The Slow Spoke is a place where I put my thoughts to words and hopefully some will read them. Since I'm a major bike geek most entries will be bike related but, not always. I'm also guilty of thinking far too much so you never know what the topic will be. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

I'm No Retro Grouch! Sweet Rides: Entry #15

I'm no retro grouch!

Well, at least that's what I have to tell myself sometimes. Telling myself sometimes, because, I have to convince myself I'm not! Hahaha

I have strong opinions in cycling. I have staunch beliefs as to what is good with cycling and what isn't and I have a very strong hatred for what I believe to be marketing tripe: and there's a lot of that right now.

Here however, with this example, it is a fine example of all that is well in the world. Those who read my posts somewhat regularly (or at least as regularly as I post) will know of my penchant for steel, but this freaking sick ride gets me tempted to jump ship!

Built by my buddy James at Blackwell Cycle (or on Facebook), I watched this ride come together and waited with bated breath. It's the one upside to owning your own shop that's for sure. I watched as each part would arrive and be laid out on the bench or hung off the frame in advance of the next component's arrival. The intent James had was to build himself up one hell of a fine hardtail and one that would not only stand the test of time and be race ready but, also, be extremely worry and maintenance free. Nice job!

He jumped back into the less plush world after years on a full squishy; choosing an as-plush-as-possible full carbon Rocky Mountain Vertex as a base for his build. Clearly with the component selection he made, "feathery" was going to be a word associated with this new build of his.

RaceFace Next SL carbon cranks mated with SRAM XX1 shifter, derailleur and cassette make for one sick combination. That damn cassette alone is a fine piece of art and needs to be seen to be appreciated. Ridiculous!

I snapped these photos and it was tough to take a bad shot. The silly thing is so damn nice. Of course James can't take "all" the credit. Rocky Mountain did a fine job too with the frame graphics in my opinion. Just enough colour to make the bike pop out there on the trail but not so much that it's all flash. Fit and finish is very nice and this bike has a nice aggressive racey geometry: there is no doubt. I wan't to race it..................bad.

James also, by choice (and tastefully I might add), kept everything RaceFace.

He wanted to keep with that Rocky Mountain/West coast tradition. Pieced together with RF stem, carbon Next seat post and matching RF carbon Next bars, his mission was a success and did the bike worlds of good.

A DT Swiss OPM O.L 100 fork softens the front end and the latest offerings from Time (XC8 carbon) secure the feet in place. The textbook Odi lock-ons (why anyone would ever go with anything else I'll never know) for the trouble free secure grip no mater what the conditions and Maxxis Ikon tires keep the ride on track in the slick stuff. To finalize the controls, James slapped on some Hope Race Evo X2's (the lightest Hope has to offer) and they finish this thing off right. They absolutely belong on this bike. 

All told, as built with everything you see in the pics, the bike weighs in at a mind-blowingly light 20.08lbs. That's right. Before he put the pedals on, it was sub 20lb mountain bike capable of full on race conditions. That's sayin' something.

How can anyone be a retro grouch when time, engineering, and sure, a bit of cash, gets you numbers and beautiful lookers like that??

I still love my steel rides but I'll tell you what, I'd throw my leg over this freaking thing any time of the week!

Sick bike, James. Nice f#$%ing job!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Down for the count..........

Down with pneumonia now. Suffering off the bike. This blows ass...

Pick from last ride I was on over a week ago.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Been a while.............image dump.

Wow, I know I don't post much in here but that's gotta be a record. Haha

I really don't think many read this shitty blog anyway but, what the hell. This is for those of you who stumble in here, be it through curiosity or accident.

Still riding.................still taking shots.

Here are some random shots I've taken over the last while.

Recent beach outing.

Solo rail trail outing.

On the Niner for a change

Maiden voyage/test ride of the Ice Cream Truck

Break time while out on the Straggler. Such a fun bike.

A quick add I made for my buddys' shop.

Riding the beach just before the (snow) storm hit.

Nearing the end of a 70ish km point-to-point "race". I soooooo wasn't ready for that event. I was hurting hear. Hahaha

Just a Rocky Element I really dig. Had to take a shot.

That's it for now. Not much of an entry I know but I've got plans.....for more......later. Like punk rock, the blog's not dead. I'll continue popping back in on occasion. Hopefully you do as well.


Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Cross Check Is Gone.

After years of total reliability and flawless performance, I got rid of a bike that set quite a standard in my quiver: my Surly Cross Check.

It was a bike that was actually a bit painful to part with but, at least, it isn't far. Sold it to a buddy of mine. At least I will see it out being ridden every now and again. It's gone to a good place.

One may ask, "Why part with something so admired?" Well, there is a simple answer. Surly released something that, for me, hit the nail right smack on the head! Something that I'd been wanting for years! Basically, not "totally" mind you, but pretty much, a Cross Check with disc tabs.

Yes, I'm speaking of course of the Straggler. It was a God damned no brainer for me when I saw it way back when. A bike with all the versatility of my CC, some minor geometry changes but disc tabs were a big deal for me. Once I spotted the "Glitter Dreams" paint.................well........................metallic flake??????

I'm all over that!!

So..............I pulled the Cross Check apart swapping all the parts I could. I was bound and determined to keep my Campy Chorus/Record groupo I loved so much and found the conversion cassette to be a simple solution to getting a Campy groupset to work on a Shimano disc hub. I purchasing only brakes (which were a trade for mtb BB7's I had already), new Brooks Swallow Titanium saddle, Stan ZTR Crest rims (pealed some of the stickers off to make them less "vibrant" - yuck) and laced them up on some older XT disc hubs. I did take the time to apply matching purple nipples to the wheels though. I had a good laugh (we all did) when I went into the shop and asked if I "......could get some purple nipples". Hahaha

Slapped it all together at my usual stop, Blackwell Cycle, and James was kind enough to lace the wheels up for me. That's about the only thing I don't do. F@#% lacing wheels. I can't stand it. It truly pisses me off. Hahaha Thanks again to James and John for getting the frame, fork and extra parts I needed in. Cheers once again.

Freaking stoked on this build.

Gotta get these exams done so I can rip it up!

And my other rides!!! I'm missing my bikes right now.

I of course snapped some pictures fresh off the bike stand. Here's how it turned out.

Can't wait to get it dirty!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Damn AT-AT's!!

Had to cut my ride short because of the AT-AT's returning early from patrols! It's so freaking annoying. The pilots often really don't give a shit what's in front of them so, as you know, it's always safer to just head home until they pass.

Arrogant bastards.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Life...........It's Busy!

I keep telling myself that it will slow down and things will go back to the way they once were. Truth is, it won't. I have a hard time coming to grips with that. What I'm continuing to do though is trying and adapt. Trying to adjust and manipulate all I have to do in a day and cram in as much cycling as possible without sacrificing anything else.

It's bee getting better lately. Been doing a fair bit of fat biking.

Here's a manual-style wheelie for you. HAHA Good times....

Today's entry will just be a few random shots I've taken while out over the past couple of weeks. It's been fun. Just wish some of my buds would get on board with riding fat.......and in the cold.

Here's a pic I took just down the street from my house while riding the beach. Lake's starting to freeze up! Soon it'll be time to ride out there a ways. Looking forward to it.

A little further down the beach I stumbled upon........

Anyway, gotta get going here. Gotta get some shopping done so I can get back and maybe squeeze another ride in. That would be nice. We'll see.

Sorry for the obvious lack of effort in this post. Just dropping in to show that all is well and we're still rolling.

Really wanting to ride my Guru right now but, not freaking way. Too much salt down now.

I'll post about it eventually I suppose.


Here too is a quick/short little video I slapped together a few days ago. Didn't spend much time on it as I wanted to rack miles up instead.

Thanks for reading!
Feel free to comment so I know you're out there.
Steve A.

A Great Escape from Steve Arseneault on Vimeo.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fall Ride After a Crazy Schedule.

Just a quick entry today since I finally managed to get out and we took a few shots during our loop.

It's been a ridiculously long time since I was able to turn any cranks (aside from a few commutes). My work schedule was INTENSE as of late. I'd been working 13hr night shifts straight through since August 13th right up until mid October. There were a scant number of days off - maybe 4 or 5 in two months. It was insane but we got through it.

Any days off were quickly (and obviously) filled with chores to catch up on and hanging with my kids who were missing me dearly. I can assure you, that feeling was mutual.

Now that life and workload are back to normal, I have time again to make a few things happen. The other day, I called a buddy James and off we went for some fall riding. I hate fall but I enjoy riding in it.

A pre-ride shot taken by my buddy. I missed my bike. I was dying to roll.

Once we rode in, the colours were intense in some areas and the lighting was perfect. The sun popped in and out of the clouds and all was wet so this helped to really make the colours contrast and pop. Especially in the more dense areas.

There, when the sun hid, the blackened bark of the pines contrasted beautifully with the rust coloured trail and its green coloured edges. I didn't capture a good pic of that because every time I reached for the camera, the sun would pop out again! GRRRRR...... missed out on that.

I did capture this in the more leafy, less dense part of the trail though. Gives you a good idea of some of the glorious colour to be seen.

The ride was wet and quite slick since, below the layer of wet leaves was a rain-soaked, saturated trail just waiting to catch you out. We were rolling some pretty low pressures. I did go down and slide a fair distance through some sticky gumbo. This, after my front wheel washed out on one of a billion hidden wet roots. Serves me right though. I was getting complacent on a flowy downhill section. No harm done though. The bike and I both slid for a bit before coming to a stop half off the trail. As you know, always better to slide than to come to any abrupt stops.

Thick gumbo is quite good at dissipating energy!

Got up, mud-soaked on my right side and laughed a minute or two. The bike was fine too so all was good: great in fact.

I missed this stuff and I didn't even begin to know just how much until I got out there. I missed the trails, my bike, chatting with my buddy, the unique challenges of riding in the fall, the smells, sights and sounds - all of it.

God damn. That was good stuff.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

My Guru; A Fait Accompli.

Well, I did it again: another bike. 

Another bike I mulled over for quite some time: a bike, slow to come to light. I imagined a bike, matched and worked with different component combinations and different color combinations over and over in my mind. Countless builds were dreamt up over the last year or so and often, it’s what helped me fall asleep on many nights in that time. 

I imagined and planned how I could bring this to fruition. This second, pure, personal “dream bike”. Once again I thought about how would I make this happen? What would be the best way to build exactly what I wanted. What DID I want? What would I hang from the frame? How would everything tie together to satisfy my needs. More importantly, how would I do all this and still keep a reliable bike possible? I didn’t want a “show bike”. I wanted a workhorse but one that also looked good (at least to me). So many unknowns. So many options. The only thing that was certain was that it would collect many miles and that the frame would this time be titanium.

Yes, another alloy ride. One that would perhaps help satisfy my insatiable appetite for them. 

Those who know me or read fairly regularly will know that I have a ridiculous penchant for alloy builds. I’ve done every material under the sun and keep coming back to steel. I had yet to own a ti ride so now was the perfect time to delve into it. Why wait for a knee or hip replacement to experience the benefits of titanium? Why not have a road frame made of the stuff?

I turned 40 this year and so, at 39 looking forward, I felt the appropriate gift to myself would be a bike that, to me, is as beautiful to look as it is to ride. A bit selfish perhaps but..............cycling is my thing and I'd hit a rather large milestone. 40 sucks. It even SOUNDS shitty. How could I make it less so. I could have gone and bought a Corvette like many guys my age decide to do but, no way. After awhile, I knew what I wanted but, it took some serious time to plan out.

My visions and nightly reflections had eventually lead me to one place: a frame with classic geometry, classic tube shapes and a classic titanium finish. I’m not a retro grouch by any means but my desire for a bombproof bike guided me to stick to what I know works - and will work for years to come. 

I avoided press-fit BB’s and tapered steerer tubes and opted for a classic threaded BB shell and standard 1 1/8 headtube to house external headset cups. Nothing wrong with any of the features I chose not to add but for the sake of simplicity, known reliability, and the aesthetic ride I was going for (with a classic look) I went old-school. Sure, the bike wouldn’t be as light as it “could” be but, I’ll always give up a hand full of grams for something that will be a nice representation of my vision and meet my needs on the road. I had finally decided on a manufacturer; a step that actually turned out to be one of the hardest things to do. 

I went with Guru Cycles: a company based out of beautiful Quebec, Canada that has a strong race history, a strong support and backing of their product and a reputation that is out of this world! They offer fantastic carbon, titanium and steel frames ranging from full blown custom tubesets, geometries and finishes to standard frames and finishes...........and built in house. The fit and finish of all the bikes I’d seen from them have always impressed me so they were a consideration right from the get go.

Early on I reflected on the possibility of a full blown custom build and driving out to their facility for an all out fitting and assessment but, one day, while nerding out during a coffee, I began drawing up a rough sketch of numbers I was looking for. I didn’t get a pic of the final drawing as it became quite elaborate but drew a second one up later to absolutely ensure no changes to my plan would be required (again, not the final drawing but, you get the idea about how bad I can nerd out).

I jotted down numbers that were currently working for me on the road bike that I’d be retiring (my Bianchi L’Una). What I’d discovered was that, based on the geometry of Guru’s standard Praemio frame, I could easily mirror my current numbers. It was a win! I didn’t need to go custom thus freeing up some money for other details I’d need to get this beauty built precisely as envisioned. 

The Praemio was also offered in countless finishes and paint colors/combinations but, although tempted, I decided on a naked look. Remember my longing for a “classic” looker? 

To me, ti should be shown off. I love the look of the stuff: always have. I love welds that are perfectly symmetrical: completely uniform. The proverbial “stack of dimes” if you will. The meticulous work that one pays for essentially. A look that makes a titanium bike - a titanium bike. You just know it when you see it. Why cover those details and take away from the impressiveness that those welding hands laid down in Quebec? No way. For me, I love a well built bike whether I own it or not. The finer details of a build capture my attention and seeing as I was in charge of my bike’s destiny, in terms of its appearance, naked it would HAVE to be. It was final.

My friends James and John at Blackwell Cycle  (and on facebook Blackwell Cycle) were the obvious choice for me to help see this all through. Guru dealers themselves, friends, riding buddies and experienced with my “I’m-on-a-mission” ways I knew they’d survive another run with me building a bike.

I opted for the Praemio “Pure” with raw brushed tubes followed by the bead blasted logos and black fork. No decals for any logos and, aside from the fork, no paint. In a way I got lucky because for once, my vision lead me straight to the lower end of the price point for this particular frame therefore, again, freeing funds for the remainder of my build. It was working out great so far!

Despite my desire for as much ti as possible, I knew that at least a little color would be necessary to make this ride special to me. Not a large overpowering splash but a minuscule amount. Just enough to tie everything together. What color would that be? Once again, I got lucky, thanks to the sticker.

"A sticker? What the hell are you talking about?” is what you’re probably thinking.

Well, here, one will see a glimpse and be able to validate just how fixated and unwilling I can be to deviate or change course once I have an idea in my head. I know it’s been discussed amongst friends through which they (and I) laugh. Yes it’s true at times but, in my defense, I don’t build really high end bikes too often but when I do, I want it right. I want it my way and exactly my way.

So, where does the sticker come in? Well......

Guru frames just happen to come with a sticker expressing its Canadian origin and these stickers just happened to be largely red. Again, luck was on my side as I’d planed to reuse at least a few of the parts from my previous ride. Namely my Eurus wheelset, FSA K-Force calipers, seat post and K-Wing bars. All were consistently black, white and red. Even my ti bottle cages were going to be reused and they themselves have red accents. The red sticker just sealed the deal. Red was my decided target accent colour.

The first red accent piece purchase was a new Chris King headset with the Sotto Voce styled logo to steer me over a billion miles and pop some red into that area of the bike.

I also decided to order a red seat post clamp for something to do. Why not?

Some aspects needed nothing for me to admire as they were though straight from the factory. The rear dropouts are works of art as far as I am concerned. Good lord!

After a dozen or so years with Campagnolo, I decided on making a change to SRAM. Nothing against Campy. I absolutely loved everything about my Campy groups over the years and they ran flawlessly (still do as I still run it on my cross bike) I just felt that to make this new bike “new”, I needed change. I’d heard great things about the SRAM Red groupo and I’ve always been a fan of their stuff in the mountain bike world (have run SRAM X.O. for years). Besides, as an added bonus, the Red groupo is, you guessed it, black and red! Perfect! I was confident it would all work great and fit in nicely with my black and red motif. I also decided on the SRAM Red ceramic BB to finish it off. The BB came with nice red cups of course.

I made my list and ordered the remaining parts. The distributers/SRAM were a little weird in getting the parts to me initially and I became quite concerned about crankset colours.  A colour change was in the works at SRAM and a large backorder was in effect. Luckily however, everything eventually arrived as planned. 

While I waited for a final part (Shimano freehub body for the Eurus wheelset) I assembled the bike with parts that were being swapped from the now retired Bianchi.

Then off to the shop to measure 14 times and cut a perfectly good carbon steer tube once. This part always makes me nervous. I measure, check and re-check so many times. HAHAHA.

Once everything had arrived, I retreated back to my house and into my basement. A straight forward assembly saw me emerge the following morning after a good night's sleep with my new ride. My 40th b-day gift to myself.

My fait accompli. 

Bead blasted logos.

I LOVE how the headtube looks.

Sadly, I also built this bike in a year that refuses to allow me to ride. Things beyond my control are keeping me from the bike(s) but I am not concerned. I am determined to make up for this year’s loss of saddle time in spades next year and seeing as this particular bike is made of ti, it’ll be ready and able for many years to come.

It does have a few hundred KM's on it already but it's been mostly, so far, a collection of shorter outings but hey, better than nothing. Soon enough I will get to know this bike well with the epic days in the saddle that I crave. I'm looking forward to working this bike out on the road and making it earn its keep as all my bikes do. I had one person suggest that the bike was "too nice to ride". Although thankful for the comment, I replied "Not a chance." Besides, if I don't ride this wife will kill me.

Cheers, thanks for reading.

Special thanks to Lesley for not getting “too” mad at me for this one. I owe you again! :-)

Thanks also to James Grant and John Elliott for allowing me to stop in for coffee and talk shop with respect to the build. Appreciate the help boys! 

Steve A.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Missing The Niner and The Warm Temps Today.

I spotted this pic from an 8hr race I took part in last year and I got a crazy urge to get the hell out there again.
I really need a fix. I'm sick of this cold weather crap. It's time to get warmed up and out on the Niner.
It's ready to go! I just need this weather to swing a bit more so that the trails become doable.
God damn! Let's get this show on the road!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Yeah, I know. Hell of a title, eh?

On Sunday morning I headed out for a ride with a couple of friends. Nothing over the top; just a good ride at average pace and fairly short. Both were basically going for a shakedown run on new rides so I knew it wouldn't be a hard-pressed ride. None of us have managed much of a season so far anyway - truth be told. Each of us with our own legitimate reasons I suppose but....... Since they'd be running brand new rockets I told them I'd be "slumming it on my CrossCheck".

Sunday morning came and from the outset, I wasn't sure. I had a puking son on Thursday night, and on this particular morning (also his birthday) my stomach was trying to tell me something - or was it?

Sometimes I can, admittedly, be very stupid, but, most times my stupid actions are based on stubbornness and unwillingness to conceive defeat: something I most certainly should have done that morning. I'd later regret my denial and unwillingness to read the signs.

From the first turn of the cranks I felt totally off. Straight away I knew something was up. I couldn't find a good rhythm. I couldn't get comfortable. I could't get my heart rate down. I couldn't settle: breathing hard and struggling even at lower speeds. I just kept telling myself that it was due to the lack of "real" riding I'd managed to get in so far this year. I struggled for the duration, grabbing a wheel and hugging it which is very unlike me. I'm not the type to cling to wheels for the span of a ride and ALWAYS make sure I do my share of the work but, today that changed. I stayed behind wheels on the road sections of the ride and only held the front for short bursts. I just couldn't do it. Not sure if my friends noticed - no one said anything - but that's not my style.

The first hundred feet of the ride saw my computer stop working which turned out to be a broken (worn through) computer wire so I couldn't even tell if I was feeling this way due to elevated speeds or what was happening. With no heartrate, speed, cadence I was blind and couldn't rationalize "why". I was still in denial.

Fast forward to the midpoint of the ride and I had to sit on the ground for a break. I didn't talk much choosing to listen instead which, again, is unlike me (HAHAHA). My gut started to tense up and it hurt like hell when it did so. Now I knew I was in trouble. I quickly got up and said "We should probably get going!! Right??" I threw a leg over and started off. Another attempt to deny any issue I was having.

Now on trail, I was able to concentrate on my riding and I did have my mind taken off my stomach for a time. I pressed on at my own pace knowing full well that I just needed to get home.

Once home, I literally walk in to the house with my daughter now puking in the bathroom (moments before she puked on the front door and porch). I'm quickly on my hands and knees cleaning this all up as we have guests coming over for my son's 4th wasn't to be for me.

By 12:30pm I'm chucking cookies and in bed. A house full of guests and I'm missing my son's birthday. That is the hardest part of this whole thing. I missed my son's birthday. I slept a full 24hrs getting up only to throw up. Totally crazy. Stupid me. I should not have ridden. I should have read the signs. I should have stayed home. Maybe the ride is what pushed my body over the top. I'm convinced, like my bike, my head has some fucked up wires.

It's killing me that I missed his birthday. Killing me I tell you.