Monday, November 28, 2011

Thailand "base" ride and bike review

I woke up this morning at the Oriental Village Resort, near Chiang Mai, Thailand (yes I know how I got here!), with anticipation of the bike ride that was planned for the morning.  What bike would they have for me to ride... hmmm... something carbon fiber perhaps?  We are pretty close to where most of them are made (Taiwan) so they've got to be all over the place right?  Maybe a Stumpjumper, Giant XTC Composite, even my Santa Cruz Highball was made over on this side of the planet.  Nope... well a cross bike would be perfect for this area too... lots of dirt roads or uneven concrete swaths through the rice patties.  Nope.  My ride for the day was a sweet Mongoose Wing-comp "Pro".  Yeah it had both "comp" and "pro" in the name.  Rad.

I set off with this highly weathered, 30+ lb. beast with behind our guide, Koon Jon, ready to shred.  In the first few hundred yards I had used just about all 24 gears.  Not because I needed them, but because "Popper The Friendly Ghost Shifter" was riding backseat with me.  That's what I've named the nemesis of all bike racers, "Popper."  The little being who must be fiddling with your bike because "I swear I didn't hit anything!" yet your bike is making funny "popping" noises and generally not working.  But this time I really didn't hit anything... we had just started.  The chain skipped wildly about anytime I'd put the power down so I was destined to work on my non-existent cyclocross "skills" (running re-mount) and run up any hill or any time I needed to start after a photo op. 

Some of the spectators had cowbells... fittingly... though their heckling could use a little more substance ("Moo!"  - yeah I know I'm heavy... it's the off season ok!). 

It took me about half the ride to figure out what gears worked and which to avoid so I could try and analyse the features of my steed.  Here's the breakdown:

  • Drivetrain: Shimano.  Only the rear derailluer had markings left and it was the Deore model.  Shifter pods had no plastic left with exposed springs and cables which were thoroughly worn.  But they were silver which matched the bike so that's bling.  
  • Brakes: Unknown brand v-brakes which worked... thankfully.
  • Tires: Unknown brand front, just said "boxer" and the rotation direction arrow was not pointed the right way.  Brontrager rear tire.
  • Saddle: I don't care what it was... ouch!  WTB Silverado I miss you!!!
  • Pedals:  Steel flats.  The kind that tear into your calf when the chain skips and your foot comes off...
  • Fork: Manitou dual crown with TPC damping (which had a dial, that I couldn't adjust) and a preload adjustment dial (which was also stuck).  Oh and the bushings were shot and I don't think there was any fluid in it either.  But it still "worked." 
  • Rear suspension: No-name coil shock for the rear set up on a 4-bar style rear linkage.  It had flex, to say the least, but I don't know if that was a design flaw or the improv repairs.  Bolt... bearing... same-same.

Even though the front tire was mounted backwards, I was able to rail a few corners and have a good time cruising through the northern Thai countryside. 

The popping chain kept me from hammering any climbs... good for "base" training I suppose :-) (aka- no power spikes).  Despite all its issues, including a "squeaky" noise which could only be described as an "in use" cheap motel bed (err ee err ee...) and the fact I wouldn't recommend the bike to anyone stateside... here it's just fine.  Whatever gets out out rolling across beautiful, undeveloped, luscious Earth is good enough.  And it makes me even more thankful for the kick @$$ bikes I have to race back home.

What was the most exciting aspect of the morning was that Jen was able to ride with us also.  She was on a Giant Rincon... a pretty orange reliable hard tail with working shifting (which I had tested the day before). 

But it really didn't matter what she was riding... she was smiling.  It was the first "athletic" activity she'd been able to do since April when her foot was crushed and we were both stoked that she could "shred" too.

I came to the conclusion though that most Thai bikes should be single speeds for simplicity and the ease of maintenance that they'll never receive.  Though make sure you get the right size... and don't try to pull a manual if it's too small.

At least in Thailand you can still get a good post ride "recovery" drink...