Thursday, July 24, 2014

Skeeters And Flowers

Just about succumbed to a Skeeter attack here!
Last chance for gas with the Borealis before it has to go back to Colorado, so off to Ingawanis Woods I went. It was a gloriously cool, drier day compared to Tuesday which was a typically beastly, humid, hot Summer day. I was really happy that Wednesday was much better.

When I reached the last road to the woods, I spied a 40 acre field of wild flowers and prairie grasses that I thought might make for a good image or two. Filed away in the back of my mind for later, I drove the last stretch to park and get ready for a quick lap on the carbon fiber 29+ rocket.

Surprisingly, I found that there were few mosquitoes in the air in the grassy lot where I traditionally park there. Not like the last time, when brown whizzing clouds of the blood sucking insects wouldn't leave me alone. This was a good sign, and I planned to take many images and enjoy myself on the loop. I rolled off on the bone dry, rock hard dirt and scooted around the first few corners.

I decided to stop and take an image of the rooty, broken rock infested climb near the counter-clockwise start, and I found out that this was a very bad idea. If anything, this was the worst the skeeters had been in years. Just awful! Okay then, pack it up quickly, remount, spin off, and forget about stopping.

Nothing but flowers and bees out here!
This made for a single stop running of the loop, which is pretty unusual for me, only because I usually feel the need to document a bike, component, or a beautiful scene with the camera when the mood hits me. I am not all about the "fastest time" or "training", for that matter, so I typically don't care about speeding through Ingawanis without enjoying the sights and sounds.

However; the beastly skeeters put a different spin on this ride and I found myself grooving on cutting corners as fast as I could, or in not using my brakes as much. It made for the fastest times in many sections that I have ever had. The mood and techniques were one thing, but the bike played right into that as well. Big, 29+ meats, set up tubeless, were the meal ticket to eating up single track at an alarming rate. Whomever said 29"ers could not zap around tight corners never rode such a rig as this, that much I do know. I was flying through the tight twisties faster than ever, and conditions were not primo for traction either.

29+, (really, they are 31"ers), are so good at gaining traction, that speed in areas you typically have to scrub off speed in, or be careful with pushing too hard for fear of breaking away, are non issues. I was even cruising right past the sandy patches in the apexes of corners like they were pure, tacky dirt. Braking traction was insane, when you needed to brake, and whoa-ing up the Echo was no problem at all. I'll be adding a 29+ or a B+ bike to the stable for sure based upon this experience with the Borealis.

And that flowery prairie? I decided to stroll on over on the Echo and visit for a while. It was a great, relaxing way to cap off a frenetic ride through Ingawanis Woods escaping the dreaded skeeter attacks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fatter Fat Attack

The 2015 Blackborow DS
Saddledrive is when all the new Salsa Cycles product gets released now for the following year. I knew of a few things going into that due to Twenty Nine Inches and was aware that Salsa Cycles was about to announce a "5 inch fat bike platform". For those unaccustomed to "bike speak" that translates to a bicycle with enormous tires measuring approximately 5 inches wide.

This intrigued me, but when I saw this pale green entry shown here, I was smitten, and now I am about to tell you why that is......

First off, I have noted that since I have had the Snow Dog that running into snow which I cannot float on has been a consistent problem. Even when I got the titanium By-Tor fat bike, this problem persisted. I had various upgrade scenarios in mind, but here's the thing: The Mukluk fat bikes were never meant to have that big, five inch wide tire on a 100mm rim stuffed between their chain stays. I could probably have fudged it, but drive train issues and clearances, and........Bah! So, I never got too serious about getting down to actually pulling the trigger.

So, now the news is out on Blackborow. This suits my Winter escapades to a "T". The widest rims and tires on a frame designed for that. So, what is it? A single speed? No.......it's a dinglespeed! 

If I end up with one- it may end up like this!
 A dinglespeed? Yep! Two chain rings, two rear cogs, (or as in this case, a single piece of metal fashioned into a double cog), and one chain which you can manually swap from one combo to the other. Ideally you get a "high" gear combo for faster, flatter terrain and a "low gear" combo for slugging it out on the hills and in the brush. If it is set up right the chain doesn't have to be re-tensioned or lengthened/shortened to accommodate swapping gearing combinations. The Blackborow is set up to do it without fuss. 

Now if I cannot deal with the dingle set up, I could always 1X the thing easily by getting a new, Right side Alternator plate suitable for the task. Then I could add a cassette, derailleur, and gears easily enough. Or I could tamper with the rear ratio a bit. Either way, the deal is that the wheels and tires are suited to my desires and the design is centered around those wheels and tires so it will all work well.

Salsa did some nice detailing on this one too. Stainless chain rings, chain ring bolts in stainless, a stainless dinglecog, and a KMC Rustbuster chain along with stainless steel hardware in the brakes. That's nice because I saw what commuting did to my drive train on the Snow Dog and the brake hardware looks horrid. Nice going Salsa! This would help solve my maintenance issues with fat bike commuting as well.

Sure, I could get a carbon fat bike this, or a suspended fat bike that, but this is the bike that would be practical in a "car replacement" sort of way and be my go-to rig for wicked snow conditions, which we seem to be plagued with often in Winter here. Not sure I can swing it, because, well.......these things cost money, and even though I feel it is a reasonable value, it won't be easy to scrape up the cabbage for this, and then....who knows when it would actually be available? If it works out it works out.

But there ya go- that's why I like the Blackborow!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Update

This bridge will be on the route this year.
Here's the last update on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational I will be posting here. For my previous update go HERE or see the "Official Site" of the GTDRI.

In this post I want to cover some finer details of the event and the course in particular. First of all, the route cues were independently checked by two separate and unknown to each other sources and four miscues were identified which have been changed now. NOTE: If you copied the cues that were in bold type like this there are mistakes. Please go back to the GTDRI page for the 2014 cues HERE and re-copy them as they are certified to be correct now.

Okay, with that out of the way, I wanted to give you my viewpoint on the route this year. As many of you may know, this is essentially a modification of the 2009-2010 version of the Death Ride which was a 118 mile loop out of Echo Valley Park. While I could just go and do that same loop again, the thing is, it doesn't accommodate a larger group of folks at the start/finish. Echo Valley Park is an amazing park, but it is primitive and lacks space to take on many cars for parking, and it isn't as accessible as I'd like it to be for out of towners.

David Pals and I chillin out in Strawberry Point in '09
However; a park exists near the route that is both easily accessible for travelers and has amenities like showers and copious amounts of campsites along with parking for day visitors. Plus, it is a short way to a town on the route that could accommodate those wanting a motel. All I had to do was to modify the route slightly and it was a done deal. Only a hair over two miles shorter, at 116 miles, it will give us all the feel and scenery that the '09-'10 route gave us with a better start/finish to boot. Not only that, but in my view, it does something else which I think is a positive for the riders this year. It breaks up the brutal hills into smaller bites.

The '09-'10 route started from Echo Valley Park with a few rollers which opened up the legs, but then it dove down a big sweeping hill, (where I about ate it at 40+mph in '09), and went pretty much dead flat for 25 miles. Then the route went into Elkader where we would eat breakfast, then we left and immediately hit some really tough climbs until we got a brief respite at Garber, then back into the frying pan for the worst hills of the route until we got just East of Strawberry Point, where we had another brief respite until we hit more crazy hills right up until the end of the route which was capped off by climbing the same sweeping down hill we had in the morning.

This new version will start out benignly enough with an easier route up until about 20-ish miles where we hit big hills that were near the end of the old circuit. This will go on until we get another 10-ish miles in and reach Volga. Not far up the road is Wadena where we will stop for morning vittles. Rollers ensue until we get to a couple big hills then we dive down to Echo Valley Road on the same down hill we had in '09 at about 47 miles. Then it's an easy 20-ish to Elkader where we will break for lunch.

You'll be here on this year's route if you come.
After Elkader we will cruise a few easy miles then it's up to the highest country of the route and the closest we will get to the Mississippi. Down and up will become a familiar theme along with an insane dirt road which will drop us down to the Turkey River and a brief respite from hilly madness through Garber Iowa at mile 84.50.

Better enjoy that brief rest because the steepest, longest climbs of the day await us after Garber. For the next 15 miles it will be a brutal awakening for those that think Iowa is flat at all. (As if you haven't been convinced enough of that before this point!) Fantail Road. That's all I have to say about that!

The good news is that the last 15 miles or so of the GTDRI for 2014 is a lot easier than it was in '09-'10. Strawberry Point will come in again with about ten to go, so if anyone needs a last minute boost, we can get it there. We may very well need it! In '09-'10 we had to gut out the last 20+ miles with no resupply and no real resting points. Plus, we ended at a primitive area that had nothing for us to refresh ourselves. This reroute should address both those points well.

So that about sums it up. The weather man is saying there is a possibility of showers Saturday morning, but no matter. I am going unless there is really severe weather. I'll be meeting any riders that show up at the river crossing in the center of Backbone Park on the main through road at 6am sharp to get the ride started Saturday morning. If you come as well, it should prove to be a good time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

News Season Part 3: Tires V1

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

There were some questions I got recently about tires and today's post covers some of that. Keep in mind that we will be seeing a lot of tire intros now through the Fall. Here's V1 on Tires.....

Bontrager Hodag fat bike tire
Bontrager Hodag Fat Bike Tire:

This is the tire due to come on many Trek Farley fat bikes. It will be a 60TPI tire with a tubeless ready bead and a 3.8" width with folding Aramid beads. This tire is made to work tubeless with the Jackalope rims which are 80mm wide from Bontrager. No word on when or if these will be sold separately, but all indications are that this will be the case. 

Retail price is set at $149.99 for the tire.

Comments: In a day and age when many fat bike enthusiasts are fed up with high tire prices and in combination with many brands offering similar fare at $50.00 less or more per tire, the Hodad will be a tough sell separately. While it boasts a tubeless set up with the Jackalope rim, I see this as only an advantage to those buying a Farley or upgrading one. Besides, isn't just about everyone looking for 4-4.5" tires now?

The Maxxis Chronicle 29+ as shown on Greg Matyas' new Corvus
Maxxis Chronicle 29+

More 29+ tires will be getting out there really soon and one of those will be the Maxxis Chronicle.  Maxxis makes some decent treads so I suspect that this one will be well liked. Another benefit of the Maxxis mtb tires are that they generally convert to tubeless well and don't seem to show any ill effects from sealant.

Commentary: One side note- Maxxis is a big OEM supplier, so you have to wonder what brand may have laid the foundation for this tire's production, as it is doubtful that Maxxis just decided to produce it of their own accord. Whatever the case may be there, it bodes well for 29+ that someone with the "horsepower" of Maxxis is getting behind it, even if only for a bit.

Mammoth indeed! A Maxxis fatty.
Maxxis Mammoth: 

I've posted this here before, but it maybe needs to be mentioned again that Maxxis is also doing a fat bike tire dubbed the Mammoth in a 26 X 4.0" size. The tread looks like a modification of a Crossmark 29"er tread with a bit of the old Endomorph's webbed barring in there as well.

Commentary: Once again, the existence of a Maxxis fat bike tire begs the question- Where will this show up and on which brand's fat bike? I just find it really difficult to believe that this wasn't made for an OEM customer, but again, I could be all wrong. The thing is, it is the right size and tread pattern for a stock, higher end fat bike from somebody. Then again, Maxxis has been known to put tire models out there fishing for OEM business, so the tire very well may have come first.

Vee Tire "Trax Fatty" 29 X 3.0
Vee Tire Trax Fatty 29+ & B+

This tire is a pretty well known entry by now, or at least it should be, but Vee Tire now has it on their site with details.

Available as a 29 X 3.0 in 72 TPI wire or folding bead at 1025 grams and 980 grams each at $100.00 , $110.00 respectively. There will also be a 120TPI version said to clock in at 920 grams with an Aramid folding bead for $120.00. The B+ version will mimic the bead selection, prices, and TPI selections with weights as follows starting from wire bead/72TPI: 895,820, and 800 grams. The width on this one is said to be at 3.25", so wider than the upcoming WTB model in B+.

Commentary: Vee Tire is pretty aggressive with tire introductions and the B+ and 29+ entries are really no surprise. I think the B+ model is too wide to be practical for swapping into current 29"er frames and with a current dearth of wide, 27.5"/ISO584 rims, it seems to be either a dead end tire, (for now), or it signals another OEM bike we don't know about yet. To be sure, wider 27.5 rims are coming, but they aren't quite here yet. (That said, by the time you read this a certain bike company may have made their announcement of a B+ sized rig, and that may change the landscape somewhat.) The Vee 29+ tire is another example of downward pressure in terms of price on a market that Surly has had to itself until now. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out in the future.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Travelin' South

This section was a fun one.
I had decided earlier this year to get out and about a bit more as far as where I ride my bicycles. That's one of the reasons I ditched doing the 3GR this year. Yes, those are fun to do every Saturday, but they also had me pinned down to doing the same thing every season for two years. I felt like a change up was necessary.

So, I had my sights set on riding at the LAMBA trails system in Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids for some time and Saturday I made that happen. I'd been there once before with MG back at the end of Winter when I attempted to ride through the snow on the Buzzard.

 It also wasn't the first time I had ever ridden off road in the Cedar Rapids area.  I used to ride some rogue single track in Cedar Rapids years ago. Like back in the 90's, but that was not these trails. In fact, I am not even sure just where we used to ride, but I feel in was up in Marion and East side Cedar Rapids somewhere. Anyway......

The trails I did ride were very different than Ingawanis Woods. I was on the Buzzard, once again, and this time the Beverly Park trails were perfect. Dry, hard, and fast. Ingawanis gets like this as well, but the trails at Beverly Park are not as flowy as Ingawanis, which has a much more "wide open" feel. Beverly Park is a bit more tight, twisty, and definitely more technical. They also feature some structure down there. Not a lot, but Ingawanis doesn't have anything of that nature, so that stuck out for me.

A bit greener than it was last time I was here with MG!
The trails at Beverly Park feature signage indicating the trail difficulty level, which was pretty nice. I would say that compared to other trails I've been to that do similar things, these markings are on the conservative side. That's okay, as far as I am concerned, the main thing is that they are marked because there is a much higher level of difficulty involved in some sections of Beverly Park than at Ingawanis.

Optional lines exist in many places at obstacles, but not at all of them. So, knowing which trails are "Most Difficult" may help make your day better.

The trails are well kept, mown (mostly) and free of downed trees, limbs, and litter. I was very impressed by the condition of the trails in that manner. As for mileage, I don't do computers, Garmin, or Strava, so I don't have a figure on that, but I feel that it is at least good hour jaunt through there if you do most of the system.

As for myself, I like going into a trail system with no map and just wing it. Getting a little lost is okay, but after a while I found myself wanting to wrap things up. I was not able to find the trail head after going around in a circle three times and finally I just cut out down a hillside to the road, which I knew would lead me back to the truck. I probably could have eventually figured it out, but I was under a self imposed time constraint. That said, if you go for the first time, it wouldn't be a bad idea to print out a trail map and take it with you for reference. The trails fold back in on themselves so much you can really lose your reference points!

So, to sum it up, I really had fun down there and the trails are excellent, tight, twisty, and more technically challenging than anything up here. I'll be back again.......

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Randomonium

Another disjointed blog post with the only real thread  holding this together being cycling.......

Not now.....but soon.
 Surly 650B Straggler:

Smaller statured folk rejoice! (Well.....if you've always wanted a steel bike for bombing around on that looks like this) Surly has let it be known that a smaller wheeled version of the Straggler is on the way. This may be good news to you or someone you know.

It will also be good news to tinkerers and those who want more 650B tires that aren't all "frenchy". It looks as though this bike will have 650B Knard 41's. I don't think "knard" is a French word, so this is why I find that it is different from most of the fare for this wheel size which seem to try to evoke some sort of higher brow, continental flair with their monikers. I don't think anyone will accuse Surly of being "refined" in that manner!

Lions, Tigers, and.......Bears? 

The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational may be traveling through  black bear territory. A recent news story circulated around this week indicates that near one of the pass through towns on the route a black bear and possibly two cubs are roaming freely around the countryside.

While I think the likelihood of our small band of riders coming across such critters is small, it is a possibility since we will be riding in some of the more remote areas in Clayton County. I find this development incredible since during my time living here in Iowa we have gone from almost no wildlife beyond rabbits, racoons, birds, and muskrats to having abundant amounts of critters that were the furthest thing from my mind when I was a child. Bobcats, mountain lions, turkeys, and Bald Eagles are just a few of these that simply didn't exist, or were so rare as to be legendary when I was a younginz. Now we're talking about black bears? The DNR says that if this bear does have cubs it would be the first such instance on record in 140 years. Amazing!

Mumbo Jumbo- Fat bikes are mainstream now.
Fat Avalanche Of Rubber:

Back in late 2010 the fat bike riders were stoked to the gills because there was going to be one other fat bike tire available. There was the recently discontinued Endomorph, (a moment of silence, please), and the new "Larry". It was party time for fat biking as we knew it then. 

Now, not five years down the trail, there are so many tire announcements and models coming online to purchase that it is almost easier to say which companies don't make a fat bike tire than to name those who do. It used to be something of an inside joke to talk about when Schwalbe might make a fat bike tire. You know, if they did, fat biking would be done and gone mainstream. That would never happen, right?

Right. Well........apparently fat biking is "over" then. It looks as though Schwalbe is actually going to be producing a fat bike tire, or at least have one branded. In typical Schwalbe fashion, it bears a ridiculous name.

All this seems so much like "cashing in" and manufacturers basically admitted to as much when the 27.5" bandwagon was cranked up a couple of years ago. No one wanted to "miss the party" like many did due to dragging their feet on entering the 29 inch mountain bike game in the late 00's. Certainly, by the looks of it, no one could be blamed for doing such with regard to tires for fat bikes! All I know is that in my simple mind the power of economics should sway prices to the lower end of the spectrum. I just do not see how the fat bike market can sustain the growth and with so much new product coming online, it would seem that supply will be bigger than demand. Good for fat bikers, hopefully, that want new treads.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday News And Views

Route sussing machine.
GTDRI Update: Hopefully everything falls into place for me to get out to check on some of the new route I added in for this year's Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. I need to verify a few details as well.

I just checked on the camping situation, and all reservable sites are gone, so there are a chunk of first come-first served sites that they hold back. There are showers available there. Cost per night for tent camping starts at $11.00 per night. It shouldn't be too tough to nab a tent site.

I have heard positive reaction to the event in the form of verbal commitments numbering up to about a half dozen riders so far. The weather is looking fine so far, so I suspect that if the weather prognostications hold up, we will have a nice group at the least.

I sure hope that my new camera shows up in time to take it along to get images from this ride. In fact, I hope it shows up before the ride with time enough practice and get to know it. If it doesn't, I may have to commandeer my son's camera!

Gravel. Single Speed.
So I have been kind of yearning to ride the single speed on some longer gravel rides lately. The rig I have set up for this is the Singular Gryphon. Trouble is, other stuff has been pushing back the chances to get out there on this rig.

Way back when before I got caught up in all this reviewing of stuff and what not, I would just ride a single speed on gravel for miles and miles and I was okay with that. It was simple and I had a lot of fun. Ideally I would have a lighter weight rig, but the Singular really handles riding on gravel well. I rode it at Gravel Worlds once and I thought it did really well. Plus I also have the Pofahl which I like for the same reasons.

I figure that once everything settles down after the GTDRI I should have options to ride single speed gravel a lot more. I am certainly looking forward to that. The new ride I am planning for October, the "Geezer Ride" will likely be done on one of my single speed rigs.

That's a short post but that's all I got today. Stay cool out there and get out and ride!