Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mountain Bikes - Part 2

My one second of fame in the movie "Practical Magic" as a bike riding extra.
I'm front right on the red and yellow Cannondale.

Interestingly my post on Mountain bikes has generated a number of emails. In this post I will try to address some of the questions raised and clarify my reasoning.

On suspension: I raced XC and Downhill Mountain bikes from the late eighties to until 1999. Suspension forks and later full suspension bikes were evolving at an incredible rate. They greatly improved the comfort and speed on can travel off road on a bicycle.

My reasoning for choosing to use a rigid fork is the simplicity, reliability and ease of mounting fenders and racks. They are also quieter, lighter and require no maintenance. They are superior on the paved sections of my ride. Speed is less of a virtue for my bicycle needs these days.

I am also a bit of a “retro grouch.” I appreciate the simplicity and enjoy the challenge of riding a bicycle off road where I am challenged to pick good lines and maintain momentum.

One of my favorite bikes is a SINGLE speed – fully rigid Mountain bike – I had a local frame builder install track “fork ends” (horizontal rear dropouts) so I could run different gears on my Phil Wood “flip-flop” rear wheel (one fixed, one freewheeling) without chain tensioning devices. There is great satisfaction in cleaning a difficult section of trail on a single speed mountain bike. I was a skeptic before I tried it. Now it is my preferred recreation cycling method.

For all around general purpose use, a multi-geared rigid Mountain bike is difficult to beat.

On Frames and Components: I’ve owned and raced Steel, Aluminum (Cannondale & TREK) and Carbon Fiber (early Generation TREK and GARY FISHER OCLV frames) bikes. All – just shy of three dozen in a little more than three decades - were terrific bikes. My stable (down to six bikes – 3 mountain, 1 touring, 1 road and a tandem) is now purely steel (Reynolds and True Temper Tubesets). For value and durability, steel is the deal.

My Gary Fisher ProCaliber LTD

OCLV Frame - Machine Tech and Shimano Components (circa 1994)

For Mountain Bike components I use a mix of mostly Shimano XT-Hubs, Derailleurs and shifters (old school thumb, bar-end and down tube). Cranks are LX, XT, Ultegra and Dura-Ace. For my general purpose bike I like the ancient Suntour XC “bear traps” because they work well with boots. My other bikes sport Time (MTB) and Speedplay (Road) “clipless” pedals. This is a personal preference – I like plenty of “float” and in the case of the MTB Time pedals, reliability in the mud. Even more important than the frame is a good wheelset. I build my own wheels using Mavic and Bontrager Rims because of theirreliable quality. I prefer double wall-eyeleted-welded seam rims with a machined braking surface. I have wheels that are nearly 20 years old. When they fail it is from braking surface wear. I lace my wheels three-cross for durability and typically run a 36 spoke rear on all but my racing bikes. Wheelsmith and DT spokes are the best in my opinion. I use brass nipples and coat threads with linseed oil while building. Rarely do I need to true the wheels. Brakes - I use Old School cantilevers for their ease of use with fenders and the modulation adjustability. I hear the modern disk brakes are much improved and I would probably use them if and when I ever have to rebuild a wheelset.

Carrying a Firearm: To be honest I have not found the perfect solution to that issue. With rifles it comes down to comfort vs. interference with pedalling or mobility. Using a sling or Kifaru Gun Bearer usually wins out if I am hunting. The handlebar mounted racks are a pain on narrow trails but are more comfortable. A scabbard lashed onto the bike can interfere with pedalling, mounting dismounting or field of view.

For handguns perhaps the most comfortable and easy to access is a lightweight and smaller handgun. I've tried holsters, both tanker style and belt carry. They work OK but when riding hard, prespiring and juking around obsticles I found them less than ideal. Handlebar bags work well if you find one with easy access and protection from spray thrown up by the front wheel.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mountain Bike - A very useful tool

This morning I rode my Mountain Bike on some nearby State land. It is a nice block of mostly 2nd and third growth forest, a marsh, abandon logging roads and trails (aka single track). There is some technical riding but not a lot of vertical deviation.

Soon after I arrived and within a quarter mile of my tires hitting the dirt I rode up to a Blacktail doe. I stopped and watched her for a while until she figured out what I was and hopped away. The trail I was on looped away and then switched back to the direction she retreated so I speculated I may see her again - sure enough I spotted her again looking back where I had spooked her. I rode within 25 yards of her before she spooked again. I had forgotten how stealthy a mountain bike can be.

Before I could ride another half mile I spotted another Blacktail and within a half mile of that I spooked another. When I spoke with hikers in the area I asked them if they were seeing any deer. None of them had...

In the past I have noticed I see a lot of game while riding. Usually a good thing but one time I rode right between a sow Black Bear and her cubs... Luckily I was well past her before she took notice. I've used the mountain bike to access remote hunting areas in the past. A Forest Service gate was a welcome sight, barring motorized travel but allowing access to those willing get out or off of their vehicles. Covering a lot of ground quietly makes it ideal for forest grouse that are common sights on and along forest roads. Even when spooked they rarely go far. If my tag is filled or I've given up on an area I will take a Grouse with my sidearm or a reduced load in my rifle.

It is just about time to start scouting and I can think of no better way to cover ground and see game from a highly mobile and quiet machine. With Bear season just a week away, it was a good reminder of how useful a mountain bike can be for hunting.

My general purpose bike. Because I live in the Pacific NorthWET fenders greatly inprove comfort while riding in the rain. I use the old style "thumb shifters" so I could canibalize any 26" rear wheel regardless of the rear cluster - 5 speed 7 or 8 speed, even nine speed if I could also salvage a chain and crankset) and still shift in friction mode.

This is my Touring bike. It is a converted mountain bike that I switched out the handlebars, brake levers and shifters. I have a front rack and front panniers that help me extend my range - water is usually the limiting factor - and the rugged frame and wheelset can handle the roughest dirt roads.

More Battering of the Rams - Not!

This silhouette game is addictive, Geoff and Wind are my enablers on the eastern side of the state. I met a gentleman named Paul that invited me to try it on this side at the Custer range and is now my western enabler...

The range is very nice - sorry I forgot my camera :( . Covered line, concrete pad, benches, PA, buzzer, lights... even a kid that rides out on his quad to set the Rams and Turkeys. 16 participants for the pistol caliber and 12 for rimfire. Nice folks - most shooters are - and very welcoming. I'd encourage others in the area to give it a roll. Cost is $7 / match.

I didn't get everyone's name. I was paired up with a friend of Wind's named Dan S. - good guy and we managed to stay out of contention by battling for the "vegetarian" (least critters hit) honors. Paul, my enabler won both matches with some ancient WWI vintage rifles that were about the same age as he is... :wink: :mrgreen: The Winning scores were in the low thirties and top threes in the high twenties. Great fun.

On the upside I managed my first ever clean sweep, tipping all ten boars in the pistol caliber and I managed to improve my Turkeys to 6 compared to the 1 I hit in Tonasket a couple of weeks ago. Stunk it up on the rams for some reason. The 45 Colt 255 grain RNFP sure makes the chickens dance.

Sorry I didn't "represent" for the Tonasket guys very well. I think we'll need to import a ringer like Wind or Geoff to give a more accurate (pun intended) representation of what the Tonasket guys can do.

They do a couple of matches a month up there including the long range rifle calibers. I'd highly recommend visiting and giving it a try to those within driving range.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cowboy Silhouette

With the temperature predicted to reach 100 degrees it was decided to eliminate one of the two silhouette matches for the day. You could choose which - rimfire or pistol caliber. I chose the rimfire with the Marlin Mountie because I shoot it the most.

I had a rough start with the chickens, only six and then started to get on track with the boars, nine before struggling with the turkeys, ONLY ONE TURKEY! Yikes! I shot six rams in a row and finished with 8. Knocking down 24 out of 40 is good for me, the winner managed 31 and a few other guys had mid to upper twenties. Al - the match director - shot 38 out of 40 in the pistol caliber class. Except for the heat, no excuses.

I did get a few pictures even though I was participating.

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The Captain, friend and all around good guy partnered up with a rookie he's encouraging into the sport and still managed a competitive score.

Next time, Wear a hat - baked myself. HIT more Turkeys!! One shot at a time!