Coveted MTBs of yore

March 24, 2023 § Leave a comment

The Bike Radar Podcast had an episode lately that addressed “retro” mountain bikes they wished they had owned. Naturally, because I was sort of out of the bike lust game for many years, I had no resonance with most of the bikes they called retro. It got me thinking though. There have been many times in the past that I wished I could have afforded a different bicycle, sure. IIRC, this was most acutely tied to my road racing days and the very early stages of my MTB racing when I started on a entry level steel Mongoose IBOC Comp. Listening to the podcast folks wax enthusiastic about bikes of the past, I tried to remember if there were any bikes that I really wanted. Specifically, i.e., beyond mere idle speculation about a generic “better” bike.

Casting my memory back to the early 1990s, I’m thinking probably I liked the look of a Moots or a Merlin titanium. And titanium was definitely a thing to hanker after. I would have taken one of either if offered, but it just seemed kind of pedestrian at the time. A general belief such a frame would be lighter and better, but no real enthusiasm. They seemed like a bike for slow old guys with too much disposable income. Some of the Wednesday night crowd had super light Mammoth bikes but they seemed to all develop cracks. My “steel is real” nerve had a little bit of tingle at the thought of a Ritchey P22 but I think I thought that super light steel, in pretty normal tube widths, was not going to be stiff enough for me.

The one that I do remember wanting was the Yeti A.R.C., circa 1992, pictured here in Team Issue yellow and blue. Isn’t she gorgeous? The Cantina shop race team used these at least one year, I recall. They were seemingly super light, built of properly dimensioned aluminum and looked perfectly suited to my then purpose of going fast, fast, fast. I definitely wanted one.

The problem was that they also came with a premium price tag and there was no way I was going to be able to afford that. This piece at pro’s closet claims the frame and a rigid fork alone would run $1,800 in 1992. My contingency plan aluminum Mongoose cost me something like $250 at the time and my original entire bike cost something around $700. I recall some of the boutique welded aluminum frames more in the $500-$800 range. So the Yeti was ridiculously expensive.

Next up was a small-builder steel beauty called the Rhygin Racing Juke. A riding friend I met hailed from out East and had a Rhygin. I was captivated by the clean lines and the rasta paint job available on some of them. It was a small builder and presumably that meant really pricey.

Those are the only bikes I remember ever really wanting from the racing era.

At some point, apparently several years after I had stopped racing, and even riding very much, I had a bit more money and was intrigued by the development of dual suspension bikes. It was several generations in by 1999 or so and there had been many designs hit the market. Mostly, I was highly suspicions of these downhill focused squish machines. They would involve too much of a hit on pedaling power, thought I. Until GT came out with their i-Drive design which they swore was made with XC racing in mind. The press seemed to eat that up and mostly agreed. So I thought if I was going to get a new MTB, it would be one of those. I remember thinking hard about getting one, at least for a time. The problem was, I liked my 1995 carbon Mongoose IBOC Pro SX just fine.

That’s about all I can come up with. I think this is because the carbon Mongoose was such a perfect fit for me. It was light, stiff in the right places and any desires I had for a “better” bike mostly were thoughts of hanging better bits on that frame. Maybe the Mag21 was tired and old news once Rock Shox was deep into the S.I.D. models. One always dreamed of affording XTR, but I had the Mongoose mostly outfitted with XT which works great. The bike just plain worked well for me. And then I bought the carbon framed Sette with disc brakes and XT in 2008 and also loved that ride.

Another aspect of the podcast, I guess, is thinking about what I’d like to have now, if a pristine old bike was available on eBay for a reasonable price. The Yeti would be a strong draw, as would the aluminum Mongoose I own. Why the latter? I’m curious about how that frame would perform relative to my memory and my current hardtail. I suppose I’d be curious about whether I missed a trick with the i-Drive but this is more of a desire for ride than to own. The picture I used came from an ad asking $2,150 for it. That’s not a try-it price to me. There is one outfitted with XT, that is too small for me listed for $495 plus $180 shipping which is *almost* at the try it level.

Flash forward from retro to the present and to my Return to Ride looks to be pretty similar in terms of wanting other bikes. I got the mountain bike I wanted and it works great. It wasn’t a cost-is-no-object selection but it certainly hit my sweet spot. At best, a “cost is no object” dream would have me selecting the top of the line model of the same platform, which has a lighter frame and fancier parts.


Jersey Designs

March 20, 2023 § Leave a comment

I’ve been sporting my BLM themed kit for almost three years now and it’s time for some new looks. I’ve been playing around with Voler’s design studio again. This first one features my old map of one of my favorite MTB riding venues. I stuck on some front text but now I think I should probably just have used the text on the back without the map. or maybe that would be too provocative for the responsible trail use types and imply a penchant for riding the off-limits trails.

Next up is a little nod to my blog. Not so sure about the color scheme without my artsy offspring to rein me in though.

I went looking for a link to a post for my BLM themed kit and I guess I never really posted anything on it. Here’s some images that I played around with. Some of these ended up in my collection, some never seemed good enough to purchase.

The rich and the poor cyclists

March 13, 2023 § Leave a comment

I joined two bike brand/model enthusiast Fb groups for entertainment. And education.

One is for the discount Polygon Siskiu fans and it is full of upgrade talk. Which I find to be fascinating. After all, my early years in MTB riding featured a fair bit of upgrading trying to improve the performance of relatively inexpensive starting platforms. Most of it is related to over-forking (which needs caution) but there are other questions and discussions as well. Two guys I ride with have Siskiu bikes so I have additional reason to keep in touch with user experiences for the models.

The other group is for the range of the MTB I bought. Mine is approximately in the center of the price range. There is some upgrade talk about these bikes, but it is not usually about overforking. Nor does the chat get dominated by the lower end builds (the H30 for example). No, this one seems to feature a lot of people with models / build kits on the ridiculously overpriced side (I.e. more expensive than mine). Their upgrade chat is about even more absurd bits to further lower the weight and….

Upgrading their 2020-2022 models with a newly redesigned 2023 model.

I bet they lease their cars and turn them over every 3 years.

The other day I took a look at some used bike prices and tried to figure out what the per year cost would be. Looks like people try to get 67%-75% of the sales price for bikes that are 1-3 years old. Seems optimistic to me but who knows. Maybe that’s about right. Lord knows I’m riding several bikes that are over 20 years old on the regular. And this is where I hesitate.

Every ride I take on a bike that I own reduces the per-ride cost. Let’s say it’s $45 per ride at the moment. If I sell that bike for 67% of the cost, that per-ride cost goes to $15. This, however is a fixed cost for all of the rides to date, and the purchase of a new bike would reset the counter. My current riding rate says I need to put in four more years before the per-ride cost hits $15, but of course I get those years of enjoyment without resetting the counter to a high starting point again.

Speaking of cheap bikes

February 25, 2023 § Leave a comment

I just don’t know what to make of sell bikes branded Motobecane, a venerable old name from the pages of bikedom. (The name is the only connection with the pastp, as the original French Motobecane went bankrupt in the 1980s.) Now it is a more typical online retailer of bikes ordered up from experienced factories in the Far East with considerable price savings over mainstream brands you purchase from your local shop. My prior experience with a Titanium framed road bike in 2000 and my last carbon framed hardtail MTB was excellent, so a place like this gets my attention.

Minimal initial experience suggests the quality is good. I know one person who has a Motobecane road bike obtained from bikesdirect from several years prior to Covid and and he seems to like it. I’ve seen it on the road several times and it’s a perfectly fine bike from what I can tell.

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Upgrading your MTB

February 21, 2023 § 1 Comment

Some cyclists are happy with their bikes the way they came. Others are keen to alter the bike with replacement parts in search of some sort of improvement; we can call this generically an upgrade. Upgrades can be installed to replace perfectly good existing parts or as part of replacing some part which has broken or worn out. Replacement parts cost money, often more than the item they are replacing, so most people wonder at least tangentially if the upgrade is “worth it”.

As noted when talking about the fit of my newest bike, changing stem and bars to dial in your position is absolutely worth it for almost any bike. The fit is everything for performance and comfort. Changing parts for fit can be the primary reason, but it often will bring some weight savings and maybe better performance beyond mere fit. So that would qualify as an upgrade. Handlebars of identical rise, sweep, etc (fit) may differ in stiffness/compliance (performance), for example. New bars and stem can be lighter in a lot of cases, and not even for all that much money. Lower cost bikes (and in the time of Covid even not so lower cost bikes) are often spec’d with really heavy handlebars and new ones can be had in the $50-$150 range that may drop a quarter pound or more.

At the other end of the scale, there’s no point trying to graft a modern wireless drivetrain onto a 2000 vintage cheap bike from Wal*mart. Not worth it.

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The Polygon 2023 Siskiu D7 SE is a steal at $1,399

February 20, 2023 § Leave a comment

The bikesonline site currently lists the 2023 Siskiu D7 SE at $1,399. For all sizes. The MSRP of $1,599 is lower than the $1,899 of last year, and matches the sales price they had late in the year for less popular sizes.

The “SE” model for this year adds boost spacing to the fork and front wheel. The fork is now a Suntour Raidon 32 Boost Lo-R, previously it was a RockShox Recon Silver RL. Both are air spring forks so without reading a lot of reviews (hard to find online), or direct experience, we can assume they are in the same performance ballpark. The current version of this SunTour fork seems to have been changed to a 34 mm stanchion so it makes sense Polygon made a good deal with SunTour for their (now outdated?) 32 mm fork.

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That SOUND!!!

February 11, 2023 § Leave a comment

The tabs came for my sorely neglected moto. I am not sure I’ve even ridden it since I put on the last tabs. Maybe a few times.

All this bicycle commuting is getting in the way.

The 1984 VF500F

Motorcyclists like their sound. Harley’s crap ass sound is even patented. Rocketeers sure do like their inline fours revved up into the stratosphere. Yuck and yuck. Sort of sad to never hear that ring-ting-ting of a street 2-stroke anymore, haven’t heard one of those in decades. Ducati…yeah that is a nice sounding motorcycle. If you have the money.

For me it is Honda’s V4. My grad school VF500F was a little baby bike, and a previous owner had put some crappy sounding pipes on it. But it was a hint of what was to come.

My junkyard 1986 VFR700 looked like crap but ooooooh that SOUND!

After putting the new sticker on the license plate, I got the 2000 VFR800 out today for a wash, purely out of guilt. It sure is easy on the eye. And I had one local errand to run….

It isn’t the low end grunt. It isn’t the punch into the powerband. It isn’t the song it starts to sing as you near the redline.


I really need to ride this thing more.

More end of year pricing shenanigans

February 10, 2023 § Leave a comment

Suppose instead of an entry enthusiast level bike in the trailbike category in which the Specialized Alloy resides, you were looking for an entry enthusiast level XC bike. Perhaps the aluminum framed, Shimano Deore level, 120 mm travel Orbea Oiz H30 was in your view. Nice looking rig, isn’t it? Now you might go to the company’s website and think you can just order a bike and have it delivered to you. The 2022 model of the Oiz H30 has the Archive Sales badge and indicates the original price of $3,299 has been reduced to $2,969 for a 10% savings. Note that the 2021 version of this bike, probably almost identical save for the wheels, went for $2,599. Some decry the price increases that went into place in 2022 as profiteering off the bike popularity. I personally am convinced that bike companies had increased costs across the board that became priced in. So did, if we are honest with ourselves about how a business has to work, costs associated with lost productivity during the worst Covid years.

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Testing Campy Centaur 11 Speed on the Cross Bike

February 9, 2023 § Leave a comment

I took a spin on one of my usual mixed surface rides on my cross bike after the recent refreshing of front brake and shift train.

Once bedded in properly, the front brake with the new rotor is working as expected. The major difference is the better feel and modulation due to the appropriate matching of the brake to a road lever’s cable pull. Raw power seems more or less the same, although there were no steep hills on this route to really evaluate that.

But the semi-surprise is related to the performance of the 11-speed Campagnolo Centaur shifters / brake levers and the cassette choice.

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A little love for the crosser

February 8, 2023 § 1 Comment

My cross bike has been back in action in the great Return to Riding, along with all of my other bikes. It’s a 2002 but it is in good shape and has needed minimal attention. I had intentions of racing more when I first got it. Here I am in 2004 racing on the UCSD course. But life intervened and it is quite possible this is the only race I ever did on it. At times it had road tires and served as my commuter or alternate road bike. It was also ridden on dirt, albeit sparingly. Story for another day but at one point I tried to use it in the location that is now my nearby cross riding location and never found the good trails, I gave it up as having too deep sand and not being any fun.

At any rate, the bike was ready for duty without much maintenance when Covid struck. I think I put some new brake pads on at one point and I put on 38 mm Ritchey tires, nice and meaty/floaty. That’s about it.

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How dare you dis the PQ??!!??

February 8, 2023 § Leave a comment

I am laughing at myself because I had this reaction lately to a rider video recorded in my beloved Penasquitos Canyon. For no real good reason, even. The overall summary is “no big whoop”.

How DARE you?

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The Specialized Sale is nuts!

February 6, 2023 § 1 Comment

The other day I noted a used bike seller on Craigslist had been undercut by a Specialized sale.

Then a few days later I noticed the price was back up again on the Specialized site. What gives?

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Wheel building day

February 5, 2023 § Leave a comment

When you are young and have a bit of extra dosh you spring for the aluminum spoke nipples to save rotational weight. They also come in neat anodized colors if that is your thing. I used a lot of these aluminum nipples back in the day, mostly in pursuit of the weight thing although I do seem to recall some purple ones at one point. I also had them installed on my road bike build back in 2000. The only trouble with opting for aluminum nipples over the more standard brass ones is that after more than two decades of service you notice this. A spoke nipple about to break off.

And then you notice that it isn’t just the one that is bad, and that wheel is potentially fixing to explode with minimal warning. (Ok, wheels rarely explode with catastrophic failure all at once. More typically you would lose a spoke or two at a time. But still, this is not good.) I think I had noticed this situation right before I had promised to lend the bike to a person from out of town at the behest of a friend. Luckily I had another front wheel I could quickly substitute but it is obvious that I should not be riding on the wheel in this condition.

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Muc off sealant is kinda suc-y

February 3, 2023 § Leave a comment

After running Stan’s basic sealant on two bikes, with no drama, I decided to try a Muc-off product for no particular reason. It’s thicker, pink and has some dark chunky bits that are supposed to help with larger punctures.

I don’t know that I’ve gotten any use out of it yet, can’t recall any instances of a hissing puncture or a sealant blob exiting the tire. What I have noticed is that it seems to dry out much faster. And in doing so it leaves a scummy residue on the tire casing. I can’t recall exactly when I last refreshed these but I think it was only a couple of months ago. In swapping out the front for a cheapie Delium tire recently, I was a bit surprised to find the sealant dried up. Last time I noticed a seemingly rapid dry out, I thought maybe it was a heat spell we’d been having but I am reconsidering that conclusion.

I didn’t bother breaking the bead on the rear one, just pulled out the valve core and squirted more in. Finally starting to see the value in this technique, even if it doesn’t let you actually check the old sealant level.

Strava to increase subscription fees

February 3, 2023 § Leave a comment

When I first joined Strava the subscription fee was $59.99 per year and the site informs me that it will go to $79.99 per year at my next renewal date. That works out to be an increase from $5 per month to $6.67 per month. In 2022 I recorded 241 activities, which is on the order of $0.25 per activity. If I remain at the same pace the increased fee would work out to $0.33 per activity. I believe that I get far more value out of Strava than this, so I’m not going to go off in paroxysms of dismay, as many users apparently are. One of those links notes that the fee of $59.99 per year has not increased since 2013. I mean, come on folks, prices eventually go up for goods and services.

I can’t quite remember which feature of the paid Strava it was that pushed me over the edge to subscribing. I definitely use the “filter the leaderboard by age, weight, or who they follow” feature but this probably wasn’t it. I also like to create my own segments, not totally sure if that requires premium.

My vague recollection is that only the premium version allows you to port HR data from the Apple Watch. IIRC, then this is the killer function that pushes me over into subscription land. It may also have been the ability to hide the start/finish location for rides, something we should all be more aware of after Strava maps were potentially used by a murderer to find her victim.