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.


Albert A Rasch said...


This is really a great series of posts, and I too have a half dozen questions for you. I'll put them together in the near future and get it to you.

Best regards,
Learn to Shoot, Break the Flinch

jambaloney said...

great, great posts on mountain biking!!

i too, am a bit of a "retro grouch" - i finally accepted grip shifting an a new kona smoke that i bought for commuting/shopping, but i have top-mounted 1988 XT shifters on my winter bike ;-)

i also use a bike for ALL kinds of chores. i know you follow the Nova Scotia Preppers, but you may not have seen one of my earlier posts:


i really like your blog, keep it up and thanks!!