Wednesday, December 10, 2014

AT Ski Boot Choice

Hey MrPulldown,

I was hoping I could get a little advice from you on equipment.  The thought of touring as many miles as we are going to do in my downhill boots doesn’t sound like much fun to me so I’m considering buying a backcountry setup.  My thought was to purchase boots new since finding the right size would be hard to do used and then perhaps saving some money by getting skis/bindings used.  I picked up a few boots on sale at REI last week.  The one that feels/fits the best is the Dynafit Neo Px CR, which I got on sale for $445:

The other boots I tried were the Dynafit  TLT6 which were a little smaller volume and didn’t feel quite as comfortable but were a little lighter.  Much more expensive, $599 on sale.

I also tried a pair of Atomic Waymaker Tour 90 but they didn’t fit and weighed a ton.  Definitely the least expensive at $300 on sale.

So, I wanted to get your take on the boot situation and also ask you about skis.  I’m 5’9”, 165lb and nothing special when it comes to skiing ability.  I can get down most anything that’s groomed and really enjoy going off into the trees but keep it pretty mellow.  I’d like to get a setup that works for backcountry/touring but would like to be able to go to resorts occasionally as well.  Since I’m not that advanced and really don’t ski all that often, I think this one-size-fits–all approach might be fine for me?  Plus, my current downhill equipment is so outdated and beat up that it should be replaced and I’d rather spend the money on backcountry.  What length and width of ski would you think I should search for?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Skier Dude

Hey Ski Dude,

In the beginning (about 15 year ago), there were only three buckle floppy plastic alpine touring boots.  As skis became bigger and the backcountry became a draw to enter the sport of skiing (skiers became less skilled), the desire for beefier boot happened.  Now days boot design seems to be very polar: tour, or freerider.  The first two boots (Dynafit) listed would be of the lightweight tour side, and the Atomic the heavier free ride.  

Since the Dynafit Neos fit the best I would recommend those of the three options.  And here is a little more on why.

Tongue- Not only is it something that licks it is something that defines the basic structure of a ski boot.  The two most prevalent type are: Forward and overlapping.  The forward type is more back country friendly. Not only does it give a more gradual flex, it is easier to enter and exist, including ease of removing and installing the inner boot.  Overlap type boots are stiffer and provides better down hill performance at the price of touring comfort and weight.

Sole- A  standard AT sole does not work on a standard downhill binding.  There is a standardized friction standard between the sole and the bind in order for the release mechanism to work properly.  A new crop of AT ski boots have interchangeable soles that can both accommodate "tech" type AT bindings as well as standard DIN DH bindings. Most non-tech AT binding can accept both alpine and AT soles (Fritchie, Silvretta,...).

Sizing- Ski boots are typically sized in the Mondo point scale.  Shells are sized every whole size while inner boots are sized every half size.  Two fingers behind the heel is the standard for shell only fit.  For the inner boot the thickness of the material has alot to do with fit and comfort.  A thick inner boot might require custom fitting to fit right.  The sole length marking on the outside of the shell can give a decent indication of inner boot thickness.  Of the same nominal size which of the shells is the largest. The objective is to have a good fitting boot that is not too floppy. A good boot fitter can make a tight boot feel right, but not a lose boot feel tight.  Boot fitting runs between $50-100.  Being many miles from home in bad fitting boots in the past, the lack of pain is worth any price.  

Cant and Cuff Lock-The wider the range of flex the better.  The more forward the downhill lean angle the better.  Multiply forward lean angles allows for more options at the cost of simplicity.

Backcounty vs Resort- The balance between backcountry and resort uses, hangs precariously.  Many want a one ski quiver that can handle all their skiing needs.  Armed with the trickiest backcountry gear they hit the resorts.  Makes sense if you are only going to have one ski.  But if you are going to hammering out the vertical mileages, you better have a rig that can handle it. Old DH ski gear is cheap and bomb proof.  Punishing your AT gear at the resort uncalled for.      


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Boot dryers

If you ski every day a boot dryer is a must.  Even if your ski boot is totally waterproof, the inside will get damp from foot sweat alone.  If you do not ski everyday, but some consecutive days, a boot dryer is needed as it typically take at least 24 hours to dry out a boot. 

Recently I was asked my thoughts on boot dryers.  Having owned a few; here they are. 

Upside Down Dryers-USD dryers are typically what people think to be the best dryers.  These blow hot or warm air into your boot.  Some have fancy timers and additional slots for gloves.  The Dry Guy Wide dryer is one of the most popular models.  Four drying slots allow for both gloves and boots to be dried at the same time.  An optional boot extender is available too.  This dryer only gets pulled out when we have a bunch of guest and it has been really wet out.  For personal use, this unit is a bit much.  But nice.   

Another popular USD dryer is what I call the "outdoors man" dryer.  These come in many colors and brands, but are all of the same construction.  Found at outdoors outfitters such as Cabelas and Northern Tool, these dryers have been around for a while.  I have even seen them being sold at the local drug store in the winter.  I have heard many good things about these dryers but do not have any first hand experience. 

Though USD, do the job well, they are not my preferd dryer.  One reason is that warm moist air rises.  In the USD position, forced air is required to dry the boot.  If I am drying my boots overnight, I typically give them a blast of warm air and let nature do the rest.  The next reason is that ski boots are heavy.  Getting the boots to stay on the dryer often requires a Jenga winning balancing act.  And fianlly, USD dryers take up floor space.  Unless you have a dedicated spot for your dryer, this is a appliance that will need to be put away when not in use; the smaller the better and these things are not always small. 

In Boot Dryers-These little gems are the foundation of the boot drying world.  From small electric resistance heating units to simple forced air units, these dryers do their job and take up little space. 

Boot heaters/dryers work simply by heating up the wet boot and allowing the moist air to escape out the top.  These dryers will take overnight to dry one pair of boots.  They are cheap, durable and  take up little room in your ski bag.  These are perfect for traveling ski vacations where consecutive ski days will naturally occur. 

I would not use this unit for daily home use as I think it is waste a decent amount of electricity.  A timer can be used so that heating/drying occurs only half the night for less wet boots. 

Saving the best for last are the forced air in the boot dryer.  The two piece version I have is no longer available but are essentially the same as the pictured unit.  Heated air is forced into the boot and circulated out.  The key to this type of dryer is the tube which directs the air all the way to the tip of the boot, or at least down into the boot a way.  Without such a tube, the air would not properly circulated.  This type of dryer also has extra drying ports for gloves.  Though the one I have uses spent air from the boot drying process to dryer the gloves.  This sometimes results in smelly hands.  With the two unit version I am able to leave my ski boots in the boot bag and give them a quick shot of warm air after my ski day (ne hour).  Pull the heaters out of the boot and left them dry naturally through the night.  Somethings I would also give them a shot of warm air in the morning to make sure my boots are nice and toasty.

On non-consecutive days of skiing I do not dry out my boot. 

Regardless of which device you use or how many days you ski; dry boots at the beginning of the day and wet boots at the end of the day typically makes for a GOOD day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens

I just come to realize that today is Mr. Dickens's 200th birthday.  Happy Birthday.  For most of us the name reminds us of those dreaded English class reading text.  The simple mention of the name in the title might have caused many to not read the body of this blog post.  I would have been included in this group last week.

However two nights ago I had an experience which changed the way I associate the name.  So much so in fact that I am blogging about it. Two nights ago I watch the 1998 movie The Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke,  Gwyneth Paltrow,  and Robert DeNiro.  WOW.  Though the movie is modern interpretation of the novel, it still goes to show the power and depth of the original story.  And in some ways, it improves upon the original by presenting it in a media and setting which is more relateable to today's audience.

The acting, screen play, and setting are all standard big budget Hollywood.  But the character building, the emotional empathy and the story is all Dickens.  The movie has an artistic feel, and musical score which adds to the pleasant viewing experience. 

Wowing audiences for 200 years; well done Sir!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Motorcycle Overnighter

USFS Road 06
R on Fiberboard freeway
L on Burton Creek/Bunker
L on Fairway Dr
L on SR89
R @ the "Y"
R on Lake Tahoe Blvd to North Upper Truckee Road
R on US50
L on Packsaddle Pass Rd (71)-all paved
L on Mormon Emigrant Trail (5)-super highway
R on 88
to Jackson
Meet Kemen
49 south to Mokelumne Hill
L on SR26
R on Ridge Rd
L on Railroad Flat Rd
R on Summit Level Road (144).
Made camp off a northern spur.  Murphys topo index square 11 near Touch Mill
Came out to Dorrington for a Burger and a Beer off either 144 or 6N71Y
Down to Arnold for Supplies
Back Noth on 4 to Calaveras Big Trees state park.  Not much going on in this park, trees not that big, no off road riding. Did not ride to the end.
North on SR 4 to R on 52 or 5N02
Kemen pulled over at Sourgrass rec area
R on 5N72 and 5N02-2 Didn't go were we wanted and turned around
Back on 52
L on 6N17
L at 6N17 fork
Camped on a spur to the north at Topo Index Boards Crossing 13 or 14 nears Ramsey
Back to SR4 Kemen and I split
R on SR 4 Over ebbetts Pass
L on 89 through Markleeville
L at 88/89
R at Picketts Junction SR89 Over Luther Pass
R on 89 to SLT
Around the Lake to Tahoe City
Bunker to Fiber Board to 06

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

300zx Injector Replacement

I love fuel injection.  Though my first car was carbureted, and I still use a few carbureted engines (motorcycle, snow blower), the workings of a carburetor lie in the realm of black magic.  A fuel injection system  uses a couple of sensors, pumps, fuel squirters and a computer.  That is easy for this 21st century digital boy to understand. 

My Z is now close to being 22 years old.  Though often described as "fiendishly complicated" the massive cult following of this car has made trouble shooting rather easy.  99% of the issues that might arise has already been dealt with and well documented within the on-line Z community.  Here is my repair story for diagnosing and repairing a failed fuel injector. 

Problem, symptoms, diagnostics, theory, confirmation, parts/tools, and repair.  These are the basic steps to any repair. 

I jump in my trusty Z after work one afternoon to run a few errands on my way home.  Fire her up and immediately feel that something was wrong.  The engine was running very rough.  After a few stops the check engine light appears (not flashing).  It seems like I got a problem.  I drive home before I dig into this any deeper.

The car ran rough (symptom) and felt like it was only running on five of the six cylinders.  I now needed to find the possible dead cylinder.  Engines need three major things (then there is a fat list of minor things) to run: Fuel, compression, and spark; removing any of the three would stop the combustion process.   In order to find the dead cylinder I would kill off one cylinder at a time, by removing the spark.  This is accomplished by unplugging the spark plug (coil pack to be specific for this car).  When doing so I would listen to the engine.  When you kill off a good running cylinder the engine will stumble and the idle will drop.  The engine would also struggle to run as now it was only running on four cylinders.  However when you pulled the spark to the dead cylinder no change would take place.  Performing this test, I soon discover that my #2 cylinder was not running.  This test is called a balance test. 

For starters I am going to rule out low/no compression as a source of my troubles.  I took a compression reading last year on the engine and all cylinders were good.  I have not have had excessive wear or overheating issues that might change my compression significantly. 

I had mentioned earlier that while driving with my symptom I had a check engine light.  This means that the computer is trying to tell you something is wrong.  Since the car is a 1990 it is before the days of ODBII computer systems.  I use to like ODB1 systems because you can read the trouble code by counting the long and short flashes of light in the diagnostic window on the ECU itself; no need for a reader.  However you need to get to the ECU, which is more difficult than simply plugging in a reader from a port under the dash and reading the display.  Counting the flashing lights on the ECU tells me that I have a code 51.  Checking a reference I see that I have a bad injector circuit.

I now know that I have a dead #2 cylinder.  I also have a bad fuel injector circuit error code reading by my ECU.  Sounds like I have a dead number 2 fuel injector.  This could be the reason why the cylinder is not firing as the fuel component was removed from the holy combustion trinity.  However I still need a run a few test to confirm. 

Z32's use side feed injectors.  Fuel enters the side of the injector through the mess screen.  A signal is send from the ECU to the electrical connector telling it to fire.  Fuel then squirts out the bottom of the injector into the cylinder.  A properly working injector will have a resistance reading between 10-14 ohms.  This a taken across the two pins of the electrical connection.  #2 injector showed an open circuit.  Testing another injector that I know is working, #3, I get 12 ohms.  At this point I am fairly certain that I have a dead #2 fuel injector.  I should have gone further and tested for spark on the #2 cylinder just to rule it out, but I skipped it. 

One of then reasons I am so confident that it is the injectors is because I have read many cases that were similar to mine.  The early year Z32's use a pintle style injector.  These types of injectors are susceptible to failure caused by ethanol in gas. Since most of the gas sold in the US  has ethanol mixed in, pintle injector failure is fairly common.  Though I am not sure the exact details and failure mode, it has something to do with corrosion caused by ethanol absorption of atmospheric moisture. 

This diagnostics went pretty smoothly and has taken about an hour to perform.  This initial time investment is well worth it, and much less time consuming than changing out the wrong part would have taken.  Since I now have a confirmed failure mode, I only have two more steps before having the Z on the road again.  A few quick keystrokes on my favorite Z part vendors website and second to last step is accomplished, as a new injector was being shipped to me.  The cost of a single new injector: about $100. 

The Z32 is built with a tuned length intake runners.  The basic V6 engine block is built: valve covers, fuel rails and injectors, lower intake manifold all installed, then the upper intake plenum sits on top of everything like a six legged aluminum spider.  Though great for performance the upper plenum makes working on the stuff underneath a bear.  Removing the plenum is also quite a chore as almost every fuel line, vacuum line, and half the coolant hoses are intertwined in the spiders web.  If all six injectors are to be replaced the removal of the plenum might be a good idea.  But if only one needs replacing it is better to use the "Dremel method".  The injectors for the most part are exposed between the legs of the plenum.  However not all of the screw are accessible.  The method involves taking a dremel with a carbide bit and cutting access notches in the plenum.  Though this might seem like a hack job, the process is widely accepted by Z mechanics.  The plenum itself is a cast aluminum piece with "extra" material.  I have even heard of people cutting injector screw access notches in plenums that are off the car and being polished.  These polished plenums will often have extra castings ground down as well prior to being installed on a built engine.  The pre-notched plenum  makes future injector changes a snap. 

For this job I used my dremel with a flex line attachment.  This allows me to get into the tight space a little easier.  I used two different carbide cutters.  A new cylindercal one with a flat bottom and later on a pointy one.  When cutting aluminum with a carbide bit, it is best to go slow.  Both in the spinning speed of the cutter and the amount of material you remove.  Spinning the cutter at high speeds will load up the cutter surface.  Though there is extra casting material that can be removed with no harm, it is not unheard of for a zelouse shade tree mechanics cutting holes in their plenum. 

Once enough material has been removed it is time to tackle the screws.  In all of their infinite wisdom, Nissan engineers opted to use #2 Phillips head screws on the injectors.  Stripping the screws is super easy.  Prior to any attempt to remove the screws, it is best to soak the area down with a penetrating oil.  WD-40, PB blaster, what ever your favorite is, hose it down and let it soak.  Over night is best.  The best tool to use on these screws is an impact driver.  An impact driver is different than an impact wrench/gun.  A impact driver is a hand tool that turns an eighth of a turn or so every time the back end is hit with a hammer.  When set to turn counter clockwise, this tool is great for removing Phillips head screws, as it applies both the downward force necessary to resist stripping, and turning force to unscrew the bolt.  Since I have a larger 1/2" drive impact wrench, I had to string together several adaptors in order to get it down to a 1/4" phillips bit.  Also note that a 4" long phillips bit is needed to clear plenum. 

Though a healthy portion of material can be removed in order to access the screw, the screw driver bit does not sit on the phillips screw at a 90 degree angle.  I think that removing the necessary material to do so will surely cut a hole in the plenum.  In the picture one of the phillips screw has been replaced with a socket head screw.  This is a nice upgrade, and will reduce headaches in the future.  However the socket head portion of the screw has a much higher profile, and has trouble fitting under the plenum.  I opted to keep the stock phillips in the left hole, rather than grind down more material. 

Once the screws are removed and all the aluminum shavings cleaned up it is time to finally remove the injector.  Lift off the injector cap, keeping track of all the rubber insulator below.  The injector sits in the fuel rail and is only held in place by a friction fit provided by two o-rings.  Do not under estimate the holding power of these two rings.  I have read of people using pliers, vice grips and even sinking a screw into the injector to pull it out.  Since it was a dead injector I was ready to do anything.  The soaking in oil helps this part too.  A combination of twisting and pulling works the best.  Of all the plier like tools I had, I found the 45 degree long needle nose pilers work the best.  With it you are able to grab the connector portion of the injector right below the locking tabs, providing a solid purchase.  The angle also allows for both twisting and pulling.  A few grunts and injector pops out. 

From here on it is a simple, "installation is the reverse of removal."  Once the new injector is in place and everything is buttoned up, I gave her a crank.  After a few cranks and the fuel system repressurizes she fires up and and runs perfect again. 

Ahh I love it when a plan comes together. 

Here is one of the tutorial that I followed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Building a Road Bike-Part 1

So you want a new bike.  As with most vehicles, you can purchase one or you can build one.  There are pluses and minus for one verses the other.  The pluses include saving money, getting exactly what you want, personal touches, and for some, knowledge of the workings of a bike.  The minuses include: a bike that might not work perfectly, screwing up parts and having it cost more than it should have, alot of time, and the possible excrement of three not so fun bodily fluids: blood, sweat, and tears. 
A friend of mine is about to embark on his first bike build.  He sent me a e-mail stating that he purchased a frame and needed help with "the rest".  Since I felt that an in depth responded was warranted, I decided to put my recommendations here so that everyone on the dud dud dud had an opportunity to read them.  Of course, my recommendations are often disagreed upon, and sometimes even by myself, so take it with a grain of sodium.  Assuming that the frame he bought fits, has all the modern fittings, where do you go from here.

Sellers description, parred down to the useful stuff:"
Orbea Vitesse road bike. believe it is a 2002. The bottom bracket has English threads. Fork is an Easton EC90 Superlight  needs a new upper headset bearing ; the lower bearing is there.

The next three steps are component selection, assembly, and fitment.  In this article I will concentrate on component selection.  You will be on your own for assembly, and I will lightly cover fitment since the frame fitment is the most in depth and already predetermined in this case. 

The heart of a bikes components is the drive train.  Everything thing else in one way or the other is related to this.  The first thing I think should be decided upon is the crank.  A few things should be now considered:  triple or double, 9 or 10 speed, Bottom bracket, brand.

Triple or Double. Traditionally road bikes have two chainrings; double.  However in more recent years a granny gear, or a third small chainring has become very popular; triple.  The extra low gears allows steep hills to be climbed more easily.  Sure there are ways to lower the gears on a double, such a lower tooth count on the second chainring, or a mountain bike/larger rear gears.  However none of them do so as smoothly as having a third front gear.  The two main determining factors when deciding between the two is how many/big are the hills you ride, and what kind of riding power do you generate.  Events like the Death Ride and the Tour of the Rockies tend to lend itself to the use of triple.  However to show up to a race event with that third ring will have you laughed out of the peloton.  Deciding on a double or a triple might seem like a small issue and might not be the most important, however it should be considered early in the selection process, as other components such as derailleurs and shifters must be differentiated.  Another factor to consider with the 2 vs 3 ring selection is cost.  Road bike specific triples are a relatively modern thing. Where as I can get a 10 year old high end double, a good used triple might cost me a few more coins.   Finally to throw another wrench in the mix is the compact double.   These crank arms have smaller chainrings and thus also lowers your pedal generated top speed.  Compact chainrings have a smaller bolt pattern, which limits the selection of chainrings as well. 

Length- as a sub topic let's talk about length of the crank arms. The longer the arms to more torque.  The faster the arms the quicker the acceleration. Mountain bikes usually use a longer crank verse a road bike.  Uphiller: longer; flatland sprinter: shorter. 

10 speed or 9.  If you go out and buy a new crank, chances are it will be ten speed compatible.  The 10  or 9 number refers to the number of gears in the rear, such that a triple 10 is a "30 speed". So why is this important when selecting front cranks.  Since the hub spacing on the frames has been standardized, and the narrower the hub flanges the weaker the wheel, the only way you squeeze in that extra gear is to make everything thinner.  Thus a 10 speed chain is more narrow that a 9.  Though a 10 speed chainring will work with a 9 not all 9's will work with a 10.  Most new road bikes come with a 10.  Thus if you apply computer buying logic (buy the most up to date equipment so it does not become obsolete too soon) you will want a 10.  Things to note is that used gear will be harder to come by in 10.  Also due to the fact that everything is thinner means that it will wear out a bit faster.  Is there any advantage to 10 over 9.  You won't really notice the extra gear, but it does make hitting that right gear more likely.  Of course this is not the end of it: 8 and 11.  I would try to stay away from getting 8 speed stuff.  Applying the same computer logic, it is harder to find replacement parts for 8s already.  And know when to say enough.  There are 11 speed drive trains out there.  But who knows if that will last.  10 speed has been around for long enough that it is pretty standard.

Bottom Bracket.  This is the bearing set that the cranks pivot about.  I like the new 2 piece style cranks, or Hollowtech (Shimano). This is the type that has a large diameter hollow spindle which is have survived longer.  The common use of sport drink in water bottles contributes to the demise of the bearings due to the sticky fluids splashing out of the bottle and gumming up the bearing. 

If you have found the perfect crank and it doesn't have this type of BB, what type does it have ? The hollow Octolink cartridge style ones are ok.  The square taper cartridge ones kindda suck though last forever. Crank bolts are better than nuts.  And I will never hesitate to run an old school rebuildable.  English threads are the most common, and you just have the measure the BB shell length of your frame in mm to size to spec.  If you really want to get geeky with the old school stuff, you can spec and learn about other BB threads, various length of spindle, chainring, chain stay clearance, off set. 

Brand.  Though several bike component brands litter the market, almost all bikes use one of these three: Shimano, Campagnolo, Sram; Japanese, Italian, American.   The majority of bikes in America seem to run Shimano.  I personally have grown up using Shimanon parts almost exclusively.  I find that they have good quality, and a wide product line that covers high to low end parts.  I also find that the low end parts are of good quality with their down fall being weight and durability.  By durability, I mean how much beating they can take, and how long they might wear; not breakage due to normal use.  Sram is definitely gaining size in the market. Their product line is competitively priced, and delivers some innovations.  Sram is also the parent company for many brands such as Rock Shox, Avid, Grip shift, just to name a few.  Campy typically appeals to the savy road rider.  Their products are more elegant, light weight, and expensive.  Though they do boost a 11 speed drivetrain, they are not typically known for innovation. 

When selecting a brand, you should usually stay with one company within your component group.  This helps avoid incompatible parts.  Though differences in generation have more to do with mismatches, there are some stuff like Sram 1:1 ratio shifter not working with a Shiamno 2:1 derailleur.   The easiest way to avoid mismatch issues to is buy a entire "Groupo", new.  A groupo is all the component you need to build a bike, sold as a package often with a discount over buying all the pieces separately.  However even if you buy a groupo, this does not insure that you do not have incompatibility issues.  The parts still need to fit the frame and wheels. 

Hope you enjoyed reading  Part 1, in road bike building.  I'll let you digest that, while I cook up another plate 2.

Next time: derailleurs, shifters, gears and brakes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Floating the Truckee River July 4th 2011

As Independence day draws near, many people are wondering about floating the Truckee River from Tahoe City to River Ranch.  An event that typically draws a huge crowd, this year will most likely not.  Though the region has received record amount of snow fall, the River is at a very low level.  So low in fact that the commercial rafting companies are not running for the 4th. 

How could this be possible, when floods are reported everywhere?  Floating of the Truckee River is made possible by water released from the "Fanny Bridge" Dam.  Due to all the tributaries that feed into the river, the Truckee River is near or at flood stages in Reno and locations east of Truckee.  Because of this they are not releasing any water (or very little) from the dam.  Well Damn!! 

Does this mean you can't float the river?  No it doesn't.  In fact I think I might float it this Independence Day.  It just means that you will not be able to rent a commercial raft, might have to walk section, and there might be sections of flat water that require some paddling.  In fact, looking at the river's water level this morning, I have floated the river with even less water.  So go out there and enjoy.

Happy Fourth.