About two years ago, I decided to try mountain biking again. It's not as if I was new to it. My current mountain bike at the time was a 2001 Trek 4900 (mine does not have the hideous pedal clips), which I bought new. I rode off and on at a few trails but never really put much thought or effort into actually learning about mountain biking. As a result, I lost interest but kept the bike until I picked it back up to try again in late 2011.
The first order of business was to get fit. It's difficult to really enjoy the thrill of singletrack when you have to stop frequently to catch your breath. To remedy this, I worked on building up my strength and endurance by riding on a sidewalk near my house that goes around a 5 mile loop. It includes plenty of climbs and descents as well as quick changes in direction, so it made the perfect "training ground" without having to worry about rocks, roots, trees, or any other of the many obstacles normally encountered on a real mountain bike trail . After two months of building up my speed, endurance, and pedaling strength, I was ready to hit the trails.
I'm fortunate to have a great trail system a little over a mile from my house, so I just ride there instead of loading the bike and riding gear into a car and driving (plus it serves as more opportunity for exercise). Over several months I gained a lot of confidence and the ability to tackle many obstacles but realized I needed a way to stay attached to the bike for more bumpy terrain. A colleague at work was generous enough to give me two pairs of Shimano clipless pedals. I rushed out to buy shoes and SPD cleats and was quickly back on the trail. What a difference! If there is one investment worth making that can dramatically improve your riding, it has to be clipless pedals. Not only do they keep you attached to the bike, but they enforce a good foot position on the pedal (the ball of your foot is on the pedal instead of your arch as is the case with platform pedals) and give you the ability to "pedal up" by pulling up on pedal upstrokes as well as pushing down on down strokes. By itself, that gives you double the pedaling power since you can pull up on one side of the crank while simultaneously pushing down on the other. Steep climbs become a non-event.
With my increasing stamina, confidence, and pedal power came an increase in speed and riding skills. This increase meant I was starting to hit the limits of the bike so I began to look around for a natural upgrade. My two criteria were 29" wheels and disc brakes. Rim brakes just don't cut it when you need real stopping power. After some advice from a friend, I bought a 2013 Trek Cobia. In short, this bike rolls over anything in its path, fits like a glove, can go all day, and is easily as nimble as the 26" 4900 it replaced. If you've never tried a 29" mountain bike, it can be a real eye opener. The larger wheels give you much more rolling momentum than a 26" at the expense of needing more foot work to get up to speed. The trade off is well worth it. I'm able to coast down a trail and pass riders on 26" bikes while they're pedaling furiously to keep up.
After several months of increasing my abilities even further, I decided it was finally time to buy a full suspension bike. Having had such good experiences with my two Treks, I figured I'd put it at the top of my list but keep an open mind on brands. I looked at several Felt, Specialized, and Giant models, but nothing seemed to quite fit what I was after. I then turned to the Trek Superfly (the 100 AL) as it was the only reasonably priced 29" full suspension bike at the time. Another option was the Remedy 8, but at over $3,000, it was more like a pipe dream. On my next visit to my local bike shop, I got wind that the 2014 Fuel EX line was going 29", so I decided to hold off on a purchase. I checked back in a few weeks later with my eye on the Fuel EX 7, but was advised to pay the extra $300 for the better equipped Fuel EX 8. I usually don't care to get the upsell talk, but in this case, the recommendation was spot on. I took delivery of my new 2014 Fuel EX 8 (at the time, 1 of 7 remaining in the U.S. in my frame size!) on August 1st. When the weather finally cleared up a few days later I took it to the trail for a spin.
WOW! The test ride I did at the bike shop was nice but nothing comes close to riding on a real trail. The difference between the components in the Fuel and the Cobia was more than noticeable. You can really appreciate the engineering that went into this bike when you switch the CTD lever on the shock and fork and aim the bike down a hill. Coming from a hardtail that bumps and bounces all over to a full suspension bike that stays planted (thank you ABP!) frees you from worrying about keeping the bike under control so you can concentrate on the trail ahead. The Shimano SLX calipers stop on a dime without feeling too "rigid" like the Avid Elixers on the Cobia. I can go on, but the takeaway is this: combining 29" wheels with the impressive components and tech the Fuel line is known for makes for a bike that annihilates anything you can throw at it and dares you to go faster and ride harder. My average speed on my local trail is nearing 15 mph. That may not seem like much (it's basically standing still in road cycling), but consider that I'm going up and down hills, over rock gardens, over roots, up and down switchbacks and berms and on and on. In short, it's like I'm doing 120 on the freeway and getting away with it.
With that said, not everything is so rosy. In particular:
- You HAVE to get the EX 8 dialed in for maximum performance. Make sure the bike shop inflates the fork and shock according to your body weight. Experiment with the height of the saddle. Mine is set higher than I have it set on my hardtails (or at least it feels that way).
- Get comfortable switching the CTD levers based on the terrain you're riding. For the most part you can leave them both on the Trail setting, but I find myself frequently using the Descend setting on the fork and the Trail setting on the shock.
- Even though DRCV does feel like you have limitless travel, I've bottomed out my shock a few times with it set to Descend mode. I likely need to play with the settings and add some air, but using Trail mode keeps it in check at the expense of a slightly stiffer descent.
- The bike itself is actually quite attractive, but do realize it's gonna get scuffed up. I've had good luck with the frame, but for some reason, my shoes rubbed the Shimano logo off the cranks. The down tube guard helps to keep the frame from getting too scuffed.
- The stock Bontrager XR3 tires provide incredible grip but are a bear to get back on the rim when replacing a tube. Replacing tubes on the Cobia and 4900 is much easier.
- The Bontrager Race Lite grips are uncomfortable. I'll likely replace mine with the same Ergon GP1 grips I have on my Cobia.
Regardless, the good aspects of the EX 8 by far outweigh the negatives, with the negatives consisting mostly of complaints and not faults. If you're looking to purchase your first full suspension bike, I cannot recommend the Fuel EX 8 enough. The EX 7 is a great bike as well, but the brakes on the EX 8 are much better and worth the extra expense. What a journey it has been!
Some parting thoughts:
- I still have my 4900 and ride it occasionally. I have beaten this bike to death and it still goes. I've crashed on it too many times to count and yet nothing bends or breaks. Not bad for a $500 starter bike. It'll outlive me.
- I mostly use the Cobia when I can't make it to the trails these days. I intend to keep it and alternate between it and the EX 8. Riding a hardtail on tough technical terrain makes riding a full suspension bike on the same terrain a cinch. Hardtails build your mountain biking skills while a full suspension bike lets you get away with being more careless.
- The EX 8 performs surprisingly well on very muddy trails. Great handling, no fuss shifting, and easy to maintain crucial momentum. The second time I took mine out I returned with the entire bike and most of my legs covered in mud and a big smile on my face.
- I've yet to justify a carbon fiber frame. They eventually wear out and have to be replaced. I carry a water bladder, tools, food, and a cell phone so the weight reduction would be negligible for the extra expense. I'm happy to hear some cogent arguments for carbon fiber. Until then, aluminum frames are cheaper, longer lasting, and you can ride as aggressively as you want without fear of cracking the frame.
- Seat pouches are a waste of money. They never have enough room and when they do, they're an eyesore. I keep breaking mine. Buy a better CamelBak instead. I've got my eye on an Osprey Raptor 10. Tons of room for everything and will even carry an extra helmet!
- I'm not a Trek fan boy or even an advocate, but don't let anyone steer you from buying one. Do your research. Shop around and test ride several bikes. My purchase was based on copious research and shopping around, but also on the fact that I can ride my Treks as hard as I want without fear of breaking them. I had my eye on the Specialized Stumpjumper but the EX 8 won on the full floater suspension and components.
- Mountain biking is very addictive. Be sure to keep yourself in check or you might drain your bank account and/or alienate friends and family.
Yep, been a while since I've last posted something (actually this would be the first thing I've posted in 2011), but indispensable utilities like this one motivate me to post more often.
sshfs is part of the FUSE project for implementing file systems in userspace. A file system is typically run in kernel space, both because it gets more tightly integrated with the kernel and it becomes more transparent to the user. Running a file system in userspace alongside applications is a fairly new concept but it works surpringly well.
sshfs is easily installed from the ports system:
cd /usr/ports/sysutils/fusefs-sshfs; sudo make config-recursive; sudo make install clean
is all that's needed. With that step completed, enable mounting file systems devices as a normal user:
I recommend sticking that in /etc/sysctl.conf (omitting the sysctl : ) to make it permanent . Lastly, add 'fusefs_enable="YES"' to your /etc/rc.conf and run /usr/local/etc/rc.d/fusefs start to load the fusefs kernel module that was built with the port.
In order to mount remote machines over ssh, you'll use the sshfs utility. I highly recommend setting up password-less ssh login using a public/private key pair. A simple Google search will show you how that's done. As a first example of mounting a remote server (don't try to mount something from your local machine. weirdness will ensue.), use the following:
%sshfs remotebox: local_dir
Notice the colon after the remote machine. By default, sshfs will try to mount your home directory on the remote server as the local_dir. You can specify any paths your user would normally have access to:
%sshfs remotebox:/usr/src local_dir
The command above would mount the /usr/src directory on the remote machine as /usr/home/<your user>/local_dir. To unmount a directory, the documentation states that you should use fusermount -u <mountpoint> but I was perfectly ok using the normal umount command. To keep the mountpoint available, it's worth adding a keepalive to your ssh client configuration. Simply add something like ServerAliveInterval 5 to your ~/.ssh/config file to send keepalives every 5 seconds to the server.
Kismet is a very handy wireless scanning and capture program. Unlike programs such as Netstumbler, Kismet allows you to capture wireless traffic. This could, of course, be used for both good and evil, so I leave it up to you to do what you will.
Kismet is in Portage, but it lags a bit behind the current version (2008.05 is in Portage and 2010.07R1 is the latest as of this writing). You should be able to get the latest version by using an overlay, but I'm not keen on using overlay software unless I really need the bleeding edge. Use portage to install Kismet:
%sudo emerge -av net-wireless/kismet
Once installed, you'll need to modify the config file before you begin scanning. Open /etc/kismet.conf in your favorite text editor and add your login to the 'suidsuser' variable. There are quite a few options to configure, but the one you must configure is a capture source. For our needs, change the 'source=' line to the following:
I suppose this would work for most of the older IPW2100-based Centrino notebooks since the Centrino chipset is the same. Save the config and exit. You should be able to type 'kismet' at a terminal and have the client and server automatically start. If this doesn't work, you may have to manually change the kismet server to set uid. Do the following:
%sudo chmod +s /usr/bin/kismet_server
Try launching the program again. If you see a text based interface and some SSIDs, you're good to go! If not, you may have to fiddle with your settings a bit more. Either way, happy scanning!
I know, I know... why am I using a proprietary Unix after singing the praises of Debian GNU/Linux and dumping Mac OS X? Why the heck not? I love tinkering and experimenting with stuff. Besides, it wasn't terribly difficult to get Linux working on my Sun Ultra 1 Creator.
So why bother with proprietary Sun hardware at all? Because it's CHEAP and loads of fun to tinker with. Since the dot com crash of 2000, there's a plethora of Sun hardware to be found at very reasonable prices. My Ultra 1 Creator listed for $27,000 when it first came out in 1996 but I got it for FREE on Craigslist.
Since I got this machine free off Craigslist, and it did come with all the Solaris media (and then some), I have tinkered with it in several ways. When I first brought it home and booted it up, it had the 64-bit version of Solaris 9 on it. I've never really cared for Solaris (some call it Slowaris) so the first inclination was to install FreeBSD. I got that installed without any problems, including X.org, etc... Yawn. Now on to Linux. My first inclination was to try Gentoo but I gave up on it since I couldn't get the kernel to compile no matter what I tried.
Next I looked around to see which other Linux distros support UltraSPARC hardware. Since I'm particularly fond of Debian, I naturally jumped in that direction. Getting the current stable (Etch at that time) Debian CD to boot turned out to be a major drag since it would continually freeze when trying to load the SCSI driver, a known bug in the installer. For kicks, I decided to see if a network boot would get me where I wanted to be. Sure enough, after setting up a RARP and TFTP server, the installer went flawlessly when using the Debian "Testing" image.
But even that got boring. So now I decided to get Solaris installed again. Not only that, I want to get the 64-bit kernel booting. It turns out this is more of a challenge than I thought.
To begin, I put the Solaris 9 installation CD in the drive and boot up. If you're wondering why I don't use Solaris 10, that's because it isn't supported on such old hardware. The first hiccup I run into is the screen warning me that a 64-bit OS is installed but that the installer will boot into the 32-bit SunOS kernel. Not a big problem. When I see the "Initializing Memory" screen, I hit Stop + A to drop to an Open Boot PROM screen. At the "ok>" screen, I type "boot cdrom kernel/sparcv9/unix" and hit enter. Sure enough, it boots the 64-bit kernel.
Now for the next hiccup. When the installer starts, you eventually wind up in a small xterm-ish console and it asks you if it can repartition the hard drive so it can place some temporary installer files on the hard disk. Most users of modern operating systems have come to expect that the OS will just ask you if it can erase what's already there and move on. Not so with Solaris. It will warn you that it can't partition enough space from the available free space on the drive. So now what?
I wound up bailing out of the installer with a Control + C and got dropped to a root prompt. Remembering another time I had to use a new disk in Solaris, I entered the format command to start that utility. I formatted the drive, gave it a label and rebooted. This time it worked. However, when I got to the section of the installer where you actually install the Solaris software, my CD drive starting acting up so I couldn't complete the install. I'll come back to it later I suppose. I guess free hardware comes with a price?