Monday, February 6, 2012

24 hours in the Old Pueblo

No, I'm not planning to ride a 24 hour race.

On Saturday afternoon, I and a couple of my riding buddies went to the course where the 24 hour race is held and rode it to see what its like. The course is a really enjoyable 16.3 mile which is mostly beautiful single track with a few areas of old jeep roads thrown in. Since we got confused a couple of times, we ended up riding 17 miles. It took us 2 hours to complete a lap, a truly un-competitive time.

Before we started, we talked a bit with a guy who is probably 75-80 years old. He had just finished a lap on a single speed in 1:25. His tale, if true, solidified my resolve not to enter the race.

The drive from Phoenix actually takes you south of the track quite a way, then north on a gravel/dirt road to the course area, about 2.5 hours from Phoenix. It seems like a round about way to get there, but that's what the directions say.

When we finished up and were ready to head back to Phoenix, a guy we know said his GPS said there was a short cut back to Hwy 79 that would cut a good 25 miles off the return trip. I had mapped directions on Google Earth the day before and it showed a route across the valley, but when I zoomed in and followed the directions given, there were areas where the line across didn't appear to actually follow a road. Anyway, it was the weekend, so what the hell. We followed the guy west for about 30 minutes while the road became a jeep trail, then a set of tire tracks, then a barbed wire fence with nothing but mesquite, prickly pear, and no gate. By the time we got back to the race course, it was already dark, but no problem backtracking.

In all, we spent almost 6 hours travelling to get in a 2 hour bike ride. It was a nice way to delay the chores I would have done at home.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Back in October, I bought a Vuelta Zerolite wheelset and put them on my Klein hardtail (still my only mtn bike). I had some reservations because the hubs looked kind of cheap, the 24 spoke seemed a bit odd, and mounting the tires on the rims was easier than any I have ever done. After a few rides, I figured they'll probably be ok.

A few weeks ago, I was descending a long, fairly steep trail at Deem hills and flatted without hitting anything. When I pulled the tube, I found that the tube had separated right at the stem. I tried cutting a hole in a patch and sliding it over the stem in holes that it would seal up and hold everything in place. I held everything except air in place. Since I didn't have a spare tube, I shouldered the bike and walked back to the truck, about a 2 mile hike.

Back home, I blamed the problem on a faulty tube and replaced it. All seemed ok until last weekend. While descending the same hill I flatted on previously, I experienced the same thing. The new tube separated right at the stem. This time I had a spare and was able to continue the ride. Back home, I started puzzling this one and decided that the tube and tire must have been slipping around the rim. Never had evidence of that problem before in aout 55 years of cycling, so in typical troubleshooting procedure, I settled in on blaming the only thing I had changed before the problem started - the rims, which may have been slightly smaller in diameter than normal (I'll have to measure them and see if that's true), or maybe the painted aluminum surface was too slippery. Either way, the result sucked and I didn't want to fight it.

On Monday morning I ordered two new wheels from If you haven't figured it out yet, Old Fat & Slow is a cheapskate. My bike is 15 years old and still in service. In its life, I replaced the rims once, and the hubs were still the originals, until I bought the Vueltes. One great thing about classic bikes (read: old and obsolete) is the availability of obsolete parts that no one else wants. had the perfect wheels at really good prices. So ordered a front wheel with Mavic 221 rim and Shimano LX hub, and a rear wheel with a Mavic 117 rim and Shimano XT hub. The cool part is, I ordered on Monday and received shipment on Thursday. I also ordered a Butt Holder (saddle) by WTB.

Yesterday I took off work a little to put it all together and get out for a ride with the buddies. The only thing I found wrong was the rear wheel was out of true by about 1 mm. That took a few tweaks with a spoke wrench and I was good to go.

On the trail, it was like riding a different bike. Over the years, my old wheelset must have gotten somewhat flexible. The Vuelta Zerolite wheelset didn't seem much different than the old wheels because they must be pretty flexible with only 24 spokes. The new wheels are much stiffer and the ride is dramatically different. The one thing that actually took some getting used to was the difference in steering. The stiffness of the wheels made steering response much tighter, with the result that I started out cutting to the inside of some twists and turns in the trail, and almost bounced off a large boulder that would have left a mark. After a few minutes, I was re-calibrated and it was all good.

The new butt holder, a WTB Pure V Race FR (don't know what that all means) was similar to my old one, but just enough different that its going to take some getting used to. It will probably be ok and just needs some breaking in. May be a few rides before I'm willing to spend more than a couple hours with my fat butt being held by that one.

The moral of this story is, don't buy the cheapest stuff you can get. Shop around a bit and find better components that can still be a bargain. And, take a look at since they seem like a good business.