Air 9 Carbon Version 2.0

Here are the photos… unfortunately, the trails are soaked here, so I just rode it through the Shelby Farms dog park and on the surrounding gravel/pavement. Once I have a rear brake and opportunities to really ride, the brake lines and steertube will get trimmed up:

Air 9 Carbon- The Fix

The question burning in everyone’s minds right now (or not) is “How did you make the fork work?!”

It was a bit of an all-day process that involved phone calls to several places. The SRAM rep (who didn’t fully understand that an integrated headset doesn’t have a change-able stack height) had told me to try Cane Creek and Chris King for a solution since they offered bottom bearing sets in various stack heights. I figured it’d be worth a shot to call around anyways and see what type of ideas the techs at those companies might have…

First, I called Cane Creek. They never answered my voicemail.

Next, I tried Chris King. They aren’t all that hot on integrated headsets, but they do make various thicknesses of 1 1/8″ crown races, so I was hoping maybe they had something in a 1.5″ that could help me out. They were interested in my problem, but still no dice.

After that was FSA. They don’t make any sort of fat crown race, but I thought that since they made the headset that they might be able to help. The tech there was really interested in the whole plight of the small-frame 29er vs. tapered headtubes vs. tapered steertubes. We discussed the various manufacturer’s headtube lengths that I’d posted earlier, and he took down my contact information so that he could call me after he talked to the company engineers.

In the meantime, I had Tim, the mechanic from PB&COtwenty12, trying to hunt down the specs on the Willow Koerber Superfly crown race spacer.

It looked as if the build was indefinitely stalled.

Then, I checked my email and saw a comment on my “conundrum” post from Eric (the Niner tech I’d talked to previously) asking me to call back. When I finally got in touch with him, he told me that some shops had made everything work by filing off the vertical portion of the compression ring that was unable to seat into the top bearing due to the extended fork taper. I didn’t take a “before” photo, but it looked like this (photo is upside down from how it fits into the top bearing):

So, I took to the bench grinder and had at it. Once that part was decimated, I filed off the sharp edges and tried it out. Once I snugged the cap & stem down, the fork was snug in the headtube. Woohoo!!! I packed all of my parts up and headed home to prep for a morning bike build in the living room.

A few observations about the A9C/XX build:

-The internal cable routing is tough. I generally have a knack for internal routing, and I have to say, I cussed at it a couple of times.

-I don’t have a rear brake yet. They’re backordered. Without that, the bike weighs 21 pounds, 1oz. This is barely a pound more than the SS. Chock it up to different saddles, a lighter BB insert, carbon bars, lighter wheels (Crest rims vs. 355s), and lighter tires on the geared bike. I’ll post the final weight once the brake gets here.

Here’s a photo of the ground down compression ring. I’ll put photos of the bike in a different post so I can just make a gallery:

And a teaser:

A fork conundrum

I finally have the parts together to build the geared A9C. Woohoo!

So, yesterday, I started working on it.

Step one- reduce travel of my 120mm, tapered steertube, maxle lite Reba to 80 mm. Done.

Step two- assemble front end of bike. Snag. The compression ring that should fit between the top headset bearing and the steertube won’t push down all the way because the end of the taper of the steertube is inside the bearing. Fail.

Apparently, by using a 100mm-long taper, SRAM has given the proverbial middle finger to those of us who ride a small or medium 29er frame:

Niner Air 9 Carbon Small: 100mm
Trek Superfly Small: 103mm
Santa Cruz Tallboy Medium AND Large: 99mm
Giant Anthem Small and Medium: 104mm
Giant XtC Small: 89mm, Med/Large: 99cm
Felt Nine Small (not tapered, but just for example): 100mm

I could go on, but I’m not in the mood to spend my morning looking at geo charts for every 29er on the market.

I’m sure a few of you are saying “buyer beware,” and, to a degree, you’re right. However, if you were SRAM, would you really want to eliminate the ability to use your product in a healthy section of a continuously growing market? I mean, seriously, what were you thinking?

My options now are somewhat limited.

-I could return the fork and get a non-tapered steertube fork with a reducer. Lame. I hate how that looks, and I really, really don’t want to do it. I also may run in to issues with the fact that I’ve already opened the fork & installed the travel reducers.

-I could fabricate some sort of an under-crown spacer a la Willow Koerber.

-I could return the whole damn thing and EP a Fox fork. That would also involve purchase of a couple of new Hope converter kits to go to their 15mm standard of thru axle from the 20mm of RockShox. I’m not quite as familiar with Fox as I am with RockShox- do they even make a 15QR model with 80mm of travel and a tapered steertube (or the option to reduce travel on a longer travel model)?

Anyone else have ideas or suggestions? I’m going to talk to SRAM today to see what they have in mind. Updates to follow…

EDIT: just got off the phone with SRAM. Not much help there- the suggestion was to look for a bottom headset bearing/race that would give me a little extra stack height. The tech also confirmed my “middle finger to small 29er riders” and said that frame manufactures need to take their taper size into account when designing their frames.

Training Camp 2011: Day 5

Wednesday morning was cloudy (still) and cold. I saw my guests off (they’re headed to Sedona, AZ), then prepped everything for my “reverse revenge” plan (ride the entire trail system in reverse race direction).

I headed up the hill and parked at the middle trailhead. From that spot, I could ride the yellow/red trails, then loop back to the car to refill water before moving on to the blue/orange/green/orange/blue (look at a trail map, and that will make much more sense). The “backwards” yellow trail is a booger. You’re headed towards a higher elevation trailhead, so there’s more steep stuff going that way. My legs were tired, as was my brain. As a result, I ended up walking a few spots that I’d probably ride if I were able to react and get on top of the pedals a little faster. By the time I made it to the red trail, I could tell that the previous days of singlespeeding were catching up to me. I was zoned out & had no snap (At least I was more relaxed than the previous day…) An hour later, I was back at the car.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to leave the car when your feet are numb with cold and your body numb from fatigue?

As easy as it would have been to load up and head home, I convinced myself that the worst was over and pushed on to the blue trail. The descent down from the trailhead to Hwy 5 (the one we’d been up the day before) is pretty fun in a slightly dangerous sort of way. I did muster the courage to ride down the Stairway on my rigid fork (too bad no one was there with a camera to catch the “OMG, I’M GONNA DIE” face that I’m reasonably certain I was making on the way down). The short section on the other side of the highway was a lot harder than I remembered…

After a quick snack at the Hwy 5 trailhead, I forged on. The climb back up from highway level to the orange trail is a bear. It’s super rocky, and very steep. I ended up getting off to walk. Then I wandered off of the trail when it switchbacked right and I kept pushing my bike straight with my head down. When I realized that I wasn’t on the trail, my initial reaction was panic. For a brief few seconds, my heart raced, and I had thoughts of impending doom. Then, I realized that I was only about 15 feet from the trail.

Wandering and panic? Really?

It was at that point that I realized that sticking to my original plan and pushing through the fatigue was probably a dumb idea from a personal safety standpoint. I continued up the orange trail (and up a couple more climbs), but when it finally reached Green Mountain Road, I abandoned the course and climbed back to my car.

Failure? Eh, not really. I still ended up with 5 hours of (mostly) saddle time, and obtained my training camp goal of “dig yourself into a hole, then go a little deeper.” I was happy to return to the cabin, eat no fewer than two dinners, and watch the sunset in the process (something that had eluded me the other nights because of the constant cloudiness). Fifteen and a half hours of rigid singlespeeding in 5 days will make you feel sore in places you were previously unaware of. I can’t remember the last time I slept as hard as last night (though tonight could come in a close 2nd).

Training Camp: Day 4

A little rain moved through overnight Tuesday night, so we killed some time getting breakfast and shopping at the flea market in Downtown Mountain View. Once we were back and changed, we headed out to the trails. Everyone enjoyed the rocky stuff the day before, so I figured I’d show them the Blue Trail.

I quickly realized that I was going to have somewhat of a rough day. It was one of those days where I was staring down every rock and tree with two handfuls of brake. Not really sure why, but I just couldn’t get into a rhythm. I ended up settling in behind the group for most of the ride. Since we had a little more daylight to work with, we ended up stopping at some of the rock features for a few rock-hopping sessions.

Sue rode some of the tougher parts of the ascent from Hwy 5 that I don’t think I’ve even considered riding in the past (really want to go back & try it with a granny gear at some point).  Collin was rolling down parts of the trail at “Party Pace,” then, Tim rode up the Stairway to Heaven. I got video, and I’ll upload & link it once I figure that out at home.

We finished off the Blue trail climb and called it a day. It’s a lot of fun (and inspiration) to see new people rip on my favorite trails. Once we were back at the cabin, we cleaned up and went to dinner at Tommy’s Famous Pizza (highly recommended), then settled in for a little video-watching and bike-building…

Training Camp 2011: Day 3

Yesterday morning, I rolled in to town to make a WalMart run and to meet up with Nate, Sue, Tim, and Collin, who had been driving all night from Virginia. They made it in sometime around 9:00, and we stopped at the Country Time restaurant for some breakfast before heading up to the cabin.

Since everyone was prettymuch a  road zombie, they unpacked a little and took a nap.

I figured that the orange and green trails were a good sampling of Syllamo terrain, so we hit those for a late afternoon ride (as you can see in the photos, the light is pretty low by the time we reached the green trail overlook). Amazingly enough, even after yesterday’s 5 hours of trail time, I felt really good (with the exception of one slip/fall on a slick rock at the end of the green loop. OW)

P.S. The top of the Cedar Scrappy climb on the orange trail is no longer to be considered “hike-a-bike”… at least by anyone with a granny gear.

Training Camp 2011: Days 1 and 2

Day 1 was relatively easy. Since Matt didn’t have to work this weekend, he followed me up for a couple of days of riding.  We got on the trail around 1:30 and rode the orange loop. My prescribed workout for the day was 2 hours with various intensities, so we headed up Green Mountain Road for a little more climbing & saddle time. Afterward, some friends came over & hung out for a couple of sunset beers at the cabin.

This morning, we planned to meet up with Memphis friend Forrest Owens and ride almost all of the Syllamo’s Revenge course. However, Forrest had to get home earlier than previously thought, so we re-tooled our plan to just the yellow and blue trails from Blanchard Springs. I quickly realized, though, that I wasn’t feeling the pace that the guys were pushing, so when I caught up to them, I offered to let them go so I could ride longer, and at my own pace. They ended up with 2.5 hours, and I rode the remainder of the trail solo. Matt was nice enough to meet me at the Hwy 5 trailhead with water then pick me up on Green Mountain Road once I was around the loop. Final ride time was 4 hours, 56 minutes (including various food/photo breaks).

I try to ride at least one more technical section every time I’m on the trail. Today was no exception, though I did manage to wreck a few extra times (all were generally slow-speed, but left me with some extra bruises). Riding in solitude gives you a lot of quality time with your own self doubt and personal fears. Singletrack therapy is your friend…

Training Camp 2011

The past couple of years, a winter training camp has been an easy proposition since I was teaching and had about a month (paid) off of work. Since I’m working a job with a more “traditional” schedule, I hadn’t put much thought into trying to take a few days to dig myself into a bit of a training hole at the cabin. However, I’d stayed in touch with Nate (aka “Gorgeous” from the Shenandoah 100), and he asked if I’d be interested in showing him and some friends around the Syllamo trails for a day or two.

Hell yeah, I’d love to! Who are your friends?

Sue Haywood and her husband boyfriend.

Holy isht, Sue Haywood? She’s like, a total badass!

I was excited to hear that. Then, I got kinda nervous. It’s going to be a kinda nuts to play tour guide to someone who is such an awesome bike racer. Yes, I’m somewhat starstruck. It should be a good time, though. The rock gardens should be scared.

So, I took a couple of days off of work, and, since I don’t normally work weekends or wednesdays, will have  a nice little 5-day brick for some trail riding. Maybe I’ll finally learn how to ride wet rocks…

Dear Alessi Sea Salt,

I have a sea salt grinder that I like(d). Originally, it was not refillable, but I drilled a hole into it and use(d) a funnel to refill it with coarse salt such as what’s shown in the photo below. I was just wondering if that is that a natural Mediterranean rat turd, made naturally from the sea and sun? Because if it was a standard American salt mine rat turd, I’d be very upset.



Help my face…

I normally limit my vanity to matching accent colors between various parts of my bikes, but something’s been bugging me lately, and after much frustration with shopping on my own, I’ve decided to turn to my faithful readers for help. Though, most of you could stop reading now and not miss anything that you’re interested in. Hopefully, not all of you.

As of late, I’ve been noticing that my skin is starting to show signs of discontent and age. It’s dry, and I’ve got “smile lines” around my eyes. I’m not the type to be drug kicking and screaming into my next birthday- quite to the contrary, I’ve always said that I can’t wait until I’m older so I can be fast. However, that doesn’t mean that want to see it on my face if there’s a reletively easy way to prevent it.

My mom has gorgeous skin for her age (>50, <70), as does her mom. Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with either their genetics or their disdain for prolonged outdoor activity in extreme conditions. As a result, my mom’s skincare advice of “daily vasaline application” doesn’t really help. She also mentioned Oil of Olay. So, I looked at that stuff in the store. First off, it’s got the marketing prowess of bodybuilding supplements, which automatically sets off my BS detector. Second, I can’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the labels. Call me paranoid, but that makes me somewhat uneasy. Third- it’s expensive. Which, I honestly don’t mind too much about as long as I know I’m getting something that will actually “moisturize, reduce fine lines, and increase skin’s radiance” without causing some odd form of chemically-induced cancer by the time I’m 90.

With that being said, who can help? Ladies- any of you have a favorite? Men- anyone’s girl/wife got something she swears by? Comment away.