Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is this really December?

Is this December?  Seriously?  Wow ... I've been in California for over ten years now, and sometimes I still have to check the high tech digital computer interwebipedia calendar to be sure. It's December 22, and I can ride down to the beach in short sleeves and shorts.  That's a statement that often makes me scratch my head in confusion. I grew up in Michigan, and late December certainly never meant riding a bike to the beach ... forget the short sleeves and shorts (unless you're one of those crazy people there who do it just to be crazy). More often it meant making sure the driveway was cleared so I could get the car out to go to work, and then pre-heating the car and clearing ice from the window so I could see where I was going. Sure, I miss the snow every now and then, but I remember too many white-knuckled drives home on the black-ice covered highways for that emotion to last very long.

We've had a little colder weather this month, but the past few days have been beautiful. Last year at this very time we had some pretty rough storms ... heavy rain and wind, flooding, aqueduct walls breaking, and the canopy of vines in our back yard collapsed. This year ... pretty darn nice.

I took the Funqapillar (Hunqapillar + Fun + Funky) down to the harbor to see the waves and snap a few photos to prove to myself later that this was indeed the weather in late December. This is what I saw:

Calm, Cool Dana Point Harbor water

People and dogs having fun ... no shirt ... in December!

Surfin' ... in December!
Funqapillar at the Harbor ... basking in the sun and ready to roll ... in December!

I have to admit, we're a little spoiled here when it comes to having great year-round weather. Sure, it costs more to live here ... and we have the occasional earthquake ... and sometimes the coastline crumbles and falls away ... and the traffic is a nightmare ... but the weather is pretty awesome.

Hope the weather's fine where you are, and that you have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hunqapillar is ...

It's a strange name, for sure. According to Grant Petersen at Rivendell, it's a name he saw on a mailbox many years ago, perhaps spelled a little different, but memorable enough ... and he thought it was a good name for this bike, a Woolly Mammoth bike, as it is aptly described on the decals and depicted on the headbadge.

But what is a Woolly Mammoth bike and what makes it special?

Well, besides the fact that it has a funky name and a cool headbadge, here are some personality features that might help to explain it's "specialness":

  1. It goes anywhere. Really. Anywhere. It's just as happy and comfortable on a smooth paved surface as on a rough, bumpy trail. I was mildly skeptical, but now that I've had it out for several rides in different places, I totally get it. While it's a sweet ride on the road like a great bike should be, it somehow comes alive on the dirt and gravel, still remaining stable and smooth. I suppose the Mammoth would have the same sort of behavior. Smooth flat surface? Okay, let's go. Rough terrain, rocks, dirt? Sure ... sounds like fun!
  2. It carries lots of stuff. I love that there are brazed-on attachment points all over this frame. Almost any kind of front or rear rack or other carrying hardware can be installed, making it a truly great exploring bike. The small rack up front currently holds a tiny trunk bag for my "personals" (cell phone, keys, wallet, garage door opener, paper and pen for inspirational moments). It could just as easily be a full-size rack intended for the rear, since there are mounting points on the top of the fork crown in addition to the center mounting hole. It could also have low-rider rails for front panniers. The rear mounting options are just as versatile for any kind of rack system. I have a larger bag in back that carries my repair kit, camera stuff, and whatever else I might decide to take with me. There are no worries of supporting the weight of any riding load. Rivendell describes the frame as "stout", which sometimes brings the image of a portly dude drinking a dark beer to mind, but this isn't that kind of stout. It's more like "extra-strong and rugged without an ounce of fat". The funny thing I noticed is that the bike rides pretty much the same whether the bags are full or empty. No weird or squirrelly handling and no noticeable flex in the frame.
  3. It's geometrically awesome! In other words, it's incredibly comfortable, without ever being sluggish, and has none of that "watch out when you turn slowly or the front tire will eat your foot" toe overlap thing. In the past, I've always ended up feeling like I have to keep pushing myself back on the saddle, and after a long-ish ride, my hands and neck would get stiff. The design of this bike has a more relaxed seat tube angle, which places the center of gravity further back. Cool! What that means is that when I pedal, the force is more forward and down, as opposed to down and backward on a bike with a steeper seat tube/more forward center of gravity. That shift in force keeps me in place on the saddle, rather than pulling me forward away from it. It also seems to give me a larger percentage of the pedal stroke where I'm applying full power. I can't back that up with science, but I can feel it in the physical action. The other benefit is that since the pedaling force is now more balanced, keeping me back in the saddle, there is less forward force (meaning weight) through my arms and hands onto the handlebars. On a bike with a steeper seat tube, the balance and pedal force pushing forward places more weight on my hands in order to maintain balance. Even though I'm technically reaching about 6cm further forward than on my other bikes, there's a LOT less weight on my hands, and the long-ish rides (and the LONG ones, too) are much more comfortable.  It is a pure joy to ride a bike that is so well balanced.
  4. It's smooth and stable. This is mostly due to its geometric awesomeness (see #3 above), which includes long chainstays, and a proper fork angle and rake, which give it the right amount of trail. Yes, I know ... more technical bike jargon. Basically, as mentioned earlier, the bike is just well-balanced. Whether I'm riding slow on tight uphill turns, coasting down a steep hill, riding fast on a smooth road, or kickin' it on a gravel and dirt trail, it just rides smooth. I've yet to notice any squirming, no matter the conditions, whether I'm riding with a full load or empty. I don't have to grip the bars tight and push. I just gently guide them in the direction I want to go. It's so stable that I can ride it no-handed with full bags. I've never, EVER, been able to ride for any length of time with no hands on the bars, loaded bike or not ... until I rode this one. That says something big to me. And that something is not "Hey, dude, your bike skills suck."  No ... it says this bike is designed right and rides stable.
  5. It's stunningly beautiful. You'd have to see it in person to really understand. For some reason, the photos don't truly capture the look. So just trust me on this ... it's gorgeous. It's like classic roadster, 87 layers of deep rich paint, lustrous satin silver hardware, hand-finished-and-polished ... it's that sort of quality in the appearance.
  6. It's funky. In a very good way. Not like dirty greasy funky, or strange and weird funky. It's unique and different funky. As I was riding the other day, I stopped to look at the ocean for a minute, and as I started to ride away, a man actually ran across the street to ask about the bike. He'd never seen anything like it before, but said it was almost exactly what he pictured in his mind as the kind of bike he wished he could find. Even though he's reasonably happy with the Trek and Jamis bikes he owns, he wanted something that wasn't a road bike, or a mountain bike, or a city bike ... but something that was maybe the good parts of all of them, with something "more" added in. A good way to describe it. I just like to say it's funky. Funky is good.
  7. It's fun! I've never enjoyed riding a bike as much as this one. Well, maybe that red Schwinn Sting-Ray with the 3-speed stick shift I had when I was a kid ... the one that got handed down to me from my older brother. But that's completely different ... or maybe not. I suppose it's much the same, actually. I used to love riding that Sting-Ray. I rode it everywhere and tried to do everything I had the courage to do on a bike. I have that same sort of feeling with the Hunqapillar. I want to ride it in places I've never been, just to see what happens. I'm no thrill-seeker, mind you, and I avoid danger whenever possible. But there are trails to ride here ... and hills to climb ... and this bike makes me want to go find them.
One last note ... if you have to ask whether the Hunqapillar is fast, or need to know how much it weighs, you should leave this blog immediately and go to to read about the latest crabon fibre (thanks BikeSnobNYC for the proper spelling) race bike. Seriously ... go now. The Hunqapillar is not about being fast, and it's not about being the lightest bike on the market. It's about going anywhere and everywhere, being able to take the stuff with you that you'll need when you get there, and being supremely comfortable and fun in the process. It goes much faster than I'll ever need to ... but is happy to move at whatever speed the situation calls for. It's certainly not a "lightweight", but it's not what I'd call "heavy", either. Even with the racks and bags, it's surprisingly liftable (is that a word?). I just think of it this way ... it's fast enough and light enough for whatever I could ever need to do with it, and doesn't feel like I could break it by doing any of those things I could ever need to do.

Rear bag full of camera stuff, tool roll in bottle cage
Front bag with "personals"
Stunningly beautiful and functional butt perch (Brooks B17 Select)
View from the driver's seat, including the driver's seat

And here's a video shot by the Rivendell crew that reflects the fun nature of what the Hunqapillar is all about:

If my information is correct, that video was shot by Jay Ritchey, who also did the riding in the video, and who ALSO did the assembly work on my Hunqapillar. Sadly, Jay is leaving (or has already left) Rivendell ... I think the Blug post said it's for a nice lady in Arizona ... but I'm glad he was the one to build up my bike. Nice little touches he added ... to be elaborated on in the future.

So ... to sum it all up, it's fun, it's funky ... it's Hunqapillar! Perhaps we should modify the name just a little more from that mailbox Mr. Petersen saw all those years ago.  How about this ...

Plus FUN

More to come ... thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hunqapillar ... The Arrival and Build!!

As mentioned in my last post, a new bike was finally shipped to my door.  And now it's time to reveal the details. It came from the brilliant and good folks in Walnut Creek, California ... better known as Rivendell Bicycle Works.  The bike is a 48cm Hunqapillar frame with a carefully-chosen component group, expertly assembled by the team at Rivendell, then expertly packed for shipping and sent to me.  Upon the arrival of the UPS truck (which is always met with great excitement by our two dogs, who just KNOW it's UPS approaching and find some kind of thrill in attacking the door), I was presented with this:

And just in case I was confused as to which way was up, it was clearly labeled for me:

I already had all of my assembly tools prepared, along with a detailed step-by-step assembly list to prevent getting off track in my excited state:

So I began by opening the box ... CAREFULLY.  I didn't want to take any chances of making the slightest scratch on anything inside.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about.  Inside the box, every part was secured with zip-ties and dense foam. Every tube on the bike was covered in bubble wrap.  No chance of anything moving or being improperly jostled in transit.  NICE!  It is rumored that the packing team at Rivendell takes 2 hours to partially disassemble and pack a complete bike for shipping ... and from what I can see here, it's no joke.

The next step was to get the bike out of the box, which meant first removing all of the foam blocks that were glued in place to secure the frame.  Not the easiest task, but I managed.  This particular piece puzzled me ... and made me grin with a Beavis and Butthead laugh.  I mean, just look at this thing ... the foam has a woody!

These are the pieces removed and saved for ... well, I'm not sure what for, but I saved them anyway.

Okay ... now it was time to pull the bike from the box. This is what came out, all in one piece:

See all those zip-ties?  Next step was to cut them and free the secured parts. Good thing I had all of my tools prepared ... diagonal cutters ... check.

Okay ... next was to temporarily put the handlebar/stem assembly into the steerer tube (to be properly adjusted later).

Then I installed the prepared front fender and rack.  I've installed some fenders in the past.  It's never quick and easy.  This time, however, all the difficult setup was already done, and I simply had to connect the bolts.  Thank you, Rivendell!  After the rack and fender were attached, I put the front wheel in the dropouts and attached the quick-release skewer. Then I removed all of the bubble wrap from the frame tubes.  Such a great deal of work they put into that!  Starting to look like a bike ...

The next step was to secure my new saddle to the seatpost, make sure there was a bit of grease in the seat tube (always use Phil's ... the best), and put the saddle/seatpost assembly in the seat tube of the bike. Now it's getting exciting ...

Then it was time to attach the rear rack.  This is a Tubus Cosmo stainless steel rack that I already had ... waiting for an appropriate home.  I like that it has both an upper deck for a trunk bag and lower rails for panniers ... because you know I likes to do me some heavy touring with a massive load of baggage. Okay, not really ... but at least there are options ... and it looks cool, too.  Hey ... dudes like shiny things, too.

After the rack was installed, it was time for the trimmings. I'm trying these here pedal thingies from Fyxation, called the Mesa.  They're very strong Cro-Mo (a technical term for steel) spindles with heavy-duty sealed bearings and impact-grade nylon platforms.  That means I can really bash on them. Dudes like to bash things.  Really, it means they're strong and durable ... and the nylon spiky things won't chew up my shoes like metal spikes do.

I also put on some King Cages Iris stainless steel water bottle cages. These are the best ... seriously ... the BEST bottle cages ever.  They're really strong, and they really hold a Klean Kanteen tight, with no rattling.  That's important, because real dudes use only stainless steel water bottles.  And, of course, they're shiny and pretty.

And then the final adjustments were made before the first test ride.  Adjust the handlebars for proper height and angle ... check.  Attach the brake cables ... check.  Make sure the brake pads are aligned ... check (and perfectly, I might add).  Pump up the tires ... check.  By the way ... these are Schwalbe Marathon Dureme 26" x 2" folding tires.  AWESOME!!!  More on them in another post.  Check the wheels and quick-release levers for secure attachment ... check.  Put the bags on the racks and put the tool kit inside ... check.  READY TO GO!!

I immediately went out for a quick spin.  And by "immediately", I mean that I didn't change into my usual riding shorts, socks, shoes, sweatshirt, and so on ... I left the house in my cut-off sweatpants, Birkenstocks, and sunglasses.  Style be damned!  And it was ... the most AWESOME 15 minutes on a new bike EVER.  Why only 15 minutes?  Well, since I'd gotten the bike into a ride-able state, I just couldn't wait any longer for the remaining step to finish it, which would mean not being able to ride it for at least 24 hours ... but I didn't want to get the cork grips all sweaty and grimy, so I kept the ride duration brief.  Make sense?

Okay ... the last step in finishing the build was to add some cork-look-alike bar tape to the front curves of the handlebars, where the secondary hand position is ... and then apply some Zinser Bullseye Amber Shellac (2 coats for the grips, 3 coats to the bar tape for a good color match).  The shellac will keep it from getting nasty with hand sweat and dirt, while simultaneously making it look ... well, warm and authentically aged ... and ... yes, I'll say it ... pretty.  Hey, dudes like pretty things, too.  And here's the result:

Notice the little copper bell?  Nice sound, a great functional warning device for people walking their dogs or tandem baby strollers occupying the entire 2-lane bike path, and ... pretty. There's also a German-made mirror on that bar ... works well ... but while not ugly, it is not pretty.

Now complete with bags attached to carry camera gear, repair kit, cell phone, keys, and whatever else I may need, the final build looks like this:

I am thrilled and honored to own this bike.  The photos don't do justice to its in-person appearance.  But, while stunning to look at, the ride is even better.  Smooth and stable on any surface ... and amazingly comfortable on rides near and far.  More to come ...