Getting Back My JET9

One of only two pictures of me and my Jet9 before it was stolen
One of only two pictures of me and my Jet9 before it was stolen

Last June my Niner Jet 9, fresh from being returned to me from recall, got stolen off the back of my car in Stockton, CA. I filed a police report and posted an ad on Stockton Craigslist and other than some sympathy (much appreciated)… nothing.

Until Sunday, May 1st. Someone commented on a blog post I wrote: last comment. My Jet9 is on ebay. The commenter had matched my description with the ad! As you can imagine I was quite excited. After looking on ebay, I knew it was mine. I built my bike up personally with parts I bought and although the components themselves are not unique, the combination of them on a black Niner Jet 9 has to be pretty rare, if not one-of-a-kind. There was one huge problem though: I didn’t take the time to record my Jet’s serial number. I had the bike for less than a month and I never thought I’d have it stolen. Who thinks about that?

My Jet9 on ebay

On Monday morning, May 2, I contacted ebay and Stockton PD. The detective was nice but frank: no serial number, not much they can do. I emailed and called Niner hoping that they would have kept the serial numbers when they shipped the recalled frames back to their owners, but no such luck although they did pre-Jet9 recall. At this point I was despondent. I read back through ebay’s response and it said that if I thought an item was stolen, I had to ask the police to contact ebay. I called back the detective and asked him to email ebay. He did, but I wasn’t holding out any hope. That was my last lead.

On Tuesday morning, May 3, at 11:30am, I received a surprise phone call. The detective is on the other line and says I am looking at a black bike, tell me how I can know it’s yours. I proceed to blather about an XT cassette (not mentioned in the ebay description), Trek water bottle holder (also not mentioned) and bright blue rim strip in the wheels. The detective says that if I send him some paperwork showing that I owned the bike I can get it back but it would have been much easier if I had the serial number.

Few new scratches, but I’m not complaining

I said ok, hung up the phone and proceeded to pull out all the receipts I sent to the insurance company to make my claim. I sent them to the detective and a short while later, the detective emails to have someone pick up the bike. It’s in Stockton and I am, of course, in So. Cal but no problem. I’m getting my bike back!

It ends up that the Detective’s email to ebay led ebay to send him the phone number for the seller. The Detective did a reverse look up and found the address of the seller. He went over to the seller and told him that he thinks the bike is stolen and the seller gave it up right away! The Detective says that the seller bought it at a flea market or garage sale… at least that’s what he is claiming.

Currently the bike is at my mother-in-law’s. She took a day off just to go pick it up. Thanks Mom.

Here is something for you to do: Stop surfing the internet and go to your precious bike(s). Under the bottom bracket you’ll find your serial number. Write it down. In fact, email it to yourself with some keywords:

Niner, Jet 9, Jet9, black, 29, mountain bike, BIKE I LOVE THE MOST, serial number… you get the idea.

Email it to yourself and don’t delete it. If you’re using gmail, use the archive function. This will remove the email from your inbox but allow you to search for it later.

New to Mountain Biking?

I always find the first ride for a new mountain biker to be a bit of a conundrum: the trail I choose has to be easy enough for the newb but hard enough to be a challenge mentally and physically. Too easy for the newbie and the rider loses interest. Too hard and the newbie never comes back. WAY too hard and the newbie warns other potential newbs to not even try it. It is always a fine line determining which trail will illicit the right response, that being: I want to mountain bike again!

What I have figured out, through trial and error, is that the Fullerton Loop is not a good trail for the first timer. Over the past year I have taken two friends new to mountain biking to the loop as their first excursion on dirt and well, they have not ridden a mountain bike since then. Aerobically, they are both in good shape. The first enjoys half marathons and the second hits the gym and the basketball courts on a regular basis. They were challenged physically which is always a goal. Mentally though, the descents on the Fullerton Loop, intimidated them to the point of no return.

Personally, I think you should feel like puking on your first mountain bike ride

On my first mountain bike ride I went out on the Fullerton loop solo (no mountain biking friends when I started out) with little more than a print out of directions from the website, thanks Mr. Erdelsky. I remember being tentative on the downhills but I did not find them to be overwhelming. I was never scared for my life but I did find myself gasping for air after just four miles. This assessment of my first ride has influenced my decision to bring new riders to the loop. My thought process is that if the newb is in decent shape they should be fine on the loop. However, I vastly underestimated the lasting mental effects of getting scared out of your mind on the loop’s descents.

OK, so after thinking about these issues for a while, I decided to take my friend Adam, new to mountain biking, on the most tame trail I could conceive of while still barely being a “mountain biking” trail. Telegraph Canyon in Chino Hills State Park is very mellow, so much that I have hiked a good portion of it with my 3 year old son. Adam and I met up with a couple of roadies posing as mountain bikers: Leo and Leo’s friend (yes, I suck with names) and we took the 12 mile out and back at a very newbie friendly pace. Adam even made it all the way to the turn around point and only once felt as if he wanted to hurl. Pretty good, huh?

Whats even better is that Adam is ready to hit the loop now. He said so both verbally right after the ride and in an email sent a few weeks later. He is waiting for his new helmet to arrive via brown Santa and we’ll be tackling the Fullerton loop next. Success!

Ride Report: San Juan

San Juan Trail… We started at the bottom of the valley

Dan & I headed out to San Juan this past Saturday for some riding. Dan was on his new Niner SIR9. I was on my Voodoo Canzo 29. The ride was cool, but not cold for the most part.

Our version of San Juan on Saturday was a 12 mile out and back. 6 miles up, followed by 6 miles back down. The ride was pretty good but we did encounter a couple of mechanicals issues with my bike that had me tentative on the ride back to the car.

Dan really likes his SIR9. I swung a leg on it and the engagement is sick and the steel is smooooooth

After the first set of switchbacks, I was noticing that whenever I coasted, my rear hub was not spinning very smoothly. After I would coast, I would begin turning the cranks again and I found that I would have to spin the crank almost a full turn before the chain would engage the hub again. Being on the bike and not able to really see whats going on, I first thought that it might be a derailleur issue, then guessed the chain. Little would I know that it was a hub problem.

About a 1/4 mile away from the turn around point, my rear tire burped out all its air. Weird as I had just aired it up to my preferred tire pressure before leaving the car. As I was pulling the wheel off the tire, whaddya know, the hub and the alloy cassette barrel (Hope’s terminology) separated. That doesn’t seem right.

On the right, my cassette on the alloy cassette barrel. The inner most circle is a broken spindle which is supposed to remain with the hub, not come off like this

Dan and I quickly finish tubing the tire and proceed to fit the wheel back in place between the dropouts. Surprisingly, the wheel held all the way back down to the car! In fact, the hub was even coasting in the correct manner, it was quite amazing. I did avoid any jumps and took it easy for the most part though.

The Voodoo got me back down to the car in one piece with a rear hub issue and all

My local bike shop got a chance to look at the hub today and called me to let me know that the axle broke. Hope calls it a spindle. $13 shipped. Not too shabby. I’ll be back on the Voodoo by week’s end.

Vigilante Justice, Anyone?

not that I am promoting this or anything like it…

A financial manager for wealthy clients will not face felony charges for a hit-and-run because it could jeopardize his job, prosecutors said Thursday.

Martin Joel Erzinger, 52, faces two misdemeanor traffic charges stemming from a July 3 incident when he allegedly hit bicyclist Dr. Steven Milo from behind then sped away, according to court documents.

A must read article from the Vail Daily in Vail, Colorado.

Its not even a question of if Erzinger hit Milo. Erzinger is “willing to take responsibility and pay restitution“. The issue at hand is that District Attorney Hurlbert is dropping the felony charge and instead, Erzinger will face two misdemeanor traffic charges.

“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert said. “When you’re talking about restitution, you don’t want to take away his ability to pay.”

WHAT!?!?! Felony convictions will have serious implications for ANY job.

EDIT: Some closure to this:

Mark Hulbert explains the Plea Deal:
Over the weekend, I have received over 1,000 e-mails from all over the country regarding the Erzinger case. Because of that I feel the need to explain why I am offering the plea bargain proposed in the Erzinger case. Either through the bent of the Vail Daily article or my own inartful comments, I feel that the reason for the plea bargain was not properly conveyed.

First, let me say that from the start I feel for Dr. Milo and sincerely hope that he has a complete and speedy recovery from his injuries. So, why did I offer two misdemeanors on such a serious case?

Despite what is implied in the Vail Daily, Dr. Milo never asked me to plead Mr. Erzinger to a felony. Dr. Milo asked that I plead Mr. Erzinger to a felony deferred judgment and sentence. What this means is that Mr. Erzinger would plead to a felony leaving the scene of an accident and the judgment would be set aside. In either two or four years, as long as Mr. Erzinger met certain conditions, the case would drop off his record and he would be allowed to seal this case. Since there was no alcohol or drugs involved, the only conditions I could legally ask for were that he pay restitution and stay out of trouble. Given that he had a clean history, Mr. Erzinger would essentially have been able to write a check and the case would then be dismissed. On top of that, while Dr. Milo was still probably recovering from his injuries, Mr. Erzinger would be able to say that he had no criminal history and even deny that anything had happened. That is not something I could stomach.

I therefore offered Mr. Erzinger plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and careless driving causing serious bodily injury. This means that for the rest of his life, Mr. Erzinger will have on his record that he carelessly drove, caused another human being serious bodily injury and left the scene. He will lose his driver’s license, face potential jail time as determined by the judge and still have to pay restitution, which as I said in the Vail Daily is important to us, but not an overriding objective in the plea.. Obviously there is a benefit to Mr. Erzinger on taking the misdemeanors — he keeps his job. If he were to plea to the deferred he may or may not lose his job, but either way, as mentioned above, in a couple of years he would be able to tell any prospective employer that he had no criminal history.

There has been much made about Mr. Erzinger’s wealth. That is of no concern to me other than as it pertains to restitution to Dr. Milo. I have not asked Mr. Erzinger for any money either to myself or to the district attorney’s office and he has not offered. Both of us understand that would be highly illegal.

Finally, I appreciate the constructive comments I have received. And even if I have not responded, I have read every single one of them. If after reading this, you still feel that I am wrong for the plea bargain, I take full responsibility and welcome any constructive comments. But be forewarned, that there is not much I can change at this point. I made the plea offer months ago and the defense has accepted. This means that even if I wanted to change the plea offer, I could not. The only person that can reject it at this point is the judge. Again, I welcome any constructive comments in this case.

Mark Hurlbert, District Attorney

Fifth Judicial District

Redeeming my hour

After an exhausting day on Saturday, I got to bed early on Saturday night with absolutely no thoughts of riding on Sunday morning. Before drifting off to sleep at 10:30 (9:30, if you account for turning the clock back for Daylight Savings time) I woke up abruptly at 6:30am. After lying around in bed for a few minutes, I realized that due to daylight savings time, it was actually just 5:30!

Since I was not about to fall back asleep, that got me thinking: how much time do I have to mountain bike and where should I ride to maximize my time? To be very frank, I briefly considered running a couple of miles but I promptly nixed that idea. To me, running = YUCK.

After a few minutes of thought, I came out with:
– 1.5 hours of time, which would allow me to return home with enough time to get both myself and my 3 boys ready for church
– Chino Hills State Park: I would take the streets from my house to the Rim Crest entrance, back down South Ridge and out Telegraph returning back to my house via the streets. Time wise: about 1:15. Mileage: about 11. Added benefit: some good climbing front loaded from mile 3.5 – 6.5.

Overall, a great ride on the Niner Air9 hardtail. I did a route I haven’t done in a while and I was immensely pleased to be able to ride with so few cars on the road. The only bad part: I broke my multi-tool about 10 minutes into the ride. Thankfully, I did not need it for the rest of the ride.

For those of you not racing (looking forward to those race reports, team!) were you able to get in some riding with the extra hour gained?

Ride Report: SART

It was a wet and cold morning as we started our SART Birthday ride

In the rain on Saturday morning, Tim, Dan, Weyland & I headed out to Angelus Oaks for Tim’s birthday Santa Ana River Trail (SART) ride. The day started off a little weird for me as my alarm clock decided to set itself back 1 hour overnight. When Dan showed up at my house he noted that there were no lights on. When he texted me, my phone told me it was 5:55am (we were supposed to meet at 6:00) but my alarm clock said 4:55am. Doh, my alarm wasn’t going to ring for another 30 minutes!

Tim, enjoying his birthday ride

We ended up getting out on the road at the appropriate time but I wasn’t able to “take the browns to the super bowl” prior to departure. When we arrived at Angelus Oaks, it was still raining and, not surprisingly, really cold. After a little bit of cajoling and a quick bathroom visit, we set off in the rain for the Post Office Loop and SART.

Siren’s glamour shot… Weyland’s Siren sang to us and we followed

The Post Office Loop starts off with a 1 mile fireroad climb gaining about 600 feet in elevation before dropping into some great singletrack: tight, exposed and slightly downhill. I was grinning from ear to ear! We got our little group going at a pretty good clip in the rain. Our brakes sang to each other whenever we applied them. It was great fun. The rain and cold were not as much a nuisance once we got going… a little bit of numb fingers and glasses that were difficult to see out of, but truly the rain & cold just added adventure to our ride.

As the clouds moved out, it showed us a beautiful view of the valley and the mountains on the far side

After a fireroad climb out of the Post Office Loop, we took another short fireroad to connect us to SART. SART is about a ten mile out and back that is all singletrack. We were able to do about 6 miles in before we decided to break for coffee and turn around.

Jeremy, stream crossing

After an hour and a half of riding in the rain the sun broke through the rain clouds and shined its warm rays on us. It was amazing to see the valley go from being under cloud cover to having the clouds lifted away and seeing the mountains. The trails were in PRIMO condition with the rain making hero dirt for us all. Threading in and out amongst the trees, splashing through stream crossings, taking in the beautiful views of the valley and flora all around us and riding mile after mile of sweet, secluded singletrack was seriously grin inducing.

Weyland emptying water from the bladder into the pot to make coffee

Coffee on SART was a sweet experience literally as I had a Starbucks Caramel Via, yum. Weyland brought his little stove and warmed up the water for us and we enjoyed some snacks at the turn around point.

Dan, Jeremy, Weyland and Tim

No visit to SART would be complete without a stop at the Oaks restaurant. Interestingly enough, when we took our bathroom visit at the Oaks before the ride, one of the proprietors commented that she thought there wouldn’t be any bikers today due to the rain (subtly hinting that we were idiots to brave the wet weather). Her words proved to be true as we rode without seeing another biker on the trail, a rarity in the mountain biking Mecca that is Southern California. Riding, hanging out with good friends and talking bikes… great way to do SART.

Review: Tune Bug Shake

The Tune Bug Shake is a small portable speaker that takes the place of headphones or earplugs. It uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack that plugs from your mp3 player into the Tune Bug Shake. The Shake can then be mounted onto a normal vented mountain biking helmet or a skater type helmet as well. Power up your mp3 player and you get music from the Tune Bug Shake (msrp: $119.95).

Tune Bug Shake, small, clean design with just two buttons… very Apple-esque if you ask me.

When I ride solo I like to have my mp3 player with me. I enjoy rocking to some tunes when out on the trail but doing this has its downsides: not hearing what is going on around you, ear plugs falling out or moving around at inopportune times and having so many accessories and necessities in and around my ear. With the Tune Bug Shake I am able to eliminate all of these problems which makes this device pretty cool in my book.

Not being able to hear what is going on around me is probably the main reason I have enjoyed the Shake. I HAVE to be able to hear what is happening on the trail. With earplugs I lose out on this even when the volume is very low. I have a difficult time hearing people communicate with me and I feel disconnected since I can’t hear the tires on the trail. I have had more than my share of people scare the crap out of me when riding with earplugs but with the Tune Bug Shake I am able to hear the surrounding sounds including the other riders or hikers around me. I also hear the tires as they interact with the trail helping me be in tune. Sorry, I had to.

3.5mm audio jack.

The Tune Bug Shake has also eliminated the ear bud falling out of the ear problem. I have tried a variety of different ear buds: buds, buds that wrap around the back of your head, buds that wrap around your ear… all of them have a tendency to become dislodged at inopportune times. When using the Tune Bug Shake it always stayed on top of my helmet except for the one time I crashed and I found it on the trail a few feet away, none the worse for it.

When riding, it doesn’t add much weight; definitely not notice-able after you put the helmet on.

Lastly, the tune bug eliminates having anything on my ear. With ear plugs, sunglasses, a head sweat band and a helmet I can have a lot going on in and around my ears. This occasionally led to minor headaches while riding and I normally had to give up on something… usually the music. With the Tune Bug Shake I am able to keep the necessities while still playing my music too.

I did find that the Tune Bug Shake’s sound quality was not as good on a vented helmet as it was on a skater type helmet. The sound on a vented helmet had more treble and needed a bit more bass but it was still listen-able. I would also prefer to have a wall charger rather than a USB charger but it does charge quickly. These issues are a small price to pay for all the advantages the Tune Bug Shake brings to the table.

Although sound quality is better on a non-vented (skater type) helmet, I would still listen to the Shake on my vented helmet.

The Tune Bug Shake is a great, safe way to play your music while on the trail. For more information on the Tune Bug Shake, click here.

Our FTC disclaimer.

Review: Gorillatorch Flare

Gorillatorach Flare: The most flexible and adaptable hands-free flashlight.

The Gorillatorch Flare is an easy to use hands-free flashlight taking the proven attributes of the Gorillapod tripods and applying it to a flashlight. The three flexible legs of the Gorillatorch Flare make it easy to mount anywhere the legs can be wrapped but Joby, makers of the Gorillatorch, Gorillapod and Gorillamobile, did not stop there. Joby added magnetic feet that makes the Gorillatorch useful in places where the legs can not wrap. The Gorillatorch Flare’s plastic can taking a pounding as it was played with… I mean was tested by my three boys: 5, 3 & 8 months old. The Flare’s CREE Led produces a nice white light in three different levels plus a white strobe. The three red leds emits a strong red light or red strobe.

OK, so its not THAT dark in my garage, but the Gorillatorch Flare is that bright in its middle level.

Where have I used the Gorillatorch Flare? I started off using it in my garage. The previous owner who installed the florescent lights in the man cave (does it still count as a man cave if it is occupied by a minivan?) forgot to consult me prior to installation. Because of this, he left the large area above my repair stand sans lighting. When I am wrenching on small parts, I found the light in that area to be lacking and rather than moving the bike and repair stand to a location underneath some good lighting, I pulled out the Gorillatorch Flare and used the magnetic legs to attach to a convenient metal file cabinet. Voila! I had plenty of extra lighting that I did not have to hold. I could point the Flare directly at the area I was working on, in this case the front brakes as I was changing the brake pads.

From repair stand light to front commuter light. Gorillatorch Flare’s versatility RULES

Next, I decided to see if I could take the Flare out for a quick commute on the bike in the dark as my primary light source. The Flare, with its three levels of white light along with its strobe feature means that it could easily be used as a handlebar mounted light on my short commutes around the neighborhood. After finding a sturdy way to wrap the Flare around the handlebar/stem the Flare quickly went from focused spot repair stand light to a commuting light. With the strobe feature, I knew that I was definitely going to be seen by Southern California drivers. Even better, if I already had a front light mounted to the bike, the Flare could wrap around my seatpost and with its red light and red strobe, I could use it as a rear blinkie instead.

Nothing to wrap around, no worries. The powerful magnets in the foot of the Gorillatorch Flare opens up another venue to mount the Flare

I could go on and on about the different uses I have had for the Gorillatorch Flare, but I think you get the idea. It’s very useful and versatile. I will, though, bring up an unusual way I came to use the Flare: as a model light. One afternoon, I was messing around with the Gorillatorch Flare when I stuck it on the back of a folding chair. I grabbed a shot of it on the chair and seconds later, my 6 month old son came crawling over and instantly the Gorillatorch went from the model to model light.

Little J staring up at the Flare. Yes, thats spit up on his bib.

Joby got it right when they came up with the hands-free, versatile and durable Gorillatorch Flare. The Flare has suffered some abuse at the hands of three boys and their father. We have put the Flare through its places and the articulating legs and LEDS are, as expected, still running strong. The versatility of the Gorillatorch Flare really sets it apart from other flashlights, even hands-free flashlights. Having the Flare be durable with 6 different light settings are icing on the cake.

For more information on the Gorillatorch Flare, click here.

Our review disclaimer required by the FTC.