Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gears and Classics

I was just thinking a bit more about the single speed 29"er availability versus the geared only frame availability and I realized that I had forgotten something. The geared only bikes are just around the corner. As in, there are a bunch of them coming out in '07.

The following bikes came to mind that will be seen in local bike shops soon: Caffeine 29"er from Cannondale, the Raleigh XXIX+G, the Haro Mary XC ( which should be out already), Jamis' new hardtail, Kona's geared hardtail comes back for a second year, and even a Canadian bike from Norco.

Not to mention the several "boutique" brands such as Titus, Badger Dorothy, and even Salsa's El Mariachi will be available as a complete bike, albeit it does have an eccentric bottom bracket for single speed conversion. As does Fisher's new Ferrous, which should be available sometime soon.

I just wanted to mention this, as I didn't want to give the impression that there weren't any geared hardtails available. That used to be the case, but it should be rectified soon.

Finally, I wanted to address something that was brought up during a discussion the other day. The Karate Monkee. Someone suggested that it be updated, when I think what they really wanted to see was a totally new bike from Surly. Why do I say that? Because most folks don't get it when it comes to the Karate Monkee.

How soon we all forget! Take yourself back to 2002. Now, name all the 29"ers available to the public. Sound rediculous? I bet if you think about it, you could do it, and you wouldn't even use up all of your digits counting. There wasn't much of anything available to the public beyond customs and Fishers. Then the Karate Monkee came. Okay, if you wanted maximum selling potential in 2003, you would be smart to do a "do-it-all" frame. SS, geared, suspended, or not. Commuter, off road, or touring. The Karate Monkee can, and has, done them all.

So, now things are different, why not change it now? Because the Karate Monkee is a standard. It's a benchmark that other 29"ers are still measured by. Also, it still is arguably the best "do-it-all" production 29"er frameset out there.

I know it's probably too soon to nominate for 29"er Hall of Fame bikes, but I vote for the Karate Monkee, which by the way, is still the coolest name for a bicycle ever!

Okay, that's my random thoughts for today. Don't forget! Trans Iowa Registration is open now until December 15th! Get your postcards in before the deadline!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Let the Fun Begin!

Here are the very first post cards to show up at the shop for the Trans Iowa Lottery drawing to take place on December 16th.

I suspect that these will be some of the tamer and more public viewing friendly cards that we will recieve. Thatis, if all the threats we have read on the web are to be believed!

Here's our little Box of Voo Doo that all the entry cards are going to go into.

I also suspect that this box is a bit too small....

I'll have to get to work on the El Grande' Box o Voo Doo I suppose, before it's too late!

So, this is what it's all about for Jeff and I........FUN. If it isn't going to be fun for us, and hopefully for you out there, this Trans Iowa thing will be done in a heartbeat. People wonder why we do things the way we do, and honestly, it's two things. Because we believe it's the best way, and it's FUN. We are not asking anyone to buy into our ideas. We aren't even asking you to buy anything this year! We just want to provise a kick in the junk challenge that is a good time for all. Well, alot of it is up to you and your attitude, but we are doing our best provide something cool.

And speaking of providing something cool.................

Have you checked out the website? We have recieved sponsorship again from the fine folks at Surly, Cannondale, Hammer Gel, and first time sponsor, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. Whiskey? Yep! T.I. competitor Dave Nice got us hooked up, (Thanks!) and actually had a bit o the stuff with him this past spring. I must say, it's a smooth draw if your into whiskey at all. Much better than alot of stuff out there, in my opinion. Anyway, it's great to have them on board with the other fine sponsors, which always blows me away. I mean, we're just a couple of crazy knuckleheads out here in Iowa putting on an event that gets these guys to sponsor us? I have to pinch myself sometimes. Thanks to all of you companies and the people behind them. You're great!

So, sit back with me now and watch the post cards roll in! It should be fun, and I'll keep ya'all updated from time to time here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Separating The Sheep From The Goats

As I get more and more involved in the testing and riding of different 29"ers and some of the proprietary parts that go along with it, I am realizing one thing. Some of this stuff is going to go away. Yep! You won't be seeing some of the bikes and some of the parts that you can lay hands on now in a year. Maybe less.

Alot of this has to do with the sheer economics of things and alot of it has to do with.......well, how can I say this?.........Stupid things. Yes, that's it,........ stupid things.

First, the economics. There are so many single speed/ do-it-all frames and complete bikes out there for '07 that I can not believe that all of them will survive to see '08 or '09 catalogs. The market for 29"ers, while growing, isn't really going in that direction. I mean, how many 26 inch wheeled single speed bikes are flying out the doors of shops? See what I mean? There has to be more 29"er single speed complete bikes available from major bike brands than 26"ers. I just can not seem to remember a time when so many single speed bikes were available.

The market won't support all of these SS 29"ers and it wants geared 29"ers that are mid-priced. And the whole she-bang is quickly going to move in the direction of All Mountain full suspension once the details of designs are worked out for 29"ers. Some bikes, like Niners R.I.P. 9 are already there. The SS 29"er glut will subside, mark my words!

Then there are the stupid things. Stupid like, Hey! Look at our new full suspension 29"er that will blow everybody else out of the water........wha?......Reba forks hit the down tube?.....uh....wait a minute.....(crap!).......Nevermind!" Yeah, stupid stuff like that is really happening out there. Tire clearance issues, fork clearance issues, and geometry that hasn't been well thought out plagues several 29"ers out there. The evolution of the species will weed out these weak examples and they will become endangered species, if not extinct, in short order. Then the engineering side will come into play a little later on. Who did their homework and who didn't? Well, it's hard to say, but the scrap pile won't lie, and it's gonna get higher before it gets figured out. 29"ers put a lot different stresses on things than 26"ers do, so the best designs that are well executed will survive. (I'm betting that the only things that'll survive a nuclear holocaust are cockroaches and Karate Monkees, but that's just me!)

Whatever happens, it'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. However, I just don't see alot of these "bigwheeled goats" making the cut. That's my take.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back At It!

Well, that was fun while it lasted! Those big holday weekends are always a time that trips me up. I guess I am a routine kind of guy. I kind of get lost in an unstructured period of time like we just experienced over the past four days. It was good from the standpoint of getting some much needed rest though, I will say that much!

For the next couple of weeks I'll be posting a reminder that Trans Iowa registration is open. If you go to the website, you will be directed as to how to get your chance to enter the event. I'll also post any new announcements here as well. Remember, the registration post cards must be recieved no later than December 15th!

I'm getting busy with that Trans Iowa stuff again and also another event which I will be announcing as soon as some final details are hashed out. Keep your eyes peeled here and on Twenty Nine Inches for that announcement soon!

So, lets see......what else is up? Well, the Caffiene 29"er update is due soon in which I will lay out some numbers and further impressions about the bike. I will have an update on the carbon 29"er forks soon, and possibly a new introduction soon for a bike. Of course the ongoing Haro project which will be detailed when there is any action on that.

Other than that, it's just work as usual!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Trans Iowa V3 Announcement!

The details for the third running of Trans Iowa are starting to become more clear. Here's the latest scoop for those of you that are thinking about this. Be sure to check out my post below this one for a few teaser photos of the course.

Trans Iowa has been set for the weekend of April 28th-29th, 2007. The Friday before (27th) will be some sort of socializing, meet and greet sort of thing with a place and time to be announced later.

Trans Iowa will be run in a loop starting from Decorah, Iowa in the wee hours of Saturday morning, the 28th. It will be run in a clockwise direction through eleven of Iowa's counties. The riders that overcome the challenge should reach Decorah again somtime during the mid day or afternoon of Sunday, April 29th. An awards ceremony at T-Bocks Bar and Grill will follow up the event.

Registration is NOW OPEN!! Please see the Trans Iowa V3 site for further details on how to enter this event.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

V3 Recon

"Who disturbs our quiet repose?!!"

A view from the side of the road somewhere in Northeast Iowa.

It was almost foggy, and definitely overcast earlier in the day. Look closely, though, and you can see the road I'm on winding away in the distance.

Another view of some of the winding gravel roads.

I had to for go another round of single track riding at the camp for some long over due Trans Iowa recon. I was pleased with the roads I was able to check out today. It was a gray, overcast day, but dry. The roads were pretty full of gravel right now, but that might change by spring.

The one thing that surprised me was the lack of wildlife sightings, but I guess I did see alot of hunters out and the deer are pretty much nocturnal at this time of year.

Anyway, about half the course is accounted for, another bit is known to exist, but I haven't been on it yet. The rest needs to be driven. Hopefully December will be kind and allow for a day of driving!

I'll have more pictures then.........

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tyranny of (Gear) Choice

Here's a bit of a ramble. Blame it on massive Thanksgiving calories that have jump started my brain into action. Possibly turning some gears up there that haven't been turned in awhile. Whatever it is, this is the result!

I was having an e-mail conversation with a Trans Iowa veteran who brought up the concept of "tyranny of choice". In short form it describes how having too many choices can cause depression, nuerosis, and all sorts of psychological mayhem.

For instance I have this problem when I go into a place that sells music. (On-line now, but they used to be a brick and mortar place you actually walked into called a record store. I know, I don't know what I'm talkin' about, that's okay) Anyway, I peruse all the selections until I'm numb, confused, and depressed. I usually left with nothing, well, when I went in a music it's just on-line stuff. Anywho.........Tyranny of Choice, too much choice and you can't deal with it, ya know?

So, I have been riding a singlespeed for about three and a half years exclusively and all of a sudden these geared 29"ers start showing up. I have a choice! Gears! I discovered it when I was grinding up the street on my way home from work on my inaugral ride on the Dorothy. It was pretty cool.

Then for awhile it was fun. Let's see what gear works here. How about over there! Then something started to happen that wasn't so fun. I found my self trying to figure out my gearing choice more and paying less attention to what the trail was doing up ahead. I started to not get up some things as well or as fast as I did on the single speed. I started to get into the redline more from spinning too low a gear. I started to have less fun. Maybe it's just me, but all of this gear choice was starting to become a liability at times. Then throw in the occaisional hiccup in the system, ( cable stretch, chain not interfacing with leaf covered cassette, and dry chain) and it was getting on my nerves more and more.

Then it came to me. I had too many choices! So, I eliminated the granny gear from the menu and stuck with the middle ring more and more. When the Salsa boys were in town, they had a bike with them set up as a 1 X 9. It made alot of sense to me. Less choices to futz over, more time to concentrate on fun. Not to mention, it was lighter and less complicated than a full 27 gear set up.

So, at least for me, too many gears are a drag. You could say it's a "Tyranny of Gear Choice". It screws with your head, your bikes functionality, and your pocketbook when it comes to maintenance time. Less is more. You know, I wouldn't mind going back to 21 speeds of goodness. Thicker cogs, thicker chains, better shifting for a longer duration of time. Less apt to get screwed up by the conditions at hand. But that's a whole 'nuther story.

I guess that's enough rambling for one evening. Especially seeing as how the food buzz is starting to wear off! where was that last slice o pie!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mary Comes For A Visit....

It all started like this. A box from the "Brown Santa".........

What should I find inside but a neatly wrapped and packaged frameset!

Once I got the warppings of her, I could say hello to Mary! (The XC version, that is)

Double butted chrome molybdenum goodness!

Some sexy looking chainstays on this here Mary!

Maybe she'll be a compliant ride because of this. We'll see!

I'm looking forward to getting this bike built up in the next weeks, (months!) depending upon when I can afford parts aquisitions! As I mentioned, this is the XC version of Haro's Mary 29"er series and it is geared only. I'll have to decide exactly how I'm going to go about it, but the plan is to do a 2 X 9 drivetrain on it. I'll also be keeping it rigid with the Bontrager Switchblade Race X Lite fork and a Salsa Shaft seat post, which I'll have to order in the 410mm X 31.6mm size to accomodate my long legs. Other decisions yet to be made, but I'll keep ya'all up to date on the progress!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, (to all who celebrate that holiday) and instead of pumpkin pie, how's about riding that bike!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Ultimate Gravel Grinders

Just got word in today that the Dirty Kanza route has been pre-ridden. It looks to be a great route this year, (it's supposedly a totally different route from last years). You can check out some route photos here:
(Blogger is goofy this morning, or I'd have hyper-linked that for you!)

The Dirty Kanza 200 is going to take place starting in Emporia Kansas on May 19th. More info will be posted here as it becomes available. It should be another really fun time on the sharp flint gravel of Kansas. I can not wait!

Another gravel grinder that I just happen to have something to do with is Trans Iowa, ( It will be taking place at the end of April, but we haven't decided which of two weekends that we will be using yet. Our course should be around 330- 350 miles long and will be one big loop, just like Dirty Kanza's course. We are featuring some tougher hills this year and this could quite possibly be the toughest Trans Iowa, (barring the weather) yet. Of course, any and all updates will be found here.

Finally, the last gravel event that I want to mention is my namesake event, The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, which I plan on riding in July, probably mid-month as of right now. More info on this past summers event can be found at or any future announcements can also be found here.

Gravel.....just what is it about this stuff anyway? Look for more thoughts on that to come!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pass The Fork, Please.

Note: This post also appeared on Twenty Nine Inches. Check out the comments section for more dialogue on this issue.

There are several sources telling me that Fox is in the process of designing and testing a new platform for a 29 inch wheeled specific front fork. This would probably be an ‘08 release at the soonest. The details of such a fork are still a mystery other than to say that it has been indicated to us that it will have a “29″er specific crown”, which we take it to mean that the offset will be greater than the typical 38mm found on 26″er forks.

This will be a highly anticipated fork for 29″er afficiandos and should have a wider appeal to those thinking about trying out a 29″er for the first time. Fox is a highly respected fork in the 26″er ranks and would be a welcome addition for those looking for a high quality front fork on a 29″er.

Along with Manitou’s expected release of a 29″er front fork, the ‘08 model year could be the “Year of the Fork” for 29″er freaks everywhere. Stay tuned for more updates as I recieve them.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It Finally Happened!

You may not realize this out there but Mr. 24 and I work in the same shop, live in the same town, and we both ride bikes alot but we have never ridden together,(other than a short commute to work once). Not once.

Well today it finally happened. We met up with some other like minded folks at Camp Ingawanis for some cold weather riding. The trails were dry, but they were covered in leaves and sticks. We couldn't see the sticks, roots, and sand traps either because of the fallen leaves. It made riding pretty interesting!

In all we had seven of us out there with three of us riding 29"ers. I was riding the F-29 C'dale which is working out pretty well now that the drivetrain problems have been solved! It took forever to get the cables to seat in. Either that, or the derailluer cables were pulling themselves past the anchor bolts, but I don't think so! I'll have more on that later.

Things were going along just peachy until Craig took a header at the end of a long descent. Went in like a lawn dart, he did! Well, we though he was seriously injured for a minute, but he shook it off and we rode on into the camp parking area, loaded up the rig, and I took him home. He had ridden up with Mr.24, so he had no vehicle. We saw Super Saul coming into the trails just as we were coming into the lot, so fresh troops were on their way in!

And speaking of troops, the local National Guard regiment was out on training in the field adjacent to the woods we were in. Automatic weapon fire is really loud and startling when you are in the woods! Makes me glad that I live in a free country where I don't have to deal with the real thing!

Hope you are having fun riding this weekend! (It's not too cold......really!)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Getting Caffeine-ated: First Impressions

Like the foggy nature of this picture, the F-29's character is still not quite clear to me........yet!

So far, several people have had the chance to throw a leg over the Caffeine 29"er from Cannondale here in "Guitar Ted Land". The initial responses have ranged from high praise to downright hatred. It seems that getting a consistent reaction from folks on the bike isn't going to happen. I think I'm beginning to see why that is.

My rides have been on several different types of terrain. Flat, twisty single track, gravel roads that were really hilly, to tight, technical single track with lots of elevation changes thrown in for good measure. Trail conditions ranged from dry, hardpack to wet, slushy snow, greasy mud, and "peanut buttery gravel".

My initial impression is that this bike is far different than any of the other 29"ers that I have ridden so far. It rides like a big couch, for one thing, which surprised the heck out of me, considering that it is an aluminum hardtail after all. The sharp jolts and bouncing off the saddle just didn't occur as I was expecting at first. The steering geometry was strangely different and I wasn't sure if it was all the Lefty or what. It seemed to not really like a steer from the hip kind of input, but rather a more aggressive "throw it into the corner" kind of style that required alot of upper body input. In the tight single track, I was able to just let the bike roll through the corners in a lazy fashion, which seemed to suit the bike well. The higher speed handling in the tight stuff wasn't going to happen on that particular ride due to a drivetrain issue unrelated to the bikes frame or design, so I'll not mention that. Another ride in the same area is planned soon.

The Lefty strut, which is an integral part of this bike, rode really well. It felt stiff torsionally and laterally. It is still in it's break in period, but it felt pretty smooth and soaked up alot of trail chatter. The big bumps were nothing to this suspension unit, and it plowed right over small logs and branches with impunity. The lock out feature was a welcome and easy to operate feature while riding. I never felt any strange sensations or "pull" to one side or the other due to the one legged design. It rode like a bike, that's all.

I've got to put the measuring tape and angle finder to this bike and also ride it a bit more. Just by feel though, I'd say that this bike is more laid back in the front end and steeper in the seat tube than alot of other 29"ers out there. It gives the sensation that it would be a great endurance or long distance bike. It's not twitchy, nervous, or anything close to that in the handling department. More ride time will be required to ferret out it's exact nature.

The only concern I have coming out of this first period so far is the bottom bracket flex. It flexes during pedaling from side to side which is visible as you watch the space between the rear tire and chainstay near the bottom bracket. I wouldn't notice it though, if I wasn't looking at that. I guess I have to work on my spin! The front triangle feels quite stiff and laterally and torsionally solid.

Stay tuned for more to come on the Cannondale Caffeine F-29.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday News and Views

Blogger News: Paddy Humenny found out what the delete button does and wiped out his entire history! he gets to start all over! More than most of us can say. Take a look and check out the points series he is proposing for those of you that are training over the winter. The contest runs through to the beginning of Trans Iowa V3.

Speaking of..........: Trans Iowa V3, Mr. 24 and I are asking for input on the date for the event. You all might also want to check out the site, as Mr. 24 has waved his html magic wand over the site and put up a fine new header.

Something Green Comes This Way: I got word that a frame and fork I have been expecting is finally on it's way. Keep your eyes peeled for something mean and green on this site soon! (Hint: it's a geared specific frame)

Caffiene 29"er Update: The Cannondale F-29 Caffeine is going to finally come back to me for some more riding time after being in the clutches of Mr. 24 for a bit. Some measurements, weights, and initial thoughts are to come. Stay tuned!

That's it for today, have a good one!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Frankenstein Would Be Proud

I am often amazed at the amount of tinkering that several mountain bikers are willing to do when it comes to modifying bikes and bike parts. The amount of examples seems to be growing all the time. It raises alot of interesting points in my mind.

Not least of which is the fact that the majority of these modifications seem to be centered around 29"ers. I guess in a way it makes sense, since there are still far fewer component choices and frame choices than what the 26"er folks have. Still, some of these mods border on the bizzare.

Probably the coolest mod is the Lefty steerer tube conversion kit to allow folks to run Lefty suspension struts, ( These are NOT FORKS!!) on a mountain bike of their choice and not just on a Cannondale. Several examples of this exist in the 29"er ranks.

Lots of 96er/69er/50-50/hybrid 26/29 bikes out there built up from regular 26" bikes as well. Some are more successful than others, but the list of these mods keeps growing all the time. The latest one that caught my eye was the guy looking to mod a Specialized Epic into a 96"er. Classic back yard engineering!

The thing that always grabs my attention is the investment in time that these mods always run up. Don't these guys have real jobs? Then there are the engineering decisions that in a lot of cases are pretty sketchy, to say the least. For instance, the Lefty forks that are getting put on aluminum frames that are not designed to withstand the forces exerted by a Lefty fork.

The best is the folks that get online to quibble over a half a degree of headtube angle and then turn around and build up a frame designed for 26 inch wheels with a 29 inch front wheel and a different fork to fit it with an offset that isn't complimentary to the wheel/frame combination. Maybe they watched too many episodes of American Chopper.

Finally you have the Stan's No Tubes addicts that have to juice up every new tire that hits the market to find out if it's "tubeless compatible" or not. Kudos to them for putting their life on the line for my knowledge sake. Rock on, you latex warriors!

In the end, you've got to hand it to these garage mechanics and back yard tinkerers. They sometimes invent something pretty cool, or drive the big companies to innovate where they wouldn't have done so otherwise.

It's the engineering equivilent to Dr. Frankenstein. If it works, it's a miracle of science and you are a hero. If it doesn't, the knaves and peasants are waiting with their torches, knives and pitchforks to drive you out of town and burn your castle to the ground.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tubes, Tubeless, or........Tubular?

When I think of tubular tires, I usually think of road cycling, old school racers with spares wrapped around their shoulders, or maybe cyclo-cross. I don't consider mountain bikes for tubulars. Tubulars for mountain bikes? Yep! Seems that there is a movement afoot to give all us dirt heads a reason to sniff glue!

It's not a new idea, actually. Back in the day, in the 80's to be precise, Gary Fisher worked to bring tubular mountain bike tires to the market. While they had definite benefits such as better cornering traction, pinch flat resistance, and over all lower rolling resistance, riders never got on with them and the idea was withdrawn. Now it's being ressurected again and this time, it just might catch on.

The aforementioned benefits still apply, but the deterants to running such a format needed to be addressed. First and foremost was what to do in case you flatted. It's not an appealing idea to have to carry a pre-glued mtb tubular around your shoulders these days. Besides, it'd clash with your Camelback! No, the idea now is to eliminate flats in the first place. Much like Stan's No Tubes has done for tubeless, the new breed of mtb tubular has sealant inside to self heal puctures. Another conundrum to running tubulars is the special rims that usually must be used. However, tire company Tufo has remedied that situation with it's tubular-clincher tires that have a tubular casing and a bead on either side of the tire that can lock into the hook bead of a clincher rim. Not all adherants to the tubular mtb revolution do that, however. Reynolds believes that the high end, racer mtb entusiast will be swayed by the stiff and light carbon mtb tubular wheelset. The overall weight savings of going tubular are really appealing to such folks since almost all the weight saved is at the outer most part of the wheel assembly where it hurts you the most if it's there.

Tubes, tubeless, or tubular? Will 29"ers ever see tubular tires? With the great appeal of losing outer wheel weight with tubular tires and rims, we just might. Especially if 29"ers catch on with the upper eschelon pro riders that can demand and get pretty much what ever it's going to take to win. It'd be interesting to see if it would work, but for the "common" trail rider, it may never happen. No matter what is done to get the format to work, the issue of sidewall tears, especially for rockier, rootier terrain still looms large. It's not really advantageous to add material to a tubular to combat that issue, since it would automatically take away the suppleness and low weight of the format- the very reasons you'd want a tubular in the first place.

That being as it may, I'd sure like to see some made in a 1.8-2.0 inch range with a racey tread pattern. Probably would be the ultimate gravel grinder tire!

Talk about your niche markets..................

Monday, November 13, 2006

Moving On Now......

Well, after the big Salsa weekend festivities I have to regroup and focus on the projects I have already in house. The weekend was great fun, but I'll admit, I didn't move around a whole bunch on Sunday!

The next project to tackle will be to measure out the Caffeine 29"er against it's listed specs to see what is going on there with that. Then I'll post up my initial ride review. To check out another riders viewpoint, see what Mr. 24 is saying about the bike. If you have not been following his take on it, I'll tell you up front that he's not liking the feeling of the wheels on this bike. I've been telling him it's the tires mostly, and the wheels weight secondly. Exi Wolfs: I'm afraid that these tires aren't cutting it with me and I am really disappointed with their high rolling resistance, especially when paired with the WTB tubes. The rear wheel is certainly quite heavy as well, lending to the "pedaling through mud" feeling that the bike has. I will say that the bike didn't have so much of that sensation in really technical terrain, but out on smooth trail, you really notice it.

Then there is some fork madness that I have to continue to test on. I'll have some more thoughts on the carbon rigid forks in house soon. I will post my thoughts on suspension forks, and a rigid fork replacement for the XXIX is going to be looked at.

So, never a lack for things to do around here! As long as it's not super cold and snowy, the testing shall continue! Over and out for now.................

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Salsa Mamasita in the Snow!

The Salsa Ride finally happened on Saturday despite the snow and much colder temperatures. In addition to being my first ride on a Salsa 29"er, it was also my first ride in snow for this season. Lot's of fun!

If you want to know what I thought of the Mamasita, check out my story on Twenty Nine Inches.

Here's some of the hundreds, (literally) of beautiful views we saw out in the woods. We also saw several deer, and a really big hawk crusing under the snow covered tree canopy.

If you look carefully, you can see Mike from Salsa, ( orange trimmed jacket) waiting up for me as I take some pictures. The earlier hours were ridden in really fun snow and firm ground. Later the temperatures came up enough that the ground started to get slippery and then muddy.

The ride was alot of fun and exiciting! Hidden tree branches and roots would send you off in new directions instantly at times. Corners were fun and by using the rear brake at just the right time, you could snap the rear end around in a heart beat. We rode until about 1:30pm, and decided that our toes were getting frozen. Not to mention, we were all hungry! Jason and Mike brought the guys that showed up for the ride t-shirts and then we all checked out having had a great time riding our bikes together.

Some of the riders were getting their feet wet on a 29"er for the first time. It seems that all were impressed with the big wheeled bikes they tried. It works out best if you cut out all the hype and just put guys, (or gals) on a 29"er and cut them loose on the trails. The bikes do their own talkin'!

After I got home and all cleaned up, I rested for a bit, and then got ready to meet Jason and Mike for dinner. My wife joined us and we had a great time. Good conversation and making new friends is always fun. After we talked and ate ourselves silly, we took leave of each other and went our separate ways. What a weekend!

Thank You Section: First off, thanks go to Jason Boucher and Mike Reimer of Salsa Cycles for coming all the way down here through a raging snow storm, accidents, and delays just to ride some bikes with me and my friends. Thanks for hangin' out and for your generosity. I and my friends had a great time.

Thanks to the riders: Rob Walters, Jeremy Bidwell, Casey Dean, and Carl Buchanan. Special thanks to Casey for leading us through and to Carl for clearing the ride with the Scout Camp.

Thanks to my wife for putting up with all of this and for coming along to dinner Saturday night! That was a better time because you were there!

Can't wait to ride up in Minny-apple-pus with the Salsa guys sometime in '07!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Unplanned Fun

Have you ever had a day that turned into something that you never dreamed it would, in a fun way? Read on..........

The Plan: Salsa guys Jason and Mike were to come down with some sweet Salsa 29"er goodness to hit up the trails with myself and Captain Bob at Sugar Bottom near Iowa City, Ia. Mother Nature had other plans!

The Reality: I walked my daughter to school and saw that the skies were cloudy but there was no precipatation. Sure, it was thirty degrees colder than the previous three days, but it is November afterall! So what if it's in the high 30's? I get about three blocks away from the school, and notice that it's starting to rain, just a bit. I'm on my bike going to meet up with Captain Bob at the shop. A couple more's pouring rain in sheets! Not good! This means Sugar Bottom is out, 'cause they close it down at the mere hint of rain, and this was the kind of rain that you don't want to ride in anyway!

New Plan!: Waiting for the Salsa crew to show up, drying out at the shop, and chatting with Capt. Bob. Waiting at the call! Jason says it's snowing so bad he can not see! They are still coming, but will be late. So, Captain Bob and I setlle into our coffee/chat mode. call! Jason says, "Truck overturned in front of us! We're waiting on the 911 guys......" Yikes! Would they ever get here? Captain Bob and I decide that we're hungry and that we should deliver a bike to his cuz for testing, (the Caffeine 29"er) so we take off. It's snowing in town now. Things are getting nasty! Phone call! Jason and Mike made it! We make the new plan to eat in downtown Cedar Falls after the bike delivery goes down.

Unplanned Fun Begins!: Good Mexican food, new friends, and conversation on a snowy, nasty day in November. Hangin' out at bike shops. What could be more fun? Well, we could have been ridin', but this was fun we never would have had otherwise. Plus, we have Saturday to ride, so we're getting bonus fun! At least, that's the way I'm looking at it. I think it was a great time for all. We had alot of laughs, and learned alot about each other and where we come from. That's always cool. Making connections, getting to know new friends, and talkin' bikes.

Today, hopefully, the "plan" to ride will actually come together and I'll remember to take some pictures! Stay Tuned!

If'n ya caint ride yer!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Getting Caffeine-ated: Right Now! Part II

I thought I'd post up some pics from my initial off road ride yesterday. Mr. 24 has some pictures and a cool movie of the Caffeine 29"er that you should checkout too.

Here is a nice profile shot of the bike in it's pure stock setup.

Nice Script! The Raw finish looks polished and "satin-ny" in this photo, but up close you can see all the industrial looking brush marks on it. My camera was fooled by the shiny clear coat that protects the frames finish from corrosion.

Cannondales typical double pass weld joints that are sanded down after welding give the frame an almost fillet brazed appearance.

I show this picture to illustrate that the current crop of new "knobular" fatties on the scene might be a problem here. I don't think they are really appropriate for a bike like this; myself, but some folks out there seem to want the fattest tires in 29 inch size that they can get. I won't get too far into it here, but having super huge, knobby tires in 29 inch sizes is going to start causing all kinds off clearance/ geometry/ drivetrain problems that designers of these bikes don't have a solution for without radically changing standards currently in vogue.

That said, I think this bike is really best suited to fast singletrack, XC, enduro, and all around trail riding where having the fat, super knobby tires isn't the first choice for tires 75% of the time. The 25% of the time that it is advantageous to use a knobby fatty, I think one could find a decent enough compromise set up that would work on the Caffeine. Note: I haven't actually put one of the Nevegals or Rampages in this yet, so it might just clear the frame. (emphasis on just!) However; I did note a fair bit of side to side flex induced by single speed like mashing on the Caffeine that would definitely buzz the chainstays with a Rampage/Nevegal tire mounted in the rear. Just beware of that and perhaps choose a Kenda Klaw, Maxxis Ignitor, or that new Michelin tire that no one seems to have noticed out there. On the front end, you've got no worries!

Okay, enough Caffeine for now! This weekend I'm going for some Salsa! There are a couple of guys from the crew coming down for some fun single track riding this weekend. I'm really looking forward to this! I think that there may be a few surprises in store, so look for some interesting posts this weekend.

That is, if the weather co-operates! We were having an excellent "Indian Summer" until today. Howling Northwest winds, light rain lashing down, colder temps, and possibilities for snow showers are making riding today look challenging. Saturday should be good. Chilly but good.

Where ever you find yourself in the world this weekend, get out and ride a bike, if you can! I know I will be!

You can find more discussion on the Caffeine 29"er here, here, and here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Getting Caffeine-ated: Right Now!

Well, Guitar Ted Labratories in partnership with Twenty Nine Inches is going to be bringing you an impression of the Cannondale Caffeine 29"er. The bike is built up, and getting broken in for it's first off road adventures.

The format here is going to be that of a first ride impression rather than a review/ test because of the limited amount of time that the Caffeine will be available to me. Although I know alot of magazines/web sites that would write you a review based upon a very limited amount of riding, that's not what I'm into. I figure that you have to "live" with a bike awhile before you can write up a proper review. Ideally, that would take months. Heck, it took me two years to get my Karate Monkey figured out, but then again, that was my first 29"er. The things I learned there make reviewing subsequent 29"ers much easier and les time consuming.

But enough of that! What of the F-29? (Oddly enough, the bike sports both the old nomenclature and the newer "Caffeine" designations) Well, I will say that it's a great looking bike. The Lefty is always a striking visual centerpiece and the big wheels look good with a Cannondale interpretation. The familiar weld junctions, the "raw" clearcoated frame tubes, and the massive head tube all take on a different yet familiar look against those 29"er hoops.

I'll post some more pictures later and give you all some technical info, ride info, and some opinions later. For now, I'd like to thank Cannondale for making this bike a reality. I have given the company a lot of greif behind the scenes for not having a 29"er, so I humbly bow to the East in homage. (Ha!) Really though, it's awesome to have this bike as a choice for big wheelers. Secondly, I would be remiss for not mentioning the Cannondale rep for the shop where I work, since he's the one that had to put up with my constant whining for so long. Thanks to The_Smackdown for providing this sled!

Stay tuned for more Caffeine-ated fun!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Making My Confession

I do not like "96ers"/"69ers"/50-50/Hybrid 26/29 bikes.

There!........................I said it! I recently was quoted on a post on Twenty Nine Inches that Tim Grahl authored on his experiences aboard a Carver Bikes 96er. This has started quite a dust up. Of course, if you've hung out 'round this blog for awhile, you already know that I'm not a fan.

It's funny how people read the words that you write. Some folks out there apparently think I'm a militant anti-96er freak that is foaming at the mouth whenever the mere mention of mixing my beloved 29 inch wheel with another wheelsize is heard. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Then there are those that dismiss my opinion entirely based upon my lack of 50-50 bike riding experiences. To them I have posed this question: "Why would having a 29 inch front wheel change the way a 26 inch rear wheel behaves on a mountain bike?" So far, I've gotten one response, and that was that it doesn't change a thing about the rear wheels behaviour. Apparently, no one is making the leap here, so let me spell it out plainly. 29 inch rear wheels are superior for off road cycling for several reasons, in most cases. There are a few cases where I would grant that a 26 inch rear wheel would be more desireable, but just a few, odd cases. Okay, with that said, since it doesn't really matter if you have a front wheel that's 26 or 29 inches as far as how a rear 26 inch wheel performs, then why should I bother with a 69er?

For most trail riding, I believe a full on 29"er is better. And especially for me. I can base that on eighteen years worth of riding the 26 inch wheels. I raced, I rode in mountains, I rode all over the place. 29"ers are just plain ol' better for me. You? Well, I believe that it'd probably be better for you, but you will have to judge for yourself. In the end, all I will really care about is that you all ride your bikes and ride them often. It's a good thing............

no matter what wheel size you choose!

Ride on!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Getting Caffeine-ated: Very Soon!

One of this weeks big events is about to happen at the shop where I work. We are expecting a Caffeine 29"er in Raw to be showing up for a short demo ride any day now. This is Cannondale's first foray into the world of big wheels and is a highly anticipated bike. The setup features a Lefty front shock that is specially modified for 29"er use by Cannondale. The Lefty is a pretty unique front shock, and while I have test ridden one before around the property where the bicycle shop is, it'll be fun to see what it can do out on some real trail. I'm told by my co-workers that it is an awesome set up, as they both have Lefty equipped Cannondale Rush bikes.

In the meantime, check out what some riders of The Iceman Cometh Challenge held in Michigan last weekend have to say about the Caffeine 29"er. Cannondale provided several demo bikes to be ridden in the race and several folks took them up on the offer.

Keep your eyes peeled here and on Twenty Nine Inches for the first photos, weights, and impressions out of the box of the Caffeine 29"er!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Something About Wisconsin.....

Remember back in the 90's when a Wisconsin based company called Trek began to gobble up cycling companies like a Packer fan eats cheese curds? First it was Fisher Mountain Bikes, then in quick sucession it was Klein, LeMond, and Bontrager. Riders and industry types had their undies in a bunch because they thought Trek was the equivilent of a "New World Empire". Well, now it's another Wisconsin based companies turn.

The company in question is HB Performance Systems, or in mountain biker friendly terms, Hayes Brakes. They recently announced that they would be acquiring Answer Products, the company that is responsible for all those "Manitou boingers" out there. So what, you say? Well consider that HB Performance Systems also recently aquired Sun Metal Products, (Ringle' hubs, Sun rims) and Wheelsmith Fabrications, (Spokes and nipples). Some think the goal of HB is to "...manufacture every part other than the frame". I fully expect that all the dim bulbs out there will start claiming that HB is "the devil", and that they are ruining cycling. (Well, once they get wind of all of this)

So, what's all this marketing, business hoo-ha got to do with 29"ers? Well, consider the fact that Manitou is coming off an Interbike where they showed a sample of a new 29"er fork. Consider that Sun/Ringle' makes some killer rims and complete wheelsets. Think about Hayes Brakes and their capability for turning out high quality product and having all of these companies integrating new product aimed at the growing 29"er sector. Getting a picture now? More marketing power, yes, but also more manufacturing firepower and that could lead to some goodies on my 29"er. I'm looking forward to what this might bring.

Let's hope this Wisconsin company doesn't cheese out on us!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Week Ahead and Beyond.....

This coming week looks to be an eventful one here at Guitar Ted Labratories. While I can not divulge all the surprises just yet, I will say that they will be interesting for 29"er afficiandos. That all should come to light later in the week and will be reported on here and on Twenty Nine Inches.

Thinking even further ahead, I will be getting all of the Trans Iowa recon done later this month. The loop idea for the course is going to make the recon alot easier than in years past. I won't have a five hour drive just to get to the start of the course, now it's an hour and a half. I'm excited to see the roads and I can't wait to get a feel for how it'll all come together in an event. Look for a report on the recon later in the month. There also will be announcements forthcoming as to when registration will open, and the exact dates of the event.

Testing has been getting squeezed in where I can get it. I have been working specifically on the carbon fork test and the XXIX ride testing. I should be posting an update on both of these subjects later in the month, as well. For now I will say that the forks are wonderful if they get on the right bikes and the XXIX is a much more complex nut to crack than I was thinking at first.

I just checked out our winter forecast for the outlook on riding conditions. It looks as though it might be okay through December. Then it's supposed to turn really cold in January. This means that if I'm lucky, testing might be able to continue on through Christmas, but I'll probably have to shut it down for a bit once we get any significant snow. We'll see. I'm usually relegated to gravel roads once it snows! Besides, if it gets really cold I can hardly ride well due to the clothing I have to wear to stay warm, so even if it doesn't snow, I could be riding minimally soon.

Either way, it's usually hit and miss for about three months before regular trail riding can commence again. That's in the future. This week should be fun! Stay tuned for some good stuff later this week!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Keep Yer Hands Off!

Well, it looks like the "sanctioning" of the endurance racing scene is a distinct possibility. There is an online artical that explains it. However; the jist of this whole thing can be summed up in this paragraph from the article....

"All events added to the calendar must meet pro prize purse requirements specific to each calendar tier set by either the UCI or USA Cycling. The endurance calendar will be broken down into four separate tiers based on the amount of prize money and/or UCI points available at each event. Gravity events will fall into one of two tiers, while Ultra-endurance events will all be classified the same. "

So, the whole thing is going to hinge upon money. Money that promoters need to pony up a purse for the event winners. Money that promoters will need to pony up for NORBA to comply with thier rules and regulations. Money that is over and beyond what the already need to put on their events. And you know where that money is coming from?

You, the endurance racer. That is, if you can afford it. If you can't, then maybe some professional sponsored racers can, (admittedly, this doesn't really exist........yet!) Then you will see a whole different set of circumstances at the endurance races. Higher entry fees, lower classes having to clear the course for the pro classes, maybe running the event on different days, or on separate portions of the course that are more "media friendly" to accomodate sponsors and audiences.

Wait a minute..........................doesn't this all sound familiar?

Yeah, just go check out the next NORBA National XC event for your preview of how things could be.

I'm betting it won't go that way, but I could be wrong. What do you think?

Sound off!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Knocked Out.......Cold!

Wow! It's Friday already. Here's another weekend coming and now we're getting into that time of year where the weekend isn't so much about riding your bike as it is about other stuff. Cold temperatures and little sunlight, ( in the Northern Hemisphere......Aussies are rejoicing right now!) keep cycling activities to a minimum since it becomes much more difficult to get outside now. Then when you do, it takes more of a toll on your body. As an example, I rode out in the local singletrack, testing the XXIX again, and this left me with about a 2.5 mile ride out in the open to make it to work. I had decided to do all of this testing and tie it in with getting to work, you see. Anyway, I had that 2.5 mile ride in gusty head winds and up 3 good sized hills on the single speed. I suppose the windchill index was at or below zero, so it was brutal. Didn't think much about it then............

Well, after work, I had a conference with the daughters school teacher, so I dashed home on the bike, grabbed a bite to eat, and jogged four blocks down to the school. After that, I walked home and ate the evening meal. Then I crashed! Hard! That cold weather, head wind, and running around took it's toll. I'm telling you, if it had been nicer outside, I doubt I'd have been nearly as tired.

So, all of this to say, watch yourself out in the cold. If you are doing any outdoors activities this weekend, just keep in mind that your body has to work a little harder to stay warm, so that energy has to come from somewhere.

Don't get knocked out by the cold!

Have fun this weekend and ride your bikes people!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

An Open Invitation

There has been a lot of discussion and the rumors have been flying for at least a couple of years now about Specialized coming into the 29"er market. (Well......with more than just tires, anyway!) It seems as though that someone is feeding that frenzied line of thinking over at Morgan Hill by whispering sweet nothings into certain peoples ears and having them spread it across "net-space" in it's hyper-speed viral fashion. I guess it's their idea of keeping a toe hold in the marketplace.

Meanwhile, the other "big" companies, Trek and Giant, are not saying a thing, but I'm going to lump them in here anyway since they have huge chunks of the marketplace and no 29"ers in their line ups. (Fisher being exempted here as being owned by Trek but having it's dealers independant of Trek, for the most part)

So, here's the deal! These three companies are hold outs for whatever reasons. Alot of folks would laugh, point fingers, deride, and simply dismiss these companies as clowns that do not get it. Maybe they are right, but I say, "C'mon in! The water is fine!" Want to know why? Because these companies have clout with fork manufacturers, tire makers, and wheel manufacturers. Heck, some of these three make their own stuff! If these three start making 29"ers, the tire, fork, and wheel choices are going to explode! Not to mention that these companies just might make a cool 29"er or two!

The danger here for these three companies is that the train is leaving the! By the time that Specialized, as an example, gets a 29"er to market ( if the rumors are to be believed) by '08 or '09(!!!) then the other companies that have invested in the format already will be on their second, third, and maybe even fourth generation of designs. Refinements that can only be obtained through having had product on the market in "real conditions" for extended periods of time.

Here's my suggestions to these three giants from a humble but bold 29"er advocate. First, get Fox forks on your new 29"ers. (Rumor has it that they already are testing the format) Fox is a high demand, well known product that 29"er afficiandos are licking their chops for. Not to mention a name that all mountain bikers respect and know. Get them onboard your 29"er and you have some serious attention! Second, do a high end, lightweight racer boy XC hardtail and a serious all mountain rig. Use carbon fiber liberally in the frame design. Make the XC hardtail a razor sharp, lightweight weapon and the all mountain rig a 5X5 inch travel, burly, reasonably lightweight trail monster. The tires already exist for it, ( or manufacture your own if you are Trek or Specialized) and get ready to sell some bikes! Third, get Mavic to build a UST 29"er wheelset, ( again rumor has it that this is already in the works) Convince Hutchinson, Michelin, and your own tire departments to work with them to bring true UST performance to the 29"er marketplace. You will have 29"er freaks salivating in advance of this. 26"er converts will be easier to persuade.

Do these three suggestions, do them well, and do them in a hurry! Don't be the last one in, or you might be a rotten egg! The invitation is there. We'd all be pleased to see you jump in. Whatta ya waitin' fer?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bar Time: Again....Part Two

Yesterdays post on riser bars didn't bring any defenders of the faith like I though it might. In fact, some of you said that I might even be making some sense! I scare myself sometimes!

Well, I thought that I might make a few more suggestions to those of you out there that might be influential in the making and designing of products, I know you're out there! Anyway, without further adieu...............

Bar ends: With my suggestion that we throw the riser bars into the fiery pit and get ourselves on some nice swept flat bars and riser stems, I'd like to address bar ends. With a swept back bar, your bar end choices become rather limited. The sweep puts most bar ends into a posistion that might cause concern with hooking objects like trees or small children, ya know? So a redesign of bar ends is necessary. How about an adjustable angle bar end? (I's been done before, but I'd like to see a modernized update)

Funky Bars: There are alot of strange little companies making sketchy products to satisfy the needs of folks that can't get on with the traditional handle bars for off roading. ( This does not include On One, who do a very fine job with their bars) There needs to be a company that has the cajones to step into this market and put the necessary engineering into a "funky bar" style that actually will be safe and well done. (By the way, Titec.......when is that H-Bar coming out? Sheesh!)

Grips: I love what Ergon has done with their grip line up, but isn't there anyone else watching this? There's got to be some sort of answer from some of the other grip companies out there. Look.........round grips are stupid! Last time I checked, my palms didn't form a perfect I.D. when I curled up my hands around a beer bottle, much less a bicycle handle bar. ( Hey! Now there's an idea.......Ergonomic beer containers!)

Glove/Grip combos: This has been attempted before, but it hasn't been done right yet. Just like shoes and pedal interfaces have developed over the past 15 years, handle bar/ glove interfaces need to be better thought out. Heck, gloves ought to come with grips that work with them. Makes sense to me............

Anymore brainstorming out there? Let it be told here! Give me a comment. I'll point this out to some folks that should know.