Friday, February 05, 2016

Friday News And Views

There are no more Buzzards.....at least for now.
Singular Cycles: A New Era

Let's see now, I think I first heard about Singular Cycles back when a few of the bikes showed up on mtbr.com back in '07, maybe it was? I cannot remember anymore for sure. I do recall that my interest was piqued by a planned drop bar specific, single speed-able 29"er dubbed the Gryphon. I was patiently waiting on information as the prototypes were tested, and then something pivotal happened. A friend of mine, Marty Larson, began impoting the frames. Well, I got my hands on a Gryphon and ended up loving it. Then I found a Buzzard on my doorstep. No.......not the fowl, but a steel hard tail. I also really enjoy that bike as well. Then there were Peregrines, Kites, Puffins......and all of them are cool. Everyone of them were designed, guided through manufacturing, distributed, and marketed by Sam Alison, who for all intents and purposes is Singular Cycles. Like many creatives, Mr. Alison isn't necessarily keen on doing all the tedious business stuff, so he has enlisted help.

Frank Dressler in Weselberg, Germany, a long time Singular dealer, has partnered up with Mr. Alison to be a warehousing, logistics, and administration arm for Singular Cycles.  Singular will for now, and for the immediate future, downsize its model line offerings and will possibly re-introduce models or introduce completely new models in the future.

I look forward to seeing what happens to this brand in the future. I have a feeling some interesting models may be coming at some point in the future.

New lube for the Lube-Off
Not Sade'

Yesterday I received an unexpected package which contained bicycle chain lube. Okay, it wasn't totally a surprise. I had gotten wind of this stuff via the RidingGravel.com gig. I knew that this company was looking to sponsor our Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast, (which, by the way, just recorded another new show with the guys from The OGRE), and that they were interested in us testing the stuff. Well, lo and behold, here it is!

This is also kind of an ironic in the sense of the timing of its arrival here as I was about to publish my latest findings for the Winter session of the Lube Off here. Well, now that this stuff has hit the doorstep, I believe I'll hold off for just a bit longer so that I can include this product in on that update.

The next update should be in about two weeks then, and I will include Tri-Flow, DuMonde Tech, my experimentation with straight up WD-40, and this Smooth Operator stuff. This Winter has been extremely cooperative, in the sense that we've had everything- rain, snow, grit, slush, dirt, and whatever else is on the streets now. There will be a few surprises, and of course, this new "unknown" lube. Their site says it is good for wet or dry applications, so what we have now for conditions should put it to a good test.

The Winter Session of the Lube Off will be coming to a close soon, so I will have to get in as much on the Smooth Operator stuff as I can in the meantime. I may introduce one more contender that claims dual-duty as well. So, stay tuned for that.....

Tragedy:

As I sat down to write this up Thursday evening, the news broke that BMX and X Games legend, Dave Mirra, had died in an apparent suicide. I'm definietely not a BMX guy by a long shot, but I have heard of Dave Mirra, of course. He was a much bigger figure in the world of cycling than being just a BMX guy. To wit: My co-worker Andy texted me about it, and that was the first I had heard about this. Neither one of us are BMX guys, and I am old enough to be Andy's father, so that should tell you how far and wide Dave Mirra's influence was felt.

That's all for this week. Don't pass the chance to reach out to someone this weekend. You never know........

Thursday, February 04, 2016

We Always Knew It Could Be This Way

Gary Fisher had it figured out right away.... (circa 1999)
Take a quick glance at this image of a bicycle drawing. Would you believe it if I told you this was a current idea, waiting to be developed by some small brand that wanted a short rear end, long top tube hard tail? You could easily be forgiven for thinking just that, as this rendering is very contemporary for today's tastes in 29"er hard tail design. But here's the kicker- it is a drawing from 1999. 

Gary Fisher, who had just gotten a few sets of the unprecedented Nanoraptor 29"er tires to play with, was busy designing a 29"er frame set with WTB's Mark Slate and Steve Potts. Fisher knew he wanted a shorter rear end, a long, low front end, and a suspension fork. He wanted a front derailleur as well because you just had to have one. It would be some dozen years or so before SRAM would introduce a 1X drive train with gearing that was anywhere close to a triple crank set's gearing. That kind of nixed the short chain stay deal. Gary tried a modded front derailleur, but of course, everyone but a few visionaries thought that Mr. Fisher was out of his mind. It would all be deemed as a totally impossible thing to do with those "wagon wheels". Subsequently, many compromises were made which didn't do 29"ers any good, but as we all know now, they were overcome one by one until today.

I haven't written much about 29"ers here since, well, there wasn't a whole lot to say in recent years. The industry had its attention diverted elsewhere. However; I've been casually observing a trend in the last few years. 29"er FS designs with very good geometry numbers and performance that was knocking the socks off of riders all over. Brands like Banshee, Kona, Lenz, Transition, Santa Cruz, and Evil were dishing out stuff that was hearkening back to the stuff Mr. Fisher had floating around in his brain back 17 years ago. Only thing was that now it was actually possible to pull this stuff off. 

The new Hightower (29"er) from Santa Cruz.
 Tuesday it was all over the web that Santa Cruz had introduced a new bike that had this "forward thinking geometry". (<===HA!) Interestingly, you almost miss in all the hoopla that this bike is a 29"er. It was almost as if Santa Cruz doesn't want you to think about that part. In fact, one description of the bike from a journo who was flown in to try one out in South America said something to the effect that he didn't think about the bike being a 29"er the whole time he was riding it. Then he went on to say that he had a rough relationship with 29"ers, (well....all big time bike journos say that, don't they?), and that this bike was convincing him they weren't all that bad for him. Gee, welcome to 2009, Sir! Anywho......

The thing is that now, after a short pause to have some flings with other off road ideas, the bigger brands have started to come around to the idea that maybe these 29"ers "can do", and that nothing is really impossible for 29"ers, except maybe that they don't fit a lot of women and smaller riders all that well. Ride the biggest wheels you can fit on, and that seems wise.

Somewhere in a fancy suit and tie, I imagine Mr. Fisher seeing all of this and that a wry smile curls his handlebar mustache a little bit. It could always have been this way. He saw this years ago, and so did Devin Lenz, and a few others who "got it" years ago. It isn't anything new. But really, nothing is new in the bicycle world. We just have the ways and means to actually make it work better now.

Note: This post was inspired by the head cheese at TNI these days, Grannygear, and a post he did recently on the state of 29"ers in 2016. Read it HERE.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Winter Storm Forecast Fail

This map, which was produced about 46 hours before the storm, shows my city in a blizzard
Well, you probably have heard this said in several ways; "Weatherman- The only job where you get paid to be wrong". Now, to be fair, I'm sure that weather folks are trying their darnedest to be right. They want to get the forecast right, but predicting the dynamic forces of nature correctly has proven to be a slippery thing. Especially Winter forecasting. This is a story of how that looks. In my opinion, this happens a lot around here, but maybe I am wrong. Anyway......

Starting a week ago we started hearing about a huge storm that was going to strike Iowa smack dab through the center at a diagonal from Southwest to Northeast. Models used to forecast were dead on a track that varied only a tiny bit coming up to Ground Hog Day. Just about Sunday or so, a slight shift in what they were saying to the Northwest was shown. Still, Waterloo, the city where I live, was in the storm's sights and we were to get up to 10" of snow with 40mph winds. Yes, that would have been a blizzard. 
  
About Monday afternoon, I noticed the radar of the oncoming storm. I saw that the forecast track of the deepening low pressure was to the Northwest of what they had been saying it would be all along. Hmm..... As things progressed on through Monday night, I became more and more convinced that we were not going to have a blizzard. Then the National Weather Service removed Waterloo from the blizzard warning to a Winter Storm Warning with up to 10" of snow. I planned on sending Mrs. Guitar Ted to work Tuesday with an extra set of clothes, in case she had to stay at work all night Tuesday night.

Heavy snow started at about 8:00am in Waterloo. This was about 8:30am on my way to work. 
When I awoke on Tuesday, and looked at the radar, it wasn't looking like we were going to be in the bullseye at all, but we were in for a grazing shot, and if the storm deepened and stayed close to the original track, we could have gotten all that snow, perhaps. When we awoke, there was only about an eighth of an inch of snow on the ground, and it wasn't snowing at all.

Snow started just as I was about to leave for work, at about 8:00am. By 8:30am, snow was coming down in a blinding sheet. I was covered with a coating of snow on my windward facing body parts. The Blackborow DS was cutting along like there was nothing in its way. I made it to work with no trouble at all, but as I got closer, I noticed a change. The temperature was getting warmer, the snow was slowing down, and I was dripping as my body heat was now melting the snow faster than it could accumulate on me.

Gotta love the Blackborow DS in conditions like we had Tuesday.
I didn't stay at work long. It wasn't busy, and I didn't have much to do otherwise, so after I helped a customer or two, I headed back at about 10: 30am. By this time the wind had picked up a tad, but it was no where near what had been predicted. The snow was steady, but now it was very, very wet. The Blackborow DS tires were gripping the snow and surprisingly, it was not sticky! I was riding right through about 5" of fresh snow, and the grip was really quite good.

Just about back home......
The snow was tapering off. I got home a little past 11:00am, and by 1:30pm it was all over. The storm had passed us by far, far to the North. We were in a huge "dry slot" and we could possibly get a back side flurry or two, but it was obvious that the forecast wasn't on target. Not that I was upset. we got some snow, it didn't get insanely cold afterward, and the winds weren't a factor at all. Overall, I was pleased. Even though we haven't had a blizzard in a long time, I don't get the same weird thrill that some people do by having that sort of thing happen. Been there, done that? Yeah, that certainly factors into this, but I also don't care for being confined to quarters for extended periods of time, which is what blizzards do to you. Or should, anyway.....

The good thing about this particular snow was that it sets up really well and I had zero traction issues coming home. I suspect it will make for good fat biking for a while. We are supposed to get pretty warm again by the weekend, so things have the potential to go all to mush since the water content of this snow is pretty high. We will see how it goes. I mean they could be all wrong again, ya know!

So, that wasn't much of a storm for something that was built up over a week ago and hyped like crazy by the media. Oh sure, there were blizzard conditions in Nebraska and Northwestern Iowa, but the blizzard wasn't nearly as widespread as what was promised, and folks were in panic mode in may cases for no good reason. That seems to be the nature of our weather forecasting and how society deals with it now. They have a word for over-protective parenting- helicopter parents. Maybe we also have helicopter weather reactions these days. Bah! Whatever you want to call it, I think it is over-reacting and unnecessarily cautious. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A Tale Of Two Commutes

The snow was still firm enough last Friday to ride on.
The commutes of late have all been undertaken on the Ti Mukluk fat bike. In the Winter, it is just easier to hop on a bike with flat pedals, capable wheels, and with the Body Float seat post, it rides like a Cadillac. Why wouldn't I ride this bike back and forth to work? I can wear boots that keep my feet warm, or hiking boots when it is warmer, or Adidas when it gets to the 40's. Actually, on Friday it almost was that warm here.

Anyway, I took a longer route home to see if perhaps some trails had been ridden in, but I found my usual "dirt home from work" route had not been ridden in. No worries! I took a different way, went up on along the bike path on the south side of the Cedar River, and through a bit of downtown before hitting the neighborhood near my place. It was a really pleasant ride. Only one real issue was nagging me about the bike, and that was that the front shifter had jammed and I was stuck in the big ring. That was okay though, as I prefer that to being stuck in a lower range.

It was pretty surprising, but the snow was holding up rather well yet on Friday when I rode home. I was pretty sure it would be totally mushed out, but I was wrong. However; Saturday was to be even warmer, and Sunday was to be warm, so who knew then what Monday would bring?

A beautiful day Friday for a long way home ride from work.
Monday's commute was a somber, moody atmosphere.
Saturday I had big plans for a long ride. The day was perfect for it, but I was thwarted by a dizziness, stuffy head, and a cruddy throat. Mrs. Guitar Ted prescribed rest, fluids, and no riding. Bummer! Well.........she was right though. I ended up feeling better on Sunday, and my son and I did a brisk 45 minute walk/jog which got my exercise in. It wasn't much, but I am healthier for it. Had I ridden, I probably would be more ill now than I should be.

Anyway, the snow was melting all weekend and in to Monday. I was shocked by how much snow was gone on my early morning commute. Mud and slop were everywhere, and snow cover had receded to the point where large patches of grass were visible in many places now. It was really foggy, so I had lights on front and rear on the Muk. Calm before the storm we were to get Tuesday, perhaps. A moody, somber calm, which was in stark contrast to Friday's commute.

I had to be very careful of the "black ice" patches of refrozen snow melt from Sunday. It was treacherous in a few places and I walked my bike a couple of times to avoid certain harm to my body. The other notable thing was how many rubber-neckers there were yesterday morning. More so than usual. Maybe they figured I was a crazy, unprepared for a Winter storm cyclist? I don't know, but I had two people slow significantly to stare and another actually rolled down her side window to get a better look. Weird.

What the....?!! My crank arm came off on the way home.
On the way back from work, the temperatures had risen above freezing again, and the snow was melting. I was hammering away and crusing fast when about a mile from home, I felt something like a bent pedal spindle feels like. I immediately soft pedaled, and then coasted to a stop. I reached down to spin the pedal, which I figured was failing, to see if I was correct. I have had these Fixation Mesa MP pedals for several years now, so it would not have surprised me to have found that they had given up the ghost finally. But no! The crank arm comes off in my hand!

So, I was quite surprised by this, and was thinking I may be walking a mile. Upon further inspection, the spindle and crank splines looked to be intact. Hmm.....

The crank is a surly OD model, and it has an aluminum pre-load plug that screws into the spindle and draws the non-driveside arm onto the spindle when the pinch bolts are loose. I could not find that bit anywhere. I figured it had fallen off somewhere between work and where I was, but that was three plus miles I wasn't going to cover again. The arm wouldn't slip back on the spindle until I loosened the pinch bolts, so I did that and pushed the crank arm on as good as I could there. I tightened the pinch bolts as tightly as I could with a multi-tool and then gingerly pedaled it back a mile or so to the house.

Now today I have off due to the fear of the "big storm" and I need to do some scrounging, or this bike won't be commuting- or doing much of anything but being parked in the corral- for a long time.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Giving "Training With Power" New Meaning

Rendering of a motor bike with a seat tube mounted motor.
Unless you were living under a rock over the weekend, you probably got wind of the "mechanical doping" incident at the Cyclo Cross World Championships. If you want details, see this article on grit.cx's site.

The offense has been confirmed by the UCI, so now this goes from fantasy land stuff to reality, and much like other forms of doping, (technical infractions, if you go by the UCI's terminology), one has to wonder, is this the first time it has happened? 

Uggh....... I don't want to be the one that speculates on that, but this device was found on a bike belonging to an under 23 class rider, and you have to think that some Pro level riders have at least tested this stuff if it has been found in the lower ranks. Anyway....... Consider the following Tweet fron Velo News editor, Caley Fretz:

Caley Fretz @CaleyFretz 23m23 minutes ago
"Last May, Greg LeMond told me it was only a matter of time before we found a motor. He said it with a conviction I should have recognized."

There are a lot of interesting comments about this from the innergoogles, and two of the most prominent ones are, "I wonder how powerful this would be?", and also, "This would make a great e-bike!". I have some thoughts on each of these comments, which, you probably are not too surprised by!

First off, something like this must not be an obvious advantage, or it would be a dead giveaway to something being "not right". So using that criteria, you could argue that the motor assist is not all that powerful. I've seen 100-ish watts as a figure given, and that makes sense. Thinking about how little separates the fast racers from each other, it wouldn't take much of a boost to get a break on the pack, or leaders. Having the boost/motor be controllable, as far as when you get that boost, would also make things a bit more believable. You can see the logic in that by thinking about how it would appear if the boost was used only on a climb, to gain a bit of separation.

You also have to figure that battery life is pretty limited, since it has to be small enough to be concealed and so it won't add a lot of weight. Again, that would lead me to believe that there would be some way to trigger the boost to occur only when you really need it. The rest of the time you might have a minimal output, only enough to overcome internal efficiency losses as you pedal under your own power, but not enough power to give you an advantage.

The second comment is mostly answered above. No- this would make a terrible e-bike. At least in this form factor. Think about how minimal the power and range of this would be. That ought to be enough right there to put this idea in the dust bin. But then you can compare it to contemporary e-bikes, (motorcycles), and you can see how this idea really isn't anything to crow about in a practical sense.

In the end, it becomes another "black eye" in the world of cycling. I'd be fine if we never hear or see of this stuff again in the future.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 4: Computer Issues

HAL 9000- The line up of ancient computers that used to run the shop.
Ten years ago this week on the blog I had computer troubles and there weren't but three posts for the week and those were mostly updates I posted from the shop to let the meager amount of readers here know what was up.

Posting from work, well......that wasn't cool, really. Interestingly enough, and some of you may remember how it was then, blogging was seen as an "upstart activity" back then. Managers and owners were afraid of bloggers and how they were "pulling curtains down" and showing who the Wizard of Oz really was behind all the smoke and fire. My boss was one of those folks for quite some time.

Then there was my utter lack of any technical skills. Computers? I could hen peck at the keyboard and barely make Blogger function back then. If anything went wrong, I was sunk. Fortunately, I married well, and Mrs. Guitar Ted happens to be a whiz-bang tech person with skills beyond her schooling. She just has a knack for electronic devices. So, back then she diagnosed my computer, (we each have our own computers to this day, by the way), and figured out that mine had somehow gotten a bad virus. Turns out it had FOUR viruses, and the local computer joint fixed me up. That marked when my wife installed some pretty burly anti-virus, fire wall stuff on my computer and that hasn't happend since those days, thankfully.

Now ten years on, I still am not really well versed in computers, and to wit: My RidingGravel.com partner does ALL of the techy business for that site. NOT me! I'm definitely not that guy.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Mechanic's View: The Brands

No wordy post today! Just wanted to share some views from the shop. It is Winter, and I have a bit more time on my hands these days. I figured I would take a few "close up" views of some of the work I have been doing of late. I used an iPhone 5s this time, and I used an Olympus Tough TG-3 camera on the "Microscope" setting, then I did a little post-processing fooling around, and that's it.

These aren't meant to be great "photographs" because I simply don't care what "technicalities" are offended or encouraged in my take on these. I simply look at this like drawing or painting, and the end look overall is what pleases me. Maybe you'll like them, maybe not.

Nuff said, here's the images for today.