Thursday, September 1, 2016

Will Specialized Fast Trak 29 x 2.0 tires fit a Surly Cross Check?

The tires look meaty and tough on the bike, but neither wheel will roll without buzzing contact with the frame and fork.
Uhh... nope. Not quite. After his recent visit, Nick left me a pair of Specialized Fast Trak Sport 29 x 2.0 tires. Though a little worn, they're nice tires with plenty of rubber left and a fast looking tread pattern. It was the perfect opportunity to see if a skinny (by current standards) 29er tire would have a chance of fitting my 58 cm 2001 Surly Cross Check. I did a little preliminary research and found reports of some success in fitting 50 mm Schwalbe Big Apples, and a couple of random 1.95 inch 29er tires on Cross Checks, but couldn't find anyone on the whole internet who had tried Fast Trak 2.0s. So here I am to provide that public service.

The results: close, but no cigar. The tires mounted on 20 mm wide Mavic MA3 rims measured out to be almost exactly 50 mm to the outer profile of the knobs. Maybe if I shaved off all the side knobs and had perfectly true rims, there might be a millimeter or so of clearance on each side. I'm not willing to do that. Maybe. However, I've been wanting some fatter tires to replace the pair of nearly worn out Bontrager 38 mm tires (measures out to 34 mm mounted on my MA3s) that I've had on the Cross Check for a long time. Even though the experiment failed, it points to the likelihood that something in the 1.8" to 1.9" (approximately 46-48 mm) wide would be about the right amount of fatness. I could probably even fit fenders with the right tire. I know the 700 x 41 mm Surly Knard is a sure fit, and equates to about 1.6" wide. However, I'm convinced there's a skinny 29er tire out there that will have sufficient clearance, yet push the envelope just a bit more. We don't have a lot of mud here in Colorado, and I wouldn't be riding muddy trails on this bike anyway, so minimal clearance is fine in my book.
Fast Trak 29 x 2.0 on the front.

Mavic MA3, 20 mm wide, on both front and rear.

Plenty of top clearance, not enough side clearance in the fork.

Right fork leg.

Left fork leg. Tantalizingly close to clearing, if not for knobs.

Yep, still 2.0. No better luck in the rear.

Axle slammed rearward in the dropouts.

Close, but not quite clearing the chainstays. 

Seatstays close to clearing, but not. Less room below the brake bridge than below the fork crown, but still adequate.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Trail Lael and Gypsy Nick

It's always cool to hang out with a personal hero.
Over the weekend, our friends Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox paid us a visit on their way to the Colorado Trail. They had a new bike to put together, and a lot of equipment to sort out, so made use of my bike barn for a couple of days. In between, we talked and hung out a bit, hearing of their adventures and some first-hand detail about Lael's recent victory in the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race.

Nick is a great mechanic, and an inspiration to watch.

Helping Lael set up a big tubeless tire.
The big box was a big hit.

The school bike now features hand-me-down pedals and frame bag gifted from Lael.
The Adventure Cycling Association has no better spokespeople than the dynamic duo of Nick and Lael. Their knowledge is vast and enthusiasm boundless when they're talking of their passion for seeing the world on two wheels. Nick planted some seeds of thought about the feasibility of a family ride along the Great Allegheny Passage trail to the C&O Canal Towpath from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington DC. It amounts to nearly 350 miles of trail without any car traffic, and free US Forest Service camping along the way. He also told me of as an affordable way to get the bikes to the trailhead, which is a great resource for anyone traveling with a bike.

Lael and Nick have certainly been busy since the last time they stopped by. Their selection of bikes and equipment has greatly evolved, and they've put many thousands of miles under their wheels. The future looks to be just as busy. They're set to appear at Interbike in October, and to lead the inaugural mass start of the Baja Divide in January. The Baja Divide is a route that they scouted, pioneered and documented along the length of Baja California, as a gift to the bikepacking community. Happy travels, and looking forward to your next visit.

I always enjoy discovering what the bike shop pixies leave behind after a visit.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Groot rides a bike in Laramie, WY

The girls are big Guardians of the Galaxy fans, and especially enjoyed seeing Groot ride a bike in a mural.
We made a quick trip to Laramie, Wyoming over the weekend. I lived there as a kid, and as an undergrad, and during both periods I recall it as being a great place to ride a bike. I'm happy to report that it has only gotten to be more bike friendly over time, with improvements to bike infrastructure and a blossoming bike culture.

For those of you unfamiliar with Laramie, a reasonable facsimile of it as a town may be that of the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska from the 1990s TV show Northern Exposure; a largely sleepy community that is at times quirky, with an occasional edge of sophistication. A recent development has been several public art projects in the downtown area, including some terrific murals and some highly functional and fun, locally produced bike racks that feature native animals and scenes.

An indicator of further change in advancement of bicycle support in the community was in a campaign sign for a local candidate. The sign featured a bike in place of Steamboat the bucking horse from the iconic symbol of Wyoming. For a sitting state representative, in a state where registered automobiles have historically outnumbered people, this is a bold statement.

Ride 'em cowbike! Best of luck to you, Rep. Charles Pelkey.

Thematically appropriate bike racks in this railroad town, and a wall growing food.

The ramp to the bike/ped bridge over the rail yard is a Laramie landmark. 

From the bridge, a wave to the engineer returns a horn blast, as it did when I was a kid.

Galloping antelope rendered in green steel sure beats a standard bike rack.

As does a blue moose.

The Pedal House bike shop has been a fixture in the Laramie bike community for more than a quarter century.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

First day of school, once again

2016: Sixth Grade
2015: Fifth Grade
2014: Fourth Grade
2013: Third Grade
2012: Second Grade
2011: First Grade
2010: Kindergarten
So far, so good, starting each first day of school by bike. She rode a different bike for each year except between second and third grades. Each of these bikes will experience renewed adoration as Lil Sis grows her way up the chain. Next year, I'll have two photos of this type to make.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Enjoying the waning days before school starts

Around here, school inexplicably starts in mid August. Even though this has been the case for us for several years now, I still can't help but feel as though the last couple of weeks before Labor Day are wrongly annexed into the school year.

We can't do much about it but enjoy the time we have left. There's no better way than to get acquainted with some newly handed-down bikes. Lil Sis is the new rider of an Electra Hawaii that Big Sis once enjoyed. Big Sis helped me refurbish a cool old 1994 Kona Hahanna slated for school commuting duty.

It's always great to see them learn and master the nuances of new bikes, and incorporate their experiences into a library of skills they'll have forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lael Wilcox won the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race!

Screenshot from
In a truly amazing effort, Lael Wilcox has just won the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race, becoming the first racer to cross the finish line. She rode 4,270 miles from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia in 18 days and 10 minutes. Terrific job, Lael. Congratulations to you and Nick both. Cheers from your fan club here in suburban Colorado.

Get more info on Nicholas Carman's blog Gypsy by Trade.

Lael when we met up with her during her record-breaking Tour Divide race last year.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Reptile encounter

I initially perceived it as a stick and rolled right past, luckily just missing riding over the head of a big bull snake sunning itself in the middle of the trail.

Big Sis, following a little behind, saw what happened and was less than interested in making a close encounter. However, she was brave enough to provide a cautious smile and pose for scale. The snake was approximately as long as the girl is tall, which is quite a big snake for our little corner of suburbia.

We later saw a small garter snake (alive), another small garter snake (dead), and a shedded garter snake skin, but none left quite the same impression. In all, it was a good ride and a pleasant Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Elementary school by bike

Big Sister just wrapped up her elementary school experience. So proud of the big person that she's becoming.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New old 3-speed: Dahon Classic III

1988 Dahon Classic III
Meet a Dahon Classic III folding bike, fresh from Craigslist. I always like making bike finds of this sort; virtually unused time capsules that have spent decades in storage out of the elements. This bike could not have been ridden more than a couple of miles since new, some 28 years ago. It had a film of grease and dust, incidentally protecting the finish, as well as mostly dry bearing assemblies. A bit of time with some rags brought back its gleam, and a date with some tools and a tube of grease will take care of the bearings. It has a pristine Sturmey-Archer 3-speed AW hub, date stamped 87-8, for August of 1987.  I'll get to know the hub much better, as I rebuild it to ensure it is functioning optimally after a long period of disuse. Best of all, in short order there will be one more vintage 3-speed back on the road.

This bike isn't mine, as I found it for my mom who plans to bring it with her in a mini RV for wide ranging travels in the near future. However, I was surprised that at my height of about 74 inches, I could extend the saddle and handlebar enough to ride it comfortably. So could Big Sis, who at a foot and a half shorter than me, was an eager test rider.

I'm somewhat familiar with newer folding bikes, but was surprised at the quality of build and engineering incorporated in this bike, a design that originated nearly 40 years ago. Newer versions are lighter, faster to fold, and offer more features, but Dr. David Hon really nailed it when he envisioned this catalyst for intermodal transportation. If you're in the market for a folding bike and don't want to spend a lot of money, you can't do much better than an older Dahon like this, provided it's in good condition.

Below are some photos of the bike to dwell in the cloud in perpetuity for anyone searching out details of a vintage Dahon Classic III.

Ready to ride...
...and folded, for comparison.
Sturmey-Archer shifter in great shape.
Note the asymmetric design of the handlepost brace.
The Lee-Chi caliper brakes on chrome steel rims function remarkably well. 
Folding crank arm on the drive side. 
The head tube is just a squat cylinder. Wheels are 16-inch. Everything is stock original.
Serial number stamped on the top of the bottom bracket shell. Directions on how to interpret the date codes are here.
Shiny Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub.
A little caster wheel folds down so that the bike can be rolled when folded.
Bottom of the headpost assembly, with a hinge that folds to the left side of the bike.
An astonishingly narrow front hub. I haven't yet measured it, but I've never seen one so narrow. 
Badge above the reflector on the rear fender.
Right side of the bike, when folded. Note the caster wheel.
Right side of the folded bike. 
View as folded from the rear, or front, depending on your philosophy.
Folded, from the top.
Approximately 56" tall rider.
Blurry pic of the new owner.