Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tales Of The Night: Fat Biking And Flat Tires

Things started off just fine.
Well, I ended up going out on Saturday for a fat bike ride of the Green Belt. I got out pretty late after wrestling with setting up my son's fat bike with a 1X set up. (Needs a couple more parts yet, stay tuned....)

So, I decided I had better put on some lights and I headed out. It was chilly, but not too bad. there was a bit of snow in the forecast, but it wasn't supposed to kick in until later on. I didn't figure on being in that, but I did figure on getting in a bit of riding in the dark. Hopefully just a little bit.

Things were going well, actually, and I was making great progress getting all the way out to Shaulis Road before the Sun set. I figured on maybe having to turn the lights on for a minimal amount of single track. I could see pretty well all the way back to Ridgeway, but after crossing there and hitting Marky-Mark trail, things went pear shaped.

That trail is narrow, twisty, and undulates a lot more than the rest of the Green Belt trails do. So, my lone bar mounted light was not pointed where I wanted to see about 60-70% of the time. Yes.... I know better, but I thought I wasn't going to be out quite this late. I started to ping-pong around a bit due to my inability to see. Finally, I stopped to gather my wits about me. then I noticed it.......

Outside my little bubble of illumination, it was really dark.
Flat tire!? Yep. My front tire was flat. Bah! This was a bad spot to deal with it as well. Marky-Mark is tight and there isn't a good place to get a field repair done. I decided to walk it out to the meeting of Marky-Mark with the original trail where the Parks Department had a wide berth mowed through.

Here I laid out my repair items and I found that I must add at least one more item to the list of things I take along- A needle nose pliers and maybe even an awl or other sharp, pokey metal object. You see, I found a thorn by using my wool glove liner to wipe the inner side of the tire. The liner glove caught the thorn tip, and that saved my skin from being torn or at the least, poked painfully. However; I had no tool worth using to dislodge that thorn. Fortunately enough of it protruded from the outside of the tire that I could grasp it with my finger nails. Some gentle persuasion got it to pull free.

The thorn was removed so then I could install a new tube. The Crank Brothers pump I had really worked quickly and well. (It is an ancient first gen version of this pump) I was back together, but it was a slow affair as I had to be deliberate and careful in the dark so as not to misplace anything. The tire and wheel back together and where it belonged, I cleaned and repacked the gear. Then I prepared to take off. I was sure Mrs. Guitar Ted was expecting me by now, and it was getting late.

As I left, I was mystified as to what had become of one of my glove liners. Couldn't find it, but a search just before leaving with my bright light revealed nothing. I must have stuffed it in another place or pocket, maybe? Well, maybe you've guessed it by now, but I realized where it was and then a little later the bike path confirmed it. I had left it inside the tire casing!

Whump! Whump! Whump! All the way home, but at least I was able to ride home!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Bikes Of 2016: Surly Big Dummy

The time of year has come that I will be reviewing the bikes I used the most throughout 2016 and why. The ups, downs, changes, and more will be discussed.

The Surly Big Dummy had been on my "want" list" for many years. Mostly because of my "Xtracycled Schwinn" which I used on a fairly regular basis for several years. While the longtail add on was nice, I grew to become disappointed with the set up. It lacked many things which are vital to being safe and having an enjoyable ride. Like good brakes when the thing was loaded. That wasn't all, but it was the main reason the bike sketched me out on more than one occasion.

So, I knew that a Big Dummy was the solution. I had always planned a build and in fact, I had some hubs and rims lined up for a possible wheel build, but I let other things take precedence and the project was stalled. Finally, something happened that made me kind of sit up and take note. A friend sold a Big Dummy and I nearly pulled the trigger and bought it. It was a really well spec'ed example, and it went for far less than I thought it should have. I saw it sell in 28 minutes or something ridiculous like that after it was posted to a Facebook forum. That kind of got me worked up. I should have bought the thing.

Well, another friend ended up selling one and that's the one I got. I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice!  It is well spec'ed as well, but there were a couple of modifications I made to make it my own. First and foremost was the Brooks B-17 and that precipitated the move to the Paul Components seat post made especially for users of Brooks saddles.

Other than that, it has solved all my issues with the old Xtracycled Schwinn and does what I need it to do so well it is silly. I am very glad I picked this up and it has become a very practical bike for me over the past several months I've had it qualifying it as a "Bike of 2016" for me.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A Lament For Odin's Revenge

Beautiful, Tough, Fun. Odin's Revenge was all of that. Image by W. Kilburg
I think it must have been 2012 or so when I heard some stories about Odin's Revenge, a gravel grinder event out in West Central Nebraska. As I recall, it was Mike Johnson, a local rider, who was talking about his experiences out there and that it was a "must do" gravel road event.

I had been out to the area back in '09 to scope out what was to be the failed and final attempt at a bicycle festival dubbed "The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo". I found out back then that Nebraska was actually really hilly and absolutely gorgeous. Any excuse to go back was going to be met with a positive response. Well, lucky for me, the Odin's Revenge gravel grinder was cooked up, and I decided after hearing what Mike had to say, I was going to head out that way and give it a go.

Now, I'm not going to go into all the details of the event. Heck, all you have to do is go back in the blog here to any June from 2013,'14' or '15 and read the reports on this event. There you will read all you need to know. Odin's was my one of my favorite events of the year, one I would not miss, (except this year due to my Mom's surprise 75th birthday party), and was probably second in line to the Renegade Gent's Race in terms of my all-time most favorite event to ride in. I was planning on going back next Summer for sure, but the organizers have called it quits for now.

Bummer!

But, at least I got to ride it three times. I've never managed to finish that event, and now it looks like Odin's will have "his revenge" forever upon me, but man! It doesn't matter to me, really. I am just so glad I got to ride Odin's Revenge at all. So, I decided that I would share some images and memories they stir in this post.

The roads in this area of Nebraska are breath taking and brutal. That's Craig Groseth on a single speed in the image.
Another crazy road. That's Craig again, I am pretty sure.
One of the unique elements of Odin's Revenge is the roads. I've never been on roads like this anywhere else. There is outright gravel there, but the unmaintained roads are the real stars of the course. If anyone has ridden an Odin's Revenge, all you have to say is "Government Pocket Road" and nothing else. The eyes and expressions shared would be all the communication that would be necessary to understand. It's just a crazy, rutted, dusty, sometimes muddy twisted course of dirt roads out there that amaze, challenge, and more often than not, brutalize those riders that take them on.

Then there was the element of where the event was held. Gothenburg Nebraska is situated far enough West that it drew riders from the Colorado and Black Hills areas. That is why I met several folks I am so glad to have met. I doubt I would have ever become friendly with any of those people had Odin's Revenge not existed. People like Craig Groseth, whom I met at my first Odin's Revenge, and who I hope to ride with again some day. Craig was just crushing it on a single speed, and he is an amazing rider. Just one example of many folks I met out there in Nebraska in the middle of no-where.

And of course, there are the organizers and volunteers of Odin's. The "DSG" group. The main folks were Chad, his wife Merrie, Matt, Bob, Nate, Paul, Kyle, and Garrett. Thanks to these people, their hours of work, their care, and their dedication, Odin's was a great experience. The core group kept that event fun, tough, basic, and one of the best run grassroots gravel events that I am aware of. That was no small feat either. How they kept a balance of sponsorship, down to earth feel, and honest, heartfelt care for everyone that came to ride is beyond me. The experiences I had were second to none.

That's Chad on the table, the "Odin" of Odin's Revenge. This was the pre-race meeting in '14.

Merrie, Chad's wife, checking me in to CP#1 in the '14 Odin's event.
Paul playing the hammered dulcimer. Yes, you even got serenaded at Odin's pre-race gathering!

My resting place after another "vision quest" at Odin's in 2015
Like I said, I never finished an Odin's. I twice  got about a 100 miles in and wilted. The other time it was the toughest 47 miles I had ever ridden. That was the "muddy" year. Along the way, I had what one of my gravel riding acquaintances would call a "vision quest".  Well, every time I rode Odin's, I had a pretty intense experience. I have a distinct memory of each time I rode an Odin's of where this happened.

Like the first Odin's Revenge where I got so overheated I stripped down to my birthday suit and laid in the cool grass several yards off the course in a secluded grove of trees. I got the job done, cooled down the core, and continued onward. There were probably two other times I was really on the edge at that first one too. Sitting at Potter's was a Godsend and that running water from the hose. Heaven!

There was the time I had to bail out early at Mile 47 and ride back to Gothenburg. On the way there, I was falling asleep on the bike, so I stopped and rested under a huge shade tree in a pasture. Or the last Odin's, where I was so bonked out and overheated that I saw fog when I looked around me and there was none. Odin's may have been a ton of fun and good times, but maybe it also damn near killed me. I'm not sure.

I guess it was a combination of the terrain, the heat, and my understanding of myself, or lack of, I should say. That's another thing I owe to Odin's Revenge- I learned an awful lot about myself and also how I needed to prepare and how I dealt with heat. I learned what to eat and keep myself fueled. The lessons gained from Odin's were used in my finish at the Gravel Worlds this past Summer. Had I not tested myself so severely, I likely would never have gotten to that finish line at all.

Matt Wills grinds up a long hill on his single speed Soulcraft in the '13 Odin's. Probably my favorite shot I've taken at any gravel event.
So, I am so glad I even got to ride in one Odin's Revenge, let alone three. The people, the place, and the experiences are something I will treasure forever. Thanks DSG and anyone ever associated with Odin's Revenge.

There may never be another Odin's Revenge, but I will go back there to ride again someday......

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Big Fat Dummy: Are You Kidding Me!

Finally! They went and did THIS!
Surly Bikes is a weird company. I am not sure that the originators of the company back in the late 90's quite envisioned this, but they set the course for the company by offering a bike no one else would in the mainstream industry and decided not to fundamentally change it or phase it out. The Surly 1X1 frame and fork still, after 18 years, is available. It has been updated, but fundamentally, it is the same bike.

Surly has remained that company for the most part. They do not cotton to "model years". They change spec and colors whenever they flow with their supply chain. (Much to the chagrin, at times, to their fan base.) They update features when it makes sense to do that. But more importantly, they make stuff when the mainstream bike companies won't consider doing that. Still.

The Big Dummy cargo bike is such a rig. Fisher took a stab at the cargo bike, and Kona offers one, but neither did it before Surly did it. Now look what they did...... They made it a fat bike too. Don't hold your breath for a Trek or Specialized version of this to come out. And maybe that's for the best.

For all the super-nerdy details on this rig, see Surly's blog post here. Get ready to burn a half an hour.......or more. 

An example of the activity you might get involved in by exposing yourself to a Big Fat Dummy
 If you've read this blog for a while you know I just got a Big Dummy. I really, really like it, and I will admit that I've been looking at how I could maybe squeeze something bigger inside that frame for tires. I have quietly thought for several years that a Big Fat Dummy would make perfect sense, and said so to then Surly Marketing wonk Travis. In fact, he owned a Big Fat Dummy with 3.0" Knards stuffed in, barely, and agreed that the Big Fat Dummy would be rad. I wouldn't at all be surprised that the project was kicked off at around that time. I bet I wasn't the only one saying they should make one.

Well, however that worked out, they did it. The bike everyone that owned a fat bike and a Big Dummy had thought about. A steel, fat tire capable cargo bike. It takes the biggest fat tires out there now, if you are willing to compromise on drive train range a bit. It can handle up to a 100mm suspension device up front. It has a completely new, better frame than the current Big Dummy has. Stiffer, more capable to ride over stuff. It can even handle 29+ tires and wheels. It is even dropper post compatible. Don't laugh. If you've ever tried to mount a fully loaded Big Dummy, a dropper post makes a ton of sense. Call it a parking setting post. Then it maybe it becomes more clear as to why that might be.

So, I have a Big Dummy. Would I get one of these?

Having never ridden this beast, here's my reaction to the thing at this point in light of my experiences with the Big Dummy.

This is my Big Dummy
 Well, if I hadn't purchased this Big Dummy that I have now, yes- I would definitely get the Big Fat Dummy, and here is why:
  • Totally redesigned frame which is stiffer, has through axles, and new geometry for easier roll over of curbs, etc.
  • Suspension fork compatibility. I have Bluto fat bike suspension fork which would be perfect on this bike.
  • Fat tire capability. I would have a Winter set of tires and a Summer, smoother treaded set. 
  • Tubeless rims. Natch.
  • Dropper post compatibility. A brilliant idea for this bike. They are not just for drop offs and gnarly terrain. 
So, am I trading in my old Big Dummy for this? Not likely. I still really want a Big Fat Dummy, but I don't really need to get one. Mine is lighter than this new one (The BFD weighs 54lbs in size medium), I can do 95% of what I need a cargo bike to do with this current Big Dummy, (Winter performance yet to be determined), and my current Big Dummy is stiff enough for my needs.

The new Big Fat Dummy would increase my capabilities a touch, but at the price of $2950.00USD it would also cost me a lot more.Value gained per dollars spent would be minimal in my case, but for anyone that isn't in to a fat bike and needs a lifestyle/car replacement bicycle, this would be on top of my list.

Okay- Now it is speculation time: Sometimes you can glean little nuggets from press releases and historical performances of certain companies. Surly is no different in this regard.

Surly mention the following in their blog post about the tire capabilities of the Surly Big Fat Dummy: "Like stated earlier, you are good to go up to 26x5.25” in the Big Fat Dummy." 

Wait...... No one makes a fat bike tire in that size. Yet.

Let's say Surly has a bigger, badder fat bike tire up their sleeve. Wait....... They don't make a bicycle that can fit that big of a tire. Yet.

Hmm..... Maybe there is something else I could really use coming up........


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 48

Some of the first T.I.v3 cards we received during that Trans Iowa's registration
Ten years ago on the blog the talk was about Trans Iowa v3.The registration had been announced and we were starting to receive our very first Trans Iowa post card entries. That's right.....our very first Trans Iowa post cards. 

You see, Trans Iowa did online registration for the first two versions. Then we regressed! We decided to make it even more simple, and we also decided that we were going to be a free to enter event. The insurance costs, which is what the entry fee used to cover,was becoming just too much for our minds to charge riders. Besides, post cards were, and are, more fun to get. So, that is what we did and 2006 marked the first Trans Iowa post card entry receptions.

We went backward and never looked ahead! Trans Iowa seemed to spawn other "post card" entry events after this. Even now, when I see things like the Almanzo 100, I grin because post card entry action was pretty much instigated by Trans Iowa. At least in the gravel grinder category. Some events used to use post cards, but ended up going to online registrations, which is cool, but Trans Iowa will never do online registration again.

Someday I'll have to display my favorites, but after 13 versions, it gets hard to choose!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday News And Views

Which color would you get?
Anniversary Time And A Jersey Announcement:

An anniversary was reached yesterday for me. Two years have passed now since I aligned with Ben Welnak and RidingGravel.com. Well, at least officially. We had been collaborating on certain things before that, but the melding of the old Gravel Grinder News with RidingGravel.com was not announced until December 1st, 2014.

Now we have often spoken with each other, Ben and I, about doing a jersey for Riding Gravel. I figured as long as I was riding in events I should be repping the company, ya know? So, it went from a casually mentioned thing to full on project status recently. I am happy to report that now it is actually going to happen, and I will have a "team" jersey for the events I ride in next year. The only question remaining now is what color I will be wearing.

By the way, it is possible to get one of these or yourself, and there will be an opportunity to do just that, to be announced later. Stay tuned for that. However; for now, if you would actually order one of these, you need to help choose which colorway we will go with. Hit me up in the comments here, or click that link and take the survey and let me know. Once a color has been chosen, finer details on how to order one for yourself will be released here and elsewhere on the RG site and social media.

Whichever color gets chosen is good with me, but I do have a personal favorite, which I will talk about after a color has been chosen. Stay tuned for that and the finer details on the process of getting these out to be announced soon. Oh, and thanks for taking the time to weigh in on this.

Global Fat Bike Day is tomorrow
Global Fat Bike Day:

Saturday is the so-called "Global Fat Bike Day". Hmm...... I may or may not participate. It just so happens that this always falls on the opening day of shotgun season for deer hunting. Not a good day to be traipsing about the woods out in the country, and probably not a good day to ride the gravel roads. You never know where those slugs are flying.

That leaves running around in the Green Belt as my best option here. Meh. I'm not really all that excited about riding a fat bike just because it is a certain day.  Maybe I will, but maybe I'll do something else.

In fact, I think I should be taking care of Trans Iowa recon. That first section needs to be looked at. Yes...... I may have to deal with hunting, but hopefully the "Truck With No Name" won't be mistaken for a deer as much as a cyclist would be. Besides, it is supposed to snow next week and when the roads get snowed in I may as well wait till Spring, and I'd rather not have to do that.

Then again, I may not do either. We will see. Global or not, I'm sure a throng will be riding locally, at the State level, and nationally here and there. Hopefully they all have a good time.

Spotted Horse Is On:

In my "Planning Ahead" post on Wednesday I mentioned one of the events I was interested in was the Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra. I mentioned that this was an iffy commitment, not in small part due to the fact that I knew at the time that it may not even be held again.

Well, lo and behold, yesterday I see that the date for 2017 was announced, so it is actually being planned to occur again in October of 2017. Pencil in the 7th for this long, arduous 200 miler.

So, I have that on as a solid commitment this time. I mentioned that I had signed up for it this year but the Fargo Reunion Ride happened and I had to go do that. I am very glad that I did, but I also really want to give the Spotted Horse a go, so seeing that they committed to doing it again, I am going to commit to going to do it. There's another chance to fly the RidingGravel.com colors that I mentioned above!

All right folks, that's a wrap for this week. If you go do the Global Fat Bike thing, have fun and stay safe! Otherwise, get out there and don't get shot by a deer hunter!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Slow Rollin'

Serenity on Marky-Mark
Another Wednesday, another bike ride. This time it was the Blackborow DS and I actually managed to get all of the Green Belt done. It was a slow rollin' affair though. I wasn't speeding through because it was wet and mucky, and I didn't bring my rain pants, or a fender.

So going slower was the order of the day, and I managed to keep pretty clean until the very end when I biffed trying to cross that ditch. Oh well!

I had fun and even met a fellow fat biker along the way. It was a colder ride, with temperatures in the mid to upper 30's for the entire ride. Precipitation was copious and in about every form one could imagine, mostly of the frozen types. At one point I am pretty sure I was walloped on the back of the hand by a chunk of slush. Maybe that fell off a tree as I went underneath it, or maybe it was flung down from the heavens, I don't know which.

The constant precipitation was making the trails constantly more wet, more mucky, and muddy. It never got real sloppy, but there was plenty of standing water and tacky dirt to just outright mud on the single track. I'm okay with that. I had time and a steady fat burn of a ride is just what the doctor ordered after Thanksgiving weekend.

Moss on the bridge.
Black Hawk creek on a dreary, rainy last day of November 2016.
There was a fat bike ride the night before on these trails. Seems as though it will be a weekly thing for a little while until they get their trails sorted over across town after the flooding this past Fall. I don't mind the extra traffic, but I did notice one thing that kind of irritated me and a thing I also find quite ironic. That would be the "lensing" of the trail wherever there was standing water. This is an old term used to describe what happens when riders tend to avoid water on the trail by riding around the puddles, causing a "lens" or widening of the tread.

Original trail directly behind my bike, the bandit line is to the left here.
  I chose this example above since it dramatically shows what I mean, but typically this is a much more subtle deal. In fact, in the example above, I don't mind the bandit line as it actually adds to the trail feature and isn't a textbook "lensing" of the trail, per se', but there are a lot of places out there where this has popped up now since the trail is getting a lot of usage during this wet period.

Anyway, what a lot of younger off roaders do not understand is that the tread, or the single track line, is actually a harder bottom than where you ride around the water puddles. Riding around the puddles erodes more land, detracts from the aesthetic appeal of the trail when things dry up, and actually ends up getting you more dirty than if you just rode straight through the water. But the biggest deal to me is that it widens out the tread and the single track becomes "not single track" every where there is water.

Keep Single Track Single Please!

Bridge Troll
 The ironic thing is that these folks supposedly were doing a fat bike ride and were avoiding doing "fat biking". I mean, it is why you got the thing, isn't it? To go through the mud, water, sand, snow, and rocks? It isn't a road bike, fer cryin' out loud! A little water on the trail is not to be avoided, it is to be celebrated and ridden through. Heck, if you are that afraid of getting you and your bike wet, slow down, take it easy, and grin all the way through. If that doesn't work, why are you even riding off road? 

Well, whatever. I am not going to be afraid to do a little swampin' out in the Green Belt, and I will be doing my part to Keep The Single Track Single.