Idaho Backcountry 2014 – Part 1

My annual trek to the Idaho backcountry is something that I really look forward to. This year, the plan was pretty much the same as previous years. An RV-4 friend and I (me in my RV-3) would motor up north and spent a few days exploring the beauty of the Idaho backcountry as well as exploring the fantastic flying opportunities that are available due to the work of the fabulous aviation community that exits there.

To mix it up a bit, we decided to fly to Bryce Canyon, Utah (BCE) and hike for a few hours as part of the trip up north.  I had never been to Bryce Canyon and it is a spectacular place.

Of course, the flight over is mighty spectacular as well! Flying over the Carrizo Mountains, Canyon De Chelly National Monument, and Lake Powell is something that will NEVER be forgotten!!

Idaho Backcountry Vans RV-3 Flying Camping

Idaho Backcountry Vans RV-3 Flying Camping

Idaho Backcountry Vans RV-3 Flying Camping

Idaho Backcountry Vans RV-3 Flying Camping

Idaho Backcountry Vans RV-3 Flying Camping

We took the hotel shuttle from the airport to town and then jumped on the park shuttle to Bryce Point.  We then hiked the rim of the canyon to Sunset Point.  There, we dropped into the canyon and hiked the Queens Garden Trail.  This took us to the Sunrise Point where we jumped on a shuttle back to the hotel.  My new boots were really messing with my feet and, once again, I developed several blisters.  Ugh! Really frustrating.

Bryce Canyon National Park Hike Hoodoo

Bryce Canyon National Park Hike Hoodoo

Bryce Canyon National Park Hike Hoodoo

Bryce Canyon National Park Hike Hoodoo

Getting back to the airport was very quick and easy – thanks to the shuttle folks!  After departing Bryce Canyon, we flew to Gooding, Idaho for fuel. From there, onward to Johnson Creek (3U2) via Smiley Creek (U87).   During this leg of the flight, I was experimenting with power settings and think I found a new mode of operation (high-ish altitude cruise).  Leaving full throttle and leaning allows me to run lean of peak – not possible with partial throttle.  I was able to stay in cruise formation by use of mixture to vary the rpm/power.  Fuel consumption dropped way off while running in this fashion.

To be continued….

Kayaking at Night

Last week was a full moon and I just happened to be near a lake.  What else could I do!?!?  I had to give night kayaking a try.

Was it fun??  Check out these photos.

Necky Manitou Kayak Dark Full Moon Bluewater night

Note: For the review of the above Stohlquist PFD, see here.

Necky Manitou Kayak Dark Full Moon Bluewater night

Necky Manitou Kayak Dark Full Moon Bluewater night

Necky Manitou Kayak Dark Full Moon Bluewater night

Necky Manitou Kayak Dark Full Moon Bluewater night

Necky Manitou Kayak Dark Full Moon Bluewater night

It was an absolute blast and thing of beauty.  Seeing the sun set from the water is always great.  The water was still and smooth. I don’t usually stay up very late at night but this is one event for which I will happily change my routine. It was a wonderful experience that I will most certainly be repeating in the future!

There are no real requirements for a kayak on the water at night, at least that I could find.  The USCG recommends a flashlight “at the ready”.  So, I had one at the ready.  My friend had a couple small strobe lights that he attached to his PFD which I thought was an excellent idea.  Otherwise, using common sense and simply being safe is the bomb.  Obviously, I would not try this on a lake or waterway that has a lot of power boat traffic.

RV Tire Pressure

There is a lot of discussion in the RV forums about motorhome handling. Of course, there all sorts of add-on accessories that range from expensive to very expensive and all sort of theories.  I have a very difficult time sorting the good theories from the bad.  Here’s what I know, Shaneeda is not new (twenty years old) and she drove pretty well but was more work and a much harsher ride than I wanted.

When I purchased new tires, the tire shop aired them as they normally do – maximum load pressure.  I didn’t know any better.

After spending lots of time reading, I now understand that RV tire pressure should be set based on weight.  There is no guessing here – you gotta have your motorhome weighed.

I discovered that the local co-op had a scale so off I went.  Turns out that Shaneeda has 5,000 pounds on the front axle and 10,500 pound on the rear with a fairly normal, going on a trip load.

As you know, I purchased cheap tires (a mistake) and they do not provide a weight chart. So, I used one of the commonly available charts. This isn’t ideal but I include a pretty fair safety margin so I think I am ok.

RV motorhome tire pressure weight dual

The tire charts show that, for these weights, 70 psi in all tires is plenty of pressure.  Hmmm, says I, that is a lot different than 110 psi.

A little subtlety that not everyone picks up on. If you have duals in the back then you have four tires carrying the weight.  In my case, each tire is carrying approximately 2625 pounds (10,500 pounds divided by four) so a pressure below 65 psi is enough.

So, I started decreasing the pressure each time I took a trip.  I REALLY noticed a difference when I dropped to 85 psi.  When I reduced to 78 psi, I became very, very happy.  Shaneeda rides so nicely!  The harshness is gone, every little crack and seam is not transmitted up your spine and into the center of your brain.  She tracks very nicely no longer requiring constant steering adjustments . Even in a cross wind she is pretty well behaved.

So, I am trying to spread the word!  Set your tire pressures according to the weight of your motorhome and see what happens.  I’m sure there will be some that still need some of the suspension accessories but maybe you’ll get lucky, like me, and save yourself some cash!

VeloBuild – Buyer Beware

I had hoped to post my VeloBuild R-028 build and impressions on the VeloBuild forum. I attempted the post four different times and it never appeared in the forums. Very strange, I thought. I finally sent an email asking if they could look into the issue. TWO WEEKS after sending that email, I finally have my answer. I’ve included the full exchange below (in chronological order) so you can judge for yourself.

I was very suspicious when I read Chris’s question: “Can i know the information of the post ?”

That indicates to me that they regularly eliminate/delete posts when they do not like the content. However; there is a language difference so I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. After receiving Killerbee’s response (the last in the exchange), my suspicion was confirmed.

Thanks a lot for rejecting my posts and not bothering to let me know. All forums on which I participate/moderate have the decency to tell the user what was done so they are not left wondering and wasting time like I was.

VeloBuild is clearly in the game of tightly controlling all information about their products and what is presented on their forum. The statement: “we are a one stop information center for our products” is very telling. It is their forum and they can do that if they so desire but, in my opinion, it is an unacceptable business practice. I am happy with the product that I received from them but I cannot recommend that anyone do business with an organization that is intentionally misleading people in an effort to sell products. This amounts to deceptive advertising and there are laws against such things, at least in the USA. Moderation to keep threads on track/subject and preventing aggressive/inflammatory posts is usually a good thing.

The ethical issue aside, I find it quite interesting that it is ok for me to purchase well over a thousand dollars’ worth of products from them but it is not ok to post a link to my blog on their forum. A “blog directory”?!? I actually find that to be insulting. This is a basic tenant of good business – I support you, you support me. I invest a tremendous amount of time in my blog trying to provide useful information to people. Ignoring my time, it costs more to host than any ad revenue that it generates. Thus, I am not biased by advertising dollars. VeloBuild seems to want me to invest my time producing advertising material for them to use in their business in addition to me sending them my cash. I guess they do not understand how things work. One would think that having people espousing their products (and the fun/success they are having with them) on their personal blogs would be a positive to the business. A business is much better served by providing a quality product, quality service, and valuing its customers. When this is done, there is no need to control communication as it will be positive and free.  Adding the “Thank you for your purchase.” note at the end of all this is nothing more than a final jab in the gut.

Sadly, what this all really points to is that they want to control what is being said about their products – manipulate the reviews and feedback. I didn’t see it at first but now, when I read posts on their forum, I can see why the product reviews are so positive. It is because they are controlling them. I’ve certainly not read every post on the forum but I do not recall having read a single negative review or comment. Clearly, manipulation is involved. That then tells me that they have problems. I don’t know where or with what but, given these business practices, it is clear that they exist.

An argument that I suspect they would make against this claim is that they have a lot of uninformed customers complaining about things they don’t understand. The answer to this is to respond to these issues quickly and concisely. When this is done, there is transparency, all can learn from the posts, and a good business is validated.

Based on all this, I cannot recommend doing business with

Buyer beware.


Here is the email exchange:

From: JD
Sent: Monday, August 4, 2014 6:54 AM
To: ‘chris’
Subject: Forum Posts?
Hi Chris,
I am trying to post on the VeloBuild forum (user “J*****”) but my posts are not appearing.  Are they being rejected or something?


From: chris
Sent: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 5:57 PM
To: jd
Subject: Re: RE: Forum Posts?
Can i know the information of the post ? Then i will contact controler for this .

Best Regards


From: JD
Sent: Thursday, August 7, 2014 5:40 AM
To: ‘chris’
Subject: RE: RE: Forum Posts?
The text of my attempted post is as follows.  I also included a link to an image.  I initially attempted to post in the R-028 section and then tried three times in the ‘Builder’s Reviews and Photos’ section.  None have made it onto the forum.
Howdy all,
I recently ordered and built an R-028.  I am very happy with it.
From time of order to time shipped was one week.  Shipping to the southwest USA took another week including a stop in customs.  In my opinion, this is pretty impressive. I expected to wait closer to a month so was pleased. Shipping was $125.00 so I suppose one could hope for reasonably fast service.  I asked Chris several questions before and after ordering and he always responded pretty quickly (same day).
I ordered the 54 cm R-028 frame (which includes fork, seat post, seat post clamp, and headset), carbon cages, carbon stem, and Shimano 105 group set from VeloBuild.  All but the headset were very well packed.  The individual parts of the headset were bouncing around inside the box.  Perhaps U.S. customs did this when they took a look.  This did not seem to cause any damage so no big deal.
Carbon 38mm clincher wheels were sourced elsewhere.
I wrote up my build here on my blog. 
My first riding impressions are here.
The story of breaking and then repairing it are here.
The short summary of the above is that build went smoothly except for a couple small items.  I do my own maintenance but have never built one from parts so I learned a lot putting this bike together. An opportunity to order new tools is always a plus!  The lower headset bearing was a sloppy fit which required a shim to fit in the frame correctly.  The other problem was due to my on lack of understanding that the mounting point on the frame for the derailleur hanger is not in alignment with the axle shaft so the hanger itself must be “tuned” (bent) to provide the proper alignment. The details of that will be posted on my blog soon.
VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber road bike bicycle buyer beware review chinese scam legit cheap frame fork set chinarello build
My impressions of the bike are very good. However; I’ve only ridden one other modern road bike and never ridden an all carbon bike so I am probably the worst person to review any bike. That said, I have found the ride to be VERY smooth. I ride on rural roads that are far from great and this bike really soaks up the harshness of the road. It is more stable than my last bike (aluminum Giant) which was fairly twitchy. That is not to say that the R-028 is hard to turn – it turns very nicely.  I also find the bike to be very comfortable.  Hard acceleration does not feel much different than my Giant. I don’t think my cruising speed is any faster but I’m not a racer so no surprise there. 
Total build cost was approximately $1900.00. This is pretty much everything except the saddle.  I’m pretty sure a name brand bike all carbon bike would have been at least twice that much so I am happy.


From: JD
Date: 2014-08-07 00:51
To: Chris; Faye
Subject: RE: Forum Posts?
Any response to this question??
I’ve tried posting the same information three or four times.  Clearly these posts are being rejected by the moderator.  Why??


From: JD
Date: 2014-08-14 01:07
To: chris
Subject: RE: Forum Posts?
Hi Chris,
I am truly disappointed. Since it has been a week since I sent the following [above] and I have heard nothing in return, I am left to assume that I have offended the VeloBuild team in some way and my participation on the forum is not desired.  I had really hoped to participate with the other VeloBuild bike owners since I really love my R-028 but it seems that this will not happen.


From: mod
Sent: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 8:44 PM
To: jd; chris
Subject: Re: Fwd: Fw: RE: Forum Posts?

Sorry for the delay, things are crazy around here this time of year.  We appreciate your response to VeloBuild and we would love to have your full write ups in our forum.  However, we are not a directory of blogs, instead we are a one stop information center for our products.  If we allowed your blog we would have to allow one for each member and that would be very confusing for those who have grown to rely on VeloBuild for all the information at one place.
We also encourage you to use the review ratings in the shopping cart.  Having all the information close and comparable will give the best experience for our members.
I hope you understand.  Thank you for your purchase.

Morning Kayaking

I decided to go for a very early morning paddle in the kayak today.  Here at Bluewater State Park near Grants, NM, the lake seems the quietest early before people have risen and that is a swell time for me!

By 6:15am I was on the water.  Not another soul in sight.  The clouds were thick but they were just the remains from the night before, no rain was coming.  The light and the clouds were fantastic – I always appreciate it when God puts on this type of show just for me!  Thanks!!

I paddled the kayak all the way around the lake for an excellent workout. Better still, I started my day in just about the best possible way – with the some exercise while enjoying the beautiful creation.




Kayak Paddle Bluewater Morning Necky


Review: Stohlquist Fisherman Kayak PFD

When I began kayaking (here), I knew I needed a personal flotation device (PFD).  I’m not a great swimmer (I just barely float) and it is required by law. Easy enough.

There are many options and lots of information about PFD’s and life jackets so a fair amount of research ensued. Finding one that is intended for paddling sports is important to have adequate should/arm movement and be high enough in the back to avoid interference with the seat.  I eventually decided on the Stohlquist Fisherman Kayak Lifejacket from  I’m a bit of a pack rat so I thought all the pockets on this model would be convenient.  I purchased the sexy Mango color option in L/XL.

Stohlquist Kayak PFD Life Jacket Fisherman

I’ve been wearing this PFD for about six months. I’ve not yet gotten it wet so can’t say for sure that it floats (I suspect it does). It does take some experimentation with the straps to get the desired fit but it is very flexible in that regard. I can report that it comfortable even after several hours of paddling, does not interfere with my paddle stroke, and does allow you carry a fair amount of junk.

I am very happy with it and look quite dashing, if I must say so myself!

Stohlquist Fisherman Kayak PFD life jacket review

Don’t Go Near That Road

I’m sitting out in a wonderful campground this week.  Most of the time, it is very quiet and peaceful.  Sometimes it is not.

I was sitting outside in a nice comfortable chair attempting to read a really great book and I overheard a fascinating “exchange” from the campers nearest to me.  These campers are approximately one hundred feet away so they are not close.  Thankfully, they talk loud enough that I can hear them as if they were sitting right beside me. They are situated in a spot that is at a T in the road – the thru portion being the main road thru the campground, the other being a site loop.

The exchange was between the father and the son (Peter) which appeared to about 6-8 years old. It went like this:

  • Boy: Riding his scooter on the loop road.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for two-three minutes and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for a couple minutes and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for a little while and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for two-three minutes and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for a couple minutes and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for a little while and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for two-three minutes and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for a couple minutes and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!
  • Boy: Rides scooter onto main road. Rides up and down it for a little while and then back to the front of their camper.
  • Father: Peter, don’t go near that road!

Interesting huh?  I didn’t actually count the number of times this happened.

I wonder who learned the most from this exchange of information?  Having raised three boys, I am quite certain that Peter learned a great deal (if he didn’t already know it) from this father during this sharing experience.

R-028 Derailleur Hanger

If you read this story, you know that I recently broke the rear derailleur hanger on my VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber bike.

I’m not sure how many of these frames are out there, probably not millions.  However; for those that have one, I have a piece of information that you may find useful someday.

The hanger is not an easy one to find and the folks at VeloBuild will be of no help in finding a new one.  I’ve emailed twice asking for a source and/or information about what production bikes the hangar is from.  All I get back is a comment that it will be a hard item to find.  Thanks.

Useful info, right!?!?

derailleur hanger VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber bike bicycleOk, the useful info is that the hanger is available. The first one I found by digging thru boxes of them at a bike shop. Since then, I have found them online.  It is Hanger #96 on the site.  Note that it is NOT #61 which looks similar but does not have threaded mounting holes and will not work.

They are also listed on eBay but be careful about the two small mounting holes. Most of the ones available are countersunk from the ‘back’ and are not threaded – this can be difficult to see from the photos displayed.

I hope this is of help to someone.

Lunch Kayak

I’m a little ashamed and a little surprised.  After my first post about my kayak, I have failed to post anything else!

Fear not – I have not given up on kayaking.  I had it on the water at least fifteen times this past spring and then hit a bit of a dry spell for the early part of the summer.  Until today!!

I’m camping this week at Bluewater State Park near Grants, NM and snuck out of the lunch hour to paddle around a bit.

Necky Kayak Bluewater Paddle

I’ve said it before, I’m not sure what it is about the water but I love being on it!

Ok, I love being on it when the PWC’s (jet ski’s) aren’t racing all over like wild kids stirring up the water and people on the shore aren’t blasting THEIR favorite music.  Guess they’ve never…. never mind – it won’t make any difference.

After paddling for a bit my trusty kayak had me to a reasonably quiet portion of the lake and I just cruised along enjoy the beautiful sites and absorbing the relaxing nature of the water!  An added bonus is that it is monsoon season in New Mexico which is the time of the year that things are at their greenest. So, the landscape was gorgeous!

Keep paddling!!

Broken Carbon Bike

Ya, I did it. I broke my new carbon fiber road bike….

Let’s step back.

I was out on my third ride with my new beauty (see here) having a glorious time with her.  I started climbing one of the few local climbs (a cat 4, by Strava) and all was going well.  I was kinda focused on the differences that I was experiencing from my old Giant OCR 3 – particular the new 2×11 gearing.  I got to a steep-ish part, was moving very slowly, stood up to put a bit more effort into it, and got about three crank revolutions then CRUNCH.

The bike stopped.  I really hate it when that happens…

I’m still clipped in thinking about how much I wish I wasn’t still clipped in and could put my foot down so I wouldn’t have to feel that hard concrete contact my nice soft shoulder.

Perhaps my mountain biking is paying off as I did get a foot out of the peddle JUST BARELY in time and avoided a second crunch (the one on my shoulder).

It took all of two seconds to find the problem.

VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber road bike bicycle derailleur hanger

The rear derailleur hanger had broken.

Bummer.  That was the end of that ride cause I sure was not carrying a spare hanger.

I picked up my bike and stepped off the road.  Surprisingly, this little guy was nearly under my shoe!

VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber road bike bicycle derailleur hanger rattle snake

Yup, that is a rattle snake.  He didn’t look super healthy but was healthy enough to be annoyed that I was bugging him. I think maybe all the overnight rain had caused him to be washed out of his hiding place to this spot on the side of the road.  Poor baby….

Very thankfully, my riding buddy knew someone about a block away with a truck.  He borrowed it and in short order my broken bike and I were both home.

I sprang into action to find a replacement hanger.  This is my first real negative with a Chinese frame (clone??) – I have no ability to tell the bike shop that I have make/model X.  I tried stating that it was a Pinarello Dogma (cause that’s what it looks like) but that didn’t get me anywhere.  I contacted hoping they could tell me something about the hanger. That got me nothing but frustration.  So, I went to three bike shops and sorted thru boxes of hangers hoping to match one up.  Believe it or not, this was successful (but took several hours).

Whilst I was putting everything back together, the cause of the problem slowly took shape in my tiny little brain.  I ASSUMED that a new frame would be setup such that a straight hanger would result in a properly aligned derailleur.  WRONG!  During the initial build, I noted that the derailleur was not well aligned but it seemed to be working ok.  That is another mistake – or at least a continuation of the mistake.  I believe what happened is thus: I was in the lowest gear (largest sprocket) for a long time while sitting – all was ok.  When I stood up, I must have really started flexing things so things moved things just enough for a spoke to catch the jockey pulley brackets which then ripped the derailleur off the bike.

Ok, I’m clearly not very smart but at least I learn from my mistakes.

When I installed the new/replacement hanger, I spent a lot of time gently bending the hanger to get proper derailleur alignment.  I don’t have an alignment tool but its value quickly became obvious to me so I ordered one.  It is not perfect but fairly close.  It will be perfect shortly after the alignment tool arrives.

While I was doing maintenance I decided to address the play in the fork headset and further trim the steerer tube.  As I noted earlier, I was nervous about cutting the steerer too short so I cut it long until I had a chance to ride the bike a bit.  I’ve done that and am happy with the position, even a bit lower position, so I brought the steerer tube down another 1.25″.

Note from JD: The following shim was a mistake. It later started creaking, was removed, and I was able to tighten enough to eliminate the slop.  I’m not sure what I did wrong the first two times, maybe just didn’t tighten it enough.

The headset play was a fairly serious problem.  The headset lower bearing provided by does not fit the frame very well. It begins going in fairly snug but loosens up once in position. There is nearly no side to side play but fairly significant fore and aft play.  If left like this, it will eventually destroy the frame by beating the bearing seat into an unusable shape.

VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber road bike bicycle headset bearing slop

To resolve this, I made a thin spacer out of aluminum sheet and inserted it as shown in the following photo. This took up all the slop and eliminated the headset play. Someday I plan to try a name brand headset to see if the bearings fit better (I hope they do) but that will have to wait for another day.

VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber road bike bicycle headset bearing slop shim

I’m happy to report that my sweet beauty is operational again and I put twenty miles on her this morning.  She is performing well once again.  I’m also very thankful for the chain events that transpired, or, rather, didn’t transpire.  I could have destroyed my back wheel (ripped out the spokes), I could have tipped over and landed hard on my fragile little body, I could have stepped on and been bitten by a rattle snake, I could have had to walk all the way home carrying my bike, I could have destroyed my frame, I could have destroyed an expensive part – like the derailleur.  None of that happened and that is most certainly reason to give thanks!

VeloBuild R-028 carbon fiber road bike bicycle