Monday, December 09, 2019

Guitar Ted Productions "Rear View Decade" Part 2

The "Rear View Decade" posts are my take on the soon to be closed out decade from 2010-2019. These posts will be a look back at some of the most impactful, notable, and odd events I posted about here on the blog with some new commentary. This will be from a perspective having the benefit of time to consider things, so I reserve the right to have a bit different opinion on some topics than I did "back then". Enjoy!

If you missed the first post involving my look back at the decade, you can see that here. In that post I explained how it was that I discovered that 2014 was a seminal year in my history from this past decade. The year was mostly packed with things on the back-end, but you'll get it as I go along. Let's dive in!

The year pretty much kicked off with a bang as I finished my third Triple D fat bike race in a row. This was a lot of fun to do, but after experiencing it three times, I felt I had milked as much fun out of the event as I could. This was my last attempt at that event. On a sad note, a very good friend of mine died who I had been playing music with in the band from my church. Still miss you, Larry!

Moving on, a really devastating event happened in July at the annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational when Dan Buetnner and I were struck by a drunk driver along the route. The situation was, without a doubt, bizarre. Not only were we struck as we were walking our bikes alongside the road, but we had a heck of a time getting emergency vehicles there as we were in a remote area and RAGBRAI was also going through at that time. Thankfully, Dan was okay, I was treated and released at an area hospital, but I still have the effects of this event impacting my daily life to this day. By the way, the driver of the vehicle was apprehended and convicted of a DUI. This despite his leaving the scene of the crash.

These were some of the volunteer firemen who responded to the 911 call after my getting hit.
On a bit happier note, the "Trans Iowa Master's Program" went off without a hitch the Summer of '14 with a few making it, and several failed attempts as well. Only Greg Gleason made the adventure as a solo- individual time trial style finisher. This was a challenge I set up as a way to celebrate ten years of Trans Iowa and to feature the old, point-to-point beginnings of Trans Iowa.

Speaking of Trans Iowa, I tried to make it so T.I.v10 would be the last Trans Iowa, but afterward I was prevailed upon to continue it. Again- these tales will be shared in future "Trans Iowa Stories" posts. 

I also started sharing experiences with my son, Jacob, at Iowa Speedway. The first one was an very memorable camping event where my then 11 year old son and I were stuck in a two-man backpacking tent in an epic thunderstorm as we camped overnight at Rock Creek State Park. That's an experience I don't think either one of us will be forgetting!

In the Fall of '14 I held the first "Geezer Ride". This was an idea I had to encourage first timer gravel rides, and have these rides be super-chill, slow events where no one would be intimidated, or left behind. There have been several Geezer Rides since, but none more successful, perhaps, in the original mission, than the first.

I had a woman show up, in her late 40's, and she had just begun to ride. As in just a few months before this event, for the first time in her life! She showed up on a Specialized mountain bike, and she was telling me to "just go on ahead, don't wait for me!". Well, of course, we did wait for her. It was a slow 40-ish miles around the Amana Colonies, but afterward, when she had completed the event, she was elated. She told us it was the best day she had ever had. While I doubt that was the best day she had ever had, the sentiment was there, and I felt proud that this ride had produced such a result right out of the gate. I hope this woman is still riding, but even if she isn't, this was a high point for me in 2014 and for the decade.

On the bicycle front I got my Blackborow DS, a fat bike I still own, and certainly one of my favorite bikes. I also got the Tamland 2 gravel bike, a bicycle I helped to direct the design of. This was such an odd and very proud thing I was involved with. The Raleigh design team called me on a conference call in 2012. They asked me what I would do if I had free reign to design a marketable gravel bike. The Tamland was the result. I probably will never have such an opportunity to do that again. And by the way- I bought my Tamlannd 2 from the shop where I worked at. I never was given one by Raleigh. But I'm completely okay with that.

Joel Dyke was honored with this special brew in 2016. I miss him. #biggrin
Then things weren't so fun for a while. November brought bad news when I learned of Steve Hed's sudden death. I met him the year before and really liked the guy. I was hoping to get to know him better, but obviously that won't happen. Then, in December, I learned of the accidental death of Joel Dyke.

This one hit me hard. While I could never have said that Joel was my close friend, he was super influential on me and my views concerning Trans Iowa and gravel events in particular. Many of you don't know this, but Joel was "johnny-on-the-spot" to be the first to encourage me if he detected a sense of me being down about Trans Iowa. He obviously was reading this blog, and his perceptive encouragements were valued greatly by me. Trans Iowa wouldn't have been the same without him.

At the close of 2014, a couple of major shifts in my semi-professional life as a writer/reviewer/website owner happened. First off, I got out of ownership and contributing to "Twenty Nine Inches". While I know that many people benefited from my efforts there, I was wanting out from underneath that burden for years. In fact, I never should have ever agreed to Tim Grahl's offers in the first place. That was a bad decision on my part, minus the great, lasting relationships I gained from having agreed to those ill-conceived notions of his. Anyway- I am still torn about that. I get that I have things I would not have had otherwise, but I also know there was a ton of stress, worry, and loss due to those days of working on TNI. The release I felt at the end of it all was liberating.

The second big deal was merging "Gravel Grinder News" with Ben Welnak's . This has worked out a heck of a lot better for me than my previous gig and I really still enjoy it.

Finally, I was gifted a Surly 1X1 by a departing co-worker at the shop where I was wrenching. This was a bike that had been passed on from mechanic to mechanic and I was the sixth "possessor" of this rig. This is the sort of gesture which I really am touched by. While the 1X1 is a size too small for me in reality, I am super-stoked to be able to use it. Thanks to the previous mechanics: Vance, Jeff, Carl, Adam, and Brian.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Myth Of The Triple Crown

Dan Hughes shortly after winning T.I.v13 Image by Michael Roe
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Once the gravel scene got rolling, and I would say this would have been around 2007 or so, there was an idea batted around. This idea had to do with promoting the Mid-West as the "center of gravel racing". It was, most likely, a way toward a path which has manifested itself in another way, and I think it is easy to see now that time has passed us by. But back in these days, I am not sure anyone really had the vision that maybe only one or two others did at the time.

This is the story of the mythical "Triple Crown of Gravel".

Trans Iowa inspired the Dirty Kanza 200. That's not a claim that is up for debate. It's been said many times by Jim Cummins, the co-founder of the DK200, and it was also acknowledged by the late Joel Dyke, the other co-founder of that Kansas event. So there was a certain kinship that developed early between us and our events.  At some point early on in both events timeline, Jim had brought up the thought of coming up with a "triple crown" with me, but at the time he was thinking along these lines, he didn't have a particular third event in mind. What other "like minded event" could it be? There were two- the T.I. and the DK.  I recall that Jim thought it might be desirable to have that third event be in Nebraska, a natural choice because of geography and the interest in gravel riding at the time in Nebraska.

There was a possibility of the third event becoming the one which Nebraskan Skip Cronin helped put on. It was a very challenging, mostly dirt road and remote event that ended up being a one-off and never happened again. Then, in 2008, the Pirate Cycling League put on the first "Good Life Gravel Adventure". It was a 150 mile challenge and in its first year it drew a handful of riders, but the 2009 version saw much greater interest. The PCL started talking about a "gravel worlds" back in those days, and that sort of grand thinking was something that perked up the ears of Jim Cummins who then poked around with the triple crown idea again. What the PCL was doing was right up the pipeline of where the DK200 was going, and the PCL took some cues from both T.I. and the DK. I am sure that the 2009 announcement of the AGRS (Almanzo Gravel Road Series) "Race For The Cup" in Minnesota was another influencer upon this renewed talk of a "triple crown". There were a few emails going around between myself, the PCL, and Jim Cummings back then discussing how a triple crown might work.

I recall that I found several difficulties with the idea. How would a points system be set up so that riders could accumulate points from one event to another fairly and in a way that was easy to understand? How would the differing events come to terms with the difference in opinions regarding rules? Would there be a separate "governing body"? Would there be entry fees? Prizing?

There were far too many obstacles to getting there, in my mind. Add in the fact that I would have had to make some fundamental changes to Trans Iowa, which, frankly were not going to happen due to my loyalty to Jeff Kerkove's original ideas, and as far as I was concerned it was a no-go.

So, maybe you can blame me for the death of the "triple crown" idea. But I do recall that the PCL wasn't super jazzed on the idea either. That said, it is fun to look back and think "what if"? Had a true "Triple Crown of Gravel" series been set up, where would that be now? I'm betting things would be a heck of a lot different these days.

The whole idea died then, or so I thought, until April of 2017 when Dan Hughes crossed the line first at Trans Iowa v13. Afterward, in Dan's race report, he mentioned something about being the only "Triple Crown" winner. See, he had won Dirty Kanza, Gravel Worlds, and at that time, Trans Iowa. Dan, being fairly close to Jim Cummins back in the day, may have found out about the Triple Crown idea from him. Especially when you think about Dan winning the very first DK. It maybe would have been discussed back then, in 2006. But however Dan came to his knowledge of such a myth, it was just that, a myth. There never was a "Triple Crown of Gravel", but if anyone could lay claim to such a thing, it would be Dan.

Next week; I talk about how Trans Iowa was influential early on, but soon became the outlier in the young gravel scene in "How This Event Became "The Trans Iowa"".

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-49

Anybody remember this?
Ten years ago on the blog here I made mention of a communique from the DK200 guys, Joel Dyke and Jim Cummins, concerning their plans for 2010. In fact, it was a "Gravel Grinder News" post. I got a kick out of looking at this, so I will share a bit of the e-mail they sent out back then to past participants. I think some of what you will read here today is now going to seem a lot less like hyperbole and a whole lot more prophetic. Check out the following lines from their e-mail:

"Our Vision... that The Dirty Kanza 200 will become North America's premier annual ultra-endurance gravel road cycling challenge."
You have to hand it to Jim. He eventually made this come true. I think Joel left the event after 2010, for sure after 2011. I cannot recall now. So, it was pretty much Jim's idea here, I think. Also, you will shake your heads at the following concerning roster size: 

"Field Limit: We will expand our field limit this year to 150 participants.Note... Last year's limit of 100 participants was filled in just four days of registration."

One Hundred Fifty. Can you even imagine the Dirty Kanza ever being that small? I think this coming year they are pushing 3000 for a limit between everything they are doing. Which brings me to the following point- The Dirty Kanza back then was only a 200 mile event. 200 or nuthin'! Check the following out: 

 "Classes: Open Men Open Women Single Speed Masters Men (50+)"

Pretty simple, eh? And the entry fee was waaaay below a hundred bucks, but I cannot remember what they charged back then exactly. Plus, they were working on a fancy "dot com" site, but back in those days the DK200 used a Wordpress blog. (Logo above) It's still there if you want to take a look. The quaint simplicity of it all is probably due to Joel Dyke, since it was indicated in the e-mail I am quoting that he was in charge along with his wife, Michelle, of the website end of the event. 

A shot I took from the 2009 DK200 course.
Yep! Things were a bit different back in those days. Much simpler. No lotteries. You knew just about everyone at every event you went to. You would end up by yourself for long stretches of the event. (A more authentic experience of what the Flint Hills normally is, in my opinion) That's how it was before this thing exploded into a world-wide phenomenon. Yes- world-wide. I was contacted last week by a fellow from Brazil who was looking for history on gravel grinding. He is starting a community of riders in Brazil who ride mountain roads and rural byways. It's crazy how far reaching this idea, which we grew here in the Mid-West, has gone. 

Brazil.... Who'd a thunk it?

Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday News And Views

The new Cosmic Stallion will be available in January
New All City Cosmic Stallion:

Did I ever mention that my favorite color is purple? No? Well, it is, and since that is the case, you'd think I'd have owned a purple bike by now. I had one, but it was kinda more "eggplant" than purple. That was the old '07 El Mariachi that was Gun Koted for a "Twenty Nine Inches" review. So, that is kinda weird, I think. I cannot remember any other purple bikes I may have owned....... Nope.

So, whenever I see a good looking purple bike, I get all excited. There have been a few. I remember that Krampus from a year ago, the Vaya for 2019 in purple was killer. But I haven't seen anything I'd actually pop for until this came along. The All City Cosmic Stallion.

Now, fade paint jobs are another thing I like. AC has done several really good ones, but again- nothing I would pop for. However; this bike tics nearly all the boxes and would serve a purpose in the stable. If I were to get one, it would replace the aging Raleigh Tamland Two. Now- that bike has a lot right about it, but it is "aging out" in terms of standards, and it is getting pretty beat up. I'd like to "stop the bleeding" and preserve what is left of it due to its significance to me and to gravel grinding.

A lot of things would work for me with this AC rig, which I would change the name of, it it were mine, to "Cozstal", which is a mash-up of its weird name. But that's another story... Anyway- The AC rig has front and rear through axles, making it a perfect platform for testing wheels and tires for It also has clearance for 700 X 47mm tires. Nice! Again, perfect for what I would need there. The head tube is also tapered, and that, unfortunately in my view, is where everything has gone, so again, a step into more current standards versus the Tamland. Rack & fender mounts also figure in to working well for what I need to do.

But like anything else, there are a couple of "not-so-good" things. The head tube angle for my size is 72.2°. Why? (sigh) I really, really think that a good gravel bike should be in the 71° range for my size and have a higher figure on the fork offset, like in the 50's of millimeters. The Tamland was in that realm, and it is nearly spot on. I would have liked to have seen a slacker head tube angle on this AC bike. I could live with that 72.2°, but it isn't the best. The other thing is the stated size for max 650B tires in the rear at 42mm. That is outright no good at all. This, more than the head angle, really cuts into the Cozstal's capabilities as a tool for Riding Gravel's uses. uggh! Too bad. Such a beautiful bike.

I still say this is something I'd pop for more so than anything else I've seen in purple for bicycles, but it juuuust misses the mark. That makes it a "maybe", and I'll keep looking for now. I still need to retire the Tamland.

The Walmer Bar from Australia's Curce Cycles
How Wide Is Too Wide?

With the rise in popularity and, therefore, money-making opportunities, in the gravel/all road/bike packing sectors, there have been a slew of specific components launched in the last several years to tickle rider's fancies. Perhaps no other component for gravel/off-roading has been so tortuously reformed and redesigned as the off-road drop bar.

There are few hits (Luxy Bar, Cowbell/Cowchipper. Midge Bar and their ilk) and more than a few misses. Some are laughably so bizarre and off target that you have to wonder how they made it off the design table. Today we are looking at another weird, flared drop, that for all I know is perfectly fine. It's the width on the one end of the scale that is a bit extreme here.

The Curve Cycles "Walmer Bar", a flared, swept drop, is available in 46cm, 50cm, 55cm, and 60cm, with the widest one being 750mm at the widest point. That's over 29 and a half inches, for you 'mercans out there. That's wide! Is that too wide? 

Well, that depends. Are you a really tall guy? Are you bike packing? Are you using these on a trail MTB bike? Then no, they are not too wide. For gravel travel for most folks? Probably far too wide, even the 46's. For reference, most flared drop bars offered on the market show 46cm as being the widest on offer.

The other thing is that these cost $189.00. yeesh! That's spendy for an aluminum bar, but I suppose they aren't a big numbers production item, need to be designed to work in a mtb-like fashion, and are from Australia, so there is all of that. Other than the really wide width though, these are not doing anything substantially different than a PRO Discover Big Flare bar, as a for instance. Those you can get for under 60 bucks. So, yeah..... Unless you have some monster handle bar roll you need to portage around on some off-the-beaten-track tour, I cannot say these move my needle all that much. But maybe for you they might. Choices are good, and this one looks pretty decent.

The Cherry Grove Community Center is on the old Almanzo course.
Spring Valley 100 To Run On Old Almanzo Course Again:

Wednesday I got an e-mail from the organizer of the "Spring Valley 100" which will use the former Almanzo course on May 30th, 2020.

This is all part of what occurred with the demise of the Almanzo name, which if you missed all that, is recapped here. Last Spring an event did occur on the former Almanzo course, but it wasn't well publicized. Originally known under the moniker "Keep Gravel Weird" it eventually landed on "Spring Valley 100" and happened out of Spring Valley with the city's blessing. While all details are not available now, this is good news for those who might miss the annual gathering in Spring Valley.

Comments: In my opinion, the demise of the Almanzo name/events is one of the biggest stories in gravel grinding from the 2019 year and maybe in the last decade. The event was often featured in publications and on websites as a prototypical gravel grinder, one that "should be on your bucket list". Even Shimano, when they were testing and doing research for their GRX group, came out to ride in the Almanzo 100. That should indicate what sort of stature this event has held in the past.

So, one cannot understate the importance of the Almanzo 100. The end game for the event was, in my opinion, regrettable, but out of the ashes we will receive two new events- The Spring Valley 100 and The Heywood Ride. One can enjoy Almanzo's past while riding the Spring Valley 100, with full support from the city, and what is promised to be a great after-party. Or one can enjoy the new event where the Almanzo was handed off to a new group eager to bring the same ethos and experiences that the Almanzo 100 once provided. Two events at the price of losing one? It might actually be a better deal.

Personally, I was very sad when the Almanzo was pulled from Spring Valley because I knew how important the Almanzo had been to the small village of Cherry Grove where, during the 2018 running of the Almanzo, I learned that the donations riders so freely gave at the Community Center provided enough funds to maintain the building for a third of the year's budget. That's impressive, and amazing when you understand that the donation bucket was not advertised in any way, and no prior mentions were ever made about it to the riders. That's the sort of thing gravel grinders are great at- charitable kindness, and these small communities thrive from the presence of gravel events either based in, or that run through, their communities.  Bravo to the folks behind the Spring Valley 100 for making a scene like that possible again in 2020!

UPDATED: 12/6/19: Marty Larson of the Heywood Ride called me to say that they were scrambling to get details out ASAP. I am supposed to be meeting with he and Ben Witt, the other Race Director, soon. I also noted on Facebook that there was an indication by Marty that all three courses would be in play out of Northfield that were used for the 2019 Almanzo. (100, 165, and 380 miles) Ben Witt also chimed in to say that "This is not a rebranded Almanzo, but an entirely new event." Stay tuned.....

 Life Time Events Purchases The Crusher In The Tushar:

The Life Time Events acquisition of gravel events is in the news again as Life Time has reportedly purchased the Crusher In The Tushar event. No details have been released as of now, nor has anything detailed on how Life time plans to handle the successful event started by former Pro roadie, Bruce Swindlehurst.

Comments: What we do know is that at the time that the Big Sugar was announced recently, Life Time events stated through one of the organizers that its intentions were to have six gravel events under its umbrella of events in a few years or so. Life Time currently owns and operates Leadville, The Lutzen 99er, Chequamegon 40, Dirty Kanza events, and the Big Sugar Gravel NWA events. Of those, the DK and Big Sugar are gravel based events. The addition of the Crusher brings them halfway to their goal, as stated recently.

So, let's think about this. The DK is at the end of May, the Crusher is mid-July, Big Sugar is October. Add in a June event, and August event, and maybe a Springtime one. Probably another West Coast based event in the SoCal region, perhaps. One on the East Coast. Maybe one South-central one. (Texas?) Six events spread across the season. Life Time sets up a points championship across age groups and single speed, fat bike, tandem. You get the idea? It makes a lot of corporate business sense to have your customers buying into an eco-system of events where expectations for each would be the same, formatting, structure, and all. The experience would be similar at each, so you get "repeat customers".

Watch to see if I'm close on this.

That's it for this week! Get out and ride if you can and I'll see you again here with new content next week.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Rear View '19 - Winter

Hello Readers! Once again I am doing the annual retrospective on what went down over the year of 2019. This post will focus on Winter. Subsequent posts will cover the other seasons for a total of four, one each week of December. 

The Winter going into 2019 was odd in that we experienced many days with above average temperatures. This allowed for me to get out during the first two weeks of the month and continue to ride gravel roads. I also added to the "State Of The Gravel Scene" pages with a few posts to kick off 2019.

Then Winter came in and deepened as the month went on. I swapped gravel wheels for fat tire ones and started riding in the woods. Most of the riding was accomplished on the old Ti Muk which was an awesome rig. As the season wore on, I was asked to speak at the Iowa Bicycle Conference in Des Moines. That was a first for me.

I also posted two posts in January which have become requested posts by readers since. The "How I Clean My Bicycles" post led to the "How I Keep My Drivetrain Clean" post the following day. Later on in March I answered questions prompted by those two posts.

February was the record breaking, most snow fallen in Waterloo EVER month, so you can imagine that not a lot of riding got done. That was okay because we were busy trying to get the final touches done for the inaugural C.O.G. 100 event which was to take place the following month at the end of that month.

The C.O.G. 100 special run jerseys.
We also released details on how folks could get their own C.O.G. 100 jersey. The jersey differed from the championship jerseys in that we used a different color and the "SS Champ" designation was not on this version of the jersey. If the "kernel" in the jersey looks familiar it is because we took the iconic Iowa State Patrol's insignia and modded it for our use.

N.Y. Roll and I also collaborated on and ran the second "Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party" at a local joint. We featured several Iowa based gravel event promoters who came to tell the gathered folk about opportunities to get into events in Iowa over the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2019. I think it went over really well and we were encouraged to do it again in 2020. Details will be posted here soon.

Between work and shoveling copious amounts of snow, I managed to get in a couple of fat bike rides. But mostly I ended up just doing some work on the events calendar for Riding Gravel and waiting for March, which I was hoping would be a lot better for riding. Plus, N.Y. Roll and I were nervous about snow for the C.O.G. 100, or more likely, soft, muddy roads.

March kicked off with a snowy, messy recon of the C.O.G. 100 course. It was a successful recon, and all we had to do after that point was to get cues printed up and get the riders to Grinnell so we could put the event on. The snow started melting then, and within two weeks, it was almost all gone. This quickly melting snow saturated the ground and roads with water making for some epic "slop season" riding.

Just before the "official" end of Winter, N.Y. Roll got me out on a mixed surface ride that featured riding on top of frozen snow drifts and across icy patches with my pink MCD shod with 650B X 47 Venture tires. The tires did great, more than I expected, but it was still a sketchy ride! It was great to get back on the bike after being shut in for about three weeks or so by all the snow and constant icy run-off in the first two weeks of March.

Next week: Spring

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Message From The Trenches

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

There was an article circulating over social media during the Thanksgiving weekend which was talking about bicycle mechanics and tipping them. ("Bicycling" February 2019) I wanted to slide my two cents in as a person that has wrenched on bikes professionally for 20+ years now.

First of all, as you might expect, there were a lot of trolls and comments to the effect that if being a bicycle mechanic requires anyone to tip, then "get a real job". These people are likely also the same ones that say that LBS mechanics are terrible and screw everything up. Using their logic, things would be bound to get better, right? 

Good luck with that.

So, besides that nonsense, what I drew from reading comments on this article where it was posted in two different places, and on the original article, is that there are two camps of thought regarding bike mechanics and the work that they do. First is that it is such basic stuff that "anyone can do it" and so it requires little skill. It's mostly just specialty tools and nothing more, and since bike shops own the tools, why should some grease monkey get any money for a job that is basically on the level of flipping burgers.

The second opinion I saw voiced most often was that bicycle mechanics are a valuable resource and should be paid commensurate to their value to the community. Look at other mechanics and service people who make far more dollars per hour.

One side thinks bicycles are simple machines that require little skill to fix, and the other side thinks we are like car mechanics and the like. Guess what? Both have it completely wrong. Let me explain.

It's just tools- anyone can do it. Right- Tell me what this is and how to use it. I know both.
First off, bicycle mechanics are not anything like car mechanics, or what have you. There is one reason for that- people don't need bicycle mechanics to live. I've worked on cars and I've seen the panic in people's eyes when you tell them that their vehicle is too dangerous to drive. It is as if you have told them that their Mother has died. Worse in some cases. Life stops. All sense of reason flies out the window. People cannot even imagine the world without cars.

Bicycles? pffffft! We can live without those. So, the people that fix them are a luxury tax. A necessary evil. Why, these toys can't be that complicated! Any child with the right tools can fix a bicycle. And of course- that thinking is completely wrong as well. 

Now- you need mechanics. Why? Because a LOT of people have no idea, inclination, nor talent to fix anything. That's why. Not just anyone can "fix". Give them all the fancy tools you want, it ain't happening. That is truth. I've seen these people and know them. They live all around me. And guess what? That's okay- because I don't cook all that well, and I can't sew worth a damn, nor can I do woodwork. You get the picture. I can draw portraits. You can't. Tools have little to nothing to do with it.

I find most people that think we don't need mechanics to fix bicycles, or that if we do- they should get minimum payment, are the ones that (a) are mechanics but don't work in the field and think everyone possesses this talent, or (b) are thinking bicycles are toys, not worth investing a ton of money in to, so a mechanic's pay is dispensable. Again- both have poor perspectives.

Tipping: I wish we weren't even having this conversation. I do not tip anyone but waiters and waitresses because their economy is jacked up and we have accepted that practice instead of actually paying for servers that get paid well. I don't tip a plumber, an electrician, or the guy bagging my groceries because I expect they are all getting a fair wage. Bicycle mechanics do not get a fair wage for their knowledge, skill, and for the amount of BS that many bicycle mechanics put up with.

Oh.....and I own my own tools, thank you! I have to buy new ones to keep up with ever changing standards. I have to learn new things every year to keep up with the latest in technology, which is delicate, subtle, and beyond the comprehension of even some engineers I have met. Sometimes I have to buy tools to cover old standards which might be found on jobs people bring in that I didn't already have tools for. I have to also know how and when to use all of these tools. You cannot expect to have a high school boy or girl, or even college aged younginz, know this stuff, because I've watched all of them come and go through the doors of the two shops I've worked at, and let me tell you- hardly any of them were, or are mechanics worth training. 

So, when I read articles and the comments that go with them regarding bicycle mechanics, pay, and tipping, I shake my head in sadness at the misconceptions and laugh at the foolish thoughts on display. Most folks have little idea what bicycle mechanics actually have to know, nor what innate skills and thought processes make for a person with an aptitude for being a mechanic. They have no sense of what is appropriate behavior when dealing with mechanics. They have, in many cases, irrational expectations and beliefs. And articles like the one I saw only help to prove all of this.  

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Bikes Of 2019: Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

The "Orange Crush" went single in 2019.
Most of you readers that have been around a while know all about my orange Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike that I have had sine, what? 2011? Wow! That's been a long time, right? So, for many years you readers have known this bike as a geared rig with a 2X9 drive train. Back in 2011, that made sense to have. Now? Not so much, as 9speed stuff is getting pushed away more. Good cassettes, good chain rings, and all that will become hard to get a hold of. I contemplated going to 11 speeds with this bike, but that would have required a new wheel set and with rim brakes, well, I wasn't too awful stoked about doing all of that.

What many of you readers may not realize is that the original set up for this bike was single speed. It didn't remain that way for long, but I thought, hey! Why not? I had the stuff on hand, so I took an afternoon in December of 2018 and converted the bike to SS mode.

The list goes like this:
  • Crankset- 180mm 110 BCD Sakae from an early 80's Specialized sequoia touring bike.
  • Chain ring- 40T "no-name" steel ring, likely from an old 7 or 8 speed triple. 
  • Cog- 16T Boone Titanium with matching single speed cassette spacers. 
  • Bottom bracket - Old 90's era UN-52 Shimano cartridge style. Square taper natch! 
Everything else remained the same. And.......the ride? Well, with those long cranks it is different. I had to lower my saddle a bit, which was good, because these first run Monster Cross bikes had pretty high bottom brackets. Otherwise, it is the ol' Orange Crush. I do forget at times that the levers don't do anything and I have no gears to select though!

I have had an idea running for several years now to get out and do a single speed century. When I do, it will be on this bike. I added a Wolf Tooth B-Rad rack adapter which allows me to squeeze in an extra water bottle, and where I have that pack mounted may become another mount. A nice Lezyne side loader cage should make that possible. Then I'd have 4 bottles on board. Plenty to get quite a ways down the road.

I recently added some fender "skirt" extenders....flaps? Not sure what the rando guys call those, but this will make the Orange Crush a lot better in sloppy, wet, and rainy conditions, which is partially why I went single speed with this old rig. It'll be the Winter hack, mucky roads choice when those situations arise.

Stay tuned next week for the next "Bikes of 2019" post.