DIESEL FUEL: Hard Cider Wars Round 2

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Vs.

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Round 2 pits two sweet ciders against each other.

Magner’s

It’s Irish. Those folks know their alcohol. My wife took a sip and described it as tasting like rotten fruit. Although this is a little harsh, isn’t that what cider basically is? This cider is very sweet, relatively low in alcohol, and definitely tastes like strong apple (surely the antithesis of Stella Cidre). It kind of did taste like rotten fruit, but like other strong and polarizing tastes (think coffee, capers, sharp cheddar cheese), I kept going back for more.

Woodchuck Hard Cider (Amber)

Like the state of origin of this cider (Vermont), I can’t say anything bad or great about it. Yup, tastes like cider. I think that is a good thing, and not meant to be a knock. Like a good steel frame with wide tires, it’s solid and a go-to bottle. Unlike Redd’s which tended to be first sweet, then refreshing upon swallowing, this beverage was refreshing when first chugged, with a sweet apple-y aftertaste.

Winner

This is a close call, but anytime a comparison is made to a steel framed bicycle, it’s gotta be a winner. Besides, I got married in Vermont. Woodchuck moves on in the bracket.

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Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 4): Photo Wrap Up

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Notice the rigged bolt for the hanger

20130905-120746.jpgThe most aggressive 35 mm wide tires I have tried. My local courses tend to feature a lot of long, wet grass. My 30 mm wide tires weren’t cutting it.

20130905-120913.jpgThere isn’t much clearance

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I would say it looks pretty good for $400.

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Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 3): Completion

After a few nights of wrenching, my Redline cyclocross bike is finally in one piece with no live cable ends dangling, ready to snag you when you walk by the bike in the garage. Amazingly, I
was able to meet my goal of building the bike for under $400. After a week into my project, I thought $500 was a more realistic goal. However, I got more for my “leap of faith” donor frame than anticipated, and the shipping was less also. Please note, my spreadsheet shows >$400, but this does not include the eBay sale of the road brakes that I anticipate will bring me under the 4 bills threshold.

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Build
-Redline Scandium Frame (year, model?)
-Bontrager SSR paired spoke wheels
-Ritchey WCS Alloy seatpost (parts bin)
-Shimano MT55 canti brakes (parts bin)
-Kenda 35 mm Kross Supremes (new)
-Bontrager saddle, stem, and bars
-Sora shifters
-Tiagra rear derailleur
-Shimano non-series front derailleur
-Bontrager triple crank
-Bar top in line levers
-Bontrager handlebar tape (from donor bike to keep price down)

The only real snag was mounting the fork mounted hanger in the front. My aluminum fork had a simply drilled through hole which the mounting hardware did not fit. A quick trip to Lowes, and I had a heavy bolt that just fit (hello, hammer) and was just about the right length. I had to use a bolt between the hanger and fork to clear my headset. A little clunky, but it works.

A full photo gallery will be posted soon, as well as additional thoughts once I have time to run it around my personal 3 acre test track. Still have to tune up the brakes and derailleurs….

Part 2
Part 1

DIESEL FUEL: Hard Cider Wars Round 1

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vs.

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The first round of cider wars features two very different competitors. Fighting out of the blue corner is the blue blooded European Stella Artois Hard Cidre (that’s not a typo). Fighting out of the red corner, is…well, Redd’s Apple Ale from Georgia.

Stella Artois Hard Cidre
Stella’s entry into the hard cider foray doesn’t try to hide it’s uppity roots. From the spelling, to packaging, to selling in packs for 4 instead of 6, this drink is more for Belgian royalty than the pave or mud of a hard core Belgian bike race. The apple taste, well there ain’t much of it. Stella Hard Cidre has notes more similar to a dry wine with merely fruity undertones upon swallowing. My palate could barely detect apple flavor.

Redd’s Apple Ale
Let’s get this out of the way right away. I am not even sure this “ale” is technically a cider. However, if it smells
like a cider, tastes like a cider, and looks like a cider, let’s just call it a cider for my purposes.

I loved apple juice as a kid. Redd’s is essentially apple juice for big kids. It has a strong apple taste, and the carbonation leaves your mouth feeling clean after swallowing. It’s quite a refreshing way to hydrate after a ride or run. It’s also makes a nice dessert to sip when doing bike maintenance when the moon comes out.

The Winner
Based on it’s working man attitude and strong apple flavor, Redd’s advances to the next round.

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DIESEL FUEL: Hard Cider Wars

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The suffocating humidity is lifting, some of the leaves are showing color other than green. Marathoners are thinking about their long runs, mountain bikers are oiling their chains, and cyclocrossers are grabbing their drop barred bikes with knobbies instead of the slicks they have been riding all summer.

Most folks love to sit down with a cold beer after a race or training day. The problem is, I am not really a fan of beer. What is one to do in such a case?

Let’s rewind to earlier this summer. To celebrate my mother winning her age group in the Pocono XTerra Trail Run Series, we decided to hit up some wings and cheesesteaks. There was a little ad thingy for Redd’s Ale on our table. Being thirsty and in a celebratory mood, I thought I would order one up to try it out. I ended up really enjoying it.

Where am I going with this? Well, what better time than fall, with the upcoming apple harvest and a glut of racing and woodsy endurance activities, to have a Hard Cider War?

What is best alternative for endurance racing type of folks who aren’t beer fans to sit back and enjoy a manly adult beverage that celebrates the season? I intend to answer that question through a no holds barred, last cider standing taste testing tournament. Check back soon for the first round!

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Skora Core Shoe Initial Review

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I was pleasantly surprised to receive a pair of Skoras from my sister and brother in law for my birthday. Before we praise them for their generosity, they quickly told me they bought them for me so I don’t have to wear “those ugly shoes with the toes”. Point taken. Vibram Five Fingers are a little ugly. I think we all agree that the new breed of minimalist shoe with a wide toe box surpasses the Five Finger in looks and comfort, while giving little if any ground away in functionality without the individual toe boxes.

I didn’t really know much about the company. I haven’t been in the market for a new pair of shoes in quite a while. I have two pair of Merrells that fill me work and casual needs, and I have gravitated to New Balance for my running needs. My first impressions were the asymmetric lacing, quality shiny leather upper, bright colors, and slick sole obviously biased to the road.

I wear 10.5 pretty much across the board. When I slipped the shoe on,
I felt as though it may be a little on the larger side for the size. If you are ordering online, I would recommend ordering down a half size. It also looked as though the heel was raised, which to any minimalist stalwart is a concern. Upon slipping the shoe on, it felt like a zero drop shoe. Reading the company website supports my suspicion of zero drop. I think the visual illusion of a raised heel is caused by the shaped heel of the shoe. I think the shaped heel is a defining part of the shoe and separates it from the square heels of other popular minimalist offerings.

Slipping on the Cores and Taking a walk in the sleepy New England town my sister lives near was a pleasant experience. My toes have plenty of room, and there were no hot spots. Compared to the NB MT line and Merrell True line, the shoe seems to have more padding both in the sole and the insole. However, the shoe still disappeared on my foot as any minimalist shoe should. Walking through wet grass, the upper seemed fairly water repellent and dried quickly, as the company website claimed (goat leather).

I have not yet run in the shoe, and it is likely I may keep this shoe in reserve for Casual Friday work days while relying on my beater NBs for running. Most of my running this year has been off pavement, and it would be a shame to dirty these zero drop lookers. Whether or not it is a good running shoe likely depends on your outlook on barefoot style running–do you see no harm in a little padding, or do you feel anything that inhibits complete foot feel of the surface is evil?

One thing is certain, my old ugly Vibram Five Fingers can’t compete with Skora in style, and the function of the Skora Core is more than satisfying for those of us who can’t understand why a shoe company thought it would be a good idea to mess with natural movement mechanics.

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Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 2): Donor Bike and Brake Choices

Part 2.1: Donor Frame–A Leap of Faith

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I crunched some numbers and confirmed it to be cheaper to buy a complete bike to source my cheap cross bike rather than buying individual pieces. Since I was looking to do this build on the cheap, I was willing to settle for lower end parts. In fact, I would probably feel bad racing Ultegra part in the mud and gunk of a cross course, and would prefer the lack of worry that comes with Sora.

I found a bike on eBay. The complete description: “Good condition”. Nothing else, nada, c’est complete, full stop. This will work to my advantage, as will the 0 rating of the seller. Most people buying the bike care about the size (or even model) of the frame. Most people would also hesitate to purchase from an unrated seller. I don’t care about frame size since I will only be reselling, and I have faith in eBay and my credit card company to protect me in case the listing is a fraud. So the poor listing ability of the inexperienced seller worked to my advantage by decreases the market and allowing me to pick it up for a lowball price.

From the picture, it looks like the bike is a triple, with Sora shifters. Perfect! If I don’t decide to convert to 1x crank, the triple will be great in Ultracross type rides and events. The pedals may even be SPD. If so, ka-Ching! I may swap these wheels onto my wife’s road bike and take her flat grayish color Alex rims as I may go with a silver theme for this bike to go with the white frame. I hope the seat post is the correct size for my frame, but I know the high rise stem will have to go!

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Part 2.2–Brakes?

The frame nor fork have disc tabs. The “standard” would be to go with cantis and a headset mounted hanger. However, I had that setup on my Bianchi tourer turned ‘cross bike and I wasn’t impressed. In fact, the fork shudder was a complete turn-off. I went with a Tektro 926 mini-v and was pleased. So I looked at the price of a mini-v and adjustable noodle. Came in around $20. Not bad, but I have a cantilever set in my parts bin. Why not try a fork mounted hanger? In a Velonews post a few years ago, Leonard Zinn admitted to running a fork mounted hanger on his cross bikes with success. I think it was the challenge of using the fork mounted hanger that really pushed me in that direction.

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Total current cost: $547.53

Over budget: $147.53

Part 1

Update: I emailed LBS to see if they had a fork mounted hangar in stock. After publishing this post, I received a reply that they didn’t have any in stock. Understandable. I was surprised however that they said none of their distributers had this part listed. I am not sure if fork mounted hangers are that rare, if the LBS just over looked the part in their book, or if the part doesn’t work so no one wanted one. I hope it’s not the latter.

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Building a Cyclocross Bike on the Cheap (Part 1)

I gave into my obsession. Again. I was happy with my bike quiver, and had no intention of re-expanding it. A few circumstances conspired to cause me to make another purchase.

1. I got some birthday cash. I asked for cash as I was looking at buying an old truck for sale that I pass everyday, or another .22 rifle to screw around with. I talked myself out of the truck, as it is hard to justify owning one, and I really don’t shoot much anymore. The moral is, I had “me” money in my pocket.
2. My around the house project list has shrunken dramatically the last few weeks.
3. I decided the focus of the second half of the year for me will be the Central Pennsylvania Cyclocross Series.
4. There was a Redline frame on eBay that I have been watching. And the price kept dropping, and dropping, and dropping.

In the past we have all made excuses as to why we need another bike. I have seen a joke where the optimal number of bikes to own is n + 1, where n is the current number of bikes owned. In this case, I will be the first to admit that I don’t need another bike, nor do
I really have room for it. I am making the purchase for the pure joy of searching for cheap parts and building the bike. You can say I am looking forward to the journey, not necessarily the destination.

To be fair, this does fill a gap in my current bike lineup. I currently have 2 “crossable” bikes. One is a heavy steel frame tourer, the other more of a disc bake commuter that fits large tires. Although both can be used for racing,
neither are ideal.

I shelled out $210 for the frame and shipping. My goal is to keep the build under $400. I know this is quite ambitious, but I do have some cantis in the parts bin and cross tires hanging on my wall to use. To keep the build cheap, I am hoping to find an inexpensive used complete road bike to scavenge a drive train and maybe sell the donor frame to recoup some cash. If that plan fails, I haven’t ruled out a 1x drivetrain or even a single speed as a last resort.

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Now for the actual frame. Its listed as a 1998 Redline Scandium frame. I have liked the Redline brand for some reason, maybe it’s their small, yet legit company, or perhaps their lack of presence in the pure road market.

As for the scandium material, I did some quick research and I think it’s not truly 100% scandium, but rather an aluminum alloy with scandium. I haven’t solidified the benefit of scandium, but I think it’s properties work symbiotically with aluminum to strengthen the metal and allow smaller tubes. The smaller tubes help with ride quality by providing a measure of compliance.

Total current cost: $210

Part 2

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Birthday Ride

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Is “wood grinding” a new sub-genre?

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Entry Level Monstercross / Gravel Grinder Bike List

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There is much debate about what constitutes a “monstercross” bike. What most can agree on is this is a fun and fast growing segment of the bike world. I thought it would be a fun and helpful exercise to gather a list of such bikes. It’s fun for me because it’s like electronic window shopping.

I work as a Data Governance Analyst for a large worldwide financial services company. In my daily job activities, I see everyday that trying to get everyone to agree on a definition of even elemental items can be like roping the wind, or getting oil from a water spout <edit: with nat gas fracking, the latter actually is possible, so bad analogy>. For the purpose of this post, I am defining my population of bikes as between $1000 and $2000 in cost, can fit large tires, drop bars, and disc brakes. I know disc brakes are entirely not necessary to either to be defined as a monstercross bike, or to function as one; however, this criterion allows me to narrow down the population to a more manageable number. If there is a 3 dimensional continuum of bike genre, these bikes are somewhere where commuter, tourer, cyclocross, and road bikes overlap. Just as a congressman leans left or right, many of these bikes lean towards one genre harder than another.

This is precisely where the beauty of this type of bike lies; they are at home on a B group road ride, or on smooth singletrack. Which bike is right for you? That would depend on where on the multidimensional continuum you lie as a rider.

I am sure there are those who will disagree with my list, or cry about an omission. Please remember, I am not a professional bike journalist who gets to travel expenses paid to product launches or gets faxed press releases!

The table below list the bike manufacturer and model name, frame material, and a link to either brand website, or review. I also included a short and subjective description.

Kona Rove steel new breed of dedicated gravel grinder
Raleigh Tamland steel another new breed of dedicated gravel grinder recently announced
Raleigh Roper steel commuter leaning, but rugged and versatile
Redline Metro Classic steel commuter leaning, but rugged and versatile
Specialized Tricross aluminum or steel similar in scope to Raleigh Roper above
Trek Crossrip aluminum multipurpose and versatile, commuter centric
Salsa Vaya steel follows in lineage of pioneering adventure bike
Surly Disc Tracker steel like the Vaya, follows in long line of adventure type bikes
Giant Anyroad aluminum most road leaning bike on the list, brand new design

Noticeably absent are some good entry level bikes like the Focus Mares AX 2.0 Disc, Felt F65X, etc. I decided to leave them off the table above since they are cyclocross racing centric. However, any of those would also make a great gravel grinding type of bike suitable for races such as R2D2, Iron Cross, etc. so are included below.

Focus Mares 2.0 AX Disc aluminum cyclocross
Felt F65X aluminum cyclocross
Jamis Nova Disc aluminum cyclocross
GTR CX Elite aluminum cyclocross
Kona Jake aluminum cyclocross
Redline Conquest Disc aluminum cyclocross
Airborne Delta aluminum cyclocross

Also absent were the offering from BikesDirect.com. I don’t personally have an issue with this company, but I think buying in this method is different enough to exclude the Motobecanes and Gravitys they offer.

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