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MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 9: Experiment or Never Know

The Baja Divide

Lael and Nicholas are currently mapping out a 2000 mile off road route from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja California peninsula via the rural backcountry with 90% of the route planned to be unpaved.
Although the route won’t be finalized until the summer of 2016, many of us are already wondering what our schedules will be like during the inaugural send off in January of 2017.
It sure sounds like an awesome bikepacking adventure!

Read more about the route here:

The Ultimate Indoor Cycling Trainer

This week I saw this short video and just had to share it. I hope many of you are actually able to get outside for a ride this week, whether it is on dirt or snow, it will undoubtedly be better than riding the trainer or rollers inside…even if it is an awesome set of rollers like this!


MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 2: 1x Drivetrain Bail Out

Prior Episode

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Outimage

Last year I decided to go back to a 1x drivetrain system. I have been known to really enjoy singlespeeding and had tried 1×9 drivetain setups in the past, liking both very much because they forced me to get stronger while torqued up climbs. I had recently been running a 3 chainring setup on my crankset for the previous year for a variety of reasons.  Some of those were:
1. Recovery from a knee injury; I needed to feel like I could quickly bail out of the middle chainring into the granny to ease the torque off my knee.
2. The trails closest to my house have a long canyon with long flat sections of trail. I tend to rub out of gears if I don’t have a big ring.
3. Long climbs, especially at the end of a long day or long ride would require me to walk them or stop to rest if I didn’t have a granny gear.
4. I felt the weight was worth the versatility.

When I went back to the 1x drivetrain system, I decided to leave my 22T granny gear on my crankset.
I had removed a decent amount of weight from my bike:
443 g total removed
While I had added back a bit for the new narrow wide chainring and singlespeed bolts:
53 g total added
The total weight loss for my 1×10 was 390g however. That was significant.

I decided that leaving the granny gear on the crankset wouldn’t have removed too much more weight and I was happy with the weight loss already.

Having removed the front derailleur,  I want sure how often I would use the 22T granny gear that remained on my crankset. I figured that it would be easy enough to change which chainring the chain would be on by hand if I really needed that granny gear, for a long hill for instance. I imagined that, for maybe 90% of my riding,  I would pretty much forget that it was even there. I was right. After a year, even on long climbs I still sometimes forget it is there until I am almost cresting the climb. It has been a life saver on about a half dozen accounts however. Many days where continuing to push up climbs in the 32T chainring is just too much, the 22T has been a great way to continue on and adapt the gewring for the lack of training my body had seen in that season on the bike.
Here is a quick video showing how I change which chainring the chain is on by hand.

MTB Tip of the Week: Episode 1 – Cold Fingers Remedy

A few weeks ago, on a ride at the San Juan Trail, we had a Linked Cycling “Fall Epic Ride” I attended.  I always look forward to meeting up with the other Southern California members in Linked Cycling because they are not only some of the best riders I have had the pleasure to ride with (Ryan Cox won the XC CAT 1 National title this year at Mammoth Mountain!), they are also some of the nicest, most humble guys one could ever meet.

My buddy Seany is one of the guys from the Orange County chapter of Linked Cycling. He had a tip for us that morning, as we embarked on one of the coldest mornings yet that year (it snowed the night before on the peak just north of us).

In the video below, I explain how this tip has helped me and why I carry this item with me on every ride from late fall to early spring.


Weekly Group Rides

Weekly group rides.
I love them.
Many riders do not.

They can be scoffed at by racers if the group’s pace isn’t fast enough to challenge them during their training day. Or on a rare occasion, you may have a racer join the weekly group ride on their “rest day” which is fun for them to be with you, but somehow feels like you accepted a back handed complement of sorts. Especially at the end of the group ride when some guys have completely given it all they had, still winded, while the racer then mentions it’s their rest day, but they are glad they came anyway.


Weekly group rides are usually on the trails close to home for many riders. As such, many trail elitists tend to shy away from group rides on the trails they know so well, or consider boring because they are familiar and close. These riders would rather drive a half hour away to ride the trails they have only ridden a few less times, but at least didn’t ride them this week.
Group rides have potential to fragment. Although the best laid plans can be made, fragmenting will occur at times.  The route may be discussed before the ride, a lead rider may be shouting left and right turns at junctions, each rider may be waiting at the junction for the next to arrive before he or she leaves, and there may be a sweeper to ensure no slow riders or riders with mechanicals fall behind him, fragmenting still will occur occasionally.  Fragmenting of the group can really put guys off. Especially the ones who are not familiar with the trails.
Mechanical issues slow up the whole group. Some guys are chomping at the bit to get going again and verbalize this frustration, which can change the mood of the group ride in an instant.
Other guys are not veteran riders and while a group ride should be a perfect place for them to be welcomed into the fold, they often feel like they are single-handedly holding the group back and not matter how much encouragement they might receive from the others in the group, they may never come back due to their perception about them slowing down the pace of the group.
Then there are the riders that really want to come to the group ride, but the night it occurs is a night they have other priorities to attend to.

I co-lead a weekly group ride in San Diego with another gentleman named Nick for the Linked Cycling club.  Last year at this time, we looked for places that allowed for outdoor recreation of our variety after sunset and before dawn. Many of the designated open space areas in San Diego prohibit use after dusk however. One place that allowed usage was in the residential canyons near Miramar Lake. I hadn’t ridden these trails much before December of 2014, some I honestly never knew existed. Many are merely glorified dog walking paths that link residential streets together, giving the ride an “urban assault” mtb riding style feel at times. Over the year, however, I have grown extremely fond of these trails. They may not be the trails I first think of when I have an hour or two to ride my bike by myself, but there are memories tied to these trails that make them much more treasured to me than other trails I find more appealing for solo rides.

Although we have had some nights where only Nick and I have shown up to ride together on the weekly group ride, most weeks we have 7 to 10 riders. This is a manageable size group, but we have had our share of mechanicals and fragmenting on rare occasion. It is a challenge sometimes. It’s worth it though. For the relationships we have strengthened and the memories that will forever be tied to those trails in my mind, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The riding isn’t bad either. Here is a quick video showcasing some of them.

Jeff Jones: A Man and His Bikes

Jeff Jones has been innovative for years.
Initially, I remember seeing his fat front 29ers with the truss fork show up for the first time on trails in San Diego over half a decade ago. I was wildly intrigued.  Running a slightly wider tire up front always made sense to me, but a FAT tire up front on a rigid 29er? Interesting. Fast forward a couple years and I finally purchased a 29er. I ran 2.4 inch tires on that rigid singlespeed to get the maximum volume, cushion, and traction possible. It worked very well for my purposes. I kept experimenting with tires, stems, and handlebars in an attempt to balance comfort, handling, and efficiency.  Meanwhile, I was watching Surly and Jones Bikes release their 29+ bikes. 29×3 inch tires. Those were much bigger than the 2.4 inch tires that I was running. 2.4 inch 29er tires were the biggest that the industry made prior to the Surly Knard. I wondered about the ride quality.  How would it compare? What wheels would I need for tires like those? What frame and fork? My biggest question was “How can I test this platform without jumping all in and investing thousands, just to find that it isn’t for me?”
Well, fast forward again and I am currently riding a 29er with a 29×3.0 up front and a 29×2.4 on the rear. I am very pleased. I have ridden many bikes now with 29×3 front and rear and can say with assurance that a bike with ability to run plus sized tires front and rear will be in my future. The geometry of the available plus bikes, however,  will likely be the biggest factor in which bike I end up with however. What I like about what Jeff Jones is doing is that he doesn’t wait for the market to tell him what will sell. He makes bikes for himself and they are different. On one hand, there is a chance that they could be made only for him and not work for anyone else’s body nor riding style. On the other hand, he could be making bikes that work better for many other people besides him and allow for riding styles of the people who buy them to improve, change, and have access to better comfort, handling and efficiency.
In this blog post, Jeff talks about his Jones Plus bike, how it came to be, why he designed it so differently than a normal 29er and even very differently than the standard 29 plus bike, the Surly Krampus.

One thing i know for sure, Jeff is right about a lot of things from what I have experienced over the last 5 or so years. Take a look at the video below where he discusses and rides his bikes.  One thing he mentions is, most riders don’t need suspension for what they are riding. I absolutely agree.

Let me know how you agree or disagree with him in the comments below.

– Nick

29+ Philosophy and Long-Term Surly Krampus Review

While out riding mountain bikes at Black Mountain in San Diego, CA, I caught up with Eli from the LBS, Black Mountain Bicycles, to capture his opinion and experiences from riding the Surly Krampus over the last 3 years. While many of us have experience with riding the plus-bike platforms for a few months, possibly even a year or more, there are very few riders who invested in the Krampus early on like Eli did. Hopefully you will find his long-term experience valuable as I know I did.

Mountain Lion Encounters?

I have yet to have a mountain lion encounter…at least where I am aware one is encountering me.

It has surely happened sometime during my mountain biking adventures sometime where I may have gone unaware, but a lion didn’t and yet it somehow decided to just watched me ride by.

I often see wildlife like the coyote I was glad to see and take a video of during my commute through Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve this morning on the way to work:

I just started seeing bobcats in this area for the first time a few years ago and was thrilled as I have lived in San Diego county most of my life, am very active in the outdoors, I also constantly stop dead in my tracks to view wildlife, yet had never seen a wild cat prior to a few years ago seeing the bobcats that seem to be more prevalent lately.

The big one, the mountain lion, has always alluded me however. I would so very much like to see one, at least on my terms, not necessarily it’s terms. I see videos or pictures or news articles about encounters with our region’s largest cat and wonder what I would do if in the same situation. I would keep my bike with me and yes, probably get my phone out, but my bike is like a fence I would try to keep between me and the large feline as much as possible.

In this video, Chris doesn’t bring his bike with him, then when the lion gets uncomfortably close, he runs to go get his bike. What I would tell my kids is, don’t run from a cat. Be big, be loud, walk away slowly. Keep your bike with you if you encounter one and decide to video tape it. Praise God Chris is ok and we get to see this video, but just be fore-warned, the hairs on the back of your neck may be standing straight up at some point while watching it.

Keep riding alongside one another,


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