New-to-me Bike Day!

The Focus Mares gravel bike I bought from a gentleman in California was delivered today.  I’ve unpacked the box and I saw no obvious damage.  I’ll go over it carefully tomorrow while I strip it down to the frame.

This bike is the one I’ll ride in the Unbound Gravel 100 mile ride in June of this year, presuming that I get a starting place.  I’ve already registered for the ride, and the drawing for start places is at the end of January.  Maybe I’ll get a place, maybe not – but I didn’t want to wait until I had a place to find a bike and get it ready – we’ve all seen that bikes and components aren’t in stock as they were previously.

There are some scratches in the clearcoat and I want to polish them out or touch them up, then clean and wax the frame.  Once that’s finished, I’ll start reassembling it from the ground up.  No cables and housings on this one, just DI2 wires and hydraulic hoses for the disk brakes.  I have some familiarity with DI2 after the Parlee setup, but I have zero experience with hydraulic disk brakes.  A learning opportunity presents itself.  Also, the wheels and tires on this bike are tubeless, so another learning opportunity awaits.

Parlee Z3, upgraded

Happy New Year and welcome to 2022!

As I mentioned before, I wanted to swap the 11-28 cassette for an 11-32.  The downside is that the Shimano 9070 rear derailleur is only recommended for cassettes up to 28t cogs.  There are some workarounds available to increase the capacity, but the shifting quality reportedly drops off noticeably.

I ordered an 11-32 11-speed cassette by Sunrace, partially because of price, and partially because it was actually available.  Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassettes are difficult to find now, as is the case for many bike components.  Even if the quality isn’t as high, I can still determine if the cassette will work and what changes are necessary.

When the cassette was delivered, the quality seemed quite good.  When I installed it, the lockring wasn’t sitting square with the end of the freehub, and as a result the 11t cog was wobbling a little.  I swapped the Ultegra lockring back on, and everything is lined up properly and without a wobble.

After reinstalling the wheel and relinking the chain, I stayed in the high end of the cassette while I tested the shifting.  It shifted but not quite as well as the Ultegra cassette.  The Ultegra chain was sized to fit the 28t cog, and wanted to replace it with a new one that was still at full length.

Anticipating this, I picked up a new DuraAce chain, and sized it to big-big plus 2 rivets, broke the link, and installed the quick link.  This way if I were to shift into the big-big combination, the rear derailleur and the bike frame would not be damaged.  If the chain is even one link too short the damage could be catastrophic (for the bike) and painful (for me).  Definitely not worth the risk.

On the workstand, the first shift up to the 32t cog was uneventful, but the top jockey wheel was making contact with the 32t cog.  This was expected.  I turned the “B” screw in 2 full turns and it was quiet.

Since the weather was good (for the moment) I took a short ride to check it out.  The 32t cog was quiet and worked well.  But the next smaller cog was noisy, indicating incorrect alignment.  One notch of micro-adjusting toward the high end of the cassette and that noise is gone.  Good shifting up and down the cassette now.

It will take a longer ride to be sure that everything is adjusted properly, but the initial results are better than expected.  I still have 2-3 turns left on the “B” screw, but I don ‘t think those will be needed.

Now that this upgrade is in place, I’ll call the Parlee finished.  Now to take advantage of the next opportunity to ride.

Parlee Z3, the wrap

Pairing the phone app with the DI2 system was easy enough to do, and with that you can update firmware without having to drag out the laptop and the charger and plugging everything together.  Nice.

And I found out that my Wahoo Elemnt Roam will pair with the DI2 system as well, displaying a nice little graphic so you can see what chainring/cassette combination is being used.  It’s a nice touch.  The really nice part is that the Wahoo will display the battery charge level for the DI2 system.

So the Parlee is finished.  Well, mostly.

I would still like to make one more change.  I’d like to run an 11-32 cassette in place of the existing 11-28 cassette.  Some of the hills on routes I ride are difficult, so if I can add a bit of low-end gearing to help it only makes sense.  The difficulty is that the Dura Ace RD may not have enough clearance or chainwrap capacity to work with the 32 tooth cog.  When the new cassette gets here I’ll see what can be done about that.

In the meantime, and because the cassette swap isn’t a major visual change, let’s get to the photos.

Parlee Z3, part 3

Now that the fancy new electronic shifting is working well, on to the more usual bike work.

I cut and installed paint film on the frame in three places – the bottom of the downtube, the top of the DS chainstay, and the side of the headtube where the rear brake cable touches it.

I had ordered a mount for the “A” junction that replaces one of the headset spacers, so that went on next, then the stem, and a spacer above the stem.  Set the headset preload, and tightened everything up using a torque wrench.

Next I installed the wheels, and adjusted the brake pads to proper alignment with the rims.  Tightened everything down and they’re ready to go.

I removed the bar tape, and adjusted the lever to point straight ahead – the right shifter was canted inward a little.  I removed the front brake cable and housing, and cut a piece of the Jagwire red compressionless housing to fit.  Reinstalled the cable, fed it through the clamp on the caliper and tightened it up.  I left about 2 inches of cable exposed and cut it, then crimped on a nice red cable end.  The front brake is finished.

I removed the rear brake cable and housing, and cut two pieces of the Jagwire red compressionless housing to fit.  Reinstalled the cable, fed it through the clamp on the caliper and tightened it up.  I left about 2 inches of cable exposed and cut it, then crimped on another nice red cable end.  The rear brake is finished.

I used some narrow pieces of self-fusing slilcone tape to hold the brake housing and shifter wires in place, then wrapped the bars with new bar tape, and fastened the end of the wrap with more self-fusing silicone tape.

The last step was to install a pair of Arundel carbon bottle cages.

It’s ready to go.

2022 Riding Events

The emails announcing upcoming events are starting to roll in, so I suppose it’s time to begin planning for the 2022 events.

The first event on the calendar is Storming of Thunder Ridge, in and around Lynchburg, Virginia on May 22nd.  A very well organized ride, and the climb up to the ridge is not an easy one.

Registered for the Unbound Gravel 100 mile ride in Emporia, Kansas in early June.  There is a drawing for the start positions from the folks that register, the drawing is at the end of January.  Might get to ride, might not.  Only one way to find out.

Also planning on a repeat of the  Big Dam Bridge Century in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the end of September.  Another well organized ride and a lot of fun.

Of course, the Hilly Hundred in Ellettsville, Indiana is on the calendar for early October.  Live bands at the rest stops and just a good time on the bike.  And whether you like it or not, Mt Tabor awaits.

And I need to get the planning going for the 2022 edition of the Bourbon and Tobacco Tour.  I’m thinking this one will be up here in Indiana and I have some routes that might make the cut.

Other rides will undoubtedly be added to the plans as they come up.

Parlee Z3, part 2

The parts are all here and I’m hoping I didn’t miss anything.  I’ll know soon enough, so time to dig in and get this bike ready to go.

First things first, let’s get the DI2 shifting set up.  The battery fits into the lower hollow part of the seatpost, so it comes out with the saddle/seatpost.  Easy enough to replace, and the BT module plugs in at the same time.  Installing the new seatpost just required the seatpost clamp to be installed first, then the battery into the seatpost.  A little carbon assembly past and it’s in place, in approximately the right position.  After some measurements and adjustments, the saddle is properly position fore and aft, and the correct seatpost height is set.  Snugged it down, but not too tight, since we still have to test the shifting.

I connected the charger to the “A” junction box under the stem, and let it charge for a couple of hours, per the directions.  Once that was complete, I plugged the charger/programming cable into my laptop and started the Shimano E-Tube software.  It connected to the system and told me that there were software updates available.  I updated the charger first, having read that this step should be performed first, and without updating any other parts of the system.

Now that the charger is updated, I reconnected to the laptop and ran through the remaining software updates.  Once complete, I checked that the installed components were recognized and enabled the “Synchro-Shift” option.  This option automatically shifts the FD (the chainrings) depending on the chain position on the cassette and the direction of the shift.  All you need to do is to shift the RD (cassette) up or down as needed and the system will shift the FD (chainrings) as needed.

The first problem – the RD would not shift to the smallest cog on the cassette (the 11 tooth cog).  I could not figure out what was wrong, all other shifts were fine, the low limit screw was properly set, and the high limit screw was backed almost completely out.  I kept thinking it over and figured out the problem.  Shimano has you shift approximately to the middle of the cassette, and then enable “micro-adjust” mode so you can fine-tune the left-right position of the RD.  The position had been adjusted to the left one complete cog’s worth, effectively eliminating the smallest cog position.  Once I figured this out, it took less than 5 minutes to have the system shifting perfectly up and down all 11 cogs on the cassette.  Watching the synchro shift mode change the FD as you shift the RD was actually pretty cool.

There are two buttons on the shifters, at the top of each shifter.  You can program the buttons to several different functions.  I chose to program the right button to shift the RD down (towards the largest cog) and the left button to shift the RD up (towards the smallest cog).  That’s working properly and the DI2 system is ready to go.

Next, on to the remaining upgrades.

Parlee Z3, part 1

The Parlee is here, and I’ve checked the chain elongation and a new chain is needed.  Dura Ace chain is difficult to source, so I went with Ultegra chain for now.

Removed the wheels and went over the frame from top to bottom, front to back, and everywhere in between.  It is in excellent shape.  The rim brake pads are SwissStop yellow pads, by all reviews and experience an excellent choice for the carbon rims.  They have plenty of life, so no need to replace them.

The bar tape does need to be replaced, and while the tape is off it makes a lot of sense to replace the brake cables and housing.  So some red Jagwire compressionless housing is in order.

I also chose to replace the seatpost clamp and the headset spacers with red custom anodized parts, they look great on the carbon weave frame.

Now to the part I have little to no familiarity with – Shimano DI2 electronic shifting.  So I started reading.  This system is a Dura Ace 9070 system, and it came with an SM-BTR2 battery.  The seller did not include a charger for the battery in the sale, but he was nice enough to charge the battery before he shipped the bike.  This would give me some time to pick up a charger.

However, there is a newer battery available, BT-DN110-A, that also has an upgraded chip in it to support additional shift modes beyond manual shifting.  Not knowing how long the original battery had been in service, I decided to purchase an upgraded battery.  There is also a BT module that allows the shift parameters to be customized using a phone app from Shimano, so I added that to the order.  This stuff ain’t cheap, but this isn’t a cheap bike either.

I swapped the Fabric saddle from the Merckx onto the Parlee, but I couldn’t get the proper distance between the handlebars and the saddle.  The seatpost that came on the bike was a zero setback model and I needed a setback seatpost to get the saddle into the proper position.  I found one that will work so that’s handled.

Now the dreaded “parts pause” takes effect.  Figure out what you need, order the parts, and wait for them to be delivered.

2021 Riding Events

This year, the events started to return to a semblance of normalcy.  Not completely back to normal, but at least moving in that direction.

I only rode two events this year, a repeat of a previous event and also a new event for me.

The first one was the new event for me, the Big Dam Bridge Century in Little Rock, Arkansas.  I rode with my good friend Bob, and his friend Diane.  It is the largest event I’ve ridden, and was very well organized.  Well, the event was well organized – me, on the other hand, not so much.  I left my handlebar bag in the back of Bob’s car and didn’t go back to get it – a decision I would come to regret.

I got a flat 4 1/2 miles from the finish, but with no tools, no spare tube, and no way to inflate it anyway, my riding day was done.  Completely my fault, and as it turned out I would have had time to go back and get it.  By just retrieving the bag I may have prevented the flat in the first place.  Finagles Law was out in force.  Like carrying an umbrella can prevent rain, having everything you need to repair a flat can sometimes prevent the flat.  Live and learn I reckon…

Still, it was a great ride and a lot of fun.  Some good climbs and descents, and lots of people out on bikes.  What’s not to like?

The second event was the Hilly Hundred in Ellettsville, Indiana near Bloomington.  I rode this event in 2019, in the all-day deluge on Saturday, and the much, much better weather on Sunday.  This year, I rode with friends from the Columbus area and it was a good time.  We had good riding weather both days this year.  This might be my favorite ride that I’ve done, as you might guess since I’ve done it more than once.

Saturday’s ride was a cool start but the hills warmed you up pretty quickly.  This seemed like an easier day than I was expecting, but I have been doing a lot of hill work so maybe that helped.  Sunday, on the other hand, was a hard day on the bike.  The hills were harder on this route, and just when you think you might make it back, you turn onto Mt Tabor road and you know what’s coming – the climb up Mt Tabor.  It’s a bugger of a climb, and you don’t have a lot left in the tank after that one.  Then you descend into Stinesville and the last rest stop, and you think you’re going to finish just fine.  But no, you have to climb out of Stinesville and those aren’t easy climbs after the miles you’ve already done.  But you persevere because that’s the way you roll, and you finish.  A great feeling of accomplishment.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re first or last or somewhere in between, it matters that you challenged yourself.  I’ll be back in 2022.

I’m hoping that more events come back on the calendar in 2022.  Good luck to all that rode these events and I hope to see more folks out riding next year.

Lugged carbon

I’ve been looking for a lugged carbon frameset in my size, or more specifically a Look 585.  But it seems that once these bikes are sold, they never reappear.  If the bike is actually that good, then I’m on the right track, even if my search has so far been unsuccessful.

So I decided to take yet another look on ebay for a Look 585.  You can undoubtedly see why this search might prove challenging – LOOKing for a LOOK 585.  Not exactly a phrase that’s all that unique.  Still, I did find one, but it was sized as a medium frame.  I messaged the seller and asked for confirmation of the seat tube length.  While I was waiting for a reply I checked several other places where high-end used bikes were sold, with no luck.  Then I visited a bicycle web forum where I’ve been a member for several years.

And I saw a Parlee Z3 for sale.  Parlee is one of the few companies manufacturing lugged carbon bicycle frames, and their bikes are very well thought of.  I messaged the seller, and we discussed the bike.  He sent links to additional images and I looked them over very carefully.  The bike looks great.  It has Shimano Dura Ace 11 speed electronic shifting, Knight carbon wheels with DT Swiss 240 hubs, and a Chris King headset – all top of the line components.

Never hearing back from the ebay seller, I decided to buy the Parlee.  We agreed on a price, and both of us preferring to avoid fees on the funds transfer, I sent him a check – a stamp is significantly less than the fees.  We agreed that he would give it a few days to be sure the check had cleared my bank, and then he shipped the bike.

Waiting for it to arrive from the west coast was a bit worrisome, perhaps anticipation would be a better word choice.

It got here in fine shape, no damage that I could see.  A great starting point.

4th annual Bourbon and Tobacco Tour of KY – postponed

The Bourbon and Tobacco Tour has been postponed to July 24-25, 2021.

Good pavement, nice gravel, light vehicle traffic, courteous drivers, and the hills of western Kentucky in the springtime – what’s not to like? Well, your legs might complain about some of the gradients, but the descents make it all worthwhile. And the riding companions – unparalleled.

A few updates for the COVID mess:

Rather than meeting at my house for dinner after the Saturday ride, we’ll just pick up dinner in Cadiz and meet at the park on the west side of town to eat and tell biking lies. My wife will be much happier with this, and there’s plenty of parking and tables for us. Because I don’t know what will transpire between now and the ride, please bring a mask and put it in your jersey pocket.

There are plenty of places to pick up some food – pizza at Casey’s, mexican at El Bracera, Sonic, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Triplets, Cracker Barrel, and Subway. I’d rather have everyone at my house for a cookout, but I’m trying to make some adjustments that will work for everyone. I appreciate your understanding.

Friday dinner, July 23:

For those folks coming into town on Friday, we’ll meet at Triplett’s BBQ in Cadiz around 6pm for dinner. The restaurant is on US68/KY80 just west of I-24 at exit 65.

Saturday, July 24:

We will meet at 9:30am at the LBL Golden Pond Visitor Center on the Woodlands Trace Road, at the intersection of US-68/KY-80. There is plenty of parking at the visitor center. I will have some repair/adjustment tools, grease, chain lube, floor pump, work stand, and some spare tubes and patches. Hopefully no major repairs will be needed before, during, or after the ride but we’ll be prepared for the usual (and some of the unexpected). We’ll roll out from the parking area around 10am.

We will have a SAG driver again this year. It was a real luxury to have Greg volunteer his time and gas to follow us around in LBL, and he’s planning to join us again.

There is no cost for these rides, but if you wanted to kick in a few dollars for our SAG driver’s gas or a bite to eat for him I’m sure he would appreciate it.

The route:

The route is the same as the 2020 ride, and is entirely within the LBL. This loop starts and ends at the Golden Pond Visitor Center in LBL, and is about 56 miles, all paved, with about 3500 feet of climbing. There are a small number of actual turns in this route, so hopefully there won’t be any issues with navigation or getting lost. I will give my cell number to riders, should assistance be needed during the ride. Cell coverage isn’t always the best in LBL, so bear that in mind. This is an unsupported ride, but we will do our best to help everyone finish up safely.

 

 

Click to Download Cue Sheet for the full route

Click to Download Cue Sheet for the partial route

Other cool stuff to do:

If you want to come in a day early, or stay over for a day or two, you could follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. If you like bourbon and want to sample the offerings by several distilleries, this is a great way to do it. Check out where the distilleries are located and plan your route.

You can drive north on the Trace Road, and drive through the Elk and Bison Sanctuary. There’s a small fee at the entrance to the sanctuary, and it’s well worth it. I’ve been there more than once and it’s a unique opportunity to see herds of bison and elk moving around the area. You do have to be in a vehicle – a bicycle vs a 2000 pound bison – no thanks.

There is a trap range close to the Lake Barkley Lodge, so if folks are interested we can shoot some clay targets. No prizes, just bragging rights. I have shotguns, ammunition, and clay targets – so all you’ll need is hearing and eye protection. If you’ve not done this before, it’s challenging and fun. If you’re new to this, I’ll be happy to help you shoot safely.

Post-ride cookout:

See the COVID notes above for Saturday dinner plans.

Sunday, July 25 – ride the trails:

If folks are interested, we’ll take some fatter-tired bikes out for some trail riding on Sunday. There’s a lot to choose from, the map links below will give you an idea of the variety available to us. A good choice is the Hardwoods Trail, from east to west all the way to Kentucky Lake. Mostly crushed limestone and a lot of fun. I would rate this trail as easy/moderate. Bikes with road tires won’t be the best choice for this – wider tires are the best way to go.

A local friend and riding buddy will lead the gravel ride on Sunday, he knows the gravel routes in LBL much better than I do.

At the north end of the LBL, there is a good singletrack loop named the Canal Loop. I would rate this loop as moderate/difficult.

There is a fairly new option, the trails in Livingston County, to the north of LBL. I’ve ridden there a few times and it’s a lot of fun. These trails are rated intermediate/difficult, so bring your “A” game. Be advised, you will want some tread on your tires for these trails.

We’ll figure out when and where to meet during the cookout and I’ll update the information here.

LBL Hike and Bike Trails

LBL Maps – click the Trails tab.

Livingston County MTB Trails

There are 500 miles of trails and 200 miles of roads in LBL. It is great to have this area so close to home. Not all of the trails are available for bicycling, so check the website while you scout a potential route.

 

 

Temperatures to expect:

The average high temperature in July is in the mid-to-upper 80s, and a low average in the upper 60s, so warm but still pretty good riding weather.

Lodging:

Here are some options for lodging and some suggestions for restaurants in the area.

Kenlake State Resort Park Reservations – this is a good choice if you want to ride to the start

Lake Barkley Lodge reservations – there is now a bike path paralleling us-68/KY-80 to the west so it’s a good ride to the start

Both are reasonably priced and are just a few minutes from our starting place. Kenlake and Lake Barkley both have restaurants too. For those folks arriving on Friday, we’ll meet for dinner.

Red Roof Inn – Cadiz – this is about a 15-20 minute drive to the start

Quality Inn – Cadiz – this is about a 15-20 minute drive to the start

Both of these hotels are at I-24 exit 65, and are within walking distance of Triplets. Driving time to the start point is 20-30 minutes.

Bike Shop:

Bikes and Moore in Hopkinsville is a great shop that I’m happy to call “home”. I couldn’t find a complaint if I tried. Good folks and they’ll be happy to help you out, should you need more than a tweak or two. They have knowledgeable mechanics and a good parts inventory too if it comes to that.

Questions:

Contact me if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to help.

Please watch your speed while driving in LBL, it’s federal land, so speeding tickets are expensive – paraphrasing Agent K – “the rangers do not have a sense of humor they’re aware of.”