Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Cleaning: The Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

Making it look pretty....
Some folks notion of "spring cleaning" most likely refers to the sweeping away of the winter's filth and grime, or ridding one's self of mathoms gathered throughout the years. My version is much simpler:

Clean the bike you used at the Renegade Gentleman's Race.

It needed it too. I had some gunk stuck on the drive train that required the use of "Euro Mechanic Techniques" to get off. The dusty gravel residue was easily got rid of, but with fenders and the various nooks and crannies that a bicycle has, well.....  Let's just say it turned out to be a muti-houred task.

I always say that if you really want to inspect your bicycle for an upcoming ride for potential issues, or to see what needs maintenance, a good, thorough, multi-hour cleaning session with your bicycle will show you anything that looks iffy. Your eyes will cover every square millimeter of the machine, and nothing will escape your watchful eye. At least, that's if you are not drinking beer while you are doing this!

I thought it might be good to review every bit on the bike as long as I was at it, so here goes:

Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross Frame:
I've had this frame now for over a year and it is impressive. A nice riding, well behaved handling, good looking bike. Only one area has ever bothered me about this rig: The drop outs and their spacing. I wish that the "not-right" drop out spacing would have been spec'ed at 130mm. I ended up cold setting mine to "close" to 130mm because I hated fighting with the rear drop outs while taking a wheel out and replacing it. 130mm seems to me to be the logical spacing for a bicycle like this. Secondly, I wish it had short, track end style drops. Yes- with a derailleur hangar. The rearward facing drops would maybe make taking out a wheel less easy, but would definitely make riding the bike possible if you wango-tangoed your rear mech off in the mud, or just wanted an easy single speed option. 

Otherwise, this bike rocks. (For a detailed review on the BMC, see here)

Going back to this.
  Bontrager Satellite Carbon Fork:
I have been running this carbon fork long enough now to say that....."meh!" It doesn't really do all that much better than the steel one, as far as I can tell. So, I will be swapping out to the steel fork again, just to see if there is anything I might miss about that carbon one. 

Yes, the carbon fork is lighter, but that's all the difference I can find. I don't mind the weight of the steel fork as long as it does something better/different that I like over the carbon one. 

Shimano Ultegra/STX/SRAM Bits: 
I have been running a weird drive train on this bike for some time now. It consists of an Ultegra crank set, compact 50T/34T rings, an Ultegra 9spd long cage rear derailleur, an STX top pull mountain bike derailleur, and a SRAM 9spd chain running a SRAM 11-34T cassette. Nothing to say here other than it works well and I want a smaller big ring! 
Shifters: Ultegra STI/ Retroshift:  
I left out the shifters since I've used two different set ups here. The STI Ultegra shifters are.....well reliable, and Shimano. The only issues here are expense to replace/maintain and the levers rattled against the shift paddles at times. Now I am running the Retroshift set up. Check out my take on the shifters here.

Cowbell Handle Bar: Here's something I get hits on the site about consistently- The Salsa Cycles Cowbell handle bar is awesome. Probably the best gravel grinder bar for geared set ups out there. See my initial comparo with a Bell Lap bar here.

Origin 8 Head Set:  The head set is an "el-cheapo" Origin 8 unit, but it does have sealed bearings, a polished finish, and has been very reliable. 

Velocity A-23 Wheels
 Velocity A-23 Wheel Set: 

The Velocity A-23 wheels  have been thrashed all over the place. Rain, dust, streets, gravel, and dirt have not phased these things. I may have trued these once, but I am not sure. 

Either way, I am fully impressed with the way they have performed, and, rumor has it that new A-23's are tubeless ready. Nice.  The bearings are as smooth as the day I got them, and the free hub body has never hiccuped once. The rims are 23mm wide and give the tires I use a decent base to work off of. They are available in a few different versions too.

Clement X'Plor MSO Tires:
These wheels are currently shod with the Clement Pneumatics  X'Plor MSO tires which I have reviewed here. Again, I have had really good experiences with these so far, and I will continue to experiment with them for the rest of the spring and into summer. Stay tuned for some updates on that in the future. 

Me on the right here....

 The Ritchey post and stem, Bontrager saddle and grip tape, and other various bits and pieces are all functioning well. All around, I have to say that the entire package here is awesome for gravel road riding fun and racing. 

The Future: I originally wanted to do a custom gravel road frame, put all of my geared set up on it, and then transfer single speed duties back to this bike. I still intend to do just that, and I have further tweaks I would make to fine tune this bike to what I would desire. 

That said, if it never happens, the Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross, (or "Orange Crush", as I like to call it), is a great enough rig that I could live with it happily for years. The handling is still great to my mind, and honestly, the tweaks I would make are more to satisfy my curiousity more than fixing any "defects" this BMC bike has. As I said, other than the drop out style and their spacing, there isn't much.....well- nothing really, that I can complain about here.  

So, it's ready for the upcoming gravel road rides, cleaned, no issues found, and all I have to do with it now is ride. 

I intend to do a lot of just that...... 


Exhausted_Auk said...

I can recommend a 44T big ring. I can happily wind a 44/12 up to 30+ mph, which is probably fast enough for most folks on gravel.

I am not clear what you don't like about semi-horizontal dropouts. They can be run single speed (as you have done previously on this machine), they enable easy wheel removal with a fender, and they maintain a near constant relationship of the rim to the rear brake pads when adjusting chain tension on a single speed. A rear facing dropout can do only 1 of these 3 things well. Is it a concern that a destroyed derailleur would likely mean a destroyed dropout? I can understand this concern for a MTB, but for this type of frame it seems like overkill. In 35 years of road riding, I have yet to bend a dropout.

Exhausted_Auk said...

BTW, agree that the Salsa Cowbell bars are awesome! My recommendation to anyone considering one is to go 1 size wider than your regular road bar for optimum feel and control on the loose stuff.

Guitar Ted said...

@Exhausted_Auk: Trans Iowa V4: Joe Meiser detonates his derailleur and is out of the event with no way to SS his bike. Trans Iowa V5: Three of the top contenders go down with ripped off derailleurs. None could continue as SS. Last year, T.I.V7, Corey Godfrey detonates his derailleur and can convert to SS with his mini-track ends. Ends up riding the rest of the course after repairs.

So- yes. I see your point about the fenders etc- but I have also seen how you can get stranded out there, and a "fail-safe" rear drop makes sense to me.

Steve Fuller said...

I've been debating snagging a set of the cowbells for use on either my La Cruz or my Fargo. I've been wanting something with a little more flare than the Bell Laps currently on my Fargo, but not sure I wanted something quite as wide as Woodchippers, especially with bar ends.

Marz said...

I'll add my +1 for a "small big chainring". I'm currently running 34/46 TA chainrings with a 11-32 cassette. Even in hilly terrain I spend probably 90-95% of my time in the big ring and just use the 34 as a bailout when things get really steep. The original 50T ring that came with the crank was just that little bit too big to stay on top of on the moderate-intermediate hills.

galaxysearchlights said...

WAY , WAY off topic here but,,?
How did you come by the "G-TED productions" art at the top of your page? It looks to be some 18th century script over a modern "what do you see?, optical illusion art drawing" Is this the prophetic vision that will flash through my mind should i ever cross the finish line of a trans iowa? ,,,, Again, i said it was way off topic.

Matt Maxwell said...

I managed to destroy two derailleurs and permanently damage my dropouts on the old Green Crosscheck while training for TI last year. Someday I'll retrofit (or get someone else to do so) it with Karate Monkey style dropouts. Someday...

Agreed as well about the smaller big ring. I use a 46/34 and 12-26 cassette. I can climb about anything that can be called a road and I don't think I've ever run out of gears on the top end.

Guitar Ted said...

@galaxysearchlights: Thanks for the kind words. Not everyone likes the blog,(or me for that matter), but it's good to know some folks do.

The header art can be blamed/credited, (depending upon your point of view), to Jeff Kerkove, who was responsible for dragging me into the blogging world in 2004.

Barturtle said...

After spending nearly all my time in the small ring (on gravel) with a 28/40, I switched to a 22/36 SLX paired with an 11-28, gives me just enough top end and more than enough low end.

SS:Mntbiker\Olskoolrodder said...

"@galaxysearchlights: Thanks for the kind words. Not everyone likes the blog,(or me for that matter)..."

Well,I always have,Mark,evenif I don't comment on every post,I'm reading and enjoying :)

That said,I've always loved that frame,since you first built it up,nice to hear it rides as good this far into it as it looks. Thanks for the thoughts on those tires too,those Ritchey Speedmaxes on my CX are pretty worn,I've been wondering about these.

Guitar Ted said...

@SS:Mtnbiker- Thanks again. Much appreciated.