Thursday, 30 January 2014

Fully loaded El Mariachi

The other day at work I fitted up my handle bar bag to my new bike and took it for a short spin, I thought the Avid brake levers might have got in the way of my bags attachment points but it did not cause any problems at all. Pretty much I now have all the bike packing kit I require for future trips with the exception of a smaller tent ( less weight to carry ) and a Revelate Gas tank for storing items that are readily needed whilst cycling. I can not wait for winter to end so I can get out and put some long rides in , Niigatas cold winter is not so great for cycling , if its not snowing, its raining and if its not raining its bloody cold which does not make for an enjoyable ride. Come April the weather will start to warm up a bit and by then I should be able to get out for some touring. Pictured below is the Salsa El Mariachi with my set of bike packing bags .

Sunday, 26 January 2014

2014 Fat Bike demo at Snow Peak HQ

Yesterday my mate Brian & I were lucky to get a ride from one of my customers out to the hills of Tsubame Sanjo for the annual SnowPeak Fat Bike demo. This is now the 2nd year this 2 day event has been held and is great opportunity for people thinking about buying a fat bike to test out the new models from Sury & Salsa. According to one of my customers Sat was pretty nice, he even had a slight sun tan to prove it and attendance on Sat was around 100 riders or so , but on the Sunday the weather was not so good with some light rain which turned the single track they had marked out into more slush than packed snow. I think they need to take a look at some of the trail grooming devices they now use in the USA and tow some kind of heavy sled behind one of their snow mobiles to compress the snow in such conditions.

There was also a display of fat bike related goods from 45 North, I have one of their Greazy merino wool cycling caps and it is fantastic, keeps your biscuit rather warm and fits easily under a cycle helmet. The demo bikes were popular even when it started snowing and the two bikes I enjoyed riding the most in the wet trail conditions were the - Bear grease , Salsas carbon fiber fat bike & Surlys Moonlander

Hopefully within the next year or so I would like to help organize a winter Fat Bike race as that way current fat bike owners could come together for some friendly competition plus it would help promote Fat biking in Japan. At present there are not winter fat bike races held here as finding available space is sometimes difficult although with places like Snow peak and ski feilds I sure we can  find a suitable location somewhere. Snow peak is a well known maker of quality out door products based in the foothills of Sanjo and thanks to them we have a great space for the winter fat bike demo weekend. When the weather is nice , its also a great place to go camping as well. 

To finish off the day we stopped off in Sanjo one the way back for a hot bowl of the local famous ramen, I like ramen but I certainly did not require the extra portion on top that made my bowl look like Mt Fuji. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

My new bike - 2013 Salsa El Mariachi

Well after riding my trusty Kona Unit single speed now for about a year or so I really wished I had a 17 inch
frame instead of the 16 inch Kona Unit. So when a chance to buy a complete 2013 Salsa El Mariachi came about it did not take me long to decide to get it. It uses Salas unique sliding dropout system called the alternator which is very simple to use and trouble free , making chain adjustment very easy for single speeding apart from that its a light but strong frame set and comes complete for a nice mix of parts mainly Salas own brand bars, stem and seat post. Salsa spent extra money to get Formula ( the hub maker ) to make them a nice set of single speed hubs in gold with the Salsa logo etched into them and the hubs use good quality sealed bearings and the rear single speed cassette hub is totally silent and being a cassette hub you can easily change cogs to get the perfect gearing.

The El Mariachi also comes with Avid Elixr 5 hydraulic disck brakes, I have never used these before but loved my Avid BB7 mechanical brakes so will test them out to see how they preform, they are only an entry level brake set but as I am not a hard core racer they should easily stand up to bike packing trips no problem. 

The front chain ring was an alloy 33t which is my favorite size chain ring so I swapped that out for my Surly stainless steel one of the same size and later on will replace the rear 18 T cassette cog for a 16 T stainless steel one instead. It comes with a good quality ally chain ring guard so I have left that on for protection

The nice Cane creek headset was taken out and replaced with my Chris King insert headset which is super smooth and the new Cane creek head set will be fitted to my old Kona which will be for sale soon at my shop. 

The current rear cog as mentioned is only an 18T cheap steel cog, these type of steel cogs and stamped out when made and are very thin which in turn will cause damage to your cassette hub body. One you have figured out your perfect gear ratio spend a few dollars on a good quality single speed cassette cog, both Surly and Chris King make very nice single speed cogs that have a wider base which does not damage your cassette hub, they are also other companies making good quality cogs as well. But if you a running a stainless steel front chain ring with a stainless steel rear cog your drive train will last a lot longer than if using ally cogs. You can also see in the photo below Salsas sliding dropout system as well which they use on a wide variety of their bicycles. 

So if you are in the market for a very well made single speed MTB, check out Salas El Mariachi as its perfect for a daily commuter or take it on a long bike packing adventure which I intend to do a lot of this year. 

Happy Cycling 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Shimano XTR M960 crank set project

Quite some time ago when I became interested in single speed MTBs, I saw a few posts about people who had customized the 2003 Shimano XTR M960 triple chain ring crank set into a single speed crank set as it's light and very strong .Well as I will be up grading my frame soon I thought I would like to have a go at making a custom crank set myself and as I had an old XTR M969 crank set laying about I decided to attack it and cut of the outer chain ring tabs and polish it up. Yes it was not an easy process, but now I have a super light weight XTR grade crank set on my bike. Of course when customizing things there is often a catch which makes the task more interesting - in this case the middle ring BCD ( Bolt Circle Diameter ) is 102 mm rather than the current standard of 104 mm . At present as a test I am using the middle ring from the crank set which is almost worn out but it will give me an idea if I really want to splash out on a custom made 102 BCD chain ring from the USA. It's a lot lighter than my new Shimano Zee crank set and I have left it slightly polished until I decide to keep it or not. Below are a couple of photos of the crank set and if you want to see the entire process check out this link

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Nishibori Dori Cycle parking station

For quite some time in central Niigata just off Nishibori Dori there has been a bicycle park, it was not covered and was also not very well lit. But yesterday I noticed that it has been fully remodeled and now has a 2nd floor and a best of all a roof as its often raining in Niigata city. Finally now there is some safe, well lit and covered that commuters can use on a daily basis when they come into the central city for work or shopping. Pictured in this post is a view of the new bicycle park taken from the entrance.