Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ice screw sharpening 101

With just a couple of days of cold temperatures and an instance of flurries, naturally my thoughts turn to ice climbing.  For weeks now I have been doing pullups off of my ice axes in the garage.  On cold days, I walk around without gloves to try to condition my hands again.  Before I know it, I'll be teetering my way up a half frozen waterfall, hands freezing and calves shaking.
Towards the end of last ice season, I was attempting an ascent of Glass Menagerie, a Grade 4 ice route at Roadside Gully near Lock Haven, PA.  Halfway through the steep curtain, I struggled to thread an ice screw into the ice.  My screws, having endured 5 seasons of climbing, were fully dulled.  Why I hadn't sharpened them beforehand or even in an earlier season is beyond me and inexcusable.  At that moment however, I was just tired, scared, and fumbling to get a dull ice screw in to protect myself from a long fall.  I managed to sink a screw, finish the route, and promised to sharpen the damn things before the next trip.
My real reservations in starting the process is that to sharpen ice screws yourself, you need to take a metal file to a $60 object that is responsible to keeping you alive and well.  With a dozen screws to tune, I could destroy $720 of gear or bust my ankles, back or neck.  Rather than let that bother me, I watched Black Diamond's handy video on sharpening screws.  I bought some new files and built a wooden jig to hold the screws.
After working on the first one with some hesitation I succeeded in not destroying it.  The following 11 went fairly easily after that.  Now all that remains is for the weather to get cold and stay there... that and I need to do about 600 more pullups.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires- Initial impressions


About me and my riding style (or lack thereof):  My bicycle is my only vehicle.  I expect miracles out of it.  It should be able to do anything that my old Chevy pickup truck could do.  It hauls way too much stuff on racks and on a trailer.  It gets ridden on asphalt, concrete, chip 'n tar, gravel, broken glass, sand, dirt, mud, entrails, snow and singletrack.  It takes me to the grocery store as easily as it does rock climbing or cross country skiing.  It cooks me breakfast as well.  The bike in question is a mostly stock Surly Long Haul Trucker.  I only want to own one bike and I want it to be ready at the drop of a hat, no futzing or changing components before I go for a ride.  I am a 6' 1" male who weighs 150lbs after eating 5lbs of tortellini.  I am unrealistic.


Whenever I first got my touring bike, it came stock with Continental Contact tires.  After riding them for approximately 4,000 miles they were ready to be replaced.  While the Contact isn't a bad tire, I found them lacking for my needs.  On road riding they were perfectly acceptable with the exception of durability.  Riders in Pennsylvania will find a lot of shit on the sides of roads including nails, screws, glass and indistinguishable rusty crap.  This could be easily extrapolated to roads everywhere.  I got punctures from screws, nails and glass in the Contacts which is to be expected from time to time.  But even after putting a boot over the resulting hole, the rubber would slowly chip away leaving a bigger and bigger hole.  Uh, I don't think I want to ride too much further on something like that.

On mixed surfaces, I did not like those tires.  Riding on loose gravel felt akin to riding my bike on a skating rink that had been freshly greased.  My tires would frequently slip riding uphill on gravel or dirt as well.  Since about 25 to 30% of my riding is off road, this traction issue is pretty critical to me.  Granted I keep my tires inflated at 85 psi, but I don't want to have to change tire pressure each time I go off road.


Since I barely trusted my Swiss cheese like rear tire to get me to work and back anymore, I decided it was high time to get a new set of tires and while I was at it, get a new type.  So I went down to Freeze Thaw Cycles to check out my options.  I decided to get a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Mondials which looked like they would offer better traction.  Most people also tout Schwable tires as the most durable out there.  I was pretty stoked about them.  Jordyn happily took my money and told me to go "constructively beat the shit out of them".

While I will hopefully, do a more in depth review of the tires after I have ridden them further, I wanted to share my initial impressions.  After only one 50 mile ride, I believe I may have found my "unrealistic" tires.  My one hesitation with purchasing these tires was that the overall tread was deeper and there were bigger lugs on the outside edges of the tread pattern than my old Continentals.  I worried that they would be slower on the road and there would be a "buzzy" feel/sound like when you ride a mountain bike on the road.  To start off the ride, I rode 16 miles of rolling farms roads that is second nature to me.  Absolutely no time difference from the many times I've ridden that stretch with the Continentals and they didn't feel "slow" either.  Over the next 30 miles, I then tested them out on a pea-gravel rail trail, loose and hardpacked gravel fire roads, grass, dense dry leaves, and pine needles with plenty of climbing and descending on each.  The Schwalbes gave me great confidence on all surfaces and held straight riding through long sections of loose gravel (which used to be my nemesis).  I capped the ride with a 1000 ft descent on pavement and again there was no sensation of them being slow.

I will continue my research on these tires and hopefully have a little more to say later, but for right now, I am pleased.  Moving right along, my roommate and I are emptying some beer bottles to smash on the sidewalk for the durability test.



CONTINENTAL CONTACT 700X37C Inflated to 85psi

Friday, November 4, 2011

Something is missing.

I miss...

the feeling of despair and nausea you feel when your rappel rope sticks and you realize it will take you two hours to fix it.

the smell of walking through an evergreen forest in summer.

the inability to sleep before a 12:30 am alpine wakeup, when you need it most.

the screaming barfies (when your hands get extremely cold and the resulting pain of warming them up makes you want to alternately scream and vomit).

the beckoning sound of wind coursing through a high mountain pass.

the heartfelt embrace of a family member or close friend.

the feeling of utter freedom when putting on a pack or sitting on a bicycle that contains everything you need to live and nothing that you don't.

the reassurance of a really good axe placement.

the raison d'etre.

the beauty of watching the sunrise from the side of a tall mountain... or volcano.

the utter futility of cooking in the rain.

the acceptability of having Wild Turkey for breakfast because time doesn't matter in the backcountry, three other friends are joining you, and it's the only way you'll put that 100lb pack back on.

the feeling of a 100lb pack on day three.

the accumulation of filth garnered from 2, 5, 20 days of backpacking, cycling, or mountaineering.

the incredible pleasure of taking a lukewarm shower that you paid $5 for because you haven't bathed in 4 weeks.

the acceptability of loudly farting whenever and where ever the need or desire may arise.

the draining of your spirit that another 1000 foot climb on a fully loaded bike brings.

the smile that a 1000 foot descent on a fully loaded bike brings.

the silence of the desert at night.

the feeling that you don't give a shit and that there is no where else you would rather be or no other person that you would rather be with than where you are and who you are with right at that instant.

the feeling of terror when you are runout and your arm strength is rapidly fading.

the appeal of mixing 1/2 a stick of pepperoni, 1 lb of cheese, and 1 lb of pasta and convincing yourself that it is the finest meal you have ever made.

the times you laugh so hard you cry and your sides hurt for a while afterwards.

the serenity of an isolated mountaintop.

the open road.

This train of thought was kicked off by a conversation with my friend Ieva yesterday.  Some of my ideas may mirror her own.  The list is by no means complete.  Feel free to add more in the comments.