Monthly Archives: February 2014

MTB Racing is Time Consuming

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Alright, let me state this up front, MTB racing takes a lot more energy than road racing. Anyway you cut it, the sport takes more time and energy than any road race out there. Let’s just forgot the training for a bit, the MTB sport has so many more time consuming aspects that it wins hands down.

Disclaimer, I haven’t ridden a MTB off-road in around 5 months. So, I obviously hadn’t been keeping a close eye on the bicycle itself. My bikes never get too out of race tune, but like I posted a couple days ago, my bike is a bit dates. And pieced together. It is 9 speed, has Trudi’s STX front disc brake caliper and lever, and it just generally a little behind the times. This isn’t any excuse. The bike is good enough. It isn’t the weak link in the chain of things.

Pre-riding the course yesterday was a little demoralizing initially. It took nearly an hour to drive out there. By the time I got there, I had a splitting headache. Let me tell you, pre-riding a rocky, loose MTB course, when you haven’t ridden off-road in months, with a splitting headache, isn’t very fun. I was surprised how bad I was. But, it got better.

After a start lap and one full lap, the headache got better. I got better too. I have experienced this before, horrible bike handling skills that improve very quickly. By the time I was done with the 2nd lap, I’d grade my bike handling as a C-. The problem was I flatted riding around. I felt the latex spray on my legs and stopped pretty quickly. The hole was too big to seal on its own. Luckily Doug Long, a buddy of mine from Missouri, came riding up. He had a plug. So, Doug plugs the hole and puts some extra air in it. It was like having a NASCAR pit crew at my disposal. I was on my way.

On the next lap, I am skidding down a descent and I first feel, then hear latex spray again. The plug had come out, but it was laying right there. So, I take a multi-tool and use a small allen key to push the plug back in. I push it in further this time. Add air, and am off again.

The last lap I’d give myself a C+ for bike handling. And the race is going to be a lot of bike handling.

The course is just over 3 miles, I think. And nearly the whole thing is single-track. The passing is not readily available. So, the start is going to be important. After that, it is just snakey. With lots of bigs rocks. I was surprised how flat the course it. There are a few little, dinky climbs, but nothing really. There is one climb that takes minute, maybe less. I haven’t ridden a course that is this flat and short, maybe ever. That’s not saying it is going to be easy. It is very rocky and technical. There are a ton of little accelerations needed. That isn’t something I’m very good at right now. There is really no place on the course to stand up and climb or really accelerate off your seat. That is bad for the home team too.

But, this is a learning experience. I’m just a little torqued today. We started back to Austin after 4:30 and realized that it would put us on MOPAC at exactly the wrong time. So, I stopped and washed my bike and the salt of the Isuzu in Dripping Springs. Heading to Austin, I saw this place called Pieous with a bunch of cars parked in the lot. Trudi looked it up on her phone and it said it was a wood-fired pizza place. So, U-turn and there we were, before 6, eating dinner.

Pieous was great. Simple, home cooked, natural ingredient food, served by super nice and quick people. If you have a chance, it’s way out West on 290, but worth the stop.

So, I don’t have any air in my rear tire as of now. I need to get use of an air compressor to inflate it. I got a bunch of glitter from Doug Long, so that should make the latex way more able to seal a bigger hole. I’m heading over to the course today to get a number and maybe ride one more lap. I have a tendency to get so tired before MTB races by pre-riding, that I’m wasted by the time the race starts. I’m going to try to avoid that scenario today, but you never know.

There are lots of legends that you need to climb/descend on this course.

There are lots of legends that you need to climb/descend on this course.

There are some places that flow, but not that many.

There are some places that flow, but not that many.

Plugged tire.

Plugged tire.

Trudi and Bromont hanging at the start/finish area.

Trudi and Bromont hanging at the start/finish area.

Zack showed me how to remove a bottle cap from a beer bottle with a Shimano road cleat.

Zack showed me how to remove a bottle cap from a beer bottle with a Shimano road cleat.

Motto of Pieous.

Motto of Pieous.

The walls of Pieous are chalk paint with great quotes.  I liked these two.

The walls of Pieous are chalk paint with great quotes. I liked these two.

In Austin

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Yesterday I did the 700 mile drive to Austin from Topeka. It was pretty uneventful. I’ve done it a ton of times. The key is the correct timing. Hitting Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin at the appropriate times makes for a much shorter duration. I thought I was off yesterday, getting to Austin at a little after 6, but it turned out fine.

I didn’t ride at all yesterday. That is only the 2nd day off I’ve taken in February. I slept 10 1/2 hours last night. I like getting big sleep. I was feeling pretty worked the last couple days, so maybe the day off and the sleep will get me back to a level I’m alright with.

I’m going over to the MTB course today and pre-ride. It is 40 miles away. First, I’m going to go for a couple hour road ride so I don’t get to the course all stiff and out-of-sorts. The course used to be on a ranch that owned, near Dripping Springs. I think it is not there anymore. I’ve ridden my road bike out there, on my way to Johnson City, but have never been by the MTB race course. I haven’t ridden off-road since the Berryman Epic last fall, so I’m sure to be pretty rusty.

Okay, I should get my bikes out of the car and check them out. Still supposed to be 80 here on Saturday. Wish they would downgrade that temperature some. But, back in Topeka, the high is forecast to be 9 for Sunday’s race. I’m not sure which is worse/better.

Adam Mill's Think FInance Team was here already.  They brought their trailer and van down for the two weekends.

Adam Mill’s Think FInance Team was here already. They brought there trailer and van down for the two weekends.

So, we ended up with a blow up bed in the exercise room, which is fine.

So, we ended up with a blow up bed in the exercise room, which is fine.

Ann was a big LAF supporter.  I'm not sure if sleeping under this is a good thing or not.

Ann was a big LAF supporter. I’m not sure if sleeping under this is a good thing or not.

The Think guys headed out for a 5 hour ride this morning.  They made a Skatch Lab receipe of sticky rice things to carry with them.

The Think guys headed out for a 5 hour ride this morning. They made a Skatch Lab receipe of sticky rice things to carry with them.

The wrapped them in foil and stuffed them into their jersey pockets.   I don't have enough energy to do that nowadays.

The wrapped them in foil and stuffed them into their jersey pockets. I don’t have enough energy to do that nowadays.

Heading to Texas

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I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to head down to Austin for a little bit. I officially entered the US Cup MTB race on Saturday. And if I have anything left after that, I’ll race the Lago Vista Road Race on Sunday.

I haven’t raced a sanctioned MTB race in years. So many years that I don’t have a result shown at my USAC results page.

I decided last year I was going to switch it up a little this season and reconnect with aspects of the sport that I’ve either ignored or just not been able to participate in, for various reasons.

Plus, the winter returned to Topeka yesterday. I rode 30 miles yesterday in the teens. There are two local races in Kansas this weekend, but the highs both days are supposed to be 16 degrees. That is approaching too cold to road race.

On the other end of the spectrum, I see the high in Austin on Saturday is predicted to be 80 degrees now. I’m thinking that is going to be pretty hot, for me, racing off-road.

I feel like I’m pretty removed from the MTB scene. These races are all UCI, so they adhere to the UCI rules. Start order, short lap, equipment pits, etc. In theory I don’t like a lot of it, but I’m going to try to keep an open mind.

My MTB bike is archaic. We’ll, not totally. My Eriksen titanium frame is state of the art, but the rest is pretty dated. I could have made some phone calls, scurried around and updated it all, but I figured I’d just ride it as it is. Less chance of any mechanical issues, plus I am not really knowledgable enough to know exactly what I should be riding. I do know that my wheels aren’t really good enough to be racing. They weigh a ton, but I think starting 70 guys back will probably make that much less of a concern.

Anyway, it should be fun and a relearning experience. It’s 10 hours to Austin and we’re not to Oklahoma City yet, so have a ways to go.

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Bromont is jammed I the back of the Isuzu Trooper.

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I was putting honey on an English muffin this morning. I thought this was funny-“Made by American bees.”

Racing Bicycles for 40 Years

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I hadn’t really thought about it until last weekend, but when I did I was shocked. I’ve had a bicycle racing license for 40 years. And I’ve had a Professional designation on that license for 29 of those 40 years. As of last weekend’s racing, it was the start of my 40th year of racing. Wow. It is sort of depressing thinking about it. Well, not really, because I wouldn’t take much back. Actually, I wouldn’t take anything back. For sure I have regrets, disappointments and want a few do-overs, but I accept that isn’t part of the deal with the sport, or life in general, so I’m just sticking with where I’m at.

When I started out, I had no preconceived ideas about how long I was going to race. I just knew it was what I wanted to do and I wanted to get good at it. I still feel that way. I don’t race bikes for any one reason. There are thousands. Many I probably haven’t even personally identified yet.

I rode a pretty big week for me last week. Nearly 500 miles. I had 90 miles on Saturday, with a criterium, then 60 miles of racing on Sunday. Yesterday I thought I’d go out for an easier ride on my 29’r MTB bike. I’m kicking around going down to Austin and doing the US Cup there this Saturday and though maybe I should ride my MTB bike a couple times before I take the plunge. Anyway, I started out down by the river and the next thing I know I’m in Lawrence drinking a cup of coffee. I had no intention of riding the 30 + miles to Lawrence when I started out. I don’t think that riding a MTB bike 60 miles on gravel, into a brisk wind, with the temperatures in the lower 30’s, is very good recovery from the first weekend of year racing. I didn’t really care.

I got caught up in the ride and didn’t even think about turning around, even though the temperature was supposed to be dropping into the 20’s and it was going to be dark at least an hour before I got home. I just did it and didn’t really worry about the rest.

That is kind of an analogy of my whole cycling career. I got caught up in it and didn’t ever think over deviating the course.

A lot of people ask me how I can still be doing this after all these years. I don’t have a definitive answer. Like I said above it is a ton of things. I love being outdoors. I love seeing the world from a bicycle. It is just the correct speed for me to be able to view, then process what I’ve viewed. I like competition. I like the athletic and technical aspects of the sport equally. I like the mechanical aspects of the bicycle. I am naturally inquisitive.

Then there is the travel. I’ve been to every state in the country, minus Alaska. I’ve raced in dozens of foreign countries. I’ve seen things that I’m 100% positive I wouldn’t have seen unless I was a bike racer. It has molded how I view the world and many of my morals.

Next are the people I meet. Most/many of my close friends are those who I’ve been fortunate enough to ride a bike with. Many for long periods, all over the world. These are people that were drawn to the same sport as me, for whatever reason, then we bonded for life. It is a very important part of the attraction and duration.

When I look at the whole package, it has just about everything that I need to be happy and content.

I recognize that I am one of the lucky few that gets to do exactly what I love to do. I try to, and hope I do, show gratitude and honor, to the sport I love.

My first racing license for the ABLA.  My license number was 05035.  I wonder if I can get that back from the USAC?

My first racing license for the ABLA. My license number was 05035. I wonder if I can get that back from the USAC?

Riding into the sunset yesterday evening.  I never get tired of this view.

Riding into the sunset yesterday evening. I never get tired of this view.

Nearly 2 for 2

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Yesterday I jumped into the Insight, with Trudi and Bromont, and headed the 200+ miles over to Columbia Missouri to race a road race, Froze Toes. And it lived up to its name. It wasn’t raining or anything, but when I was driving over there, it was sort of snowing. And it was pretty cold, not freezing, but pretty, 30’s.

I woke up a little tweaked from the day before. I’m not sure why, but after riding in the rain Wednesday for an hour and a half, my hands have been freezing. Riding back from the criterium on Saturday, I got pretty cold. I’m not sure why I’ve been missing the right clothing selection, but it does drain you a lot more than you’d think.

Anyway, I don’t really mind racing when it is cold. I just don’t like getting ready for races when it is cold out. Especially when I don’t have my van, or a car to stay warm in before the race.

I wasn’t too bad at the start, even though I didn’t ride a pedal stroke for warm-up before the start. There were somewhere around 40 riders there. The course is a 30 mile loop, mainly heading North and South. The wind was pretty strong from the North, so it was going to mainly be a headwind, tailwind deal. There was just enough sidewind, in retrospect.

I won’t go over all the minute details of the race, but here is pretty much how it went from my perspective. It turned into a stupid attack/coast thing right from the gun. I kept trying to roll through and get the group moving along at a good pace, but they weren’t having any of that. A couple groups of two rode away and the remainder of the field was just doing all these silly jumps, when wasn’t all that comfortable.

This is the 2nd day in a row where the race started out chaotic. I don’t understand why a bunch of Cat 1/2 riders would attack like crazy at the start of a race, when, obviously by the results, they didn’t have the fitness yet to do it. When my form is questionable, I always try to error on the side of caution, draft as much as possible, do small system checks to see where I’m at.

On the first sidewind section, somehow I got to the front and ended up riding off the front with a kid from Mesa Cycles, Grant Erhard. Grant took a huge pull in the first sidewind section, I came through pretty good and we were gone. We caught up with the 4 guys that were up the road and pretty soon there were 5 of us rotating pretty well.

By now we were riding with a strong tailwind, so we were hauling ass. One of our group, I think Robert Smallman, flatted on the potholed laced road. So then, there were 4 of us. Along with Grant and I, it was Isaiah Newkirk and Dustin Morici. Isaiah, Grant and I were all pulling pretty good. Dustin was hurting, but kept trying to do his share. That is how it went for the next 40ish miles. Just a few miles from the finish, Dustin finally came off on the final tailwind stretch. I told him after that he should have just told us he was going to sit on. We would have slowed a little to let him get closer to the finish.

So there were 3. Seemed like both Grant and Isaiah were getting a little tired. I was trying to put in a hard effort, but didn’t want to kill myself to the extend I wasn’t going to be able to contest the race. A couple miles out from the finish, there is really the only hill on the course. I figured I’d see how wasted my guys were and put in a jab over the top of the hill I got maybe a hundred meters ahead, but sort of stalled there. I really wasn’t putting a 100% effort in, but was hoping that it was going to work. It didn’t. I could see the finish, I was maybe a mile out. There was a descent and then 1K uphill to the finish. I coasted the descent, worried that only Grant was chasing me and then Isaiah was going to jump. I try to make it a point at all times during a bike race that I have at least one good jump in me, at all times. I wouldn’t have if I kept going full throttle.

So, they roll up and we slow to nearly a track stand. We were all kind of hurt. We started sprinting maybe 300 meters out. Isaiah instantly got popped. I jumped Grant, hoping to get him to sprint early. He did, but it wasn’t too early for him. I didn’t have the timing down and when the road flattened out, he pulled a bike length out of me close to the line. I realized I was going to run out of real estate, I lost.

I wasn’t too depressed about finishing 2nd. Overall, the day was nearly perfect. I wanted to go and ride really hard, which at the start of the race, seemed like it was going to be frustrating impossible. It was great getting into a small group that wanted to work together. It was super fun riding with those guys. Plus, it was the first time I’ve ever won a frozen pizza in a race. I won a frozen turkey in Tijuana Mexico once, but never a pizza.

I ended the week with nearly 500 miles, which was a ton considering how windy it has been and how much of that I rode alone. Plus I got in two local races, which like I posted a couple days ago, can end up being much harder than bigger events. I “lucked” into breaks both days, so got exceptional training in both weekend days. I feel pretty good this morning, so I think I’m on the right track so far this season, but, you never know.

The "podium"-me, Grant and Isaish.  I think I'm older than if you add the ages of both of the other guys together.  Shit.

The “podium”-me, Grant and Isaish. I think I’m older than if you add the ages of both of the other guys together. Shit.

Grant was pretty stoked on the line.

Grant was pretty stoked on the line.

Four of the original 5, talking over the race after.  I love hearing the other guy's views of the race.

Four of the original 5, talking over the race after. I love hearing the other guy’s views of the race.

Results-Click to enlarge.

Results-Click to enlarge.

The is Ethan Froese.  I've know him and his brother, Aaro, promoter of Froze Toes, forever.  He gave me this print by his father before the race.  It was very thoughful.  After the race, I got a chance to catch up a little with Ethan, getting a bite to eat with him and his son Noland.

The is Ethan Froese. I’ve know him and his brother, Aaro, promoter of Froze Toes, forever. He gave me this print by his father before the race. It was very thoughful. After the race, I got a chance to catch up a little with Ethan, getting a bite to eat with him and his son Noland.

First Race, First Win of the Season

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Yesterday I was mildly surprised. Not only about that I won the race, but a multitude of other things. I was surprised how much it hurt to take it up 10 notches from training to racing. It surprised me how strong other guys already are mid February. It surprised me that I forgot how fun it is to corner at 30 mph on sewups.

The race was a one hour criterium, but better, or worse than that, it was a points race. So there were 3 points sprints, so one about every 15 minutes, plus the end. There were about 40 + guys at the line, which seemed pretty great considering. Seems like criteriums have been getting a bad rap recently. Maybe it is a Pro deal, Pros not liking criteriums much, I’m not sure, but for some reason, the criterium is looked down upon by the average Joe bike racer.

I think criteriums are great. I think that it is the best public viewing of bike racing and probably the only segment of the sport that might eventually become a successful American spectator sport. Plus, it is a great way to get in a ton of speed work and intensity without going out and banging your head against the wall alone.

The race started out crazy fast. The course was pretty much a rectangle, with one corner a sweeper. Right from the gun, it was on. I was way over my limit, or what I considered my limit, from the get-go. Somewhere during the 2nd or 3rd lap I was thinking that maybe I wasn’t going to be able to finish. I didn’t want to miss the front group, so was covering just about anything that moved. I’m not close to fit enough for that. So I followed wheels for a couple laps and then, probably about 5 laps in, I felt the field was pretty done, so I put in a half-assed attack. Nearly immediately, Joe Fox, Cycle City, blew by me and proceeded to take a full lap at, what I considered, warp speed. When I looked back after 3/4 a lap, there were just two other guys, Garrick Valverde, Velotek, and Michael Smith, Kaos.

That was pretty much the right combination of riders for a successful break. We soon got into a fairly even rotation. If anything, I was pulling the shortest, but I had so many question marks floating around, I wasn’t willing to make the stupid error of getting gassed and spit out early.

Pretty soon they rang the bell for the first sprint. It was going to be straight into a pretty strong head/crosswind. We all kept in rotation and Michael led it out. I didn’t have any problem coming around him, which mildly surprised me. It gave me some confidence, but was still early.

So, we kept the rotation going pretty much until the end of the race. I won all three sprints, one by just a bike throw over Garrick. Eventually, towards the end of the race we had lapped nearly everyone. On the last lap, there was only one group left to lap, a big group with my TradeWind Energy team mates, Brian Jensen and Bill Stolte, and most the other historically better riders. We rode into them with just 2 corners to go.

This is when I got a little mixed up. I was trying to follow Michael Smith, who had a pretty strong team mate leading him out, but somehow we got juggled pretty far back when Joe Fox attacked with 1/2 a lap to go. Then Garrick somehow came by us and had a huge gap with 200 meters. I was just following Michael, drafting him on the left. Somehow, maybe a wind gust, I ended up on the far left of the road, which was a pretty beat up, cracked surface. I hit a parallel crack to my tires and had to do a big stutter coast to keep my balance. That was all she wrote. By the time I got going, I couldn’t get by Michael. Garrick was a few lengths ahead. But, since I’d won all the intermediary sprints, I still had enough points to win.

I wasn’t too bad at the end. My left leg was not up to speed, which is becoming normal. But I seemed to have okay form compared to everyone else, which was nice.

We’d ridden over the 30 miles from Topeka and got some extra clothing on and headed back pretty much right after the race. We weren’t going to have much extra daylight. But the problem was the temperature dropped super fast. Like 20 degrees in an hour. I was once again frozen. Mainly my fingers and feet. I think they got way too cold on Wednesday and it is going to take awhile before they quit punishing me.

Right now I’m driving to Columbia Missouri for a 60 mile road race. I couldn’t talk anyone else into going, so it’s just Trudi, Bromont and me. I didn’t get enough sleep, which is usual on race weekends, but unsual now, since I haven’t been racing for so long. I think the last criterium I did was the first week of July, the Nationals Criterium Champhionships. That is weird.

Okay, that is all for now. My worry today is mainly about dressing correctly. It is only supposed to be in the mid 30’s, so I don’t want to miss it.

I probably jumped 20 times during the hour.  19 more times than I had previously this year training.

I probably jumped 20 times during the hour. 19 more times than I had previously this year training.

Early in the race with Peter Boyd and Bill Stolte.

Early in the race with Peter Boyd and Bill Stolte.

Riding back to Topeka after the race with Bill, Ian and Jack.  Photo by Kris, who was there too.

Riding back to Topeka after the race with Bill, Ian and Jack. Photo by Kris, who was there too.

Results.  Click to enlarge.

Results. Click to enlarge.

Disposable Society

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I hate to admit it, but we truly live in a disposable society. I try the best I can to not participate, but I do on a daily basis. I guess I am somewhat of a hypocrite ragging about it here, but I hate it.

Yesterday, I had my day sort of planned out. Ride earlier in the day, to rest a bit for racing today, then make some phone calls, watch the Olympics, etc. I did some errands around noon, and when pulled back into my driveway, I got out of my van and smelled a distinct hot brake odor. Like really strong. So, I walk around the van and put my hand down by the rotors. The right rear is super hot. So, I get out the floorjack, and jack up the rear. I put the van in neutral, and try the rear wheels. The left turns like normal, the right is seized.

So, I get out the air compressor and take the wheel off. It is hotter than shit. I can’t stop myself and next thing I know I have the brake caliper off. I had to use a towel to hold the caliper, it was so hot.

So, I let the caliper cool down and check it out. It is a 1 ton van, so it has pretty beefy brakes. It has two pistons per caliper. One of the pistons doesn’t move when hydraulic pressure is applied. There is a rip in the seal boot, protecting the piston from the elements.

So I take the caliper off and hit it in with a wooden dowel. It loosens the piston, so I reattach it back into the van and have Kris pump the brakes to push the piston completely out. There is a seal, that has a rubber boot attached, that keeps the piston sealed. I pried the seal out and that exposes more of the piston. The piston has just a tad of surface rust, no pitting. I just take some steel wool and remove the rust. But the boot is toast.

I cleaned my hands and went inside to try to secure a seal/boot. Man, what a hassle. I look around the internet and am not really positive what I need. There are caliper rebuild kits, with seals, but all for different calipers. I call the Ford dealership and they say that they don’t sell individual seals. I talk the guy into looking at the schematics anyway. He says he is surprised, but he sees a rebuild kit with the seal. But, the kit is $40. A complete new caliper is just $50 at Advanced Auto Parts. I call a couple of auto parts store and they say that they quit selling brake rebuild kits because of liability reasons. Really, liability problems. Maybe they shouldn’t even sell calipers if the consumer might install them incorrectly? Maybe quit selling auto parts all together, since they might be liable for consumer misuse? I thought about ordering a couple different seal kits from Rock Auto, but finally just give in and order the caliper from Advanced, to be picked up.

The seal would have been $3.99 if I could have found the right one. But, it is nearly $60 for the new caliper.

If someone who doesn’t know hot brake smell, I’m sure they would just keep driving the car until something gave, either the rotor or pad. Then if they take the car to the Ford dealership, where the caliper was $120, I’d bet it cost another $250 for labor. So that would be about 100 times as much as the $4 seal. I paid 15 times the amount of the seal, plus a little brake fluid and brake cleaner.

It is such a waste. There was a core charge, so they are going to send in my old caliper and refurbish it and send it back out for use, so that is a little consolation. But the throw away movement our country has evolved into, bugs me, on nearly a daily basis. Forget the different of cost, the shipping of the caliper around the world to get rebuilt when I could have just put in a seal and used it for another decade is just plain wrong.

Most things can be fixed. Can you imagine throwing your bike away when you break a spoke? Or ding your wheel? I’ve garbage-picked a Honda lawn mower that its only issue was a broken pull cord. Who would throw away that? Just about anyone living in suburban America is who. Nearly all electronics that are out of warranty become trash. It is so wrong.

Anyway, that is the way it is going, so I guess I’ll try to keep swimming against the current as much as I can.

Old caliper and worn out seal.

Old caliper and worn out seal.

New/rebuilt caliper.

New/rebuilt caliper.