Monday, September 30, 2013

Hammock time

The girls hanging out, reading their books. Happy b-day, Pac!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pugsley, Mk II

2013 Surly Pugsley frame, size XL, or 22".
Last summer, after approximately six years of pondering the purchase of a Surly Pugsley, I finally made the leap. I was not disappointed. Riding fat tires is a lot of fun on any surface. The Pugsley has played a big role in my long streak of consecutive days of riding a bike, currently at 270 days. Whether in the depth of winter or on a dusty summer day, heading out for a ride on the Pug is great any time of year.

I can unequivocally attest that fat tires equate big fun. The only running concern I've had about the Pugsley is the frame size. I'm about 6'2", and have a 89.5 cm PBH measurement. I'm fairly tall, sure, but I'm not a giant. I have a 22" Surly Big Dummy, which seems to fit pretty well for my mostly around town trips. I also have a 58 cm Surly Cross-Check, which at times I have wished was instead a 60 cm. When I was in the market for a Pugsley, I couldn't quite decide between a 20" and a 22", out of concern about standover clearance between the top tube and my nether regions while on the soft surfaces likely to be encountered on a fatbike.

Apart from standover clearance, I own bikes that have effective top tube lengths similar to both the 20" and 22" Pugsley, and tend to prefer those with a longer top tube. However, nothing beats an actual ride on a bike to be sure. The problem was, I had difficulty finding Pugsleys of any size to test ride. I was able to try a Large sized Salsa Mukluk, which seemed a decent fit, but in the numbers, is somewhere between the 20" and 22" Pugsley. I'm a steel-frame sort of guy, so I didn't seriously consider the Mukluk, though I'm sure it's a great bike.

I scoured internet forums and reviews, reaching the conclusion that random impressions of fit among a wide range of people, even of similar height to mine, is not particularly helpful. When the time came, the issue of standover clearance must have been at the fore, as I made the plunge toward a 20" frame. The bike rode great and the giddiness of playing with fat tires made me initially unconcerned about the flagpole length of seatpost sticking out of the frame.

My 2012 Surly NecroPug, 20".
I certainly had plenty of standover clearance with the 20" frame, yet I noticed that I had my saddle slid all the way back on the rails for my torso to feel about right, and even then I noticed that I often rode with the bottom of my palms on the handlebar with my fingers wrapped around an imaginary bar about an inch or so in front of the actual one. For all the times that I felt a little cramped along the top tube, I realized that I never once felt greatly appreciative of the copious standover clearance.

Eventually, I thought about the situation. I acknowledged that riding a fatbike is now part of my DNA, and that I'm in it for the long haul. But what about the options? A lot has happened in fatbikes in just the last year, with new models popping up regularly. Yet, though my experience, I greatly enjoyed the versatility of the Pugsley; it can accept the full range of fat tires, from the stock 3.8" fatties, to 3.0" 29ers on Rabbit Hole rims, to 4.8" super fatties with a slightly modified drivetrain. I'm also not particularly interested in carbon or aluminum for reasons of expense and/or dependability, nor am I interested in sacrificing versatility by committing to a bike limited by tire size options. So, weighing the possibilities, an upsized Pugsley frame was the answer I chose.
Meet the new boss, not quite the same as the old boss.
I couldn't get a 22" NecroPug frame with the blacked-out stickers as they were sold out and discontinued, but I could get the new plain vanilla black (or what Surly calls Apathetic Black) Pugsley frame. No problem. All my parts transferred over perfectly, with the exception of the front derailleur, as the design changed from an e-type to a direct mount. The new frame came with the direct mount adapter, so all I needed was a direct mount SLX front derailleur and some new cables and housing.

Park HHP-2. It's nice to have the right tool for the job.
I don't have the vast amount of standover height with the new frame as compared to the old frame, but it is plenty, and in the few rides that I've done since the switch, I'm much more comfortable. This frame just feels more correct for me. I can't definitively say that for anyone out there who, like me, is potentially on the cusp between the 20" and 22" Pug, that the 22" is better. I can say that for me bigger is better, and that I doubt if I'll ever be concerned about standover clearance.

Parts swapped over, the new 22" Pugsley is complete.
Today, just for kicks, I stole the newish geared rear wheel off of Julie's Raleigh XXIX, along with the old single-speed rear wheel from her XXIX and slapped them on the new 22" Pug. The result: even more reason to love the Pug. Instant 29er.

29er wheels on my new 22" Pugsley.

WTB ExiWolf 2.3" tire with plenty of clearance in the Moonlander fork.

The non-offset wheel looks a little odd in the rear, but the rear of a Pugsly looks a little odd no matter what. Plenty of tire clearance even though the centerline is 17.5 mm closer to the drive side. 

The non-offset rear wheel tracks a little to the right of the centerline, but it doesn't seem like much of a problem. No matter what an evolutionary biologist may tell you, bilateral symmetry is overrated.

Like this, the Pugsley could easily be mistaken for a Karate Monkey at a casual glance. 

Looks more or less normal, even from the back.
I've now been pondering a 29er for some time. Following my little experiment with 29" wheels on the Pug, I now know that I have a geared 29er at my disposal already. However, I still have a bit of an itch for a dedicated single speed 29er, which is another pathway to two-wheeled fun. For whatever reason, finding a used Redline Monocog 29er (in the 21-inch size) has piqued my interest. I'm still trying to lighten my load a bit, so I probably won't act on a Monocog anytime soon, but I do know, with my proclivities, something is bound to happen at some point.

In the mean time, I am likely to have a used but in good condition 20" Pugsley frame for sale, likely offered as a good deal to my loyal readers. Look for more details here soon. Until then, happy trails!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

1984 Miyata Ridge Runner revamp

The Ridge Runner in its revamped form.
There has been a dearth of posts around here, which is usually accompanied by a surfeit of goings-on, as has been the case recently. Fortunately, my readership likely numbers in the single digits, so few, if any, have probably noticed. In any case, this latest installment outlines the recent rebuild of my 1984 Miyata Ridge Runner.

For years, I pined for my first Miyata; my original mountain bike that I had stupidly sold long ago. When I found a Ridge Runner as a replacement earlier this year, it was mostly stock, and had been seemingly unused for much of its life. As it turns out, lack of use is both a good and bad situation when it comes to the longevity condition of a bike. It took me some time to take the Ridge Runner apart, inspect it, and put it back together. Along the way, I rebuilt everything that could be rebuilt, and even so, had to substitute several items for those that were no longer up to par.

Join me now, on a whimsical adventure as I strip the frame and reassemble it, as only an old bike nut can.

First sign of trouble. The bottom bracket exhibited considerably less than free rotational action. At about this point, I began to wonder if only old timers like myself still possess semi-obsolete bottom bracket tools such as this. 

That is 29 years worth of old, waxy grease that no longer has any lubricating value. Difficult to spot in this photo are the tiny fragments of metal embedded throughout. You got it, a shattered bearing.

On the positive, inside the frame was clean and without any sign of rust.

My suspicions were borne out after cleaning the spindle, when the drive side race was clearly pitted. One of the ball bearings had mostly disintegrated at some point in the distant past, and its fragments subsequently chiseled away at the race.
Next up was the rear derailleur. The upper pulley of the SunTour MounTech derailleur had a thick wad of waxy grease and an impressive quantity of embedded hair wrapped around it. I don't know why, but hair often ends up in pulley wheels. 

Having things apart allowed me to confirm, as suspected, the frame features SunTour dropouts.

I cleaned the derailleur thoroughly. I have some experience with this era of SunTour derailleurs, which have an extra spring-loaded pivot housed in the center of the upper pulley which is incredibly difficult to service. The pivot is more than likely to explode if an attempt is made to open it. 
I cleaned the derailleur, but could not get the upper pulley to spin freely without an obvious feeling of gritty, impeded movement.  In the end, rather than destroy the MounTech derailleur in an attempt to make it serviceable, I decided to use a different derailleur. In the old days, most of the SunTour Mountech derailleurs from 1983 and 1984 were replaced under warranty anyway, so a replacement is in keeping with the practice of of this era. Apparently, the MounTech design worked well under perfect conditions, but was finicky and fragile. If you're interested in learning more, there's a good article about it here, and frankly if you've read this far, why not?

I have few spare SunTour derailleurs, so the first I considered was the Cyclone M-II.
The first SunTour rear derailleur that I considered for using on the Ridge Runner was a Cyclone M-II; a design that was produced between about 1982 and 1985. The one I have is in pristine shape, and has a sculptural smoothness and feeling of quality that no longer exists in mass-produced mechanical devices. It really is a beautiful piece of machinery, almost jewelry-like in its detail and sophistication. The Cyclone M-II is more finely engineered and crafted than most high-zoot watches I've ever seen.

However, the Cyclone M-II not quite right for my Ridge Runner. I don't intend for this bike to be a museum item, and it would be a shame to beat up the Cyclone off road. Moreover, it doesn't have quite the chain capacity that I need, so I dug a little more in my parts bin. I located a set of circa 1985 SunTour XC Sport 7000 derailleurs. The rear would likely have been of the sort used for warranty replacement of a faulty MounTech derailleur. Perfect. Incidentally, it was somewhere around this time that SunTour transitioned to being spelled Suntour, with the lower case T.

SunTour (Suntour?) XC Sport derailleurs.

Presto! The same derailleur, suddenly clean, through the magic of the internet.
While cleaning the frame and parts, I found some cryptic indicators denoting era of manufacture, further underscoring 1984 as the year of production of the majority of the parts on the bike. I couldn't help but think of the dates I found in relation to the events of my life at the time. Ninth grade. Not an entirely happy time for me. I suppose any year in which Ghostbusters and Star Trek III came out wasn't all bad, though.

The super clean Dia-Compe brake levers are inscribed "0184", likely month and year of manufacture

The end of the Nitto bullmoose bar is stamped "Cr-Mo" and "R-R", possibly meaning the bar design was specific to the Ridge Runner. Who knows? 

The "M" in the serial number signifies 1984, but I have no idea how to interpret the rest of the number. Yep, no chain marring here, baby.

Clean and temporarily devoid of parts.
Once I'd finished cleaning and inspecting the frame, fork and parts, and deciding what to reuse or replace, I began the task of putting it all back together. I like to assemble bikes, and took my time doing it just the way I wanted. That said, my goal was to keep with the spirit of the bike, if not always the precise year of parts for those items that couldn't tenably be used for anything amounting to actual off-road riding. Of course, I filed away all the original parts in my shop, just in case.

I've been wrapping the drive-side chainstays of my bikes with tube strips since 1988, and I'm sure others were doing it well before me. It's how I generally begin a build.

That's a Park Third Hand tool, a Park Fourth Hand tool, and a 10 mm wrench simultaneously used to adjust the front brake. As much as I like old bike stuff, I'll take the much simpler adjustment of Avid BB7 disc brakes over this any day.

The original bottom bracket was pitted and unusable. However, as it was an astounding 135 mm wide, I didn't have any replacements wide enough to enable the original Sugino AT cranks to clear  the chainstays. Therefore, I sourced the logic-al successor to the Sugino AT, a 1990 Ritchey Logic crankset made by Sugino. A Shimano UN-71 cartridge bottom bracket spins it all nicely.

Standing in for gear-changing duty, the Suntour XC Sport rear derailleur looks quite squared-away on the bike.  Minimal use or not, after 29 years, a new chain was in order. The chainstays are so long and the largest cogs so big that I didn't need to remove any links to achieve a proper fit. 

The Ridge Runner was originally spec'd with some sort of ergonomic grips, which are long gone. Ergon GP-1 grips are my current favorites, and blend in well. SunTour Power ratchet shifters are a joy to service and rebuild. Modern shifters don't come anywhere close. New cables and housing all around, of course.

Another stand-in are the wheels; Mavic M6CD rims on Deore XT M730 hubs that I had built in 1989. These wheels have been used very little in the past 24 years and the rims are nicely wide. The original Araya rims on SunTour hubs have bone-dry bearings and await me to repack them when I get a little more time. In the mean time, you gotta love the '80s Mavic graphics.

For rubber, I went with a pair of new, fat WTB Weirwolf 2.55 LT tires. I know, I know. For historical accuracy I should've used something with a skinwall. However, good skinwalls are hard to come by, and I want to actually ride this bike. The Weirwolf has a nice rounded profile with shortish knobs, similar to early mountain bike tires, and is about the fattest tire that will fit this bike. I've always used the fattest tires I've been able to find, and I'm sure the same would've been the case in 1984.
The present iteration of the Ridge Runner is finished, and I'm eager to get it out in the dirt. In the couple of short rides I've taken so far, the refurbishment has felt great. The bike feels like it is new, and I can tell it's got a lot of adventure left in it.