The Plight of the Tall & Big Cyclist & The "Black on Black" as I call it
So in 2017, I unwittingly opened Pandora's box and bought us 2 mountain bikes - both crappy Kent Terra's from the local Target for about, un $75 apiece. Brand new. I started riding bikes sometimes rather than doing extra long walks so I could see how far into the next town I can get on a pair of wheels vs. a pair of legs. Unfortunatley, the Kent is just not built to pull a 245 LB 6'4" tall guy with enough horsepower to spend most of my time on the big gear in front and small one in the rear. Where am I going with this.....well....
The Predicament of the Big & Tall guy
I never give my size or weight that much thought. I'm super tall, I'm broad shoulderd at the very least, and I lift heavy objects on the regulars, not for exercise, but for project and profit. I'm every bicycles third or fourth worst nightmare because I ride fast, I brake hard, and I DO jump things from time to time (due to the speed usually). I'm not planning to ride in a rally or anything, just ride around and explore and get the heck out of the house once in awhile, and unlike everywhere else where I drive like a cautious granny, put me on a bike trail, alone, and I'll rip like a Bro in a Hellcat on that thing. There was a reason the school was harassing Mr. Anti-Sports here's mom to join the football team as a linebacker.

This is a nightmare for finding a good bike though without breaking the bank. Prior to 2017, the last time I rode a bike, I was 13, weight 160, had not filled out, but was already lifting heavy shit for profit and project, but I was not destroying my Team Murray Afterburner left and right. And I was even worse on that thing - I used to do mud-races on it like I was Bigfoot the monster truck or something. I'd come home all covered in mud, bike covered in mud, had to take a shower with the garden hose ~ ah, those were the days.

But most consumer bikes are made for someone under 225, under 6'1" tall, and most importantly, they are made like cheap shit. Everything's plastic and made in china, and breaks off - well, not all true. So the Kent was my attempt to build something better using Amazon Bargain basement. Actually, that's kind of what this series is turning into, a "deep dive" of sorts on what I do when I get interested in a "thing" and then how I tend to naturally progress on that thing, and compare my progression to when I was younger makes it all the more interesting (Ie 20 year old would-be-rock-musician vs 40 year old I.T. Guy who creates music for fun with the seriousness of a rock musician). Bikes have been no different a find out.

There's always some shit that makes me feel "exclusionary" with things. With bikes, it's my weight, height, and strength - I destroy cheap chinese stuff made for a 6'1" tall regular stature person. But even these days, corporations cheap out on stuff so much, it feels like ven an average person is at a disadvantage.
It's "Guitar" all over again
When I started in guitar, I had literally zero concept of brands, cost, what cost meant, why would you spend so much money on a guitar, and who plays these expensive instruments. When I got online and joined guitar communities, I found everyone was drooling over some uper expensive somethingsuch they would never own and had no reason of owning as a regular weekender - no problem in that - but a few weekenders saved their pennies and then turned all elitist because that which they have is expensive. Visiting social media and bike forums reminded me of that, it's also a big reason for as much as I'm into my car, I don't post about it much. I spent 15+ years in that hellhole that is fanatical materialism, and I'm kind of tired of it now at age 40, it's tiring and draining on the pocketbook and the psyche.

With bikes, same shit. Your bike, as long as it was not built by a custom builder, or cost over $800, is a "piece of shit". Look, I'm not doing motorcross on the damn thing, I'm not doing BMX Freestyle (something I dabbled in before I was 13), I'm riding around on mostly cement trails at breakneck speeds like a lunatic. That's what I do. I just need something that's not going to bend it's axle the first speed-bump I hit leaving my apartment, or not totally collapse on me one day like the Kent did. Something capable of doing 25mph with a 6'4" tall Yeti on it while riding on poorly managed concrete. I'm not going "extreme" on the Rubicon, I'm going "lunatic" on the tar and lake trail.

So imagine my horror when I looked up this and that and it's like "that's a piece of shit" or "you're big, get a ($3700+) Clydesdale" like I'm about to join the local racing team or something. So now I feel like the guy on the forum with a Harmony Strat copy opening the door to arguements with a bunch of Les Paul players who open for Kiss next week again. Not a feeling I'm too nostalgic for, nor would like to visit.
The Great Nightmare Bike Search
So then I started thinking "well, I guess now I'll have to pay $200-500 for a bicycle". And the search began. Online, I kept getting suggestions of "Fat tire" or "motorized". See, when I last shopped for a bike, SERIOUSLY shopped, it was 1993, my 10th birthday, and I had $100 to spend on a Bicycle at Wal-Mart. There were four kinds back then: BMX, Mountain, Road, and "Cruiser". I ended up buying a 2 speed BMX Team Murray Afterburner I decked out with every acoutrimont possible. I was basically a 10 year old Uncle Pull Tab with a Harley.

So imagine my confusion and surprise when there is: Motorized, semi-motorized, city, street, hardtail mountain, front suspension mountin, full suspension mountain, mountain racing, BMX kids, BMX Freestyle, BMX stunt, Fat Tire, Hybrid....and the list goes on and on and on. All the brands that were esteemed in my youth: Schwinn, Huffy, Murray, Mongoose, are either bought out, or gone, and not what they once where. Seriously, has this whole fall-from-grace-buyout thing happened to everything?

So I knew off the bat, motorized and semi-motorized was out of the question, seriously, $1350 for a Bicycle - I'll just save my money like I should be doing then. And I'm talking on AMAZON, not some bike shop downtown. Anything kids is obviously out, as is BMX as a whole because those are TINY, unless someone wants to make a 24" or 26" BMX? I thought of a $349 Fat Tire Dolomite because that's what every place was suggesting, and I'd been seeing them everywhere, but my wife thought it looked "stupid" and said "you should just get a regular mountain bike". I looked around for a courier bike a bit, just so I could be a that lunatic wacko pedaling from the thrift shop with a IBM PS/2 strapped to the front!

Then I started looking at Thrift Shops. Because it seems, like VHS tapes, DVDs, and clothes, Thrift Shops have TONS of disused bikes laying around all the time. So first I went to the regular places, and it seemed like everyone rides a 24" mountain bike around here and nothing bigger. I need AT LEAST a 26" to be comfortable. Oh, there was no shortage of cool LOOKING stuff, I mean, there were bikes with guitar finishies straight out of a mid 1980's KRAMER catalog. But were they good. I did not recognize some names, and others I recognized were Schwinn, Kent (oh god no), but no Murray or Huffy. See, I'm starting to learn, most department store bikes are designed to be that bike you buy past the age of 25 to show you're healthy and actually exercisiing - it's more like a $75-200 "ticket" to tell everyone your unhealthy American ass is trying to get fit, but not use it.

Then as of today......October, I finally found the jackpot....
Behold, the Black On Black aka "Bastard Mongoose Element"
So we have this hole in the wall thrift shop next to a head shop downtown that is really cool. I went there last weekend looking for a VCR for my retro-gaming rig (found one for $20 with a DVD player built in as well!!). While there, I found a black bike for $105 and a red Schwinn somethingorother for unknown.

Came back today and found they had all the bikes out front and all but that black $105 dollar bike were $65.99. I looked at the Schwinn first, it's a "city bike", it looked nice, but the gearshift was broken off, and it looked like a 90's design. Probably solid, but then I remembered a friend whose mom had one in the 90's meaning it's a WOMEN'S bike. Wha? But it was nearly the right size. The second candidate was a seatless RG9000 something such with no seat, but 24" - but if I huddled forward like Batman on his Motorcycle, due to an elongated frame, I could probably fit (and feel weird while doing it). Then in back was another black bike for $65, dual suspension, looked like an aluminum frame, was definatley worse for wear, but looked like a high quality bicycle I could not afford. I literally was remembering the rear suspension frames I Saw at a bike shop in the 90's. It looked like it needed some TLC.

So I bought that black one after some pondering over the bikes for about 30 minutes and getting my finances in order, and then took it home.

The bike I bought, as it turns out, is a Mongoose MGX...but it looks custom Mongoose MGX I've seen online has the same gearset, nor has the Elemental Racing badges mine has. WTF? Looks somewhat rattlecanned black too. So obviously someone was doing some messing with it. Looks like it had one last mud run offroad - of a million as the rear tire is about 75% used up, and they tore off the brakes and threw a different front tire on it and threw it here. Maybe they flipped and broke the brake lever? I dunno. So I could see frayed cables for the rear brake (not working), frayed cables for gears, cable sheilding all over the place needed re-managed, shifters stuck, one cracked, no reflectors except one on the oddly newer-looking front wheel. But I had a Kent Terra 2.6 at home with similar "V" brakes and perfectly good, smooth cables everywhere, and brake levers, and gearsets that if I needed parts, I could rob the Kent of it's parts. The Kent was kind of a piece of crap by design. The worst part being the derailure attachment interfering with rear wheel attachment any other way than with the original axle (!!).

So the first thing I did was put a front brake on it, using the front brakes from my Kent. The entire process of somewhat "building" this bicycle was a surprising shock at how "standard" a department store bike can be. The Mongoose uses "V" Brakes, the Kent uses "V" Brakes. Except the Kent's lines are not clogged with mud or otherwise stuck for some silly reason. V brakes turned out to be more machine than I thought. Either way, good thing I'd kept the Kent, I needed the entire front V-Brake assembly for that side.

Next thing of issue was the gears were seized for the pedal set. Turns out that it was because someone along the way had disconnected the actual cabling from the bike frame, leaving no actual "taughtness" to do. Also, everything being muddied up did not help I'm sure.

Putting everything back together, I did an unconventional setup of having the gears AFTER the brakes. I might change this later but so far I'm liking this setup. The hand-guards up front were put beneath the brake handles, so if I endo the darn thing and go over front first, my fingers are 100% protected - plus it looks cool. I also put the old grips from the Kent on the hand guard bits too, for some added protection and safety.

The right side was worse for wear. Firstly, the derailure/gear cable shifter was completley siezed on that side, so I used the old one from the Kent on that side. I decided to replace the brake lever so I'd have a spare with the original one, since the Kent's were in better shape anyway. Same hand-protection setup on the other side. Put end-caps on everything because I don't want yellowjackets/hornets building nests in my bike over the summer, and they love to do that in long, tubular, handle-things. Had a Snapper Lawn Mower have that happen before. Not fun.

The rear brake cable was a friggin mess and did not work, so I had to resort, for all right-side assemblies, using the original Kent cables, and using a mix of the sheaths from the Mongoose and the Kent - whatever slides the smoothest. Yes, I basically BUILT my own bike cabling. And it works PERFECTLY. Total frankenstien job, Eddie Van-Halen would be proud of how this worked. Basically I had to lop the "protectors" off the Kent cables, then take them out of their little tubes, and then run them through all the correct lengths of tube (me changing some lengths out to better suit the bike). Once I decided to transplant the Kent parts over as well, and I had to move the brake pads up a bit for them to fit in the rear frame right and stop the tire.

Then came the creature comforts. First, that wedgie they call a Seat was to be GONE, replaced with the Amazon cushy saddle I got for the Kent originally. Then I changed over the reflectors for the rear wheel and for the seat and handlebars, it turns out I could snap the old Kent refector into the Mongoose mount, so now it has all regulatory parts now. Nice.

The last thing and elephant in the room was the front wheel, it was not bolted down well, and it was obvious whoever had this thing last swapped in a different front rim before giving it away. There was a gap on both sides of the front, so adding another pair of lock-bolts to it made the gap PERFECT and the wheel was dead center, dead on!

I did not yet bother to mess with the gearing yet. Test drive time, what do I think? This is like the bloody Lincoln Town Car of mountain bikes, LOL. Feels like you're on air, not a bike. That said, it's not perfect yet, it does squeak a little, and the gears need adjusted, but for a first time out considering I paid $65 and did about 4 hours of work on it transplanting and adjusting parts - that's all it needs. So I'd call this a success. I think one benefit of full suspension is I don't bend the rear axle so much, since it's got a nice buffer with that spring in back. Going over speed bumps is an improvement and it is a lot less noisy.

Messing With the Gearing + Maiden Voyage 10/19/2022 (actually was the 10th I believe) - Maybe I Should call this thing the Sand Ant!

So one afternoon after work, during a difficult week, I decided to cheer myself up, to finish the gearing on this bike. The gearset is an ESP with a mix of Shamino and ESP parts. Basically, 7 speed cassette with a 3 speed pedalset so 21 speeds. Problem is, I could not get it to drop to the lowest gear, and change ANY of the gears on teh front dereailure.

First thing I had to do was release the "high gear (smallest)" side of the derailure until the chain dropped onto that sprocket. Perfect. Now, just like the Kent, it should change one gear per up the gears I go 1-2-3-3-3-4......okay, so maybe if I correct the high side, I'll fix this? So I tightened the shifter all the way, and the low gear (biggest) side went to the second from top gear. Okay, so I had to loosen the low side, and THEN I could put er' in granny gear. Well, I managed to get it to do it. After some more tickling the High and Low screws - I had it where it was one click per gear up and down.

Next thing was to do the front derailure. Apparently, the last person just tlocked all the high and low limit screws all the way up, forcing the chain to be stuck on the center gear. So I backed the limiters out, now I had all three gears.

And so goes the maiden voyage test post-gear-tweaks, this thing is much easier to pedal than the Kent was, and shifts through all gears ssmoothly. Only problem was I need to touch the limiter for the topmost pedal-gear to block the chain from going over the edge, and that's it. But I did one thing I had not with either bike yet - let's take this puppy off-road. And let me tell you, it performs, it climbs over rocks, climbs up hills, handles dirt terrain really well. The rear suspension really helps and makes it a breeze.

The next batch of tweaks are a chain so I can park places and go inside and not find the bike is stolen, and a kickstand because this does not have one. But maybe we should call it the "Sand Ant" because it seems to handle sand and dirt like a fat-tire bike does.

10/26/2022 - Headed out to the (Bicycle) Highway

So how do I write this so you don't figure out where I live? Basically, the city as been repairing the bike trail down the main drag going past where I live since the dawn of summer after the first bike broke and I caught COVID-19, fucking my entire summer up. Now Fall has finally fallen upon us, the days are shorter, and they are still not 100% finished.

To give you an idea, this trail is ultra cool. Basically, it's a recreational trail/bike path that "technically" is connected between 2 states, going to a very famous lake on one side, and ends at a reservation on the other. The path also goes north/south too which could double as a "commute to work" route should there ever come a time I have no other way to get to work than to get on the bicycle and get there that way.

So the route from my place to the "crossroads" so to speak, has been torn down, at one point, everything, the street, the sidewalk, the street crossings, the crosswalks, were torn up. (Un-)Luckily this was while I had COVID-19 in part, I went for one ride, the Kent broke, I got sick, then I come back out, and there's no more trail. This is my luck people - and you wonder why I go overkill on my projects! So for about 4-6 months now, I've had nothing to do with thisi nice, long, seemingly unlimited (for my purposes) trail as it has been gone. Then they just got done (just enough) for me to finally use it.

So I got on the bike, and I headed down there to take the shorter "east" route. First off, construction is/was still not done. Once I got to the last half of the route to the Crossroads, I was having to dodge a tar truck with two city goons outside of it seemingly oblivious to me being around them, I just went around the truck.

The crosswalk was still dug up but I hit it at walk time so I just ploughed through the dirt and tore across the street, and got down the to Crossroads, and did not even stop to rest like usual and headed on my route.

At this point, it was realized that my seat tip was raised up just a hair too high, so I need to drop that back down a little to be comfortable before the next outing. It's making my manly bits hurt after awhile. So I took a break. Also, I was feeling winded. THIS is why I was really mad - because I'd built up a ton of muscle, stamina, and lost weight, and now I was spending months upon months laying around the house pissed off with Post-COVID symptoms for awhile, and now it's more "work" to do what I once did easily. I also had to rip off some plastic "trim" from the pedal crank because it was breaking off and jabbing me in my ankle. I put it in my bag and tossed it when I got home.

I took my time more as I went down the trail, focusing more on enjoying the ride rather than speeding around like usual, pushing myself quite a bit periodically for speed or power. Chain did not come off, but I do need to do some more adjustment to my gears for the pedals. I have the regular gears handled perfectly.

The way back, I rode a good chunk of it, walking the bike for awhile to stretch my legs out as they were feeling a hair bit more cramped - but rode the rest of the way home at dusk, with my cell phone for a headlight (which it does a great job of I might add).

So notes for this outing - need to adjust seat and pedal gearing a little more, might need to look into tightening up that shock as well so I get a little more leverage agaianst the rear wheel. As of now, I have tightened the shock up, but still need to address the other two things.

11/2022 - The Longer Weekend "Drive" + Some More Adjustment

Went on a longer ride toward the end of October or beginning of Novemberish. This was heading over to the west, and a bit more challenging. Again, ripped down the trails that were under construction still, ran over cement at the final street and into the dirt - easy as pie with the rear suspension - then ripped across the street past what I like to call the "Poop Monolith" - what is this, some large structure near the bike trail that handles sewage I believe....go figure.

About a 9 mile round trip ride, doing about 15mph most of the way. I would stop periodically to rest, but most of the time I pushed myself pretty hard. Did some off-roading while pulling off. I h ad 2 main primarily obstacles, a dog walker who probably thought I was following him, and the crazy alligator lady claiming the stream next to us had alligators in it. Needless to say, she creeped me out a bit. I hung around center gear most of the time this trip.

I forgot my water bottle, otherwise I might have been able to go a little further. Thing was, the bottle I have would not fit on the bottom rail of the Mongoose, it was too long, and rubbed on the tire as I rode, so I ditched it. Maybe a longer mount for the bottle mount is in order. My eventual goal here will be to travel all the way downtown using this trail.

Next will be the southbound path, which is "pure speed", so I think before I take that route, I might check the bearings in my wheels and grease them a little more, as well as maybe switch to the other tires I have to put less friction on the ground (knobbier). Also will need some minor gear tweaks.

12/30/2022 - Kickstand, and Damn the Weather

Not much to talk about, I finally got a Kickstand for it for xmas, but have been unable to ride because of bloody snow and ice, and rain. So I'm getting more and more ridiculously pissed off because I can't really do too much. Can't leave the house, can't go on walks, and a barraige of medical stuff has kept me inside as well (turning 40 sucks, the winter sucks, the weather sucks). So I've been focusing more on video games and a little more on guitar construction because of the whole bloody fact I can't really go outside much. Also sucks because I've got some other projects I've had to put on hold, like a checup on my rear brakes on the truck and a tune-up. I'm itching for a good, sunny, clear, dry day to go out and tear up the trails on it.

I also put the tires from the Kent on it, replacing the old bald ones, and used some of my STP HIgh Temperature bearing grease on the wheels,a nd hosed down the derailures with lubricant, so this thing should be screamin' smooth n ow. Wheels turn without effort. I used a bunch of penetrating oil first on the rear axle to blow out all the dirt caked inside, so that probably helped tremendously. Turns out this has a Freewheel like the old one, so I tried to recover my replacement for the old bike but no such luck, and it was cheap anyway. So I might eventually move to a cassette rear wheel eventually anyway. Now if I can just find the time to get out there and ride around.....dagnabbit.

4/16/2023 - Reusing Chinesium Tires=Bad Idea

So last year I decided to reuse the old tires from the Kent, with the tubes for the seemingly wider tires this bike had...uh...bad idea. Got a flat within the first 20 minutes of riding. So I finally put the first decent amount of money into this bike....with that, let's talk about bike snobs for a moment.

See, I hate snobs, hate them. The only love I have for snobbery, is that it gives me something to aspire to, on a budget, prove them wrong. That's been the whole basis of why I post anything, to prove that you don't need to be a millionaire to actually enjoy doing something.

But with some parts of a project, you do need to splurge, and on a bike, for me, that's tires, and inner tubes. So I put the old tires from the KEnt on the old tubes from the Mongoose, and well, first test ride of the year....I got a flat. So here's what I did...

For about $109 @ Scheels I got 2 new Bontrager LT3s in 26"x2", 2-2.4" 26" Bontrager tubes, and some California Cyle liners for the tubes to prevent punctures. Expensive, yes..Worth it, well, we'll see. I liked the 2" rear I had but it was literally bald when I got it, and being heavier, I know it's better to spread your weight across a larger surface area. Everything on this bike is constructed to eek as much longevity out of it as I can. Now, while I can say that $109 could have gotten me an easily discoutned department store special, the thing is, I put my own blood and sweat into this old Mongoose. And while it too is seen as a "department store clunker" by most of the fancy guys who ride Treks and Clydsdales.....I'm doing things differently, like I always have (not to mention inexpensively).

See, this whole bicycle is a "system" of sorts to handle a guy like me, who weighs about 235-250 - well over the 225 most regular guys are built for. And I'm that heavy because I have a dinosaur-like bone structure and am very tall. I should probably be on a 29", but I'm not heeled enough for a 29" (nor am willing to pay up for that).

So the first thing is the dual suspension. My old Kent had front suspension, and I noticed while I hit the same bumps, putting more weight on the front, it was the rear axle that got bent. That tells me that it's a lot harder to bend an axle when you have some "give" in the suspension system to absorb the shock, rather than a solid frame that makes a nice bridge to bend the bar.

To help with this also goes wider tires, which also helps absorb the shock more. These tires have to be quality though, and I noticed the rear tire I started with was a LOT better than the pencil erasers I had from the old Kent. The wider surface area gives better traction as well. I chose the Bontreger LT3 tires because they were a nice center-point between street and dirt for me, and they seem to sit a little taller than usual, adding a little more height to the bike overall.

But the biggest piece is how I ride. I have a nice Amazon saddle that works great for what I do, leaned down, so I can slide up to get more leverage for more speed angling more forward while sliding rear-end back, or I can sit up comfortably and run forward while cruising. I'm usually riding at about 15-20mph, though sometimes I come near 30mph and go as slow as 5mph sometimes, especially when climbing a steep hill with f1 r7. The shifter might be the next upgrade for the bike though since the way it is now, my "power gear" for climbing does not have a "click" inside the shifter, and has to be turned forward all the way, so I have to hold it down.

The above is why I am hard on bikes, I like to go FAST, especially on pavement. So you have a tall, heavy guy, on a budget dual-sus MTB, doing up to 35mph and climbing steep hills without getting off or walking when he can afford to physically. So the key is to keep it as easy on the both of us as possible - bike gets some "give" in components that are being really worked hard, and I get some comfort while retaining a speedy pace.

So after the tire installation I took it for it's first round trip and it got around nicely. I did about 6 miles round trip, in about an hour - including the breaks in between. I would stop to check my tuning and adjust things as needed, not much adjustment needed. I was getting some pretty high speeds out there at times. The way back I went the whole way without stopping but once for a short time to take photos and talk to the wife. Average speed was about 15mph this go around so I could stop fast should there be any problems....I MIGHT consider changing my gear locations though since I hurt my finger a little rubbing it against the brake lever while downshifting for a hill.