Sunday, 17 July 2011

Gone Flat

For a number of reasons, some legit, some defensible, and some dumb, we* bailed on Coppi. Who knows? Still excited for Lost River. Very much so. No signs of anything to keep me from finally racing 'my' race this year. Instead of Coppi we did a few laps at Fountainhead. The last time, we tallied a broken chain, two flats, and one bad crash in just one lap. Maybe better this time?

(* a note on "we": no, i am not that guy who refers to himself as "we." instead i am lucky enough to have a wife who enjoys many of the same things that i do. normally, "we" will refer to the two of us. sometimes, as with saturday's trip to fountainhead, it will refer to more than the two of us. generally i think it's pretty crappy when you make specific references to people on a blog. sometimes i do it to promote some person's exceptional effort or accomplishment, but generally i shun it. but take saturday for example - a friend joined us at fountainhead. who am i to tell the world how he spent several hours of his saturday? so that's what's up with that.)

It didn't look good when the first flat came 5' in. Maybe sealant would deal with it? No. 5' later our first tubeless to tube transition took place. My hand pump actually did a nice job and didn't take forever, even in a high volume 29er tire. I'm going to go out on a limb and say I was riding far better than I ever have, committing to lines, leaning into turns, staying loose, all good. And then it was my turn to flat. On the front. On a rocky downhill off camber. So I wound up in a heap. S-Works sidewalls are terrible. One lasted 2 rides, one lasted about 6. Tube install #2, and it took me a good long while to get my mojo back. Malo. Then I figured out my dérailleur hanger was bent. Double malo. Got it somewhat straight to complete history's 2nd slowest Fountainhead lap.

(a note on product comments: it's hard for me to comment on products because the simple fact is that i can't be seen as impartial. in this particular case, the failure of the tires has been exceptional and noteworthy. one tire lasted less than four hours of riding before getting a sidewall cut. of those 4 hours, quite a bit less than half were spent on trails, and tire pressure was adequate. when it failed, it was being run tubeless, but it is a tubeless ready tire - it says so right on it. i realize that the s-works line is race specific and tilts heavily in favor of performance over durability, but this was a noteworthy lack of durability. that said, stuff happens, the right incident can kill any tire so i reserved judgement. the very next time at fountainhead, a trail on which i've never before had a flat, the other tire suffered a sidewall cut. this tire might have had 5 hours of on trail use. so unless you are the kind of person who is able to afford more $15 per hour per tire, and is willing to suffer the inconvenience of changing flats with astonishing regularity, my opinion is that the s-works lk is a poor choice. i'm a retail customer on this deal - i bought a specialized stumpjumper expert from a shop. yes it was a '10 closeout and i got a ridiculous deal, but a deal that anyone in the world could have gotten. my timing was good. so far it's had a sram chain that maybe lasted 3 hours (chalk it up to "shit happens" i guess), the stock tires have been a complete fail, both wheels have needed complete rebuilds since they were both built worse than any wheels i've seen - and which has been a startlingly consistent, even unanimous comment on these wheels, and the rear avid brake has been at the shop for over a week. it started leaking fluid after three rides. the shop from which i bought it has been terrible in their response to this particular issue. the best i can do is a slack-jawed "uhhh, can you like, call back later when the guy who knows about this is here?" despite all of this, i really like the bike in general. but if i didn't have the skills and inclination to repair and then change the chain, to replace both tires, to rebuild both wheels, and to take a brake from my old bike and put it on the new one, i would at this point have owned the bike for going on three weeks and been able to use it for three days. i don't care who you are, that is a totally deficient consumer experience and totally emblematic of everything that mike and i are trying to unfuck about what you have to go through to get a good bike for a reasonable price.)

The second lap was great. Fast, good, fun. Our plans for a third were scuttled by the slowness of lap 1.

The Maxxis Crossmark I now have on the rear seems great. It's done a Wakefield race, the Fair Hill race, this trip to Fountainhead, and some other trail riding. Occasionally, I find it pretty easy to spin out on steep stuff or going over water bars or whatever. A rider with better skills would have less issues with this. It's manageable, and since it is a cross country tire made for low rolling resistance, this is a tradeoff that I knew about going in. I will say that the speed of the combination of S-Works LK front and Crossmark rear has been borderline excessive. At Fair Hill, my speed advantage on less technical sections was nothing short of profound. But since my engine greatly exceeds my skills, I feel like using a more secure but perhaps slower tire would at this point be a good trade. So I will try either Maxxis Ikon or Geax Saguaro on the front. They are both xc tires, but both have pretty aggressive tread. Both S-Works tires are now internally booted (inner tube pieces glued to the inside of the tire with tubular glue) and will go on the bench to be kept as spares in case of emergency.

But those practice drills, they make a huge difference. Need to build the CX bike and get started on it.

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