Gear Report: Homebrewed Components

 The drivetrain adds color to the otherwise paint-free bike.

Anyone who rides a single speed long enough will soon find themselves looking for replacement cogs and chainrings. I had since moved to a splined hub about a year ago and found swapping the rear cog to be much more friendlier. There is something about using a pipe wrench with a freewheel removal tool and a cheater bar that just left me feeling, let's say, over-torqued.

Now that I'm free of freewheels, I quickly went out and bought some rear cogs. Good, mostly round blue-collar cogs. They worked great, moved the chain forward one tooth at a time, yada yada. Not sexy, but they generally aren't supposed to be, right?  My long-termer Middleburn crankset from the UK never complained nor loosened but it was wearing out and it was looking iffy to spec another ring this side of the Atlantic anytime soon.

Sometime last October I'd glanced at a basic, photo-driven quarter page ad in Mountain Flyer Magazine (excellent quarterly!) from Homebrewed Components. This relatively new, circa 2009-2010) one-man machine shop offered chainrings for the Middleburn crankset so I was instantly intrigued and ultimately sold. Homebrewed's main picture was of a spiderless chainring for the Sram XO crankset. Unique.

The spiderless chainring that matches the Middleburn interface...
Now that's serving a niche market. Thanks HBC!

Using his easy-to-use dynamic Chainring Finder I quickly found my chainring/cog options for the Middleburn crank. I quickly got lost window shopping on the site and perused his bash rings and even read a tutorial on how to make your own chainring (which HBC was interviewed and published in Wired Magazine)

The only catch was the lead time...

Homebrewed Components (HBC) tries to fulfill orders in about 30 days but some orders ship out 45-60 days later according to online reports. I received my order about 45 days after the original purchase date. My credit card wasn't processed until the product shipped so it kept the financial side of things tidy.

My simple order of a replacement aluminum Middleburn ring (32t) and aluminum rear cog (18t) shaved about 21 grams from the Lynskey. Not much, but it all counts doesn't it? The rear cog alone knocked off 12 grams despite offering wider flanges to interface the freehub and prevent notching - which had already occurred as my old rear cog silently ate into the soft American Classic freehub body. Oh well...

HBC offers an anodized rainbow of colors for you to choose from. I opted for the 'safe' shiny / red theme on the Lynskey so I ordered some Red up. But the orange sure looks awesome, too. When I opened the US Mail package the shiny rings looked like jewelry. They were both perfectly round. The craftsmanship is also top-notch. Knowing they were made buy a single guy in his personal shop might classify them as bike jewelry. 'Merican-made to say the very least!

While the aluminum rear cog will wear much faster than titanium, you can
buy two for the price of one... I wanted some color so that sent me
over to the aluminum camp.

Not only do they does he offer aluminum rings but HBC also specializes in titanium and stainless rear cogs and titanium chainrings. Yes, they are more expensive ($105.00 avg) and are not available in any colors other than, er, titanium, but the rings will wear much, much longer than the more affordable $45.00 aluminum cogs. Color vs price vs longevity - oh, the problems of personalizing your bike. Better make a matrix chart and start analyzing.

The rings and cogs offer a narrow profile as I can attest: I unknowingly attached a 10 speed chain to the drivetrain and only discovered the error when the quick-connect wouldn't quickly disconnect... at all. Whoops. The 10 speed chain tracks beautifully over the teeth so I'd say his 3/32" tooth widths work just fine. Just remember to use a 9-speed chain with a quick-connect or a tried-and-true bombproof BMX chain.

I plan on ordering some more rear cogs in different sizes. I better order soon as I hear HBC continues to grow in popularity but is still a one-man shop. Think it through: If you want some functional bike candy for summer you'd better be dialing up your Internet radio signals and selecting your gear now.

The 'virtual' line is around the block leading to the door of this machine shop.

Highly recommended.

Backcountry Film Festival to Benefit GORC

The seventh annual world tour of the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival, taking place Friday April 6th with the films starting at 7:30pm, highlights the beauty and fun of the winter backcountry experience. Submissions come from renowned filmmakers who travel every corner of the globe to submit their best backcountry work, and from grassroots filmmakers who take a video camera out on their weekend excursion a and submit their best film short  The films are juried by a select panel of judges and the fop film are assembled into a 90 minute program.

Backwoods has 150 tickets available at $10.00 each and will be donating 100% of the proceeds to both GORC and Trailnet. Should all tickets be sold, the club has the potential to receive over $750.00 which will assist in the development of trails at Lost Valley, Greensfelder, and other general trail development. This is awesome! 

We will have a membership table setup for the event and members will receive a 20% discount off one item the evening of the event (with normal restrictions).

2011/2012 Films
Best of the Festival:  "Solitaire", by Sweetgrass Productions
Best Short Award: "Chalk and Ski", by Purple Orange
Best of the Backcountry Award:  "Breaking Trail", by Powderwhore

Other film selections include...
  • 40 Tribes Kyrgyzstan
  • Berber Turns
  • Ski Bums Never Die
  • Winters of My Life
  • Seasons; Winter
  • Bike, Ski, Raft Denali Traverse

Below is a preview trailer for one of the films:

The event will take place Friday April 6th with the films starting at 7:30pm. GORC will also set up a informational and membership table the night of the event. Hope you can make it!

The Ogre Needed Bigger Shoes: A Review Update

Yesterday I went out to Greensfelder to see how the forest was holding up and to preempt any downed trees in case the work week picked up. I threw on the Dakine Builder Pack with chainsaw (not included) and rode Eagle Valley onto the Northern end of the Green Rock to cut out a known downed tree. Along the way I sawed out another smaller tree crossing at the intersection of the Northern Green Rock at the Otis Brown/Pawnee climb and Scenic Overlook climb.

Now the Surly Ogre - built up by Maplewood Bicycle here in the STL - has been great with the Ritchey Speedmax Cross 40c tires but I knew I'd be pushing my luck trying to run those on the rocky trails in the park. Seeing how March is already here I decided to try my luck and put the skinny tires away for the season and put some beef shoes on the Ogre.

The Duke proved to have very thick ankles as it took about a half an hour to change both tires. Getting the rear out of the horizontal drops, coupled with the Shadow XT derailleur configuration and Planet Bike fenders made for some mental dot connecting. After about 5 minutes of figuring out the true hangup, it was determined the horizontal slider with the Shadow derailleur was the deal breaker. Anyway, I got the wheel off and then proceeded to speed up the arthritic process by trying to unmount the skinny tires from the tubeless-compatible Bontrager rims. Without two plastic tire levers I seriously doubt I would've succeeded before breaking a wrist. Do not head into the backcountry without tire levers with these rims!

Speeding up the story here, I managed to fit the expensive pieces back together and headed out this afternoon to take the Surly Ogre for a more serious off-road test run to see how I'd feel and how it would react to 20 something miles of semi-technical singletrack, lots of hills, and generous amounts of fall-line to simulate parts of the Berryman.  This was designed to help me figure out the highlights and weak spots of performing rolling trail maintenance on the Ozark Trail, specifically the Eastern side of Berryman as the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists is now the official adopters of this 13+ mile section. GORC is on the hook to keep the trail in as good of shape as reasonably feasible, meaning clearing limbs, deberming tread, fixing creek crossings and keeping vegetation cut back.  

For any GORC members that perform trail maintenance on the Berryman, please report it on our Volunteer Hours form AND on the Ozark Trail Adopt a Trail section of their website. If we as GORC club members don't report our hours to the OTA, they will have no idea that we are keeping our end of the bargain.

Larger volume tires made the guy even happier.

The Ogre did not disappoint. The hefty 33lb weight (with full-size rubber) actually kept the downhill speeds up and it handled beautifully with the Jones Loop bar giving me endless amounts of control. Slow speed climbing was very stable with the bar's ergonomic shape and Shimano's super low 2x10 XT gearing. Only on really sustained steeper sections did I have to drop all the way down to the 26x36 (monkey heads!) and that was simply due to its weight.

The larger volume 2.1 Maxxis Ignitor tires changed its demeanor. The Duke responded like an obedient hunting dog. The large Brooks leather grips took the edge off of the rigid fork and was a non-issue. The fender legs did rub a bit if the bike shimmied side-to-side, for instance, if a line of rocks knocked it about, but they never got hung up. And the Surly Nice Rack is stout enough that I could probably cut firewood and haul a cord back to the campsite!

Greensfelder is about as Ozark Trail-like as you can get near St. Louis so I'd have to say the Duke of Surl is ready for its first long-range mission. The Duke will be deployed hopefully this weekend for some Middlefork reconnaissance.

Pidgin did the final edit and signed off on the release of this story. 
She is big into search rankings so please forgive her endless product linking. 
I've since taken away her Bluetooth linkup in the Chicken Shack.