Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am an ANIMAL!!!

After doing the single speed conversion, I wondered if I should have built an ark. Rain for nearly a month kept me off the trails and when it would stop raining, it wouldn't stop long enough to let the trails dry out. I was happy riding the 26er single speed conversion around neighborhoods, but something was missing...big wheels!

I found a Haro Mary SS (rigid) 29er on craigslist and decided to go for it. I picked it up Monday and was out at Long Hunter Tuesday afternoon.

The headline of this post edged out a couple of others, "hurt so good" and "why am I doing this?" to name a couple. I went with what I yelled into the phone to my fiance after finishing two laps at Long Hunter...two laps without getting off the bike once and with feeling in my arms and hands. Riding rigid was actually fun and Long Hunter was not that difficult on a SS. I thought I was going to be pushing the bike all over the place (not riding for a while had diminished my wind and legs), but it wasn't that bad. Of course, Long Hunter is relatively flat.

First impressions include that keeping a little less air in the tires (35-40psi) was a big help going over rocks and provided some "suspension." Also, I agree with others I have heard say that riding a rigid singlespeed will make you a better rider. Obviously, momentum is key and on a rigid bike, identifying the best line is a must to save yourself the [not so] sweet vibrations.

I think I am a convert, but I will keep the geared 29er (hardtail) and my FS 26er. Certain trails lend themselves better to single speed rigid.

Before I forget, here is a picture of the new (to me) bike:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Single speed conversion!

Been a while since I posted anything here. Have been on vacation and Nashville has had some horrible weather as of late. I have been itching to get out on the trails, my last ride being at Monkey Bell (Montgomery Bell State Park) on Friday, 9/11. I was able to ride my new Haro performed great and I love it. I really enjoy riding 29ers, it is nice to be able to roll over just about everything out there. I also enjoy being up high and don't notice much more difficulty making sharp turns, etc.

Similar to when I bought my first full-suspension bike, a Haro Sonix, last year, I had the itch for something else. When getting back into riding, I wanted the full-suspension, then I wanted the 29er, now I find myself wanting to try singlespeed (SS). I don't know why I am so intrigued by it, but there is something about being able to just ride into the trail and try to get through with what you have. It must be the challenge and the rejection of conventional riding and the mainstream (I am such an anarchist). Read this article on the Single Speed World Championships to understand what I mean. SS bikes do offer much more simplicity and a greater workout. I tend to rely very heavily on gears when I ride, trying to make the ride as pleasant as possible. SS may make the trip miserable, but I am up for trying it.

Instead of buying (yet another) expensive bike only to find out I am not in good enough shape to handle riding trails on a singlespeed, I went the conversion kit route. If this works out, I may opt for the Mary SS, but only this year's model (the Carolina blue looks great!)...not sure if I can handle the rigid fork, though. Another bike I am looking at is the Motobecane Outcast 29er.

I had a 2004 Haro V-3 (26er) sitting around and I had $21 to spare on a Forte conversion kit. The kit arrived on Tuesday and I was so excited to start working on it. After removing everything required to shift gears (shifters and derailleurs) on Tuesday, I discovered I needed a Shimano lockring tool ($6) and a chain whip ($20), which I bought from REI the next day. What a difference the right tools make! The cassette came right off and I was able to put the desired cog (16 teeth, you get three with the kit) and chain tensioner on.

"Mr. Perfect" (my alter ego...probably stems from my military training and/or education as an engineer) showed up in my garage on Wednesday night. He thought it was great that I had everything working, but he thought the chain could be tighter, which I tried to do and learned a hard lesson: do not ever push the rivets all the way out of a chain! You will never get them back in. So, my chain was out of commission (as was my bike) and I stopped working for the night. Thursday over lunch I installed the brake levers ($16, the previous levers were integrated brake levers and shifters) and in the afternoon I made my final trip to REI for a chain connector ($5). I fixed the chain and was able to ride around the neighborhood.

First impressions are that it was a weird feeling, grabbing the grips and not feeling shift levers. I quickly got used to it, though, and took it on some hills in open fields near my house. It is fun to just pedal and not worry about being in the right gear. When I started to strain, the chain slipped a little, which I remedied by removing another link (the chain tensioner should be in line as much as possible with the bottom half of the chain. I found). I would have ridden today, but the overnight rain precluded the trails from being able to dry completely. Maybe sometime this weekend I can get out.

I will post pictures of the converted bike once I get them off my camera. All in all, I would recommend the kit and going through this process, especially if you have an old bike sitting around. Being able to maintain and work on my own bikes has been a goal of mine for a while and after this conversion I am SO much more comfortable working on them.

Look for more posts in the future about my experience riding Nashville-area trails with my SS.