New Commencal Meta 6

Mountain Biking

My brother’s trusty Commencal Meta 6 has finally given in to a lot of hard riding.  An aggressive rider at 6′ 4″ and over 220 pounds, he put this bike through its paces for a couple of years with flawless performance.  But like all good things, there must be an end.  Fortunately, the dealer from which he purchased the bike was able to help him with a viable replacement.

You can see in the photo below what has become a growing crack in the swing arm.

New Meta 6 build up

Here, we begin the process of tearing down the bike.

New Meta 6 build up

All of the parts will be transferred to the replacement frame, a 2011 Remy Absalon edition Commencal Meta 6 in XL.  The new frame has a few modifications including reduced weight, improved geometry, and updated tubing in addition to a really fantastic paint job.

New Meta 6 build up

The new bike begins to take shape as most of the major components get transferred to the new frame.

New Meta 6 build up

A bit blurry, but now it’s really taking shape as the red DT Swiss wheels are attached and the bike is prepped for installation of the drive-train.

New Meta 6 build up

Almost there!  Chain and derailleurs need to be installed and tuned with pedals adding the final and essential touch to get the bike moving.

New Meta 6 build up

Stoked!  It’s alive!  At about 11:00 PM we finally got the bike up and rolling with no major issues.

New Meta 6 build up

So far, my brother has ridden it twice–once on The Luge in Orange County, CA and a second time on OC’s San Juan Trail.  With a few minor adjustments to the shock (a Push tuned RP23) and some new bars, the bike is performing very well.  Nevertheless, my brother is convinced the original bike rides a little better.  Nah!

I am now in the process of reconditioning the older frame.  I am going to replace the broken swing arm, powder coat the whole frame red and then decorate it with an updated Commencal decal kit.  I will be transferring one of my other bikes to the frame with the addition of a few new parts along the way, most notably the fork–probably a Fox 36 or perhaps a Lyrik.

In any case, we’ll follow up with some ride reports later to compare the two rigs and see if my brother still likes the old one better.


First Ride on 2010 Mongoose Khyber Super

Mountain Biking, Video

It’s been pretty rainy and just generally hectic with lots of stuff going on, but I finally got a chance to put the finishing touches on the new Khyber and get ‘er out for a ride on the local track, Aliso Woods as usual.  I like trying out new bikes there because I know the place very well and it has a lot of variety.  This makes it very easy to tune the bike because I know how it should feel and I have plenty of different conditions to test under.

Background – Why a Khyber?

First, a little background on the bike.  Right off the bat for 2010 my trail bike gets stolen.  We’re talking New Year’s eve and someone steals my rig.  Total bummer.  Luckily I have good insurance.  I conjured all my receipts and ran a depreciation analysis and submitted them with my claim.  I was sorted in a few short days.  Take note here:  get good renter’s or  home owner’s insurance if you value your gear.

While I was waiting for my cash, my brother spotted a 2010 Mongoose Khyber on www.socaltrailriders.org.  Turns out it was a buddy of mine selling it.  So, I got a chance to check out the bike in real life and was super impressed with the overall package–aggressive geometry like a mini-downhill bike, good weight (mid 30′s), solid build kit, excellent fit and finish, and an amazing price tag (got a bro deal). At this point, most bikes that I had looked at were going to be twice the price, but delivering little if any improvement over the Khyber. I was sold.

The Set-up

I have since made a few modifications to suit my personal preferences.  First I put on a Thomson seat post in lieu of the included KS remote.  This was not as much as choice as I broke the handlebar remote lever mount by over-torquing.  Whoops.  An upgraded replacement is on the way.  I then swapped out the wheels and tires, going from Stans rims and Kenda Excavators to red DT Swiss and tubeless 2.30 Chunders front and rear (with tubes).  I then swapped out the Crank Brothers Acid pedals for favorite Shimano SPD pedals.  Almost done.  I also threw on a chainstay protector and strategically placed Lizard Skinz carbon leathers to keep the paint in good condition and to silence any cable or chain slap.  Here are some pictures of the [never] finished product:

Once I got the bike put together, I made some adjustments to the bars, the controls, and the seat to get it just how I like it.  In particular, I like to run my controls pretty far in so my index finger lines up with the sweet spot of the brake levers.  I also like to angle the controls a little higher for more comfort on descents.  I set up my suspension to have typical sag in the front and about 35% or so in the rear.  This gives the bike a nice rake in the neutral seated position.  I also like to have the suspension very balanced so the front and rear deflect and rebound very evenly when applying force over the center of the bike.  In addition, I like a slot bit of hop at the end of the stroke–just enough to make the bike almost leave the ground when rebounding.  For tire pressure, I typically run 28 and 30 for rear and front, respectively.  I increased this slightly because the Chunders are very soft and have large treads.  I feel like I can get a good balance between grip and rolling resistance with this slightly higher pressure.  Finally, I run my SPDs fairly loose so I can get in and out of them very easily.

The Ride

Okay, enough of that.  How did it ride?  Unfortunately, Aliso gets a bit sloggy after a lot of rain.  The ground is gets super sticky and this is fantastic for getting good grip when riding aggressively, but it also creates a ton of rolling resistance.  So, I did not feel  as fast as I wanted to feel.  Nevertheless, it was a great chance see how this new rig would perform.

The first thing I noticed was how cool the Hammerschmidt system was.  I have ridden single chain ring set-ups exclusively for the last 5 years.  I had forgotten what it was like to have a granny gear.  The Hammerschmidt was very welcome when it was time to climb up the muddy trails.  It shifted seamlessly and instantly and was incredibly silent except for the menacing freewheel.  In the high gear it sounds like the fishing reel in Jaws.  I love it.  So far, I am sold on this drive train concept.

As for the performance on the descent, I was nearly immediately comfortable dropping into my favorite local trail, Rock-it (see video).  The bike motored through the crud and skipped right over the rough bits.  Through the main rock garden, I found the bike to be very comfortable with very little chatter or feedback through the bars.  I certainly felt like the bike was  skipping over the rocks and sitting in that optimal zone of being both on and off the ground somehow at the same time.  In addition, the ride was remarkably quiet.  I like that a lot.

In the corners this bike is amazing.  The more aggressive geometry allows the rider to really drop into corners and push really hard.  I am sure this is a product of spot-on geometry, good suspension and configuration, and tire and pressure selection.  Sometimes I feel like I have to re-learn how to corner on a new bike, but this one was very natural and predictable.  I later found out I could get away with a lot more in the corners.

Sure, charging over rocks and railing corners is all well and good, but it’s nothing if you can’t get the bike moving.  The Khyber is excellent on the pedals when descending.  Power transfers quite efficiently from the cranks to the trail losing very little energy to the suspension except on climbs where there is some bob.  Ah, but this is easily remedied through several available on-the-fly suspension adjustments, particularly the Floodgate and compression lockout of the rear and front suspension, respectively.  These adjustments coupled with the U-Turn travel adjustment can completely change the character of the bike to make it better suited to climbing.  Add a KS telescoping seat post and you have a very adaptable machine.

So far, I have two rides on the Khyber and I am very happy with the performance.  Time will tell if the quality of the bike will keep it running consistently, but we’ll have to see.


A Day at the Races – Southridge Round 2

Mountain Biking

Rachel Atherton Last Saturday I was training for round #2 of the 2010 Southridge Winter Series and along comes Gee and Rachel Atherton, 2008 World Downhill Champions.  Whoa!  I couldn’t believe they were out riding our track out in Fontana of all places.  It was a real treat to see how Gee rode our local track.  Needless to say, it became very clear why he is among the best in the world.

While setting up at the top of the course, however, I got a chance to meet and talk to Rachel.  What a nice and truly down to earth young lady.  I told her how my daughter was hoping to meet her at Sea Otter only to find out she would not be there due to injury.  So, she said, “Bring her out tomorrow and we can hang out.”  And that’s what we did.

The day turned out to be really nice and the racing action was set to be really good, too.  We brought out the dog, some junk food, some sodas, and a tall boy for me.  Of course, we brought the cow bell, too.  So, basically some loud mouth soup.  Once the racing started, we went ape–yelling and tearing it up with the bell.  We were having a blast.  Eric Carter made the course look easy.  Gee pretty much put on a clinic, ultimately taking the top step on the podium.  Big House (Rich Houseman) ran a good run, too, looking really smooth in the top sections and laying down the power on the flats.  Kevin Aiello had a disappointing crash, blowing out a turn in the lower section.  That boy needs to put on his race-head and screw it on tight.  Another favorite is my boy Dakota “The Damag’uh” Dulmage.  He looked quick, but I think his lack of raw fitness set him back.  Finally, Waylon Smith looked to be struggling a bit with a lot of bobbles including a few pedal checks on the rocks.  I was a bit bummed for him because he is such a disciplined and talented rider.  Meanwhile, Parker was rock climbing and having a good time being hopped up on root beer and junk food.  She loves climbing and there was plenty of that to go around with all of those rocks.  Surprisingly, our dog Mac was a really good boy.  I think he was confused with all the yelling and the bell, but I think he started getting into it.  And, he only left one steamer out there, literally.  I mean it was really steaming.  Parker thought it was funny.    All told, an excellent day at the track I would say.

Once the racing was over, we headed down to the pits to see the results and talk trash with the boys.  We eventually caught up to Rachel and my daughter got a chance to meet her and talk with her for a bit.  Eventually, we got this nice photo (above) taken for us by Leigh Donovan, former World Downhill Champion from 1995.  Talk about some history.  You had the new guard and the old.  I wish I had gotten a picture of them together, but I wasn’t really thinking.  What’s funny is that Leigh raced and she was totally pinned, looking faster than many of the men.  She was whooping and hollering all the way down the course, like her own cheering section.  It was hilarious.

This ended up being a really nice day and a good time to spend with my daughter.  Hopefully, she’ll  want to keep riding with me and someday maybe she’ll hit the race course with her old dad.  We’ll see…


Guerrilla Bass Fishing – Fresh Tactics for Keeper Largemouth

Fishing, Outdoors

GuerrillaFishingThumbFor those of us that live in more developed areas lacking natural fishing holes, fresh new guerrilla tactics can be employed to land keeper sized largemouth where you may have least expected.  Gear up for the night, be prepared to run, and plan to catch fish.

Most local “fishing holes” in cities or other developed areas tend to suck.  They are typically under heavy fishing pressure, lack the environment suitable for substantial fish population growth and development, and rely on infrequent or limited stocking programs.  For anyone hoping to land a reasonable gamefish the chances are slim.  That’s when it’s time to get creative and change things up a bit.

Local golf courses often have water hazards that take the form of ponds.  Often these ponds are stocked with a decent population of fish including largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, and other panfish.  Many of these ponds have a lot of structure like shoreline vegetation and overhangs, coves and outcroppings, and sometimes those wonderful lily pads.  What’s more is the lack of fishing pressure ensures a pretty good population of relatively large and mature fish.  Sounds pretty good, huh?

There is a catch..or two.  The first catch is that while a pond might look really good, it may only have carp and coi as its main inhabitants.  This is not all bad because they are a blast to catch on light tackle.  The next catch, the main one providing there are fish and a reason for being there, is that fishing in these ponds is often illegal.  Most country clubs don’t want a bunch of people walking around their beautiful golf courses trying to catch their fish.  Doing so is most likely an act of tresspass and carries the related penalties if caught.

In order to enjoy the spoils of golf course fishing you have to employ covert guerrilla style tactics.  You have to be stealthy to avoid detection and capture.  You can’t go stomping around either.  The fish can sense the vibrations coming off the shoreline and they get spooked very easily.  You’re not on a boat so you can’t take your entire quiver or rods and all your gear.  You have to narrow stuff down.  Take only what you need and travel light.  Typically, you’re going to be operating at night so you need to be ready for that, too.

My deployment strategy starts with gearing up properly.  Here’s what I usually roll with:

  • Dark outerwear with nice innerwear.  You don’t want to be seen so ninja-style is recommended, but you don’t want to look like a damn burglar either.  I typically go with dark wool pants because they are warm and comfortable.  I usually wear nicer inner wear so I look like I belong to the club when I am posting up in the parking lot.  When I go out onto the course I will put on a dark windbreaker or jacket.  Now I’m in stealth mode.  A dark hat is a good idea, too.  I like a beanie because it works well with my headlamp.
  • Shoes that have grip, dry easily, and are good for running.  I don’t plan on sticking around if someone starts yelling at me.  If you have the legs for it, be prepared to run.  It’s always good to have grippy shoes that dry well because the grass is often damp and slippery.
  • A 6′ medium action baitcaster with 6lb line.  You have to pick a set up that is good for a little of everything.  I don’t really like spinning set-ups so I go with a casting reel, but you can choose what you like.  Light line is the way to go because the water is often still and clear.  Besides, it’s not like you’re in a tournament; you don’t have to land every single one.  Be a sportsman and use light line.  Also, don’t bring out your most Gucci equipment.  If it gets confiscated or you have to ditch it, you don’t want to be super bummed.
  • Extra line.  Because it’s dark, the possibility of misjudging a cast is higher.  I sometimes try to rifle the bait across the whole pond only to find that I chucked it into a branch that I misjudged distance on.  Bird’s nest!!!  Sometimes it’s just easier to cut it out and respool.
  • A creel and small tackle boxes.  I like to use a creel the best.  I like that it sits on my side and it’s simple.  I don’t want to mess around with latches, zippers, and especially not velcro in the dark.  You can also use it as a rod caddy when your rigging up or unhooking a fish.  I use little clear Plano boxes for terminal tackle and small spinners and plugs.  The clear ones are good because I can see what’s in them.
  • Berkeley Power Baits.  I have found that Berkeley Power Bait products like Power Worms work excellent.  I just keep them in their zip bags because it’s easier to get to them that way.  I typically run 6″ and 8″ varieties rigged Texas style with no weights.  The approach is subtle, effective, and covers a lot of ground with spooking the fish.
  • A headlamp.  A Petzl headlamp is just great.  You put it on your head and just twist it on when you need it.  A flashlight just uses up one of your hands.  It also works well with a beanie hat.  Bring extra batteries.
  • Swiss Champ knife.  I think the Victoronox Swiss Champion is a fantastic knife and the authorities won’t think you’re trying to shank anyone with it if you get caught.  Don’t bring a hunting knife; you’re not hunting, Zeke!
  • Dikes and needle nose pliers.  Dikes are great for cutting through all kinds of crap.  The needle nose work out well for unhooking fish sometimes.  I like the mini ones because they are lighter and easier to pack.
  • A little towel.  I like to keep my hands try and free of slime.  A little towel is just right.  Some wet naps are good to pack, too.

Now that you have your gear, you’re ready to deploy.  I usually run with the ol’ “act as if” approach.  Just roll up on the place like you belong there.  Park in the regular lot and just walk on in like you own the joint.  Sometimes that works great…but then sometimes it does not.  In the case where you really have to sneak, park your car close, but not conspicuously.  Don’t cut fences or damage any property to get in.  Just jump the fence or find an opening.  It’s a golf course not Fort Knox.  Once inside, be very quiet and quick.  Keep yours eyes open, but don’t look at people if there are any around.  In fact, avoid them.  Do your thing, but leave no footprints.  Don’t leave garbage around and don’t damage any property.  You want it to appear as though you were never there.  The moment you leave a trace is the moment you set the place up as a bust.

So how about techniques?  I use one technique almost exclusively:  finesse fishing.  These ponds are small and quiet.  You have to use techniques that are suitable for that type of situation.  I typically throw a variety of plastics rigged weedless with little to no weight.  This approach is low impact, but covers a lot of water in a short period of time.  Plastics are also high percentage producers so you can get a good sense of how productive the trip is going to be very quickly.  Later, you can throw the lures like topwater baits and spinners to get things moving.  Just check out the results in the photo.

The proof is in the pudding. Golf courses have fish
and you can catch them!

I don’t really like to promote illegal activities, but I do like to fish.  By fishing I don’t mean standing at water’s edge holding a fishing rod and hoping to catch fish.  That’s for suckers.  I mean actively seeking fish and employing proper techniques to produce real catches.  You gotta have fish for that and sometimes that means going guerrilla.  Have fun and be safe.


Santa Ynez 2009 DH race report

Mountain Biking, Video

This is one of my favorite race events of the year.  It takes place each Summer at the Firestone Walker ranch and vineyard in Santa Ynez just inland of Santa Barbara.  I have been going for a few years now and it’s totally fun.  The downhill course is really quick and fast and the race is a combined-time two-run format.  Since there is  no lodging for  many miles, it’s better to camp.  There’s actually a zone for DH racers to camp in…which makes sense because we go crazy at night.  At night we set up little fires and make BLTs and drink strange spirits–great preparation for an athletic event, right?  Well, who cares?

So, this year I went with my buddy Bryan Haas.  We both raced DH, but I brought my 4x bike and we both rode the slalom and pump tracks in the morning and evenings  between training and racing.  We actually got to the event a day early so we were relegated to the slalom track for the better half of that day.  It was a great way to get the cob webs dusted off.

On Saturday we got in some practice runs early in the morning.  Training was great with really nice weather and very little wind.  We pretty much had the course wired within a couple of runs and were ready for race time.  Later that day we threw down our race runs in what became gusty conditions.  At some point, each of us got blown off line or even completely off course, be we each managed to get spots on the podium in our respective divisions.  For me, it was the top step with a first place.  My first run was nearly ten seconds faster than second place even after getting blown off course.  My second run found me with a broken chain 2/3 down the course.  I managed to put in a good chainless run though and held a good time to take the best combined time and the win.  I guess I sandbagged it–better move up a class.

We were both super stoked on our performances and capped off our day with copious amounts of beer, pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce, and the pro dual slalom.  There is nothing better than being well buzzed and heckling at an event like the slalom.  The racing action was wild and crowd was even wilder.  Eric Carter was the only notable pro, but there were a lot of young riders out there sending it like it was their last race.

After a lot of hootin’ and hollerin’, the event was finally over and it was time to pack it up and head home.  Unfortunately, this was not to be.  Haas somehow managed to fall off his bike into a ditch, hitting his head with a knockout blow and serving up a broken collarbone.  Without getting into details, Haas got a ride in a helicopter to a local hospital in Santa Barbara.

Well, here is the helmet camera footage from my race run one.  It is boring by comparison to the weekend’s events, but certainly a highlight for me.  Enjoy.


Aliso Woods RockIt April 9 ’09 helmet cam take one


This is the first time I used my GoPro wide angle helmet camera.  I was really happy with how easy it was to set up and then, ultimately the quality of the video itself.  I just eye-balled the placement of the base mount and then set the camera to look straight ahead as in a perfectly horizontal line with my head in a normal position.  I figured this placement would keep the camera from looking down too much.

In this segment I am riding the Rock-it trail in Aliso Woods, CA.  This is one of my favorite trails to get out for a quick one.  It’s also a pretty good place to tune the bike, having plenty of rocks and other variations to provide feedback to the bike.  The bike I chose for this ride is my custom Yeti 4x with Fox suspension, Shimano drive train, and Maxxis HighRoller tires.

I tried to pin it for the whole run, but I did go off-line a bit in the main rock garden.  That made my heart skip a couple of beats, but kept it plenty exciting.

This footage is unedited so please bear with it and enjoy.


I had to rock spandex shorts

Mountain Biking

Originally posted on June 23, 2006.

A couple weeks ago I forgot my riding shoes and all I had was a pair of Italian loafers to work with. Needless to say, those weren’t going to work. Well, a couple of days ago I forgot my riding shorts. Usually, I have several pairs of shorts in my duffle, but this time they were all in the laundry. What to do, what to do.

When I realized I had forgotten my shorts I was about ready to throw a temper tantrum until my friend Mary stopped me and asked, “What are those? Just wear those.” What she was referring to were the spandex undershorts that I wear beneath my normal shorts. “No way, Jose. I am not rolling in those.” My friend Eric chimed in, however, and said, “Hey man, the spandex is totally Euro. You should rock ‘em.” Well that was enough said for me because I like to kick it with the proper European downhill racer style.  So that day the only thing anyone saw of me was my skinny ass in spandex getting smaller and smaller (because I was going so fast!).  I felt like such a tool that I had no choice, but to wreak absolute havoc on the trail making sure that there was no mistaking me for the typical type of trail kooks that can be found rocking the spandex.

At the end of the day I felt pretty liberated. I was wearing those ridiculous shorts which looked even worse with my downhill jersey (imagine a big red t-shirt with two spandex sticks coming out of the bottom leading into a pair of silver biking shoes), but I still managed to command a little bit of respect out on the trail. Actually, I think people were just confused more than anything else, like, “What on earth is this guy doing and what is he wearing?” Who knows? I haven’t worn the spandex since.


Excellent, free SDLC templates

IT Project Management, Tools & Templates

If you need some really good software development life cycle (SDLC) templates, then you can check out these. I found them at the Maryland Department of Budget and Management website:  Maryland, DBM, System Development Life Cycle Methodology Templates .

Several years back I was taking a course in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) at the University of Phoenix and at the same time I was also working on developing a formalized life cycle for web projects at work.  Through the course of my research I stumbled across some excellent SDLC templates on the State of Maryland Department of Budget and Management IT site.  How on earth I managed to find my way to this resource is still a mystery by all accounts, but I managed to find it again so I could post it here for your benefit.  With a few changes here and there, you can re-engineer these templates to suit your needs and feel confident that you are doing a thorough job at that.