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Fresh Meat : WTB Trail Boss 2.4 and 2.25

44 Bikes X WTB Trail Boss

A while back I was contacted by Will at WTB with a simple question: “IF I send you set of 40mm Nano’s, will you try them out and report back?” My simple answer was “HECK YEAH I WILL.” This led to other things headed to 44HQ which include WTB’s Trail Boss Tires.

See, when I first started building bikes of my own, it was with the express purpose to compare 26″ with the “newer” 29″ standard. I always felt that 26″ was just a hair bit too small for me (I stand 6’1″ on a good day), so as the 29″ standard started to become more widely available, I ironically just started to build my own bikes and hence that is the direction I wanted to experiment with. And during that time, pretty much the only game in town were WTB Exi-Wolve’s in 2.3″. What impressed me about WTB’s tires were the compound, how I could run a little less air pressure with the wheel size for more traction and comfort but also how fast the tires rolled without giving up much in the grip department. Granted, the knobs on the tire were on the smallish side, but the tires rolled fast and I was really happy with them. So for years that’s all I ran was WTB. When I upgraded a set of wheels I wanted to try out tubeless, and with tubeless comes all the different tubeless standards. Unknowingly, I went with Stan’s ARCH EX 32 hole rims. These, unfortunately, are not compatible with WTB’s tubeless tires (TCS specifically, which stands for “Tubeless Compatible System”). Basically it has to do with the bead seat diameter and different company’s create tubeless rims/tires based on different systems. Stan’s rely’s on a slightly larger rim sidewall, while WTB’s aligns itself with the standard of the ETRTO / ISO tubeless diameter standard which is based on the UST standard. Stan’s as I mentioned above, makes their rims just slightly oversized… so the two just won’t work together. Well I suppose they will, but that is IF… IF you can get the tires on which may land you a few broken tire levers in the process or maybe even shedding some blood.

With the recent decision to rebuild my single speed as a single speed with a 1x option, this opened up the idea to move the wheel set for my current 1×11 over to the SS and get a newer set of wheels for the 1×11 (pictured above) which of course would open me up to WTB compatibility. With the Nano’s came some samples of WTB’s Trail Boss tire. I was speaking with Will about a project we were collaborating on and of course tires came up. I told him what I was looking for was just a really sweet “mountain bike” tire. You know, not something that’s XC or DH or Enduro specific where they are optimized for a given course or discipline. I like to climb the mountain and descend the mountain and do everything in between. I ride trails. Not that other riders don’t ride trails, but I like to think that my riding style is a bit more, well… non-specific. It’s inspired by the days of racing’s early years where the rider had to compete in ALL the disciplines. I like to jump on my bike, ride and have fun. So what I need is a good all around tire. Not too aggressive, not too “racey”, fast rolling but have some bite to it. Will immediately suggested their Trail Boss…

WTB : Back in Black

So! With this new wheel change in hand, it was time to mount up the tires. I9’s rims are compatible, but honestly, the tires went on tight as there is no “well” for the beads to rest inside – the inside of their rims are a smooth concave transition from center up to the bead seat. Honestly, I have to say to the industry at large: Make up your mind and deliver the standard based on ETRTO / ISO tubeless diameter standards and stick with it. Create a well in the center of the rims so tires go on easily with a nice smooth transition up to the bead seat but SNAP up and in to position. Share the same standard throughout. Compatibility is key. And last I checked you can’t ride your bike without tires and giving the rider the full suite of choices would be good for you and good for everyone. Off the soapbox now and back to the tires… With a system figured out, the tires snapped in to place after I removed the valve to give myself JUST a touch more room. Now with valve reinstalled, and core removed, sealant was added using an injector. The tires themselves aired up as one of the most easily inflated tubeless tires I’ve had my hands on using a floor pump only. Took a few tries over the weekend to get the tires to stay inflated over night over the course of a weekend, but once the sealant was properly coated inside, things stayed aired up nicely.

Graphically speaking, the logo’s are a nice light gray. So for those out there looking for color hook ups and build aesthetics… these tires don’t draw attention and will compliment a wide array of build choices from a visual perspective. From a tread design perspective, the knobs are meaty without being too meaty. They are slightly closer and have some siping to the knobs to open up the tread and create more surface area for traction. Side knobs stand just proud of the sidewalls on these 23.4mm wide internal width rims from Industry 9. Front tire is a good 2.4″ width while the rear although stating 2.25″ actually fills out to be every bit of a 2.3″ wide tire. One thing I was really excited about was this tread pattern compared to what I typically run out back: a Schwalbe Nobby Nic. The one big problem with the Nobby Nic is that the tread pattern has some large open spots in the pattern. I’d say I’ve patched this tire on both of my mountain bikes at least 2-3 times so far from punctures that the sealant would not close up. That large dead spot just loves to get struck by the granite around this neck of the woods. I typically have been running a Schwalbe Hans Dampf up front (2.4″), which according to my opinion, is most likely one of the best tires I’ve run up front. So the Trail Boss’s had their work cut out for them and to my enjoyment, excelled beyond what I was expecting.

WTB Meat

First ride out was just after a heavy rain storm on a hot, muggy afternoon. Most likely one of the worst places to start on a completely new set of tires and wheels beneath you. The Trail Boss’s were put to the fire immediately. Grip was really good but the ride to the trailhead was even more enjoyable with a fast rolling tire beneath me. I didn’t realize just how much the other tires were soaking up forward momentum honestly (well I did, but took traction over rolling resistance). One thing I did notice was that these tires like to be perpendicular to the ground when it’s wet and slippery. I was also moving a bit slower too due to the humidity, but I noted early on that getting any kind of lean on these tires when the going was slippery/slimy and the tires started to move beneath you. Keeping the bike horizontal kept the tires hooked up (and many others do the same). But all the technical sections were cleaned first try. All the climbs were burn out free. All the corners hooked up and dug in. All the descents were skid free. Basically, out of the gates I was stoked on these tires. There was one spot in particular I was wondering about. Basically you come up and over a bridge that straddles a gap between two tree’s and a large rock. Maybe 3-4′ up in the air, on an incline. You roll up and over a rock, on to the bridge and down into a rock and root infested bowl. The secret to this line is to stay up on the roots (they’re fairly big) and dance across the rocks before you need to squeeze your bars between two trees and you’re climbing a short, punchy hill that goes into a nice roller. The Trail Boss’s didn’t skip a beat. Bridge, roots and rocks all were danced. Line finished. No second guessing or feeling sketchy. If anything I was sketchy and the tires were waiting for me on some of the ride. Almost like I was anticipating sketchiness to happen and it just did not happen. And on a wet, muggy, slippery day… these tires inspired confidence.

They call it the Granite State.

Next ride was again after a storm with similar results. Last night’s ride was basically on a good mix of rocks, roots and hard pack with some loamy miles mixed in there as well. Hero dirt possibly… 3rd ride out and I have to say I’m loving these tires. One thing I wasn’t necessarily struggling with but perhaps chasing my tail fine tuning was the tire pressure. I’d add some, let some go, then let too much go or add too much. Never really finding that “just so” feel. The wheels truthfully are WAY stiffer than what I am used to. That is true. So finding that sweet spot was a challenge. Last night I aired them up, let a touch out on the trail and found the sweet spot. I came home and immediately put the pressure gauge to them as a reference. Both front and rear were 12psi? I’ll make sure that is where it’s at at the next ride just to make sure that is accurate.. but that’s what I ended up running if you can imagine that.

Build the Bikes. Shred the Bikes.  Simple Recipe...

There’s some additional tires on their way from WTB to try a few different combinations for front and rear. I was running the 2.4 up front and the 2.25 out back. Would be interesting to run both 2.4 up front and in the rear. I’m really looking forward to putting these tires and others to the test as the summer stretches out. But my initial impression after a handful of rides is that I am impressed. Really stoked on how these tires roll though. They’re aggressive but roll fast so they seem to have a good balance of what I refer to as a good trail tire or basically in my head: they’re tires for mountain biking. Will said that the tires will stretch a touch as they are ridden and I’m starting to see them fill out a bit more after each and every ride. Tonight’s a gym night (curls of the girls as they say, or maybe Muscle Beach..) so I’m looking forward to Friday’s ride after work. So happy to be back on WTB tires. More soon but till then, hope everyone is enjoying their summer and riding as much as you can.

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A day in this life

Pieces Parts

I get a lot of questions. One that pop’s up every now and again is for me to describe what a typical day is like here at 44HQ. Well, here is 6.10.2015:

Wake up time was about 8am. I’ve never been a early riser. Honestly. I knew that a LONG time ago. My natural hours seem to be anywhere from 7:30am to about 1-2am (I’m a night owl, what can I say…). So wash up, get dressed and give Kaya some hugs and kisses. She needs these and it’s my job to give them to her. Mr. Kito got some too (he’s the King of the Kitty Castle, or so he thinks). Breakfast was 2 eggs, a piece of toast and some greek yogurt, strawberries, almonds and honey on top. This combination seems to be a habit as of late. Coffee is already made – my wife Lynn rules. After a couple of sups, observing the gang of Gold Finches, a Nuthatch and a Red Bellied Woodpecker …and blank stares out the back doors onto the deck where the bird feeders face the forest, sleeves rolled up, I’m at my desk in the command seat.

Phone rings not long after this and it’s a long term design client (Pro-Cut International – here’s their current site). We’ve been redesigning the entire website and all my layouts have been approved so we’re moving on to coordinating things with the development team in Vermont. There’s also a laundry list of new projects to go over. New design layouts and refinements for existing catalogs, updates to sell sheets, logos to discuss, graphics to be put into order. I’m coordinating some brochures and owners manuals for their Rotor Matching Systems (aka on-car brake lathes) which are going to print so all files I’ve designed need to be tightened up, packaged in InDesign and sent out. That’s an hour conversation. I’ve got my new marching orders and a list is made of priorities.

Back to checking emails, replying to inquiries and sending out new emails coordinating parts coming in from my OEM’s for two project bikes. One is going out for review and I’m also making mental notes for today’s work in the shop. Through all this, I get an email from a bike shop in North Carolina I’ve been helping design their new shop’s logo and design 3 postcards that can dual as keepsakes or be enlarged to posters. They’ve picked two of the comps and it’s my job to put the finishing touches on the finalized logo. I bang out that design tweak right then and there and it’s off to them for review. How’s that for service?

So that’a a good hour of work right there. Now it’s time to get in and make final adjustments for the 2015 New England Builders’ Ball Poster art. That’s finished and tweaked, finalized art gets sent off to Eric. We’ll coordinate the finalized art once sponsors are all shored up so this is just for online promotion type stuff. I’ve designed the poster so I can lay in additional logos/sponsors at a later date without too many changes. Here’s that art:

New England Builders' Ball 2015

Wash my hands of that project and it’s back to Pro-Cut with a lightning round of changes, edits and tweaks in both Adobe Illustrator and Indesign. Knock those out, send proof’s off to the appropriate parties and we’re on schedule for today’s work load. Oh, yeah – another email: Woodstock Farmers’ Market in Woodstock Vt. is making another beer… So I am designing THAT art too. (One of a very small handful of design clients I have on my roster I’ve kept). So I get back the feedback from that last comp, redo some things and knock that off to Patrick up in Vt. for review. It’s immediately approved. Whew… They went along with what I had in mind. Now I’m just waiting on specs from the brewer for the federal regulations and such regarding technical jargon on the label.

Another hour gone by – now it’s 11am. Pull out a few drawings and work on these for up coming clients in the list. Knock around numbers, measurements and specs for these clients. Noon rolls around and it’s time to take a break and eat lunch. Peruse bike porn on the internet for a minute or so, then make some lunch, sit down and relax. Do a little day dreaming about where I’m going to go for a ride – I think it’s a shortie tonight so I’ll take Kaya on that loop I’ve been enjoying recently and it will be on the single speed for an added layer of fun. Lunch finished, it’s time to switch gears, literally and go down to the shop, turn on lights, take Kaya out to the mailbox for our afternoon stroll down the lane together. She pokes around a little and then we head back over to the shop and she’s on her lead for the afternoon. Shop is cool so I keep the door JUST cracked in case Kaya wants to come in out of the sun. iPod hooked up and music is on shuffle. All those mental notes I made earlier flow right through to my hands and we’re knocking out this in jig time:

ISO Ain't Dead Yo!

ISO mount on it’s tool into the Bridgeport to be trimmed/modified. Then hand tweaked to fit. Once that’s done I bend both the Seat Stay Bridge and ISO Brace. Both are then fitted by hand with file. This could be done on the mill, but it’s actually nice to take some steps by hand rather than do them on the machine. Adds a little personality to the mix:

Clearance Clarence

So both are fitted up, I’m now ripping along to finish up these parts, clean, vent, degrease, clean again and then get ready to weld. So an hour ago I was designing on the computer, now I’ve got torch in hand and striking arcs:

Welding that Brace

Finalize that and get things all welded up. As I let things cool, I take the time to clean up, organize and put some things away for a fresh start the following day which will be all brazing operations. I can do that today, but by the time I’ve finished all this and in between fielded a few more emails/coordinated with some phone calls (I make frequent trips back and forth from the shop) it’s just about 5 O’Clock. I’d like to go for a ride though… So either work till 6 or 7 or go for a ride? Let’s go for a ride tonight. Brazing will wait for another day. I take some time also to take a bunch of additional photos of the progress of the build for the client from yesterday’s weld-fest of the frame. Button everything up – double check the gas is off and I’m headed back up to the house with Kaya in tow to suit up.

Head Tube Welds

Suit up, get the bottles in order, get the bike on the car, tell Lynn the route just in case I don’t come home or am late so she knows where to find me… and we’re off (Lynn would normally come with but she’s going to take the day off from exercise to rest). The route chosen isn’t very long – maybe 5 miles? But it’s fun, incorporates some nice pieces of tech, a good down hill, a really nice climb and two good spots for Kaya to get water as it’s a bit on the hot side tonight. Gotta think about that when you have a dog who needs water too! Otherwise I reserve one of my water bottles for her. Forest is looking pretty lush since the last rain:


I want to finish in a field so I can take a mental break and just let my mind go blank. Not think of anything and even recall what I did today. Just let things go and refresh. This spot, which I frequent and you’ve all most likely seen a bunch of pictures is that spot:

Over the Hill

Technically, you ride across this spot the opposite direction… but I shot the picture facing this way because it looks better. Go figure – you can’t take the designer out of the kid I suppose. So that’s one day. Multiply that by 5 and sometimes even 6? Maybe seven if I’m REALLY busy. Some days I’m in the shop till 7pm. Then back down in the evening after dinner to shoot bikes in the studio. Some times I’m down in the shop by 9am and I don’t spend any time in front of the computer. But this spring has been a busy design season it seems, so I’ve been spending a bunch of my mornings in front of the computer finishing projects or starting new ones. I really like the flow of both design and building bikes. Keeps both interesting honestly but each really drives / inspires the other. I take breaks throughout the day and often if one thing is not going well, I switch gears and do the other. Or even just put things down and go for a ride. Basically, my work day flows very naturally and I work very fluidly switching gears frequently. That’s when I feel I am at my best and happiest. Granted, from the outside this may look ideal – it is my ideal that is for sure, but don’t mix words here: This is work plain and simple. It took A LONG time to get here and a lot of dedication. I still have a lot of work to be done, but I feel like I’ve made some decisions that allow me to do these things I do. Life gives you opportunities, it’s your job to listen and look for those opportunities and not hesitate to take the necessary steps.

Till next time…

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Builders’ Ride : Marauder SS w/ 1×11 Option

New Bike Day : Marauder SS

So a while back I built up a dedicated single speed for myself (view the full Flickr album here) I swap out bikes every now and again as my weekly riding takes shape. Most days I’m hitting the trails on my 1×11 setup. Some days though the hankering hits me for a pedal on the Single Speed. Keep things simple. Make the typical loops more challenging. I love that bike. But, as I’ve been building more bikes, going to more shows and meeting more and more clients / fellow riders, it’s become apparent to me that no only do people basically come to me for what I am riding, they’re also coming to me for my take on a hardtail and frequently ask me opinions on Sram vs Shimano. So a new plan for the stable start to percolate…

I have to be honest here: I am not necessarily a only Shimano guy or only Sram guy. I will say that I have preferences, but no signed in blood allegiances. I am however a strong advocate of supporting local OE’s that make an effort to produce product here in the U.S. That I will say I have a signed allegiance. But when it comes to XTR or XX1, or X1 vs XT, both have there place and both have their attributes that are debatable. The choice ultimately I like to leave up to the client. I make recommendations and craft the conversation accordingly, but at the end of the day: I’m building that riders NEXT bicycle. The one. That got me to thinking with this whole scenario: What if I turned the Single Speed into a bike I could now display with either Shimano or Sram 1x setups AND set it up as a Single Speed? So that’s what motivated me to move on this build.

I’ve also been building up a new platform: The Marauder. My take on a sweet, New England hard tail. It seemed like the perfect match for this sort of build.

Endless 19t Kick Ass Cog

The spec is taken pretty much directly from my other build with the exception of a new set of Race Face Turbine Cinch cranks. The bottom bracket is actually a RWC 30mm bottom bracket – this is a terrific upgrade if anyone is looking for a super bomber, reliable set up. I also was also toying with the idea of bumping down to a 30t chainring up front. I really liked the feel and cadence with a 32x19t combination. I had been running a 32x18t combo for years, but found that on the steep short climbs that frequent my local trails, lower back pain would set in halfway through the ride from the tough back to back efforts constantly. When I popped up a tooth to the 19t cog, this seemed to really help the efforts and give me a little more range and realistic gear ratio. I was going to carry that over to this one, but I was running a half link in that setup and unfortunately, the Cinch thick/thin chainring did not jive with that half link. Setting it up meant a longer chain and it really put the chain stay setting far back on the sliders with little room for chain stretch and a shorter chain was JUST too short. So I did some math and figured that a 30x19t combination may be ok given what I had on hand in terms of parts. It put things not only dead center on the sliders, and exactly at 16.5″ chain stay length… (Stoked on that!) but I have to say the pedal around the local test loop here at 44HQ had me really digging this combination. Sure I might pedal out on the flats occasionally, and I do like to go fast, but I like to ride and have fun. That’s the two big goals during the week: Ride. Have fun. This seemed like just the ticket.

Marauder SS : Back in Black

Another factor I wanted to try out was lengthening my cockpit a bit. Speaking with a physical therapist recently, she made me realize that my posture both on and off the bike was not helping my lower back. Nothing that was keeping me awake at night, but on rides and long days standing, sometimes my back would be a tad bit on the creaky/achy side. So a little bit more length to let me open up my lower back, and straighten out my posture on climbs/descents, especially on a single speed, was warranted. Keep in mind, each bike I’ve been slowly dialing in the cockpit and refining it for myself with each build. Even I have to experiment with my own set up each build and tweak it to get closer to perfect, and I’m the builder! Then what’s interesting is comparing bikes and set ups in my own stable to see what does what and how each one rides for different purposes. Just more data for me to make the bikes better.

Marauder SS w/ 1x11 Option

So with that added top tube length, I also wanted the ability to be able to run SS or gears, and Paragon Machine Works new Triple Saddle Stops were in order for this build – again, now I have a bike that shows internal routing and one that shows external full housing on another. That also makes changing from one set up to the other a snap. This build also uses my new radius seat tube in a 34.9mm diameter (so 30.9mm Seat posts, or shimmed down in this case to a 27.2mmm post that was the other builds existing spec). I can also now offer 30.9mm dropper posts and PMW’s Triple Saddle Stop allows for external routing made very easily along with the rear derailleur line all bundled together nicely in a tight package. (I’ll be building this up later this summer as a 1xll X1 build FYI) The new seat tube also incorporates a new technique for bending them which puts the saddle in the same position if it were a 73* ST angle on a straight tube (to make that happen, the seat tube is actually angled at 72* and the bend places things exactly where they would be with a 73* ST angle – that radius kicks the seat tube forward, so I need to use a little slacker angle to achieve this). So a bit more saddle set back over the bottom bracket, which was a slight gripe from some clients actually so I’ve solved that “problem”.

Seat stays are also made a little differently too – the process has been further refined and made more repeatable but the bend down by the dropout is more on the straight side, so when I need to weld up a disc brake tab, it puts it smack dab in the middle of the stay for a good platform to weld – the other method was kicking it out a tad bit too much towards the outside of the stay, and the spot of the weld on the inside of the stay was a bit acute as it wrapped around the tube (aka a tough spot to weld). So this was more of a method to the madness change up. But I really like how the new stays form up.

ENVE X Thomson Cockpit

The cockpit remains the same. I had a set of Titanium Nitrided badges here in reserve and they hooked up well with the sparkle gold decal kit. Room for 2 big bottles was a must and geometry wise, I slackened up the head tube angle from 70.5 to 70* (I’ve found that to be a nice all around “just so” head tube angle in combination with BB drop of 2.25 and chain stay lengths of 16-16.5″ – this one sports adjustment from 16″ to 16.8″ with the sweet spot being 16.5″ for everything from tech to long days, or short quick rides where playfulness and fun is the biggest goal).

Fox 32 Float X Industry 9 Classic

Rubber stayed the same: 2.4″ Hans Dampf up front and a 2.3″ Nobby Nic out back. IF you ride up here in NH, especially in and around 44HQ, you’ll note that the soil tends to be on the loamy side. Kind of soft – so you need a nobby tire that can dig in, and hold your line. Smaller knobs work well too but some times especially later in the season when the tree’s start dropping a lot of sap, the smaller knobs can pack up with lots of sap/hemlock needles. The soil tends to be wettish and with that combination, the tires can get coated quick. I prefer smaller knobbed tires as they are a bit faster rolling, but the soil and terrain here require some different treads on occasion. I really like this combination though – the softer tread grips well on wet / loose rocky / rooty conditions that abound. A 2015 Fox Float 32 does bump smoothing duties. I’ve had my hands on the new 32 Float with the Fit 4 damper… That added wide range adjustment of compression was a much needed improvement over this model. So 2016 looks like a good range of forks from Fox! My only gripe about this fork really. Other than that, the fork is plush, has relatively good adjustment and when it needs to be locked out: IT STAYS locked out. Thank you Fox. Industry 9 Classic hubs (old style) keep me engaged and shredding.

Maiden voyage was Sunday afternoon and I hauled along the camera for these shots in a Low Pro shoulder sling style camera bag – my first time using it like such. It was given to me as a good friend and photographer had an extra one. The darn thing stayed put on my back and I really didn’t notice it for the ride to/from this spot. A happy surprise as I liked how these shots turned out, and I think I’ll do a few more shoots like this “on location” in the bikes natural settings. But I was pretty stoked on this build. Things felt “just so” and I am really, really digging being back on SPD’s (XTR M9000 SPD pedals in this case).

But the whole point was to build a bike that I could take out as a single speed or build up as a 1×11 setup all built around the Marauder platform. This allows me to show both Sram/Shimano setups on two different bikes showing different options. Since I take my personal bikes to shows most of the time, it allows me to speak a bit more intimately about the choices, the spec and the set ups but now I can speak to both major drivetrain options and let the potential client decide. More on this build as things come together for the 1×11 setup. Till then, hope everyone is getting out for their own Shred sessions…

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Ride at 5

This way...

The majority of my rides happen at the end of the day. I try and get out earlier on the weekends, but some times I get out later yet again on the weekends. Today, well.. that was one of those Saturday’s where the day went by and I still hadn’t managed to get out the door for a ride. I was building up a new single speed most of the afternoon after doing some chores around the house. The plan was to build it, and take it for the afternoon ride. Well, the rear brake line needed to be bled and of course… when I stood back and looked the rear brake line was “just too short” for my liking. I had a brand new spare, (2 actually), so off that one came, and on went one of the new ones. Bled, reassemble and brakes aren’t working now.

Oddly the pistons were moving outward on their own. Odd indeed. I looked at the Shimano housing number and compared it to the old one. Crap. Turns out that new line was NOT the correct one. The remaining line was unearthed, fingers crossed and it turned out to be a match and the right length! That worked out but in the process, I disassembled, bled, reassembled and disassembled everything 3 times.

That sucked up a lot of daylight. Not to mention the Wolf Tooth Cinch chainring did not want to play nicely with my chain’s half link, and the proper length was really long. More daylight gone… I decided that this bike was finished, but not ready for it’s first ride just yet. So out came the trusty 1×11, I donned riding gear, got my pup Kaya all spun up about a bicycle ride and off we went.

I decided to do one of my typical shorter loops (daylight was limited), but I decided to do it in reverse. More climbing but that’s ok. Some of the climbs in the other direction turn into really great technical down hills. Some of the lines take some concentration. Kaya was all excited and ready to shred. There’s something special about riding with your pup. Mine just loves to go for a bike ride. We share that in common immensely.

Loop done, hills climbed, descents descended and I finished the loop in the field above. A good “think’in spot” I’ve found it to be. Not to mention Kaya loves running around the tall grass sniffing and poking around for critters. It’s fun to just stand there and watch her bee-bop around the field and look at Mt. Monadnock in the distance. Sun on the horizon. Dead quiet. When we entered the field, this quiet really held my attention. We passed a Turkey to our right, who got really low and gave us the stink eye. Kaya didn’t see him (she doesn’t actually see so well in low light…) but it seemed she had other things to sniff. The hill rolls up and the trail follows it and splits for two ways across the field. I typically take the high road to get a head of steam for the rock wall leap that sits just inside the tree line.

Well, as we’re rolling out into this quiet, I soak in the sounds or lack there of. I’m watching Kaya in front of me speeding along. I can hear her feet on the ground and grass. I take notice to the similar sound I’m making with tires on the grass behind her. She rips off close to the top into the tall grass to check out the critters. I stop and watch her. It’s all so simple and pleasing. I find in this spot, it’s easy to relax and just observe. Admire my surroundings. Talk aloud to kaya about “What’s that over there” or “Go get ’em!” And off she goes sniffing and poking about. Simple. Pleasing and refreshing. Some times the rides don’t have to be long. Some times they can be short and sweet. Simple. It was a great ride.

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Gold Vision

Over the past few seasons, I’ve gathered that a bunch of TIG Welders follow me on Instagram. One comment I have been getting a lot of lately is “You need to get yourself a gold filter!”. Ok. I’ve been informed! I’ve been TIG Welding now for some 20 years and never really thought much of changing the lens which is a stock No. 10. Some swear by a No. 9. You get used to what you’re used to I suppose and in this case, I was used to what I was used to. But with this encouragement from fellow welders, I decided to track down a gold filter.

But where to start. I knew nothing about said gold filter. All I knew was it was hailed as “you can see so much better!” So on to the Miller help forums and scouting out welding topics discussing the in’s and out’s of filters. According to the experts, it seemed you could go one shade higher, see more and gain even more protection because of the gain in clarity. Others argued that they found they were dropping down a rating. Some preferred polycarbonate lenses vs glass lenses, and vice versa. One thing for certain on my end is I really like how light my Jackson helmet is. It has a polycarbonate lens in it, and glass filters do weigh a bit more but are more easily scratched/broken if dropped. I’ve dropped my helmet ever once in a while, and I really like how light it is, so I decided to get myself a No. 10 and a No. 11 Gold Polycarbonate Filter.

"That's gold Jerry.  Gold!"

Well, as they saying goes: Seeing is believing. Man – clarity was an understatement. What was interesting to my eyes was the perceived trueness of color of the weld. Normally, things appear on the greenish tint with a stock No. 10. I was now looking at the weld in “Technicolor” basically. I swapped between both the No. 10 and No. 11 a few times and the view shed is slightly smaller in the No. 11, but the differences are subtle. I can weld with both but initially I was seeing some odd refractions/reflections when I first started welding. After welding for a bit with the No. 10 and then the No. 11 and going back and forth, I realized what I now was seeing were the small scratches/scuffs on the plastic protective filter sheet that sits in front of the filter to protect it from being scratched. So yes, I am indeed seeing even more – I have to get myself some new covers!

But thanks to all who insisted I try one out. Definitely won’t do the welding for you, but I can certainly see a heck of a lot more now at the weld site.

Back in the saddle

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Marauder : Back in Black

Marauder : Back in Black

I was getting some ribbing from some fellow builders’ not too long ago in regards to the sudden “change” in visual direction in terms of color. I assured them I had not strayed from the path. Cam’s Marauder quiets any doubt that 44 Bikes murders out bikes like no one else. The blue of the Industry 9 Trail 32 wheel set with an X9 driver for the XX1 drive train is hooked up with a blue Cane Creek 110 and the forks top caps. Schwalbe Racing Ralph’s 2.25″ mount up pretty close to a full 2.3 on this wheel set. Upon close inspection, the Racing Ralph is very close in nob arrangement to the venerable Hans Dampf (My personal favorite for front tire duties). It would be interesting to try a pair of these tires out.

I’m no advocate of dropper posts. I have a funny mindset that I have to be clipped in and the post needs to be at full extension for me to “officially” clean a line. I’m not opposed to them of course! But I’ve read and seen the hassles that are associated with them. Riders seem to have a love/hate relationship with them. They seem to be needing TLC often and when the don’t work, well… it’s a pain. Enter the Thomson Dropper. The fit and finish is what you would expect from Thomson. What I was really impressed by was the complete lack of rattle and movement of the head/post. Many of the dropper’s I’ve handled all need to be bled out of the box or creak/groan/move/shimmy etc. on the first ride. Not a place I want movement personally. But the Thomson is rock solid. Many when they are fully compressed, have a slight “SNAP” when then come back to full extension. The Thomson seems to move up rapidly, but in a smooth fashion with no audible clunk when it reaches full extension. Set up was a snap. Speaking with Will from WTB and Ted from I9, they both have had a bunch of experience with this dropper. Both clearly stated that the Thomson dropper just flat out works and does what it’s supposed to do and they’ve not had to service theirs. So when it came time for a dropper choice for this steed, Thomson seemed like the obvious choice. Collar and Stem are also Thomson. Heck, I’m considering getting one now just to try… That’s saying something.

Cam's Marauder : Back in Black

XX1 Drivetrain is highlighted by those Industry 9 Alloy blue spokes…


You’ll note that this build sports Paragon Machine Works hooded sliding dropouts, 12mm TA Post Mount option. Cam likes to ride with gears, but the single speed itch strikes and strikes hard sometimes. So he wanted the option to run this bike in Pisgah some times as a 1×11 and others as a single speed. A quick swap of dropouts, removal of the drive train and swapping of the rear wheel and he’s on his way to single speed bliss.

Race Face Turbine Cinch

Race Face Turbine Cinch’s for the win. I shot the bike with my 32t cinch chainring admittedly… He’ll be running this with the removable spider and an Endless 32t blue “The One” ring throwing even more support to local east coast company’s making product here in the US. I shot it this way to avoid questions about “Why are you running a single ring with the 104BCD on a Cinch crank? I don’t get it…” Those kinds of comments can kill the vibe on a build – everyone’s an expert on the internet.

Marauder Cockpit

The cockpit on this bike is a little crowded with remotes for both the dropper and the Fox 32 FIT4 Float. I did my best to keep things in reach and tidy like I like my cockpits : Just So.

Industry 9 Trail 32's : BOSS

When I received the wheel set from I9, I saw this shot IMMEDIATELY in my mind. I had to execute it… So good.

Friday got away from me and a box that was supposed to handle shipping duties for this build turned out to be too small. Some times that happens. So first thing Monday I’ll be heading over to my friends at Goodale’s to sort out a box for this beast and get it on the Fedex truck by the end of the day. Cam’s got racing to do and this bike is his ticket. Keep your eyes peeled if you frequent Pisgah and the surrounding trails in N.C. or if you happen to be at any of Cam’s events (Wilson’s Revenge, Savage CX, Darby Roubaix, and Love Valley), be sure and look for this bike. He’ll have it on hand I’m sure.

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Huntsman Di2

Huntsman Di2

Every once in a while you get a client after your own heart. This Huntsman Di2 build is right up my alley. Room for 40mm tires, Di2 compatible and with the flat black powder, the gloss sparkle silver decal is a subtle accent to match the stainless head tube badge. A simple, straight forward build. Nothing to complain about here for me! I’ll let the pictures do the talking with this one. Like I said, it’s the simple things that some times make the biggest impact.

ISO Mount Detail :

Huntsman : Details

Subtle curves hug the tire profile and give the rider good heal clearances :

Huntsman : Tail

No frills side shot with a nod to the brand namesake only visible from the Drive Side :

Huntsman Di2 : Back in Black

3/4 View bolsters that understated, yet subtly aggressive stance :

Huntsman Di2 : Back in Black

Curves move from the rear and move into the more linear line weight of the front triangle :

Huntsman Di2 : Back in Black