Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" Set Up For The Moonshine Metric

I was pretty tickled with the way my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross", (official name, but I call mine "Orange Crush"), worked out for the Saturday running of the Moonshine Metric. I figured it might prove interesting to some of you if I detailed my set up, and why I thought it worked well, along with some details of the course I ran it on for reference.

For the event report- see here.

The bike as it appeared after the event.
The Bike: As regular readers here already know all too well, the bike is a steel frame, steel fork with 2 X 9 gearing. I ran FSA cyclo cross rings and an 11-34T SRAM cassette shifted by a 9 speed Ultegra long cage derailleur. The front derailleur is a mid-90's vintage STX mountain bike derailleur. Both front and rear derailleurs are shifted by the Retroshift lever/mounts with my added Ultegra bar end shifters.

The gearing was perfect for the 18% grades and I never felt I needed more for the down hills, some which were 30+ mph ones as it was.

Wheels are my XTR hubbed, Delgado Cross rimmed, Clement MSO shod ones that performed marvelously on the roads, which I will describe in a moment. As for anything narrower- There were some riders on cyclo cross tires, and they were having control issues in spots. I noticed that they were also being bounced around a bit more than I was as well. As for myself, I was glad the MSO tires were as voluminous as they were. I ran them at 40psi rear/38psi front, and I remember remarking to myself that they felt quite smooth most of the time. I did not have any issues with flat tires throughout the ride either.

Strange dust patterns!
Road Conditions: As I wrote in the event report, the gravel was very dry and dusty, but as to the bike handling aspects, the looseness and depth of the gravel was very difficult. It was hard to find a smooth line, and throughout the event I was riding mostly on loose gravel, which would account for why the bike got so dusty.

When we weren't on gravel, we rode dirt, which was deep, fine, and loose. This was difficult with regard to the bike as it made the front tire want to wash out unless you shifted your weight back and let the front drift up and over the loose dirt, much as you would for a fat bike in loose, unpacked snow. There were very few times, (unless we were on pavement, obviously), where you didn't have to really pay attention to handling on the bike. It was one of the more difficult courses I have ever ridden in that regard. Some courses have had short sections where some of these characteristics were present, but none have had as much, nor for as many miles straight, as this one did.

Hacked Light Set Up
Lighting: Since this was a mostly night time event, I had to have decent lighting. My light set up is maybe a bit unorthodox, but it was very effective for my needs.

The light mounted to my front rack is an interesting hack made up from a camping light sold under the Eveready brand that was meant to be worn on the head. I took the head band off, and the light mount, which has a hinged back plate of flat, black plastic, was cut down to clip into a Cat Eye computer mount. The battery pack, which holds three double "A" sized batteries, is stowed inside the rack bag. The light head, clipped into the Cat Eye computer mount, is then mounted to a home made bar mount made from a section of fork steer tube, a star nut, and a water bottle boss bolt. (Note: The mount is detailed in this blog post here.)

This light has three modes, and is rated to run at high/100 Lumens for 30 hours. The optics are such that the light is diffused in a large, round pattern and covers from ditch to ditch in width on a gravel road. This is good for slower speeds by itself, but needs something else to compliment it with more "punch" for higher speed riding.
Lezyne "Super Drive"

That "punch" comes from this, the Lezyne Super Drive. I ran it in "low" mode, which was quite enough light, but most importantly, it was the setting with the longest run time. I needed it to stay lit for 4-5 hours, and it did just that without a hitch. The combination of the low mounted "flood" light and the higher mounted Lezyne gave me a great read on the road. I could easily pick out the washboard sections, whoop-de-doos, pot holes, and the good lines, (when they were there!)

I complimented this with a helmet mounted Coleman 20 dollar flashlight. I chose it for its spot beam pattern and that it throws light way down the road. It was great for reading signs, and for this ride, great at getting a read on the road way ahead when I was speeding at 30 plus miles per hour down a steep Iowa hill. By the way, I simply strapped it on with a ByeKyle Simple Strap.

Other: I used a Topeak saddle bag with all my tools and a spare tube along with some hand wipes inside it. The front bag, (Note: More on this bag at a later date), held a wind breaker, spare tube, some gels, and the aforementioned battery pack for the rack mounted light.I had an old Blackburn frame pump under the top tube for air inflation duties. Bottle cages are Velocity Bottle Traps.

What I Would Change: While the bike and set up was really great, here are a few things I have thought about- tweaks really- that I would do to make the Orange Crush even better than it is. First- the 72° head tube angle is "okay", but a slightly slacker head tube angle with a bit more of an offset fork, (which would preserve trail), would give a bit more of a comfy ride with  better rough road handling. Then I would drop that bottom bracket to a more road bike-like 75-80mm. The drop out spacing should just go to 135mm. Finally, the seat tube angle probably would work a shade better at 72° for a true gravel racer/rider. 

On my particular bike, I think a hub generator light would eliminate my battery limitations. A weight penalty, for sure, but well worth it for the versatility. 

So that's it. Any questions? Comments? Hit me up in the comment section.


Adam said...

So the Ultegra long cage works well with the 11-34? I was under the impression they pretty much topped out at 30 or 32 max, as a function of the parallelogram size, not the cage length. Or is it also a function of the hanger size? I'd like to give one a go with an 11-32 on my steel cross bike, but wasn't sure it would work out.

Guitar Ted said...

@Adam: Yes- Shimano is very conservative with regard to capacity. Essentially, there is no funtional difference between a 9spd Ultegra long cage and an XT long cage derailleur. This all changed with 10spd though. If you look back- mtb riders have used road derailleurs going back to the early days of the sport.

Your concern on your set up would be chain take up on the little ring vs big ring in front. Too much of a differential there may cause the derailleur not to be able to tension the chain properly in low frt/high gear rear combo, or cause the chain to become too tight in the big frt-big rear cog combo. (IE: Cross chain)

coastkid said...

Always like your bike builds and honest opinions on what you ride and why..
Part reason i built a Fargo -:)
I had some fun and games getting Sora 9 spd STI levers to shift on the Deore 22/32/42 MTB cranks until i swapped out the MTB Deore Ft mech for a Sora and removed the plastic BB spacer!.

The orange crush looks a great set up. I can relate to mid 90s STX front Mechs, having one on an Uber V frame it is still perfect with no play...

Guitar Ted said...

@coastkid: Thanks for the good words. Much appreciated.

And I've been enjoying your blogging as well. Thanks for the writing you do. It's very entertaining stuff.

(For those that are curious, coastkid's blog link is on my blog roll in the right margin.)

Dave said...

What tooth counts are the "cyclocross" rings?

John said...

Hmmm...slacker HT? More fork offset? More BB drop? Sounds lIke you want one of those new Velo Orange Campuers.

Michael_S said...

certainly agree on the changes to the BMC cross frame. Those are the main reasons why I did not buy one. And when are you going to come clean on the front bag?

Guitar Ted said...

@Dave: The FSA rings are 46T/36T. I really prefer the set up compared to the 50T/34T compact I started with.

@Unknown: I checked into the VO Campeur and the head tube angle was listed as 72.5°! http://support.velo-orange.com/#campeur.html

Not at all the direction I would want to go to.

@Michael_S: Soon- I am waiting to hear from the maker and when he gives me the green light, I'll spill the beans. It's a pretty cool little bag though.

Zeroack said...

What front rack is that? Does it tie into the canti bosses?

Guitar Ted said...

@Zeroack: It is a Velo Orange model. It doesn't sit level, (unless I were to start bending things), but for the purposes I have in mind, it will suffice as is for the time being.

It does indeed mount into the canti bosses. Velo Orange provided hardware in the packaging to do this. It was quite easy to mount.

John said...

Oh, I was looking at the 71 degree HT on the Campuer, but I see that's only on the small sizes.

Ari said...

A dyno hub with a Planet bike generator headlamp is sufficient and very affordable. The Led technology is going crazy. Even Lowes has some great lights at fantastic prices. Light up the night and be safe.
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