Personal Journal of Geof Harries https://gdharries.com/journal Kirby Mon, 04 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0000 The latest updates from our blog Big guy mountain bike review: 2018 Norco Torrent 2 HT https://gdharries.com/journal/review-norco-torrent journal/review-norco-torrent Mon, 04 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0000 As I wrote about in the ideal big guy mountain bike there's now a number of options for strong, sturdy and affordable bikes that suit folks of larger stature.

I sold my Kona Hei Hei mountain bike in April; it was not from this genre. When I bought the Kona, I was still occasionally racing (although not competitive by any means) and wanted a bike that was efficient and agile both up and down hills. The Hei Hei was great, but it was meant for the version of me from 10 years ago. It was time to break out of my cross country rut.

After selling the Hei Hei, I ordered a 2018 Norco Torrent 2 HT in size XL from Icycle Sports in Whitehorse, Yukon.

2018 Norco Torrent 2 HT

The Norco Torrent HT is a very different bike from the Kona Hei Hei. Whereas the Hei Hei was a sharp, thin knife on singletrack, the Torrent feels more like a sledgehammer. That's not to say it can't go fast, but it takes more effort to get the bike up to speed and hold it there. And that's okay; it's where I'm at these days with mountain biking. I want a bike that's sturdy, reliable and confident in all terrain rather than something that leaves me feeling worried or concerned.

What's amazing about the Torrent is how much value and spirit Norco has baked into the bike. For just under CAD $2,200 I have a beefy frame, wide wheels and tires, a torsionally stiff and plush fork, plus components that simply work, including my first-ever dropper post. The Torrent loves to drop into holes, launch drops and steamroll over roots and rocks. Have you ever heard someone say using a sledgehammer wasn't fun? Exactly.

SR Suntour Zeron 35

While most mountain bikes come with either RockShox or Fox suspension forks, the Torrent arrives with a SR Suntour Zeron 35. I didn't know much about this fork when I bought the bike as reviews are very hard to find. After bringing the bike home, I even dug out my air shock pump to adjust its air pressure. Oh wait, this is a coil spring fork!

It took a few rides for the SR Suntour Zeron 35 to start feeling smoother but now that it's more worn in, the fork is impressive. The Zeron is very responsive on small to medium sized obstacles and while not as plush top-to-bottom as a RockShox Pike, it gets the job done. That said, even after hammering it pretty hard through numerous fields of rocks, I still can't get full travel out of the fork. I may take it back into Icycle and see what the mechanics say.

Norco Torrent tire clearance

I'm also loving the plus wheels: Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR 27.5" x 2.8" tires matched with Alex MD-35 rims. I'm used to fiddling around with air pressure from riding fat bikes, so that's no big deal. I think I'm almost there with 19 lbs. of pressure in the front tire and 22 lbs. in the rear. I tried running them both lower, but I struck the rim a few times and returned to more air pressure.

All in all, the 2018 Norco Torrent 2 HT is a fantastic big guy mountain bike. It was within my budget and has so far hit all of my points for a tough and dependable bike. Here's looking forward to the rest of summer on this big monster.

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Join our team at eServices for Citizens https://gdharries.com/journal/eservices-jobs journal/eservices-jobs Mon, 07 May 2018 00:00:00 +0000 In April 2015, I became the first employee at eServices for Citizens.

Two years later, I was extremely happy to gain two talented co-workers. Lee is our eServices web architect and Ash is our eServices delivery manager.

We have a great team that’s accomplished a lot in three years: a new government website, the beginnings of a digital standard, various services and a handful of other services about to launch. Other Canadian provinces have seen the work we’ve done and told us we’re small, but mighty.

We’ve now got two more jobs available: eServices project manager and eServices delivery manager.

If the idea of transforming public services through design excites and interests you (perhaps mixed with a bit of terror; it’s a challenging role, I’m not going to lie) then please apply or share these jobs with friends or family who would be.

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For sale: Kona Hei Hei Trail mountain bike https://gdharries.com/journal/for-sale-kona-heihei-trail journal/for-sale-kona-heihei-trail Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0000 I'm selling my well-maintained Kona Hei Hei Trail mountain bike, size XL. I bought the bike brand new in 2016 and have taken very good care of it. This is a lively, fun and agile trail assassin.

2016 Kona Hei Hei Trail mountain bike

Over the past year, I've put on new Specialized Purgatory and Butcher tires, upsized the disc rotors, replaced the disc pads, upgraded shifters to Shimano XT and had Icycle Sports work their magic on the fork to make it plusher and more responsive.

Total weight is just under 32 lbs.

Original specs can be seen at Konaworld.

If you're interested, contact me.

Update: April 16, 2018. Bike sold.
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For sale: Kona Zing Supreme road bike https://gdharries.com/journal/for-sale-kona-zing-supreme journal/for-sale-kona-zing-supreme Mon, 02 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0000 I'm selling my much-loved Kona Zing Supreme road bike, size 61cm. I bought the bike brand new in 2013 and have taken very good care of it since. No crashes, no issues. This is a very reliable, sturdy yet sprightly steed.

2013 Kona Zing Supreme road bike

Last summer I put on new Specialized Roubaix 25c tires and new bar tape. This spring I installed new brake pads and had the bike serviced at Icycle Sports in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Total weight is 19 lbs.

Original specs can be seen at Konaworld.

If you're interested, contact me.

Update: April 2, 2018. Bike sold.
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People in cars are scary https://gdharries.com/journal/people-in-cars-are-scary journal/people-in-cars-are-scary Mon, 19 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000 As a cyclist, even though Whitehorse’s automobile traffic is far from busy compared to a bigger city I still try to stay away from main roads because of how scary distracted drivers can be.

When at a stop light, I’ve seen people staring down at a phone in their hand, a phone on top of their steering wheel, a phone in their lap or even dogs (and babies!) in their laps; each completely oblivious to the world around them. I’ve also watched drivers pass by staring at their phone and slowly weaving back and forth across their lane. It’s frightening. They really have no idea about who and what surrounds them, say like vulnerable, un-protected people on bikes.

I’ve been commuting on a bicycle since the early 90s. During this period I’ve been hit by a vehicle six times - once as a kid in Whitby, Ontario, once in Whistler, B.C., three times in Belleville, Ontario and once here in Whitehorse, Yukon - with the episode in Whistler being the worst.

That Whistler incident crumpled my bike and sent me to the hospital with head, neck and leg injuries, followed up by a few months of physio. The rest were just abrasions with minor damage, but no matter, the fact is I still got hurt.

Last summer when on a group road ride, we were run off the road by an inattentive driver in a semi-truck veering towards us. One of my friends chased down the truck at a stop sign and questioned the driver. Guess what? Yep, he was distracted by a phone. Seriously. In a semi-truck.

I’m starting to think we cyclists shouldn’t be on the road anymore until technology companies, automobile manufacturers and law enforcement has dealt with this ever-worsening situation.

Distracted driving really has spun out of control and it’s not just the opinion of some random guy on a bike (that'd be me). I did some analysis of the national collision database and came up with this chart:

Canadian motor vehicle traffic collision statistics by road user class

Notice the increase of serious injuries over time? Smartphones started becoming popular in 2007. Hmmm.

Based on my own experience, only a small fraction of bicycle crashes causing injury and caused by a collision with a vehicle are ever recorded by the police or that person even goes to the hospital. I say this because of all the times I’ve been hit, I’ve reported the incident to the police just once.

Cars R Coffins badge

I used to think that the Cars-R-Coffins message referred to the person driving the car; they were destined to be in a coffin sooner rather than later due to lack of exercise. Nowadays, I feel like that reference to the coffin is for me and other cyclists.

The drivers are the one who are going to put us in our coffins, not the other way around.

As a cyclist, I can choose to wear high visibility clothing, run daytime lights, ride a brightly coloured bike and follow the rules of the road, but is that enough when people are driving around so distracted?

Will drivers even be looking at what’s on the road in the first place to notice who’s ahead of or beside them?

Something needs to change. And quickly.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to stick to bike paths, closed courses and stitching together rides on less popular roads. It won't be as easy to get in the big mileage, but I have to think defensively in my approach.

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The ideal big guy mountain bike https://gdharries.com/journal/ideal-big-guy-mountain-bike journal/ideal-big-guy-mountain-bike Sat, 30 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000 In the past, if you were a big guy and into mountain biking, breaking frames and components was a regular and expensive occurrence no matter which parts you chose. Thankfully this is no longer the case if you buy the right "large fella friendly" stuff.

Even 10 years ago, this clydesdale class of frames and components wasn't widely available for purchase. Granted, if you were a downhill racer or wanted to drag a 45 lbs. freeride bike around on average trails, those parts were out there.

Unfortunately for a normal big guy like me who just wanted to rail singletrack and hit the occasional tiny jump, there weren't many options. Especially so when you also have a mortgage to pay and a family to support.

For instance, I've broken a number of frames and components since I started riding mountain bikes in the early '90s:

  • Rocky Mountain steel hardtail. Broke the joint between the rear drop-out and the chain and seat stays.
  • KHS lightweight aluminum race hardtail. Sheared the head tube off from the down and top tube. Scars to prove it.
  • KHS lightweight aluminum race hardtail, replacement. Folded the down tube and pinched the top tube.
  • Santa Cruz aluminium all-mountain hardtail. Snapped the seat tube off from the front triangle.
  • Busted countless lightweight rear wheels.
  • Taco'ed several lightweight front wheels.
  • Cracked numerous spokes and ripped rear derailleurs off hangers due to hard landings.
  • Torn a handful of lightweight cross-country tires due to not enough sidewall support.
  • Bent a number of aluminum handlebars. Once I even snapped a bar and had to jam a branch into the open end to ride home.
  • Warped several aluminum seat posts and snapped the head off an aluminum seat post.

In other words, I've trashed a healthy amount of frames and components in my 25 years of riding. The majority of that gear was much too weak for a guy my size, and I'm not even that huge: today I'm 193 cm (6'3") and 88 kg. (195 lbs. or around 14 stone).

2008 Kona Hoss
2008 Kona Hoss. Photo credit: BikeRadar

Keith Bontrager's well-known quote of "Strong, light, cheap: Pick two" is not one that I've ever found to be very accurate. For me, strong and light, no matter how expensive, has never really gone together. Heck, strong and cheap are often not true either. Light and cheap though, that's always rang true!

Even in 2008, when Kona introduced the Hoss as a mountain bike specifically built for clydesdales, it missed the mark. The Hoss frame was strong, its fork heavy duty and some of its components tough enough, but the majority were not. It wasn't Kona's fault though, they had a lack of good available options from which to spec the Hoss. The bike's 22mm rims were too skinny, its cranks too flexible and tires' sidewalls too flimsy.

Compare this to nowadays, when you can get strong, cheap and reasonably lightweight frames and components from many different places. Finally, big guys can build up and ride the ideal big guy mountain bike, which in my mind started with the introduction of fat bikes and now happily consists of:

  • A beefy yet still reasonably lightweight aluminum hardtail frame.
  • A sturdy yet plush suspension fork with wide stanchions and thru-axles.
  • Wide rims with fat plus-size tires. Something in the 2.8" or 3" wide range to support and spread out the weight.
  • Tough, but still well-priced and plenty light cockpit components. A good example is Race Face's line of Chester components for stem, cranks, handlebar, seatpost and pedals.
  • Your pick of Shimano or SRAM mid-level drivetrain and braking bits.
2016 Specialized Fuse
2016 Specialized Fuse. Photo credit: Bike Magazine

You could easily build a bike like this for less than CAD $3,000. I know that because I've priced it out myself.

If you're more interested in buying a pre-built mountain bike, Kona has the Big Honzo, Specialized has the Fuse, Norco has the Torrent. Surly also sells the Krampus.

There's also several other manufacturers who offer this same type of ideal clydesdale optimized mountain bike.

Big guys, our time has come.

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Travelling on two wheels https://gdharries.com/journal/travelling-on-two-wheels journal/travelling-on-two-wheels Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000 I've spent most of my adult life on two wheels, whether commuting, racing or just plain riding. I didn't own a car until I was 25 years old and even then I still rode my bike to and from work after I'd bought the thing.

Heck, nowadays I still commute by bicycle most of the week, nearly 20 years after buying that first car. Old habits die hard.

When I saw this quote from Brian Mulder about bikepacking around South America, it summed up what I've always felt about riding a bike as a means of transportation but could never adequately articulate:

Travelling on two wheels makes you vulnerable in a very good way. People aren't threatened when you arrive in their town, as they intuitively understand the dedication it took to get there. They're always fascinated by your journey – especially when you're a gringo on a fat bike. The bike offers you an immediate doorway to a deeper connection with people that is hard to find otherwise. And stripping your belongings down to the essentials makes you appreciate how little we need and how one's sense of happiness and self has nothing to do with the accumulation of things.
Photo by Brian Mulder
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Retro mountain bike build: My 2002 Cove Handjob XC https://gdharries.com/journal/cove-handjob journal/cove-handjob Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Almost two years I was poking around Pinkbike's Buy and Sell, and came across a brand new 2002 Cove Handjob XC frame, size XL for sale by a fellow in Vancouver. The frame had never been ridden and had only seen a seat-post and headset installed. There was a slight ding in the chain-stay and for the price, included a red Chris King headset.

I did some research about the frame - there's not a lot of information online regarding the model - and discovered this particular Cove Handjob was made of Columbus Nivacrom butted steel tubing and welded by Yess Products in Surrey, B.C, Canada.

I have a soft spot for the Cove Bike Shop, having been there a few times when it was in its original location in Deep Cove. Back then, Sharla and I were newly married with no kids and I often spent Saturdays riding Mount Seymour with an old friend of mine.

Cove Bike Shop, original location in Deep Cove, North Vancouver. Photo courtesy of 2flat.net

Mount Seymour had some of my favourite trails - Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Pangor, CBC, Severed D and others - plus it was the easiest of the three local mountains to get to coming from Abbotsford, where we lived. My collection of very old and worn out Roach pads were all purchased at that shop.

Cove was also the place where I rode my first full-suspension Kona - a Stinky, of course - and that put me on the path to owning many Kona bikes in the future. The names Chute, Hei Hei, Kula and Zing will each ring a bell for Kona fans.

The guy with the Cove Handjob was only open to selling it in person and I wasn't going to be down in Vancouver at any point soon, so I reluctantly let him know I was really interested but had to let it pass by.

Turns out, a 15-year old, 26" wheel XL-sized steel hardtail frame isn't at the top of most cyclist's shopping list, so five months later when I got back in touch with him, the Cove Handjob was still for sale. I had a friend soon flying up from Vancouver to Whitehorse who met him downtown in July, exchanged the cash, boxed up the frame and brought it on a plane with him to the Yukon. Thanks, Alfred.

By the time I got my hands on the Cove, it was September 2016. As the seller had stated, it was in excellent condition and I was happy to have it in my possession. I had next to no parts for the bike yet - one step at a time - so I hung it up on our spare bedroom's wall with some fishing line and slowly began collecting as many period appropriate bits as I could find and afford.

Dark Cycles bash ring and Shimano XT crankset
Shimano XTR 9-speed rear derailleur with after-market carbon fibre hanger

Upon asking, I found out my brother-in-law had quite the collection of mountain bike parts from the early 2000s that he was willing to let me have. He gradually found and pulled together the following gems, brought to me in a cardboard box at Christmas:

  • Hayes Mag disc brakes and rotors
  • Razor Rock Racing after-market brake levers
  • Dark Cycles bash ring (complete with machined flames)
  • Sun Rhyno Lite red rim (laced) with Hayes DT Hugi hub
  • Shimano XTR 9-speed rear derailleur (with after-market carbon fibre hanger)
  • Shimano XTR shifters
  • Shimano XT cranks
  • Shimano XT bottom bracket
  • SRAM 9-speed rear cassette
Hayes DT Hugi hub
Razor Rock Racing aftermarket brake levers

I told some of the mechanics at my local bike shop, Icycle Sports about this Cove Handjob project bike I was attempting to build up. Being bike nerds themselves, they were happy to look around for old dusty parts that would suit the style of the Handjob (and were probably even happier for those parts to finally find a home).

Of the parts from Icycle Sports, some were period specific:

  • Shimano XTR 9-speed front derailleur
  • Sun Rhyno Lite black rim (again, laced) with a Shimano XT hub
  • SRAM 9-speed chain

Other parts were more modern, but still retro-enough to fit the build:

  • Surly Troll 26" fork, complete with rim brake pivots

Most of the remaining parts were mine and were a mix of both old and not-as-old:

  • Kenda Small Block 26" x 2.1" folding bead tires
  • Truvativ stem
  • Truvativ handlebar
  • Ergon SM3 saddle
  • Kona lock-on grips
  • No-name quick release skewers

The last few parts I needed were cables, housing, a seat-post clamp and a seat-post. As it turned out, locating that final one was pretty difficult: a 27.2 post in a 400mm length that is more than a flimsy single bolt model (or a very expensive double bolt) is hard to come by. Icycle Sports let me borrow a single-bolt model while I continued my search.

I'd check eBay and Pinkbike's Buy and Sell for a seat-post every once in a while, finding nothing until one day I stumbled upon a non-period specific but still equally awesome and lightly used Chromag Dolomite 27.2 seat-post for sale, dirt-cheap by someone in Calgary. Done!

By September 2017, I had all of the parts for my 2002 Cove Handjob ready to go. I went to Icycle Sports to have them clean up the headset and bottom bracket threads, then a few nights later went over to my brother-in-law's house with my many boxes of parts, and over the course of a few hours (and some beers, naturally) we got most of the bike together. The following weekend, I dropped by Icycle Sports and one of the mechanics - thanks, Aiden - did the rest. By Saturday evening, the Handjob was ready to roll.

On Monday morning, I rode the now 27-pound complete Cove Handjob to work.

My 2002 Cove Handjob mountain bike
Cove Handjob head tube

I don't think you can fathom how far mountain bikes have come in the past 10+ years unless you hop aboard a retro-ride such as this Cove Handjob and take it for a rip on your local trails.

Of the few rides I did on the Cove before the snow fell, I enjoyed being made hyper-aware of the lack of suspension, mostly operational disc brakes and what a rigid steel fork combined with skinny 2.1" tires feels like on even the most lightly rooted trails. Everything that was old was suddenly new (and very challenging) again, and that was a lot of fun.

The Cove Handjob will likely remain a commuter bike for me, but I'll most certainly break it out once in a while on our Whitehorse trails, just for giggles...and to remind myself of my north shore roots.

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Be brave enough to try https://gdharries.com/journal/be-brave-enough-to-try journal/be-brave-enough-to-try Fri, 29 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0000 I think it's important to regularly make choices that you know will result in discomfort, worry and fear.

If you find that you typically gravitate towards what's comfortable, known and logical, you're missing opportunities for growth, a widening of perspective and some good ol' fashioned adventure.

It wasn't until I met Sharla, got married and we had children that I started to recognize some of the comfortable, long-lasting choices I'd made in my life. This became especially true in the past ten years as our kids grew older and I began to see myself through their eyes.

The willingness to try - to purposely choose the difficult path - means opening yourself up to the likely potential for public embarrassment and ridicule. You have to accept that you'll probably make a lot of mistakes and appear a fool.

For example, the sports I've participated most in over the course of my life have been those that I know well and am reasonably good at: cycling, snowboarding, skateboarding and skiing. I chose and stuck with these sports because they are logical and comfortable for me.

Two years ago, I did the opposite: I joined a local men's basketball league, knowing that I wasn't very good and it would be challenging to keep up. Most of the league's players were also 10-20 years younger than me.

My first game, I was a disaster. I shot airballs, passed to players on the wrong team and grabbed rebounds, only to lose the ball seconds later. Like I said, a disaster. This went on for a number of games.

I'd played basketball in high school and university, but only with friends and in pick-up leagues. I had the most basic of skills and could get by with what I knew, but in a game setting that wasn't enough. Not even close.

I'm not a natural athlete, but I'm also not afraid of hard work. If I stick with something long enough, I know I'll eventually gain the necessary skills and experience to look not half-bad at it.

At this point, entering my third season in the basketball league I've made a lot of progress. I don't immediately panic when I get the ball, I drive to the basket and I can more easily predict what's going to happen and where I should be to help my team. Last season I even won the Most Improved Player award.

It's been extremely helpful that there's other guys in the league who quietly give me tips and pointers on how to play and what to do in different situations. This has been vital in building my confidence and a greater belief in my abilities.

Playing basketball is one area in my life where I chose the scary path on purpose. The same could be said for some other recent choices such as my job change, investments we've made, trips we've taken and different things we've done.

Making the deliberate choice to seek out discomfort, welcome worry and encourage fear is not what could be considered logical. It's not logical to me either, but sometimes though, you should do that.

Sometimes, you need to be brave enough to try.

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Quit Strava and just ride your bike https://gdharries.com/journal/quit-strava-ride-your-bike journal/quit-strava-ride-your-bike Fri, 22 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0000 “"

It seems to have become the common belief of serious cyclists that you should track and report all of your rides with Strava.

When you track your rides, you can easily compare yourselves to others to see if you're faster or slower than them on certain parts of a route. If you're the fastest, you get a virtual crown, either as King of the Mountain (KOM) or Queen of the Mountain (QOM). These results can be made private or public.

Last month I deleted my Strava account and started riding my bike offline again—not tracking anything—a return to the old school.

Today, I am simply riding on feel.

Even when set to private results, Strava's offer of constant, immediate access to tools and reports encourages you to constantly compare and seek validation for your efforts. Both outcomes steal the basic, most elementary joys of riding a bike.

Instead of rolling through sections (or segments, in the language of Strava) at a speed that feels right, you're driven to sprint as hard as you can in order to climb the Strava social ladder. When you don't succeed at bettering your score from last time, it's deflating.

I'm a competitive person by nature. I want to win. I want to be first. This is part of why I took up bike racing 20+ years ago; I'm motivated to compete and seek victory above others.

Yet, Strava is different than a real bike race. You don't win a bike race by being the fastest rider on a particular section of the trail or road. You win a bike race by being the fastest, smartest and toughest over a particular distance; an achievement that requires a lot of strategy and tactics, getting in the right moves and once in a while, being in the right place at the right time.

Whereas bike racing leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment - even when I finish near last place at this point in my life - Strava always left me feeling empty.

“"

At first the exit from Strava's community was hard, and I guess that was the saddest and most revealing part. I was clearly hooked on Strava.

Back then I would be riding and thinking, "I wonder if I'll be faster than..." and catch myself comparing my effort to others or previous efforts of my own. That's weird.

It's also confusing and embarrassing.

It took a few weeks to shake my mind loose, but I got there. Now I just go for bike rides where I enjoy the scenery, the company I'm with and the effort that I feel I'm naturally putting in. If I feel good, I push it. If I don't, then I don't. If I desire to compete, I'll sign up for a race.

Power meters, heart rate monitors or journaling in detail your training program? Sure. I've had and used them all, but I don't need any as I no longer ride and race at that level.

Strava, and other types of comparative, social tracking products are fine, but not for me.

If these tools make you happy, use them.

They don't make me happy, so I won't.

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