Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ride Review: Yeti 575 Enduro

I've come to riding a Yeti 575 after exacting a thorough 5 year long thrashing on a 1st series Santa Cruz Heckler. It was that bike that introduced me to full suspension riding and we coexisted harmoniously until a severe drive train mangling on the upper slopes of Keystone's downhill course last August. I was torn between repair or replace... and once i investigated the Yeti the Santa Cruz's fate was sealed.

First, a bit of background trivia regarding the Golden, CO based bike builder. Few may be aware of Yeti's original roots being founded in Hollywood, CA in 1985. Rather, most mtn bikers remember Yeti as the bike company from Durango who, so long ago, sponsored some of the most hallowed and revered racers in the sport's short history like John Tomac, Myles Rockwell, Jimmy Deaton, Missy Giove and Juli Furtado. Today, Yeti continues to build on the low volume and high quality ethic specializing in downhill, XC racing, and all mountain bikes.

The Yeti 575 Enduro i currently ride is spec'd out as such:
Suspension Fox 32 Talus up front and a Fox RP23 holding up the posterior
Headset Cane Creek S-2
Brakes Avid Juicy 5.0
Shifters Sram X.9 trigger
Front Der Shimano XT FD-761
Rear Der Sram X.9
Crankset Race Face Evolve XC
B. Bracket integrated w/crank
Cassette Sram PG-950 11-34
Chain Shimano HG-53
Stem Race Face Evolve XC
Handlebar Race Face Next Carbon
Grips Yeti Hard Core
Seatpost Race Face Evolve XC
Saddle WTB Rocket-V Cro-Mo rail
Hubs F-R Mavic Crossride
Rims Mavic Crossride
Tires Maxxis Minion 2.35" - ST

The bike MSRP's for 2722.00 and delivers a great value given its build and componentry. Similarly intended and optioned bikes from SC and other lower volume brands can come in for as much as 500.00 greater or more.

The Yeti 575 features 5 and 3/4 inches of travel... hence the name. The frame comes in at a reasonable welter weight of 6.2 lbs in all aluminum guise or a svelte 5.75 lbs when installed with a carbon rear swingarm. Altogether, just guessing now as i haven't yet weighed the bike, i estimate a 28 lb. finished weight.

Having its roots founded in the Cross Country Yeti ASR's design, the 575 grew its expanded travel capabilities, adjusted geometry, and bolstering gussets from the several hundred (if not thousand) rides on the rough and tumble Apex Trail located just barely west of Golden on the oft brutal front range of Colorado. It wasn't until the Yeti Team, cast and crew were all satisfied with the evolved bike's performance that the sweet sweet ride was revealed to the public in 2005.

The 575 geometry angles of 68.5 for the head tube and 71.5 for the seat tube put it square in the all mountain breed. The angles give it a well rounded character for handing nimble turns and confident fast descents while not being too slacked out for when its time to earn those downhill turns. That's right, it actually climbs despite the long travel suspension. To complement the bike's ability to clammer uphill, the Fox RP23 shock comes with a lockout feature for those who insist on a solid rear triangle. The front shock pitches in for the team as well having the ability to drop its height on demand from 140mm all the way down to 110mm bringing the front end much MUCH closer to the ground. These two features drastically change the bike's demeanor, granting the rider access to more options when it comes to keeping the momentum going during grinding ascents. I have found myself still experimenting with my preferred setups, but am thoroughly happy to have these available to me. Thus far i rarely settle all the way down to the 110mm height, and typically stick to the 120mm setting or climbs and the plentiful 140mm for the harrowing descents. The Avid Juicy 5 brakes are my first impression of disk brakes and have tossed me over the bars once so far, but overall i am endeared to their simplicity and efficiency. They do a great job of bringing the bike back to earthly speeds in short manner when employed. Also, the SRAM X.9, Raceface, and XT drivetrain combination blends well together and provides sure shifts when put to use.

The last worthy item to mention is Yeti's innovative frame design put to use on this bike (as well on the similarly built ASR). Up front, it uses a unique V-shaped sloping toptube with a CNC-machined “knuckle” in the center to provide gobs of useful standover clearance. Yeti sites the odd looking knuckle as being the strongest part of the frame. It also uses a "dogbone" for keeping rear shock movement smooth and contained in its travel. The rear swingarm features asymmetrical chainstays and small carbon inline “flex” points where the seatstays meet the rear dropouts. These carbon pieces allow for a 1.5 degree extra flex wich changes the seat stay vector as it joins the rear shock. This subtle change helps to give the "long" in the "long travel" namesake. Yeti uses cartridge bearings on the main pivot and the design allows for a great amount of lateral stiffness.

Overall, the bike is excellent at all the things that are necessary at being an all mountain bike. It descends like crazy, tracks very well, does much more than just pay lip service to the concept of climbing, and still manages to handle the drops with composure as well. I am looking forward to a whole range of rides that this bike will carry me on for some time to come.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How NOT to get to the southernmost reaches of the America's

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to have been volunteered to complete some sweet netowrk upgrades in beautiful Punta Arenas, Chile again. It constituted my second South American trip in the past year, and I was looking forward to the change in culture and landscape. I split the trip into two parts, the first week was all bidness with 12-16 hour days straight through, and the second week was destined for rambling travels. I've excerpted below, some of the trials of our trip south... it was so much fun, i thought i would share the story. enjoi!

"... On thursday, the flight we ticketed for was delayed about 3-4 times until finally being cancelled due to massively inclement weather in Dallas. Like we should be afraid of tornados or something (right Blaine?). Jonathon managed to scam a flight to LAX which was to depart some 45 minutes later (cause he was shamelssly flirting with the ticketer agent, what a man-whore) and was soon off. Rob chose to follow suit the next day and flew to LAX on Friday meeting up with Jonathon and hitherto resuming their southbound travel from there. Unfortunately for me, Rob took the last seat on Friday's LAX flight and Kim and I were forced to head east to Miami via Chicago (of all places). We also absorbed Jonathon's luggage making for a checked bag sum of 2 silver trunks and 3 large backpacks. Kim and I spent the night at a Hotel in A-town on the Airport's graisously offered dime.

Our flight to Chicago was uneventful and we easily caught the Miami flight as well. Our luck turned again in Miami however. Once Kim and I got the LANChile gate to catch our Santiago flight, the ticketer informed us that they could not honor the ticket as the agent in Denver who booked us on that flight had no jurisdiction over their flight… or something like that. Furious and panicked, Kim and I ran back to the ticketing counter which was already in a state of chaos. Apparantly, Miami is a American Airlines hub. After several attempts and with the clock ticking (and panic increasing), we finally found the correct ticketing counter… where the line was huge. We learned while standing in line that the chaos and plentiful lines were the product of a nationwide Brazillian air traffic controller strike. The effect of their strike had massive repercussions as Brazil’s entire airspace was sealed off which meant that nobody could fly to Brazil OR Argentina (cause getting to Argentina requires the plan to fly over Brazil). Hordes of people were stranded and upset. Kim and I were extremely lucky in dealing with our travel issue early enough to get one of the few remaining Miami hotel rooms still available. Getting our travel plans finally squared away however took some 5 hours at several ticketing counters. It was a near disaster but finally found resolution after arguing with ticketers and negotiating with supervisors. Kim and I were set to travel again at 9:15 PM Saturday night.

Exhausted, we made it to the hotel and spent the following day recovering and relaxing (and shopping for clothes). The rest of the trip was much less eventful and we finally pulled into PA on Sunday at noon."

Monday, May 07, 2007

watch me r_i_i_i_i_ide...

Whenever I take a little ride those mas grande Colorado hills, either astride my mountain bike or bolted to my Burton Malolo, I am reminded of the lyric titling this post. Penned by Maxi Jazz of Faithless and exposed to me via my long time riding partner C to the L, that silly little lyric has long been gutteral source of inspiration when I face off with a particularly dense patch of gravity.

I love to ride. I love the infusion of adrenaline from taking the chance of dropping something nasty. I even (occaisionally) enjoi the fitness. But far greater, The Ride for me is the chance to engage in what Mother Earth has offered to those who are awake enough to recognize the golden opportunities. I use the above lyric not just to re-inspire enough personal moxy to stick yet another chunky 75' gapper (rad i know); rather I employ it as a means to remind myself that I came to engage, i woke up early that day to engage, i drove 4 hours for trailhead access to engage... and therefore, its time to step back into the that golden moment and let Mother Earth have her way with me.

Perhaps better said, I ride so that once in a while I willfully and directly expose myself to the world's natural forces. I choose to interplay with them. I hook up the towline to gravity's mighty pull and use its energy to glide me along over cottony snow mounds whiel busting out of tree stands. It's a playful interaction with these forces when I am threading the needle between pine and aspen.

The interaction and interplay between me, the human, and the universe's undeniable and profound forces... that's why I Ride.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Arrived alive: the 12th Annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival

Despite all my best intentions, my road trips have never started on time and thankfully our endeavor to Fruita's famous Fat Tyre Fest would pose no change to this habit. That being the case, 0800 came awfully early in the morning last Friday... so we renegotiated a twelve noon departure time.
Like desperate seafaring pirates on the hunt for Spanish gilded treasure, we too thirsted for the plunder that sweetened our daydreams along our westbound journey. We sailed up, into, and well beyond the aspen and evergreen forests of Colorado's high country and descended into the barren sandy landscapes of the farthest west reaches of our great state. As we reached Grand Junction (or as my good friend so endearingly puts it, Grand Junkyard) our caravel was embraced by the Valley's warmth and red stained enormity.

Saturday, again began with the casual atmosphere that is usually reserved for opium dens. Around 10AM that morning we met up with the rest of our party, the unscrupulous and notorious Treads Bicycle Outfitter gang. After some minor repairs graciously performed by the Cannondale road crew, we set sail for Road 18 and singletrack treasures therein...

After a failed attempt of a proper start on Joe's Ridge (and a rather crappy tongue lashing from a "fellow" rider) we luckily ran into Mike, a Fruita local out on his usual ride. He completely took our rag-tag group under his generous wings and led us through several trail rides. With his help we swerved, grinded and sweated our way over true Colorado classics such as Kessel, Bookcliffs and others. I lawndarted twice that day and have a couple of raspberries to remind me of my new touchy disk brakes until my next ride. These trails, all found in the lee of the BookCliffs are fairly smooth and sandy rollercoasters weaving their way in and out of the thousands of washes along the faces of this one very big "hill". There are other more technical trails with far greater elevation gain, namely the Outer Edge Loop if you are ready for a 5 hour ride with little to no support and a high degree of exposure risk... sounds fine, but be sure to bring more than enough food and water.

We resumed our plunders across the river on Sunday morning hitting Mary's loop and Horsetheif bench. In contrast to Saturday's rides, the rocky ribbons found on the south side of I70 and inside the Colorado National Monument are vastly more technical and contain some more variety in geology. Its also tightly hugs the ridgeline overlooking the Colorado River far far below creating a more dramatic backdrop for your ride. Luckily, we once again met up with our new found guide and friend Mike just above Horsethief Bench. After several minutes of scouting lines and postulations on potential damage outcomes, Damien engineered a clean decent of the bouldery and dicey 50 yard staircase. Ian and Curtis also gambled their bodies to the trail gods there as well, but luckily the gods were not inclined to take them up on the offering. Beyond this nutty beginning we bobbed and weaved the rest of the 4 mile loop in tight formation eventually returning to Mary's Loop to finish the remainder of our ride. Mary's Loop did not disappoint either as we all feasted upon her stratigraphicly eroded spoils. Neither day saw much in elevation gains or losses, which made for an reasonable pacing given the various trails skill levels of the members in our group.

In the end, our belly's full from the weekend's trailcandy, we all gave thanks to our host and his wife, and extended our farewell's for the journey home.