Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The (partial) Whole Enchilada

There's a ride here in Moab called The Whole Enchilada. It starts on the other side of the La Sal mountains, goes over Burro Pass above 11,000ft and plummets 7000 vertical feet back to town on trails. It is too early in the season to be able to do the whole Whole Enchilada. With several late season snow storms, there is still a lot of snow up there. We opted for a compromise by starting on La Sal Mountain Rd and ride up to snow line, then begin the descent.

Dave and I met up with Rich, Pete and Eric for this ride. With multiple cars available, we decided to shuttle the ride. Now you may say this goes against Hill Junkie principles. It does. But... I have a lot of vertical credit in the bank. Many hillclimb races I've done over the years go up on the bike, down in a car. So shuttling a mountain bike ride occasional won't leave me with a guilty conscience.

We drove up to the Mountain Rd parking area at 8300ft. It was supposed to get hot in town, but it was still quite crisp up in the La Sal's late morning. Just right for me. I think it was Rich who started to scope out the climb up from there when one of the shuttle service drives yelled at him to not even think about it. There were patches of snow by the parking area, and the singletrack heading up was a tad muddy. Not ready to ride yet. Bummer. Looks like our Enchilada just got even smaller, only 4300ft descent to the Colorado River.

Rich (making statement in abomination of a kit), Dave and Pete
with La Sal's nearby in background.

HJ on one of many cleaved rocks that could tumble at any time

Bit of hike-a-bike, probably on LPS. I didn't even trust myself scrambling down it.
Nearly vertical, yet people ride it.
Dave on UPS or LPS.

I visited Moab once before, 14 years ago. I rode the Slick Rock trail and the Porcupine Rim trail. The upper terrain was new for me and maybe didn't exist back then. A little doubletrack took us to Upper Porcupine Singletrack, or UPS. I was immediately outclassed by the other riders. There was some outright frightful terrain there.  Opportunities to stuff the front wheel were abundant. Drops down slick rock at grades too steep to even walk on made me tremble. Fear of getting permamently dropped led to ride features I would never normal ride. I told the others I was getting a year's worth of risk in one ride.

Pete bombing original Porcupine Rim trail. Miles and miles looked just like this.

Gang on flat part of Porcupine Rim

Soon the UPS and LPS trails merge into the original Porcupine Rim trail, the one I rode before. This was formally some kind of road. Today one or more lines weave through nasty, rocky crud. In our group of five, line choices were quite diverse. Rich usually just launched over everything. He's done this plummet many times. Dave and I felt out-gunned on our 26ers, while the other three were on 29ers. I dearly wish I'd brought my Tallboy. I carried some insane speed over terrain I would never do back home. I just hoped my bike wouldn't break. Eric did suffer a pinch flat (still running tubes).

Off-camber and slopes to vertical just out of view. River is 1000ft straight down.

Rich with Colorado River below

Soon we went over the lip and began the thousand foot drop down the cliff wall of the Colorado River. There are many no-fall zones here. A crash could easily result in a several hundred foot free-fall to your death. It weirded me out completely. I stopped to catch photos of the others going by since I rode ahead a bit when they stopped. Dave came through last and was having trouble with his bike. The rear wheel refused to turn. We couldn't figure it out. It acted like the tire was in the dropout crooked, as the tire jammed against the chainstay. Then I spotted the horror of horrors. The left dropout along with brake mount was ripped out of the carbon rear triangle. Ride over for Dave. Could have been worse, way worse, had this failure caused a crash, especially entering the most risky part of the ride.

This left Dave in a pretty pissy state and didn't really want to plan a rescue approach, other than he would just start carrying his bike back. It was 3 miles down to the road, 10 miles to our hotel.  Rich, Eric and Pete were now long gone. I was super paranoid dropping the rest of the way into the canyon. Frequent dismounts were the result. Not only could a crash result in a 10ft tumble down jagged rocks, you could go over the edge and have a couple seconds to contemplate your final mistake.

When I got to the bottom, the others had already continued on road. We were to ride back to their rental where they had a car to take us back up to get the SUVs. It was a long, hot, windy ride. Rich and Pete also left Eric behind. I thought maybe I could catch them after passing Eric, but they took a different route and I chased in vain. I got to their rental house and they weren't there yet. Pete went back to retrieve Dave and fortunately found him on the road.

A F'd up day for sure. Dave seems to have the worst of luck on trips with me. In Georgia, 40 miles from the car, he broke a wheel. In Arizona, about an hour off-road from the car, he flatted so many times that we went through all our tubes and patches. Prospects of getting warranty repair in a day or two are slim, so Dave is looking at the prospects of renting for the remainder of the trip.

I finished the ride with 30 miles, 1200ft climb (and a lot more descending) in 2:45hrs. An anti-Hill Junkie ride. Just glad to survive with all my members intact.  Rich captured a bunch of video. I'll link to it when it gets it up.  Another easy(ish) day may be on tap for Tuesday before hitting the 78 mile White Rim Trail on Wednesday.

Might be my last post for a while. The internet is so bad it takes me one hour to upload 2MB of photos and 2+ hours to get blog post up. Had more photos to post but gave up. Not worth it. Won't stay at here again. Have to catch up after I get home next week.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Edge Loop

For our final day in the Grand Junction, CO area, Dave and I decided to ride another pretty challenging loop. I last rode The Edge loop at the Bookcliffs in 2005. The ride terrified me back then. I foolishly rode is solo. It still terrified me with company this go around.

The Edge Loop hugs the front side of the Book Cliffs heading over to Coal Gulch Rd, a jeep road that climbs to the top of the Book Cliffs from behind the cliffs. The route then plummets back down to the front side of the cliffs, partly through a wash with a 30ft repel down a waterfall that is usually dry. More super steep rolling terrain closes the loop along the bottom of the Book Cliffs.

The temperature was again PERFECT in the morning starting out. About 60, going to 80F. No long layers needed. The dry air raises havoc with my throat though. Heavy breathing during a 2400ft climb on dirt left me raspy.

Western Zippety heading out in morning.

Topping out on Coal Gulch Rd.

After reaching the top of the Book Cliffs, vertical is squandered on stupid steep ATV trail. I bet the grade was >40%. The surface was loose gravel and talus. It weirded both Dave and I out to the point of hoofing a couple chunks of it near the top. I had all I could do to not go sliding down on my ass.

Looking southeast from top of Book Cliffs
Top of Book Cliffs, looking south west
Once we picked up the singletrack, the adrenaline factor kicked up a notch. This was eminently rideable, but scary technical, in that you could carry a lot of speed if you could control the sliding into turns and not let slabs of rock flip up into your wheels or shins. There must have been a hundred turns in a mile or two of this crazy bombing through tight juniper bush squeezes. We failed to clean a couple turns. Eventually this dumped us into the wash.

I knew what was coming up shortly - the infamous waterfall. Dave's reaction was at first disbelief, like uh-no, you don't go down that. Then it was "you went down that by yourself last time?!" Yep, struck fear in me all over again. It looked like the rope was still the same from 7 years ago, frayed and barely held together with knots. You could easily fall 30ft here if you messed up.

Dave peering over the edge of the waterfall

There was a track that went up and away from the waterfall. Looked like maybe it was a hike-a-bike bailout option, but I didn't see how it could possibly rejoin the route we were on. You had to get down the Book Cliffs somehow, and as its name implies, they are cliffs. The wash we were in seemed the most tempered way to get down.

Totally terrified

So we manned up and decide it wouldn't make good blog fodder to chicken out. Silly testosterone.  I went down first. There's a bit of a ledge half way down where Dave could drop bikes down to me. Then once the bikes were there, I could drop down to the bottom and Dave could again drop bikes the rest of the way down to me. Worked pretty well, except I didn't trust myself, the rope or cleated shoes to actually repel down the rock. I slid and got all scraped up. Dave has way more faith in his abilities and a 10 year old frayed rope than I do.

At the bottom looking up at Dave

Once at the bottom and adrenaline worn off, we had another mile of wash to endure before getting back onto the Book Cliffs singletrack at the bottom of the cliffs. I expected plugged up trails, as it was the last day of the Fruita MTB festival. We had seen only two other riders in the first three hours of riding. Nice to get away from masses again and have some total peace and quiet.

Heading out in the wash below the falls

Having climbed upwards of 4000ft already, my legs were crap by the time we hit the Chutes and Ladders trail heading over to the finale of the ride, Zippety-Do-Da. As the name implies, Chutes and Ladders is nothing but barely make it up climbs with too brief plummets on the other side. Repeat every couple minutes.

Zippety-Da-Da is perhaps the crown jewel of Book Cliffs. It is a cascade of near vertical drops with some nearly as steep climbs. Failing to make a few of the climbs would come with severe consequences. You would go for a long slide on rock hard adobe soil. I shot video of a few sections of Zippety, but the internet at our hotel is deplorable, barely dial-up speed. Will have to limit photos too, as each 200kB photo takes 5+ minutes to upload.

We finished the ride with 34miles, nearly 5000ft in 3.9hrs riding time on the Garmin. Nine hours and 10,000ft of extremely punchy climbing in two days left me in tatters. Only six more riding days left...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Zion Curtain Loop - Southwest Day 2

With a rapid warm-up in the weather forecast for the coming days, Dave and I decided to do one of our longer rides on Saturday. We're staying in Grand Junction, CO for two nights before heading to Moab, UT to meet up with three other New England riders. Dave and I have ridden the popular Kokopelli and Bookcliff trail systems on prior trips, so I scouted out some terrain a little more off the beaten path. Riding further out was also important because this weekend is the Fruita Fat Tire Festival, where untold mountain bikers converge on Fruita. Crowded trails were not what we were looking for.

Starting out by closing the loop on north side of I-70

We parked near the Utah border just off I-70. It was still crisp at 8:30am. A climb right from the parking lot insured we would not be cold. 4WD tracks took us up, west and into Utah. Crossing under I-70 in a wash, the real riding began on the Zion Curtain Trail. We encountered a lone rider here, the only person we'd see for the next two hours.

The riding was not easy. Most of the trails in this area are open to motorized trail bikes. We encountered a couple during the day, but by and large most of the tracks were from MTBs. The trails were honest singletrack most of the time. One thing about riding moto trails is they often don't follow modern IMBA trail building guidelines. They go directly up and down fall lines. Heinously steep fall lines. It didn't take long before we capitulated on a couple climbs and hoofed it up. Nothing monstrous. Many pitches were just doable, taunting you to not give up. Motos have a way of chewing up the trail tread too. Lots of squirrelly looseness.

This spelt trouble. First, taking repeated, deep digs for 10-15 seconds at a time has a way of cutting you down. Second, our pace was going to take a big hit. It was getting warm and I worried about having enough water.

On Zion Curtain Trail. La Sal Mtns just visible in distance.
Super chunk on Zion. We both brought 26" bikes. 29ers would've made easier
work of this. I almost brought my 29er hardtail. Wicked glad I didn't.
A brief buff moment on Zion

We climbed and climbed, hitting the high point of the ride on the Zion Curtain. The views up here on this pristine clear day were stunning. Kind of took your mind off the super chunk surface you were riding on most of the time. I thought a 10mph average for the ride might be possible, but our average speed was plummeting below that. Surely from this high point we'll get some flowy, speedy descent, right? Yeah, right.

Not all hike-a-bikes are up. We nearly slid down on our asses on this one.
This near vertical plummet had pucker factor
The initial descent was quite harrowing. No hands-off brakes bombing. More like death grip on brakes. So much for flowy payback for all that climbing. We connected with Overlook Trail, another rim following trail with killer views of the La Sal mountains in the distance. A freaking wall of a climb brought us up to Overlook. There was a conga line of riders walking their bikes up it, no doubt part of the Fruita MTB festival. Of course, Dave and I could not let this climb defeat us with witnesses. My legs were already getting funky 2hrs in on top of the peaky 1.8hr ride we did the night before (have to catch up on this one later). Going this hard was not smart this early in a long trip and in a long ride. It took deep anaerobic effort to clean the beast. Must have passed 20 riders walking. Stupid, but satisfying at the moment.

The Overlook Trail contoured for many miles. At times there was a pretty serious precipice to the left, but no fear of death kind of stuff. We stopped for a bit to eat. There was zero wind. No sounds of cars, motorcycles or ATVs. No airplanes. No animals. No humans. Holding our breath, there was absolute... dead... silence. When was the last time you experienced that?

Crossed paths with a couple other riders on Overlook who took this photo for us.
Probably on Westwater Mesa Trail.
La Sal's with Colorado River
Overlook flowed into the Westwater Mesa Trail, the furthest out point of our ride. This went out on a mesa and looked cool in Google Earth. I had visions of contouring slickrock. Again, nothing was easy about this ride. Westwater turned to out suck. The first half of it was mostly moon dust, a term given to the sandy/clay mix soil here that has been powderfied by human powered and motorized cycles. It had the consistency and density of baby powder. It sucked the life right out of you. We were now hemorrhaging pace. It was getting hot and I pretty much accepted the fact I was in for a full-on death march ride.

We couldn't get off Westwater soon enough. The back half did ride much better than the first though. The plummet of the mesa was pucker inducing. A good adrenaline rush for sure, but as we learned on this ride, no good descent goes unpunished.

By now our drivetrains were fully depleted of lube by conditions as dry as the moon. I heard sounds coming from my chain that should never be heard. Ever hear traction chains dragging under a snowplow or tow truck? Imagine a hundred chains dragging on pavement. That's what my chain sounded like. I looked down, fully expecting to see sparks coming off it. I should have brought the lube with me.

Next on the agenda was the Western Rim Trail. I didn't know much about it either, other than it looked cool in Google Earth just like the sucky  Westwater trail did. Western Rim actually shared nothing in common with Westwater. There were massive numbers of riders coming the opposite way, probably an organized ride from the festival again. Western Rim contoured almost perfectly, often on slickrock. I took a crazy number of pictures. The oncoming traffic was a bit of a hassle, but I was blown by this point and didn't mind stopping frequently. This was probably the highpoint of the ride for me.

Heading towards Western Rim on the right half of photo
Contouring on Western Rim Trail
Dave on Western Rim. Multi-hundred foot free-falls here

More Western Rim rock formations

All good things come to an end. My track I stole from Strava had us continuing on a bit more of the Mesa, but there did not appear to be a legit trail there. Nothing but area closed signs and no clear rideable path. No biggie. Our planned four hour ride was going 5+ hours. This was going to bury me going into next week.

A mix of doubletrack, ATV trail and singletrack took us back to the car. There were multiple parking areas that were full. Probably over a hundred cars and many more riders than that out there on this day. Glad we had most of the ride to ourselves getting well off the beaten path.

The ride back from Western Rim

We finished with 45.3mi, 5200ft climbing, in 5.25hrs on the Garmin. What these stats don't show was how punchy this ride was. There were very few "easy" miles. The non-stop deep digs did damage. Creating this post many hours later, if I move my legs wrong, my hamstrings immediately seize up. I almost had one completely lock up on me. Yeah, that must have been a good ride. Not sure what is on the docket for Sunday. Maybe Bookcliffs.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thermal Shock

As an engineer, one of the things we do to weed out problems in new products is subject them to environmental stress screening, or ESS. Basically, this means you shake it harder than it will be shook in use, drop it harder, subject it to eardrum bursting sound, and cycle it through huge temperature extremes over short time periods.

Looks like I may get a dose of ESS next week.  Although today was nice, we've really not had much warm weather in the northeast yet this spring. Some riders were lucky to have scored one or two days in short sleeves before today. On Friday I head to Moab, UT with four others for a week of off-road riding. The temperature could hit 87F on Monday. Most days will be in the 80's. Open desert riding, no shade, no acclimation to heat, rides up to 7hrs long, that sounds like some pretty serious environmental stress to me.

Moab, UT extended forecast

Can't get a much better forecast than that.  One of the rides we have planned is the White Rim trail. It traverses 78 miles, point to point with no water on the route. I could probably use two gallons of fluid on a ride that may go seven hours in heat, but I'll only be able to carry about one gallon. This is in stark contrast to a week in North Carolina last month, when some days it never got out of the 30's.  Ought to be interesting. Packing SPF50. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Strava Rage

A year ago, Mike Harris titled a  ride on Strava as "Strava Whoring with Matt..." I blogged about it. The term has caught on some, especially locally.  Google it in quotes, Mike's usage comes up first, and there does not appear to be an earlier usage of the term.  In some areas, the term "KOM Hunting" is used. That sounds too politically correct to me. Googling "Strava Whoring" without the quotes brings up another tag, "Leaderboard Whoring."  These all refer to the same thing, where our riding morals have been reduced to improving leaderboard standings at any cost.

When one goes out Strava whoring, KOM titles are achieved using any methods, letting nothing get in your way. Target a westerly segment when there is a vicious easterly tailwind? You bet! Fair game. Have your friend give you a huge leadout into a steep climb? Absolutely! I may be guilty of that one. Know a cocky Cat 4 rider that lays claim to a cheesy KOM in his neighborhood? That's right, warmup on fresh legs, slay the KOM, then go home. You can almost hear him cry.  The almighty Strava leaderboards will indelibly leave its mark on cycling this decade. The psyche of cycling has changed.

This penchant for KOMs has a dark side. Another term I see increasing usage of is Stravasshole. This term is levied against people who are going for a Strava KOM, and the rest of the world be damned if they get in their way. This happens on the road and trails. It has resulted in fatalities of both riders and struck pedestrians.  Really, how important is it that you move up a spot for the 11th street sprint KOM when you are running a red light or going for the Little Bear trail KOM when a family is hiking up?

Yet another term came to mind this week after two people I know had trouble uploading GPS data to Strava. In one case, a FIT file was corrupted, in another, an iPhone app failed to recognize a segment. In both cases, riders (you know who you are) crushed local KOMs while out on good ol' Strava whoring rides.  I can just see it. Can't wait to get home, upload the file, see your name at the top of the leaderboard, knowing the person you just displaced is getting one of those "Uh-oh" emails. But the process craps out. Your file is gone or your app missed the segment.  You go ape shit. You took the KOM. You know you did. The world deserves to see it. You went out on a mission and now you have nothing to show for it. Strava Rage! I know, I've been there.

Googling "Strava Rage" with the quotes nets about 360 hits.  Seems this term is used more in Australia and the UK, and they use it as present tense of a Stravasshole going for a KOM title and cursing anybody that gets in his way.

Try not to be Stravassholes while out whoring, folks. We have enough rage in our society without Strava rage.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Frigid Bits and Shakedown Ride

I seem to have a knack for dragging other people to the coldest places to ride when the weather is just fine back home. This happened last week in North Carolina with Arik. I've had Tucson and Colorado trips where I caused others to freeze (usually DaveP).

This past Saturday was no exception. Dave and I planned a couple days earlier to ride the Kanc and Gonzo Pass. I did offer an out, riding local trails instead, mostly for selfish reason. I really wanted to hop on my new trail bike. But Dave said no, long climbs would do our bodies good. How could I disagree with that?

Saturday morning arrives, and it is barely above 20F in Lincoln, NH. Plus it was windier than heck. The windchill was ridiculous.  We thought about bailing, but having met in Manchester with bikes in cars, we followed through with our earlier decision.

Putting shoes on at the White Mtn visitor center nearly put both of us into hypothermia. The descents were going to SUCK! At the visitor center, the temp was 24F, winds gusting to 35mph, with 14F windchill.  It was much colder at the passes.

Heading up Gonzo Pass, we had no choice but to go hard to stop shivering and getting feeling back in our extremities. The road was in deplorable shape, I think worse than had it just been gravel. Deep longitudinal cracks, massive frost heaves, deep divots and sand. The descent was going to be a long, drawn out process.

Cracked, heaved, sanded pavement on Gonzo Pass (Rt 118)

I managed to just barely get warm by the summit. Since Gonzo (Rt 118) is more sheltered than the Kanc (Rt 112), we decided to descend the west side and come back up. What a pain in the ass. Had to ride the brakes the whole way down, no way to let your speed run out if you valued your wheels and your life.  About 18 minutes of zero to near zero power going downhill had me frozen to the bone again. Turn around. Rinse. Repeat.

At least the crisp air afforded nice views of the Franconia ridgeline and Mt Washington on the right.

Dave runs on slow twitch and doesn't produce at much excess heat as I do, so he had even more trouble staying warm. I'd still like some of that slow twitch muscle he has. Dave said he was going to bail after getting back over the hump and I could do the Kanc on my own while he waited. Hmmm, misery always goes by more quickly with company.

Getting back down to Lincoln, it was a little warmer. With the wind to our backs, Dave caved and decided to go to the top and turn around. I was good with that. We had planned to go over and back up the other side, but with the wind and bulked up with full winter gear, we weren't exactly setting a blazing pace. At least when we descended this third time, we could get warm and stay warm.

Still a lot of snow at Kancamagus Pass.

We finished with almost 60 miles and 6200ft of climbing. Was probably the second coldest I've gotten riding, the coldest being when Dave and I attempted to ride Mt Evans in Colorado when rain, snow and sleet moved in. We both got dangerously cold that day.

Sunday proved to be much warmer, at least closer to home. I took my new Santa Cruz Tallboy out for a "shakedown" ride. Reports came back that Willowdale was dry. I've been honing a loop there over the last couple years and planned to expand on it a bit.

Heading out on the BCT singletrack, I was immediately struck with how plush the new ride was. I could barely feel roots. The big 29" wheels coupled with 5+" of front and rear travel leveled all but the biggest bumps.

The next thing I noticed was how low the bottom bracket seemed to be. I did have a lot of sag set in the rear shock, but I think the geometry has a low BB, which I like. It helps with stability and climbing steep grades. It does mean you have to be a little more careful with pedals in rock gardens.

As with my Superfly 29er, the Tallboy climbed extremely well. Out of saddle mashing did result in a little wallow. No surprise there with 5" of squish. Front and rear suspension both have three settings. Fox calls it CTD for climb, trail, descend. The climb setting locks out the shock. Great for long fire road or paved ascents.

The bike also seemed very nimble. My biggest concern was it would handle like a school bus with its longish wheelbase. The Tallboy wheelbase is about 45". My 29er Superfly hardtail has a 44.5" wheelbase. Half an inch is not much difference when so much travel has been added to the bike, with a relaxed head angle too. My 4" travel 26" Titus Racer-X has a 43" wheelbase, which is significantly shorter and makes that bike so much more flickable in tight quarters. I was very please with Tallboy handling in tight quarters.

As I hit more and more variety of familiar terrain, I couldn't think of anything that needed adjustment on the bike. It performed flawlessly, right out of the box. Shifting, brakes, saddle, even the suspension seemed dialed. I felt like I was flying, but I was sure the smoothness of the bike was tricking me, as my legs were pretty tired from the mountains the day before.

A drop just out of view in Geortown-Rowley SF.

I continued my ride through Georgetown-Rowley State Forest. I crossed paths with another rider who pointed me to freshly minted singletrack, as in it looked like it literally was raked out that morning. I also hit a lengthy section of new-to-me singletrack on the west side of I-95. This brought my mileage up to 50 miles when I got back to the car. After uploading to Strava, I realized that was the fastest I had ridden this loop. I certainly didn't feel like was going any harder. I can only surmise the bike lets me carry more momentum through choppy bits.

50 miles and barely a spot of mud. Two weeks ago there was over a foot of snow on the ground.

Plush, agile, climbs well, improved fuel economy in rough terrain, what's not to like? This bike will be good for... everything! The dilemma I'm faced with now is I won't want to ride my other trail bikes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

New Rig!

My "winter project" bike is ready to ride now. All of the parts came in before my trip to North Carolina last week. I was antsy to finish it. Took only a couple evenings. Just in time too, as I suspect the trails south of me will be completely dry this weekend.

After agonizing most of the winter over which frame to buy, I settled with the Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc, which Rhino Bike Works was able to order for me. It is a member of a new genre of bikes popping onto the scene this season, so called long-travel 29ers.  What troubled me so much in making a decision was whether to go with a long travel 29er or something even newer, a 27.5" trail bike. The 27"5" format, often called "650B's," are an in between size, half way between a 26" and 29" bike.  What ultimate swayed my decision was the actual outside diameter of a typical 27.5" tire is only slightly bigger than current big volume 26" tires. You really don't gain much, and some reviews I read said 27.5" bikes give up a lot of that "roll over everything" capability. So why not go all out and get big wheels and big travel?  I really went out on a limb with this one...

Another motivation in going with the bigger wheels is the character of new trails being cut. Nearly everybody rides big wheeled bikes now. This made our technical trails easier to ride. So of course, new trails are now designed to test riders on big bikes, to separate the men from the boyz so to speak. Kind of a Darwinian thing going on here, except we are doing it all to ourselves. Soon, some riders will find the new trails easier to ride with 32" wheels, and viola, a new wheel standard is born, and trails become even more challenging. I digress.  To sum it up, riding with other guys on big bikes on tough trails when I'm still riding small wheels leaves me hanging on for dear life. I'm hoping a full-squish with big wheels will make up for some of my skill deficiencies (I can here the Ride Bully snickering already).

So here's what I built up:
Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc, size large, 142x12mm thru-axle, Fox Float CTD shock
Rock Shox Revelation RTC3 fork, 140mm travel, 15mm thru-axle
Stan's Arch EX rims laced to Hope Pro III EVO hubs
Thomson Elite Layback seatpost and Elite X4 stem
Easton Havoc carbon bar
ODI Rogue Lock-on grips
Shimano XT 10spd shifters
Shimano XT 2x10 crank, 24/38t rings
Shimano XT front and rear deraileurs
Shimano XT 11/36t cassette
Shimano XT pedals
Hayes Stroker Trail hydraulic brakes, 6" rotors
Terry Fly Ti saddle
Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, snake skin, 2.25"

Definitively not counting grams here. I'm not building a trophy bike, and this will not be a XC race rig either. I build bikes with parts that hold up to real riding. I demand I reliability, especially when taking bikes on trips. An XTR build might have trimmed half a pound, Stan's Crest rims another half pound, etc. The heavier Arch rims on my Superfly hardtail have performed flawlessly, no truing in three years, and I've done a number of 50-62mi races with them. I really like XTR componentry, but with deeply discounted pricing on XT right now, I just couldn't rationalize spending another $1000+ to save half a pound. Plus when it comes time to buy replacement rings, you can spend $200 on a single middle ring for XTR. XT is much cheaper, and it uses industry standard BCD, so you could buy third part replacement rings if you wanted to.

The bike is complete except for one missing component, the front derailleur. I bought a standard mount, which mounts near the bottom of the seat tube. Problem is, this carbon frame has a flared out seat tube at the bottom bracket. No way to mount the derailleur I bought. Either an E-type, which mounts around bottom bracket, or a high-mount derailleur is needed. Perusing the web for build photos, seems everybody goes with high-mount, so I ordered a replacement, which I'll have in couple days. I plan to get out Sunday for a long ride on the Tallboy, and the flat terrain is not going to need shifting to a granny ring anyway.

A colleague asked me to put a few pictures up on what is involved in building up a bike yourself. I captured a few of the less obvious steps or steps that require measuring and cutting things. So here you go Rich...

The crazy wide 720mm handlebar had to be trimmed a little. I took 0.5" off each side with
a fine-toothed hacksaw. Still wider than any of my other bars.

Pressing the headset bearing cups in proved troublesome. My press works only for
1.125" headsets, and new frames now come with "tapered" headsets, 1.125" on
top and 1.5" on bottom. I found a large washer to shoulder the lower cup.

As above, my crown race setter works only with 1.125". Taper is pronounced in steer tube
of fork. I do not recommend using a mallet on bearing to seat crown race. Took a very
long time delicately tapping, going around and around, to get if fully seated.

Once the bearing races are set, the steer tube length can be measured and cut. Here I use
a plumbers pipe cutter on the aluminum tube, but this was a heavy duty tube and the cutter created
a big burr I had to file off. Next time I'll use a hacksaw.

Setting star-fangled nut in steer tube. There is a tool for this, but I just insert the headset cap bolt,
place deep well socket over it, and pound star nut in.

This time Universal Cycles shipped my wheels with standard cloth rim tape with the Stan's
sealing kit in a bag. Installing the Stan's tape is tough. Hard to get it to conform nicely in
well of the rim and not let it pull up on either bead.

Once the rim tape is in, I put on a high pressure road tire and tube, inflated to 60 lbs and leave
it sit overnight. This thoroughly presses the self-adhesive rim tape into the nooks and crannies
of the rim, ensuring the Stan's sealant will not find a way out.

With the MTB tire mounted, one and a half scoops of Stan's sealant are added per tire.
This ensures southwest cacti will give me no grief. Or granite state gnar.

Trimming hose. I use the bolt cutters to trim all shift cable housings and hydraulic brake lines.

Bleeding the brakes. Hayes uses regular ol' automotive brake fluid. The brakes came
pre-bled, but I had to trim excess hose to avoid messy look at front of bike. A squeeze
bottle with fluid is used at the caliper to push any air in lines up to master cylinder
at the lever. Wifey helped me with this.

Connecting the chain. Shimano still uses pins. I've never had good luck with SRAM
Power Links.

The (almost) finished product.

Getting saddle height and fore/aft figured out. Bike is ready to rumble.
Report coming soon.