Category Archives: Tech

My Life as a Bike

Sierra Madre del Sur Mud

Sierra Madre del Sur Mud and my 2002 Stumpy

Here’s the first post on my bikes. I suppose it makes sense to give a little back story, so to kick it off here’s most of the bikes I can remember owning that I don’t have anymore. I’m also mentioning where I owned them.

  1. Raleigh Chipper (UK) (like a Chopper but without the small front wheel and the 3-speed shifter on the top tube). This is the bike I learned to ride on. My friend’s dad painted it yellow and put some cool stickers on it.
  2. Piranha BMX (UK) – crap, the less said about this, the better. OK, one thing. Magnesium wheels!
  3. Mongoose Supergoose frame with yellow (what was with all the yellow?) Skyways and all gold anodized parts (Dia Compe MX brakes) (US and UK). Went through various parts specs, mostly based upon what else I could find that was gold to put on it. Wish I still had this.
  4. Raleigh Quasar road bike (UK). Reynolds 501 ‘aero’ frame, ‘aero’ water bottle, weird concave Weinmann rims and my first roadie. First bike I would actually go on rides to other towns on. Getting misty eyed thinking about riding the Yorkshire Dales on this thing with nothing but a bottle of water and a cheese and branston pickle sandwich.
  5. Specialized Hardrock Comp (US and UK). Pink and white frame. Suntour groupset with their answer to Shimano Biopace. I believe it was called Ovaltech. First mountain bike.
  6. Specialized Stumpjumper Team with Suntour XC Pro (UK). ’91 or ’92 model. Superb bike. Japanese built triple-butted Tange Prestige frame. Purple pearl over black. Rode this bike on trails all over the UK. It also travelled to Greece. Only bike I’ve ever had stolen. Wish I still had this.
  7. Specialized Rockhopper Comp (UK). Maybe ’96 or ’97. Beautiful powder blue frame, Shimano SIS and a Rockshox elastomer fork. First Alu frame. Decent bike. Sold to my friend. Put a lot of miles on this in London. Did my first century on it. Had my worst crash ever on it. Wear a lid kids! Seriously, wear a lid.
  8. Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail. 2002 model (US and then Mexico). My first bike with SPD pedals. This was my daily transport in San Francisco, my commuter from the city to Marin County, my trail shredder at Tamarancho and repack, my bike packing rig to Point Reyes, and later, my Mexico trail tamer and my Sierra Madre del Sur death marcher. Almost every part got replaced on it over several years. Started on a Rockshox Duke fork (terrible, exploded on a ride in Marin headlands immediately after the warranty expired), followed by an eBay Manitou Skareb (light, but noodley and not great damping) and then a Marzocchi Marathon S (heavy, brilliantly simple piece of engineering with coil/oil and one of the best climbing lockdown systems ever – still my favourite suspension fork and I wish I hadn’t sold it). Update on the Skareb: Just heard from my friend I gave it to and it just died with a broken bridge. Not a bad innings for a crappy fork. Upgraded most of the components – in order:
    • King Headset (still using these today on all bikes that’ll take them)
    • Thomson Seatpost (still using these on all bikes I’ve owned since)
    • Some sort of fancy Avid brake levers with Ti in the name and not much Ti in the parts.
    • Easton carbon riser bar (still being used on Brooke’s mountain bike and I still use their road carbon bars)
    • Thomson stem (still using these today on all my bikes)
    • Shimano XT Octalink Hollowtech 1 crankset (still have it in my parts drawer)
    • First custom wheel set – King ISO Disc hubs with DT Swiss Supercomp spokes and DT Swiss 4.1 rims (on Brooke’s mountain bike today)
    • Avid BB7 disk brakes
    • WTB Rocket V Ti saddle (still on my current MTB)
  9. Turner Burner 2004 (Mexico and then US). My first full suspension mountain bike frame. Supergo (now Performance/Nashbar) were selling off all the remaining stock. We were living in Mexico City and went to visit Brooke’s sister in San Diego. I drove up to their Laguna Beach store and picked up one of the last XL frames for super cheap. All the parts from the Stumpy were transferred over. An astonishingly good bike. One thing I will say, is that having grown up with full-rigid and later hardtail bikes, one learns to ride trails with a certain degree of finesse in order to stay on the bike on rough terrain. Moving to a bike with full suspension allowed me to build on that and not only ride sections that would have been very difficult before, it allowed me to take more technical trail sections at much faster speeds. This bike worked so well with the Marathon S fork, a supremely balanced ride. Was it the lightest 4″ travel bike around? No. Was it bulletproof, predictable and a boat load of fun? Abso-fucking-lutely. More XT stuff got added and I finally put hydraulic discs on it – another revelation. Anyone that says cable disc brakes are just as good is either lying or has never tried hydros (also, all you roadie curmudgeons that don’t get what the benefits are, have obviously never tried them either). The only bad thing I have to say about this bike is that the top tube could have offered more clearance. More upgrades from what was carried over from the Stumpy:
    • XT front mech (still rockin’)
    • Thomson straight post 27.2 (keep on keeping’ on)
    • Magura Marta 2007 brakes (you see where this is going, right?)
    • Paul Components 4″ rockers (these are rarer than hen’s teeth these days, sold separately to frame for what I paid for them)
    • Fox RP3 shock (sold)

That pretty much brings me up to my current stable, which is interesting (if only to me), because, I’d never owned more than one bike until after this point. I’ll update this post as soon as I can dig up some pictures of some of these bikes. Stay tuned.