2012 Felt Virtue LTD

A new bike…

The flavor of the month is this sweet Felt Virtue LTD, Medium 17.5″ with full XTR Trail package.

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Currently, I’m trying to downsize my bike collection a bit and having sold off the Trek and the Xizang frame, this popped up and it looked like a good buy. I’d been eyeing these bikes for a few years, ever since they redesigned their frames back in ‘09 I believe.

Anyway, the “LTD” (Limited) is their top offering, with an MSRP of, get this, $9999 (Are you out of your mind??!!). Of course I didn’t pay that much; let’s just say that the sale of the Trek and the Xizang more than covered this one.

The thing that sealed the deal for me was the fact that it was brand new, never ridden, plus it had a full XTR trail spec including wheels. I figured it was worth more in parts alone considering the price I paid.

I took it on its first ride last weekend, after a near 3-month hiatus from riding thanks to devbootcamp and various injuries. That ride was relatively painful and I was only able to hobble along for half the loop. Sucks. But it was still great to get out and I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine again.

The bike performed well. I wish I was in better shape to be able to have a better comparison against the Fuel’s ABP design, but one thing I noticed was that the LTD was much quieter on the rough stuff and the rear felt nearly locked out on the climbs. Felt likes to hype their equilink suspension, but I could care less as long as it works.

Flying Lessons

First of all, man, it’s only been 3 days??!!

Shereef took some time today to talk to us about “empathy”:  the interpersonal skill of interaction between human beings and how important  it is to refine that skill as a developer. Oftentimes projects fail not because of budgets or time constraints, but because the team couldn’t get their act together to pull it off. From experience, I know this is definitely true.

Another part of the empathy concept is to learn to give and receive feedback constructively. Without feedback, we can’t learn. But in today’s world, everyone is so PC, people are afraid to give feedback or worse, don’t know how to handle it and act on it.

A fun part of the presentation was a demonstration of giving and receiving feedback. Our group (“the banana slugs”) were given the task of molding a plane out of Play-Doh, and the rest of the group was to give us feedback ranging from “kind and encouraging” to “highly critical and negative”. I’m happy to say that most of my feedback was positive! 😉

Here’s mine:

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Unlock iPhone 3GS running iOS 6.1 and Downgrade Baseband 6.15.00

OK, the 3GS is a bit dated, but I recently inherited this device from my brother, who I [unsuccessfully] tried to convert to Android with a shiny new Nexus 4. He had been complaining that his 3GS was very slow and wanted the ability to tether to his laptop. He’s on my business plan with T-Mobile, and had been suffering with EDGE-only speeds thus far.

I told him that the best phone available for T-Mobile right now was the Nexus 4, and I went to some great lengths to get him (and myself!) one on launch day. When I got them I promptly rooted them, flashed a custom ROM, and sent it off to him.

After about a month using the Nexus, he aborted and hit the Apple store and bought an unlocked iPhone 5. He’s happy again, and since the iPhone 5 supports DC-HSPA (aka HSPA+ 42), he’s getting the best speeds currently possible on the T-Mobile network.

Anyway, he’s now sent me back the Nexus 4 and his old 3GS to sell off for him. Unfortunately, he unthinkingly tapped the update button on his 3GS and updated to iOS 6.1 and baseband 06.15.00, re-locking his iPhone in the process (he was previously unlocked with the now closed SAM method).

If anyone has ever tinkered with iPhone unlocking and jailbreaking, you know how much of a pain this sort of thing is to deal with. There’s a lot of crap information out there and it’s hard to sort through it all. Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve done the hard work for you and was able to get his 3GS unlocked and activated again. Here’s how:

Initial configuration:

  • iPhone 3GS (old bootrom)
  • iOS 6.1
  • locked to ATT
  • unactivated
  • firmware 06.15.00

Final configuration:

  • iOS 6.1
  • Unlocked to any GSM carrier
  • Activated
  • firmware 5.16.04 (5.13.04)

Step 1: Buy the IMEI Unlock service for $2

First, go to eBay and buy the IMEI unlock for the iPhone. It costs about $2 as of the time of this post. The seller is unlock_fusion. I would link to the actual auction, but it will undoubtedly expire at some point and then the link will be broken anyway. Just use the link above to go to his Store and find it.

Once you buy the service, you will get an email with a link to input your phones IMEI number. Once submitted, it takes anywhere from 2 -12 hours to get the confirmation that your phone has been unlocked.

Step 2: Download the tools and firmware

Download the latest version of Redsn0w:

http://www.iphonehacks.com/download-redsn0w

Download iOS 6.0 firmware for the 3GS:

http://appldnld.apple.com/iOS6/Restore/041-7173.20120919.sDDMh/iPhone2,1_6.0_10A403_Restore.ipsw

Step 3: Downgrade the baseband from 6.15.00 to 5.13.04:

Watch this YouTube video to see how it’s done:

Note: The trick is to use the 6.0 firmware and not the 5.1.1 firmware that most of the tutorials mention (including this video). Using the 5.1.1 firmware will result in an error every time.

Step 4: Unlock and Activate that bastard

Now that your baseband has been downgraded to 5.13.04, the IMEI Unlock will now work (it’s not compatible with the 06.15.00 baseband).

The instructions provided by unlock_fusion had worked fine for my wife’s iPhone 4 several months ago, but I just wasn’t getting the confirmation message in iTunes that the iPhone had been unlocked with the 3GS for some reason. I tried it multiple times and never got it, nor was my T-Mobile SIM recognized.

But on unlock_fusion’s retail website, there are a few other methods to get the unlock confirmation. I’m not sure why they don’t include them all in their eBay instructions, but here’s the method that worked for me. You have to do a FULL restore, meaning restore from iTunes and install the latest iOS, not a restore of your iPhone backup.

This means it will wipe your whole phone. Everything. And when you’re done you will have to reinstall everything again. No big deal to me, since I’m starting from scratch to begin with.

The Restore Method

  1. Eject the SIM tray so it’s not readable by the iPhone
  2. Make sure your iTunes is updated to the latest version
  3. Plug your iPhone into your computer and wait until your iPhone is fully recognized in iTunes.
  4. Click the “Restore” button (not "Restore from backup") and accept the Terms agreement.
  5. Once the restore process has started, insert your non-ATT SIM card into the iPhone.
  6. Wait for the restore process to complete and iPhone to reboot.
  7. Once your iPhone has rebooted, iTunes will Activate your iPhone with your unlock ticket using your non-ATT SIM Card.
  8. You should see a message displayed in iTunes, “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked!” 
  9. Your iPhone is now factory unlocked permanently and you can update freely in the future for newer iOS updates.

Yay! Got the confirmation in iTunes finally! And my T-Mobile SIM works perfectly.

You’ll notice that the baseband was updated to the latest 05.16.04 for the 3GS. Who cares, it’s unlocked now!

It’s Baaaack…’94 GT Xizang in da house!

Update: Sold(!) Again! I am now on a quest to thin the herd and sold the frame and am now parting out the rest of the build…I wanted to sell it as a complete, but got a very persuasive offer at $1200(!), so I couldn’t pass it up. I need to get rid of these parts before…before…something else pops up!

Never say never. After selling my pristine ‘97 Xizang a few months ago, I came across another one on ebay and decided to toss in a winning bid. These frames are always in high demand, so I see it as an investment (my wife would flatly disagree with me of course).

It was a bare frame, and while in good shape, it had lost much of its shine. I read several tips online about polishing it back up, and after a few hours with 2000 grit wet sandpaper, ultra-fine steel wool, numerous metal polishes and finally an orbital polisher, this Xizang got its mojo back.

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Most of the cockpit was swapped from my Bontrager for now. I also swapped out the black lowers of the ‘09 32mm SID Race with a NOS White set. ‘09 lowers with the v-brake bosses are not easy to find these days!

Speaking of v-brakes, one issue I hadn’t anticipated for was the cable routing for the rear brake. Since this is a ‘93 model, it was never designed for v-brakes, and thus does not have the cable stop in the normal v-brake place (the ‘97 model has a stop just before the seat stay tubes vs. in the middle of the triple-triangle of this ‘93 model).

Because of this, I couldn’t get the routing to work very well. Some other owners say to just use full length housing and zip-tie it to the frame, or get a bolt-on cable stop, neither of which I wanted to do.

The solution? Using a normal cable end doesn’t fit into the existing stop, so to get around this, you have to slightly squish the stop (I used a bench vise) to be more ovalized just in the front portion of the cable end, then use a small drill bit to make the now-squished cable hole larger and round again to allow the cable to pass through freely without any binding. This allows the cable housing to seat in the end normally, while the front of the cable end can fit into the frame stop. I should probably take a picture of this to illustrate, huh?…

Now, along with a slightly steeper 110-degree (135?) brake noodle (vs. normal 90-degree one), the routing is perfect and without any friction whatsoever.

Next up, the XTR crankset was set up for 1×9 duty using a Paul Chainkeeper and e13 32t Guide Ring (super nice quality ring!). It looks trick.

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The decals were custom-made…by me. I was never a fan of the elongated “GT” logo, so I decided to try and make my own design in the same spirit of the original Xizang decals. They’re just vinyl decals layered on top of each other to achieve the dual color effect.

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Future planned upgrades include a matching Red Chris King headset, lighter tires, and perhaps a matching WCS White stem.

21.50lbs including pedals.

To become a developer…

I did it. I’m going to Dev Bootcamp!

After submitting my application back in July, and never hearing back, I figured I had been passed over. Turns out the team at DBC was on a little vacay action and finally got back to me a few weeks ago to set up my Skype interview.

I interviewed with the founder, Shereef Bishay. I was a little nervous, but he’s a pretty laid back guy and it went pretty smoothly. He did throw in a little test to make sure I actually had a brain, but the exercise was sort of designed to be a team effort and we were able to solve it together. Phew.

Anyway, I’m on my way to attending the Feb 2013 session! I’m actually looking forward to the yoga – after my bike crash I am feeling all sorts of wound up and I think my body could use a good stretching for once in my life.

Here’s to something new and exciting and scary! Man, life’s a trip…

2008 Specialized Globe Centrum Singlespeed

I don’t know why, but the first time I saw this bike in Specialized’s catalog, I wanted one. I thought it’s be a cool “city” bike for commuting or whatnot.

I don’t think they sold very many of them, as they killed the design/model after just one year. I think it was Specialized’s reaction to the success of Cannondale’s Bad Boy series of urban bikes.

I got this one off of craigslist a few years ago, and proceeded to swap out the parts as I do with all of my bikes it seems.

Now, the only stock parts left are the headset and brakes! Also, it was originally a 26er…turns out 29″/700c wheels fit just fine with lower-volume tires..

I would say this bike (like the Bad Boy) was actually designed to handle both wheel sizes, as the geometry seems largely unaffected by the increase in wheel size.

  • Chris King 29er ISO disc wheelset, with Stans 355 rims and Specialized 25c Rouxbaix rubber
  • Specialized low-riser bar and seatpost, with Format SL saddle
  • Ritchey WCS stem
  • Truvativ FireX crankset
  • 21.2lbs with pedals

Lastest updates:

  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakeset/levers
  • DiamondBack OEM 29er wheelset (sold the Chris Kings)
  • KS Supernatural Dropper Post with Joplin remote (the 29er wheels make it a bit too tall to put my feet on the ground when stopped; the dropper is a sweet solution!)
  • Kickstand!

Future updates?:

  • I’d like to find an internally geared hub and turn it into a 7 or 8-spd bike. Or maybe find a compatible derailleur hanger, but I don’t think one exists for this frame.
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Latest build 06/17:

The Centrum has become my ‘city’ bike and sits in my office for occasional lunchtime runs, etc. The LEV was pretty unreliable, so I got rid of it and put on a Specialized Command Post instead. I’ve had a couple of those posts and they have never given me any issues.

The bars were swapped out with some FSA Metropolis mustache bars. And for grips I used some old bar tape.

Seems I lost a part of this post with a recent server migration, but I ended up selling the CK wheelset and setting it up with a set of Shimano 650b wheels, which lowers the bike back down a bit.

Update 07/23/2018:

Latest build/changes:

  • new rubber! Panaracer Parimoto 650b x 42c tires w/ Gravel King casing (made in Japan!) – Waaay wider and makes it feel more like a cruiser than a hybrid.
  • Origin8 Bat Wing bars
  • Fox Transfer Performance 125mm dropper w/Specialized SRL lever
  • XTR 180/160mm Freeza centerlock rotors (spares from my MTB)
  • Thomson seatpost collar
  • Spurcycle bell
  • Looks Legit!

Even Moar updates! 05/05/2019:

  • Changed grips to ODI Vans waffle lock-ons
  • Swapped the Fox Transfer external dropper for an INTERNALLY-routed Reverb Stealth 150mm! I ordered some frame plugs off of eBay and decided to go for it. Not the best work I’ve done, but it works and looks trick! Hardest part was getting the plugs into the holes as I undersized them to make sure they would fit tightly. Pretty sure my Centrum is unique with the internal routing! Lovin’ it!

In retrospect, I think I should have put the routing holes on the non-drive side as the housing could potentially rub the chainring/front derailleur if I had a multi-ring crankset (which I’m not really planning on adding, but you never know!). I originally wanted to route the holes in the center of the tubes, so just beneath the water bottle cage and back into the seattube where the sticker is. But the problem with that is I wouldn’t be able to fit my drill in such a tight space. I’m glad I thought about that before I started drilling!

Latest updates! 10/12/2019

The frame plugs from eBay (China) were total shite. They were too brittle and cracked into pieces. I decided to order some rubber frame plugs made by Giant. They were only $1.50 each and I needed 3 of them.

I had to dremel/file the holes to be larger, but the plugs are soo much nicer. They are flexible and fit snugly and the cable housing is held securely.

I also changed out the Reverb for a OneUp 150mm dropper. Oneup is my new favorite dropper post. It’s super smooth and much easier to deal with than the Reverb. The lever action is also considerably lighter to depress than the Reverb remote.

One change that isn’t in these photos is a fork swap to a 2009 RockShox SID Race. Although it was a 26″ fork, it fit my 650b wheels just fine with plenty of clearance. It’s also very easy to reduce the travel in those forks, so I dropped it down to 60mm. I rode it this way for a few months, but ultimately sold off the fork since it was relatively rare with it’s v-brake lowers. It was sort of an interesting experiment, and it made the bike feel more like a proper gravel bike, akin to having a Fox AX gravel fork but with 60mm of travel on it. Another small fitting change was to swap out the 90mm Specialized stem for a Syntace 60mm one.

Stumpjumper Expert 29er: Ride #2

I had just come back from a [far] too long trip to Shanghai to visit my wife’s father, so he could also see our latest creation, Keira:

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And after a horrible week of jetlag, I was itching for a ride! I called up my buddy and hit the trails last Sunday, once again determined to push the 29er to the limits.

5 minutes later, I ended up with this:

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I lost control down a very rough section of the trail. The front wheel slipped out from under me, and sent me digging into the ground on my left side. I smashed my shoulder and grinded my helmet.

Once I realized I was still alive, I noticed the pain in my belly. I must have hit a pointy rock, leaving me with a finger-sized puncture full of gravel, twig bits, and dirt.

Strangely, there wasn’t any blood, but a clear, yellowish fluid with an oily consistency oozing out of me in its place. Nasty! Unfortunately my band-aids wouldn’t be of much help, and I decided I should head to the ER to get it checked out.

After some X-Rays and such, the doc determined that nothing was broken and that the puncture hadn’t hit any internal organs. He explained the ooze was the body’s response to trauma and that area of the body has more of that built up that other areas. Perfectly normal stuff!

I’m currently on some heavy Motrin for the pain and Antibiotics to fight off any possible infection. It’s healing up ok, but most of my pain is in my shoulder and surrounding ribs.

This was easily my most serious injury from biking (including a door’ing incident on my road bike a couple years ago).

Anyone interested in a 29er? 😉

Update: I sold the 29er! Scored a nice “profit” in the end: I swapped the CK Wheelset with an OEM Giant Anthem wheelset for $150 off eBay, then sold the complete bike for $150 more than I paid for it. I had also swapped back all of the OEM parts. The CK wheelset now sits on my Globe Centrum singlespeed city bike, which originally came with 26" wheels. That bike will be my next report…

YAB: Yet Another Bike: 2010 Stumpjumper Expert FSR 29er

Picked this one up recently. Having sold my Xizang, I was itching for something new and wanted to try out the 29er thing. Well, this was what I found. I figured that I would get a much better feel/value for a 29er by buying a used bike versus paying the local dealer $100/day for a demo bike. I’m pretty certain I will be able to sell it for what I paid for it should I decide the platform isn’t for me.

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In case you’re wondering, this is a size Large. Normally I’d get a Medium, but this is what craigslist had that day, and since I’m about 5’ 11" (“tweener sized”), I’m borderline Large anyway.

Fit seems mostly unnoticeable to me. The cockpit is nearly identical to my Trek dually. I’ve only taken it on one ride so far and came away mostly underwhelmed. I was expecting night and day differences from what I’ve heard and read about the 29er experience. I had a buddy ride my Trek, so I swapped back and forth throughout the ride, so I could get a good feel of the differences between the two.

My first impression was that the trek seemed sooo much lighter and “flickable”. The Trek is under 25lbs with pedals, and the Stumpy is about 29lbs with pedals. The Trek’s smaller size also seemed to make it feel more maneuverable on the trail.

I nearly wiped out a couple of times on the 29er. Something that never happens on my Trek. I’m sure it will take some more rides to get used to handling the bike, so I’m not really going to base my opinions on one ride so far. Another thing I noticed is that I felt like I bottomed out harshly a coupe times. I also hit my crank arms on some rocks. Both of these things have never happened to me on my trek (That I actually noticed). The Stumpy also seems to make A LOT of noise from the chain rattling around while descending. I’ll have to look into that.

One thing I really liked, though, was the Brain shock. It was sort of like having the ProPedal lever ON automatically when I needed it, and OFF when I didn’t.

This Stumpy Expert was stock except for a nice upgrade to the wheelset: black Chris King ISO hubs laced to Stans 355 29er rims, set up tubeless with S-Works rubber. This is also my first bike with a 15QR fork, so I had to order a Thule 15QR axle adapter for my roof rack. Personally, I found the 15QR system to be a little clumsy as far as getting the wheel on and off and the bike onto my rack. I also can’t tell how much stiffer it makes the front end compared to a regular 9mm QR fork/wheel.

I’ve also never had a bike with SRAM on it. First impression is it feels clunky and overbuilt compared to the XTR stuff I am used to. Shifting was fine, but noisier and with a heavier feel to the triggers. The Avid Elixer brakes worked fine, but also seemed overbuilt compared to the XTR on my Trek.

I had some parts sitting around so I swapped in:

  • XTR m970 crankset
  • Specialized XC White lock on grips
  • Syncros FL saddle
If I start to like the 29er after a few more rides, I may swap over my XTR brakes and drivetrain from the Trek and see if that really makes me a convert.
Stay tuned…