Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bar Time: Again....

I have written on handle bars before and I have to say that I still think they are the least technologically advanced part of a bike from an ergonomic standpoint. That's pretty sad, really. However; I have another problem with handlebars, specifically risers.

I was looking at my riser bars on my XXIX the other day and thinking, "Wouldn't connecting all these points with straight lines be lighter?" I mean, keep the sweep, yes. I love bars with sweep. But you just do not need a bar with "rise". That's the stems job.

You see, we seem to be hoodwinked into thinking that we need bars with rise, especially for technical off roading. Why? Somebody explain how a stem with the proper rise,( to get the bars height where you want it to be) and a flat bar with the preferred sweep can't do the same job and be lighter. Risers are unnecessary and a waste of material, in my opinion, that just makes your bike heavier. Okay, somebody out there convince me that I'm wrong about that. I'm listening.

And while you're at it, try defending 31.8mm stems and bars too. That's another goofy thing we don't really need.

More bar rants to come........stay tuned!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Badger Cycles "Dorothy" Final Review

The Badger Cycles Dorothy test period is now complete and it’s time for my final verdict on this “custom stock” frame from Kansas. If you haven’t done so already, please check out the “First Impressions” (http://twentynineinches.com/2006/10/10/badger-dorothy-update/) that I posted on the bike, which details some of the specifics on the build and what will be changed from the proto type that I rode.

The test period was three weeks in which the bike was ridden in several different areas that varied widely. From pavement, single track, tight twisty trails, and wide open downhill service road runs, I tried to put the Dorothy through as many different situations as I could in three weeks of riding time. Trail surface conditions ranged from buff dirt, to rooty, rocky trails, to muddy tracks, and everything in between. Through out the test, I kept the basic set up unchanged with the exception of swapping out the Moots stem for a steel Salsa CroMoto stem that tightened up the front end tremendously. There were some tire pressure changes and shock setting changes made to help evaluate performance that I will mention along the way.

Without further adieu, I will let you all know that this is quite possibly the best mountain bike I have ever ridden. That’s a grandiose statement, I know, but I shall explain. I have ridden hundreds of different mountain bikes since I started riding eighteen years ago. I have a certain criteria that I like to employ when I evaluate a part or bicycle. It’s pretty simple, really. It must not make itself apparent while riding. In other words, if I can ride and not give any thought to the part or bicycle, then that’s a very good thing. My bottom line is fun. Yours might be going fast, or winning races. Any of these things are achievable on the Dorothy, if you can bring the goods. The best thing is, the Dorothy won’t get in your way while you’re doing it.

The Dorothy is the most transparent frame I have ridden in terms of handling. It is completely neutral. There is no hint of pushing in the front end or swapping ends from the rear. It really prefers a light touch on the controls. It seems to take a line in a curve and hold on to it tenaciously, or as long as your tires can hold out. Rob Pennell, head torchmiester of Badger Cycles, says that was the plan all along. Normally a custom frame builder that tweaks designs to fit personal riding styles and preferences, Rob had to take a more “neutral” approach to the design of the Dorothy. It had to work for a broader range of riding styles. “It really doesn’t come alive until you get it above 10 miles per hour, that’s where I designed it to perform its best at.” He also explained that the rider doesn’t have to put a lot of body English into the bike to get it to turn, climb, or descend. “There is a three inch area centered at the saddle that the rider can do almost all of his work from.” Rob thought that this would be a better approach, conserving precious rider energy, especially in longer rides and events. I would have to agree. The Dorothy definitely handled a whole lot better with a “quiet” rider on board. Trying to manhandle the Dorothy wasn’t a good thing.

That said, I was quite pleased with the way that the Dorothy’s balance worked in techy, twisty single track. It was easy to loft the front end, even though some of the geometry numbers wouldn’t indicate it, the bike climbed short steeps really well. Mashing the pedals single speed style revealed very little flex in the frame. The frame clearance for mud was exceptional, by the way. The bike was well mannered at several air pressure and shock settings. Almost any preference in these two areas should be accommodated by the Dorothy.

High speed handling was uneventful. In fact, the Dorothy felt as if it would go even faster than I dared to and it wouldn’t have gotten upset. Long fire road type descents were stable. Fast single track riding was where the Dorothy really came alive, though. It was on this type of trail where I felt the Dorothy outshined about every other trail bike I’ve ever ridden. I never once gave a thought to the bike, handling quirks, or anything. Just ride and smile.

The Dorothy is at once a throwback, (steel fillet brazed hard tail) and a thoroughly modern trail bike. (29”er, computer aided design, current geometry and butting profiles) It’s an artistic tour de force, what with the perfectly radiused fillets making the frame tubing look completely liquid and flowing. The bottom line is that it’s a fantastic handling, high performance, state of the art 29”er. Ben Witt, of Milltown Cycles, the shop that the Dorothy is exclusively available through, told me that Rob’s custom work is even better. I find that hard to believe that a bike could ride better than the Dorothy does for its intended purposes. The Dorothy isn’t a “cheap” frame, but it is a great value for what you get. By the way, the Dorothy can be had with a rigid Badger Cycles unicrown fork painted to match, if your tastes run that way.

If you are looking for a high performance geared only or single speed steel frame that’s top of the heap in terms of handling and looks, check out www.ridedorothy.com for further information

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Never Thought I'd See It!

A Raleigh XXIX in a medium in the rack at Europa Cycle and Ski.

Two on hand. I never thought I'd see the day that I actually would work at a shop that sold 29"ers!

Viva La Big Wheels!

What Have We Created?!

I remember when the first Trans Iowa ended and we had only 9 finishers out of 51 starters that there were not a few calls for redemption amongst the cyclists who fell short of the goal. It was my baptism into the endurance world and I just thought it was a shallow statement signifying regret and not much more. Well, the same rumblings were heard after this years event, and signs that guys were going to attempt crossings of the state on their own utilizing old cue sheet sets from T.I. were popping up on different blogs. I even got requests for old cue sheets!

It was inevitable then that someone would actually attempt the thing and talk about it afterwards. In this case, it's T.I. veteran, Jim McGuire by way of another T.I. vet's blog, Dr. Gary Cale's to be exact. There are three episodes to the story. One and Two deal with traveling the T.I. V2 route and Three deals with the T.I.V1 route from Forest City to Decorah.

My observation is that even when this route is attempted in a "more favorable time of year", it still was super tough and yes, weather still played it's part. Which is what I've said all along whenever I've heard complaints about T.I.V2 in particular. Another noteworthy thing was all the gravel road maintenance that Jim encountered, which I've noticed this fall too.

Read this account and see what it takes to overcome the challenge. The '07 event will be about the same mileage, but we're abandoning the point to point format for a single, large loop to better accomodate the riders and event organizers. The drama and suffering will remain the same, if not increase! It should create even more T.I. addicted nutcases just like Jim and Dr.Gary!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday News and Views

The bits of news to get you through your Friday and to the weekend! Read on.........

29"er Mid-West Meet-up: (Note: That's just a working name for this, I or someone smarter than me will come up with something if need be) The cogs are turning on this idea yet. Right now the status is that there are two areas involved in fact finding for hosting such an event. If another area expresses interest, than I will consider it. The idea will not move forward until there is a venue and a tentative date to hold it on. Right now, it looks as though spring '07, specifically May, will be the date. I'm still taking your ideas/requests in the comment section or at this address. (g.ted.productions@gmail.com) The idea so far is that there will be a fairly good sized, festival atmousphere with the possibility of vendors, demo bikes, and the like. My thinking is that if this all cannot be worked out, then I'm going to go waaaay under the radar with a super low key idea that I'm holding out on as a last resort. Stay tuned..............

Badger Cycles Dorothy: The Final Review: The Dorothy's final review will be posted on Twenty Nine Inches on Monday. Look for my views on this lovely frame there.

World Exclusive First Test Ride? Yep! Well...............it's scheduled anyway. The weather could mess with this idea, but I am excited about this opportunity to be the first rider/ writer to throw a leg over a new 29"er steed in a couple of weeks. It's going to be a fun time, and all the details on the hardware will again be found at Twenty Nine Inches. The more social aspects of the ride will be covered here.

Tires Are Appearing: Some of the much ballyhoo'd rubber for 29"ers is starting to become reality. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the Kenda Nevegal 29"er tires were seen at Milltown Cycles Wednesday. The tires casing was slightly smaller than a Bontrager XR front, but the tread pattern was wider than anything I've seen yet. The tread blocks were ramped for lower rolling resistance and the rubber compound was sticky. I rolled on these up and down the street briefly and my impression was that the knobs didn't squirm in heavily leaned over turns. This would indicate to me that the tread blocks were gripping mightily. I would suspect that these tires would be the cats pajamas out in some rooty, rocky terrain. In other tire news, the Bontrager XR, ACX, and Dry X tires are all about ready to appear in the Tubeless Ready System format. I'll try to dig up some info on that for you all soon.

Carbon Fork Testing Update: An update to my carbon fork testing has been posted on Twenty Nine Inches, so if you are interested in that, check it out. I'll be thrashing these forks for a bit yet and more updates will be coming.

That's all for today. Get out this weekend and ride your bikes, ya'all!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Kid In The Candy Store

Yesterday was the day. The day the Badger Cycles Dorothy had to go back to it's rightful owner. So, I packed up the bike in the car and made the three hour trip to go see Ben Witt of Milltown Cyclery. I found his shop in the downtown area and stepped into the candy store. This was a bike shop geeks, and specifically a 29"er freaks, dream visit.

Don't get me wrong. Milltown Cyclery isn't your swank, polished, uptown looking bike shoppe' kind a joint. No, no.......this is a real bike shop. The kind of place that you would expect to find hydraulic brake fluid on the mechanics area floor. A shop that looks comfortable, easy going, and fun. That's exactly what kind of shop Ben has, and it's a great place to hang out. Too bad every city doesn't have such a place, but it's easy to see why there aren't. Too much hurry-hurry in our lifestyles to slow down enough to take the time and just hang, ya know?

Ben hasn't just been content with hanging his sign up and waiting for things to happen though. He's been on the web and hitting the 29"er thing pretty hard, so he's got international commerce going on, so at least he's been saavy that way.

The fun thing about the place, outside of Ben, who is alot of fun to hang out with, was the whole atmousphere of the shop itself. Old wooden floors, long, narrow floor plan like much of the "main street" style businesses have due to the age of the buildings. The stacks of bikes on racks upon the wall, the gleaming parts under spotlights near the counter. And speaking of parts....... One of the really cool things about a real bike shop is how you can look around and find really high end parts sitting around that have been used or are in transition from one bike to another, or are simply just lying around the place. A box full of XTR drivetrain parts with a carbon handle bar and stem poking out, several 29"er front suspension forks sitting in the shop, a used pair of carbon roadie tubulars hanging from the wheel rack. Fun stuff and surprises everywhere you turn.

Of course, a wall full of 29"ers didn't hurt either! And speaking of 29"ers, Ben is a huge fan and supporter of the segment. While I was there, the first shipment of 29 inch Kenda Nevegal tires showed up off the Brown Santa's truck. Ben ripped open the box before the delivery man even got out the door, and we had ourselves a tire mounting party! We weighed them, fondled them, and bounced them on the floor. In 15 minutes Ben had a pair on the Dorothy I brought back and I took it out for a short cruise up and down the block. Fun!

That's what it was, fun. Like kids in a candy store, we were having fun, and that's what a real bike shop is all about. You know, Ben could have just whisked those Nevegals right to the back and I wouldn't have thought twice. But he didn't. He shared his enthusiasm with a fellow cyclist and made my visit special. I'm pretty sure I'll be back there some day.

That candy was pretty addictive!

Not to mention the monster burrito from down the street!.........(thanks for lunch, Mark!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rarified Air

Here's a story from my Interbike trip a few weeks ago that I thought you mountain bikers, especially you old skool guy's and gals, would find interesting. It's about the night that I attended the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for Travis Brown, Robert Gregorio (aka Bicycle Bob), and Chris King. (Yes, that Chris King!)

The whole Interbike thing for me was about working for Twenty Nine Inches, covering the 29"er scene for Blue Collar Mountain Bike guy Tim Grahl, who runs a network of sites under the Crooked Cog banner. Along with Tim and I was his partner Mike, who was also there to cover Interbike. We all decided to crash the MBHoF induction ceremonies after the close of the show on the first day of Interbike. Well, crashing the party, really isn't what we did, since we had "working media" passes and all!

We arrived a bit late, so we scurried into the room, and took our places in the back, standing against the wall. The room was dimly lit and seemed to be pretty full. I'd guess that there were well over a hundred people in there. Anyway, I look to my right, and lo and behold! A little bar was set up and they were pouring free beer! Uh-huh.....I'm on that like white on rice. And it wasn't just any ol beer either, but special Kona Beer in two different flavors. (Yes.....I tried both!) So, I have my plastic cup-o-beer in hand and I slide back to the rear of the room to "hold up the wall", just like I used to back in my college daze. (Yes.....I truly mean "daze") I look to my left, and holding up the wall with me is Maurice Tierney, the Dirt Rag founder and MBHoF member, wearing a bright orange pair of pants and a purple shirt and neck tie. Okay, this is pretty cool! I complimented him on his shirt, which I'm sure impressed him deeply!

Anyway, the room is stuffed with people like this. Mountain bike pioneers, racers, promoters, company heads, you name it. While I'm standing there, former Trek factory Gnome, Zapata Espinoza is giving his introduction to Travis Brown, Greg Herbold is chuckling in the front of the room, and Ned Overend is walking back for another drink. What is this? Mountain Bike Action come to life circa 1993?

So, John Tomac gets up to give his account of Bicycle Bob, his former race mechanic, and he starts dropping these 80's mountain biking gems like, "yard sale" and "harsh my shred" and such. I look at Tim and Mike and they have their eyebrows all furrowed up and they are shrugging their shoulders as if they were listening to a foriegn language. Then I nudge Mike, and I say, "What's up?". To which he says, "What's a yard sale got to do with this? I laugh and tell him I'd explain it all later. Then I nudge Mike again to point out Ned Overend to him. He shrugs. He freekin' shrugs?!! He didn't have a clue who Ned was. Amazing!

The thing of it was, Mike and Tim are new to mountain biking. They only started four years ago, which is great. The more the merrier. However, it's inconcievable to me that you wouldn't know your mtb history. (Check out the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame for your lessons) But there it is. A whole new generation that hasn't a clue to where this whole thing came from is out there ridin' in the dirt.

Sometime if you're hangin' out with some riding buddies, and your telling stories, bust out a vintage mountain bike yarn or two. And don't forget your mountain bike slang. Some folks out there need to know. It makes what we do have a sense of history and importance. Gives the sport some weight, ya know?

Anyway.........I thought that was a funny story!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Moving On: Time Keeps Tickin'

(Note: Today's title combines two great classic rock songs: One's a title and another one's a famous line. Can't help it sometimes!)

Yesterday's post brought the urgency to do some Trans Iowa recon to the forefront again. I have alot to do, but thankfully, I have already started and alot has been done already. Perhaps a fifth of the course has been either ridden by bicycle or driven on by car. Last year I did a huge chunk of recon in November. This year I plan on doing the same. I'll be interested to see if I can find The Lost Highway...............no, really!

I also looked at the calendar last night and planned out some test rides, and yes, some work that needs to get done around the house. It's hard to fit it all in when time keeps moving on at what seems to be a rapid pace that accelerates as the years go by. Special test rides on an unavailable ( yet) bike, test rides on carbon forks, test rides on new bikes, etc.........then my daughter says, "Daddy! Come here and look at this!", and I forget about all of it.

Sometimes you just have to put it all into perspective.

Bikes are great, and I love 'em. Riding especially, but everything else too. But there are things more important in life that you shouldn't miss. Things that won't wait for you to stop and notice, because time keeps tickin'..............and then it's gone!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Level Of Difficulty: Less or More?

There is a great thread on mtbr's Endurance Forum about what should or shouldn't be done to allow more people to participate in more events. This is a subject that has been debated upon for quite sometime and one that gets brought up consistently by folks when talking about Trans Iowa. Since I am one of the promoters of Trans Iowa, I'll focus in on this discussion from that perspective.

From my point of view it seems that most of the comments having anything to do with the subject at hand are requests for larger field limits, requests for "support", and requests for easier courses/ rules. We ( Jeff Kerkove and I) have stuck to our guns and not changed much from the basic format that we started out with.

For the record, we believe in a tough challenge that not all can handle. We believe that this provides a most rewarding experience if you do finish, or overcome the challenge. This "reward" is personal, and worth more than trophies, schwag, or money. The sheer fact that not all can finish makes the finishing worth more than the things I mentioned. It's what defines a challenge. Anything that allows everyone to finish is something less than that, and I for one, am not interested in that.

So, it boils down to this, I think. Have an event that everyone can finish, within reason, and have your competition within that format. It's then about who is best/ fastest/ strongest. There can be only one person/ team that can claim that honor. The rest are losers.

Or, you can have an event that is about something deeper than that. A challenge: you not only have other individual competitors, but you have the course itself, the weather, time, and yourself to overcome. An event that, even if you do not finish it, can take you beyond your own limits to a new place you may have thought not possible. If that's not winning, if that's not worth more than money, prizes, or even recognition, then I'm in the wrong game.

Maybe it's hard to get a grasp on this until you take on such a challenge. Maybe I'm not able to convey the "certain something" that motivates folks to take on these ultra-challenges. I'm not sure, but there.............that's my take on it.

What's yours?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Under The Weather

Lot's of times you hear this phrase, under the weather used to describe a condition of not being well, or sick. I like to think of this phrase when I can't ride my bike on the trails due to it being too muddy, or raining, or both. Saturday I qualified on both levels. Rain made testing/ riding not possible and I had picked up a head cold earlier in the week that had decided to ratchet up the sickness factor a few notches at the same time. So, it was a pretty low key day for me.

In fact, it looks like a pretty low key weekend, as I'm still coming back from yesterdays sucker punch. Oh well, rest as hard as you train, is what Mr. 24 would say.

Graham at Go Clipless has a couple first impressions on some of the newest 29"er full suspension rigs that he rode at the Outdoor Demo at Interbike a few weeks ago. Check out his thoughts on those. For those of you out there that might be thinking, "Oh yeah, 29"ers aren't "real" full suspension, just ten years behind 26"ers, that's all", well............you need to check out this thread and get up to date. Anyone that doubts what Graham is saying on Go Clipless should reconsider their opinions after seeing that thread on the 29"er forum at mtbr.com. While Graham seems to be giving the 26 inch wheel it's death notice, I wouldn't go quite as far. I think 26"ers have their place, but I agree that the 29"er is about to revolutionize alot of folks off roading experiences. And it's only the beginning.............

Have a great weekend, and go ride!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday News and Views

29"ers To Meet and Ride in the Mid-West in '07?: Yesterdays float of the idea on having a 29"er ride gathering here in the mid-west has garnered attention from individuals and companies that has made looking into the possibility of actually doing this feasable. I really can not divulge any details yet, but things look promising. There are a couple of things that I want to see happen before I can go public with all of the parts of the puzzle so far, so hang on. While that stuff is going on, why not leave a comment? Does this idea make any sense? What should it look like? What type of trails would you be most interested in riding? Should there be demo bikes for you all to ride to get yer 29"er on? Discussions or seminars? Low key or structured? You make the call, I'm listening.

24hrs of Moab Update: It appears that the quagmire of course conditions has continued to make a quagmire out of getting the "official" results done for the event. Interestingly, it has come to light that there was, in fact, an inclement weather policy in force at Moab that was later deemed insufficient. Now it appears that the policy for restarting a stopped race is to literally restart it as it began; with a LeMans style run up and the whole she-bang. I'm not privy to all of the specific rules, but it seems to me that if your course is torn up from heavy run off, that you shouldn't be out riding on it again. Just my opinion. I realize that there are alot of hopes pinned on a 24 hour event and alot of money wrapped up in throwing the party, but the trail conditions and sustainability of the trail should trump all of that. What's a 24hr event without a good course, right? Then again; I wasn't there, and perhaps Moab can sustain such a hit. I just can't imagine that the ruts and errosion talked about on the internet forums could have been a good thing. See these cyclingnews.com stories for more backround on the event.

Testing Updates: The Badger Dorothy goes back next Wednesday, so look for the detailed final review to come on this site and Twenty Nine Inches. After that we'll start back with the carbon fork testing including the Bontrager Switchblade Race X Lite and the Superlight Carbon from On One. Also continuing onwards with the XXIX testing and Project Upgrade on the same bike over the winter months.

Look for future products to be hitting the Guitar Ted Labratories soon including a Haro Mary XC frameset and a XXIX+G from Raleigh. More to come in ride reports in the future with bikes from Gary Fisher and Salsa hopefully. Lot's going on, so stay tuned!

Have a great weekend and ride yer bike! The snow will be flying soon!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mid-West 29"er Get Together In '07?

Okay, one of the most dangerous things one can do is to think. You know.....too much time on my hands, sittin' around, thinkin'............. I say it's nothin' but trouble!

I say that because as I was doing this thinking thing, I envisioned something akin to what George Wissel did out in Vermont with the "Meat Up" and also what goes on out West with Sea Otter. Meld the two together, put the event in the Mid-West, and have a bang up, ride 'em hard, fun, get down 29"er party around these parts. Not a race, no! A good time 29"er get together, ride, and informational time.

Okay, so is this even a sane idea? Who would come to such a thing? I'm thinking it's a time for 29"er afficiandos to mingle, ride, and maybe even have some informal discussions or even clinics on how to ride these beasts, invite other curious tire kickers, and just spread some love 'round. Have it at a place that has a great variety of trails here in the Mid-West. Camping would be a must. Near a decent sized city, even better.

I'm not saying this will happen......just puttin' out the idea to see if it makes any sense to anybody out there. Got a better idea? A comment or two about what I've got? Write me a comment! Good or bad, let me know.

I was just thinking............that's all! Really!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Peering Into The (near) Future

With Intebike come and gone the expectations of gear arrival are much like a child awaiting Christmas. Sometimes the anticipation gets to be too much and you see some outbursts on some of the internet forums. Not here! We deal in only quality, officially inspected rumors here! Here's the latest tidbits that have tickled my ears of late.......

Tires: Tubeless and Otherwise- Tires for 29"ers has been an active subject lately with several new companies and treads announced. The latest is that Bontragers much anticipated Dry X Tubeless Ready tire is to be released in November. I would suspect that some spy shots of the tread design will show up sometime between now and then, but Bontrager has really been good at keeping this tread design under wraps so far, so maybe not. Even the dealer info doesn't have pictures of the tread design. Wheels to match up with the Tubeless Ready System are due out before years end. Hutchinson, which had been expected to show a Python 29"er tire at Interbike, and did not, is still working on the tire for release. There is a story going around the 'net that it's going to be offered in a UST compatible version, which then begs the question: "Who's going to have the proper rims/ wheels? Well, at Interbike the story surfaced that Mavic is working on a 29"er wheelset that is UST compatible. Nothing else on that as of yet. Another new tire manufacturer that showed a sample at Eurobike, but curiously not at Interbike was Geax. Supposedly the tire called the "Saguaro" is due out in January.

Raleigh XXIX + G: The geared version of the single speed XXIX from Raleigh is due out in December just in time for Christmas. This bike will feature the same double butted tube set that the single speed version has, but it will be equipped with a Rock Shox Reba, and a SRAM drivetrain. Will Santa be good to me and put one under the tree? Stay tuned!

The Extremely Hush-Hush Department: There are a couple of things here that will rock the 29"er world if they come true. I have it on good authority that they will, but I can't say anything yet. Just be prepared for more really cool 29"er stuff. The well ain't run dry yet, folks! Not by a long shot!

"No Longer A Rumor" Department: Here are a few things just coming online in the 29"er world that were promised and now are being delivered.

Panaracer "Rampage" 29"er tires are out now and are super hot sellers! Most distributors stock was sold out within hours! Don't worry though, like the chip commercial says: They'll make more!

Zion 737 29"er is available now for an outstanding price for a frameset. For more info and a picture click here!

Fisher Super Caliber Race Day 29"ers are hitting the trails, finally! You long time readers of this blog might remember the promises of a summer '06 release date on these and how I said it was probably not going to happen then. Well.............. So, I won't gloat, I'll just say that I'm happy to see it available now.

That's it for now, but stay tuned for more Rumors and Hearsay in the near future!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Raleigh XXIX: Project Upgrade

Okay, I've gotten an idea. I'm going to be looking at doing a special project or two over the upcoming winter months that won't require any outdoors testing. I got this idea confirmed for me after I let a friend test ride the XXIX and he commented on the ride compared to my Inbred 29"er which he also test rode.

Project Upgrade: The Raleigh XXIX will be launched soon. In fact, you could say it already has been launched, since I have upgraded the seat post and rear tire already! But that's just a technicality. Here are the goals for this project.

First, to not screw up the beautiful ride and nice handling that it already has. What good is an upgrade if I mess with that?

Second: To lower the weight of the bike, reasonably! I do qualify for the Clydesdale class, so I have to be careful not to get into an area where I'm going to be breaking stuff. I can't afford that in alot of ways! However; the XXIX weighs just a shade under 27lbs in it's current state. That's with the Salsa seat post and Maxxis Ignitor already installed. I think I can get this puppy quite a bit lighter without a lot of trouble and keep it strong and safe at the same time.

Thirdly: To share the process with you here and at Twenty Nine Inches. Again, we'll be running into some cold weather here in a short while that might not be good for outdoor testing and evaluations. That means I want to be able to have something fun to do indoors that keeps me off the rollers! Pimping out this rig and possibly building up another project, ( to be announced later) will fill in the inclement weather time nicely.

What do you think? Have any ideas? Let me know and I'll consider them. In the meantime, I'll be compiling a list of possibilities to share in an upcoming post.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rigid Forks Versus Suspension Forks....Again!

One of the really cool things about 29"ers and the whole evolution of the wheelsize is the rehashing of ideas and concepts thought to be closed years ago. Things like front end geometry, standover height, and rigid forks for off roading are topics for discussion again. It's as if we get to have a "do over" in mountain biking, and it's even affecting the 26 inch mountain bikes.

One of these things that I'm dealing with now is the rigid fork versus suspended fork debate. It's a question that several of you might think is crazy to bring up again. However; due to the way that 29 inch wheels roll over things,it's a legitimate question to ponder again for many folks and courses.

I've had the pleasure of riding on a White Brothers 80 mm travel 29"er fork with their IMV technology lately. Well, only because it's stuck on the front end of the Badger Cycles Dorothy. Since I've now had several rides on the fork, I can say that I really liked it, most of the time. There still are some niggling issues with suspension and me that haven't been overcome to the point that I'm going to run out and buy a suspension fork for one of my 29"ers.

I have always despised how the front end geometry of a mountain bike changes through out a forks stroke, especially when I'm on the hairy edge of control in a corner. The suspension compresses over a bump and hey! The whole feel of the bike in the corner is upset, I either have a yard sale, or I have to slow it down to correct for the change in geometry to a steeper head angle for a moment with less trail. That harshes my shred, dude! I don't like it.

Then you've got the whole maintenance issue thing, and the initial costs of the fork which are necessary evils of going to squish that make it harder to swallow for me. Give me a cheaper rigid fork, with no maintenance, that doesn't change geometry mid-corner, and doesn't exhibit brake dive. I'll take that!

Maybe I'm just lazy, cheap, or a glutton for punishment. I don't know, but I'm still not convinced that I need this suspension thing. Well............not yet, anyway!

Maybe I'll change my mind about that........stay tuned!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What To Do About The Weather?

Well, it looks like Trans Iowa V2 wasn't the only event this year to get modified by Mother Nature. I was gone most of the day and when I got home, I checked into the 24Hrs of Moab to find out the event had been called due to a tremendous amount of rain that made the course a mess. Much like T.I. or 24Hrs at 9Mile this year, there are already signs of a disgruntled group of participants and observers starting to surface. It seems that there is a call for promoters to have a "contingency" plan for inclement weather in place before the event starts.

First of all, let me say that Trans Iowa is a bit different in it's set up than your traditional 24 hour circuit race, so I'll not try and compare with that. However; having been in a similar situation, I feel somewhat qualified to make a few observations on the subject of contingency plans for inclement weather.

I think that it's a slippery slope. Once you install a "plan" then you have to live or die by that "plan". That usually means less flexability in running your event. While that may not matter 95% of the time, the 5% that it does could be a major pain in the neck for promoters, and event participants. So what? So what's different then now, except for "The Plan"? I do not see that it will 100% solve your problems with the weather and potentially, it could create new problems.

Problems such as my interpretation of "The Plan" versus yours. For instance, if "The Plan" says the race is called due to inclement weather that might be of harm to the participants and that includes lightning, how close is "one mile away" if that's what "The Plan" stipulates? See what I mean? What if you are about to overtake the leader in the solo class, and the race is called, with the results of the last completed lap used as the final results. You are going to say the lightning was 10 miles away at the closest, while the winner is going to say that his hair was standing on end, and he's glad no one got killed. It's a potential mess. A different mess, to be sure, but still a potential mess.

My point is that we obviously have no control over the weather. Any "contingency plan" devised in advance is going to be a potential nightmare to enact and interpret fairly by all concerned. I say, let the promoters use their common sense and do what is right for their event in any particular situation. They make an on site decision, and you live by it. The decision can then be based upon current conditions, whether or not they look to improve, and if the course and the participants can continue on and be safe. Too many variables to say, "this plan will work all the time".

I know that it's a really difficult subject, since you really can't postpone an event like this, and stopping and starting again later even is unappealing to the spirit of the format. Sometimes you have to play the hand that's dealt to you, ya know?

All I know is "The Plan" ain't gonna make things better!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Riding With Dorothy

Got some more riding in on Dorothy today up at Camp Ingawanis. Chilly, but a beautiful sun dappled day. Here she is up in "The Pines" Loop. The needles were deep!

Here's "a friend" that went along for much of the ride, apparently. I stopped to check out at the information kiosk and noticed it! Guess it was a good thing it was Saturday the 14th and not the day before!

Coming down a hill along a ridge here. It was fun "surfing" the leafs and sand!

Here's a pic going up that same ridge. Lot's of leafy cover for roots and sandy traps! Climbing was interesting, to say the least.

All in all a very fun day. I also had been out earlier in the morning on my Inbred 29"er out at Ullrich park in Cedar Falls. That "trialsy", twisty course was a good one for testing the off camber traits and the downhill traits of the Superlight Carbon 29"er fork. I'll be back there doing some more testing on the Switchblade fork and on the XXIX. Time is running short for comfortable testing weather, so I've got to get that riding in soon!

Heck, who cares if the lawn needs mowing...........right?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Front End Geometry for 29"ers: Two Different Paths

Lately throughout the testing and research on 29"er rigid front forks I have noticed that the solution to the fork trail issue is being handled in two different ways. First of all, it's important to know just what the "problem" is and why there needs to be a solution in the first place.

When mountain bike front end geometry got "figured out" in the late 80's/ early 90's a certain set of geometry figures were arrived upon that were generally accepted to be the best balance between stability and quickness for a 26 inch wheeled off road bike. Dubbed "Norba Geometry" by the magazine hacks of the day, this Norba, racer influenced geometry soon became the "standard" by which all other XC mountainbikes were judged by. Important to our discussion today are the offset and head angle numbers generated by this trend which were 38mm and 71 degrees respectively.

When 29"ers were being developed throughout the 90's, it became apparent that the "standard" Norba geometry wasn't effective in the big wheeled size. Using a 71 degree head angle with a 38mm off set was slower feeling than with the 26 inch wheels. This was due to the fact that by having the front axle higher off the ground with the 29"er, you automatically increased the trail of the fork. This made the bikes feel slower to steer around tight trails and in slower technical situations. Something had to be done to get back that quick 26 inch wheeled handling in a big wheeled package.

This was done by going to a steeper head angle, which effectively reduced the fork trail figure. Problem was that if you got on the smaller end of the size range in terms of fitting a frame to a person, there were serious toe overlap problems. So, the head angle was seen to be limited to about 72 degrees to keep toe overlap in check. These early geometry problems were part of the reason that the idea of "29"ers are only for big people" got started. It was due to the difficulty that early designers had in getting a quick handling package that could be executed in a smaller sized bike with 29 inch wheels. Remember, the rigid fork offset was thought to be "sacred" because of the suspension fork manufacturers who had all settled on a 38mm offset for the fork crowns. ( More or less- some forks varied a millimeter or two from 38mm) Changing tooling to accomodate a super small niche market was quite out of the question.

So, another approach was developed in which the rigid forks offset was changed and a 72 degree head angle was kept. The increase in fork offset reduced trail to a point where a designer could attain 26"er like quickness and still be able to produce a bike in smaller sizes without fear of toe overlap. Some designers have gone from the 38mm offset to as much as 47mm of offset in an effort to increase the quickness of the handling on 29"ers.

This brings us to today, when 29"ers are poised to become part of mainstream mountain biking. Now, with the influence of Gary Fisher, even 26 inch mountain bike suspension fork crown off set is being changed. When I spoke with Gary Fisher a couple of weeks ago, I asked him if he thought the suspension fork crown offset would be increased for 29"er suspension forks in the future. He assured me it was going to happen. So, designers will have two choices soon for resolving the handling issues with29"ers with suspension forks.

This is still a very hot topic for debate amongst designers of 29"ers. Jeff Steber of Intense Cycles said that he believed the best way to achieve the 26 inch bike handling he loves in a 29"er was to increase the head angle to an unprecedented 73 degrees. His company produced several proto type 29"ers using different head angles with 38mm offset crowned Rock Shox Reba suspension forks. These protos were thrashed by several test riders all over the west coast and the 73 degree head angle was universally liked better. Intense isn't the only company jumping on the steeper head angle bandwagon. Ellsworth and several other smaller builders have gone with a similar approach.

So, where does all of this lead me in my fork testing? Well, depending on which fork offset your carbon rigid fork happens to have, you could end up being disappointed in your bikes handling. Then again, you might be delighted. It all depends upon what camp your frame designer believes in. If the frame has a steeper head angle than 72 degrees, your 38mm offset crown might work better for you. If you have the 72 degree or less head angle, you might want to seek out the 47mm fork offset to get quicker handling. Then agian, you could always go the other way if lots of stability is your cup of tea. It all depends on the trail figure your after and how that affects handling. For my testing purposes, it almost dictates that I have a "proper" frame for every fork, which gets to be a pain!

So much for being a low budget researcher!

Check out my first impressions of the On One Carbon Superlight fork.

Also, the Trek Factory Gnome resigns his posistion and returns to moto-pimping! I am aghast!

Ride yer bike! Then ride it some more! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday News and Views

Okay, I'm sitting here getting ready to type this out and it's 27 degrees Fahrenheit out and the wind sounds like it's about to rip the siding offa the house. Quick check of the calendar......nope! It's not January! Coulda fooled me!

Anyway, this Mr. 24 injury thing was not in vain. I got a progress report from the trails maintenance co-ordinator. Wow! Alot got done in two days. I'm excited about the possibilities here and perhaps someday soon I'll be able to invite you all to come and check it out. It's going to be really good!

Moab this weekend. Looks like it's going to be a really competitive race with Tinker, Nat Ross, et all down in the desert. Special 29"er freak update: Nat Ross will be debuting the "official" Tubless Ready tire from Bontrager at the event. Keep yer eyes peeled for his performance to see how these tires perform. If they make it through the event bug-free, I'd not be surprised to see them showing up on shelves sometime soon in '07. (Not that I'm a tubeless tire fan, cause I'm not! Well.........actually.......I've never tried it. But I'd like to, to see what all the fuss is about!)

Speaking of tires, I am amassing a Bontrager tire arsenal for testing. I already have rolled the XR tires for well over a year now, but I want to try their skinnier sisters and the knobbier brothers too. So far I've got the skinnier XR's and am waiting on another pair of XR fatties and the knobbier Jones ACX will be ordered too. No Dry X's are available now, so I can't get down with them just yet.

And speaking of tires the other two treads that I want to try are the extremely hot and popular Panaracer Rampages and the soon to be released Kenda Smallblock 8. Two entirely different tires, but exciting for use around here, none the less. ( Note: the link to Panaracer is for the 26" UST model but the 29"er model is folding bead and.....well, BIGGER! The tread is the same. )

Now all I have to do is to get all of these tire and roll them on that new "Broken Finger Trail" up at the Camp! Good times are waitin'! (Thanks to Mr. 24 for the cool trail name!)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Badger Cycles "Dorothy" Update

Thanks to the kindness of Ben Witt and Rob Pennell, I have had the pleasure of putting the Badger Cycles Dorothy proto type through it’s paces for awhile now. I wanted to give you all an update on just what it is that I’m testing here.

First of all, this is a proto type. While it is very close to what will become available, I wanted to make mention of a couple of details that will be different on the “production” Dorothy’s. First of all, the rear drop outs, which are a hooded style are going to be changed to a Paragon Machine Works style drop out. The cable routing will be changed from top of the top tube to the underneath side of the top tube with three anchor points for the hydro lines instead of the two found on the proto. Also, the seat tube binder will be changed to a slotted seat tube and collar set up to allow a bolt type collar or quick release collar. The proto also has a Badger decal on the headtube which will not appear on the final versions. A Dorothy likeness in a real metal head badge will take it’s place. These are minor changes and in no way affected the handling or ride characteristics of the bike.

That said, I wanted to give you all a run down on the parts spec on the proto type. It’s quite a list! Keep in mind that the production models could be kitted out any way you want, but this is a fitting spec for such a high quality fillet brazed steel steed. The drivetrain consists of XTR crankset, and front derailluer working with a SRAM X-O trigger shifter set and rear derailluer. The stoppers are by Hope and the wheelset is a blue spoked pair of Industry 9’s laced to Stan’s rims. Those are shod with a pair of front specific Bontrager XR’s in the 2.25″ width. The Bontrager theme is carried on with the saddle, which is a Race XXX Lite that is perched on top of a Moots seat post. Moots also tigged the stem that is clamped to a Seven Cycles custom bend flat bar capped off with cork grips. The front fork duties are carried out by the White Brothers 80mm travel suspension fork with the IMV system. Finally, the wheels are clamped in by the good old reliable Salsa skewers that are so easy on the hands. One of the more interesting spec choices was the Dura Ace 12-27 cassette, which worked perfectly on the trails that I rode the Dorothy on. Certainly that’s not going to be everybodies first choice for a rear cassette, but this old single speeder never complained a bit!

The parts were very impressive, to say the least, but I had a couple of quibbles with the titanium cockpit parts. So I contacted Ben and discussed the parts in question and decided that it might be a good idea to try an aluminum handle bar and stem for awhile. The problem with the titanium bar and stem is that they are sooo compliant that it masks what I’m trying to feel in the frame. Nice stuff, and no complaints on the super smooth ride that these parts provide, but I’m going to swap out to aluminum bits and give that a try. I’ll report back in a week with a final report.

Until then all I will say is that I have had a silly grin on every time I have ridden this bike that just won’t go away! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thoughts On The 24hr "Worlds"

This past weekend saw the 24 Hours of Adrenaline Solo World Championships race at Conyers, Georgia. I've always scratched my head about this event thinking about how alot of endurance athletes have "bought into" the idea that the race with the name, "Worlds", really is the world championship. I wonder how many of these athletes thought this process through. Perhaps it doesn't really matter, but here is what I would consider the recipe, if you will, of a true "world championship" solo 24hour event.

First, you have to have some sort of way to get the majority of the top talent together at the same venue at the same time. This seems to me to be the whole crux of the matter. Exactly how you do that, is another thing all together. The way it works now, you "qualify" for Worlds by winning or being a top placer in selected events. Events selected by the promoter of the Worlds event, and not by any governing body or group. Hmm......that's okay, but perhaps it could be done even better. Even if somebody "qualifies" it doesn't mean that they are coming to the Worlds. What good is that? Where's the incentive to reach for that bar? Perhaps there is a way to get top talent, people who are talented enough to score a 24 hour solo win somewhere, to commit to coming to a world championship. Like free travel to and entry into the event? Extreme example, maybe, but that would perhaps motivate someone to come that ordinarily wouldn't. Maybe make it cheap to come? Hmm.........

Then there is the events that are used to qualify. They must be top notch 24 hour events. Events that take place worldwide. That shouldn't be too hard to figure out. The number of these events should be limited, too. The problem here is that you are going to eliminate good events due to timing in relationship to when Worlds is held. Moab anyone?

Finally, there is the event location itself. Perhaps it could be moved around from year to year to give the Worlds different flavors like the UCI World Road Championships. Perhaps it shouldn't move and it should go back to Whistler, B.C. as it always had been. That way you get a consistency of course difficulty to measure against the athletes. Whatever is chosen, the course should be tough and be able to accomodate a large number of athletes comfortably. That seems obvious, but it also would seem to eliminate some places. Again, Moab comes to mind.

For this year, it would seem that none of this mattered. In the end it came down to two athletes and nobody else really figured into it. Like two embattled warriors going at it with every last ounce of determination within them, they duked it out till the climatic finishing hours. Did it really matter who else was there or not, or even where the event was being held? To me, it didn't seem that it did so much. So maybe none of this really matters.

In the end, it was an epic battle between a relatively unknown and a perrenial champion. Stuff stories are made of. Who cares what the race was called.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday News and Views

This past weekend was a momentous one around here. Lot's of news affecting me and the guys I work with. I know many of you coming here may not be familiar with my local scene, but some of you are, and this stuff needs telling, so here goes!

As I posted yesterday, Mr. 24 managed to snap his digit Saturday doing trail work. Today he finds out when they are going to put the hardware in his finger to help mend it back together. Let's see, a really good 24 hour racer enhanced with titanium, hmmm........sounds about right! All kidding aside, here's to the hope that he heals up fast and is able to continue riding ASAP!

Then we have Carlos, or "Buchanandale as he likes to be called these days, who had to rush his wife to the hospital this weekend so she could deliver their wonderful new baby girl, Rhea, into the world. Congratulations to them and here's hoping that all that 24 hour race experience comes in handy when little Rhea wakes you up in the middle of the night, like all little ones do. Don't worry! It won't last long, although it might seem like it while you're going through it!

Then we have some bicycle news to pass along. I rode the crap out of the Badger Cycles Dorothy this weekend. I'll be putting up a post soon about that on Twenty Nine Inches, but for now I'll let you all know that it was one smoooth ride! I'll go into greater detail on it in the post for the other site. Look for that very soon! Also, the On One Carbon Super Light fork first impressions will be getting posted up there soon, as well. Probably later this week.

The 24 hour "World Champion"............isn't Chris Eatough! That's probably the big race news of the weekend. No slight to the awesome effort by Craig Gordon, but he's not exactly a well known name here, yet! Knocking off Chris Eatough from his perennial platform is a major accomplishment, and that should help in getting Craig's name on the lips of more people. However; I still have issues with the whole "World Championship" thing. The level of competition was high, for those who showed up. But there were alot of names missing from that solo mens roster. Who, you might ask? Well just take a look at this coming weekends Moab roster for starters. This whole "world championship" 24 hour thing reminds me a bit of college footballs bowl championship set up. It's goofy and wrong, but it's all we have. Can't we do any better?

Okay, that's a wrap for today. If any of you run into Mr. 24 soon, ask him if he's packing his lederhosen for his next trip. Maybe Carlos could lend him his? We'll see!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday Early Edition

Here are a few bits for perusal. No particular order here, just random thoughts floating around my brain today.

Snapped like a twig: Mr 24 took one for the team yesterday while helping to build and maintain trail out at the Camp Ingawanis Trail System yesterday. Snapped his finger, he did. You can click on over to his blog to see the twisted, swollen results, if you want to. I think they need to name that trail the Broken Finger Trail or something similar to honor his sacrifice.

Badger Dorothy: Still getting out for rides on the Dorothy prototype. I won't say much other than this: it's pretty dialed in. I'm going to have it in my hands until next weekend, so no report until at least a week from now. Stay Tuned!

Is this the end of Good Weather? Talking about riding, this may be the end of comfortable conditions for riding. I see snow being talked of for Thursday and highs only in the 30's. (Fahrenheit) So, break out the tights and jackets, it's time to suit up! I think it's going to be a short lived blast, but it won't be long before that weather is here to stay! Well, at least for a few months. Some of you won't care because you're ending "your season", whatever that means. I ride all year long, so I have no concept of that anymore.

Fork Swapping: The shop is closed today because we are in "winter hours mode", which means I might be able to get over there to do a quickie fork swap. The shop has a really nice crown race remover that I don't have, so this is why I'm thinking of popping in there today. If it happens, the results will be posted ASAP!

I wonder how those big 24 hour races are going? Trek sweep in Georgia? How's the sand in Utah? The results might be predictable, but the stories are always pretty good, we'll see in a few hours. Update: 7:10am: Chris Eatough is down a lap to Aussie Craig Gordon. Is the Eatough reign over? Is this the end of American 24hr race domination, like in XC? Time will tell. Interesting stuff! Check out Ride424.com for updates.

That's it! Go ride yer bikes now, whaddya waitin' for?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Testing! 1, 2, 3!

The weekend and this following week will be one of testing, testing, and more testing. Here is a short rundown of the things I am riding for review and test.

1. Badger Dorothy Prototype: The Dorothy is basically on very short term loan from Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles. I have to get my ya-ya's on it this week before it goes back north.

2. On One Carbon Super Light fork: I'll be mounting this up to my Inbred 29"er single speed this week and getting in some shakedown rides on it. The first impressions and review might be a couple weeks away due to the focus on the Badger.

3. Raleigh XXIX: Continuing evaluation and some parts swapping will be going on here. Look for further updates later in the month.

4. Raleigh XXIX + G: Geared version coming soon! Stay tuned!

5. Haro Mary XC frame and fork: Build project that will probably take place over the winter months once the frame and fork arrive. I will use this as a platform for reviewing parts and for posts dealing with general installation and maintenance.

Of course, that's just what's on the radar! Might be that something else comes in and trumps all of that! You never know!

Look for these and other 29"er related news, views, and rantings on this blog, but especially on Twenty Nine Inches . I will be making an important announcement soon concerning that website and this blog. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 06, 2006

On One Carbon Super Light Fork On Test

Here is the On One Carbon Super Light Fork that arrived straight from the U.K. yesterday. Thanks to the kindness of Brant at On One Cycles we have the opportunity to see what this carbon beauty can do.

Look for full specs and a first impression soon on Twenty Nine Inches

Right now I can tell you that the fork is very good looking with it's very noticeable carbon weave and polished forged crown. The drop outs are chunky bits that look to be CNC'ed out of aluminum. Forward facing drop outs = good for discy-disc use without jettisoning the front wheel during extreme braking.

The fork feels quite light for a mountain bike fork and especially for a 29"er fork, which this is. Rake on this carbon legged beauty is 47mm, which should lend a snappy feeling, quick steering performance to the On One Inbred 29"er that it will be mounted to.

Again: full specs, backround information, and first riding impressions to come very soon. I have an important date with a furious blue bicycle named after a sharp clawed animal to complete before it heads back north up the "yellow brick road".

Stay tuned!

Caption Contest!

Okay every body! Let's step it up a notch and give me your best caption for this photograph.

Hint- (There will be a review of the bike later)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Interbike Product Highlights

Over the next few days I want to focus in on a few new products that caught my (camera) eye at the Interbike trade show. Alot of these won't be 29"er related because I'll be covering those items over on Twenty Nine Inches. Do check that site for my take on some of the new sleds fit for big wheels.

That said, here is one rig I have to mention here!
The Salsa "Mamasita" Scandium/ carbon frame. It got my "Best of Show" designation for the 29"er category at Interbike. Here's why: First off, it's a great looking bike! Salsa has some really good graphic design on all of their bikes and the Mamsita was no exception. Secondly, this is a very smartly designed hardtail utilizing some high zoot materials in a very logical way. Take for instance the carbon seat stays. Sure, there were other carbon rear ended 29"ers at the show, but you could tell that the Mamasita had a purpose for using the material other than the bling factor. I'm not saying the others didn't have a purpose for using carbon fiber, it's just that it wasn't obvious that it had a purpose. The Mamasita's purpose for it was readily evident. Vertical compliance and strength. There's more, the Scandium down tube that was clearanced for suspension fork control knobs, (Reba) and integrated cable stops in the left seat stay for brake lines. This design was well thought out. Plus, it wasn't some goofy "I can be single speed-I can be geared" hardtail. It's purpose is clear. Geared racing XC machine. Period. I like that! Commitment........it's a word too oft not applicable to 29"er designs these days.

So, Mamasita got "Best of Show" for those reasons and more. Check out the Mamasita yourself come Spring '08 for sub $850.00 for the frame. Available at any independant bike shop with a QBP account.

Next up we have this! It's a carbon fiber suspension seat post! This is a prototype post that Ergon, yes.....ERGON the grip people, are developing. I saw this post in action and all I could say was "Wow!" It has two parallel carbon "fork blades" that blend into a round cylinder shape for the seatpost part. The two "blades" are then attached to an aluminum head that has two pivots and the seat rail clamp on top. When a rider sits on the saddle, the post remains stationary. But when the rider bounced on the saddle, the posts "blades" flexed and the saddle moved rearwards. The pivots on the head kept the saddle parallel with the ground. It works to absorb smaller trail impacts and to take the edge off of sharper impacts. The rider moves slightly rearwards during bump absorbstion, much like you would on another companies popular suspension seat post. (Cane Creek)

Anyway, I thought this post was amazing and it shows you another of the thousands of amazing uses for carbon fiber. By the way, there was no price or availability date set for release of this post. I'll keep you all up to date on any further developements on this product.

Look for more Product Highlights tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thieves and Rumors

First, I have to say that bike thieves are pretty high on my list of low down bottom feeders. With that said, read this excerpt from the most recent Salsa blog entry.....

"I'd also like to know why people take things that do not belong to them. You see, coming back from Interbike, one of our Dirt Demo trucks was stolen and we lost a crap load of new 2007 frames, bikes and products. Dealers and Salsa fans, if you see any of our new Orange Dos Niner or Red or Brown Ala Carte frames for sale or being ridden, it is probably hot since these are not available to the public. Please keep us posted. It was a huge loss for us."

You know, it happens every year at Interbike and usually right at the show. I hate that it happened to the Salsa Crew. These guys are folks that I know and that's what really makes it hit closer to home. I also would like to add that while lots of folks have cycling passion in spades, these Salsa folks have really got it! Again, it sucks and I hate that it had to happen, especially to them. If anyone can help out, I know it'd be appreciated!

Okay, with that said, let's move on to something a little more fun! That would be rumors! Gotta love the rumors that you read on the forums these days. Rumors of tires and rumors of bikes coming out. Here are some of the hottest topics for disscussion around your 29 inch diameter water cooler today.

Specialized, who have publicly poo-poo'd the idea of 29"ers on several occaisions are said to be preparing themselves a very large Humble Pie. Supposedly, they have been "secretly" developing a couple of 29"ers for an '08 introduction. Now, with about everybody on board the 29"er kool aid wagon but Trek, Giant, and Specialized, the Big Red S has apparently decided to move up it's intro to the end of the month. It wouldn't surprise me, quite frankly, and it makes sense, especially when considering the fact that they now have two tires in the size 29 and no bikes to fit them! ( A fact that I find totally hilarious)

Also, I have heard that Trek is now considering entering a line of 29"ers soon as well. Apparently looking at what has been happening down the hall at Fisher has some brows furrowed up in Waterloo. I'll keep my ears pricked for any more juicy rumors from the Cheese State in the future.

And finally.........Tires! Yes the things that the whole enchilada rolls down the trail on. Several new models are coming out and have been confirmed, but the truly fat, bulbous, high volume tread that several of you out there seem to be lusting after hasn't materialized yet. It seems that this is due in part to a restriction imposed by the currently employed tire making equipment. It seems that 29"er tires have the machines maxed out and a larger volume casing with tread suitable for off roading is just not possible at this point. Hopefully with the trend towards more 29"ers being manufactured and hopefully sold, we will see a manufacturer invest in a machine capable of making that larger volume 29"er tire. Until then, the rumor is that Kenda has in fact made that investment, so we'll see about that. All I know is that as soon as the Smallblock 8 tread hits the shelves I'm going to have a pair! That tire is hawt doode!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bontrager Switch Blade Race X Lite Fork: First Impression

I have gotten to mount up the Switchblade Race X Lite ACC Carbon fork and I have gotten a few rides on it. Here are my first impressions of it.

The fork installation was a breeze. Nothing out of the ordinary. I managed to save some weight by installing this fork over the previously installed Inbred 29″er steel fork. The Inbred fork with an eight inch long steer tube and star nut installed weighed 1225 grams. The Switchblade Race X Lite weighed 950 grams for the same length steer tube and star nut installed. After getting the head set adjusted, it was time to start riding it.

The first few shakedown cruises were commutes back and forth to work to get a handle on what I might expect out on the trail. The first thing I noticed was that road feel was damped out and smaller vibrations were not there that I had felt with the Inbred steel fork. Steering was a bit different too. More on that in a bit. When I slammed the front disc brake, I noticed that the fork really wasn’t flexing a whole lot at or near the crown, like alot of forks do. Instead, it was flexing backwards more and more as I looked closer to the drop outs. Almost in the same manner that a fishing rod might flex. Hmm……different!

The flex was backwards about a half to three quarters of an inch at the drop out. This was in almost nose pick mode, mind you. Normal braking didn’t see that amount of flex. Once I was satisfied that there were no funky handling quirks on road, it was time to delve into the singletrack.

The previously mentioned damped feel on road was also noticed off road. Vibrations that might “buzz” my hands with the steel fork simply were gone. Not a really big deal. I suppose my hands could still get numb after a bit, it’s just going to take longer with the Switchblade on the bike. More importantly, I noticed a big difference in handling around corners.
The Inbred fork has more offset, the Switchblade has less offset. This manifests itself in how the bike handled turns. With the Inbred fork up front, the turns required less input and body english. The corners were negotiated with a more solid, carving type of feel. With the Switchblade, the feel was one of a need for more rider input. I had to “set” the bike up for the corner and it seemed the steering was more from the hips. It liked to snap the back end loose more and had a “flat tracker” kind of feel with the Switchblade. Counter steering seemed more intuitive with the Switchblade. It also seemed that the bike steered better with more lean into the corners. All in all a very different feel.

This is because of the offset more than anything, I think. The offset of the Switchblade gave the bike more trail, and thus a bit “slower” handling. That’s not necessarily a bad trait, it just might not be your cup of tea, that’s all. A “slower” handling bike could also be said to be “less twitchy”, so it’s a matter of degrees in handling. the differences not being so great that it was unrideable either way. But it sure gave my Inbred a different personality!

That’s about it for this installment. I have to wring out this fork some more on some different trails for awhile before I post some final observations. Look for another update in a few weeks. Also, look for another carbon legged beauty to show up for testing on Twenty Nine Inches in the near future! Stay tuned! (Note: previous text first posted on Twenty Nine Inches)

Here is a picture of the trail conditions out at the Green Belt where I rode Sunday. As you can see, there were plenty of walnuts and sticks! This was the norm and the whole ride Sunday was a tooth rattler. The worst thing is going into a corner with all of these golf ball sized nuts lying about. It made for some rather interesting riding!

As for the sticks: well, in the past I would have been cursing them as I rode my geared bike due to the fact that these little wooden demons like to reach up and snag your derailluer. However, with the single speed mode that I seem to be in, this isn't a problem anymore! One really cool thing about disc brakes: rotors cut right through the smaller, dry twigs. Snap! It's pretty cool. Almost like a chipper!

I did get a little nervous when one larger stick got crossways in the front wheel. The stick smacked the fork blade with that plasticky thwack that only carbon fiber can eminate. I stopped fearing the worst, but not even a scratch was to be noticed! Pretty relieving to know that the fork legs can take such abuse and not be damaged. One less thing to have rolling around in the back of my head as I ride down the trail.

Speaking of rolling down the trail: Look for new sleds to be showing up in the coming month here at Guitar Ted Productions and on Twenty Nine Inches. Some big surprises are in store and even some news regarding responsibilities for me that will affect this blog a bit.

Don't worry, it's gonna be a good thing!

More in the coming weeks!

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Cuppa Joe With Gary

One of the biggest highlights of my trip to Lost Wages had to be before our show experience even began. And to think I should have missed it! You see, I wasn't even supposed to have been in Vegas on Tuesday afternoon. My flight had a scheduled layover in Atlanta for a few hours, but due to an astute Delta employee, I was put on an earlier flight which got me into Vegas before noon instead of by 5pm. as it was originally scheduled.

So, I'm in Vegas early. In fact; my flight out of Atlanta was on the same plane as Tim and Mike's. Since we all arrived together, we got settled in at the hotel and hit the Sands Convention Center for our badges. We poked around there a bit, looking in the doors and watching people set up. Tim actually was taking photos of the goings on until security shut us down. We decided that it might be a good time to eat, so we walked a few blocks to the mall on the Strip where we found a food court. After eating, we sat and chatted and thought about our plans for the next day when Mike says, "Hey, isn't that Gary Fisher? Going down the escalator?" Tim looked and so did I. We confirmed it was him. Tim then grabbed his camera and took off running. After a few minutes, Mikes phone rings. We both said in unison, "It's Tim." Sure enough, he tracked Gary Fisher down and told us to come down to where they were.

After procuring some Starbuck's black goodness, we sat down and chatted for a half hour to 45 minutes. Gary has some really interesting takes on drivetrains, commuter bikes, and 29"ers. It was a great, open discussion about bikes and philosophies on different aspects of cycling. I must say that my eyes got opened a bit by some of Gary's opinions on things. I'll relate some of those things as I post in upcoming days, but for now let's just say that Gary Fisher is a thinking man and is a fun guy to talk to. Gary, if you get wind of this post, I say "Thank you" and I am glad I got to Vegas early!

It was an odd thing as we walked away after saying our goodbyes that Mike, Tim, and I all agreed that this was probably the highlight of our trip, and we hadn't even been to the show yet! As it was, it probably has to be in the top three of the things that happened at Vegas for me. It's not that I got to talk to "Gary Fisher" the legend, or the head of a company, or anything like that. It was that I got to talk to Gary Fisher; a thinking man that is passionate about cycling and just happens to be in a very influential posistion in the industry. Say what you will about the past and his influence on the early days of mountain biking. This is a guy that is passionate about cycling today and is looking into the future, not resting on his laurels.

That's just the beginning of the trip! There's more, and I'll relate it all to you in the coming days. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Interbike: The Two Faces of Vegas

While we were at Interbike, Tim Grahl and I had a chance to walk around a bit. Our hotel was just behind the Sands convention center where the show was being held, so walking lent itself to getting around very well. I also believe that for getting the true feel of an area there is nothing like doing it either by walking or cycling.

So, what we have here is the definition of a slick image pasted over a pile of crap. The ultimate shiny object that is propped up on the backs of a dilusioned and broken populace. Walk around The Strip for awhile and then wander a block or so off of it. That's all you'll need to do to get the whole story.

I don't think there is any other place on earth besides El Paso, Texas/ Ciudad Jaurez where I have seen the highs displayed so magnaminously and the lows demonstrated in such a heart braking manner. Here in Vegas you have 100 foot high digitized images of entertainers and celebrities with grand and glorious statements of their talent and what they will do to astound you, while in their shadows you have a broken man scooting himself along on a department store bike, totally destitute. You have women displayed as sex goddesses, as if merely seeing them will lift you to new heights and then you see the reality of a girl working as a booth prop at a convention with a far away look that is telling of her disdain of, and entrapment by a system that sucks the life out of her soul.

There is a movement afoot to move Interbike from Las Vegas because of the unsavory, family unfriendly, cycling unfriendly atmousphere that Vegas has. However; I ask the question, is it really that, or do you just not want to have what exists in every major American city so blatantly flaunted in your face?

I say keep the show in Vegas. If you are disturbed by what you see there, you can do something about it where you live. It's in your back yard too. Don't kid yourself. Vegas is just a magnification of America's sickness. A reflection of it. It's not alone in it's debauchery.

So this post isn't about 29"ers, and it may not have much to do with cycling in general, or does it? We all live together on this earth. Our actions have consequences that affect other lives. Cycling involves people that can be affected by other peoples actions, or inactions.

Think about it...............

signed: Guitar Ted, doing my part in Waterloo/ Cedar Falls.