Three of my mountain bikes are out of commission right now. Last weekend I had another one of those stick sucks derailleur into spokes catastrophes. This happened on my Titus Racer-X riding at Otis. It wasn't quite as bad when this happened to my Dean Colonel riding at Trail of Tears a year ago. That time I sheared off the derailleur, broke the cable, housing, hanger and chain, but no spokes. I have bad luck with derailleurs on the Cape. When you consider that I go with singlespeed most of the time, the probability is really high I'll have to sink major cash into my bike when I bring gears. I managed to get my Racer-X working well enough to ride back out. I didn't shear the derailleur completely off, and I snapped only one spoke.
When I built up the Racer-X, I ordered extra Shimano XTR spokes. The factory built wheels use totally custom spokes, and they can only be ordered from Shimano through an authorized dealer. I paid an outrageous sum for five of each length. My derailleur was toast, a brand new Shimano XT Shadow I just put on there. The derailleur hanger was salvageable. I figured a few minutes on the truing stand, I'd have the wheel in good-as-new shape. But no. The spokes are straight pull. The hub end of the spoke is threaded like a regular spoke is for nipples, but it does not thread directly into the hub like Velomax wheels did. A miniscule ferrule threads onto the spoke, and this wedges the spoke into the conical spoke hole in the hub. The ferrules do not come with the spokes, and I lost it in the woods. Do you think any retailer on the planet would have these in stock? Nope. IBC had to place an order with Shimano for me. My dualie is sidelined for a part that is a tenth the size of a spoke nipple. Really blows. I could pull a rear wheel from another bike, but...
My Dean Colonel hardtail is down too. The Mavic Crossmax SL rear hub tossed its cookies. A little research shows the plastic bushing they use in many of their hubs wears out quickly, causing a loose cassette and ghost shifting. I also discovered the main bearing on the non-drive side is toast. More expensive parts and long wait to receive them. That's two bikes out due to rear wheel issues.
My Dean Colonel SS is not operational now either. The Stan's sealant in the tires went dry, and now they don't hold air well anymore. This is nothing more than routine maintenance, and if I had more time, like by not blogging right now, maybe I'd take care of this issue. The rear wheel is even stripped down right now, no cassette, brake rotor or tire. I took it to Tucson as a spare. I keep more spare parts in my basement than some small bike shops. These failures exposed holes in my normal high level of preparedness.
I still have my new Gary Fisher Superfly. Nothing wrong with it. Scared to take it out with the streak I'm on. Being a 29er, I have zero spare wheels should something happen. I'll probably be racing it in another week by default.
Here's the Battenkill dilemma I had to deal with. I bought a set of Michelin Pro 3 Race 25mm tires specifically for the Battenkill race. The new course direction last year put the willies in me with the 40-50mph off camber turns on loose as marbles gravel. I figured a quality clincher with a little more width would be less apt to knife into the looseness. I mounted them on my Rolf Prima Vigor wheels, which went on my Ridley Noah road bike. I been riding these tires for a week now. I love the compliant feel the extra millimeters give. The Ridley is a very stiff frame, and the bigger tires dampen out most of the road vibration. They seem to roll just as fast as the 23mm Michelin tires I normally ride. They should be faster on non-paved surfaces.
So here's the deal. The seat stay does not provide enough clearance for 25mm tires. I thought maybe a couple hundred miles on the tires would take the peak of the crown off, and I'd be good to go. Over the last couple days, I've hit bits of gravel. Even sand sticking to the tire is enough to scrape inside the brake arch. I'm guessing there is about 500um of clearance in there. That is about 0.02" or less than 1/32" for the dimensionally challenged. Heavy rain is expected tonight in New York. This potentially will produce superb gravel conditions for Saturday's race, but moisture in the gravel will cause my tires to pick some of it up, and all I will hear will be sand grating in my stay. Not sure if this would actually slow me down much, but it will certainly bug the heck out of me. The rear 25mm tire came off. The fork has plenty of clearance, so I will race with 25mm up front, 23mm in back. I really wanted the wide tire up front anyway for control on the loosies. The bigger rear tire would have been nice for increased pinch flat margin.
There's a gap in there if you look really hard.
Am I being unreasonable in expecting to be able to run 25mm tires on my Ridley? There's not a whole lot of clearance for 23mm tires either. You'd think Ridley, of all bike companies, would design adequate tire clearance for less than ideal race conditions. I think this frame would seize up the rear wheel if used on the muddy cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix.
Other than a 25mm front tire, I will be running the same setup as last year - 38x27 minimum gear ratio, Michelin Pro 2/3 Race tires, Michelin latex tubes. My race starts after noon. Could be a cold day. Might even see new snow again driving over on Rt 9 through Vermont. It is expected to be very windy. The Battenkill course is highly exposed to the wind. Makes for some tactically challenging conditions. Looking forward to it.