My Toolbox

This is my toolbox. I built something that works for my three bikes and the bikes I bought before. It’s the ultimate build I’ve made!

Travel and bike racing is obviously high pressure, and the colorful yet compact display of tools deliver individual backhand saves at a mountain resort on the race day. It is densly-featured technological toolbox and I was able to pack it neatly in my car.

These are the highlights!

The top and bottom layers are lifted from the toolbox via convertible (reversible) heavy duty Velcro handles that hold my layers up to 10 pounds. From the underside, they are an open loop and can be fastened to my Kuat bike rack. I organize my space this way for involved projects in a busy parking lot.

I used Kaizen Shadow Foam for all the layers. Basically, the underlaying foam is a differentiable color from the top, and intuitively, I can spot what tools were used.

One layer is entirely small bits/parts with thee sizes. The containers are mobile and pop up from dimples under them. The containers are smart organized for race season and shuffled in bike build season. Also, I have one empty container for used or miscellaneous bolts. I don’t have to put those away on race day.

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The lid has split foam with a magnetic surface and custom cut magnetized metal cups. Don’t you like the pocket razor stuck on the foam! The surface magnetizes the handled tools in place and the cups hold the teeny bolts. I cut in a few 96 pull strength magnets underneath the blue arrows and the sheet metal.

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The remaining basin measures enough to fit tires, cleaners, spare components, and one plastic mini organizer for brake bits. Brakes get their own box; My training loops are on downhill trails!

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One layer is my commonly used tools. They are packed on top, always. It has my popular favorites: Allen keys, three way allen, Crescent wrench, shock pump, and tire lever.

I worked hard on this. The thing that is different about this toolbox from my former one is doing the build.

For my sponsors:

@knolly

@rotorbike

@kendamtb

@pnwcomponents,

@canecreekcycling

@kmancyclery

If you were thinking about doing a build for yourself, and you need more motivation, go to your local bike shop. This is a great way to get yourself back on the trail and save yourself from irreversible repairs.

Ride safe my friends!

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Central Coast Bike Ladies

Lady cyclists of San Luis Obispo (pronounced SLO) are coming out of the woodwork. They are parents, students and career individuals. A few have ridden mountain bikes since its early beginnings, while others are just getting into the sport. SLO is a college town, so a lot of the ridership is cyclical (no pun intended) across the city college and university, and when they travel back home on break, it leaves a rawer, raggedy bunch of mountain lovers.

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San Luis Obispo has several hundred miles of singletrack within about 25 miles of the city center so it is an accommodating mountain bike destination. The trails offered in San Luis Obispo are marginally intermediate to advanced. It’s a part of the dry and dusty trails of Southern California with rock, slate, and decomposed granite trailheads accessible from 700 foot to 2000 foot climbs. There are two beginner approved trails about a 30 minute drive from the center of town. They are three mile loops built by an IMBA chapter called CCCMB. There are intermediate areas with steeper climbs, couple wood bridges and a skills park on Cuesta Grade. Advanced trails are hidden, but I found and rode almost all of them with a guide. Those have infinity rock gardens, baby head singletrack, head high drops, and steeps.

 

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And with access to this amazing network, there is no shortage of group rides to join in. Unfortunately, less than a quarter of the social rides are dedicated women’s rides. I am a firm believer in encouraging women to ride together so women support each other’s gear setup, encourage their diverse bike ideas, and motivate them to progress their skills.

 

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Women on the forefront of bike ownership know a few things about what is important in a bike. Most of those leaders have initiated their own bike purchase and consider the bike’s geometry, suspension platform, and color.

 

I ride a Knolly Warden. It has an all-mountain suspension platform (150/160mm) with SRAM XO components that are both affordable and durable. It’s linkage gives me all day comfort on descents, and pedals up well enough for fun on the climbs. It held up to the trail demands going strong for over a year, and with a lifetime frame warranty, I’m rewarded with access to the outdoors.

 

Chronologically, bike frames have taken technical leaps since its first bike, and frame brands are competitively similar, so women pick out frames with small updates that are most compatible with their bodies and riding. “I love my current mountain bike. I demoed all sorts of makes and models for about 6 months before I decided which bike to buy. I decided to purchase this bike because it fits me well, it has all the attributes I like and need, and it is well-made.” -Claudia Callwood  

 

The trails in SLO are among the most technical destinations and they have to know their bikes are not going to snap or crack in the middle of a rock garden. I will bike so far that, “no one is around for miles and miles, on single track way deep in the mountains for hours and hours.” -Danilu Ramirez The women of SLO look at bikes as an investment and like the added insurance of frame warranties as Ally Swain says. Their bike must be able to endure their riding and the rugged trails in SLO, and if something happens (hopefully not), they like to be covered.

 

They like to go up on the trails, decompress from the work day, enjoy nature, and consider a bike’s weight to provide all day comfort. “It starts out with a yummy breakfast and some coffee. Then, hit the trails with, say, 3-4 good friends. A good mix of challenging climbing, swoopy flows, technical rocks and features, all surrounded by beautiful views. Maybe stop for a snack at some point. Finish the day with a dip in a refreshing lake and probably some pizza and beer.” -Shaelin

 

Some want a bike that is a quiver killer, or a little bit of everything. “Depends on the day! Friends & beer is always preferred but having the mountain to myself is a great day of training.” -Alisha Anderson “I like how playful the bike is as well as it is a good fit.” -Liz.

 

Women share their stories and companies have started listening to women who have been using their purchasing power on bikes. They have come a long way from just adding more colors to frames and have advertised to women with real women riders and that’s been something to celebrate about the industry. We appreciate them!

 

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Hallie Lassiter No Brake Lifestyle

When I first met Hallie we were walking up to a mechanics clinic. She rolled up her bike in hand. To which bike, she handed to our friend leading the clinic, an employee at Art’s Cyclery, and a traveling mechanic for chateau/Swiss Alp bike trip packages, saying to use her bike for tune-up demonstration. I think there was immediate shock and laughs looking at the front wheel that completely tacoed. She somehow did all that mess to her bike crashing on a local trail that was multi-use singletrack.

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She also is the proud owner of a van. The first one was manual drive Westfalia that her dad drove home with her and not ever owning a stick shift, she figured out how to put it in gear to get her to school in the morning. I think vans became her thing, and she now owns a Mercedes Sprinter.

She drove out to California Enduro Series in Auburn that was the first race in the series . On race morning she notices there was no bolt on the top of her Shimano SLX rear Brake Reservoir. What that means is it is the cap that holds the mineral oil overflow. And being there was no cap, there was no fluid, and thusly no oil compression for use in the line. She raced anyhow. She got on the podium too, however fortune or talent was working with her that day.

She proceeded to ride a downhill bike only without a dropper post or a rear brake that week, twice. It makes sense like her thing is, “summers with Hallie.”

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Hallie brought over her bike to my bike workshop setup in my living room. We set it up with a reservoir cup, bleed syringe, mineral oil from Art’s Cyclery, and a bleed block. It was a full bleed, not the gravity fed method, so we set up the bleed kit without the wheel or the brake pads. Her mineral oil was black. We had to bleed it twice to get all the air bubbles out of the line too, but it didn’t take much oil. She had no bolt, because she wasn’t there when she lost it, so I used a spare hex bolt with matching thread, not too deep, and a spare o-ring from my bike parts toolbox. That closed up the bleed line pretty good! After the brake lever was firmed up, we looked over the cockpit and made a few angle adjustments.

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She hasn’t crashed lately that is a good thing. She’s currently shredding bikes in Northstar. Stay safe and have fun lady on your fresh brakes!

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Wrenching No Wrenches: Dropper Swap

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Well, my local riding buddy and friend Annalisa was traveling to her sister in Wyoming for the summer. Her sister too was a mountain biker and Annalisa had a very nice KS Lev externally routed dropper post that she wanted to give to her sister who did not have the wherewithal to have a dropper on her bike yet. She had about a week left where she was selling her furniture and packing for the road trip. Additionally, she had to take the dropper off her Specialized before she sold it. How nice would it have been to know how to remove the dropper and toss it in her suitcase! I got a call about this, “is it easy?” I chuckled a little bit. “Sure come on over.”

First rule of bike mechanics, is to bring a nice craft beer, which she taught me. We poured off a 500mL Sunny Daze IPA into cups first.

As we had it, this particular model only needed three tools, and may be on a trail-side multi-tool set. Otherwise, a metric key set is less than $10 at the local hardware store that would include a:

4mm Allen Key.

2mm Allen Key.

3 mm Allen Key.

Arguably, the process was a blur of steps we were reminded of thing remotely elementary: Pop off KS dust cap from the top edge with our fingernail. Pull cable down and out. Remove set screw (the non-shouldered 2mm bolt). Pop off guide cap and ferrule. Pull housing through frame/along frame. Remove grips and remote lever with the 3mm Allen Key. See that the dropper is free of the frame, re-assemble in reverse order. (Add ferrule, then guide cap, and push the cable through the housing and tighten set screw so the cable is flush with it.) DONE!

We fixed the dropper in fifteen minutes or three quarters of a beer. She looks at the bike, “the rear rotor is rubbing.” And so we re-clamped the bike stand clamp to the seat tube. The rotor pads are a funny thing, that their clearances are so small and if say a branch from the trail taps the caliper, the pad shifts a quarter millimeter. THAT’s hairs lengths. Bike mechanics works in miniatures of car mechanics. And I was telling Annalisa a mechanic can split hairs with a surgical hand to adjust the pads back into alignment. I said put your eyeball just above the tire treads and peer with one eye into the caliper to look for the white light (space between the rotor and pad), then spin the tire. The initiative to rotate the tire with your eyeball so close to the tire is fretful in itself, and I have skinned my cheek at least once at 3 in the morning on a red-eye bike overhaul. But, a perfect tuned bike is a perfect tuned bike. That’s how I told her to look at it.

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We passed her brakes, because the levers squeezed firm. OKAY! She commented that she had replaced her chain a few months ago and being a relatively inexpensive and easy swap part, she wanted to replace it. I said, “aha!” I have a tool for that (pictured here). Out of my toolbox comes a chain checker. I tell her chains stretch on a decimal scale 0.0-1.0, and we don’t swap chains less than 0.5. We like to swap after 0.5 and before 0.75. When its more than 0.75, sometimes we swap the cassette and chain too. The cassette is made of metal, you know, and the cassette teeth can become narrower or shorter. If a drive train with a new chain still ghost shifts it’s a good time to get a new sprocket.

At some point the beer was empty, or her bike worked pretty good. She unclamped the bike from the stand and I tossed the shop cloth.

If you like this kind of post, please message or leave a comment. Thanks!

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ROTOR R Hawk Unboxed!

ROTOR is a Spanish company who researched and tuned the oval chainring concept. Now, in 2018 their cranks are compatible with nearly every bike frame. Do they have a crankset for trialthletes? YES. MTB athletes? Yes. DH? YES. Enduro? Yes.

My RHawk crankarms came in a velvet finished box much like that of an iPhone packaging. They put attention to detail in that kind of stuff. My Standard axle came in a separate box. How it is, the crankarms are universal, they work with any bike frame with either the boost, standard, or DH axles. Call them versatile. I got the standard axle for my Knolly Warden, and it pops right on the the non-drive side crank arm.

Assembling the small parts on the crankset at home was user-friendly. ROTOR put together a crankset spacer chart, that took the guess work out of setting up the chainline, and the folks at ROTOR make it overbearingly precise because they’re into the science/research. My only small complaint was, none of the boxes come with spacers and is good to know if you plan on building them up yourself to pick up some .5, 2.5, 5, and 8mm spacers at your local bike shop before the box gets to your door.

The RHawk chainring mounts to the arms. The alignment is easy using the OCP (optimum chainring position) marks. They recommend mountain bikers set up their bike at 3. After the first week, I noticed I was climbing a lot out of the saddle and my friends pointed out my slower cadence, so I changed my chainring position to 2 with only an 8 mm Allen key. EASY.

Last, I was able to customize my crankset with some sweet orange boots to be matchy with my Knolly Warden frame. The bumpers protect the cranks from rubbing wear, and it’s cool to keep the ROTOR crankset looking fresh all season.

Photo Credit: Kasey Carames

I have been riding with ROTOR cranksets since 2015. I ride their Rotor R Hawk 170 mm crank arms with their 34 tooth oval chainring. Note, they offer circular chanrings now. I really like pedalling with these and are good for my knees. They had ACL reconstructions and the oval chainrings provide relief for them. I like customizing my OCP (Optimum Chainring Position) that gets me a better riding positon than a circular crankset and I enjoy my ride a little more or motivate me to stay out on the trails a little longer!

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Review: Knolly Warden

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ABOUT: Noel designed his first V-Tach frame back in 2002 and the Warden evolved as their trail/enduro offering. They have it in both aluminum, and most recently in carbon. Known for their grip and active front end I raised an eyebrow at the design and got a hold of one for myself this year. Curiosity enveloped the fuss about the arguably unique link that claims a cloud like ride. Such that would promise ride comfort a lot like how a 40 mile epic ride would be set up with overly pampering sag support and burrito carts at every mile marker.

DESIGN: It uses patented link technology called FOURby4 where the rear wheel travels independently of the shock stroke. What’s cool is that it is a four bar linkage that connects the rear swing arm to the seat stay and also connects to another shock linkage. Watch anything by Vorsprung Suspension on suspension engineering concept and if you only watch one of their 23 videos their Tuesday Tune Episode 5 Low and High speed compression adjustment will get you good info. Noteably, the uniquely linear suspension rate curve requires less resistance on the shock so it maintain its performance over longer service intervals. In other words, it does not need to be serviced as often. That could be good for the girl who thinks that bike shop workers are someone other than young dudes fresh out of their mom’s basement who have an innate attraction to eating Cheetos, and might feel intimidated going to a bike shop. PSA most bike shop mechanics will go out of their way to help explain a shock sleeve service. Less service intervals are welcomed like a coffee shop who gives you a punch card and rewards you with a free tenth drink.

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The head tube angle is a slack 66.5 and adjustable one degree to 65.5 using two shock mount holes between the frame and bottom bracket. Competitive with other trail/enduro bike head tube angles on the market, it is stable enough so that the only excuse for its geometry is whether or not the rider points the handlebars true over the trail cropping. As far as stability, the Warden is active because of a forward instant center. It’s a nerd engineering term for rear suspension designs as the point connecting two points from the rear link and suspension that applies power or lift. The bike tracks smoothly around tight slow speed corners because the wheels and shock still move when braking forces are applied. On the longer end of 1133mm wheelbase the bike is flickable around little lips and with a pretty long front and center. It’s still stable on the straights.

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Photographer: Jeremiah Newman

FIRST RIDES: After taking it on a few rides I immediately noticed the suspension had low pedal kickback. The term is the return force generated against the pedals from the ground not absorbed by the suspension. This reduces leg fatigue, especially conducive to women riders trying to maximize their performance over an Enduro course. It uses a shock-platform philosophy where it relies on the lock-out shock setting to activate the anti-squat or pedaling efficiency. This is good how it allows the bike to be more supple on the descents and still be efficient on the climbs. The key is that the rider will have to remember to lock out the shock on uphill sections and click it off before the descents. One part of the FOURby4 link is essentially a cage across the seat tube from the swing arm. It is strong that provides lateral stiffness although it is designed a bit wide and does get in the way of the pedal swing on the Warden Small frame. I shifted the saddle rails a bit forward, temporarily helping the fit.

Take: It gives a bottomless feel on jumps and as a female rider there is no need to swap the suspension with a lighter shock tune. The rider sets the PSI and rolls the bike to their favorite trail. That is the Knolly for me.

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More Positivity Please

I am one week into 6-8 week recovery from a broken bone at the Sea Otter Classic in Dual Slalom. The support of the community this week was the key to my healing progress!

Yesterday I went on a mountain hike with my arm in a sling. The outdoors drew my restless legs and the sunshine called. I often recall how the sun brought good memories of my childhood and that it would send electricity to my heart as if it heats up the ventricles like a camp stove next to a bonfire under the stars.

I hiked this 1000 foot mountain footpath to a bench at the summit. Then I look up to my right where a few boulders towered where hikers would stand and spin around 360 degrees to see the city grid below them. That was the true summit. I called out, “I want to go up those boulders,” and a voice behind me said, “you can!” I glanced back, and the voice came from an elder gentleman with a Cal Poly backpack. I left no space for anyone to say anything, as I said, “he said I could so I will!” I began walking to the rocks and between the boulders while my arm stayed tucked in the sling. Ahead there was a final set boulders where the hikers would grab a handhold and hop their feet onto the summit rock. The leap was at least as tall as me that needed two handholds and two feet to leap up there.

The gentleman was at the summit before me, and he reached his hand out to pull me up. Then, I was standing at the top looking at the city! My lungs swelled with that ultra-pure 100% oxygen I was deprived since I last made the summit. My veins felt the O2 rush how I remembered when I would toboggan down a natural rock water slide into a mountain spring right before I would make a splash! I returned back to the footpath the whole time the gentleman kept encouraging me that I was safe and okay.

Bless this man. He allowed me to do something I did when I was healthy, and it motivated me to heal faster. He had to lend a hand and I had to take it once. Seriously, people’s attitudes create opportunities for healing. Please, people dig deep for that stuff for the passerbys or family or friends. More positivity please.

 

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