Specialized Invades Santa Teresa Park

Today I did a mountain bike ride in my local park. As I was wending my way around the park, I noticed something odd. I passed an amazing amount of cyclocross bikes on the trail.

Trust me, if someone is off road, doing some serious dirt riding with drop bars, it is a a cyclocross bike. I mention this, as I see maybe one a year. Tops.

Today, I saw at least 6 in about 5 miles of trail riding. About 1/2 way through my ride I rode past a huge tent, with Specialized emblazoned all over the side. I asked one of the people with a black Specialized T-shirt on (who was carrying some beer) what this was all about.

A closed event, hosted by Specialized for their dealers to become familiar with the 2016 series of bikes. There were stations to setup suspension, to adjust bikes, tons of food, and probably 200 bicycles.

Cool place to do it. Santa Teresa park has a pretty wide variety of trails. From tight technical single track, wide open fire roads, some gnarly rocky downhills, and even some good roads to ride on for those inclined to try the road bikes.

I was totes jelly.

Product Review – Wahoo Fitness Cycling sensors

I grew up bicycling, and returned to it semi seriously many times. Gear is important, and the changes in gear have been stunning. I remember my first good road bike, splurging for clipless shoes and pedals. My first cycling computer. A tiny Cateye thing. Worked great, put several thousand miles on it.

Fast forward to today. Cycling computers are so 1990's. There are still dedicated cycling computers, with Garmin making some strong contenders.

However, the competition from a good smartphone is fierce. Built in GPS, accelerometers, mapping, and an always on internet connection combine to make it formidable. However, the smartphone's achilles heel is not having sensors for wheel speed, cadence, and heart rate.

No more is that an issue. Wahoo Fitness makes a line of cadence, speed sensors, heart rate sensors, and even a really cool device that mounts on the handlebars and mirrors what their app is displaying, so you don't have to keep the phone on your handlebars.

I currently have the Heart Rate sensor and the Speed and Cadence sensor. They both connect via Bluetooth, and are compatible with several tracker applications on your phone.

Connecting the sensors is easy, they pair painlessly, and are recognized in both the Wahoo Fitness tracker application, as well as in the Strava application. Several others are listed, but these are the two I use.

It is a huge advantage to track these signals. As a heart attack survivor, it is doubly helpful to track my heart rate. It is good to monitor ramp rates, peak effort, and other statistics that are important to track.

There is a downside though. The heart rate monitor sensor is a battery hog. I have yet to get more than 2 months out of a fresh CR2032 battery. My old Polar heart rate monitor went at least 9 months of nearly daily jogging.

Still, it is a good time to be a cyclist.

The Long Slog of Getting back into Shape

Every so often I get tired of be a fat slob, and need to get back into shape. This time, months of moving, living in a crappy apartment, and high stress at work has lead to me, uh, putting on a few pounds. When the 40″ waist jeans stopped fitting, and the 42″ pants were getting snug, it was time to do something.

So, I fired up the diet tracker, started counting calories, and exercising regularly.

It is amazing how difficult it can be to get in the groove. About 3 weeks ago, I started cycling again, I got the mountain bike out and started humping it. First getting out on the drainage canals in the Santa Teresa foothills, it was a good mellow, and very flat ride. After 3 or 4 of these, I was getting bored.

I tossed in a few longer rides, mostly road. Better, but still not satisfying. I mean, why ride a mountain bike if you are just doing flat stuff, right?

So I have started grinding it out in Santa Teresa Park. A kick ass climb to get there (up Bernal road) a real grueling ride. Then some trails including some climbs and downhills. Good single-track, enough to challenge, but not killer.

Today was my 3rd trip up, and I made it to the stop sign before I needed to pause. I am looking forward to finally being able to clear it to the top without stopping. Maybe another week.

If you are interested, you can follow me on Strava.

And now I am down almost 6 pounds in a week. Sadly, I am sure that is mostly water weight.

A long way to go, but it feels good to start

9 months of the Specialized Crave

specialized-crave-comp-29I have been living with a 2015 Specialized Crave Expert since last fall. As the move is complete, and other zaniness of life is gone, I am spending more time in the saddle.

My prior reviews have covered the hardware and the first few months of riding. With a couple hundred more miles in the saddle I can offer some more comments.

Brakes

While I love the juice disc brakes, they are definitely not top shelf. They work, but after a long descent, they heat up and make a lot of dragging noise. Annoying, but not tragic. I have not had to bleed them. The pads are still in good shape.

One day I will upgrade the brakes. Magura or Deore XT will get the nod, but not today.

Wheels

The Specialized Stout wheels have held up well. Since I am in that 235# – 250# class (chubby buddy) they take plenty of abuse. Still true, no issues at all.

Tires

Still on the stock tires, and I can say with authority that they suck for this hardpack clay/scree covered trails. They just don’t work here.

I will be replacing them shortly.

Chain

An unsung component, the chain, can make a huge difference. Specialized uses a KMC chain stock, and it leads to a smooth shifting, smooth riding drivetrain. I have cleaned and re-lubed it a few times now, and it is still crisp, and clean shifting.

For lube, I use Purple Extreme, frankly a departure for me. So far it is long lived, and not too dirty, so I will keep using it. I used to be a White Lightning aficionado, but that can be a bit messy, and it needs very frequent application.

Saddle

Some people love the standard Specialized saddle. I am not one of them. That thing tore up my crotch something wicked.

I replaced it with a Terry Fly Ti, and have been very satisfied. Terry is best known for their women’s saddles, but they also make saddles for men, and I now have the Fly Titanium on both my mountain and road bike.

Totally worth the $119 upgrade.

Summary

The Crave is a solid performer, living up to its reputation as a solid hardtail mountain bike. It is not perfect, but the components Specialized pulled out of their parts bins make for a solid performing, reliable, and well performing bike.

I am looking to future upgrades for it, probably things like replacing the bars with carbon fiber, upgrading the brakes (at least the front brake), and ditching the sad tires that it came with. Until then, I will continue to ride the wheels off of it.

5 months of the Specialized 2015 Crave Expert

With 5 months of riding, it is time for an update of the 2015 Specialized Crave Expert. A few hundred miles in, with about an even mix of road and off road riding, there are a few things to update.

I still hate the tires. I haven’t replaced them yet, but it will happen soon. They are a bit squirrely on hardpack, OK on loose/hard dirt, and awful in the mud. I am not a big mud rider, so this isn’t a bad thing per se, but I do ride a lot of hard pack. Will be changing them soon. The other thing is that the carcass of the tire aren’t very good at blocking thorns or sharp items. I have had A LOT of flats. Mr. Tuffy’s to the rescue.

The seat. I know some people rave about the Specialized seat, but I am not one of them. It rubs my crotch raw on ordinary rides (90 minutes or less). Time to upgrade to a better saddle. My Terry Fly Ti on my road bike is super comfortable for hours and hours of riding. I know it is a road saddle, but it will also be added to my mountain bike. Don’t tell anyone.

The brakes. Still super powerful, and smooth, but they have become noisy. Not a squeal, but an annoyance nonetheless. They are the organic pads, and the discs are not compatible with the better pads. I will probably swap for XTR discs, and better pads. When I have a couple hundred to spare. Until then, it is tolerable.

The fork. Rockshox Reba in the color scheme of the frame. This I really like. I bought a suspension pump, and got the air bladder set right for my portly weight, and it is great. The lockout is perfect for the tarmac milage between the dirt. I am sure there are better forks, but for my riding, I am happy with this set of silverware.

The wheels. Being the first disc brakes I have had on a bike, I am not as sensitive to being out of true as with a rim brake. However, every time I put the bike on the stand, the wheels are perfect. I know 5 months isn’t a long time, but I am happy so far. (Being a bit heavy my self, 235# plus, this is pretty good)

General impressions:

The 29″ wheels take some adjustment. It is not obvious what is different unless you ride 26 back to back with a 29, but it does roll over obstacles. One trail I ride has been abused by some heavy rainfall, and littered with some half buried babyheads. The Crave rolls right over them, even though there is a sphincter clench factor of 7. I know on a 26″ bike I would have gone over the bars.

The bike floats over some gnarly ruts as well. It takes some practice to just let it go (previously, I would brake hard, and paddle over some of these.)

Climbing is not its strength. I am not sure if it is the bike and the geometry, or just my confidence, but I used to just ride up and over roots and rocks that I just haven’t felt comfortable blasting up over them. The 2×9 gears are pretty sweet though, for smooth climbs it definitely rocks the dirt.

The frame geometry is pretty forgiving. You can carve a pretty tight line even with such large wheels, and do some amazing maneuvering. I like it.

Overall, the bike is a solid hardtail, with a good mix of capability and component quality. I am looking forward to many hundreds of dirt miles this year.