Tuesday, July 17, 2018

pMCD Update: Getting Closer

The parts are accumulating on the desk at Guitar Ted Headquarters
The new rig from Black Mountain Cycles is very near to the Guitar Ted Headquarters now. I have a few more items coming yet, but things should come together very quickly once the frame and fork get here.

This has been an interesting purchase. Mike Varley has been very transparent throughout the process. He showed production images, provided shipping information, and even provided a link to follow the boat the frame and fork were in. Then he provided a FedEx tracking number with which I have been able to track the progress of the frame's travels with. Never before have I been able to follow the progress of a mass produced frame and fork like this. It's similar to how some custom builders treat their customers. The only thing better would have been if I had images of the frames being made. We probably could have had that as well.

The point is, this has been an engaging process and maybe it is a lesson for bigger companies. The "dot watching" thing for racing is a well known phenomena, but it works for bigger purchases as well which require lots of hand labor and are sourced from a far away land I'll likely never see. It makes things more "real", if that makes any sense, and I feel a more personal connection to this frame and fork than I did with my first Black Mountain Cycles purchase.

Well......anyway...... Now the thing is almost here. I have nearly very part to build it up which has drained my resources down to almost nil, but I'll have just enough gas to get 'er done. I also wanted to finally name this build/bike. Usually I will go with "Project......" something or another, but that is getting old. It is also too obvious to use "Pink" something or another, but I wanted to give a nod to the color. So, I decided "pMCD" will do. "Pink Monster Cross Disc", obviously, and it is what it is. Besides, "pee-em-cee-dee" rolls off the tongue nicely.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Broken parts........Gah!
Well, that wasn't the weekend I was looking for! (Apologies to "Star Wars") Yeah, the recon of the Guitar Ted Death Ride course didn't happen. That was the first bummer. Of course, the wet weather we had on Friday and into Saturday pretty much made that impossible. Then I got caught up doing things with the family instead, which isn't bad. Not at all, that was good.

So, I figured Sunday might be better. Given that it is Summer and all, the heat of the day and whatever winds we may have gotten might be enough to dry out the dirt to the point I might be able to get through. I chose a piece of the beginning of the route to check out and got going in the afternoon. It wasn't a bad day, really. Not too hot and there was zero wind. That was kind of weird. But then again, we are getting into the "dog days" of Summer when it can be this way.

Things were just starting out and going well until I noticed the water bottle on the right fork leg was bouncing around violently. I stopped to find out that I had finally experienced what many others have with their Salsa Cycles Nickless cages- a break. Dang it! It broke right at the weld at the base by the lower bolt, like I have heard most of these do when they break. Well, I thought about it and decided I needed to carry that bottle in my jersey pocket and leave the cage on there. Without any weight in it, I figured it would be able to ride things out until I got back to the house.

They say we are the Tall Corn State. There might be something to that. 
I remounted and started back up the road. Then I saw it. That weird wobble in a tire that signals imminent death of the casing.......well, at some near future point. I wasn't sure I was seeing it right, so I kept going and watched it to see if it would be getting worse. I went about two more miles before I was certain I was seeing something. I decided to stop at a turning point which would take me even further away from town and make a call.

When I stopped it was evident that the casing was coming apart and the tire wasn't going to live a lot longer.How much further could I get? Well, one choice was to just take a chance that it would hold up and I'd get the ride in. Or.......it would blow out on a descent at 30+ mph, I'd cartwheel into the ditch, and well..........yeah. It might not be quite that dramatic, but I didn't want to find out. I made the turn back into town. Truncated rides suck, but catastrophic tire failures suck worse.

I made it back just fine and the tire will be removed and disposed of. But I was bummed that I didn't get out more than I did. At least I got out to pedal some!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Touring Series: Rained, Over, And Out


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.

We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" on its seventh day out from the start as they are held up by rain in Manistique, Michigan.........

It wasn't too long before noon, and the rain was steadily falling. Each passing minute was a moment slipping away that was painfully palpable. The whole point of the tour had been to reach Canada, but now, so tantalizingly close and yet so far away, we all were increasingly aware that it was over. We were going to have to throw in the towel, and it wasn't anyone's fault. Not Steve's for Steven's Point, not for having stopped so many times, not for lack of effort. It was what it was.

We sat there and waited, and even when it did clear up, we all knew it was pointless to go on. Steve called his girlfriend, Troy made a phone call. We sat around waiting to find out where and when we would be picked up. I got something to eat and munched it quietly outside. Steve suddenly perked up and pointed out a bumper sticker on a pick up truck. "Shoot 'em all! Let God sort 'em out" it proclaimed. It was a bit of comic relief that somehow fit the moment and lightened the mood.

Troy came out and between he and Steve they figured out that there was a State Park just a bit back west out of Manistique up a black top road. We finally talked it over and decided to cash it in and spend the night there. As we rolled up the road, down a darkened tunnel through tall pine trees, I could sense the release of tension. Troy and Steve were joking and carrying on. It was a relief not to have a deadline anymore. We passed a rustic country store about a half mile from the park entrance that was selling beer. We made a mental note of that for later!

As we pulled in to Indian Lake State Park, we were dismayed to see that it was packed. We rolled up behind a couple of cars waiting to check in at the Ranger's Station and we thought about a possible Plan B in case we were turned away. As we reached the drive up window, (Ride up window?) we were met with wide eyes by a female park official. She stated the obvious by saying the Park was full, but then she said, "...but we will have to find you a place. Let's see what I can do." I said, "What?...." She replied, "Oh yeah, it's Michigan State law that if a hiker or cyclist asks for a camping spot in any State Park, we have to find them room." So, she looked and found that a spot had been unclaimed that was reserved. It was now ours. It happened to be directly across from the shower house!

We secured our spot. It was windy, with hurrying clouds from the north right off the lake. We set up our tents and bugged out back to that country store. Troy put two and a half cases of canned beer on the rack of his Voyager. I'm sure that exceeded his racks capacity! It was funny how Troy could wiggle the front half of his bike but the back half wouldn't move due to all the weight of the beer.

Once back at the campgrounds we drank lots of beer, laughed, played Frisbee, and kicked back for a bit. It was a lot of fun, and honestly, we should have done more of that maybe. Whatever......... The wind was wicked off the lake, and Steve's tent got zapped, so he moved his stuff in with me for the last night. We sat around and talked into the darkness, but all good things come to an end, and somewhere in an alcoholic haze I zipped my self into my sack and passed out breathing in the cold night air laced with the scent of pine trees.

That was it for the tour. But we still had to get home. The ride back would be an all day slog in Steve's girlfriends Blazer. Shouldn't be a big deal, and I was anxious to finally get back home.
Yeah........kind of anti-climatic, eh? Well, we came up 120 miles short of our goal, so that is why we weren't ashamed. Yeah, we could have made it sans a rainy day mid-week, and we knew that. (I will delve into more about the way we strategized and what was good and bad about that in a separate post.)
For the time being I wanted to focus on the dichotomy between the arrival in Manistique and leaving for Indian Lake State Park. The morning was all "speed touring", as it had been most of the week. The last hours were more like what people normally think of when touring. Fun, free, and careless. Oh, we had our moments, for sure, during the week, but the aftermath of not getting our goal was so liberating it was uncanny. 
In fact, I didn't want it to end, but I was also ready for a trip back home to "normal" life. It was odd. Part of me was never the same after that week. I kind of knew this as the evening wore on at Indian Lake. I remember watching the white caps crashing into the shore and thinking about how I'd had such an adventure and that, sadly, it was over. The sight of those wind driven waves still can be seen in my mind's eye.......

Next week: In A Blazer Of Glory

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 28

The Blackbuck, day lilies, and a muddy Cedar River
Ten years ago this week I was busy getting together the third Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. The plan was modified in the last days leading up to this one so that I could accommodate a special guest, Jason Boucher, then the head honch of Salsa Cycles. I've mentioned a few times here why this GTDRI was a special one, but since that will come out soon enough, you'll just have to wait for the full story.

Here is a little tidbit of info I posted about the GTDRI back in '08:

"Ride Intent: I sometimes wish I hadn't chosen the name I did for this ride. It has been a source of confusion and misunderstanding from the outset. Some of you got it right away though, so I know that not everyone falls into this category. Here's the two things most commonly misconstrued concerning GTDRI.

#1 It's not a race, it's not a "group ride" (using that term to describe the competitive nature generally found on such rides), and it's not a training ride. Nope! It's not any of those things at all. It's something else altogether. So, if your expectations are that we are racing, competitive, or even going to go at it at a training pace, you are barking up the wrong tree.

#2: It's open to anyone not interested in racing or training. (In the strictest sense of those terms) It's open to anyone that just wants to go on a long ride that happens to be tough. You don't necessarily need an "invite", even though I've used the term in the name. It was done tongue in cheek. It's kind of a joke, okay. So please, if you are cool with long rides more for fun than anything else, check us out."

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday News And Views

GTDRI Recon:

So, this ride is using the same 104 mile route as last year. I hope to get out and cruise some of it this weekend. I'm not too worried about road issues, but then again, with 25 miles of dirt roads, you never know what might be decommissioned or be truncated due to a short bridge being out, or the like.

That's the funny thing about Iowa rural roads. They never change, until they do, and then right when you have a mind to ride them. Take "O Ave" pictured here for instance. When I reconned it a couple of weeks out from the '17 running of the GTDRI it was a grassy, barely there two track which had rustic airs and was almost mountain bike-ish. Then, when we rode it, it had been graded out and looked like any other Iowa gravel road, with the exception of the gravel. Weird!

At any rate, I hope to get out there, if only just for the ride. I don't know though, they are predicting thunderstorms for Saturday and the percentages are high right now for that to happen. Of course, if it rains the dirt is a no-go, even if it is not raining when I try to ride. So, if it rains, I will do something else.

That's also a concern regarding the ride, so I'll reiterate- If it rains, the ride likely will be cancelled. If it rains before or during the ride, there will be major modifications to the route and plan. Just in case you are coming to the GTDRI, you'll need to be flexible. Of course, you can always ask for your entry fee back and see where that gets you!

Compass Antelope Hill tires. Still sittin on these yet.
Hesitant On The Compass:

I got these Compass tires in almost a month ago now and I haven't done a thing with them. I was pretty excited about trying them out, because I'd heard good things and , well........I'd been getting bugged to try them by folks for years now. 

So, I actually bought a set. Then about that time I was ready to set them up tubeless my good buddy MG was setting another model of Compass Tires up tubeless and was having the worst time ever getting it done.

Now, let's put this out there up front: MG managed to get them to behave eventually. I think it took him several days and tons of sealant to finally come out on the winning end of things. But here's the thing- MG is a veritable master at setting things up tubeless and if he was having that much trouble, well........

I'll be completely honest here- I am not at all interested in driving myself crazy over these tires setting them up tubeless. That's not necessary in 2018. You shouldn't have to go through any hoops at all- none- to set up a tire tubeless now. Ten years ago? Sure. I went through all sorts of hoops to set up tires back then, but I don't care if these are the best riding tires in the Universe, it isn't how it should be now. I really don't want to find out either.

I know.....I know! You Compass freaks are going to all say it is worth it, you've never had any trouble, yada, yada, yada. Even MG says they ride great. But I know MG and like I say, if it was such a hassle for him, I'm in no hurry to replicate those findings myself. I've got better things to do with my time, in my opinion. But, I did purchase them, so I still have a slight reason to give it a go. That said, the wind is completely gone out of my sails for doing these tires up, and I think I'll be letting that sit there for a while longer before I make a final decision.  

Could be that you'll see them on my Garage Sale page soon. Maybe.

 The Gravel Family Strikes Again:

I'm sure many of you recall last month when my truck let me down and I missed the Solstice 100, the gravel grinder near Lincoln, Nebraska. Well, late last week I got a package in the mail with a t-shirt and a note from Joe Bilesbach, the RD of the event.

It was a really nice gesture on his part to do this, which he did not have to do. RD's have enough crap to deal with, (ask me how I know), and handing out free t-shirts to no-shows is not very high on the to-do list. But still, here is a really great example of how most of us in the scene look out for each other. I'm sure Joe was a bit bummed about my not making it, (he did send a t-shirt, after all) and I got a nice reminder that people really do care.

So, a public thank you to Joe. I appreciate the gesture very much and I will wear the t-shirt with pride. Oh, and another thing, Joe didn't ask me to plug his event, but.....I hear the event is pretty cool too, so check it out if you can next season.

That's it for this edition of FN&V. Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

There Is Only So Much Money To Go Around

The industry is going ga-ga for these electric motorcycles with pedals.
Eurobike just happened again.

I know, right? You'd never had known that except for maybe that goofy driveshaft drivetrain that's been making the rounds lately. (That was debuted at Eurobike, but it could have been anywhere.)

I called it "Euro-snooze" last year, because the whole deal was about e-mtbs, and I guess this year it was even worse. One person commented on an industry media site that the show felt more like a "....a German e-bike dealer show with some international presence" than a traditional Eurobike.  

Now, we can debate all day about the viability of this developing dominance of e-bikes in the industry, or if they should or should not be allowed. That's a never ending debate. One thing many are not realizing though is that all the focus on attaching motors to anything you can pedal is draining the reserves of companies and little is left for the development of "traditional" bicycles. If you wonder why it is that little to no news is coming out in your bicycle feeds on social and traditional media about new stuff at Eurobike, this is the big reason why. 

Innovation costs money. The bicycle industry, down in sales and revenues for a long time now, cannot just conjure up the funds to do new projects without compromising other aspects of the business.  We've seen this recently in the past with another marketing driven saga involving 27.5" wheels.

27.5"er (L) and a 29"er (R). Image by Grannygear
Back about six years ago or so the industry decided that the sagging sales of 26" wheeled 5 to six inch travel full suspension bikes was in need of a make-over, and that was centered around 650B sized wheels dubbed "27.5"ers" by the industry. NOTE- No one was asking for these bikes to be changed. There had been examples of long traveled 650B bikes for several years prior, but the groundswell just wasn't there. That didn't matter, because changing wheel size meant that your old, tired, long travel 26"er wasn't going to get replaced by another 26"er, it was going to be the shiny, new wheel size. This also was a big part of revitalizing long traveled bikes to others as well. Subsequently, money poured into the development and manufacturing of bikes based around this "new" wheel size. 

I remember 2012-2014 well as I was editor of "Twenty Nine Inches". New product intros suddenly dried up for big wheelers. 29" stuff was in a holding pattern as monies were diverted to fast-tracking new 650B long travel "enduro" bikes to market. Ad revenue for the site plummeted, (not that we ever had much more than enough to keep the site alive). Subsequently, I believe, the development of 650B and the results of a sagging industry overall stunted the development of good, long travel 29"ers. It took a few years for everything to settle back down and then we saw long travel 29"ers take off. 

E-bikes require a lot of specialized frame design, heavier duty wheels, special components in the drive train, and the brakes are developing for these bikes to be more powerful and reliable. Note- all of these developments are also heavier.  Therefore they are not cross-pollinated into any other line of bicycles. So the dollars that are being sunk into these e-bikes are not helping your other lines. They are taking away from them. 

So, don't expect a lot of new innovations in the coming years, unless your bicycle has a motor and battery attached to it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pink MCD Update: Wolf Tooth Head Set

The purple Wolf Tooth head set is in my grasp now waiting for the Pink MCD
The parts are coming in now and soon the frame and fork will also be arriving. It's gonna be a scene when it gets here! The latest bit to hit my grimy paws is a Wolf Tooth 1 1/8th purple head set.

My image here of it makes it look more magenta-ish, but indoors it looks more grape-ish. It has a very deep, rich color to it which should play well off the pink of the frame. I'm pleased with it. The Wolf Tooth head set I tested for RidingGravel.com is a fine example of what I can expect here as it has been flawless so far.

Purple against the pink is the color splash I have chosen and I thought there should be another bit of purple somewhere on the bike. I had considered Paul Components Klamper brakes in the "special limited edition" purple, but there are two reasons those are out. One- they are not going to be shipping the purple stuff they get orders for now until August sometime, which is too late for my plans. Second, and more importantly, they are just too expensive for me. Wait........there is a third reason. I have perfectly good TRP Spyre brakes calipers just sitting down in the Lab. Case closed!

But I still wanted something else purple, and I finally figured it out. A CroMag purple seat collar to replace the stock BMC one that is black. That's on its way now. I think those two splashes of color will do it. I was looking for a purple outboard bearing bottom bracket that wasn't "Chris King" expensive and there wasn't anything out there better than the $75.00 MSRP Wheels Manufacturing angular contact bearing bottom bracket, which is made in the USA. The cups are anodized gray. Meh! Whatever. They will be covered in dust soon enough anyway and I wanted to test their bottom brackets for my own satisfaction. So, that is also on the way.

So, beyond cable housings, cables, crimp ons, and maybe some other small details, I will have everything here to build the Pink MCD. I need to get a cassette, probably. But that won't be hard to find. I can probably pick up something that will work from the shop. So, barring any weird delays in getting the frame and fork, I should be good to go and a new rig should be under me for Gravel Worlds, if not before.

Stay tuned.......