Sunday, December 14, 2008

Man, it's cold... Anyone wanna' ride bikes???

I do!! Unfortunately, today, I got shut down unceremoniously by the unforgiving arctic wind. My hands just couldn't take the assault and I was admittedly under-gloved, even with heavy gloves on. That's how bad it was... By the time I got to 33rd and Washington (against the nasty west wind), my fingers were already done... terminally. I had to turn it around and abort on the mission. Damn... I hate it when that happens. It doesn't happen often, but it's always a reminder of the old Boy Scout motto -- "Be Prepared." In the winter, that's never more true. You'll die a quick death out in those conditions.

Luckily, yesterday it was almost 60 degrees, so we got a super ride in, and I got to ride my Salsa Big Mama too, so that was super sweet. I've been lovin' that bike more and more as I've gotten more saddle time in on it. I can't believe how little pressure I'm running in the rear shock. I'm down to 90psi now.

As I've lowered the pressure, a definite dual nature has developed. At first, when I was running 95-98psi, I didn't use the ProPedal at all, but I also never used all the travel the bike had to offer. Now, I'm able to access all the travel, especially with the shock in the open position, but it definitely has more shock movement while you're pedaling now at 90psi. I think this is mostly due to weight shift and the fact that the suspension cycles on bearings, so it's super smooth, so your body's weight shifts as you spin are able to cycle the suspension slightly, in a cyclical fashion. I say this because the bike still feels nice and firm under pedaling. When I step on it, it goes forward nicely.

That said, when you engage the ProPedal, the increase in compression damping causes the rear end to ride a bit higher in the travel, effectively steepening the geometry of the frame ever so slightly, which makes it feel a bit racier, more willing to accelerate. That's where this dual nature I mentioned earlier comes from, I think. When the shock is open, it settles back in the travel and is more chilled-out. It still pedals efficiently, but its overall demeanor is more laid-back. When you engage the Propedal, it's like you downed a double shot of espresso and are amped and chargin'. All the sudden, it wants to rip... Pedal hard with immunity, out of the saddle, in the saddle... it doesn't matter. Just hammer. Hit stuff hard. It'll take it. That's how it feels.

Smooth... The routing works out much nicer at the front when you're able to run the cables to the opposite side of the frame. What's the difference? The housings don't touch the frame while you ride, so your paint doesn't get messed up by your cables. Big difference...

My cable routing has evolved quite a bit too. Jason B. at Salsa gave me the hot tip early on that running the rear derailleur cable over to the left side of the bike, then crossing it over at mid-bike was the hot tip, and he was right. I also realized early on that it was a good idea to run the zip-ties on the rear brake and rear derailleur housing relatively loose, so that they're free to slide along the guides as the suspension cycles through its travel. Running the zip ties too tight made the housing kink up at mid-bike as the suspension compressed, making the bike ghost shift and messing up the paint.

Not good... So by running it a bit looser, you let it slide instead of making it kink. Gotta' keep it lubed with ProLink though or it'll squeak. That adds a new paradigm to cleaning and lubing the ride -- lubing the rear der housing ferrule slide points. Oh the fun of full suspension. You don't have that on a hardtail! It's a tradeoff I'll gladly take though for the benefit of suspension though, I'll tell you that.

Bird's eye view of the mid-bike crossover the cables make to get the rear derailleur cable back onto the right side of the bike. It works pretty darn good...

I've really enjoyed the past month with my Big Mama. It's an incredible ride. I can't believe how comfortable I am on it already...

Some other notes from my first month with my Big Mama include:
  • A second bottle cage mount would be nice. After seeing that Salsa was able to fit six bottle cage mounts on the new Fargo drop-bar off-road adventure touring 29er, the fact that they were only able to fit one on the Big Mama is not as impressive. How about a three-hole under-the-downtube combination bottle cage/Crud Catcher mount? That'd be super cool? I can live with one, but two would be so much better...
  • The seattube and downtube protect the damper from rocks, debris and spray from the tires -- perfect on messy days like we've been having frequently lately here in Nebraska. The shock and linkage are mounted low in the frame, giving it a low center of gravity, something that's immediately noticeable in the bike's handling on the trail.
  • The rear dropouts are replaceable and secured by two chainring bolts on each side. This is very cool -- secure, light and durable. Big Mama owners will want to be sure to check these four dropout bolts regularly, particularly after the bike's first five rides.
  • The three-bearing main pivot is very smooth and seems to be flex-free. When I pedal as hard as I can, when I look down, I can't see any movement down at the front derailleur. The lack of flex it displays at the bottom bracket is especially impressive, in fact.
Oh yeah... Now this is gonna' be fun.

My next step is to build my new rear wheel -- an XTR (M975) rear hub to a NoTubes Arch 29 rim with spokes TBD. I have the rim and hub in-house. Spokes will happen this week, as hopefully will the build. This is gonna' be a sweet wheel... I had to try a "non-getto" tubeless wheel for once. ;-)

Overall, my goals moving forward with my Big Mama are mainly to drop a bit of weight and just keep stepping the performance level up. I'd eventually like to look at a new fork and perhaps a set of XTR disc brakes, but honestly, I could race it as-is and be pretty darn happy, if a bit dehydrated.


Jomax said...

I have had the same experience as you with the Mama rear shock.

I asked you in earlier post what pressures you were running as I was still searching for the magic pressure number. I weigh 185 have gone from 125 to 100 in rear pressure changing in increments of 5 each time. At 100 I finally reached a point in which I think it is too low for me and am going to settle in somewhere between 105 and 110. I agree with you that at the lower pressures the bike can make good use of propedal and give you different ride options.

Also, Salsa recently added a pressure guide on there site:

Thanks for the tips on the cable ties, going to do that.


CJ said...

The Big Mamma looks good.

I did ride today. I did my 3mi commute downtown to school. My hands were good to go with my Cabelas gloves. But my feet are terrible. Two pairs of socks were too tight in my Pearls even with the foot bed taken out. I tried on a pair of the Barrier GTX winter boots at Cycle Works, but I need a 46.5 or maybe even a 47 to accomodate the width of my feet. So, now I am on the hunt for really kick butt overshoes. I think I have found somehting on the internet...we'll see.

Peace out

MG said...

Nice CJ -- You're super hardcore... I gotta' hand it to you.

Those new Pearl Izumi winter boots are sweet. For as much as I've loved my Lakes, those new Pearl Izumis definitely have me thinking... Good advice to buy large though. For example: I take a 45.5 in Pearl for "summer" shoes, and I wear a 44.5 in a Shimano, so I'd need at least a 46.5 in the Pearl to allow enough room for winter socks too.

MG said...

Hey Craig, Thanks for checkin' in. It's funny you did too, because I was thinking about you last night as I typed that up. I was thinking about getting a hold of you today to see how your experience was panning out relative to mine, so it's good to see it's going parallel. And yeah, that pressure guide is pretty much right on as well. Definitely a product of the Salsa folks' vast experience with the bike...

You're welcome on the cable routing. We've both gotta' thank Jason at Salsa for that tip. He's really the brain behind that pearl of wisdom (like he is so many others).

Have fun!! Keep us posted on how things continue to go for you.


redstone said...

Good to hear you feedback on yo mama Matty. You should bring 'er out here in the spring for proper beatin'.

RE PI winter shoes, they fit *really* small. I'm normally a PI 45 and the 46 Barrier GTX is still just a wee bit snug. They go 1/2 size up to 45.5 but after that, it's only 46, 47, 48.

MG said...

Thanks for the feedback Davey... That's good to know, and you're the expert on such things. I should give you a call and get you my CC number and get a pair of those things on the way! Heck, I might even want a 47 if the 46 was a bit tight on you! That'd be amazing... I don't know what is up with their sizing scheme these days. It's gotten waaaaaaay off, and it's gotten worse in the past year, not better. Wonder what's up with that??? Oh well, at least the shoes themselves rock.

That said, I ended up buying a new pair of Shimano summer shoes... Went back to the M225s. Monkey Wrench had a pair of the old, first-year versions (the sweet two-tone silver ones) in my size that had been hiding at the bottom of the pile and since those are the best shoes ever (IMHO), I snapped 'em up.

I can't wait to bring the Big Mama out to your neck 'o the woods to give her a run for her money. I think she's gonna' perform like a champ in those conditions. Man, that's gonna' be fun!!!

I'm lookin' forward to seeing you, Mary and the girls soon!


bikerfish said...

Hey MG,

Just stubbled across your blog - funny enough linked from MTBR. Did my 10 mi work commute last Wed and all was well except my feet got a little cold. I tried ditching the Lakes for some Cabella hunting boots + freeride platforms but wasn't overly impressed. I ordered some new-fangled insoles that are supposed to be super-insulating but won't get those in until after Christmas - let you know what I think after I get them. For gloves I just used my snowboarding mitts. Not a whole lot of percision but plenty warm.

I've been wanting to get out to the trails or just some "fun" riding but haven't had much inspiration on my own. Let me know the next time you get an itch to go ride, I'll meet up with you. I just built up my first 29er so I'm looking for any excuse to get out and ride it.

W Trout

redstone said...

Yo MG. Looks like my window to ride is going to be Sat afternoon. Want to pre-party ride, then go back your pad to *help* set up? :)

redstone said...

oh, and I think I'll probably bring the Intense back cause it's pretty much the only thing I got going right now.

MG said...

Yo Trout -- Thanks for the note and the thoughts on the gear setup. I appreciate it. I've been doing better lately, but that first really cold ride was just a big slap to the face, literally and figuratively. I always have to re-figure out a few things as far as gear goes when the temps get really, really low. I've got it sorted now. Rolled through Wilderness Park last night (Monday), in fact. It was sweet. I was getting a bit cold at the tips of the toes and the fingers as I rolled into home, but for a two hour ride, that's not too bad, considering the temps and the wind last night.

But yeah, we should definitely hook up for some rides. I'll shoot ya' an email and we'll try to sync up this weekend for some ridin'. How 'bout that?

Davey, it'll be great to see you this weekend too. We'll definitely plan to ride Saturday and then parteee down... That's gonna' be a good day. I'll be bloggin' a heads-up about the party here in a bit.

The Intense will be just fine. We also ride the same size frame... just a thought. It'd save you some space. 'Jis lemme know.

Over 'n out,