Monday, March 19, 2018


It's starting to look like spring out there after another pretty long winter. It can be a little hard to stay in shape over the winter in Montana, as the cold, snow, and dark all conspire to keep you on the couch with a tasty local beer. While the couch and beer are appealing, and it is nice to have a bit of a winter break, I don't want to spend too much time sitting around getting fat and out of shape.

With thoughts of springtime bike maintenance, upgrades, and new equipment in mind I tried to keep my winter time expenditures to a minimum, so no, I still don't have a fat bike or a fancy backcountry ski setup. Or even XC skis. Those things would do a much better job at keeping me active during the winter as riding on a trainer is really not very fun. I did at least managed to stay a little active. After an early november snowstorm the roads cleared up and I manged to get a good amount of riding in during november and december. Then around mid-January things cleared up a bit, and despite being a little cold I got in a few more miles in Jan-Feb.

That was a run of about 350 miles, but then around mid feb it became winter again which resulted in less riding, and it was March before I got out again, which brings us to now. During those bouts of winter I did XC ski a few times, which is pretty boring, ran and hiked, rode the trainer once or twice, and started lifting weights. The weights is something I've talked about doing for awhile now. I've mostly been concentrating on squats and deadifts but do work in other stuff to help with upper body strength as well. I see a lot of pros lifting weights and added leg, and general strength really seem like they should be beneficial on the bike. So hopefully I'll be able to keep that up once or twice a week, ride consistently, eat better, drink less, and be a little faster this year. However it's already the middle of march and I feel behind. Speedwagon is coming up on the 31st and then the gravel challenge is mid-april. So I'd better get out there.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gear ratios and calculators

You might have noticed I talk about gearing a lot, especially after buying two new drivetrains last year. The other point of view is "I don't care, I just ride my bike," but I'm not like that. Instead I like to stare at a bunch of numbers on a screen and try to determine which will be the better combination of gears. While there is definitely merit to just riding a bike, if going up hills seems too hard, or you are always spinning your pedals too fast on downhills, it's worth considering different combinations. And then, if you're doing what I did and going to a 1x setup, it's a good idea to compare what you're getting with what you have.

How do you figure this out, and compare different gears? well, first you should know about the term "gear inches." A gear inch is how far the bike moves for every rotation of the crank. So not only is it dependent on the gears themselves, but also the wheel and tire size. One turn of the cranks in the easiest gear on a mountain bike might only move you 18 inches, while a road bike in the tallest gear goes around 10 feet.

Here is a site that I like, It has a few options on the left where you can see how fast you will be going at a certain pedaling speed and give you a chart of gear inches for a bunch of different gear combinations. That is what I used the most until I just recently came across this place. That site lets you compare two actual drivetrains instead of giving you a chart with every tooth combination. Here is my old mountain bike drivetrain compared to the new one:

The top scale is gear inches, while the bottom is speed at a pedaling cadence of 90rpm. There are a few things to take from these charts. First, you see that yes, the range of gearing with the single front ring is narrower, but not by a whole lot. Secondly, there's a lot of overlap on the second chart. Even though a 2x10 gives you 20 speeds, a lot of them are the same overall ratio. So really you get more like 13 unique gears. Now, going to 11 doesn't seem like that much of a change. I don't mind running out on the top end but that slightly taller low gear is noticeable on long, steep climbs. Dropping a whole pound off the bike and having a simpler and more reliable drivetrain was worth it to me though. Now here's another link to that same website, but I put in a smaller chainring and sram's 10-42 cassette. That 10t cog was really one of the big keys to giving a 1x drivetrain an acceptable range for the majority of riders, along with a derailleur that would work on such a big cassette. However, you need a special freehub body to use them, and I couldn't get one for my wheels so I lose out a bit.

The takeaways are to run things through a gear calculator if you're changing your drivetrain, and if possible use a sram XD freehub. If you have a sram compatible hub, you don't even have to stop at 11 speed. Now there is a 12 speed drivetrain that uses a 10-50 cassette. The GX version isn't even much more expensive than an 11-speed system, and is probably the best option for a new mtb drivetrain.

Here are the same two charts for my cx bike


On this setup you can see I get an easier gear, which was really needed. 36x25 on a steep forest road or singletrack climb is not particularly enjoyable and I would actually like to take it a step farther and go with an 11-36 cassette (or maybe even wider),  Here's the comparison of 40x11-36. That would be pretty nice on the trails and long climbs, but what I have now is pretty good for racing. Even the 2x setup was great on a race course as the gearing was so close. I'd frequently shift the front derailleur and find myself using all the cassette in both rings. I don't recall ever dropping the chain either and that has already happened once with the 1x despite the clutch and narrow-wide ring.

Well, there's a bunch of quasi-useful gearing information and some good resources for comparing things. Here are those links again:

Friday, December 15, 2017

The end of the year

After Rolling Thunder at the end of October, I didn't even go for a ride the next week and then we had a good few days of snow. That had me thinking that my outdoor riding season was mostly over. But then it didn't snow for like a whole month and I made it back outside a few times.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Another 1x11 review

This year I swapped both my mountain and cyclocross bikes from 2x10 to 1x11 drivetrains. Like I mentioned, this is simpler, lighter, easier to use, and tends to keep the chain in place better with the big chainring teeth and clutched derailleur. And like I did with the mtb drivetrain, I figured I should get a little use out of the new cx parts before giving it much of a review.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Words about my new road bike

I mentioned a new road bike awhile ago, but didn't really go into detail. I've been riding it all year and figured it was time, since I want to get a little more into talking about equipment and different rides and routes instead of myself all the time. I guess posts about trail work and the zootown derailleurs would be good ideas too.

Yeah, about that new road bike. It's nice

Friday, December 1, 2017

Rolling Thunder Cyclocross 2017

Rolling Thunder tends to mark the end of the season, and not just for racing, because winter usually shows up not too long after. This year we got cold weather and a big snowstorm a few days later (although it's been nice since and I've been out riding a bunch).

Like last year, I made sure to get out and help Shaun with the course. Thunder takes quite a bit more work than the standard Wednesday night series. Mostly it just comes down to driving in stakes and running tape but there is some other stuff that needs to happen too. Without any help Shaun would end up doing all himself and I had free time, so really it was about the least I could do. There is also a really nice benefit of helping with the course and that is being able to get very familiar with it before the race.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wednesday night cyclocross

Cross season is over for me, and there won't be much more outdoor riding this year, so I guess I could write about it. Once again we had a 6-race Wednesday night series plus Rolling Thunder. I went to all of those, but did miss all the out of town Wild West series races again. Partially because I never got around to buying a USAC license, and partly because it's a lot of time and expense to go travel every weekend to race. I was also afraid of getting burnt out by the time thunder came around.