Chinah, China


I took the plunge, and decided to build a chinese carbon fiber framed 29’er Monstercross bike to compete in rough gravel races, such as Gold Rush in Spearfish, SD.

I choose the Flyxii FR-216 frame and matching carbon fork with BSA bottom bracket.

It’s somewhere on the Pacific right now, it left Guangzhou two days ago.

Suck it, Challenge, you bitch!


OK, those Compass tires weren’t the first tires I tried. I actually tried a pair of 23mm Paselas first, but they really didn’t do it for me.

In “Suck it, Compass, you bitch!”, i described how the only redeeming feature of the 700x26mm compass Cayuse Pass was how well it fit the tight confines of the Bianchi TSX frame. Truth be told, it helped that they measured out to be 24mm wide on my Mavic Open Pro wheelset.


So, when the Compass tires proved to be as useful as a tissue paper umbrella, I turned to the Challenge Strada. 700x25mm, handmade open tubular with a puncture protection strip. Fuck you, Compass, I found my tire.

Now, I ride a lot of Challenge tires; I ride the Strada Bianca on my SSCX Bianchi San Jose, and I ride the Parigi-Roubaix on my Salsa Colossal. In fact, the Parigi-Roubaix, nominally a 700×27, but measuring out at 29mm is the largest rubber that will fit in Colossal. I love those fucking tires, man.

One trend in Challenge tires, is their understated width. The Parigi-Roubaix measures 29mm. The Compass Cayuse Pass measured 24mm. The Challenge Strada, is a 25mm.

Bullshit. That dumb fucker measures out at 27mm wide on my Open Pros.


Fuck you, Challenge! Fuck you, Bianchi, for having such a tight fork crown, too. It was so close, but it just wouldn’t roll without rubbing, due to some generous (I really wanted to say sloppy) metal fitting in the unicrown fork.

Now, I ain’t afraid of steel, and I am deeply, deeply fucking frustrated with the lack of tire options I am encountering with this bike, and I have a pretty good set of metalworking gear. Now, it’s fuck you, Bianchi, time.

A little grinding and filing later, and it looks much nicer in there.


Fuck you, Challenge:


It’s a tight fit, but a nice ride. You can quote me on that.

Suck it, Compass, you bitch!


Fucking tires are the bane of my existence, especially on this tarted-up Italian wallet-slayer.

First try: Compass Cayuse Pass 700x26mm. Lightweight, supple, designed by Jan Heine himself after extensive testing, and produced for Compass Bicycles.

Utter fucking garbage, I can’t stress this enough. The only positive thing I can say about them is that they fit the frame well (this becomes important, later). These tires spontaneously flat. They have casings so thin, after mounting them, there are exposed fibers. The tread depth is a generous 3mm, so that should keep things, like dog hair, from causing punctures. Unfortunately, I can’t get a lot of miles in on my carpet of dog hair, so I have to ride on pavement, and asphalt, and the odd gravel section, which is too much for these.

Two rides, 50 miles, and three flats, including spontaneous flatting, and I threw these worthless fucking things aside.

I’ve always had good luck with Challenge Tires, anyway…

You’re killing me, Italy


Because I’m a sucker for Italians, I bought 20 year-old Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX Ultralight frame, built up with 10-speed Campagnolo Chorus groupset when it popped up locally on Facebook.


How could I resist? Full Campy, rode well. All it needed was new grease in the front hub, and a new chain…

Right. It’s fucking Italian, numbskull.

It needed a new chain ($70), new bearings, new cones, and a complete front hub rebuild ($70), and then I left Monkey Wrench with it to find out that now, nothing worked.

The rear cassette, (Record Titanium, of course) was shot, which is a $500 replacement part. A Centaur cassette was found at Olympia (these guys are great, btw), for $200, which was enough to keep it in gear now, but caused it to sound like an old sewing machine.

Fortunately, Olympia speaks Campy better than anyone else around here, so a week, and new replacement 53/39 chainrings ($200) later, it rides awesome. At least when tires aren’t blowing up on it. I guess it’s a testament to the bike that the previous owner rode it into the fucking ground.

Colossal: Challenge Parigi-Roubaix and Strada Bianca


Tonight I mounted up some fresh Challenge Tires.

The 700x27C Parigi-Roubaix


The 700x30C Strada Bianca.


Both tires are handmade, open tubular tires with a puncture protection strip under the tread. Both tires were a bitch to mount up. You need three hands. My thumbs hurt like a motherfucker.

Two tips for mounting these:

  1. Mount them on a spare rim, without a tube to stretch them out a bit.
  2. Use a slightly smaller tube than usual, use a new tube, ideally.
  3. Be careful of pinch flats, because the tire is so tight, and so flat, it’s easy to do.

When mounted, the deflated tire is very flat:


Once mounted, which took about 90 minutes, for two tires (Yeah, fuck that), I inflated both to 100 psi to measure fit and width.

On the rear, the 700x30C Strada Bianca measures 31mm wide on a Sun Assault (18mm wide x 19mm high) rim. The tire/rim combination measures 47mm high. As you can see, there’s plenty of clearance in the back.


On the front, the 700x27C Parigi-Roubaix measures 29mm wide, by 44mm high on a Sun Assault rim. There’s not much clearance left, about 3mm. With only 3mm of space, there’s no hope of fitting a Strada Bianca in there.


Realistically, I won’t run these tires at 100 psi. 75 front/60 rear is probably closer to where I would start out on gravel, and that might allow me to just squeeze a Strada Bianca in the fork, but what would the value be, if the tolerances are so close that adding a few psi causes the tire to rub?

I’ll test ride these in the next day or so, and write up a review.

2013 Salsa Colossal; the arrival


Sadly, I cannot resist temptation, nor can I resist tinkering. The two, taken together, have led to a proliferation of shit in my life; my garage, my basement, my shop in Gretna.

The latest bright idea, a 2013 Salsa Colossal, on sale at Greenstreet Cycles:Greenstreet Salsa

Who could resist that blue? A night time test ride in frigid temps, hunched over in my puffy coat confirmed that I wanted it. But for what purpose?

Eh, who fucking cares, it’s a bike.



January 2nd, I drove it home. It’s blue, it’s 21 lbs, and here’s what Salsa says about it:

Colossal 2 is our all-day road riding and rack-less randonneuring bike. It’s a bike for pouring on the miles, taking in the scenery, challenging one’s self, and making discoveries.

The Classico CroMoly frame is paired with a feathery ENVE RD carbon disc fork and features extremely balanced front and rear ends. Disc brakes deliver consistent and confidence-inspiring braking.

Colossal. Eat a big breakfast.

The cool bits: SRAM Apex drive train, FSA Gossamer compact double, and did I mention that it weighs as little as my SSCX Bianchi San Jose?

The downside, it only handles 28mm maximum tire width. That damn sexy ENVE RD carbon disc fork features about zero room for wide ass gravel tires.


Which, is only a problem if you want to gravel race it. Which is a problem, since I want to gravel race it.

I want to gravel race it, because I think it’s fast. Gravel Worlds 2012 was won on a Trek Domane, 2013 was won on an All-City Mr. Pink. Both road bikes running skinnys (the Trek was on 25mm Contis, and the Pink appeared to be on Paselas).

But it’s gonna need some tire, so which ones?

I will say this, Kenda Kommando and Panaracer Crossblasters, both very narrow (28mm measured) cross tires, don’t fit.



So, the theorizing began: can it be a gravel racer? what kinda tire can I cram in there? What can I run to keep it light, and make it fast, over gravel roads?