Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cross-Check Tweeking

This bike is taking a lot more dialing-in than any other I have owned. The Pugsley was the first bike I specced and built-up from scratch and it was a perfect fit from the start - I haven't changed anything apart from hand-grips in almost four years.

The Cross-Check has some stuff I'm just not used to, like drop-bars and bar-end shifters and I didn't get things right on the first attempt.

The first problem was the beautiful Thomson stem I purchased by mail-order didn't get the bars high enough for my liking and I felt a bit stretched-out as well.  The initial riding-position was no more severe than a typical contemporary road-bike but I wanted something a little more relaxed and suitable for riding off-road. It pained me to do so but I swapped it out for the ugly no-name stem on the Nasty-Evil-Bike and it felt better straight away.

Now that my position on the bike was okay and I was doing longer rides I was finding riding on the hoods was irritating the back part of my palm that rested on the bar. I would tend to move my hands from the hoods to the curve behind and then onto the flats and back again to get some relief. Not very satisfactory. I've cured that problem by rotating the bars up (and the hoods down) so the transition is dead-flat and also dead-level. I put an extra strip of cork tape behind the hood before wrapping the bars first in spongy cork and then a second layer of the original Fi'zi:k Mictotex. It looks a little portly now but is wonderfully soft and comfortable. I thought the angle the drop part of the bar ended up on would be a problem but it has proved fantastic going off-road on bumpy singletrack or grass, especially down-hill at speed.

Another thing that annoyed me from the start is that the cable-hanger for the front brake did not have provision for a barrel-adjuster. I ordered an inline cable-adjuster that is usually used for shifter cables on road-bikes and spliced that in while I had everything in pieces. These things are really easy to install and use and I'm very pleased with it. You could even adjust your brake or gear cables as you ride along.

I also bent the straddle-cables so they sat straight (this really irritated me) and increased the spring-tension on the Paul brakes so they looked better and felt a little snappier. You can see the difference in the photo above compared to an earlier shot below.

I am now a lot more comfortable on the bike and looking forward to some longer rides. I've not done more than two hours at a time which is not much of a test of long-term comfort.

Inflation? The price has almost doubled in two years and our NZ exchange rate is very strong at the moment!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Summer Wheeln'

In-between the spring storms we're finally getting some warm sunny days. I haven't been mountainbiking or beach-riding in weeks but have enjoyed commuting to work as usual and pootling around town with The Midget Assassin in tow. 

I took one of these girls home from the park 
(hope I got the right one)

The school unicycle club got invited to three Santa parades this year. The boys and I weren't able to go to any of them last year so we made the most of it this time and attended two. The first was a low-key community affair up in Orewa. Thing-Two and I did that one and it was a good introduction to parade riding. Only a few thousand people so we were more excited than nervous and the route was nice and flat for the dad who doesn't practice. The second was the Farmer's Santa Parade in downtown Auckland. This was a much bigger deal with 250,000 spectators and some really professional looking floats. We wear blue club t-shirts and big red cowboy hats so we don't look as spectacular as some of the fancy costumes but the crowd doesn't seem to mind. Children just love to see other children riding unicycles and clap and cheer like mad, it's a real buzz. Some of the smaller riders were pretty tired by the end but everyone had a ball and the lanky forty-three year old can't wait to go back next year either!

Waiting for the rest of the group before the start

Our local council held a Family Bike Fest in Sunnynook Park only a few miles from home. I dragged my boys kicking and screaming away from the Xbox and we rode over the hill to see what was happening. Well, what a well-run event, it turned out to be a lot of fun. Lots of activities based around bike-handling and safety and had many and varied contraptions there for people to try out. My boys always get a kick out of being the only ones able to ride them, although a few children had a go on the custom made penny-farthing. 

Our family almost cleaned-up in the slow-races. Thing-Two won his age-group, Thing-One just put a foot down before the finish to claim second place and I won the dad's race. It was very hard to actually keep moving and not just do a track-stand. Every time the commentator would remind us we were not moving I momentarily released the front brake so my wheel would move an inch or two. So we rode away after a couple of entertaining hours with $40 in bike-shop vouchers, candy, stickers, a flouro-vest each (yay) and a nice cycling shirt. 

Thing-Two gettn' jiggy on the penny

This contraption was just weird

Thing-One on the giraffe

On Sunday I got a couple of hours to myself to get out on the Cross-Check. I'm loving the speed of the thing but still need to tweak my cockpit a little, especially for riding off-road. I'm going to rotate the bars a little more and move the brakes to get a flatter area behind the hoods for my palms to rest and an extra layer of bar-wrap is also on the agenda. The other problem I'm having is the axle sliding forward on the drive-side so my wheel ends-up crooked and the brakes start rubbing. This has happened twice - both times after tearing down the side of Mount Victoria on the singletrack. It's quite bumpy on 35mm road tyres and my watch was hurting my wrist as it jumped around with the impacts. I have the quick-release done up pretty damn tight so I'm not sure how to remedy this problem. It may come right as the powdercoat wears off the drop-out face and the quick-release gets some steel to bite into. I must remember to wipe any grease off the dropouts before I go out again. The Lycra-Cowboys were all off drinking Babycham somewhere so I had the road to myself. It was a great ride.

Facing west on top of Mount Victoria in Devonport. Time to head home before the sun gets much lower.