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10/29/10
English (US)  

Bring a flat repair kit while cycling! I can’t stress this statement enough. It’s not if you get a flat, it’s when you get a flat! Riding a bike for ten miles is not too difficult. Walking the bike home ten miles is no fun at all.

What‘s in a “flat repair kit”? The basics are a patch kit and a pump. These two essentials will get you out of most jams. They weigh hardly anything and take up little room. It’s a good idea to bring one or two tire levers to help remove the tire from the rim, but it is possible to remove a tire without them. It’s also smart to carry a spare tube since a torn or busted off valve can’t be patched.

Experienced cyclists may tell you to bring a Co2 kit. These devises are helpful especially when racing and work well during mosquito season, but a good pump works perfectly. Inflating with a Co2 can also blow a patch off the tube if done in a hurry. It’s also difficult to control the tires bead “seat” using a Co2. You could potentially blow the tire off the rim when inflating with a quick burst of air.

Another smart idea is to bring a thick piece of rubber and electrical tape. The rubber will work well to repair a ripped/torn tire and the tape can be used for holding the rubber in place inside the tire. Tape can be used for replacing an out of place or broken rim strip. Every rim (except tubeless) has a strip of cloth, plastic or rubber wrapped around the rim outer diameter and over the spoke nipples. The rim strip acts as a barrier between the rim and tube. Tubes can easily flat from contact with a spoke nipple or from contact with the hole in a double wall rim (a rim with two layers, the outer layer is drilled to insert the spoke nipple, usually speced on higher end bikes).

Anyway, be prepared for a flat tire because you are going to get them. Use your head when making a repair and remove the object that cause the flat before filling up the repaired, or new tube. Visually check the outside of the tire for a foreign object while carefully feeling around (for something sharp like glass) inside the tire with your hand.

Pump the leaky tube to locate the hole. The location of the hole determines the cause of the flat. A single puncture on the outer part of the tube indicates debris such as glass, a nail, tack, thorn, a staple, etc…

A hole on the tubes inner part, the part that faces towards the rim indicates a problem with the rim strip or spoke head. Visually inspect the rim strip. Most likely it shifted slightly revealing the sharp edges of a hole(s) in the double wall rim. Use you electrical tape and tape down the rim strip after shifting it back into place. File down sharp spoke heads. A sharp spoke nipple can poke through the rim strip and puncture the tube.

A hole with two gashes next to one another is called a “snake bit flat”. This type of flat can usually be repaired using two patches. A snake bite flat is the result of a large impact. Riding straight into a pot hole or riding fast through rocks causes this type of very common flat. Go ahead and make the repair to the obvious double puncture, but also check the tire for thorns. A thorn stuck in the tire will cause a very slow leak. The lower than normal pressure was most likely the cause your snake bite flat.

Always check your tire pressure before a ride. Tubes leak down all on their own. Road bikes will need airing up every ride. Mountain bikes may need air every other ride. Low tire pressure is not only annoying to ride and dangerous, but can cause you to get a dreaded snake bit flat.

Remember to buy a new patch get every few months. The glue in the patch kit dries out in a hurry. I’ve never had good luck with glue less patches, but I guess they could get you out of a jam and are better than nothing. I’d consider glue less patch only temporary. A properly patched tube is perfectly sound for pressures up to around 50 psi. Roadies should install a new tube after a patch repair. Road racing tires typically inflated to 120 psi. Patches do not work well at these intense pressures. Pump your road tire up to around 80 psi after patching and limp home.

If your tube explodes while riding, you have a serious tear in the tire or on the tires bead. If the tube has herniated outside the tire, get ready for a Ka Boom! Usually a rim brake pad is out of adjustment (or the rim itself is not installed correctly) and has worn through the tires side wall. A weak side wall eventually will give out, when it does; the tube protrudes into the rim brake and then explodes. The tube will deflate rapidly and could cause a rider to crash. This type of trailside repair is technical. The bead is under lots of pressure when inflated. You can try taping that thick piece of rubber against the tear. It may hold long enough to get you home. A patch will not repair the gaping hole in the tube. You will need a new tube for this repair. Do not apply the brake on the ride home, unless you have a tool to fix the out of position pad that caused the flat. Watch for clearance on the bulged repaired tire. You may have to disconnect the rim brake altogether just to get home.

In desperation, a dollar bill is pretty tough and works OK for side wall repairs. Energy bar of Gu wrappers will suffice as a quick fix. If your tube blows to smithereens and you have no spare, stuff the tire with vegetation then muscle the bead back onto the rim to get home. Believe me when I tell you that this actually works!

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10/25/10
English (US)  

I have narrowed “skipping gears” down to a few culprits. I’ll list the possible causes in order from common to bizarre.

1. Have you installed a new chain recently? If so, your new chain is not conforming to the bikes worn out sprockets. Solution: Reinstall the old chain or buy new sprockets (front chain rings and rear cassette). Remove the new chain right away! Ride the new chain more than a few times on the old rings and it will wear premature or break under the added stress.

2. Inspect the chain for a stiff link. Locate the bad link by freewheeling the crank backwards and eyeing for a jump in the derailleur jockey wheel, apply lube to the stiff link (Tri flow works well). Pry/twist/bend the chain in all directions to free up the link. Most likely, the bearing between the plates is bulged and deformed and the link can’t be freed up. Solution: New chain (if it is not too old and worn out) or new link.

3. Bent rear derailleur or derailleur hanger. Solution: straighten the hanger. Buy a new rear derailleur.

4. Ring(s) are bent or missing teeth (some teeth seem like they're missing, but are purposely formed with ramps to aide shifting. Do not mistake the shift ramps as bad teeth. Both rear cassette and front rings bend, especially on 9sp cassettes with 4 bolt front chain rings. Solution: buy new rings or bend them back with a metal punch and a hammer. I know it sounds crude, but it works. A stick and a rock will do on the trail (also works for bent disc rotors). Check that the cassette is tight to the free hub.

5. The inner cable slipped on the derailleur pinch bolt. This is a common problem with the new Shimano “shadow” rear derailleur. Solution: shift into 1st and 9th, turn barrel adjusters in, and pull inner cables tight. You will need to add barrel adjustment to add cable tension to fine tune the shifts. Watch for outer cables that are cut too short near suspension links. Short cables in this location will cause huge shift headaches.

6. The PAWL mechanism (the clicking sound you hear when you’re not pedaling the bike) inside the rear hub (or inside the rear freewheel on cheap bikes) needs to be cleaned or replaced. The ring gear that is pressed into the rear hub is cracked or has spun loose. The PAWLS engage into the ring gear which then propels the wheel forward.

7. The rear axle is bent, cracked or axle bearings are toast.

8. The chain is bent.

9. The rear wheel is not installed properly or the rear quick release is not tight.

10. You have a 9 or 10 speed chain installed on an 8 speed (or 7/6 speed) bike.

11. You have an 8 speed chain installed on a 9 or 10 speed bike.

12. You have a 10 speed chain installed on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

13. You are using a 10 speed derailleur on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

14. You are using a 6,7,8,9 speed derailleur on a 10 speed bike.

15. You have a Sram 1:1 ratio shifter installed on a Shimano 2:1 ratio derailleur.

16. You have a Shimano 2:1 ratio shifter installed on a Sram 1:1 rear derailleur.

17. You have a 9 speed shifter installed on a 6,7,8,10 speed bike.

18. You have a 10 speed shifter installed on a 6,7,8,9 speed bike.

19. You have installed the wrong master link on the chain (example: an 8 speed master link (quick link is not compatible with 9 speed chains or vice versa. (Also worth noting: A Sram 8 sp quick link will bind and causes a stiff link when installed on Shimano 8 speed chains).

20. Your drive side crank is loose and is soon to fall off the bottom bracket spindle or the bottom bracket is worn out/loose.

21. Your bike is filthy. Gunk, leaves, or sticks are jammed into the gears or your bash guard has damage from impacts. Clean by picking at the buildup of junk with a small screwdriver and file the burrs on the bash.

22. Check if chain ring bolts are tight.

23. Check the rear derailleur fixing bolt. The plastic jockey wheel bolts may be loose or the derailleur limit screws backed out from vibration. The limit screws may have been set up poorly when the bike was new.

24. You have too many links in the chain.

25. The tension spring in the derailleur is busted.

26. Do you have a DRS (Dual Ring Security) or some kind of chain guide? You may have hit the lower roller on the trail and bent the guides boomerang. The guide may have moved causing the roller to butt up against the frames chainstay. Tweak the guide straight and reposition lower roller (the roller must roll smooth, check for damage and check/lube the rollers bearings. If you do not have a ISCG mount (3 bolts that hold the guide to the frame), you may have to loosen the bottom bracket to reset the position of the boomerang.

27. Have you been riding your bike with the same chain for a few seasons? It’s time for all new drive components. It’s too late to replace only the chain. All the parts associated with the forward drive are worn out. A new chain will not mesh properly with old cogs. The bike’s new chain will skip pedaling up hill and during a sprint when installed on old, worn gears.

Shifting issues can be avoided by keeping your bike clean,maintained and properly lubed. Inspect your bike for damage after a crash and before each ride. Change you chain and cables at least two times per season (that is, if you ride a couple times per week).

Installing a new chain will prolong wear to the chain rings. It’s a good idea to buy a chain checking tool that measures chain stretch. Avid riders should be installing a new chain every 2 ½-3 months when the season is hot and heavy.

I purposely left out information on front derailleur tweaks (although the slipped cable on the pinch bolt fix works for the front derailleur as well). Front derailleur issues are even more complicated to figure out than rear shift issues. I recommend bringing your bike to a shop regardless. As you can read, shifting issues can be caused by a number of problems. I didn’t even mention cable stretch! Yes, cables will stretch only when they are new. Add tension on the barrel adjuster either at the shifter or rear derailleur to tune for cable stretch. Turning the adjuster counter clockwise will add cable tension.

Always carry a spare derailleur hanger with you on rides. A replaceable derailleur hanger is designed to break in a crash to help protect the derailleur itself from damage. It’s common to bend and break off the hanger when attempting to pry it straight by hand. It takes only a few minutes with simple tools to install a new hanger on the trail.

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10/04/10
English (US)  

The last US World Cup event held in the USA was in 2005 at Angle Fire New Mexico. From what I heard, attendance was low all those years ago. There were almost no spectators on the mountain and hardly a cheer as the world’s fastest riders crossed the finish line. Riders were bummed as well as astonished. What happened to US mountain bike racing?

World Cup racing came back to the US this year (finally), hosted by Windham Mountain in upstate NY. The event was a success to say the least. The weather was perfect, the track was challenging with huge doubles and rock gardens and more importantly the crowd was pumping.

As I hiked the mountain I realized I recognized most of the faces that littered the tree line. It was like East Coast riders took a day off to support the event. The fans cheering in the woods weren’t just people from town who were curious and came to check out the mountain. The people cheering were mostly riders who drove hours with their families and friends in tow. Spectators at Windham knew the riders names, their standings on the circuit, and what width handlebar they choose to ride with.

I would like to say Thank You to all of you who attended the event! You deserve a round of applause! This particular race was proof that World Cup DH racers are appreciated in the USA. US racer Aaron Gwin certainly felt the love! The noise coming from the crowd as Gwin charged down the track was deafening! The power of the crowd routing for the only US rider to podium in years made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. The US loves DH racing!

Dirt Magazine issue 104 quote on 4X: “Finals were held to a packed audience (one of the best I’ve seen at a 4X).” “The crowds were crazy with boom boxes, stars and stripes and PBR everywhere…very cool to see.”

Dirt Mag: “Windham was a true homecoming for the USA. The town embraced the event with billboards, banners, menus, even church message boards full of World Cup enthusiasm. “
World Cup racing will be back next year again at Windham. Be prepared to park you bike for another day (in June) to support the racers once again.

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10/01/10
English (US)  

Fall mountain biking on the east coast is the best time to ride, especially after a dry summer. The scenery is to die for, the crisp, clean air is uplifting and the dirt is that perfect loamy dark brown. Fall lap times may be a bit slower compared to summers, but railing turns and spraying a dirt roost is exhilarating! Traction is in abundance when you find pristine dirt, but watch out for those dreaded acorns!

This fall, it seems acorns are piled in every turn. I was told that the trees this year produced more than the usual amount of acorns due to stress (not enough rain this summer). Negotiating a turn on these natural marbles of doom can be tricky. I have a few tips for riders struggling to ride in these conditions. The technique to enter and exit a turn covered with acorns ironically is the proper way to turn year round.

When the dirt is just right, we get lazy and trust the dirt and our tires to hold the line for us. This is a bad habit, one that you’ll pay for some day.

Leaning your body along with the bike is not the proper way to turn on natural terrain. Try this technique as you turn on acorns and you will hip check yourself into oblivion. Turning your bike properly may require some effort at first. It’s not easy to change a bad habit, but that is exactly what you’ll need to do in order to stay off you head this time of year.

We are faced with more than just the dreaded acorns in fall. Wet roots hidden under wet leaves deflect our tires and have less than zero traction. Rocks that once had gobs of grip are now dripping in a coat of green slime.

We are lucky we have so much variation in trail conditions. The same old trail that was easy to clean a few weeks ago now presents new challenges.

After learning and applying this riding tip you will rail turns covered in slime, acorns, loose dirt, sand, whatever. It is possible to carve a turn at speed and not slide out. Often you’ll get into a two wheel drift and maybe soil your chamois. Drifting through turns is an awesome sensation when it’s controlled. (This tip doesn’t apply to turning in a deep rut or berm. Most properly built berms can be trusted. Riders can lean their body weight on an angle when riding through berms. All other turns, like the other 99 percent we encounter on the trail cannot be trusted.)

The trick to finding traction in the loose stuff is to keep your body as close to 90 degrees to the ground as possible while leaning the bike with your arms. Your body will lean slightly and that’s OK. For instance, when turning left, lean the bike down to the left, far as possible with your arms while keeping your head upright and in the same position it was in before entering the turn. Look ahead, not down. Apply pressure (weight) down on the right handlebar with your right hand. At the same time pressure down on the right pedal with your foot (like you’re trying to step down to the ground, straight through the center of your bike). The outside right pedal can face down, but it is not necessary to have the pedal in the down position. The idea is to load the tires left side knobbies with pressure, directly down into the dirt. You are looking to eliminate any sideways pushing to the tires side knobs. You need to do all of this while loading the front tire with a tad bit more body weight compared to the rear. You do this by shifting your body weight forward a small amount.

Every bike rides differently and every turn will require more or less body English (the jerky movements your body performs to maintain control of your bicycle). You need to practice a lot and find your bikes sweet spot. Small shifts in weight make a huge impact on maintaining traction. Keep your chin and chest above your stem as a starting point, elbows slightly bent and up. This is called the “attack” position.

That’s the tip! It’s really that simple to explain, but I’m sure it will take loads of practice to master. Never do I see an XC rider on the trail applying this technique. Get used to riding this way year round. It’s insane how much faster you become when you can carve turns with confidence. Eventually, when you master turning, you’ll never take your foot off the pedal again. Stay in your pedals and power out of the turn as you exit. Nail the turn just right and you may loft the front wheel into the air as you exit a turn.

After you have your turns down pat, practice pumping through turns like a skateboarder pumps for speed on a ramp. It’s possible to gain speed when exiting a turn, even a turn covered in acorns!

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