that was going to cause me grief. The 45 minutes plus 1 lap format is just right, although 40 mins plus one would have suited me better as I exploded pretty much on time during the last lap.

There were heaps more CX bikes there this time and some really fruity set-ups. I am pretty sure Revolution Cycle's Alex Revell was the winner on the day on his very cool Yeti Cross bike.



 Check out a nice image from lensman Craig Madsen (http://www.craigmadsen.com/). I met him after the event while washing my bike. He has this beautiful looking Pugsly. As he was washing it as the thing was trying to float away!

 Some more images (above) of one-time NZ Junior Downhill Champ - Ed Banks, Cleetus and myself. I don't know how Cleetus gets all that crap on his face. Maybe he has a water bottle full of it and he squirts it on so he looks staunch.

Results:
http://blog.thebikehutt.co.nz/2011/06/cx-12-june-provisional-results-45mins.html

Dont miss the next one...


Cyclocross Series 2011
CX Dates/ venues as below:
  • Sunday 12 June - Trentham Memorial
  • Sunday 26 June - California Park
  • Sunday 10 July - California Park
  • Sunday 24 July - Trentham Memorial
  • Sunday 7 August - California Park
  • Sunday 21 August - California Park
  • Sunday 4 September - Trentham Memorial
  • Sunday 18 September - Harcourt Park

http://blog.thebikehutt.co.nz/2011/05/cx-series-info.html

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Karate Monkey first impressions

I went for the first ride on my new "frame" on thursday. I still hadn't recovered fully from the cold that I have had for the last week so it was a gentle up and down of the Danzig and Big Weta tracks in Belmont Regional Park, about 8 minutes of descending and 16 minutes of leisurely climbing.

The Surly Karate Monkey is a pretty bizarre looking machine and is well known for its utilitarian design. If Batman had a bike on his utility belt, it would be this one... if you could take only one bike onto a desert island, then you would take the Karate Monkey... or so the legend goes. It is adorned with all kinds of welded on attachments (except cable stops) which enable it to be used in many different roles.

Apologies for the crappy Tablet photos.
Its a 29er, with canti studs so can be used as a Cyclo Cross Bike, a Cross Country bike (can take a suspension fork and discs) a Single Speed (has horizontal drop-outs) and a touring bike (has mounts for racks and mudguards). So that's effectively four other bikes I don't need now... which is just as well, because I had to disable at least three of them just to get together enough parts to make this one go!!

I had to borrow the rear v-brakes off my single speed, the front v-brakes off my Franken-cross bike, the Woodchipper handlebar and old road-wheels off same, and the right-hand shifter off my Time trial bike !

Cleetus gave me his ex-Kiwi-Brevet 42mm conti-cross tire for the front and I picked up a cheap 38mm CX tire for the rear.

Aside from having no front suspension and very narrow tires my initial descent of Danzig and Big Weta went well. There was a fair bit of jarring but nothing I couldn't handle, a big fat tire on the front would give me a completely different ride. I cant wait. What impressed me most was the nimbleness of the bike, it just dropped into the many Danzig "zig-zags" beautifully. Maybe it was the short chain-stays tucked in close to the bent seat post, reminds me of he old Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo? Surprisingly it felt way more nimble than my Santa Cruz Superlight which is the bike I ride down there the most. Not what I would have expected from a 29er, although the thin tires may have had a big effect on its lively feel.

The frame layout is very strange to look at, and I did a lot of comparing of "effective top-tubes" before I ordered this size - the 16 inch. The actual measurement from BB to the bottom side of the top-tube is only 13.5 inches, but to the top side is 16. The actual "effective top-tube" length is longer than many other "medium" sized bikes at 576 mm, or 22.7 inches.

My plan was always to use this as a drop-bar bike which tends to put your arms more forward than a flat-bar anyway. I do have short legs and a long torso (5ft 10 - very monkey-like; ) and so far the fit feels really good. The amount of actual seat-post sticking out is surprisingly identical to my Superlight, even though it looks crazy. It looks like the top-tube almost slopes directly into the rear chain-stays on the 16inch frame !

The Woodchipper drop-bars are amazingly good. They feel really safe, because of the way your hands just fall into them, but I have to wonder what would happen in an off - would your legs get all tangled up behind the things ? The bars do offer quite a few different positions and what I found really interesting was how natural they felt when climbing. With the hands on the hoods position they had a very similar feel to what you get from riding on bar-ends on a flat-bar equipped XC bike. I have the top of the bar set up about parallel to the top of the seat, but ideally they are supposed to be quite a bit higher than that for proper control while riding on the drops off road.

It will be in the Cyclo cross/Commuter format for quite a while I think, because to run fatter tires I will need wider rims, and if I am going to do that I might as well get rims that have braking surfaces AND disc ready hubs while I am at it. No sense in having two sets of wheels when you are cheap.

The current brake/shifting set-up is very basic but comfortable, Diacompe road levers with special pull for v-brakes. I have done my time with normal canti's and ain't going back!

If I ever go to STI styled shifters I would probably go for an SLX 10 speed rear cluster, that way I could have a 34 rear, meaning potentially less chain-rings needed up front.

Surprisingly in this current build it only weighs in at 23.5 pounds. With a steel 4130 frame at about 5.5 pounds and a 2.6 pound fork it was never going to be a light-weight. Anyway, as you know, steel is real, real heavy and real cheap so I am really looking forward to getting over this lurgi so I can get out for a really decent ride !!!

Some relevant links
Baby monkey - riding on a pig going backwards.....
http://www.surlybikes.com/frames/karate_monkey_frame/
http://www.tomac.com/john-tomac.php


Phoo! Google is your friend, I found you can actually run 29er tires on road rims, it's just not recommended! I will try out this 1.9 Kenda Kharma. The Rim is an old 36 hole Mavic Open Pro with a Durace hub. I am pretty sure the wheel, or the hub was once my workmate Sam Raphel's.

A few more observations.
For some reason the front cantis only have holes for one position of the v-brake spring while the rear studs have three. It means I cant get the brakes snapping back into position how I'd like. The seat-tube is also so rediculously short that there is hardly any room to mount the front derailler cable-stop without it potentially fouling an incredibley fat wheel (if it was used) hence negating the pretty bent seat-tube design - hence the cable angle is pretty gnarly. Usually when I assemble a bike I can tap the head-set in with a piece of wood and rubber mallet. Not this one. I gave up and used a proper tool that required %*&^-loads of torque on it to force the head-set in. The BB went in easily with no extra preparation.