Having gone to the trouble of buying a 29 er MTB bike so that I could go riding with my mates, and having heard so much about the great trails at the You Yangs, I decided the time was finally right to make the trip out there (meaning, in a few weeks the kids hockey season would start and the degree of difficult would massively increase). My last MTB ride had left me a bit battered in the confidence department following my spectacular cartwheeling tumble down the steep Yarra River embankment, so it was with some trepidation that I rolled out of the Stock Yards car park. Along for the ride were just a few beginners like myself (err, not) including expert MTB racers and general hard nuts Captain Cam Wells, Bruce Dickie, Steve Munyard (training for the Nationals at Bright in a few weeks), Nick Huntington (2nd in his age group at the Duael recently) and Rusty Russ Sargent.
Russ and Cam looking the part.
The Youies are a fantastic place to ride your MTB, with trails catering from beginners to the advanced, and then on into stupid territory (ie not recommended for anything but a downhill bike). I was quickly reminded that I have quite a long way to go to master the basic skills, like keeping up in the sandy berms and rapid changes of direction as we wound our way through the gum trees. Worse was to come, of course, with some fairly technical descents down the ‘single’ black diamond runs over weathered boulders and slabs of rock. To my relief Cam did admit that some of the rocky sections are “reasonably gnarly”, so the fact that I didn’t fall off and smash bike or bones made it seem like quite an achievement. Added to this, I could notice a discernable improvement in my skills as the morning progressed, with numerous rocky sections I had earlier in the day dismounted and walked over being ridden over, if not at a great pace. It certainly helped to follow close behind the others and see the lines they took, although part of the problem here was simply keeping up. Loads of fun, and lots more to learn…
Nick ready to roll.
Portland got a few inches of snow. Most of the city freaked out and stockpiled their necessities, but some of us are from places where this is normal. Where snow is just something you embrace as part of life in winter. We got stoked and rode bikes.
OK I’ve been lusting after a custom steel bike for ages. The question has now boiled down to not whether I should get one, but rather, whether it should be a cross frame, or a pure road frame. Both have heaps of appeal. A cross bike would be great fun for off road action, and ideal for fast commutes to work in all weather. I could envisage it with a straight blade steel fork for the ultimate in durability, but with a trade off for weight. I’ve been dwelling on these builds.
This Donhou belt drive single speed, built from a mix of Reynolds 631 and 725, looks close to the ideal urban bike. It’s also pretty much what I would want in a cross bike but with normal derailleur shifting. I’m still a bit unsure about the need for discs, although it’s probably not the right place to go into that thorny issue.
This also looks spectacular. I think I found the image on one of the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show (NAHBS) reviews - it looks fast and functional. Could be almost as fast as a road bike with the right tyres.
And I’m in love with the look of these Speedvagen cross bikes by Vanilla Bicycles. They make a great looking road bike too (see below).
I’m also lusting after these Gaulzetti bikes - this one is aluminium, which doesn’t quite fit with my steel mantra, but it sure does look cool and would no doubt weigh a bit less, which would be great for CX racing. Working against this is the improbability of getting my hands on one - there would be the shipping costs (from the US) and then import duties of about 15%. Nevertheless, a great style guide.
On the other hand, a road bike is where my heart truly lies. Something reasonably light and tight with snappy road geometry.
There is this beautifully simple Donhou, this pretty much ticks all the boxes. Donhou are based in Hackney, London.
Of course Vanilla Cycles make excellent looking road bikes as well, like this Speedvagen built for the Leave it on the Road ride (featured by Prolly is not Probably).
And here’s another excellent looking road frame from Vanilla Cycles, this time with a steel fork. Sweet.
Gaulzetti also make a somewhat traditional, yet beautiful looking steel-frame (Columbus) called the Cazzo, with the added touch of arguably the best looking forks around, from Enve Composites.
Finally, it would be remiss not to include an example from a local builder, Ewen Gellie over at Gellie Custom, who makes a variety of interesting and beautiful frames. This one has S+S Couplers and Sram Red. Very nice!
First, you’ll need a solvent. I use a biodegradable and water-soluble cleaner. Oomph (purchased from Bunnings) does the trick nicely, though there are plenty of others. You can get it from a cycling shop, but you’ll pay much more for the same thing! No need for those nasty petroleum-based cleaners, which are hard to hose off and nasty for the environment.
This is available from Bunnings - cheap and highly effective.
Next, you’ll need a chain cleaner. You could decant the degreaser into a spray bottle and go over the entire chain with a toothbrush, but this is laborious and messy. A chain cleaner contains the mess and does a quicker and more thorough job. I’ve used several over the years, but have never looked back since buying the Park Tools model; it contains a sponge to trap excess solvent, and a small magnet to collect metallic particles.
The Park Tools chain cleaner is very well built. Mine is about 4 years and still going strong.
Pour solvent into the cleaner, and clean the chain by turning the cranks backwards for at least 20-30 revolutions. For a complete clean, pour some solvent into a spray bottle and carefully spray solvent onto the chainrings (inside and out), avoiding the bottom bracket area. Use an old toothbrush to scrub off accumulated grit and dried lube. Hose down the chain by turning the cranks backwards, avoiding spraying the bottom bracket area. Using the fine ‘mist’ setting on your garden hose trigger (definitely worth getting one with variable settings from the hardware store), lightly spray the cassette to wash off any solvent and loose grit (the aim is not to do a thorough cassette clean here, that’s a separate job, just to get rid of the excess solvent).
Spin the cranks backwards rapidly several times to remove excess water - dropping the bike gently also helps shakes off excess water. Run the chain backwards through a clean dry cloth until fairly dry, then allow to dry completely (several hours usually) before applying a fresh coating of lube. Let the applied lube dry for several hours, or overnight (if you don’t do this you’ll get wet lube flicking all over the place, kind of undermining your hard work).
I highly recommend ProGold ProLink lube for road applications - see my earlier blog entry.
Ritte bicycles. Vlaanderen (top) and Bosberg (bottom) - damn sexy.