Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just chillin

Sometimes I just like to chill out on the couch.. in me nappies, watch a bit of C4. Someone else can fold the washing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Singular Gryphon Review

As I geared up for the inaugral Kiwi Brevet I became aware of a different kind of a bike out there. A bike that would eat up big miles in comfort, and roll on 700/29er wheels. They were made of steel or ti, usually had bottle and frame mounts all over them, and used road styled drop handlebars with funky names like the "woodchipper" or the "junebug". These bars were designed for comfort, and wrangling a loaded bike over rough terrain. The bike with the biggest reputation in this market is the Salsa Fargo, but an English company is starting to make a name for itself with its new range.

Mt  Climie - 800 metres x 4The Singular Gryphon is one of their bikes, and it fits in somewhere between the "monster-cross" genre and the "tourer". A kind of a do-everything bike. Its a bike made specifically for use with a rigid front fork and drop bars. Front suspension is not an option.

My buddy Matt took delivery of a Gryphon frame and only had a couple of months to bed it in before the Kiwi Brevet, so a few long rides were in order to test it in its intended environment. With the addition of a Freeload bike rack and a front handlebar mounted bag it was set to go. The corrosion treated steel frame comes with a Phil Wood eccentric bottom bracket so its easy to build up as a single speed if desired. Mike Anderson at the Bike Hutt was responsible for putting it together and most of the subsequent tweaking. Putting drop bars on triple chain-ringed bikes comes with its own set of challenges which are usually solved by using bar end shifters, like you would find on a time trial bike, or cycle tourer. Matt used one for the front derailleur with an Ultegra 9-speed shifter for the XT rear derailleur. Avid's BB7 road-bike-lever compatible disc brakes were used to give the bike serious braking power the likes of which is missing on a traditional "cross" bike.

Pt Underwood - Kiwi Brevet -  30 degrees and 3 nasty hillsThe very styley but functional Middleburn crankset has  44-34-22 ratios up front. and 11-34 on the back. Tristan from Wheelworks built up a set of wheels that leaned on the robust side for the Brevet and Mike converted them to tubeless. For Brevet use he ran the Contintental Cyclocross tyres in 42mm format, and they rolled beautifully. Several Matagouri induced punctures were had during the Brevet but after a few stops for re-pumping they resealed.

Currently the Gryphon is sporting 2.4 inch wide Conti Mountain Kings which were fitted in preparation for a date with the Karapoti Classic that never came about.

Kiwi Brevet descent off Maungatapu into the MaitaiLast weekend we rolled up Summit road and down into the Wainuiomata Trail Park to put the Gryhpon through its paces. After trying to get used to the fact that Matt ran his brakes backwards, I was pleasantly surprised. This was only my 2nd ever ride on a 29er and it was a lot of fun. On the smooth Wainui trails, the lack of front suspension was not really an issue. The bars were very comfortable and I chose to ride on the top of the brake hoods where there was good access to the brakes. This is a no-no as these bars are supposed to be set up to ride with your hands on the flared part of the drops. Unfortunately the bike was still using the set-up used in the Kiwi Brevet.

MWainuiomata Trail Parkaybe it was a combination of the big wagon wheels and the drop bar not quite offering enough leverage given the bar position I was using but a couple of times I nearly smacked into trees as I had not quite nailed the amount of understeer I was experiencing. Remembering of course that this is not the kind of terrain that a bike with kind of bar was designed for, it still held up incredibly well all the same. From memory the Salsa Woodchipper bar on the Gryphon was 650 mm wide, way wider than my XC rig.
Despite the fat tyres and heavier steel frame, it still climbed very well and felt way more relaxed than my twitchier race bike. There was ample frame clearance for the 2.4 tyres but anything wider might be marginal, depending on the make and model. Running the tyres at 30 psi no doubt helped with smoothing out the ride, as would the steel chassis.

Matt showed how lethal the Gryphon was when despite being a relative off-road novice he could hold my wheel on all but the roughest descents. I am not sure a Fargo would be as spry in this environment with its substantially longer rear stays. The only area in which I felt really disadvantaged over my Santa Cruz race bike was in the very tight hair-pin corners, when descending and climbing.

There were no problems with the Gryphon during the 1100km Kiwi Brevet (Matts story here) where every conceivable type of terrain was experienced. It would be hard to get a more punishing test in such a short period of time. Overall a very enjoyable bike that just asks to be ridden all day. The longer the better.

Wainuiomata Trail Park

Wainuiomata Trail Park

Wainuiomata Trail Park

Wainuiomata Trail Park

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.
PS. More fotos and technical info to follow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

I remember when....

I set off on a ride today in the Wainu Trail park. I threw in my phone in case I was needed. I thought I would take my radio too in case there were some cool tunes on Active, as there were the last ride I did (check out Sola Rosa and Bajka on Youtube). A camera would be good also as I was going to take some pix of Mr Cleetus's Gryphon Singular. Video would help too, as some of those new trails are pretty cool, especially the Snail Trail. I thought I might also blog about it while I was out there, so I thought I would take the Computer too......
Bugger. My bag was getting heavy.

Luckily I had my (product placement ;) Sony Ericsson W508 !

Scary what you can pack into one little piece of plastic. This little baby allowed me to Blog, Tweet, Email, and Facebook my way around the South Island during the Kiwi Brevet (where ever there was XT network coverage). It also has very clever (and gimmicky) mp3 and video player, with an excellent radio as well. Plus all the usual cell phone gimmicks. Its no wonder they are number one on the wish-list of your average school kid. The battery life is also very good, as long as you have local networks nearby.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Makara Peak Grand Loop Challenge

I was very pleased to hear that the Ginger Ninja himself, Big Al, was organising the Bush-love-Racing Makara TT Grand-Loop-Challenge. MTBing and TTing are my two favourite things I reckon, as far as biking goes. Mostly because they don't involve wheel-sucking or sprinting.

I quickly looked up section 1.3.001 in the UCI handbook as it pertains to Time Trialling and found that so long as my wheels were the same size, then 26 inches was cool, no room for 69er or 96er bikes tho... I cursed the fact that I had removed my aero bars after the Kiwi Brevet but wasn't prepared to put them back on. My Louis Garneau Helmet and Skin-suit would have to suffice.

The Godfather himself, Marco Renalli started two places in front of me, so my plan was to try to catch him and prove that aero beats weight, an argument often held amongst roadie weeners with too much credit on their cards. Marco's new Cannondale Flash is a genuine 17 pound bike, while my Santa Cruz Superlight is 23.5. I needed to rely on the increase in wind velocity at Makara Peak to make our differing CDa's useful (Coefficient of Drag).

Al assured me that you'd have to be pretty stupid to get lost on this course, so I set out to prove him right. The 2nd fork in the track I went right... DOH! A wrong way sign... Back on track. Another fork in the track ... DOH. Short-cut, not allowed to go that way.... I was good for a while, and secretly hoping that someone would catch me so that at least I knew if I was going the right way. Eventually that person came along... Brevet buddy Mike Thomson, on his rigid, v-braked single-speed. Cool, I would tuck in behind him.... No chance... By the next unmarked corner I had lost him... and took a left, instead of going straight ahead. DOH. Back-track again. I remember doing this once in a race there so took a punt on it being the right way.

The trail up ahead must have steepened because I was starting to catch Mike, and Marco was just ahead, and seemed to have caught Ricky who was doing his "stuck in the big ring" imitation by the look of his cadence. With my suspension set on sticky (as it was the whole ride) I just tractored up the rocky intro to the Ridgeline and carefully bombed down the other side. Marco had already got off and started walking when I caught him, and I think Mike had a momentary spill which put me back in front of him again on the rough stuff.

I came around a corner to find Ricky sprawled face down in the grass looking rather still. His Bush-love Buddy Davo was there with his camera documenting the event which was great. I quickly inquired if everything was alright and carried on.

As we got onto the smooth stuff again Mike was in his element and I let him past and immediately lost him again, until I caught him..... crashed on a corner. It seems there were a few crashes in the last few kms. He remounted and stayed in front.

What a fun event. I think there was around 40 entries in the end. Thanks Al and the Bushlovers and the easter egg sponsors!

Thanks to Davo for the picture which I stole without his permission.
Results here.