New location

Come on over to my new site:

Going to be posting regularly there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lenz Sport "Fatmoth": freak of the week....

...well, not really a freak.  But not something you see often.

And if you're at all familiar with this bike's author, Mike Curiak, you'll know that every aspect was agonized over and refined (much to the chagrin of it's builder, Devin Lenz) until the bike was ready to do everything it was built for.

So, what, pray was it built for?  Specifically, as a bike-packing rig that would be able to access any trail from hardpack doubletrack to the softest loam beside the rivers and creeks of our western states.

First more on the bike:  you'll notice the wheels and tires look....substantial.  they are in fact based on the 29+ movement that Surly started with their Krampus.  For those unfamiliar, those are 29er rims (and everything is set up tubeless in this case) and the tires are 3.0 inches wide -- about a full half inch wider than the biggest downhill-specific tire out there.  The extra air volume allows for lower pressures, which in turn makes it easy to ride on soft sand where a standard mountain bike would squirm and wash out.

The frame is based off Lenz's Mammoth platform......5.0-5.5 inches of travel, a burlier top half of the frame (based on the Behemoth and Lunchbox iterations) and a more XC lower half (based on the Leviathan).

Set up with an 11-speed setup from SRAM.

So why would you want a bike that will access these soft trail when tons of prime singletrack exists right out the front door?  Well, the answer lies in what's strapped to the handlebars......look close.  

Yep, that's a boat.

You can just make out the carbon fiber paddle handle peeking out the side.

The idea is that you can ride a section of trail, put in on the river, float for a while until you hit the next section of trail and ride some more.  Sound contrived?  Not really.  This type of bike-packing allows you to ride and connect sections of trail and plan an A-to-B-to-C trip that lets you cover previously out of reach sections of trail.

So this is an interesting piece.  These bars pre-date this bike, but they're no less unique.  In the plastic squeeze bottle is alcohol -- as in rubbing alcohol.  Yes, the alcohol is being fed into the end of the handlebars.  

About three of these bottles is enough to light his custom stove for three days for meals and hot drinks.  The bars are titanium and have a special port welded into the side to safely hold and dispense the fuel as needed.

Believe it or not, that's the stove.  I don't think I'm allowed to give the schematics for that one, but it is probably the simplest camp stoves I have ever seen.

So there you have it.  A bike (and not even the first or second in this particular stable) that will likely see more saddle time than my bikes see in a month.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Building a Seven Axiom SL...and making it fully custom

"The right tool for the job...choosing every part to make the bike fully custom"

I make no secret about the fact that the part of my job that I enjoy the most is building a fully custom bike for a  client from the ground up.  There's something special about choosing each individual part for a specific reason -- making every part go to work and solve some problem for that particular client.  In addition to that, designing a frame where every tube, every joint, and every feature is decided upon based on the client's wants and needs.

It can be hard to see what I mean when talking abstractly about "some client" and "some bike".  So to elucidate better, I'm going to go through a recently built bike and tell you about the bike in detail and what each part "does" for the rider it was built for.

So here is the bike -- a custom-sized Seven Axiom SL with custom raked Seven 5E fork.

A bit about the frame itself:  A fully custom Seven Axiom SL frameset should tick a number of boxes -- 
  • The frame geometry should allow the rider to have their contact points (saddle, pedals and handlebars) in their most comfortable and efficient position.  This is the bare minimum that a custom builder should be doing for their client -- otherwise a stock, off-the-shelf bike would be providing the same benefit, although I'm constantly surprised of the number of new "custom" bikes I see in my studio for bike fitting services, that have suspiciously stock-looking geometry (and an uncomfortable cyclist on them to boot)
    • Needless to say every tube length and angle on a Seven bike that I am involved with designing is agonized over to make sure it will allow my client their best fit now, AND ten years from now (after all, most of us are slowly changing in our fit parameters)
  • Tube selection and butting/layup schedule should be matched to the rider:  Metal bikes (titanium and steel) can be butted -- or have material removed from each tube to make that tube be more flexible or stiff in a given direction.  Starting with the proper tube selection (i.e. a larger rider is going to need tubes with either a greater diameter and/or thicker walls) is key and then the fabricators need to intelligently butt and miter those tubes so they match the rider's size and desired bike characteristics.  Carbon bikes are made differently -- tubes and joints are created by laying uni-directional carbon fabric (think cloth where all the fibers run the same direction) down in particular sequence and pattern.  In a very basic explanation, if a tube has fibers running every direction but one, the tube will be more likely to flex in that direction.
  • Customized fork rake: this is the often over-looked secret weapon for a custom bike.  When done right (and this means meshing perfectly with the frame geometry) the right fork will make the balance and handling of the bike absolutely sublime.  It will respond predictably but effortlessly to its rider making them feel confident and stable at any speed and on any terrain.  Get the fork wrong and you end up with a poorly balanced, ill-fitting bike that doesn't corner well and often has a speed-wobble.
  • Accessories:  These are characteristics or add-ins we can put on a bike to make it do everything the client wants it to do.
    • Does the client do long rides and not like to wear a hydration pack?  Then three or more water bottle mounts may be necessary.  
    • Are they a bigger rider that lives in very mountainous area?  Disc brakes may make descending safer and more confidence-inspiring (yep, even on a road bike)
    • Do they want to travel all over the world with their bike?  Then S&S couplers, that allow the bike to break into two pieces and fit in an airline-approved suitcase, may be the ticket
    • This client thought she might do some light touring at some point in the future, so we put rack mounts on the frame -- they don't add much weight, nor do they get in the way so why not?
Simple little upper rack mounts above the brakes

On to the wheels......they're Stan's No Tubes Alpha 340 series, tubeless ready wheels with Hutchinson Intensive tubeless tires.

Why we used them:  The area this client rides in  -- western Colorado -- has a lot of thorns (the most troublesome are "goatheads" that spring from roadside weeds) and while it's not uncommon for riders to go  through long periods of flat-free existence, equally common are horrendous rides with 3 or 4 flat tires in the span of 10 miles.  The Stan's No Tubes tubeless wheelsets are great for their flat resistance -- my No Tubes mountain setups have been flat free for many months -- but I've not found the road wheels to be the most stout, so I think their most effective use is under riders that don't tip the scale over about 160 pounds.  My client was a good three to four dozen pounds under this threshold, though, so I knew they would work well.

Handlebars:  In this case we went with FSA Wing Pro Compact.  

Why we used it:  This is a great little handlebar for little hands.  Also, it has a decent flattened section on the tops which, when oriented right, provide a lot of hand positions.  I recommend this bar often when smaller riders want some shape to their bar, but don't want to spend an extra $300 on a set of ENVEs or 3Ts (my two favorite high dollar bars -- because they're strong and comfortable and really take full advantage of carbon as a material.  Many carbon bars end up having little weight savings or ride-quality improvement over a well made aluminum bar because of the way they're laid up).

Grouppo:  Shimano Ultegra (10 speed)

Why we used it:  11 speed wasn't yet available when this bike went into production, and given the option we probably would have gone with it, but it wasn't, so there.  This client test rode some Shimano and SRAM equipped bikes I loaned her and preferred the feel of the two lever shifting system on the Shimano.  Even though the SRAM is lighter, she just didn't fall in love with the Double-Tap system of the SRAM -- just personal preference; nothing more.

We went with 170mm cranks -- she is a smaller rider and according to her bike fit, among the readily available crank lengths, this length proved to be most efficient.  Is this the most efficient length for her?  Potentially....I know, not a resounding endorsement, but until crankarm selection becomes common from ~150 mm to ~210 mm (without spending a fortune) we have to make do with what we have.  Not everyone is ready to pay $800+ for custom crank arms.

The gearing included a compact front chainring and an 11-28 cassette in back.  This was nearly identical to the gearing she had on her old bike.  But an interesting thing happened.  Once we built the bike and she rode it for a few weeks, she found that the compact crankset no longer felt right.  She felt like she wanted more gear nearly all the time.  She wasn't particularly well-balanced on her old bike, which was a main reason for her going custom (and this tends to be very common especially among my clients that are under 5'4" -- it can be exceptionally difficult to find a bike that provides the proper fit coordinates as well as balances the client's weight appropriately over the bike) and once we did build a bespoke frameset for her, and then outiftted it with parts that would nail her fit coordinates AND compliment her riding style, she simply rode stronger and more efficiently.  This was not the first time this has happened, and one unfortunate side-effect was the need for a new crankset.  Certainly not a cheap part, so I got her the standard crankset at a severe discount.  She decided to keep the compact crankset on hand in case she had a really long tour or race rather than have me sell it for her and deduct further from her cost on the new one.  

This is probably the hardest customization to predict -- when an improvement in bike fit will create a need to "gear up".  Also, it can be a tough sell -- imagine telling a client "No I think you're going to want to change the gearing you've had for years because the new custom bike will immediately make you more powerful and efficient" -- sounds a bit too much like a sales line.  If the new bike is going to be built for a different task -- like touring -- then it's relatively easy to recommend a gearing change, but predicting the degree of benefit someone gets from a custom build is a bit like reading tea leaves, because it can't be easily or effectively tested without being on the custom frame already.

Seatpost:  Seven custom titanium setback post

Why we used it:  A titanium post can work wonders on the comfort and ride feel of any bike, no matter what material the bike is made of.  BUT, in my experience, you'll get a lot more out of it, if you have a decent length of seatpost sticking out of the frame.  About 6 inches (~15.25 cm) of seatpost from the saddle rail clamp down to the top of the seat tube is a reasonable starting point.  Less than that and you likely won't get the nice compliance the titanium provides.  

When this bike was first designed, it became clear that given her optimal saddle height we would have at least this amount so we went ahead with the Ti post.

If we hadn't had enough post length could we have modified the geometry of the frame to for more post?  Well, we did modify the geometry to account for the setback nature of the post, but modifying a frame design for more seatpost length will affect the standover, the top tube slope (which in turn changes how the head tube is welded or molded into the bike), and will affect how water bottles fit inside the frame.  Not insurmountable problems, but ones that could be greater than just not having a titanium post.

A few notes:  

-- in the pictures, you may notice that we have 3cm of (titanium) spacers under the stem and a couple mm of spacers on top.  I usually start a client a bit higher in their position and then we slowly lower them into position over the course of their follow up fit appointments.  I've found it's a much smoother process when we start high and work our way down with bar position.  Will we always need those spacers?  Perhaps not, but if we don't we can always cut more steerer off later and remove some spacers -- can't add them back if we cut too much the first time.  It's typical for me, and should be "best practice" at every bike shop, to start with as long a steerer as allowed at first.

-- the clamp on the Seven seatpost is great.  It has two bolts on the head: loosen one and you can control saddle fore/aft, loosen the other and you can control tilt.  The adjustments are independent of one another, which makes fine tuning saddle fit a breeze.

So that's the long and short of it.  Many hundreds of tiny decisions, all having to be made with rider fit and efficiency kept in mind all the while

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Disappearing Bikes: what happened to all the bike sizes?

"Duh" would be an appropriate response to me saying that most of the bike industry is given over to carbon.  Clearly that's the case, and we've benefited by getting lighter and occasionally more comfortable frames and components.

Did ya ever wonder what, if anything, we lost or gave up?
Bikes that's fit well

Bike manufacturers, like any other business, always want to save money and increase their profit margin.  Carbon molds, from which the bikes are made, are expensive, so making fewer molds saves money.  Fewer molds means fewer sizes  
Stock (as in non-custom) manufacturers say they can fit 85%-90% of the population, and while it’s technically true that they make bikes that fit people from 5’1” to 6’”4”, and it’s technically true that 85%-90% of the population is within this height range, what it doesn’t say is that there are more people falling between sizes because there just aren’t that many of them.  
Not too long ago many (but certainly not all) manufacturers made bikes from 48cm to 62cm in 1-2 cm  increments (so 7 - 14 sizes).  Sound like overkill?  A great side benefit of this was that if someone was sold a bike that was the wrong size, which of course did happen, it wouldn’t be off by much.  Now, with so few sizes, when your local shop gets it wrong, which still happens a lot, it’s a much bigger problem.  
In fact I see many clients, that are generally very average in their height, arm reach, flexibility, etc and there still isn’t a good stock option for them…..none of the sizes are a good match.  “Custom bike for them!” you say?  True, but there used to be a time when custom bikes were necessary for the very tall, the very short, or someone with a unique physical attribute that required custom adjustment (of course there is always the sage individual who understood all the benefits of a bespoke bike and just wanted one).  Now, however, custom bikes are being made more and more often for riders who just happen to be in-between sizes.
The trend of fewer sizes carries into the forks that are made as well.  Carbon forks come from carbon molds, so making fewer fork molds saves money too.  Making only one or two fork rakes to fit all the sizes of a bike model often makes for some sketchy handling.  Frame and fork need to work hand in hand with one another and if a less than ideal fork size is used just because it’s convenient, it can lead to some very poor handling. If your bike doesn't feel stable when you descend, or you're unable to ride no-handed you might be experiencing some of this.
The largest factors involved in how a bike handles in order of importance are:
  1. the fit of the bike - fit determines weight distribution and how your body weight “drapes” over the bike
  2. proper front axle placement - if your fork rake is off or not ideal then your bike will feel either twitchy/sketchy (i.e. it deviates off a straight line too easily) or too ponderous (it’s difficult to get into and out of a turning radius)
  3. bottom bracket drop - think of this controlling how high your center of mass is while you sit on the bike.  Smaller bikes will generally have lower bottom brackets (therefore more drop).
  4. proper rear axle placement - chainstay length is the main determinant here, and generally, bigger bikes should have longer chainstays so that the high saddle position of taller riders doesn’t cantilever their weight way out behind their rear axle.
So here are some numbers from some of the larger manufacturers.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather, I tried to survey the most popular bike models among these brands.
Trek - Men’s: up to 7 sizes and 2 different forks, 3 bottom bracket drops; Women’s: 6 sizes, 1 fork, 1 chainstay length, (effectively) 1 bottom bracket drop Overall grade: 7.5/10
Trek does make some women’s WSD bikes with more sizes, but when you look at the geometry like Domane and Madone WSD models, their geometry doesn’t vary from the men’s bikes in any meaningful way -- so…..they’re not really made for women.
Note: When I mention “effectively 1 chainstay” it just means that technically there is a second size but it is so small a difference that renders it basically irrelevant.
Cannondale - Men’s: 6-8 sizes, 1-2  forks, (effectively) 1 chainstay length, 3 bottom brackets drops (but barely) ; Women’s: 5 sizes, 2 forks, 1 chainstay, 1 bottom bracket drop  Overall Grade: 6.5/10
Specialized - Men’s: 5-6 sizes, 1-2 forks, 2-3 chainstay lengths, 3 bottom brackets; Women’s: 5 sizes, 2 forks, 2-3 chainstay (effectively) 1 bottom bracket drop Overall Grade: 6.5/10
Giant - Men’s: 6 sizes, no information on forks, 1 chainstay; Women’s: 3-4 sizes, no info on forks, 1 chainstay Overall Grade: 4/10
Felt - Men’s: 6 sizes, 3 forks, 4 chainstay lengths, (effectively) 1 bottom bracket drop; Women’s: 4 sizes, 1 fork, 2 chainstay lengths, 1-2 bottom bracket drops Overall Grade: 7/10
Note:  I figured someone would ask “well, what about Wilier?” since that’s the main stock brand I carry.  If you consider me putting this in here to be spam, then feel free to skip past it, I won’t mind.  Otherwise, here you go:
Wilier - Men’s: 6 sizes, 3 forks, 5-6 chainstay lengths, 3-4 bottom bracket drops; Women’s: 3 sizes, 2 forks, 1 chainstay, 1 bottom bracket drop Overall Grade: 8.5/10

I broke things up into Men’s and Women’s flavors here for illustrative purposes.  The idea of a women’s specific bike, as in “are women’s specific bikes even necessary?”  is another blog post unto itself.  As you can guess, I don’t think they are necessary, so my bias led me to not weight the poor geometry available among the brands too heavily against them.
I’m not a complete curmudgeon.  I do think that there are huge benefits to today’s bikes…..if you’re the right size.  The advancement in components alone are worth the price of admission.  I think there’s work to be done, though…..

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Made-to-order bikes

Not every made-to-order bike is a custom bike but every custom bike is made to order.

Sometimes I have a client that wants that wants to build a bike but the off the shelf varieties don't cut the mustard, and they have a budget in mind as well.  Because it's not going to be a custom bike (defined as a frame entirely designed in every aspect of geometry, materials, and aesthetic for a single individual) the client knows there will be some compromises -- usually in fit but also potentially in ride quality, handling, etc.

In this case, what was required was a light-duty mountain bike (mostly jeep roads and some light single-track) that would travel around the country on an RV.  She wanted a rack on the back so that she could get some groceries if needed; flip-flop pedals (one side clip; one side flats) so she could ride around without her bike shoes, a wired computer (she'd had bad luck with wireless models), and tubeless wheels (she really disliked getting flat tires).

None of this bike came assembled -- each piece was ordered individually and each piece was purposely chosen  to satisfy either cost, fit, or function.

It's simple, and not flashy, but it works well together.  More importantly it ticks all the boxes.  Thanks for reading....

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Ultegra shift levers set up evenly on 3T Ergonova Pro handlebar

This is one of those problems that I'd file under a "Nuisance" because some riders won't notice while others can feel a millimeter discrepancy immediately.  I hate it when shifter hoods are set up unevenly.  Often the difference isn't much, but it seems like such a rookie bike building mistake -- unless you've ever built a bike from the ground up in which case you know how hard it can be, with some bars, to get the shifters in exactly the same place.

Here's my little trick to a perfectly balanced shifter position:

Take one of the shifters and slide them on the bar into where you think you want them positioned. 

Don't worry, we can go back and move both of them if you'd realize you estimated poorly the first time.  If you want to be more thorough you can  put the bar on the bike and sit on it to get a more accurate first placement.

Once you have the first shifter in place and just lightly tightened, set the bar on a flat surface so the bottom of the lever blade props the bar up.

Then slide the other shifter onto the bar and move it up until both lever blades and both drops of the bar touch the flat surface evenly.

Test to make sure that all four points are touching in the same by lightly pressing on each drop in turn:

Just like with an uneven kitchen table, if things are off then one drop will rock when you press it.  The rule of thumb is that whichever drop rocks -- that shifter needs to go down slightly (or the opposite shifter needs to go up).

And don't just rely on the few bars that have hash marks on them to help you line the shifters up -- often (as in the case with this bar) they can be off slightly.

Simple trick to dead even shifter position.....thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

K2's Seven Axiom SL

Build: custom frame, custom fork, custom seatpost, Stan's tubeless Alpha 340 wheels, Shimano Ultegra

Paint is electric raspberry in "Pointed Panels"

Just  a little customization (and a pump peg!)

custom titanium seatpost

Chris King headset and titanium spacers to boot

Rack mounts (just in case the urge strikes for a credit card tour)

head badge

Not many people can pull off titanium welds like this

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

To be or not to be....(on the fit-bike)

A fit-bike or fit-cycle is a stationary bike that can be adjusted in just about any direction so that it can assume the position for a rider that's 6'6" or one that's 4'6".  

A fit-bike can be a useful tool to have as a bike fitter -- the "tubes" of the bike can be adjusted to almost any length to create a mock-up of a certain bike frame.   I've had one for about 7 or 8 years now and I use it often.  Mainly when I am helping someone find the right size bike to buy when they don't own a bike (I can mock-up a bike frame they're interested in to see if their optimal position is possible on it) or when I'm building a custom bike for someone (in which case we can craft the frame geometry to exact measurements that match their riding position perfectly).  Aside from these situations, my fit-bike remains off to the side collecting dust, because most of the 200 or so bike fits I do every year, are performed with the client's bike hooked up to a stationary trainer so we can make changes, big and very small, to the actual bike and components that the person will be riding every day.
Adjustable seat tube

adjustable top tube

Some bike shops have begun to use their fit-bikes to fit all their clients -- even those that are getting a fit on their current bike.  So rather than putting the client's own bike up on a stationary trainer and making changes to it, the shop will set up the client on the fit-bike and change the set up (remember they're infinitely adjustable) until the shops deems the new position correct (how they do this and what knowledge/experience they bring to the table to make this determination is an article unto itself)

On the surface it seems like it might be a good way obtain the ideal, the best, the most efficient, most comfortable position for the client on a bike (assuming the fitter knows what they're doing).

But this method of fitting falls short on a number of fronts.

First, their bike may not be able to attain this "ideal" position, so while the new position is great, it bears no usefulness to them in he real world -- hence, why I use the fit cycle only when the client is intent on getting a new bike. 

By far the biggest negative to doing all fittings on a fit cycle is that the client won't have exactly the same contact points (saddle, bars/hoods, pedals/cranks) as on the bike they're actually going to ride.  Good bike fitting comes down to changes millimeters at a time often -- ask any of the hundreds of clients I see that have only very small modifications done to their bike with dramatic effect, and they'll tell you that even very small differences can have a monumental effect.  Now take a fit cycle that has a different saddle on it than the one you're riding and you're setting yourself up for trouble.  Even if a very conscientious fitter puts your saddle on there, you have to ask, what about the bar?  What about the hoods?  Are they the same shifter hoods exactly?  The difference between SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo in ergonomics and form are enough different that fitting you on one and then trying to match those measurements to your existing bike (with different shifters) is a losing battle.  Then you have to ask about the position of the hoods on the bars -- even a small difference here changes the angle your wrist and hand will rest at, not to mention how the handlebar is constructed (traditional, anatomic, semi-anatomic, short and shallow??...)

I see bike fit as the most important aspect of our relationship with our bikes.  It's the best way to make sure a client is happy on the bike, and therefore makes it more likely that they'll continue to ride their bike -- which is the point.  There is a significant level of trust that I have with my clients.  They have to trust that I'm going to use all of my background as a practicing physical therapist and 16 years experience doing this work with cyclists to make the right decisions to make them as comfortable and efficient as possible on their bike -- trust that I won't frivolously add in new parts that I deem "necessary".  I could recommend a lot of add-ons and pad their bill -- I probably have enough trust with my clients where they wouldn't question me if I did, but I couldn't sleep well if I operated that way.

Many shops (at the urging of bike industry financial advisors) get into bike fitting because it can be a significant revenue stream.  I see it differently.  My clients aren't portals for parts and accessories I can sell them, I see them as a referral engines as they tell friends and family of the effective, efficient, and well reasoned bike fit they received. 

The benefit of doing fittings on a fit-cycle rather than on the client's own bike, benefits mostly the shop and not the client because it puts more emphasis on new equipment and less emphasis on the careful attention to the position of their contact points.  By purposely putting the client on a different saddle, handlebar, seatpost, stem, etc it becomes easy to reinforce the "need" to change these parts (and therefore sell more stuff). 

As an example, let's take a look at the saddle.  Assume that a client is placed on a fit cycle in a new position and they have a saddle that differs from the one on their existing bike.  The new position (on the fit cycle), and by extension the saddle, may be more comfortable and/or efficient (or at least it should be) so it becomes easy to convince a trusting client that they need this new saddle.


It sounds reasonable enough too -- the client is more comfortable so it makes sense to have their bike set up differently and to put this saddle under them, right?  But remember there are at least two changes that occurred here -- the saddle (or handlebars or shifter hoods or pedals/cleats) is positioned differently, AND the saddle is a new model.  Speaking specifically about saddles, about 75% of the time the saddle itself isn't the problem (nor the solution).  Rather its the position of the saddle that ends up fixing the problem.  This fact is easy to obscure from a client when doing a fit on a fit cycle though and often they can easily be talked into buying the new saddle even when just applying this new position to their existing bike (and leaving the new saddle on the shelf) would do the trick.  This same method can be applied to other components on the bike to convince a client they need new stuff.  Not cool.

This trickery aside, my main point that its impossible to accurately fit someone on components that don't match the ones on their bike, is the main limitation to the "fit-cycle bike fit".  All those minute and millimetric variations make a difference and limit the effectiveness of a fit this way.

Now you know why its best to get fit for your bike....while on your bike!

Friday, February 1, 2013

SRAM XX1 setup tip

Actually there will be two tips I learned but for the second one I will post a video soon about that.

This tip is more of a testament to SRAM drivetrains.  I've always been a fan of "low tension" systems.  Meaning that the required amount of cable tension to actuate a clean shift is not very high.  Low tension systems are easy to set up, don't come out of tune nearly as often, and overall provide fewer hassles.

Campy road groups certainly fit in this group -- when you hook up the rear derailleur cable with just light hand tension, it usually requires only a couple quarter turns of the barrel adjusters to get things lined out.

The SRAM XX1 system takes this to new lengths.  Usually when I get a shifter I make sure the barrel adjuster is dialed all the way in because I always have to add a little tension once I have the cable hooked up.  The XX1 shifter (in this case a twist shifter) was dialed out about 4 or 5 full turns, so I dutifully dialed it in as usual.  I quickly found out that I almost couldn't hook up the cable loose enough to begin with.  After freeing the cable from the derailleur, I returned the barrel adjusters to about 4 turns out, lightly hooked up the cable again, and then needed to remove tension by dialing the barrel adjuster in a couple of turns to get it shifting smoothly.

First time for everything I guess.