I Did It

“The View” at the top of Clawhammer, Black Mtn Trail, Pisgah NF, NC.

As part of my recovery from acute myeloid leukemia, I set some fitness goals for myself. Early goals were more running and general fitness related. I ran a 5k. I ran a few more 5k’s. I eventually ran a half marathon. My knees were furious with me over that and I vowed to never do it again. After that, I swore off running because riding my bike is WAY more fun. My goals became more bike-focused after that. I set two goals for myself, and it’s taken a couple years to meet them, but I’ve done so…and then some. The first one I set for myself was an annual mileage goal. That was the first one I achieved, also. My goal was 500mi of mtb riding on the year. I met that goal in the late summer, and revised it to be 1,000mi of all-purpose riding. To date, I’ve ridden over 730mi on my mtb, and over 900mi total, so I’m within reach of hitting 1,000 all-purpose miles for 2015. The more difficult goal for me to reach was a 50 mile single ride distance. The roads around here are mostly flat, and in good weather, anyway, 50mi is not that difficult. It’s another thing on the mtb. Most of the mtb trail systems are comprised of smaller segments and loops, so a 50mi ride on those becomes more of a mental game, as you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel after awhile. With Yellowwood State Forest opening to mtb use officially, I got a chance. Not all of the potential connections are open yet, which will make even more options for long rides available. But I took advantage of one option this fall with a few other riders also interested in a long adventure-type ride. This was a most excellent ride. Because not all of the trail connections are open yet in this area, we had to make use of more gravel (and a little pavement) than I’d prefer. I didn’t take a ton of photos on this ride, especially towards the end when we were all hurting. Sasquatch Ride
The intrepid adventurers

Sasquatch Ride

A big stick in the spokes in Lucas Hollow. No bike parts were harmed here, fortunately. Sasquatch Ride
The perfect trailside lunch. Sushi, of course!

Sasquatch Ride

We have reached the furthest point from the trailhead. The sun is beginning to set. Soon it will be time to strap on lights. We had originally wanted to finish the ride with a gnarly downhill and capture some drone footage. Unfortunately, by the time we got anywhere close to that point, it was well past dark and most of us had totally roasted our legs and getting UP the hill we would have been descending was daunting. Plus, reduced visibility would have held us back some on the downhill, so it was left for another time.

Tennessee and Georgia MTB Trip
Raccoon Mountain, Chattanooga, TN

The Bucksaw is absolutely killer. I do feel like the fork (Rockshox Bluto) holds the bike back in some respects. The fork is only “okay” and I’d like to see a company offer something that’s a definite performance upgrade. It sounds like using a modified Lefty would fit the bill there, but the difficulty there is with tracking down an appropriate model Lefty that can accept the custom clamps. They’re in high demand on the aftermarket. The new Lefty Olaf might be a good option, but Cannondale isn’t selling it aftermarket yet. Some folks have made use of downhill forks for fatbikes and while that’s an option, I’m not keen on the expense of them or the weight they’d add. Wren offers some forks that look interesting. They have taken over US distribution of the fork formerly known as the Fork of Many Names (FOMN), and are apparently making their own changes to the design of that fork they inherited to improve it. At $900, I’m not willing to be a guinea pig, though. If it’s a definite performance improvement over the Bluto, then I’ll be saving up for one. But detailed reviews of these are hard to find. I think it’s promising to hear that Foes is now including this fork on its FS fatbike, but until I read some reviews specifically about the fork, I’m going to be stingy with my money.

Tennessee and Georgia MTB Trip
Somewhere in the Jake Mountain area near Elijay, GA.

I’m especially interested in its stiffness and the quality of the damper, which are two areas that the Bluto could see improvements. The larger 36mm stanchions on the Wren fork are suggestive, but the inverted design counters that somewhat. Inverted forks tend to be less stiff, so we’ll see on that. Not to mention few inverted suspension forks have lasted in the mtb market for long. The damper is the biggest unknown. Wren is rather tight-lipped about the fluids it uses in the damper. They’ve tracked down something that apparently works well down to -50F, and they understandably would like to maintain that industry advantage, I suppose.I also have my eyes on some rear suspension performance improvements, too. But I think that will need to come after the front end of the bike. At the inexpensive end would be adding a DebonAir air can to the Rockshox Monarch shock. At the expensive end would be changing the shock entirely, to something like a Cane Creek DBInline. The benefit of swapping the shock entirely would be that I’d have a spare rear shock available for when I am servicing the main one. Also, I’ve begun to notice the cam on my Maxle front thru axle is wearing out. The cam doesn’t really put much extra clamping pressure on the front anymore. I’m looking at replacing it, and I’ll probably get a DT RWS thru axle for it. I also see that Salsa sells a DT RWS thru axle for 12×177 rear ends, too. I don’t have any trouble with the rear Maxle, but I like the RWS system well enough that I’ll probably swap that one, too. I’ve also ridden a few hundred miles on a Thomson Covert dropper post. I was unsure about droppers, and whether I’d really use them. But after two trips to North Carolina and one trip that included Raccoon Mtn in Chattanooga and several trails in N. GA centered around Mulberry Gap, I am convinced that a dropper is WELL worth it. My first NC trip was pre-dropper, while my 2nd trip was post-dropper. Night and day difference with my confidence going downhill in Pisgah. I’m less than thrilled with the stock actuator, though. TOGS

It gets in the way of using the TOGS, which I actually do like on long climbs, especially fire road climbs. I’ve decided that I’m going to modify a KS Southpaw lever as shown here.

KS Southpaw

This will get the actuator for the dropper away from the TOGS, so I can use the extra hand position without rubbing my thumb. It will also allow me to get rid of the repurposed brake noodle I’m using. The noodle is an elegant solution to address funky cable routing on the stock Thomson actuator, but mine is starting to rust and it looks bad. I could replace it with a stainless option, but why not just replace the actuator and eliminate the noodle altogether?

At any rate, I’m loving the Bucksaw and I’m riding a lot more lately, in part because the bike I’m riding is so much fun. Most of the other components are doing extremely well. I’m burning through bottom brackets, though. I’m wondering if I continue to tighten the preload ring too much on my Turbine CINCH cranks, because I’m hearing reports from folks with the same bike and same BB that I started with, who are still on the original BB, and who have put over 1,500mi on it. I’ll try to make it through the winter on my current BB and install a fresh one for springtime.

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