Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Fork Got Boosted!

The new "Firestarter 110 Carbon Deluxe Fork"
The news came out Friday, I believe, but the Ti Fargo was announced as a go again for 2019, which in reality means it will be another small batch that will be gone in a month or so. That is what happened last year. So......was the 2018 Fargo in Titanium really a 2018 model? Same can be said for this run..... Whatever! Marketing!

Leaving that behind the big deal now is that the Firestarter fork is now Boost 110. That means you won't have to be put in the awkward position of getting a non-boost front wheel and a Boost rear. (Or getting the reduction plates for the Alternator to make the rear standard 142mm through axle)

Basically- totally boosted now. But that's not all.....

Now there are four sets of Three Pack bosses, front-ish facing and rear-ish facing. I've always preferred the rearward facing cage position for bottles, myself, but now you have options. Added to this are fender mounts, low rider mounts, and internal routing for a dynamo hub. These are suspension corrected for 100mm travel and have 51mm of fork offset. I find that offset figure interesting since the standard steel fork and previous Firestarter Carbon forks are listed at 45mm offset.

Wheel sizes that work are standard 29"er, 29+, and 27.5+. So, Salsa is still claiming compatibility with all of those differing diameters.

Finally, this may or may not be a sign of things to come. My opinion was that if a Boost spaced Firestarter wasn't produced, it could be the end of the Fargo. But here we have that fork. The Fargo is ten years old as of the release of this so-called 2019 Titanium Fargo. Will their be an anniversary Fargo? Maybe...... I was asked about what I would do for one several years ago at the DK200 by a couple Salsa engineers close to the Fargo. Salsa has done anniversary models before. So, we will see in a month or two when Saddledrive happens, at which time Salsa generally releases news on the next model year.

Whatever happens my Gen I Fargo isn't getting replaced anytime soon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Hot But Chill Weekend

The sled for this weekend's Solstice 100 gravel race.
Man! Was it hot this past weekend. Just brutal humidity around here with temperatures in the 90's. I really wanted to push it and go long this weekend but I have to keep it chill for this coming weekend's Solstice 100 in Nebraska. Besides, it was Father's Day weekend and my family was wanting to spend time with me.

Friday I got a couple of wheel sets in and one of them I bought for the pink MCD project I have coming up. More on that in a minute, but there is another wheel set here for review on RidingGravel.com which is pretty cool. It is the Industry Nine Torch Road Ultralite CX 235 TRA wheels. I already own two sets of older I-9 single speed specific wheels and I have ridden on a couple of others. All have been spectacular in two ways- performance and looks. Well, this set that came in on Friday is no different- so far- in terms of those things. The looks are killer. Well, as long as you like anodized orange hubs and spokes! Of course, you could get other colors too.

I was really hoping that wheel set would get here in time for my attempt at the Solstice 100 this coming weekend in Nebraska. That wheel set went on the Jamis Renegade Elite, also on test at RidingGravel.com. What better way to test things out than at a 100 miler on unfamiliar gravel roads, eh?

Well, I got these set up tubeless with some tires I had and went on a brief test ride Saturday. Things should work out just fine here! The distinct I-9 "buzz" is there, and it is pretty loud. If you don't like a loud hub, than this ain't for you. But these wheels should help make the Nebraska hills a little less painful since they come in at a little over 1400 grams with tape and valve stems installed.

Irwin Cycles Aon GX 700c wheels
As mentioned, another wheel set came in and these are them. The Irwin Cycles Carbon Aon GX 700c wheels. I bought these for my pink BMC MCD which should be coming at the end of the month or the first part of July sometime.

These should be pretty tough wheels and I already know they set up really well tubeless. That would be because I tested the 650B version earlier and it worked great. My initial plan is to run these new wheels with the WTB Resolute tires.

The really interesting thing about the new MCD frame is that it is supposed to handle a 650B X 2.25 tire, and a 2.1 29"er Nano will barely fit, so lots of ways to go here. I should have a set of Compass Antelope Hill tires coming too, but I think those will be too much for the MCD. We will see.

Next up on the docket for parts acquisition is  a crankset. I spent some time on the phone with my old friend Ben Witt on Sunday talking about this. I really like the White Industries VBC crank set, but that is waaaay expensive. I just don't see anything else right now that competes with it on looks though. Especially on a pink steel frame. In my opinion, Ultegra is just too weird and "heavy" looking.

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill as far as activity went. I guess I did mow the lawn! Otherwise I was chillin' with the family on Sunday as it was Father's Day and they were wanting to spend some quality time with their Dad and of course, my wife wanted to spend some time with me as well.

So, that was my weekend. Hopefully it isn't this blazing hot this coming weekend in Nebraska.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Touring Series: Strangers In The Night!

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 

After a long day in the saddle the three intrepid riders found a convenience  store to refresh themselves. We now rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" which has rolled into Gillett, Wisconsin for an overnight stay.........
Just before coming out from the convenience store, Steve and Troy had made an inquiry of the cashier about potential camping spots. We weren't in too much of a hurry to find a spot, since there was enough daylight for the time being. What we didn't know was that the cashier had called the police in regards to us looking for a place to stay. So when the squad car pulled up right in front of us, and the window went down, and when the officer addressed us, well.........we thought we were in big trouble.

It turned out that the officer was merely looking out for us. He suggested we stay in the county fair grounds, which had plentiful lawn space, but not too close to the road, so as not to draw attention to ourselves. The fair grounds were right in town too, no long trip to get there. Bonus!

Well once we peeled ourselves up off the pavement and got over to take a look, we saw something much more appealing than the grassy lawn. A cattle barn, where show cows and livestock were bedded down during fair time, was all cleaned up with a nice smooth cement floor. Why set up tents when we could simply sleep in the cow barn? Troy and I laid out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags right on the concrete floor. Steve had a hammock and strung it up between two stalls across the aisle. We parked our bikes beside us, ate our meal for the evening, and settled in for a good nights sleep, just as the sun went down.

Location of Gillett, WI
I suppose it was about 2:30-3:00am in the morning when I was suddenly aroused by Steve's sudden yelp in the dark. Troy and I sat up suddenly, gripped in fear. We were surrounded by dark figures in the night! Somebody turned on a flashlight, which blinded our eyes.

Just then a sheepish voice could be heard. It was a young boy, about 10-13 years of age. I slowly focused on him and saw that he had several friends standing with him. Apparently he had seen us at the convenience store, and knew about the plans to stay in the fairgrounds. His friends didn't believe his story, so he was simply setting the record straight by showing his friends the evidence, and scaring us half to death in the process. He was very apologetic, and his friends were obviously scared, so we chatted with them to calm them down, and sent them on their way.

In a way, it reminded me of the wandering about town I used to do as a kid with my friends in the middle of the night in my small hometown. We never meant any harm, and everything took on an air of adventure at about 2:00am in the morning. I am quite sure these kids never forgot this little adventure they had back in 1994!

We went back to sleep, although cautiously,and slept till dawn with no further incidents. Once awake, we set to packing up, and discussing our strangers in the night. Outside it was cool, and it looked like it might be foggy. The plan was to get on out of Wisconsin and in to the U.P. of Michigan. Just what lay ahead, we had no idea.

This was a chief memory from this tour. Obviously getting attention from law enforcement isn't what a group of three mangy looking cyclists wants. Typically we saw our selves as being marginal folk who were flying under the radar of any local officials and heck, of even the locals themselves. The less attention we got, the better, in our eyes. So you can imagine the relief we felt when we learned the cop was looking out for us. 

So the rousing of us out of our peaceful slumber was even worse. Then it swung the other way when we realized it was just some curious local kids being, well......kids. As I said, I empathized with those kids, having been exactly like them in my youth. Now I wonder how many of that group that awoke us in Gillett Wisconsin remember that night like I do.......

Next: Approaching Kitchi-gami

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 23 & 24

The Upper Iowa River at Decorah, June, 2008
Ten years ago, at the start of June, I had a bit of a discussion on crank sets concerning gearing and crank arm length for 29"ers. Oddly enough, going back to the earliest days of 29"ers in the late 90's, a bunch of Crested Butte residents on running the wagon wheelers decided that 170mm length crank arms was the schiznit for riding these new big wheels. I'm not sure why, or how they arrived at this, but it was out there in the early days. Run 170mm length arms. It's the way to do this dance. So, I did just that.

Now, I didn't do that right away. My very first 29"er had 177.5mm arms. That's right- 177.5mm arms. Anyone with a background in BMX or vintage mtb will know right off what I am referring to. That would be Cooks Brothers cranks. I still have them.........somewhere around here! Anyway......

I also was talking about the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. That was a 29"er demo/get together/festival we had planned up in Decorah. Well.......I say "we", but the reality was that it was "me". My partner at the time in Twenty Nine Inches was, let's say, "flaky"? Yeah...... Nuff said..... The point is that I was left doing all the heavy lifting on that project and I had a ton of time and effort into it. Then the rains came.

I've already mentioned it in previous "Minus Ten Review" posts this year, but 2008 was a really rough year in terms of weather in Iowa. The "Flood of 2008" won't soon be forgotten around here. That was the highest the water has ever been in many Iowa rivers since that date or before it. You can still go to many bridges and dikes in Iowa and see the high water marks people immortalized from this 2008 flood.

I was sent the image on today's post two weeks before the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was to take place. On the left of center is where the people were to camp and set up the demo booths. It was under 15 feet of water at this point.

While the trails were high and dry in the bluffs, I had to make a call within a few days time of receiving this image to advise vendors. Many of which had to send demo vans from the Southwestern US. They needed advance notice on whether to come or not. If the event was to be cancelled, giving them two weeks notice would allow them to salvage something out of their plans by setting up demos elsewhere. So, I made the call to cancel the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo.

While this had nothing at all to do with Trans Iowa, this decision would shape what I would do with that event for the next decade. Stay tuned for why that was........

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday News And Views

NX Eagle- "Ease Of Entry" Component group, or just cheap?
Entry Level, Cheap, Budget Priced 1 X 12:

SRAM predictably dropped the quality of materials and manufacturing techniques enough that a full price range of Eagle components are now available. SRAM apparently is trying to spin the new NX Eagle as being an "ease of entry" group, but let's face it- it's a cheaper Eagle. Call it "budget", entry level, or whatever, but doing some new way of saying "this is the cheapest level" is kind of goofy. We get it- it costs less for a reason.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not bagging on SRAM, or NX Eagle. I just don't think their "marketing-speak" is genuine. The parts should be awesome. I've been thrashing 11 speed NX for two straight Winters on my Ti Muk and I see no reason why NX Eagle wouldn't be pretty much the same experience. It is what it is, so do not expect the most crisp, fastest shifting, great looking parts, or the lightest weights. You won't get that at this little amount of money. (You can buy the entire NX Eagle group for less than a top end Eagle Power Dome cassette.) What you will get is a good, yeoman's performance for a decent price.

To my way of thinking, Eagle only makes sense if you haven't already gone 1X, and/or if you need the range this group can give you. It isn't as good as the GX Eagle or above, because NX doesn't have the 10T fast cog. It fits Shimano cassette bodies though, so it can retrofit to older non-SRAMed rear wheels. So, on one hand, that could be a benefit to this, or it could be a bummer if ya gotta have that 10T cog.


My favorite color is purple. This happened to come about for me when I was young. I lived on a highway and it was the zenith of the muscle car era. I saw them all- Chevelles, Novas, GTO's, Road Runners, 'Cudas, Challengers, and Mustangs. Even the rare Daytona would come zooming by once in awhile.

Well, the Chrysler Corporation ran these special colors on their muscle cars like "Slime Lime", "Hemi Orange", and who could forget "Plum Crazy". Those purple machines were my favorites, and that matched up with my early love of the Vikings football team. But they let me down big time in '68. That's another story........

Of course, the 90's were famous for anodized colors and purple was the king of that for a while. I had a 1996 Bontrager Race which was Plum colored, a darker hue, with a yellow panel with red lettering. I had Paul MotoLite purple brakes, and a purple American Classic seat post on that rig. Yep! I love me some purple ano!  I even had the purple ano Surly hubs, and I still rock a purple Chris King head set on my Ti Muk.

Now Paul Components is going to do another special anodized run of parts and this time they are running with purple. Hmm.......maybe I should get some Purple Klampers for the new BMC MCD rig. We'll see. The thing is that the delivery of these parts isn't until late July/early August. I'd hoped to be done with the build by then. But still. purple ano........ 

These are the 650B Carbon Aon GX wheels, but 700c ones will be here today.
 The Pink Puzzle Update:

Building up a bike from a frame and fork is like piecing together a jig-saw puzzle. You need a LOT of different parts and pieces to make it work, and what makes things worse is that certain things are predetermined and certain things are wide open to interpretation. 

One of the puzzle pieces will arrive today in the form of a wheel set. I have been testing wheels from Irwin Cycling recently on RidingGravel.com and I have been thoroughly impressed to the point that I am buying a 700c set for my Pink Puzzle Build. These wheels feature nice hubs with 3.75° engagement and a super smooth set of bearings. But I am most impressed with how these wheels are precisely molded and that transfers to getting a great seal on the tubeless tires.

I've been beating the snot out of both wheel sets Irwin sent to have reviewed and I haven't killed them, or even put a dint in their "armor", besides a few cosmetic scratches from being plowed through mud holes I normally wouldn't ride through on my own equipment. So, I am thoroughly satisfied that they will hold up and be great wheels for several years.

There will be more updates on the Pink Puzzle Build coming soon....

In the meantime, have a great weekend and Happy Father's Day to those fathers out there!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Grunge, Gunk, and Grease


I could feel it when I was pushing a big gear on the Orange Crush. "Hmmm....... Gonna hafta change that bottom bracket soon!", I would think. On multiple occasions.......and never doing anything about it afterward! Well, I knew it could not last forever, and one day it would disintegrate while I was miles from home, likely, on a remote gravel road, of course, where Mrs. Guitar Ted would have to come and get me, and end up giving me the "stink eye", most assuredly.

Yes......I had to get that done and soon! The alternative probabilities did not sound that great to me. So, I bought an inexpensive Shimano replacement bottom bracket. It is hard to believe that these things cost less than an Acera rear derailleur but work as well as they do. I mean, just the machine work on a bottom bracket cup is far more precise than an Acera rear derailleur's is. Yeah.......I could spring for something better, but would they last as long as a Shimano bottom bracket? Maybe..... But I could probably buy several Shimano bottom brackets for the price of one, Chris King, let's say, and I think the value is there in the Shimano one. Plus, did you know that you can recycle the cups with new cartridge bearings? Yep..... You can. If you are industrious that way.

It's a dirty, gunky, greasy business, but someone has got to do it!

Of course, you simply do not just remove and replace a bottom bracket. Oh no! You end up cleaning up the frame while the crank is off to get to those otherwise hard to reach nooks and crannies of your frame. Then you clean up the front derailleur while you are at it. Then it's time for that nasty crank arm and rings. The cleaning up of the things takes far longer than it does the removing and replacing of the bottom bracket. It is a big, time consuming job when you do all of that stuff. But......it ain't gettin' done on its own, and the thought of having to make that possible bail-out call to Mrs. Guitar Ted......... nuh-uh! Not gonna happen!

Now watch. Something will break on my next long ride! I've done myself in! Ha!

All done! Ready to rumble down the road again, with a rumble-free BB that is!
 Well, once it was done and I had done a couple of other maintenance jobs while I was at it on the BMC, I ran it up and down the neighborhood to check my work. Seems good to go now. I am considering removing the fenders for the Summer, but........I don't know. Maybe I'll just finally trim back those stays on those fenders and leave them on. I have some new bar tape coming for this and I probably will change the cassette and chain for now. This will end up becoming the single speed gravel travel rig later in the year though. Once I get the pink MCD here and put together.

Then the gears and derailleurs will go away and I also will likely change out the handle bars to the good ol' Luxy Bar. Those are awesome for single speed use. It'll be fun to try this out as a single speed again after so many years of geared use.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Different Ways Of Crankin'

Is "Super Compact" the future for adventure/gravel bikes?
I am in the midst of considering parts for my build of the forthcoming Black Mountain Cycles MCD frame and fork. So far I have wheels lined up, through axles, a head set in mind, and now I am considering crank sets and bottom brackets.

That link above takes you to the frame tech page for the MCD and there will see that the maximum chain ring configuration is 46T/36T, or a standard CX crank set ring combination. This is what Ive used most often and what I will likely do again. However; if you haven't noticed, there is a move afoot to bring radically different gearing to gravel and adventure bikes, spearheaded by FSA, who provides a LOT of OEM parts to builders.

Their idea is called "Super Compact" and it is wide range double chain ring set up. I know a lot of you think 1X is the solution, but a LOT of riders don't like it. Too big a jump between gears, for one thing, but there is more to it than that. However; I am not delving into that subject just yet.......

Super Compact gearing is kind of like what the old randonneuring gearing was like. Basically you have a "drive" gear, (outer chain ring) which you use more often. The inner ring, the "bail out gear" or "grannygear", was used on steep climbs or when there was a tough headwind or like circumstances where a low gear was desirable. The modern form of this gearing utilizes wide range rear cassettes to keep jumps between gears closer and more efficient.

I tried such a set up on the old Gen I Fargo, using a 48T outer and a 28T granny, if memory serves. Modern Super Compacts wouldn't have that much disparity between chain rings, but it is close. FSA is pushing 48T/32T or 46T/30 as options I could use. My experiences with this sort of gearing wasn't positive. Oh, it's just fine when you are in the big ring, but when you dump out to that smaller inner ring your cadence goes haywire and I, at least, lost a ton of momentum when I switched gears. As a "native single speeder", I loathe losing momentum. So, that was a big reason I bailed on that experiment with that gearing.

New Ultegra CX crank set
This is why I am seriously leaning toward going to traditional cyclo cross gearing, which is 46T/36T. I like to use an 11T-36T cassette with that gearing, and I have a few reasons why I really have gravitated toward this gearing. Of course, the minimal jump between chain rings helps preserve momentum, which you probably already guessed.

The other reason that is important to me is probably pretty weird. I admit to a bit of a "Princess and the Pea" syndrome here, so bear with me on this one. See, I have very often been riding and thought, "Dang! This gear feels awesome today!" I can feel more power and just a more efficient pedal stroke many times in certain gear combinations, and probably 99.9% of the time when I bother to check, I have a dead straight chain line.

You may think, "So what?", and I get that, but a straight chain line is the most efficient one to pedal in. This is maybe something I tuned in to from my single speed days, but cross chaining makes me feel like I am working harder, many times. Not always. But every time I feel awesome about a gear, it is a straight chain line. So, I don't like the thought of running a "drive gear" and a "bail out gear". When the chain starts climbing the cassette, I like to switch to an inner chain ring and not jack my cadence up way over 100/minute when doing so. Obviously, I also can keep the chain straighter.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "Aha! We should still be riding triple chain ring cranks!" I would partially agree with that. In fact, I set my Badger custom bike up with a triple. That said, these newer gravel bikes, by their nature, are trying to also give us the shortest chain stays, (not really that necessary) with the widest tire clearances with an eye toward 650B mtb width tires. (Again- not all that necessary) So, triple cranks are a non-starter there.

I know that I could maintain a straighter chain line with a triple, but to some degree, the narrower chain rings and cogs we run now in combination with the best materials technology cyclists have ever enjoyed make a triple crank not quite the "no-brainer" that it used to be.

I haven't gotten back to that 1X commentary yet, but I'll save it for another day. Suffice it to say that since both SRAM and Shimano have filed patents and are working on chain sets that adjust for chain line misalignment inherent in 1X set ups, you can bet that your 1X system has too many inefficiencies. Otherwise, why would they bother? 

Stay tuned.........................