Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday News And Views

I've been waiting a long time to get this out again!
Trail Time:

The days are nigh now that I will be out on dirt ribbons in the woods around the area. I have been off the single track for many months and I'm itching to get back on it again. One of the rigs I am excited about is the Singular Buzzard. I got a brief taste of this bike last Fall and early Winter, but besides a ride on gravel with my buddy, MG, the Buzzard has been mostly in roost for the cold months.

There may be a new fork in the offing for this rig, and I already swapped out the saddle for a WTB Pure V I got in trade from one of my teammates on the Gent's Race team. The next upgrade will be a pair of the new Ergon GE1 grips which will be a great change on this bike. With that dialed in, I have a couple trails on the radar I need to hit up around the area to see what the potential for this rig really is.

I also need a black stem. Well........need is relative. I think a black one would look better. And a wider handle bar too. I gotta look into that........

Kansas has a new gravel road event

The Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash:

I like to ride gravel roads and I also like history. The news about a new Kansas based gravel road event started coming through to me about a month or so ago. My interest was piqued, of course, but later on when I found out that the proposed route had historical touch points I was really interested. This is the sort of thing I really like about gravel road riding. History and dusty roads mixed together!

The Pony Express is kind of a weird point in U.S. History. It only lasted for 18 months and of those 18 months not all were done on the entire route. Technology was to blame. The old way was to portage the letters by horseback, which at first cost about 100 bucks per letter! The Pony Express was faster than the old stage coach way, (Ten days from St. Jo to Sacramento), but telegraph lines were going up and sending a telegraph was far faster and far cheaper. The idea of young men, generally in their teens, speeding across the Wild West was quickly romanticized and became part of popular lore. The famous Iowa born William "Buffalo Bill" Cody was a Pony Express rider and his rising fame also helped cement the Pony Express in the minds of the populace. At any rate, we're perpetuating the lore with a gravel road event nowadays!

Check out the event flyer here

The Bucksaw 2

Big, Fat, and Full Suspension: 

I've been contemplating the new Salsa Cycles fat bike full suspension design since it splashed onto the scene just a week ago now. I really am intrigued by this bike. Well........maybe by the idea of this bike and its potential for future bikes like it. That's probably more accurate.

I think the basic Split Pivot part is fine. I've no doubt that Dave Weagle put forth his best effort here and that the bike is executed in such a way that the suspension works decently. My doubts come in when I break down what the Bluto is. While I feel it may be adequate, I do not think it is Rock Shox's best effort in the same way that the rear suspension is Dave Weagle's best effort. I have heard whisperings that a better fork may happen at some point. I think that's where the Bucksaw will really work as advertised. When it gets what it desrves up front.

Sure, I get that this is the way it has to be to start. Heck, Salsa had to basically beg for this fork to be made for two years. (They said as much in their story on the Bucksaw's development.) So, you have a "decent" fork in the Bluto. Do you jump in now, or wait? It's intriguing. I really like the whole idea.

In my mind, it is a frameset buy. Why? Because I can spec better wheels and tires, which are a huge part of the fat bike's cost and performance potential. Salsa showed a prototype with Whiskey carbon fat bike wheels. This bike deserves them. Oh.......and they better be tubeless compatible. Sticking with 2011 technology isn't going to cut it with a bike of this nature anymore. Think about it. Even the Horsethief and Spearfish come with Stan's NoTubes rims. Any full suspension bike worth its salt has tubeless ready rims these days.

So while I really like the concept, I am not convinced on the total package's execution yet. Not on the surface of it as it stands today. But as they say, "specification subject to change". Hopefully it gets tweaked for the better here.

That's it for today. Have a great weekend! Get out and ride those bikes and find the Easter Bunny!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

B Road Test

A brutal wind out there yesterday!
Wednesday I had been driving myself nuts over-thinking all the details for the upcoming Trans Iowa V10, so I finally talked myself into going on a bicycle ride. I was pretty sure I really wanted to ride single track in the woods, but with a high wind warning for the afternoon, it wasn't a very good idea. Unless you like risking being knocked upside the head with a heavy branch from an aging cottonwood tree. I decided to take a pass on that one.....

So I decided to ride the Tamland Two with the Bruce Gordon Rock & Roads. I headed down the usual escape route thinking I would go down through the more protected areas along the river and back again. However; when I dropped down onto the bike path I went hard left instead of right. I'm not really sure why, but I reformulated a plan and that plan led me straight into the wind.

And what a wind! It was blasting out of the South at about 30 mph and sometimes with higher gusts. I ended up "wind grinding" it in the small chain ring, head down in the drops, trying to hold it steady in the occasional cross blasts. It was nice to learn that the Tamland's front wheel doesn't do that "dive-correct-dive-correct" thing into the wind, but it has a very planted feel. It only gets pushed sideways in a crosswind in a very predictable way. That made riding it easier than maybe it would have been with another bike's geometry.

The Objective I was wanting to reach- Petrie Road's B Maintenance section. 
I was trying to get to Petrie Road and its one mile long B Maintenance section so I could try a couple of  ideas. One was to see how the roads are coming back after 4 inches of rain. The second was the idea of timing myself on a one mile stretch of B Road. But first I had to get there! That was turning out to be not so easy. I was on that bike path, and somewhat protected, but after awhile I was obliged to leave it and go up the old Highway 63 paved section to just east of Hudson to reach Holmes Road, which is a gravel. That would eventually dump me at the corner of Holmes and the beginning of the B Maintenance sector of Petrie Road. On a normal day the ride is a piece of cake, but the mighty wind had other ideas on this day.

I didn't stop till I got there......
There were several times on the pavement, and then again on the gravel of Holmes Road where I was likely going less than 5mph. The wind was roaring the entire time as well, so I had to come up with something to keep my sanity as I rode along. You see, I don't do music and ear buds. It just doesn't work for me. For some reason a vague rendition of Pharrell Williams "Happy" popped into my head, so I just went with that and put my head down.

I was trying to calculate the mileage to the B Road, thinking I had one more agonizing mile of headwind to endure when I suddenly recognized the road and knew I was almost there. Just when I did, the wind redoubled its attack, but I was within striking distance now and would not be denied. I was going to get there without stopping for a rest. I swung down into muddy two track and road in about 50 yards before I pulled up to stop for the first time to catch my breath and give my legs a well deserved rest.

Even just pushing the bike was causing clay to build up on the wheels!
So I figured I would walk the mile and see how long it took. That way I could tell folks "something" which may or may not help in their reconnoitering of how to attack the course for Trans Iowa V10 which includes 10 such B Maintenance road sectors which could all be unrideable.

It became immediately apparent after pushing my bike less than 10 feet that the clay-ish soil was going to collect on my rig's tires very quickly to the point that I would no longer be able to roll the bike. That meant I should probably be carrying it. Since I had a Revelate Tangle Bag on, to simulate a "load" for a Trans Iowa attempt, I couldn't shoulder the bike underneath the top tube. I ended up reaching over the top tube and picking up the bike by the down tube and hoisting away.

I then trotted down the lane, feet clagging up with clay, and this went on until I spied perhaps a more excellent way to traverse this unrideable morass of soil saturated with water. The field! As I surveyed my options, I spied a little "causeway" between mud and stubble that wasn't bad to walk on. In fact, it was almost pleasant, what with all the dead tall grass laying down like a sort of thatched rug under my feet. The bike rolled along well on this grassy track, so I went with it.

This is not cheating- just being prudent!
I suppose it could be called a "ditch", only it was pretty much level with the field next to it and was actually higher than the road proper in many spots. The dead grasses might hide treacherous "bear traps" like barbed wire, debris, or the like, but if it did, I never fell victim to any of that, thankfully. I pushed onward and came up to a point where I was obliged to settle on the edge of the road where the grass ended and the mud began since the grassy "causeway" had ceased to be a good track.

This T.I.V10 B Road could take a bit longer to walk if muddy
I pushed my bike's tires a little too far outward and the clay was so greasy the bike almost went down! I picked it back up and skedaddled over to the other side where now there was a nice, mown edge to the road, since I was approaching a farm, and the end of the dirt.

I coasted the last short graveled section to the corner and hopped off. It took 20 minutes. I figured that was about right since I stopped twice to photograph things but coasted out the last tiny bit to help make up for the lost time, plus I trotted a bit to speed things up in the middle.

Fortunately I did not have to portage the bike for very far. If I had been obliged to do so, it would have taken longer than 20 minutes, since I am sure that carrying a bicycle in the mud would be slower than rolling the bike in the grass. With 10 B Maintenance roads in Trans Iowa this year, it will be a good idea not to be lolly gagging about since each of these may take a while to navigate on foot.

But I wasn't concerned with B Maintenance roads any longer. I was licking my chops because that brutal headwind was going to push me all the way back home at high speeds. It was a great reward for having gutted out the ride's beginning. I did hear weird noises, almost as if a jet airplane was nearby with engines at full throttle. A roaring, deep booming mixed in with the swirling sounds of the wind as it rushed along Northward. Winds do strange things to sounds. Who knows? Maybe I was hearing a lofty jet! Whatever it was I just shrugged and cranked out the final miles in the big ring.

The B Road test went well, and my legs and lungs got a great workout. I'm glad I put down the Trans Iowa stuff for a bit to get out for a ride.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Trans Iowa V10: Organizing The Chaos

Obligatory "Blood Moon" image by Phyllis Stevenson
So it is getting crazier now the closer I get to Trans Iowa v10. The boxes are piling up in the basement and front room, and I am making plans to get everything organized into bags and just how that will go together. Then I have to go out a buy some more storage tubs because I have so much more stuff this time. More than at any other time before a Trans Iowa.

Then the next hurdle to clear will be printing the cue sheets. The paper will be procured this week, then I will start the process of printing out sheets for 110+ people to get them from the start to Checkpoint #1. I'll print slightly less for the Checkpoint #1- Checkpoint #2 sector, and even less for the last leg, but it still gets into a lot of paper and cutting, and stuffing, and whatnot. I had a pretty good process for this last year. I'll have to try to recreate that again!

Tomorrow will be a big day. I may get out for a short bike ride, but I will be mostly doing Trans Iowa business. Organizing and setting up for the bag stuffing, most likely. I have a few odds and ends to attend to with regard to paperwork as well. Setting up the rosters for the checkpoints, and doing a couple of letters. Contacting volunteers to solidify the manpower for the event as well.

Hammer Nutrition products.
The level of support for this year's event is astounding. I can't begin to take it all in, but there is a lot of good stuff here that will all be getting out to the riders come the 25th at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Every year I am blown away by the companies and individuals that come forward to give Trans Iowa a boost. It's been that way since V1. (Anyone still have their orange Tifosi sunglasses and Ergon grips?) Every year it's been continuing on and sometimes the boost Trans Iowa gets is a big one, sometimes it is smaller but significant in other ways, but it has always attracted attention from the cycling industry since day one, and for that I am forever grateful.

So here's the deal- if you ever get a chance to thank any company that is supporting a gravel event, don't hesitate to say something, or send an e-mail, or to say something to the event director, be that at Trans Iowa or any other gravel event. Many of these sponsors are really into the gravel scene and any feedback they get will ensure that they made the right choice. I know the sponsors will really appreciate that, and it will help ensure that events on gravel keep getting that boost like Trans Iowa has for ten years now.

Now, where are those safety pins and markers I bought last week..........

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Randomonium

Another disjointed blog effort for you to navigate today covering 29+, Trans Iowa, and maybe some other odd ball things.......


A Rooster in the USA soon? Why yes!
Did you know a new US distributor of Singular Cycles is going to be importing Rooster 29+ rigs? Well.........now you do! The name of the outfit is Colorado Specialty Velo, and they have a great deal on a "rolling chassis" that you can score, if you are so inclined.

The rolling chassis is a great start to a build and consists of a frame, fork, and Velocity Dually Comp wheel set with Magura MT-6 brakes. For more details, see the site here.

I am not connected to Colorado Specialty Velo or Singular Cycles in any way, but I do happen to know some of the principals involved in both companies, and they are nice fellas. Besides, the bikes are really nice, and I have seen and briefly ridden a Rooster proto, which is going to be a sweet 29+ rig. It's different than either the Krampus or ECR, and I think it would be a great Mid-West single track machine. Heck, my buddy MG is even racing one, so you know they can handle the twisty-turnies!

Raleigh FS Prototype as seen at Sea Weasel (Image Courtesy of Raleigh)

Raleigh FS Prototype:

While I had known that Raleigh was fixin' to get back into the full suspension mountain bike game again, I was a bit surprised by the model they put on view at Sea Weasel last weekend. It is an XC oriented rig, which makes sense, because Raleigh actually has a history in XC that goes back a long way. (Remember the Tomac Signature XC hard tail?)

Anywho.....Raleigh proffers up this rig which looks like a mash-up of a Salsa Spearfish, Specialized Camber, and with a dash of old Gary Fisher HiFi thrown in for good measure. In other words, it may be a fine bike, but there doesn't appear to be anything remarkable about it. Still, it is nice to see Raleigh trying something in the world of mountain bikes beyond steel hard tails and the carbon hard tails they have been doing for a while now.

Panaracer "Fat B Nimble" (Image courtesy of Panaracer)
Panaracer Fat B Nimble 26 X 4.0 Tire:

More fat tire stuff is coming down the pike than you can shake a stick at. One of the single biggest complaints of fat bikers for years has been the high price of rubber. Fat bike tires traditionally have ranged from $100.00 a piece on up to $250.00 a piece for the ultra-cool studded examples.

That seems to be something that is going to change. Panaracer has said that the 120TPI version of this tire will retail for under a hundred bucks and the 60 TPI version may be around $60.00. You might be thinking, "Yeah, but they probably weigh a boatload and don't roll well. " Not so fast, partner!

Initial reports say the 120TPI versions are under 1300 grams each and that they roll fantastically well. Panaracer also has traditionally made some of the highest quality tires for reasonable prices for years, plus they usually can be set up tubeless with little issue. If all of that pans out with the Fat B Nimble, then we're looking at a tire that will revolutionize pricing and competition for fat bike rider's greenbacks. I see no reason to look elsewhere if they are going to hit on all cylinders with these meats. (Well, unless Maxxis and some others follow suit with their pricing structures!)

Oh yeah, did I mention that this Fat B Nimble will also be a 29+ tire? Yes.....that's what Panaracer is saying. UPDATED: See comments by Panaracer's Jeff Zell below

Shazbot.....Nano Nano
 WTB Nano 40's:

The gravel road tire selection is getting very interesting of late. Now we have WTB on the verge of putting forth another choice in rubber in their soon to be available Nano 40 tires. These will start showing up in stores and shops in May-June, so I am told.

However; I happen to know where 5 sets of them are in the US right now. That's right, they are here at Guitar Ted Laboratories but I can't touch 'em! Nope, these are earmarked for Trans Iowa prizing and the fastest 5 riders will each score a set of these tires. I suppose that if you'd like an early set of these, you could hang out at the barn where the finish line is with a stack of cabbage and see what kind of deal you can make with the winner!

These were supposed to go to OEM clients for inspection, but five sets were "stolen", (The WTB guy's words, not mine!), from that batch and redirected to Trans Iowa. So, as of now these are the only ones up for grabs. Don't ask me anything about them! I put them in a box and sealed it up so I won't be tempted!

That's a wrap for Randomonium this time. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hot & Cold

Wally Kilburg will be doing imagery for T.I.V10 this year
It was a weekend of contrasting weather and activity. Saturday was the big day out taking care of the final cue sheet checking before we go to print. You can read all about that in the previous post to this one.

It was supposed to be warm Saturday, but the 80's? It was ridiculous. The wind was also bad, coming up to full gale by about 1:00pm and not relenting for several hours. Then on the way home that night the most spectacular lightning show I've witnessed in a while happened with strikes going off so often it was as if I was driving with a huge strobe light outside.

Saturday was great though. Without the warmer, drier weather we have had leading up to Saturday, it would have been difficult to drive all the B Maintenance roads that we did. In the end, we drove every single mile of the course but the last three, (since we already know all about that part), and all of it was in primo shape.......on Saturday. Of course, had we tried to do that on Sunday it would have been a complete disaster. So, we had that one thing go our way so far this year coming into this big event. Every time I've been out on the course, it has been like that. Hopefully that trend continues!

Trying out a few things for grins.
Sunday was a complete washout. It was windy, colder, and a lot wetter! It was in the 40's most of the day and the weather pretty much dictated I would stay inside all day like most sane individuals. However; a few Trans Iowa nutcases were out training in that mess. I  did get out on a few, very brief excursions. One of those was to snap off a couple images of the results of my  experimentation with the Tamland.

I first mounted the Bruce Gordon Rock & Road tires to the stock wheels. Plenty of room to spare for clearances with that set up, so I was pleased to find that out. The tan sidewalls definitely give the Raleigh a more retro feel. Then I mounted up an old rack and pannier to check on the fit. It was great. Finally I tried my Revelate Tangle Bag. Everything worked well together and it is nice to know that someone could use bags or frame bags as a way to extend the versatility of this bike. I probably will take the rack and pannier off, but the rest will stay for a bit.

I also have a plan for a light weight wheel option on the Tamland, which I should have almost everything for here already. When I get that sorted I am going to check into a 46T Ultegra 11 chain ring to replace the 52T outer, and I should be good to go on this rig for a long time.

What else does a guy do on a wet, cold, damp Sunday but dink around with bicycle parts!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Trans Iowa V10: Final Course Check & Report

Cue the harps.....
First off, I want to say that the cues were 99% spot on and everything verified as far as the course we chose last year for this event. I have a few details to tweak. Mostly descriptors in the cues, and then the cue sheets are ready for production. That is a huge milestone and I am ready now to move into the final stages of production for T.I.V10.

Now, I could bore you all with the story of how I awoke at 4am and got going to meet Wally and George in Grinnell, or tell you how I got pulled over by a cop for no apparent reason on the way down and was let go, or how I was mistaken for a Southwestern Iowa construction company owner, but all you really want to know is what the course was like. So, I'll get on with it.......

First of all, the course was bone dry. Really dry in a kind of, I am worried about a drought kind of dry. The creeks were super low, rivers were really low. Dust was blowing everywhere, and all the B Maintenance roads were cracked wide open they were so dry. There were several areas I was concerned about for wet weather due to the low lying nature of the roads and proximity to marshy areas or creeks, but all three of us agreed that it would take nearly two weeks of consistent rains to even begin to bring water levels to a point where we need to worry. Of course, anything is possible, and we could go from bone dry to flooding, but the extended forecasts don't point to that trend. Yes, right now they are calling for many days of "showers", but that isn't going to put much of a dent into this dry condition we have now. We'll see.......

This is representative of what every B Road looked like.
As far as maintenance, there was little done up to this point. There were stretches of fresh gravel, indicating things on the maintenance front are just heating up. Expect gobs of fresh gravel again this year. I'm pretty certain that by the looks of the roads we were on that approximately 80-90% had not seen a maintainer yet this year.

Amazingly, the roads were not damaged by the switch from Winter to Spring at all. With the lone exception of one frost heave we saw, and maybe a couple pot holes, these are the best looking roads I think we've had in Spring in years. Wally quipped that the roads were so good he may even throw in his hat and ride! (<====HA!) Well........many were smooth. However; will they be that way in two weeks, or will they be swimming in fresh gravel, or saturated in rain? Who knows.....??

So it will likely come down to the "wild card" again. The Weather. Last year was a "gift", and likely not to be repeated again this time, but most probably will be somewhat worse in some way. Too hot, (like Saturday when it was in the mid-80's), or too windy, or too cold, or too wet, or whatever, but the weather is going to play a part in Trans Iowa. It always does. If Trans Iowa had been this weekend, it would have been the wind and the heat which would have decimated the field on Saturday then the rain and lightning would have likely finished everyone else off. I'm pretty sure there would have been no finishers on this weekend!

On the convenience store situation: It is our belief that anyone getting to Checkpoint #2 before 8:00pm will likely miss the opening of the convenience store opportunity at approximately 253 miles into the course. The previous convenience store is about 80 miles earlier. However; the timing of when you get to CP#2 will likely determine your fate. The earlier you get there, the more chances are that you will not make it by 11:00pm when the convenience store at mile 253 closes. That particular store does open at 6:00 am. And by the way, that is the opening and closing times for all convenience stores in the area this year. What does this mean? It means that if you are fast, you'll have to go about 121 miles to get to a convenience store that is open. Plan accordingly....... (Note: I did not say that CP#2 was anywhere near a convenience store.) The route goes right by every convenience store but one which is a block off the route.

UPDATED 4/13/14: Weather has moved in and the course has, (or will have), received upwards of two inches of rain. This coming week will feature much cooler weather and snow is a possibility. This means two things: It will not be bone dry for your Trans Iowa attempt, and it will be a lot greener out there!  My back yard went from brown to emerald green overnight as if a light switch had been thrown!

Thank You: Thanks to Jeremy for doing the early recons with me and for going over the cue sheets first. He found several mistakes that needed correcting. Thanks to Wally and George for reading the route, following it, and helping hone the cues to perfection.

Due to these gentleman's expertise and volunteer help, your cue sheets will be reliable and clear as much as I can make them to be. Now, on to the final stages on the road to T.I.V10.......

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Trans Iowa V10: Two Weeks Till Go Time!

I've been practicing!
Well, things are spiraling into a tight vortex as time comes for another running of Trans Iowa. Products are rolling in for the raffle and race bags, announcements are being made, and Trans Iowa Radio is going to happen again. But first......

Today I am out with my two course checkers verifying the course. After that is done, I will begin to print cue sheets. IF YOU CAN NOT MAKE IT TO T.I.V10- PLEASE SAY SO NOW!!!  E-mail me, or heck- leave a note in the comments. I get notified either way and that way I won't spend time and money printing you a set of cue sheets, or stuffing a race packet. THANKS!

With that out of the way, here is a short listing of all the latest announcements and noteworthy items.
  • Prizing: I have been sent several things already, and more is on the way. We've already got Shimano PRO tools and pumps, a few sets of Michelin tires and tubes, Limited Edition Trans Iowa V10 shirts, Limited Edition Trans Iowa caps, bar tape, top tube bags, and a helmet. More is on the way for the raffle and Hammer Nutrition products for the race bags as well. There is also the exclusive first WTB Nano 40 tires to hit the shores on the way here. HED Wheels sent a set of Ardennes + wheels for the last person to make Checkpoint #2 on time. Ergon has promised some of their seat posts. This edition of T.I. will be schwagariffic!
  • The Barn: We will be utilizing the restored barn again as Trans Iowa's finish line and hangout spot for Saturday night/Sunday morning. See the details HERE
  • Breakfast At The Comfort Inn & Suites:  The Comfort Inn & Suites will be offering the riders staying there a Continental Breakfast starting at 2am Saturday the 26th, which is the morning of the race. Be sure to thank them for providing this service. 
  • Race Numbers & Cue Sheet Details:   Dig it! Read it! Understand it! HERE
  •  Trans Iowa Timeline of Events: Read it all HERE
Tomorrow look for a course report. Stay tuned!