Monday, August 22, 2011

D2R2 Bike Shakedown: Phat Tires, Low Gears, and Sweet Steel

My D2R2 machine: Steelwool Truffle Pig (58cm) built with Columbus Spirit-for-lugs tubing.
The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee begins at 6 am on Saturday, just as dawn breaks.  The first climb of the day's 15, 000 feet of vertical gain will commence almost immediately, some two kilometers into the route. Comrades on wheels will look around, glance down to each other's cassettes, and ask the inevitable question: "So, what gear are you running?" Naturally, the question will pertain to the ascending, rather than the descending capacity of each bike. Each rider's gearing choice says something about their perceived fitness and desired pace. Sometimes the answer communicates an utter lack of research. 39x23, for example. That gear could also indicate ill placed bravado. Its always fun to watch and find out!

The second inevitable D2R2 question is in fact more about the descending capacity of the bikes in use: 'So, what tires are you running?' Whereas bikes geared too high either can't be climbed up some of the steeper pitches, or force riders to burn too many matches too early in the 180k route (and I'm sure this applies to the 115k route that gains 10,000ft!), bikes shod with ill suited tires deliver a double whammy punch: 1) they beat the heck out of their riders, wearing them down and compromising their ability to produce the power they need lat in the ride; and 2) they puncture. Its not so much that skinny tires are deadly, as the descents do not tend to feature hairy turns (well...depending on perspective). Rather, the roads are rough, and fast. Even on good tires, like the Grand Bois in 30c, I flatted four times in 2010. In dry years, there are many opportunities to pinch flat. I decided then to come back with bigger tires, tubeless.

This past Sunday, Pascal, Rodd, Todd and I set out for a final shakedown ride. While Rodd and Todd won't make D2R2 this year, regrettably, they were happy to join Pascal and me for a good dose of dirt. We rolled together to Wakefield via Cascades, enjoyed a new loop of dirt road just before the ski hill, then paused at Pipolinka for a snack before splitting up so Pascal and I could put in another 110k of trail, dirt road, and pave. About 165k total by the endPascal and I worked in lots of rough testing for our wheel and gearing setups, and put our legs to work. All systems performed brilliantly. Here's what I'm running, perhaps Pascal will post on his gorgeous Steelwool Rover.

My prototype Steelwool Truffle Pig cyclocross bike has been a trusty steed since I built it last fall. Shod for cyclocross, then general road use, I've raced CX on it, spring classics, 15 and 40k time trials, A-loops, and about 4000 kilometers on the road, paved and otherwise. It has been stellar. For D2R2, I didn't need to change much. The main modification I've made over the course of the season is 'shaving' my Stan's Raven tubeless cyclocross tires. 

Here's how the Raven started out. 35c, with low knobs,  and a fairly square profile. Great on trails, but a bit slow on pavement, and sluggish out of the saddle.
Here's the revised Raven, with side knobs cut off. This rounds the tire out significantly, which makes them feel much more predictable on harder surfaces, and feels much better out of the saddle on pavement. 42lbs front, 45lbs rear pressure.
My garage floor scattered with knobs and sealant. I'm using Stan's sealant within the tires, and they seal well. Difficult to mount on the Stan's Alpha 340 rims, I removed the valve cores and used my compressor's blower nozzle to air them up. This moved air in faster than through the valve.
I must have lost what, 15 grams, per tire!

Snub nosed cutters, for lack of a better name, worked nicely. 

Gearing is the same as I've run on this bike all year: 50/34 and an 11-28 cassette. I  find this range works well for me on all the terrain I ride. I will work hard on some of the climbs at D2R2 in this climbing gear though, no question.  I used the Lizard Skin finishing strip to fashion a matching chainstay guard. It has held up pretty well through 6 months of use.
My SRAM cranks are shod with Shimano SPDs. Road shoes and pedals would be a liability at D2R2,.
Ready to roll. The bike's curved seatstays provide about 10mm of passive suspension, which can really be felt on rough, frozen CX courses and washboard on dirt roads. Once in a while I bounce out of a pothole, exciting! The bike's low BB (75mm drop) provides very stable handling in all situations, even at 80kph on gravel! The bike's roadish geometry (72.5 square for the XL),  which will be 73 degrees square for the XL in production, makes for a very versatile machine.  The Spirit for lugs tubing provides a notably quicker ride quality than my Columbus Zona Steelwool Secteur 18, which has very similar dimensions.

The Secteur 18, my 2010 D2R2 steed, is a great rough road bike, buy won't fit 35c knobbies. 


Darren said...

Good luck Matt! Always interesting to read your gear posts--makes me wish I could afford a Truffle Pig! :)

Matt Surch said...

Thanks Darren!

Andy said...

You say road shoes and pedals would be a liability... could you elaborate?

Matt Surch said...

On the 180k route there are a few climbs that a particularly hard, mainly because they are steep and loose. With a road pedal, if you slip your rear tire and dab, its extemely hard to get back in and keep going. This is especailly the case when there are people everywhere falling down. The other place road pedals could be problematic is the Hawks road jeep track. If you flat there and have to get off, and its wet, the cleats will not be happy. If you have a comfortable pair of mtb shoes, they really are the better option, especially since aerodynamics are not a concern.

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SHB Cuttingtools said...

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