Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Nitty-Gritty Wham-Bam

Project Black: In The Wild
Or: Dancing With Project Black

Wednesday. The day off from the shop job Usually I go out and at least grab a quick test ride on whatever it is I am doing for This time I was doing that, but it also was the maiden voyage off road for the Project Black Vassago. You can check out the particulars on that rig here.

I decided to go out to The Camp yesterday. I figured the landscape would be right for the Geax Gato tires I was sporting on the bicycle. With several days of moisture around here, I figured the dirt would be softened up quite a bit, and I was right about that part. Even the deer tracks were post-holed and skid marks from their running, stopping, and changing directions were everywhere in evidence.

The thing I hadn't considered was that almost all the leaves that used to be on trees were now all over the trails. This made for a surface that was like grease underneath a layer of slippery sheaves of paper that would slide and shift if you pushed your luck too far. Treacherous to be sure, but even more so when one considers the rocks and roots that lay hidden underneath the multicolored blanket of foliage.

Like a mung covered tooth in blackened gums.
Project Black had one round trip on it to work and back to ferret out any niggling issues it may have. I tweaked the seat angle, checked all the bolts, and aligned the brake calipers, but it was pretty much spot on. With that I figured the only thing holding me back would be the unknown of the tires and the brakes needing bedding in.

Oh yeah, and that rear cog? It was ridiculously low geared for a commute, so I looked at it finally. A 22T!! What the....!! I didn't know I'd ever used a 22T before, but there it was, big as life. Oh well....

I was at the Camp and I was going to ride that Vassago no matter. It was a strange riding bike. On one hand, it is nice and smooth, even without considering the long seat post, because it felt great out of the saddle also. The Salsa fork is perfectly matched to this frame. The steering being not heavy, or quirky in any way. So, on top of it, the Vassago seems like a very nice frame.

But underneath it all, the "Wet Cat" geometry is sort of......well, it is boring, actually. The bike is so stable and refined feeling that nothing seems to upset you while you are riding it. Nothing stands out. Cornering is neutral to the point of being ho-hum. Climbing traction is great to the point that you shouldn't ever have to worry about it, (from the bike's standpoint. Now your legs are another matter.) Slow speed technical handling is so easy it is crazy. Only the tires let me down yesterday.

Untangling myself after the carnage.
Literally- they let me down right in the little technical rock garden after climbing out of the Lower section of trails. The slippery rocks beneath the leaves got me, and wham-bam! There I was sitting on my arse, legs tangled in the frame.

As I sat there assessing my situation, I noticed a small troupe of deer had come up from behind the hillock to my backside. They hadn't even noticed me, but suddenly they did and everyone, including myself, froze. I watched as the deer tried to ascertain my intentions, while I made some unusual sounds to confuse them for my entertainment. The deer responded by being confused as to what I was, and how to react to me. They eventually, cautiously, tip-toed away, giving pause to look back to see if I was moving every so often. Then they were gone. I love being entertained by deer. But now it was time to ride on.

Hmm.....let's see. A couple of small puncture wounds on the right knee, but nothing to fret over. I stood up and re-mounted the Jabberwocky. Its stable ride begged me to take right off again with no concern for what had just happened. Like a dance partner that knows the steps and you just follow their lead, the Vassago was a very easy to trust steed. Back in the day, there were cars called "business coupes". The Jabberwocky is like a business coupe. It works efficiently, with no drama, but it is "plain jane" while doing so. Almost boring, like a stripped down, workman-like business coupe of the early 50's. But you know it will get the job done every time.

Leaves obscuring the trail.
That low gear actually worked out to my advantage as well. It kept me from speeding too quickly and missing the clues as to where the trail actually was at. The trails were almost obliterated by those downed leaves and I had to keep a sharp eye out for where they were pressed down by other cyclists to reveal where the path lay.

Climbing was so easy, I stayed seated the entire ride, with the exception of coasting. The Jabberwocky just hooked up and went on up, no matter the pitch.

The Geax tires were pitching dirt around me like an old time manure spreader. It was humorous to see clods of dirt fly up and then disappear as I rode along. The gritty dirt was sticking to my shins, and the area near the end of the loop was drier, tackier, and more fun.

So the end of the ride was a bit more fun without the sketchy off camber and unseen roots and rocks knocking the bike off-line. By the time I looped back to the truck again, I had decided the Jabberwocky- although not very exciting- was going to stick around for awhile.

1 comment:

Roasta said...

GTed, I have never really been able to sum up my thoughts on the Vassago's ride but your post is dead on. I am of the same thoughts as: "although not very exciting- was going to stick around for awhile". I just seem to grab this bike out most often as it simply works for everyday riding although it really does put the snappy handling of my old Rock Mt 29 & Yeti ASR into perspective when it gets a lap on the track (26 v 29 taken into consideration). It still holds its head high when out hammering with guys on Ex$pen$ive name brand lightweight bikes.