Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 5 - Asheville NC Industry Nine!! Warning. Massive post.

So, today we drive home.   nothing to look forward to there except warm temps, windows down driving. Sitting on our arses going from fried food outlet to fried food outlet.  At least until we'd left the deep fried states and entered the truck stop states.

But first. Drew and Eric from Industry Nine (who'd we'd rode with a couple days back) said it would probably be ok if we stopped in to see their facility.  So, we loaded up a couple trays of Starbucks coffees and headed off to intrude upon our new friends at their place of work on an early Monday morning.

We arrived and while we could see Eric's car in the lot, there was no other indication we were actually in the right place. No neon I9 signs, no ethereal halo over the building, no rainbow ending on the building roof, nothing.    ..Just like any other job shop.  We entered the building (who's only signage 'Spego' meant nothing to us) and proceeded to poke our noses around corners and doorways with eyebrows raised "Hellooo?  ..helloo???        ...helllooooo.." 's  


we did know we were in the right place though cause there was a childs bike with ~14" wheels laced up with I9 hubs and spokes.     Clearly this is no ordinary job-shop.  Clearly unusual things happen here.

So, we timidly poked our noses through the door labelled "Emplyees only" "eye protection required"
(holding our Starbucks coffee offerings out in front of us like crosses in a vampire flic in case anyone should question our intentions)  strolled around the steel racks and machinery until we found someone who pointed us in the right direction when we blurted out Eric? Drew?

And  so we found ourselves in the womb of Industry Nine wheels.
This is where the last part of the magic happens.  the 'birthing room' if you will.
Eric is seen here lounging comfortably, lacing up some lucky punters wheel, a kaleidoscope of hubs in the background await their turn in the capable hands of our wheelsmiths.

(ugh. I just puked in my mouth a bit reading back that last sentence!  yech. what next? 'it was a dark and stormy night?")

Here Drew is showing us one of the things that set the I9 free hub apart.  There are six engagement pawls, each offset to the next by one half of an engagement tooth period. pawls are active via a tiny leaf spring.  That means three pawls (engaging three teeth each) lock in every 3 degrees for 9 engagement points for every 'click' you hear.

No special tools required to service them and standard sealed cartridge bearings are employed so that access & service is completely within the realm of competent home bike mechanics.

Bearing removal and replacement would be a challenge but apparently they're toying with the idea of a custom bearing cartridge puller.
I'm guessing it would be a tiny version of flywheel puller set up to pull from the inside.  Time will tell.

Looking in, it's a fairly simple arrangement, but as a designer, I know only too well how much time, energy, creativity and sometimes luck it takes to come up with a truly tidy, graceful, effective solution that meets all the criteria.
Any hack can bang off a Rube Goldberg solution if time is short, motivation is low or the 'eureka moment' simply eludes, but dialing in the solution without compromising is way cool.

We left Eric and the guys to they're instruments (bore gauges, DT tensiometers, arbor presses, truing stands etc) to follow Drew further upstream in the manufacturing process.
The tour was run in reverse of manufacturing operations.    Leaving the 'birthing room' we headed up the canal to the previous operation.
Anodizing, Polishing.

This is Drew's domain at I9. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on I9 gear no matter what colour, size or shape your bits are, Drew has had his hands and eyes on your bits first.

The parts shown here are post polish, awaiting the anodization bath of hot acid where a +/- 3 mil porous oxide (rust) coating will form from the corrosion of the acid.  This porous coating is what accepts the dye.  So, parts are dunked in the hot acid bath, left for specified time then transfered to the dye tank where the colour is absorbed by the oxide and voila. We have Bling!

There are many different methods of affecting the anodization process and Drew happily fielded my incessant queries but they're for the most part beyond normal interests so I won't bore you with my geeking out over them.

The polishing step is the only process that doesn't happen in house at I9. The reasoning is that there is so much cotton waste involved as a product of the polishing that it brings with it a lot of environmental concerns with disposal of the waste so for the time being at least the polishing happens remotely.
Worth noting that initially the anodizing was done off site also, but that because the aesthetic quality could not be controlled and consequently parts were failing QC where they end up on the shelf of broken dreams, I9 opened up their own anodizing dept.
..speaks to how seriously they take their QC.

The next step up the canal for us was to the machining room.
We saw the swiss mill with autofeed that turns the aluminum round stock into spokes.

(not sure if the proprietary thread form is cut here or if thats a post process...)

The first shot is just the mill interface.  The second is the discharge chute with a little bit of a spoke poking through waiting to be pushed out to drop into a box below.

This is the round stock autofeed for the spoke turning.

We saw the EDM machine that cuts the pawl engagement rings out of tool steel
here is the off cut (waste) from the EDM process.
You can see the tiny wee kerf and the incredible edges & accuracy that EDM is capable of.
This operation is so time intensive that only a dozen engagement rings are turned out in a day.

The milling machine where the spoke shoulders are cut from the flanges, and the control pc. for dim checks.

The lathe(s) where the hub axles and hub bodies are turned down from round stock blanks, and this is the part where, from a manufacturing perspective we can consider ourselves at the point of 'conception'.
As is typical, much is made of the 'conception', but when you get right down to it once you've run a part through a few times and worked out the kinks you're just feeding in plain old round stock and getting on with business.
 ..and when you're caressing holding you're shiny new wheels, few will think on or care about that moment the round stock was placed in the center and door closed around it.

This tour alone made the 30+hrs of driving worth it.  I'd never seen an EDM machine, up close nor a swiss mill and while they're not actually terribly exciting looking themselves when put in the context of making top drawer, sexy-ass bike parts with them it was super cool for moi.
If I wasn't so overwhelmed with the uber-coolness of it all I'd have thought to note when/where the proprietary thread form is cut.  I know from seeing some of the blemished hubs in the recycle box that it happens between anodization and 'birthing' but I didn't see, or think to note it.

Random Pics.
Craig thinking on how to convince our I9 folks that this wheel needs to be with him. That he loves it as no other could, that it's an incorrigible crime that someone else should be allowed to use, abuse, possibly ignore and maybe even leave it dirty and unpolished after a ride.

there is surprisingly little exaggeration in that paragraph.  I think everyone present felt the love in the room and things were more than a little uncomfortable.  Drew wisely departed. (probably to have a shower)

Me holding an I9 road wheel. This time it was my turn to get star-struck and speechless. This wheel weighted less than an angel's fart.   carbon tubular rim. Sapim cx-ray spokes and of course that hub.  It was completely off the f-kn charts.  This wheel restored my faith in a higher power. or lesser power.
like, with this wheel I'd need less power to get my fat arse up hills like.

like, if you threw this wheel away into the wind it would come back and rub itself on your calf purring like a hungry cat.  well, thats what I was thinking anyway which is weird cause I don't really dig cats, but.. anyway, yeah if cats were like these wheels i'd be doing the crazy cat lady thing for sure.

that is all. this is getting dumb and looking at that road wheel again I have to excuse myself..

edit: I'd incorrectly stated the hubs engage at 5 degrees but it's actually 3 degrees.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 4 - Asheville NC annual MTB road trip #4

Day 4 was a "recovery ride" day.
so we pointed our bikes up a mountain and rode for views and vistas.  Surprisingly the legs felt pretty good.  ..until they didn't.
Par for the course I suppose.
The trail was exceptionally beautiful.  Smiles make themselves when you're spending time in this landscape.
Laurel mnt trail was a nice even grade incline for the most part.
Nevertheless, a lot of elevation was gained.
So, celebrations were in order, as the ayatollah of Rok'n'Rolla says.  At this point the awesomeness was almost blinding!

At the top where  Laurel mntn connector and Pilot Rock meet we mulled over whether to lurch and bounce our way down Pilot or bomb back on Laurel.
Laurel won handily and didn't disappoint.  no pics due to the incredible speeds (you could actually hear the air being torn!) and suspect skill set of the photographer.

As much fun as Laurel is to climb it's even more fun to bomb down and capped off the riding portion of the trip in great form.  No injuries or mechanicals and only one dismount by yours truly who managed to find the only running water to hammer his arse into thereby turning a capable pair of riding shorts into a sodden dirty diaper. yay. And just in time to get back into the car.    I was kinda pissed but it gave Craig such pleasure that I ended up laughing with him ..at me.

Of course the day doesn't end there. no.  It's Eatin' time!!  a quick change then off to Asheville Pizza and Brewery for a few thousand calories of happy then bed.
Tomorrow a date with Industry Nine!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My friend John Large from the West Quebec Wheelers sent this to me. Sounds like fun!

Day 3 - Asheville annual mtb road trip #4

Day three was embarked upon with trepidation.
The plan was for a group ride with people all of whom I was certain were going to be stronger, faster, more skilled and with boatloads more endurance than yours truly.
guys with Pisgah in their backyard.
guys that can tear legs off strong people.
guys that actually win races.
guys that have tactical shotgun training. (relevance = none. just thought i'd  throw it in there)
guys with almost nothing in common to me.
Thoughts included but were not limited to; "if this goes into hammer-fest mode I'm going to have to borrow a map and maybe a signal flare.. maybe a pistol with one chambered round  ..for me."
..this on account of my having not done so very much on the fitness front since King and I did the Gatineau Loppet.
that was February.  that was fun.
this is April.  this could hurt.
Consequently, the thought of hanging on the wheels of a bunch of locals while they tear up their trails for a 4-5hr day of  Pisgah climbing with the OBR and myself (the weak link) in tow was a bit worrisome.
..but it is as it shall be, so stuffing the fear down with a espresso chaser we headed out to Turkey pen to meet up with;
Rich, (Dicky)
Billy - courier
Drew from I9
Eric, from I9
Eric, Pembar?
Mike, mtbsuspensionexperts
Bill Nye (is that one word or two?)
maybe even some more Eric ?
I'm ashamed to say that less than a week gone and I've forgotten a couple names already so with apologies to those unlisted and adding
Craig and myelf  the group made 12.  (!!) yay! large groups are slow!

Anyway, it turns out my fears were unfounded. The pace was fine.  To be clear, it was lots of work with some extended climbing but it was all good, and I never felt like it was a struggle until near the end which is how a ride should be.  It was clear that a few of the guys weren't working too too hard and/or could work at that pace for a lot longer as they were training for Pembar but the pace was social and permitted chatting for the most part.

This ride was the highlight of the trip without a doubt.  While every day was brilliant with stunning scenery, buff trails, good company, laughs and more, the Turkey pen ride with the big group was phenomenal.  The people were really great and it was truly enriching to have met so many good folks.  Generous spirits all round.  The riding was incredible and included long sustained climbs, some technical bits, some of the narrowest benchcut trail cut into scary steep mountain side, beautiful refreshing stream crossings, and rippin fast descents.    good.  times.

Of course a big ride demands a big meal so while half of the group had lives to get back to, our half, either devoid of lives or simply better / luckier in the time management dept headed  off to chow down on,
..wait for it..    Mexican.
yep more swaddled-baby sized burritos and big beer.  I was particularly enamored of the full size steins.   They're integral to my training program for an upcoming European training camp/tour/pass-bagging/beer-up/pastery fest and I didn't pass up the opportunity for more training.

The day didn't even end there.
nope.  After stuffing our pieholes the OBR and I followed Drew and Eric around to a bike shop and then followed their recommendations to another shop where we met the overwhelmingly friendly and impossibly handsome  Jason P (dude should be a model or something) owner of Carolina Fatz.
After being rocked by the frenetic and friendly energy of our Carolina Fatz visit we finally headed back to the Ramada-Team Big Ring staging area to plan the next maneuver.    yep. more Mexican!!  Off to Salsas (again)  for a late dinner and to seal the deal on a phenomenal day!

Trails included Squirrel Gap, Mullinax, Laurel ridge, Bradley creek, South mills and maybe more. I don't know but it was awesome.  Many thanks to Dicky for leading the way

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 2 - Asheville NC annual mtb road trip #4

Day two.  Dupont.
Time was spent perusing the internet the night before and we decided to set our sites on the Dupont state forest IMBA epic ride.   We'd ridden Dupont a couple time before and knew that it was a labyrinth of great trails.  The map looks like two plates of spaghetti dumped into one bowl so while we knew that we'd be spending a bit of time looking at the map, we figured following a known MTB route would provide the best blend of time spent, distance covered, awesome trails seen.

..we were incorrect.

Unfortunately we can't recommend the IMBA epic route.  At least the first third.   The first  quarter or so was especially lame.  Uninspiring trails,ankle deep with leaves (presumably because they're seldom traveled) and piles of sticks, branches and whole trees across the trail.  
Joanna rd in particular was total ass.

If you look closely you can faintly see the OBR in this shot.  The trail is a straight line between the camera and him with a bzillion downed trees in between.  This was about as bad as it got but the rest was really bad also. We did more throwing our bikes over trees than throwing legs over bikes for 40min or so on Joanna Rd.
Even without the downed trees Joanna Rd would suck as  the track is an eroded, rocky, washed out stream bed.

with 75 intersections over 33 miles there were a LOT of map checks.

After we got off Joanna rd things improved substantially.   We rode a logging road for a bit (thankful just to be pedaling) then onto Turkey knob where things started to look up.  Soon after we hit Airstrip, (woot!) Reasonover Creek (zoom & woot!) and a bunch more really fun pretty trails.

Around the halfway point of the IMBA epic we realized the time lost to Joanna rd and to map checks wasn't going to allow us to follow the whole route as intended so we started to interpret the route a bit more liberally while still hitting some of the highlights like Bridal Veil Falls and High Falls.

I've no idea of the mileage we covered, definately not the 33miles intended but it was about 4.5 hrs on bike and my calorie counter read over 4600 calories so I tried to do some mental math and failing at that just asked Craig about how many burritos that might be.  ...his response confirmed that we were on the same wavelength.

Destination dinner-time was Mamacitas where I had a drunken pollo borracho burrito (drunken chicken) that was so big it actually looked like a swaddled baby.
Craig had something at least as monstrous but I'm not sure what it was. He was doing his best woodchipper impression on that burrito though, with eyes rolled back, gnashing great teeth and low growling noises so I wasn't getting too close..

Despite the sketchy beginning to the ride, the day was a resounding success.  We were bummed that the IMBA epic had a sketch start, and I think they added trails just to get mileage on the sheet but it wasn't necessary.  Dupont has lots and lots of great riding and truly stunning scenery so it seems to me there's no need to pad the resume-odometer by including marginal trails.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 1 - Asheville NC annual road trip #4

The OBR and I headed off south this past weekend for our fourth annual trip to ride Bent Creek, Pisgah, Dupont and whatever else we could jam in.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll let the photos tell the bulk of the story with captions for context.

Last Wednesday we departed a bright sunny Ottawa for a brighter and sunnier Asheville.   Spriits, expectations and anticipations were high.   It's easy to be cheerful and energetic when yer still only 1hr into a 16hr drive..

Several hours later, it's still fun. Playing with the camera to kill time.

Upon arriving, little time was wasted chucking gear into the hotel room and off we went to Bent Creek with the mandatory stop at Liberty Bikes to say hey to the guys there and of course a stop via Starbucks.  (driving through the night and riding on ~1hr seatbelt-dance-sleep requires heavy artillery on the amphetimine front)

Craig climbing out of Inglesfield gap towards Greens lick.  The climb up to Inglesfield gap from the lower lot was a hard warm up.  real hard.  Like banging the needle off puking hard.    The link from Inglesfields gap to Greens lick was a tamer grade thankfully and provided this setting.
Greens lick was the first destination 'down'.  We took it pretty easy on the descent with having brought very xc oriented equipment this time around.  Rollers were pumped, berms were railed, but for the most the wheels stayed on the ground. Still lots of fun though.  Greens lick is one of those great trail sections where a novice could have a great time and the big bike guys can pop 10ft of air under their wheels.  ..just add speed and intent.
 At the bottom we dropped down a bit further then climbed back up a bit to jump onto Lower Sidehill for some moderately fast sweeping benchcut riding.
That was about all we had in us for day one.  Next stop Salsas' on Patton Ave. for some mexi-caribbean fusion.  My very favouritest restaurant in Asheville. Yum!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Baby

My darling wife surprised me out of the blue with this on Thursday:

That's right, a brand new Cervelo R3 with full Dura-Ace components. Weighs in at just over 16lbs I think.

Took out it for a spin in the park on Friday where I ran into Craig on his way out. Gorgeous bike, can't say enough about it.

Saw Mark while I was out for a run on Sunday, then Anthony mountain biking on Sunday. To top it all off I ran into Tanya on my ride home from work on Monday. Looks like the Big Ringers have thawed for the season.