Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One For The Album

B+ It's real! (Image credit C. Artmann TNI.de)
Just this past Friday I wrote about the "Plus Sized" mtb revolution. (No pun intended) How ever much I rant and rave about that though, some of you may not get it. It's like a conspiracy, a tinfoil hat thing, ya know......it doesn't exist. Or maybe you like the idea, but you just don't see it. You need a visual aid. Okay, look to the left here. That's real. It is being ridden. Click the image and read the tire hot patch.

That's what I'm talkin' about! 

This is a 29"er fork, for reference. The rim.....it is a new one from WTB. It is meant to go with the new tire, tubeless TCS style. However; this tire will fit down to rims with a 25mm inner rim width and work just fine.

Numbers? Sub-1000 gram tires, (just over 900, actually), and the rim? About the same as a Velocity Dually, (in more ways than one). When? Soon......they are real and will be available. How big? Depends on the rim width for over all width, but think 64mm-71mm wide. Diameter will vary as well, with the wider rim flattening out the tire more and the narrower rims making the diameter larger. Think about 15mm-20mm smaller than a 29 X 2.3" tire diameter. That's gonna lower your bottom bracket height a bit, so be aware of that. Costs? Don't have a clue yet.

Why? Because wider rims and bigger tires really do make a difference. A big difference. It is much betterer in a way that you cannot know about until you actually try something like this. Traction will be better. You will take corners faster. You will have more comfort and stability. One thing you will not have is a need for a new 29"er. These tires on the right rims will work in loads of 29"ers already out there. Sure, it won't work in a lot of them, but on many it will. It's going to be a big deal going forward.

I have a feeling this is just the start.......

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Less About The Rock And More About The Roll

Note: The following originally was posted to Gravel Grinder News on 8/17/14. I thought that since not everyone reads GGN, it might be good to share this post here as well. 
 

2015 Raleigh Willard Two
Less About The Rock And More About The Roll- by Guitar Ted

With the big trade show season about to unfold for the bicycle industry, we start to look forward to what might be getting unveiled for the gravel road riding cyclists amongst us. The bicycle industry has shown some interest in catering to this genre, but not without some backlash, and subsequently the mid-summer releases were less specifically about “gravel” and more about……well, we’ll get to that in a bit here. The point is, it is becoming easier to find off the shelf solutions for gravel and back road riding. Anything from tires, rims, and components all the way up to specific designs in complete bicycles aimed at gravel and back road riders.
 
2015 GT Grade
 
 Crushed rock roads are a mainstay across many of the states in the midst of the United States, but that isn’t the only form of back road/mixed terrain riding available, and certainly it doesn’t represent what is possible all over the country. In fact, many riders don’t even know what a gravel road is and why you’d want to “grind” one. Who could blame them? While many get stuck on the name, it isn’t the point, and it is definitely not the goal of many in the industry to promote “gravel riding” exclusively. That would be selling the whole thing short of its potential, in my opinion.
 
 The gravel scene is real, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but it is only a facet of what I believe could be a revolution in cycling. It is really great to have the industry come to grips with gravel riding’s specific demands, but what works on gravel roads really works everywhere from just short of road racing right up to and including some single track riding. The bicycle industry is catching on to this too. Specialized and GT Bikes, to name two, have shown short videos featuring their new “all road” bikes doing pavement and dirt, with bunny hopping and spirited sprints part of the action.

Even some of these company’s marketing spiels are saying things like, ” this isn’t about racing, but just riding bicycles“, which is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has focused too long on European Pro road racing. While that sort of cycling is exciting, it isn’t what the masses are going to do, or should do, with their bicycles. Bike shops have been filled with fast, light, hard core, unapologetic road racing machines for too long, and the mountain bike market keeps pushing longer travel full suspension bikes that really aren’t necessary for a vast majority of cyclists.
 
However; as stated above, the industry still hasn’t come to grips with just how to market these bicycles. The term “gravel grinder” was latched on to early on, but that term has been registered as a trade mark, (not by us!), and besides, it is not well understood by most cyclists anyway. What to call it then?
This is the sort of “mountain biking” most folks could be doing.
 
Yes….this probably sounds like it is coming straight from a certain retro-grouches “blug”, but if you stop to think about it, an “all -road” type, country bike capable of mixed terrain riding is a lot smarter, safer, and more fun for the kind of “just riding a bicycle” that brought us into cycling in the first place. Getting out there, using a “general purpose” bike just to have an adventure, be with friends, or to get away from it all, is the basis for most riding we do.

This same sort of bike can be your commuter, your light touring rig, an errand runner, and yes…..be ridden on gravel roads. But let’s not get stuck on what a “gravel grinder” is, or why bikes should be designed “specifically for gravel road riding”. No, let’s make it less about the rock, and more about the roll. The riding, and having fun along the way, with a light, reasonably designed bicycle that is capable on a wide variety of terrain types and roads.

We’re not going to be changing our name anytime soon here, since the rides this site promotes and the bicycles and gear we talk about are going to be measured by how they help us “grind out the miles on gravel“. (“Gravel grinder”, now do you understand?) We literally have hundreds of thousands of miles of crushed rock roads surrounding our little headquarters here, so it makes sense for many of us. However; we aren’t so short sighted that we think everything has to be about gravel riding, and we think the bicycle industry should keep moving in that general direction as well.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Back To It

MukTruk hauling fishing rods
Saturday I did a little experimentation with my son. He wanted to go fishing, and I wanted to ride my bicycle, so I had to do a bit of on the fly thinking to accommodate both requests.

I could have easily taken the Xtracycle, but that was too easy, and I wanted to try using the new "MukTruk". (29+ wheels in a titanium Mukluk) I had a few Velcro straps and I used them to lash the two fishing rods and reels to either side of the top tube/seat stays. A bungy cord for more security, and it was done! Then all I had to do was squeeze in some supplies into the Bike Bag Dude frame bag, and then we were off, with everything we needed for a bit of fishing. Yep.....there we go! Off to the water then.

Well, the fish weren't biting, but it was a good two hours or so spent with my son and we learned a few things together. He's getting the hang of casting, and figuring out patience is a good trait for a fisherman. We'll be back out doing this again soon. Me? I figured out why I liked that old Boron Carbon rod and Shimano reel. Smooth and sensitive! It's been a while since I had that rod and reel out. Kinda forgot how it felt, I did.

Flat repaired......
Sunday I made good on my threat to get out and single speed on some gravel. This was the first ride back out in the country for me since July 26th when I was hit by that truck. It was the first ride of any significance since then as well, since I have been recovering from the crash, and sickness intervened in there also.

So I wasn't really sure how that would go. I noticed my bibs fit looser, for sure, which was quite a surprise. I figured I would go the other way there. Then there was the bronchitis I had, which I wasn't sure was gone, but hey! I needed to get out and ride. It had just been too darn long.

It was hot and just a bit humid yesterday here. About 85°F when I left, so that was another concern. The flat bicycle trail South would be a good warm up, and maybe an indicator of how long this ride would really be. I had aimed at going as far as Petrie Road and the B Level section. The bicycle trail sector didn't faze me, so I turned left and hit the gravel.

Things were clicking along well until I turned West on Washburn Road to get a mile over to catch the B Level section on Petrie Road. It was then that I felt the soft, wiggly sensation that we as cyclists know is your sign for a flat tire. Bummer! It's been a while since I've flatted on the gravel roads.  

The change went well, and actually, it wasn't a puncture, but a failed tube, so that was nice to have found out at least. Swapped out the tube and moved along to the B Road, which was pretty loose and deep with sand and fine dirt. Getting out of there I found more dusty gravel and I made my way home after 25 miles. It was good to test myself, and honestly, I came through in a lot better shape than I had expected. Still feeling where the truck hit me, but at least I am back riding again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Luxy Bar: Why It Is The Bar Many Want But Few Can Get

Pardon my craptastic finishing tape job!
In the super-niche of off road drop bars, maybe there is no other drop bar that has engendered such curiosity and desire as the Ragley Luxy Bar. Why is that? In this post, I'll take a stab at answering this question and telling the back story on this peculiar handle bar.

The Start:

As I recall, there was a thread on mtbr.com on the 29"er forum that was going on about off road drop bar set ups and what bar would be best. Of course, at this time in history you had two choices: Find an out of production WTB Dirt Drop, or similar bar, or use an On One Midge Bar, which was based off the original WTB offering, but tweaked in several important and good ways. (Note- There was  also a revival of the WTB Dirt Drop that was never really embraced by the public, due to it's super-deep drop and weird anatomic drop shape, so I have left that out of this discussion.) I was in the On One Midge camp, but I had nits to pick with that design. I stated something to the effect that I had a "perfect" off road drop bar design in mind which I would have loved to have seen made. Not long after I posted this, I received an e-mail from Brant Richards.

Mr. Richards was a designer at On One, but had recently left to do bicycle and component design on his own, dubbing the company "Shed Fire". He was doing several designs for Chain Reaction Cycles UK brands and mostly for a brand Mr. Richards developed dubbed "Ragley". In his e-mail to me he asked, in his typically abbreviated style, to send along a copy of my design for his consideration.

The Luxy featured a much wider, more flared, and longer drop bar sectioned design.
So I did and Brant seemed truly interested in coming up with something. Months went by, and Brant consulted with others on the design, most notably Sam Alison of Singular Cycles. After this period of time passed, I received images of the rough prototype which no longer bore any resemblance to my crude drawings, but I found fascinating nonetheless. Not that anything I contributed was worth keeping, but I'd like to think that I influenced the design in some small way. I guess I may never know that.... Anyway.....

The design process completed, the bar went through the various stages of prototyping and manufacturing, which Mr. Richards was kind enough to keep me abreast of. It was a fascinating look "behind the scenes", and I learned a lot along the way. Finally, one day a box arrived that had two Luxy Bars inside of it. One in polished ano and the other in black ano. A "thank you" for my thoughts and whatever help I lent along the way, I suppose, and also to get the word out, which I figure was part of the plan on Brant's part.

With its extremely shallow drop and super short reach, the Luxy Bar had no peer.
The Hey-Day:

The Luxy Bar hit the scene and was embraced by a few, but from where I sat I thought that it was a a product most misunderstood at the time it was released. As far as I was concerned, it wasn't anything like I had envisioned, but it was really quite nice, actually. It had a unique 31.8mm diameter top section, and with its "wheelbarrow" handle feel, climbing torque was awesome, so the Luxy Bar and single speed seemed a natural marriage to me. However; some found geared set ups to be quite nice as well.

Still my fave!
The End:

I didn't really keep up with how the Luxy was selling, and not too long after it came out, Brant went back to On One. Whether or not that had anything at all to do with the Luxy's demise is anyone's guess, but it seemed to coincide with the disappearance of this product from stock. I am told it only had two production runs before Chain Reaction UK shut the availability of it off.

The Legend Begins:

I shrugged it off as "one of those things", and since the demand seemed soft for it, I figured that this would be the end of the story. However; maybe a year or two ago now a sudden interest in the Luxy Bar appeared and I was getting asked about the availability of the bar and whether or not I could find any for people. I actually tracked two down and sold one of them to a good friend in Des Moines. Others were being sold for about twice what they originally sold for. I am aware of at least three people that have gone to the length of e-mailing Chain Reaction UK to find out if there was some way to get them to either make more, or release the design to another company to be manufactured. 

There is a lot of behind the scenes scuttlebutt on a "Luxy-like" design drop bar being potentially developed. As of now, that's all it is- scuttlebutt. I really do not foresee the Luxy Bar, or anything very close to it, ever being made again. I think that is sad, since I really like the design, and I know many others do as well. Maybe just as many more would like to try one just because they have heard about the scarcity of these. It's an odd thing that I have dubbed "thing wanted- cannot get". In other words, it seems to me that when you could actually get a Luxy Bar, no one seemed interested, but now that it cannot be had, the "demand" for one seems to have rekindled.

The future will possibly bring other drop bars for off road to light, but maybe none will have such a legendary story as the Luxy Bar has had.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday News And Views

MukTruk 2- Plus sized bliss
Plus Tire Size Mountain Bikes:

Get used to hearing about these semi-corpulent beasts because between now and the end of September a lot of news is going to hit surrounding this format.

These are not fat bikes, but some call them "semi-fat bikes". These bikes will be primarily based on two wheel sizes, but the old 26/559ISO will also have "plus sized" rubber news as well. So......just what is this and WHY?!!

Typically mountain bike tires for general purpose riding go between 2 inches and 2.5 inches in width. I think it is safe to say that is the case with most 26 inch tires and almost all 27.5 and 29 inch sized  tires. (Of course, there are exceptions.)

  • 26" is ISO 559
  • 27.5/650B is ISO 584
  • 29" is ISO 622
That above means that these tires listed as inch sizes or in the case of 650B, a french derivative sizing scheme, all fit on their respective ISO rim bead seat sizes. Taking into account the width of most tires for off road riding, you get what you have come to know as "normal". The plus sized scheme doesn't change what tires fit on ISO bead seat diameters, but it does increase the width and volume of the tires that fit on those specific rims. Plus = more. More width, more volume, more traction, and more fun. It just doesn't get so big as to become "fat bike" sized, which is generally agreed upon starting at 3.8" in width for a tire.
29+: A bigger, wider 29"er tire that isn't 29" at all!

Back Story: You can mostly blame "plus" sized tires on Surly Bikes. They popped out this Krampus bicycle with the 29+ sized tires a couple of  years back at the trade shows. It basically is a hard tail tweaked for trail duty shod with three inch wide tires that fit on a ISO 622 rims, which are wider themselves to better support the tire. However big these rims seem to be, they are the same diameter as a road racing bike's rims. What makes them seem so cartoonish is the volume and width of the tire that fits on it in this case. The 29+ is actually not a 29"er tire at all. The actual outer diameter is closer to 31" overall.

This is why a 29+ tire on a 29"er wheel won't fit on a 29"er, because it actually a 31"er! (Well- 30.7", to be exact) The width also precludes usage on almost all 29"ers out there. So, you need a special frame. There are some out available, but they are few and far between, besides the ubiquitous Krampus, of course.

But what if you could put a "plus sized" tire on a 29"er bike without modifying anything?  Then the only thing you'd need to buy would be the wheels. Well, theoretically speaking. That is the premise behind the "B+" wheels. These wheels would be your 27.5"/650B rim, (584 ISO), shod with a 2.8" tire. On a wider rim, you would get a similar contact patch that a 29+ tire would have yet it would, (again- theoretically), fit your current 29"er. Cheaper to buy into, and it would totally transform your 29"er. Plus, the overall diameter, (said to be just shy of 29 inches), would work for a wider range of human beings.

It'll be real interesting to see what comes out this Late Summer/Early Fall, and just how manufacturers will interpret this idea.


TIMP Update:

We've got a couple of scheduled rides to go yet on the Trans Iowa Masters Program. The one that is coming up today is Al Brunner's TIMP ITT attempt.  Follow Al's SPOT tracker by clicking the hyperlink back there.

Mike Johnson is the only other scheduled ride and that is also an ITT, (Individual Time Trial), ride. After Mike's attempt, I think that'll be it for the TIMP. I haven't gotten any word or even a hint about any last minute attempts. Of course. after August 31st, it's all over with. I'll likely give an overview on the TIMP after August passes, so look for that coming soon.

Have a great weekend and keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Home Improvement

Getting rid of the old....
So Wednesdays are usually my day to get out and about on my bicycle. Usually on such a beautiful day that would be the case. However, a bout of "home improvement" is happening now at the Guitar Ted Laboratories which has cut into my free time. It also has prevented me from mowing the lawn for various reasons, so it isn't all bad!

The GT headquarters was built in 1912, so as is the case with older American homes, there is always something to upkeep. This project involves a porch that was literally sagging off the house in an attempt to collapse and allow the elements into the living area. Not a good thing in a true four season climate. Fortunately, things have come together to allow for a remodel/replacement of the old and the potential calamity has been headed off.

A good company has been contacted and the old porch is long gone and the new one is mostly up. There are always setbacks and this project isn't any different. I had to be available most of the day Wednesday in case certain decisions needed to be made and so any extended bicycle gallivanting around was necessarily postponed until a later date.  Turns out I could have been gone after all, but oh well..... You never know.

The day wasn't totally devoid of bicycles though!

But be that as it may, I did get to fiddle with some of the bikes in the stable today. Since Gravel Worlds is happening this weekend, I was reminded of one of the rigs I rode down there in the last Good Life Gravel Adventure, which was the name of the event before it became Gravel Worlds in 2010.

That rig would be the custom Pofahl rig I had made in 2007. Based loosely on a Karate Monkey geometry, the bike is a very unique sled for sure. At the '09 GLGA I ran this single speed with a 37T X 18T gearing and it worked for me so well that at the inaugural Gravel Worlds in 2010 I ran similar gearing on my Singular Cycles Gryphon and did okay on the hills again. Since then, I've pretty much settled on a 38T X 18T or 17T for any gravel road single speed action.

When I got the Pofahl out earlier this year I noted that it was pretty "spinny" feeling. Whoops! Somewhere along the line I swapped out the 18T for a 21T rear cog to make it more of a mountain bike, I guess. Honestly, I can't remember now. Anyway, I meant to take care of that.......someday. I never got around to it until yesterday though.

It's pretty cool that the Pofahl can cover a 3 tooth change with the same chain since the slider set up has a lot of range. I could even drop it to a sixteen tooth, since I have even more room to slide back with the rear wheel. Anyway, it's back to the good old gravel single speed range I like, so I will have to put the wood to this out in the country soon. It's been a long time since I single speeded the gravel roads around here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: Update

The response to Trans Iowa V11 has been swift and overwhelming. Thank you very much one and all.

I wanted to post a short update on some of the ideas and things that have happened so far. First of all, I have a lot of good people standing alongside of me in this endeavor. So far, it is the strongest "brain trust" of Trans Iowa experience yet brought to bear on a Trans Iowa version. Folks volunteering this year are past Trans Iowa Veterans that have multiple starts and finishes under their belts. These guys know the drill from a rider's perspective and will be tapped for their experiences now that they have joined me on "the other side" of the event.

Trans Iowa entrants will benefit directly, and one of the ways this will happen is through another Trans Iowa Clinic. Last year I waited until after registration to do the clinic, but I found out later a few folks attended that benefited that weren't in Trans Iowa V10. So, I figured maybe we ought to run the clinic earlier than December and have a ride involved afterward as well.

Last year we held the clinic in Des Moines, Iowa. It is centralized from the standpoint of many of the participants of Trans Iowa. However; should we move it, have more than one clinic, or just stay with one in Des Moines? That's a question not yet answered. I'll be working on this soon.

Until that time, I have the Geezer Ride and a route to figure out for this silly long ride on country roads in April.