Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yo Eddy Slingshot - What?

What to do with a damaged beyond repair Yo Eddy fork? Make a slingshot out of it, of course. Well, that's what Rody Walter of Groovy Cycleworks does. Pretty cool, eh? It's also for sale, if you're interested.

Besides one off slingshots, Groovy Cycleworks also puts out some, uh, groovy bikes. One man shop specializing in ridable art. Really cool, old school stuff. Besides that, he'll also restore and provide replacement parts for your vintage Fat Chance. Plus, a Groovy Blog to ponder. The full range of creative fun and frolicking.

Always great to see folks like this exist in the bicycle world. Different contrast that will always add something to the culture of it all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Old School Downhill Action

Came across this clip of circa '93 downhill racing action. The era of little suspension and a lotta nerve. Downhill bikes have a come a long way since '93, back then 3 inches of suspension was plenty. Bar ends ruled and lycra shorts worked everywhere. People actually downhill racing hardtails. What a (painful) concept.

Check out the high tech starting device, euro dude with the Fat City hat, various early suspension designs, and old school heros Greg Herbold and Insane Wayne Croasdale.

Go ahead, give it a spin. You're probably at work, you could use a break...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Personal Rides: Ellsworth Truth

It's been awhile since I cranked out an installment of Personal Rides, the critically acclaimed series where I amaze and delight readers with stories of bikes that I've ridden over the years. Soon to be mini-series on Fox, check your local listings...

The year was 1999, Racer Boy Ian almost ready to enter the world. Lovely wife Lori doing the house nesting thing - new crib, set up baby room, and other activities revolving around welcoming your first born. Bike geek, that be me, figured this could be the last chance to score a new mountain bike for quite awhile, not being sure what to expect being a new dad. Apparently, male and female brains are not quite alike.

The new bike selection process began to replace my current main mountain ride at the time, the illustrious '91 Fat Chance Yo Eddy, that I'd been riding since '93. A damn cool bike for sure, but pretty dated with non suspension adjusted geometry and 1" headset - even with rocking the Manitou suspension fork - all 60 mm of bumper technology, complete with greased rod for damping.

By 1999 full suspension had developed enough to work pretty well, so I wanted in, despite my old school roots. After reading and checking on various bikes, I zeroed in on a Ellsworth Truth. Handmade in the USA, four inches of rear travel, and geared towards XC use. Sign me up. One problem though, no one seemed to have 'em in stock. Bummer.

Small, short lived Seattle shop - can't remember the name - was the local Ellsworth dealer. One of the employees let me test ride his personal Truth. Cool, but a few week wait for a frame. I didn't wanna wait. Hey, we have a baby on the way...

I tried the mail order outfit, Cambria, none in stock, but they sent me a demo Truth to ride for a week. I rode it for few days and really liked it. Cambria had no frames in stock, also a wait. Damn. Offered to sell me the demo for a nice price. I didn't care for the parts pick or frame color, so shipped it back. The Cambria folks seemed really cool, even over the phone, wanted to give them my business - but didn't wanna wait for weeks. The search continued.

I forget where, probably from a magazine ad, called another mail order outfit. And at this point, years later, don't even remember the shop's name. Why yes, they did have Truth frames in stock, so I placed my order. Full Shimano XTR, Mavic ceramic rims, Thomson seatpost, Flite saddle, LP carbon 'bars, RockShox SID fork, Chris King headset, the full goodies list. This was gonna be a sweet bike. I gave the dude my credit card number and anxiously waited for the big brown UPS truck. And waited... And waited...

A week or two goes by, I call 'em to check on progress. Oh yeah, we just waiting for the headset, should ship tomorrow. More time goes by. My credit card is billed for the full amount, yet no bike. With very pregnant wife and other more important things to worry about, more time slips. I finally call 'em to cancel my order and magically my bike ships that day. Obviously this shop didn't have frames in stock and/or running by the seat of their lying pants filling orders after billing customers. Very lame indeed. Out of all my bicycle related purchases over the years, the only bad example, since bike related folks tend to be pretty cool. Not a happy customer experience.

In any case, the Truth finally arrived. Pulling it out of the box, looked fantastic. Matt black frame, gothic looking graphics, dark gray XTR, bright blue SID fork, red flight saddle. Awesome. After some minor assembly and tweaking, test ride confirms a sweet bike indeed. Light, snappy, but with rear suspension. The XTR worked flawlessly. The RockShox fork felt great - for awhile anyway. More on that later.

I rarely captured bike related pictures during that era, so only a few exist of the Truth. Here they are, with related tidbits of info from my defective mug...

Here's me, all puffy and red faced, getting my ass kicked during an actual mountain bike race, circa 2008. I wound up crashing heavily, no fault of the Ellsworth, severely bruising my leg and scoring a DNF. Weirdest injury I've ever had. Imagine getting hit in the femur with a baseball bat, but not breaking the bone. I limped around for weeks afterwards. When the swelling deep in my leg let go, entire leg turned various shades of purple, blue and yellow. Ouch.

Incredibly blurry, crappy shot, circa 2007. Ian and I riding the Iron Horse Trail, including the two mile tunnel. This was a medium sized Truth frame, me being between sizes. Seatpost jacked up and long stem to fit. Probably should have went for the large, but coming from the old school XC background, felt fine. I went with XTR v-brakes, looking to be light as possible. Combined with ceramic rims, next best thing to disk brakes.

Three different forks lived on this bike over the years. The original '99 era RockShox SID didn't last long. Adjustment was a hassle, it always seemed to blow through the travel, then include annoying top out noise. Replaced with a '99 Marzocchi Z-2, that felt heavier for sure, but worked well and required no fiddling. In 2004, grabbed a new Fox Talus fork on sale. Adjustable everything, including travel. Fantastic fork, felt like a whole different bike. I usually ran it at 90 mm of travel, steered well and provided enough suspension for XC Geek me.

The Truth was my mountain steed for almost 10 years, 1999 - 2008, a long run for any mountain bike. This being an early Ellsworth, press in bushings for the suspension pivots, instead of bearings. I replaced and greased the bushings occasionally, but still developed the occasional creak. I started spending way too much time tracing down the annoying creak factor and replacement parts were getting scarce. The creaking was actually minor, but enough to drive me insane during a ride. I let my gear head neighbor test ride to sample the noise, he couldn't even hear it. Maybe I am insane, I can't deal with noisy bikes, no matter how minor.

After 9 years of use, slighty creaky pivots, and a hankering to ride a hardtail again (see, I am insane) - I stripped the Ellsworth and sold it off via eBay, complete with minor bidding war.

Pics after strip down....

1999 era goodness, minus parts. I included the Chris King headset as part of the sale. Should of kept it, too late now. The rear suspension design worked well, even though the rear would stiffen under braking. After riding hardtails for 15 years previously, not a concern, still felt like a couch. A light, fast couch mind you. A nice frame indeed.

Detail of BB and pivot area, including pressed in bushings. I dig aluminum frames that feature unfinished welds. Very cool. Easton Ultra Lite sticker in view, to reflect the frame tubing. If I remember correctly, entire frame with rear shock was under 5 pounds. Impressive, especially for 1999.

I really liked the mat black finish and white Gothic graphics. Styling right up my alley.

Expensive to purchase in '99, around $3500 at the time, but worth it after 9 years of use. A 2011 comparable version would run you over $6500, thanks to inflation. Yikes. That's way outta my financial league now. Even for bike nut me, $7000 bicycles seem insanely priced.

For even more of the bargain angle, consider I moved the XTR and Fox fork over to a Cannondale hardtail I built up after the Ellsworth. I rode that for two years, then used the same XTR and Fox fork to build up a great bike for son Ian. Accountant type I'm not, but factor in hours of use and enjoyment and we're talking a fantastic all around deal. Also, add in the $350 I scored selling the frame via eBay. Not bad at all.

In a sense, this bike has come full circle. Purchased as my son was born in '99, now he's racing and riding with most of the components off it, 12 years later. How cool is that?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cyclocross State Championship - The Season Ends

Late and final Cross-O-Report for the season, you get what you pay for, which for this quick post - not much. Race was last Sunday, pics uploaded to blog days ago, finally threw some words down and posted. Better late then never.

Season closer was the Washington State Cyclocross Championship, have a good day and you'll be crowned state champion for your division. Racer and spectator numbers seemed a little down from the MFG or Seattle series, but still a good turn out. Speeds seemed to be up a bit, since doing well could earn some serious bragging rights.

Pics and words from the event...

Cool venue, area near the small airport in Arlington, Washington. Cold weather greeted all, but a really nice winter day. Early December is still technically fall, seems like winter to me. Here, wave of racers waits for the start under a low level sun.

On your mark, get set .....

Ice, ice baby. Cold in the morning, giving way to sunny temps in the 40s. Reminded me of my East Coast roots. Cold and clear.

Frost tent.

Enter the light.

Blur in.

Blur out.

JL Velo juniors warm up. A team that warms up together, races together. Kinetic, now a team sponsor, offered up a pile of trainers for the team. Sweet!

My son and Racer Boy Ian, hydrates before the start. That's fancy talk for drinking water.

JL Velo boys ready to rumble in the Junior Boys 13 - 14 division.

Older JL Velo boys ready to rumble in the, uh, older junior divisions. That be 15 - 18 years old.

JL Velo girls Ella and Emma chat on the start line.

High five on the line. They're ready to roll.

Away they go to a scenic backdrop. The Pacific Northwest rocks. Trust me on that.

Follow the tape.

Teammate Evan hits the sand section.

Look where you wanna go.

Henry hits the sand. Fast teammate and 12 year old. Wanna race? Some of these kids can put a whooping on adult racers.

Ian plows into the sand. I can tell by his face, he's going for it. That's my boy.

Emma runs towards the corner and cheering masses.

Brandan cranking out of a corner.

Blurry, but I dig this pic. Shadow me photographs a speeding Ian. Seems to the case now, he races and I support. No problem there. Awesome to see him in action.

Run under the sun.

Some run, Ian rides. Great job.

In the groove.

Emma rides the sand section. Cool! Always fantastic to see younger girls racing, there seems to be a shortage of 'em.

Dappled sunlight. Course was a mixture of grass, gravel, sand, and a little singletrack.

Race your shadow.

Great venue for a 'cross race.

Ian crosses the finish line, 6th place out of 8 racers in the Junior Boys 13 - 14 class. He rode really well today, could see it, he was going for it. Many fast kids in his class, most of 'em on his team. I think he did great, a nice way to end the 'cross season. He did a lot of racing this fall, around 10 'cross races in all. Very cool and I'm proud of him.

Teammate Emma with a 2nd place finish in the Junior Girls 13 - 14 class. Fantastic.

Teammates Henry and Jarrett take 2nd and 1st place respectively in the Junior Boys 13 - 14 class, with Jarrett now officially state champion. Congratulations.

Teammate Theo scored a 2nd place in the Junior Boys 15 - 16 division. Nice!

Teammates Brandan and Parker score 1st and 3rd in the Junior Boys 17 - 18 division. Another state champ for team JL Velo. Brave lad in 2nd place rocks the podium kilt.

Ringside view from the JL Velo team tent.

Another burger please. Burp. Thanks. Life is rough.

Well, there it is sports fans. Another well run event, another cyclocross season in the books. Third 'cross season for Ian, first season racing with a team. I did a whopping two 'cross races myself, Ian is the real racer of the family. Even though I've been racing lame, been a blast watching him in action and grabbing some photos. It's all good.

Now time for some fun mountain bike rides together, the mountain bike race season a few weeks down the road. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Alone in the Mayhem

Crazy busy at work for the last few weeks. Then add in busy at home with family and kid related festivities - homework, projects, sports practices, bike racing - it's all been a little loopy. I haven't ridden my own bike in weeks. Not cool.

Times like this I daydream about living like Dick Proenneke. Who? The dude that lived in Alaska on his own for years. Our local PBS station replays this film at least once a year. Just a cabin and sharp axe required. No work, commute, or helping kids with endless math homework sheets. Yes please.

Live there for years? No. A good solid month would do for me. I'll keep dreaming.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Any Sunday - The Movie

While cruising Facebook last Saturday night, came across a posted link to the entire 1971 Bruce Brown classic, "On Any Sunday". I've seen this film a few times, but the last was easily over 10 years ago. I clicked the link, intention of watching for a few minutes. An hour and twenty eight minutes later, watched the entire deal via YouTube and enjoyed every second of it. Being from that motorcycle era - well, maybe just a tad later - the film pushes all my old school buttons. It's now pretty dated, but still the best motorcycle documentary ever filmed. Hands down. Thanks to Bruce Brown, who's also responsible for the surfing classic, "The Endless Summer".

This film could never be recreated today for many reasons. First, films from the '70s have that specific look and feel to 'em. A softer, more muted colorful look; I'm sure due to the type of film used during the era. Everything also moves at a slower pace, the camera shots and dialog. Film critic I'm not, but check out some films from the '70 and you'll see what I'm babbling about.

Second, during the '70s, a dirt bike boom hit the U.S. Mini bikes, mini cycles, and dirt bikes were everywhere. The sport of motocross was gaining popularity, along with observed trials and other events. Many manufactures were involved with a huge selection of various dirt motorcycles available. Land access and environmental issues were yet to exist. Plenty of areas existed to play ride, practice motocross, and get out with your friends. For better or worse, that scene is long gone.

The whole overall tone to "On Any Sunday" is about having fun and getting yourself out there - not watching other people ride - the film itself giving you the itch to ride. And many did just that, including myself and a bunch of friends during that era. In my case, not directly from the film - was already involved with dirt bikes - prior to originally seeing it. Still, once viewed, nodding my head in approval the whole time with a smile on my face.

If this film were recreated today - caution, old guy cranky alert - it would probably involve tattooed freestyle motocrossers back flipping over 60 foot jumps, to a death metal or rap soundtrack, complete with fast MTV style clips. The intent being how insane these guys are, while the audience munches on a barrel sized portion of popcorn, complete with two gallon sized soda. The message wouldn't be to get out there yourself. Or maybe I'm just biased or been around the block too many times. Old cranky guy alert over, we now return to our regular programming.

In any case, we still have the original film to inspire and show us a good time. Since I'm a motorcycle guy (though on a few year hiatus) and bicycle guy, viewing the film - reminded me how mountain biking fits the vibe of this film. The final scene of Steve McQueen, Malcom Smith, and Mert Lawwill riding and sliding around the beach, laughing and just having a great time riding together - it's the same for me now getting some pals out for a mountain bike ride.

My '70s memories of dirt biking and racing motocross can't be replaced. However, I now have decades of mountain biking memories piled on top of that. Two wheels in any form is always a good thing.

Click here for the full film on YouTube. Full movies on YouTube disappear at times, so if the link goes bad, do yourself a favor and grab via DVD rental. The film is now a classic and worth the time, no matter what your two wheeled slant may be. Check it out.