Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Interbike Hangover

Hey, it's good to be back home. My Mom said it best, "Trips are fun, but the best part of a trip is getting back home." Couldn't agree more!

Downloading the experience that is Interbike is difficult. What was the coolest thing I saw at the show? Well, I'm a bike geek. Everything "bike" is cool to me. And you were expecting me to pick out just one or two things? Pffffffffttttttt!!! Not gonna happen, dude!

There is soooo much going on, it's hard to even take it all in. I will say this though. I really doubt I missed much if anything. I somehow or another seemed to come across everthing noteworthy this year. My legs paid the price though. Man! Walking untold miles on concrete is not a good recipe for your leg health, I'll tell ya that much.

I went to the crit race on Thursday night. I really just don't get road crits. Sorry! Unless you are in the race it's really not that much fun to watch. Well, some would say the crashes are cool, but not me. Watching bikes and bodies cartwheel across the tarmac at stupid fast rates of speed isn't "fun". It's painful, but not fun. Here's what crits need to make me interested. On bike cameras baby! Get in the 21st century. We expect more from spectator sports these days than 19th century sport presentations.

Then there was the 5 mile walk down The Strip. Yikes! This is the kind of stuff that makes the rest of the world hate us. I've an idea. Let's all take a bike ride and send five bucks to World Bicycle Relief instead of holding a show in Vegas some year. If every single person that attended the show did that, and sent a middle finger salute in the general direction of southern Nevada, I think the cycling industry would at least gain a bit more credibility in world politics. But maybe I have too much of an idealistic outlook on all of that. I don't know, but any self respecting cyclist owes it to themselves at least to stay far away from that black hole of waste called Las Vegas. I still find it ironic that the industry thinks this is a good idea to go there. Wow!

All I can say is that I'm glad I'm back in Iowa where I can nurse my depleted soul back to health again. Say, that reminds me. The single track and crisp air are calling. See ya later!

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Last Day

Interbike is almost over and I'll be coming home soon. To be honest, I can't wait. While it's been fun, it's a grind and Las Vegas is so much of a spiritual pit that it sucks the life out of you just hanging around. So I won't miss the city when it disappears under the wings of the airplane at midnight tonight.

Getting home will be good, and seeing my family will be great. I can't wait to decompress and just get back into the swing of the normal life. Oh yeah........and ride my bike!

You'd better be gettin' out on yours this weekend!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tough Day Gets Better

Interbike for us blogger/web based media is all about getting your content up as fast a possible. So to have any sort of delay is a big headache. Let me tell you, I had multiple delays yesterday!

I got some great content to post in the morning that I had headed over to the media center to post. Then I found out I was to be on Cyclingnews T.V. to be on a panel that was getting interviewed about new media at Interbike. big deal. I had time to post before I had to be on camera. Then I had problems relating to getting hooked up to the WiFi at the convention center. That took my stress levels up a bit. After finlly getting that done, I had problems with my photo upload program. (Turns out something was missing in the chain that we got figured out later) Well, it's about time now to get on camera, and I still haven't gotten the content up yet!

After appearing on the show, I got my web stuff figured out, but some dude comes up and basically gives me the 100 question interview, taking even more time for me to get going. Ahhh! The madness!

All turned out better in the afternoon, and Jenson U.S.A. took us out for dinner that night, so that was a big relaxation for me. (Thanks Jenson guys!)

Just part of being in the machine of Interbike. Today: Breakfast with Salsa Crew!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Going Indoors

Hey there! Hello from the neon forest! Today we're heading indoors to get all the skinny on '08 goodies for 29"ers and whatnot. Keep track of the craziness on Twenty Nine Inches.

It's early here, but we're all up and about to blow outta here for a good day of running about helter skelter with no chance of rest until probably way late into the evening. Yeah, no Vegas fun for us cats. I'll chime in with a typical days goings on here later on so you can see for yourself that it's not a vacation or anything. We do actually work. No.............really!

All righty then, it's off to the grindstone for me....................

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Interbike '07: Dusty, Hot, and Tired!

Well, I made it. It was a bumpy flight, but nothing to terrible. I got settlrd in and Tim Grahl and I have two days worth of off road goodness in the books. Here's some goofy and interesting highlights from these past two days. Enjoy!

Airport Madness in Vegas: This isn't your family friendly atmosphere folks! I made it to baggage claim at Mc Carran International Airport only to find a 20' X 40' LCD screen running ads for Vegas shows and acts above my head with sound cranked. Suddenly I hear this-....Boom-ca-chunga-ca-chunga-ca-chunga Boom-ca-chunga-ca-chunga-ca-chunga- ad nauseum.... I look up to see scantily clad women writhing in pain.....well, that's what it looked like ta me! So I see finally that it's an ad for a nightclub that features fifty floors of dancing. Sorry, but if the people that frequent these places have their backs that far out of joint, I'll pass. Besides, fifty floors of dancing sounds like waaaay too much work!

Seen and Heard: These following things were seen and heard at the Outdoor Demo. First up we have the freak bikes. Yes, the sail bike recumbent, the bike with platforms attached to cables that were pushed up and down to motivate it, off road recumbents, (No! I didn't ride any!) and a trike with a guy that had a raging beer belly that was being totally motivated by electric power up a gravel grade. Talk about seismic waves! There was a guy dressed up as a hot dog hawking free weiners at the Yakima booth. His quip to passers by: "Free wieners! Ask me how!" Mr. 24 was at the Ergon booth handing up free Guinness and Coronas to visitors. (He's awesome!) And last but not least, an Elvis sighting.

Trail Super Highway: The crowds got so thick by Tuesday around noon, the bikes were nose to tail on the Bootleg Canyon trails. It was sheer madness. I tried to avoid the whole mess and grabbed a hot dog and some of the free drink floating around like Accelerade, Cytomax, and the like. The trails were ravaged. They totally changed their nature from the first morning through to my last ride. Lot's more exposed rocky nastiness!

Tire Trauma: I'll leave you with this final anecdote. There has been a big, big 29"er tire in development for awhile now and a person that shall remain nameless was under the impression that he had all the prototype info and that the tires he had were pretty much the only ones in existence. Well, I told him I'd gotten some info and pics from Niner Bikes and that the tires were on their bike. "No way!" he shot back, "They must have something else." I said that I was pretty sure they were the same tires. He said, "Da#@!! That was my tire!" I'm thinking that I might want to slip away quietly at this point! Oh well! That's the way it goes sometimes.

More when I can find the time!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Terminal Waiting Game

Well, I've made it to my first airport so far today and I am in the waiting mode. This is the part of travel that's kind of a bummer. Stuck in the secured area, and there's not much going on here. Well, it is Iowa after all!

So, it's surfing the web-o-sphere or reading. The real kicker is that it's an absolutely beautiful day out, and I can't ride a bicycle. Great!

At least I'm going to a place where bicycles will be plentiful and accessible for a week. Even though it's in one of the least desirable places on earth to go see a bicycle!

Okay, more exciting news to come, I'm sure, but I just wanted you all to see it's not all peaches and cream on this gig! (I'm sure you're all sympathizing with me now, ..........right?)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Last Day On This Planet

Heh heh! Yep...............last day in the real world for me. Tomorrow it's off to that plastic, fantastic, neon forrest called Las Vegas. I should arrive there around 11pm. if all the flights go as planned. Just one stop in Denver this time and there shouldn't be any waiting around since it's not a "stand by" flight. Leaving around 3:30pm Iowa time.

Today will be some preparation and final packing. I've got to help a friend put a lawn tractor back together this afternoon and then I play in the church band tonight/tomorrow morning. So, I'll be busy, no time to sit around much.

I'm looking forward to meeting Mr. 24 out there and discussing all of his Rocky Mountain adventures. I'll be hitting up some other industry folks out there too. Twin Six, Salsa, and Niner will all have folks out there I want to see again and touch base with. There are others too that I want to see. Of course all the bikes and stuff will be upper most in my mind.......well.......that's if I stay away from all the free beer! I've been to Interbike of old and Interbike last year. This one looks to be a bit more like an old skool Interbike from the looks of the schedule which shows me a lot of places to get a tall cool one gratis. Even German beer! Hmm.........might have to hit that one up at least.

So, look for some erratic posting over the next week. (Not because I'm hung over, because I'm busy!) In the meantime, see if you can't stay away from your computer more than usual next week and fill that time in with riding your bikes.

See ya later world!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The "B" Wheeled Mountain Bike: My Take

There has been a lot written already about the 650B or "B" sized mountain bike wheels on the ol' innerweb lately. I suppose that a lot of folks are really sick of it all. I know I feel it's getting waaaay more play than it deserves now. However; with all of these opinions flying around, I thought I'd weigh in on where I'm coming from on this and where I think I'm going to come out on it.

For a good primer on a couple different viewpoints see this and this.

First off, I do not totally agree with either of those posts, but they are representative of a couple of prevalent viewpoints on this subject.

Im coming from a bit different angle here. Let me cut straight to it: I do not feel comfortable with the motivations behind the marketing of the "B" bikes. I think the wheelsize is being pushed on an unsuspecting market place by one main motivation: money. Yep, I really do not see any other reason behind it that makes any sense.

First of all, there is the historical perspective. It isn't like the "B" wheels haven't had a chance to be exploited for off roading before. There are several examples of where the format has been tried already. I could be wrong here, but my feeling is that 700c mtb had been chosen over that "B" size for a reason. It could have gone either way. The thing is, there were inherent benefits to going to a 700c mtb tire and wheel combination that 650B didn't offer. History speaks but too few are listening. Even the main proponent of this whole she-bang had a say in the early adoption of a different choice in mountain bike wheel size. Why "B" size now all of a sudden? Weird. Something fishy about that to me.

Secondly, the touted benefits of the "B" wheels are all less than what 29"ers give you. There are those that say smaller bikes will be easier to make in "B" wheels. Yeah, well tell that to all the sub 5'5" folks already on 29"ers. It's not like 29"ers can not work, they already do. Yes, the "B" sized wheels should be used for smaller folks, I'll agree with that. In those instances 26 inch wheels should be eliminated altogether for adults. However, it's not likely that a huge, entrenched wheel size is going to give way to a "new" standard for smaller folks. So, the "B" will be relegated to the custom ranks for the most part there.

Some say the "B" sized wheels will be better for long travel/DH/AM applications where 29"ers pose too many design constraints. Oh really? Gee, nobody must be paying attention to what folks like Niner, Lenz, and Intense are already doing with long travel 29"ers. Here's a dirty little secret for ya: It's not that "B" sized wheels will be better in those applications, it's that they are easier to get into production tomorrow. Take for example how easy it is to just slap on a set of "B" wheels and go for a whirl on a bike already in production. Does this click with anybody? You can look like you are providing "big wheeled benefits" with a minor tweakage to your existing 26"er sleds. Hmm...................smells like money to me! Once again, 29"ers are not a problem to use in long travel and the benefits of the bigger wheels is greater.

So, am I against the "B" sized mountain bike wheels? Absolutely not! I think it's a cool idea for some other reasons. I just don't like the ideas being pushed forth as "benefits" for that size wheel. To me the whole 29"er thing came about because the wheelsize worked great for mountain biking. The "B" sized wheels seem to be getting traction for reasons still not seen on the trail. 29"ers were there to try for a few years. There was no money in them. The whole thing took off because it worked and worked well. It took a few years, but that's where it came from. Now they are telling me that the 650B works "even better" for reasons that are not making sense and haven't even been experienced yet? Hmm..................I am a bit wary of the whole thing.

So, Interbike will be interesting if just for that one thing. A real ride on a couple of "B" bikes.

I'll tell ya what I think after that, I can guarantee you that much!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interbike 07: Story Previews

Okay folks, believe it our not, this show is about to happen! Here is a take on what I'm hearing and thinking will be the big "big wheel" stories as I go to Interbike. This will be the first of many reports to follow, (I hope) so stay tuned. I'm thinking that much of the non-big wheel stuff will end up here, but since I'm such a 29"er nut case, I'm sure I'll sneak some of that in too.

Invasion of the "B" bikes: As you probably have read over and over here, 650B- or "B" bikes/wheels, as I am going to call them- are going to be a big deal (supposedly) at the show. Look for my takes on them and even first ride impressions. I am aware that Haro, Carver, and maybe one other company will have ride able rigs to check out. I'll also look at the rims and the possibility of more tires. Currently, only White Brothers is making a suspension fork specifically for the "B" wheels.

Sub Grand 29"ers: This category is set to blow up in '08. Especially of interest are the lower priced geared hard tails, although budget single speeds will also be part of this. Of course you need some 29"er specific parts to go with that, so I'll be on the lookout for anything new there too.

Big Rubber Circular Thingies: Yes folks, more 29"er tires are going to be introduced at Interbike. We'll see the U.S. introduction of the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4". This tire has a casing that is said will strike fear in the hearts of narrow 29"er chain stays. In fact, I've been told it probably "won't fit a lot of 29ers out there" due to it's voluminous size. I'm lusting for one to be on the front of my rigid single speeds. Other tires to make their bows at Interbike will include models from Continental and Hutchinson. (Although the Python was introduced at Sea Otter, most will be seeing it for the first time at Interbike.) WTB has some new, as yet unseen tread(s) to show too. I suspect that there will be a few surprises yet to see as well.

Long Bouncy Telescopic Thingies: Suspend it! News on the fork front will be huge if the rumored Reba U-Turn fork actually makes it's debut at Interbike. Rumor has it that Niner will be specing it on it's bikes for '08. Also we are looking forward to the White Brothers stuff, which is ever evolving. Of course they have the "B" forks as mentioned above too. Mainitou, which hasn't made much noise lately due to their whole production line being moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Valencia, California, should be there with their Minute forks. I'm not expecting anything new from them, since the move has disrupted their manufacturing. never know! Budget forks from Spinner, RST, and others will surely be around to check out. Fox is in the game now too and will be talking up the 29"er forks that they have going on sale everywhere in October.

Two Wheeled Boingy Thingies: Yes, full suspension plushness! It's coming from more and more companies in '08 in 29"er size. Plus the "B" bikes will certainly be getting some play as a longer travel option for companies looking for the cheap and easy way to get a "big wheeled" FS bike out there. Niner will have some FS news, as will some other companies like KHS, Kona, and others.

Hoop Dreams: New wheels and rims will be a big story for 29"ers. Ellsworth's new wheel line will include a 29"er hoop. What's the deal with Mavic's C29ssmax wheelset? That question will be looked into, since they seem to be rather scarce. Look for other complete wheel sets to be shown and a few new rims, as well. Wider rims will be a big story at Interbike. (Trust me!)

The Rest of The Stuff and Shenanigans: The "other stuff" that is bicycle related will of course be fodder for this blog. Then their is the "lifestyle" section, which I hope to bring to light a bit better here too. Crazy after show hours stuff that doesn't get seen in the mainstream media. If it happens where I'm at, I'll either photograph it, or at least write about it. Who ever said "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?" Not me!

Okay, it's going to be a crazy week next week. Hold on tight, cause the posts will come at random times and will be pretty sketchy due to my busy schedule. We'll sort it all out once I'm back.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Interbike Rumors and More: Part II

Welcome to another edition of rumors and other bits and pieces of info that are streaming into Guitar Ted Laboratories.

Twin Six Gets Pub!: The good folks at Twin Six have managed to rise from the basement (literally) to some heady heights. Check out that jersey the young lady is sporting on the most recent cover of Bicycling. It's a Twin Six special edition Fat Cyclist jersey. You can follow the link and pick up one for yourself too. Proceeds go to fighting cancer, so it's a cool jersey two ways. Makes me proud to be a member of Team Twin Six. (Although I'm not sure how they feel about me being on the Team!)

Speaking of The Fat Cyclist... He's made something of himself now as he's a columnist for Bike Radar. You can check it out here. Congrats to a blogger that "made it". It gives us basement dwelling scribes something to look up to.

Rawland Cycles Update: I got this image of a complete Rawland Olaf single speed just yesterday. (You may remember my sneak peek post from a few days ago. It ended up on somehow) Anyway, the bikes will be shown at Interbike, so I'll get the lowdown on this 650B only company while I'm out there!

Look for these frames to be a pretty good bang for the buck and remember that there is a geared frame and fork also dubbed the "Sogn". Nice details with a retro bent, I like 'em!

Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles to Start Producing Wheels: Ellsworth makes some pretty nice bicycles and has a following amongst enduro freaks because of their full suspension designs including the beautiful and spendy Ellsworth Evolve 29"er. Well now they are delving into wheel set production and will be unveiling a line of 26 inch and 29 inch wheel sets at Interbike. Besides being typically blingy, with all the carbon fiber in the 26 inch wheel, Ellsworth claims that they are optimizing the performance of these wheels to give the rider a better platform than traditional wheels. A 29"er aluminum wheel set will also be a part of the line up. I'll dig into this at Interbike to get the lowdown.

Welcome To The "Blogosphere" Mates!: Salsa Cycles has been producing a "blog" in the typical manufacturer/company mold for sometime now called the Amigos Blog. A blog that is simply a one way street in terms of what most blogs are. Well, not anymore, Buster! Salsa took the lid off Amigos Blog version II on Monday and is allowing comments and is being interactive with folks. Check it out and leave them a comment to let them know you were by to visit. It's a rare thing to have a bicycle company do this, so it's kind of a big deal, ya know?

Okay, so I'm eating a healthy dish of crow for saying last week that the rumor mill would dry up pre-Interbike. Well, maybe not rumors so much as it is leakage. Whatever! It's all good and I'll be bringing on whatever I find in the next few days. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Interbike Rumors and More

Today I have a couple more rumors leaking from Interbike and an explanation for an unexplained phenomena for you. Read on!

Fat, Wide, and Girthy!: I posted on this one at Twenty Nine Inches the other day. There is a new line of rims coming out that should be oustanding for those looking to put a "Bigfoot" sized footprint on terra firma with their 29"ers. In fact, with the new really fat rubber coming out and these rims, it's possible that a lot of bikes won't be able to take on the combination. For the bikes that can, they will roll on like a monster truck at a southern county fair over anything in their way. Look out! More from Interbike where these will be released!

Long, Squishy, and Adjustable!: I'm reading some leakage that claims Rock Shox will have a Reba with U-Turn for 29"ers and will introduce it as an OEM product for Niner Bikes. If that is true, it would be the answer to a lot of Rock Shox loving 29"er freaks and be a huge score for Niner Bikes to have that available to them first. I know that a lot of people will groan though, wishing that Rock Shox had done this in a Pike or Lyrik platform instead. Well, the show ain't even started yet, so quit yer snivelin'!

The "All American Beer For Single Speeders": In the past couple of years I have noted a resurgence in the popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, especially amongst single speed freaks. Now I'll be honest, I always thought "PBR" was a rather crappy beer. (You know it's not too great when even college kids refused it!) So I was a bit surprised to see this in light of all the really great brews out there these days. I admit it. I just didn't get it. And I even single speed!

Okay, so along comes this on Bicycle Retailer and Industry News website today. It's their "Quote of the Day". (They have some pretty bizzarre stuff on there, by the way) It helps me to "get it", but it doesn't make PBR taste any better!

"These are harsh times and it calls for a harsh beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon is just the thing. It is not shoved down your throat with multi-million dollar mass marketing, it is simply a decent cheap beer. This beer is America whether you like it or not. It is real for what that is worth anymore." -Published last year in the Oakland Tribune

I'll buy that. If that's what the single speeders are trying to celebrate here, I say hoist yer PBR high and enjoy! (Only if you are of legal age, mind you!) Me? I'll stick to my Guinness, thank you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

How To Measure Up......Or Not!

This past weekends Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 was another dry, fast one and produced a somewhat of a surprise when Jesse Lalonde finished with a time of 2:11:49.7 and an average speed of 18.6mph. That's over 40 miles of XC ski trails, sandy, rutted, and rocky road and a bit of fire road climbing and decsending. Word is that the course has over 3000 verticle feet of climbing. I can tell you from experience, the only flat part of the course is the roll out from the pavement in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Sounds impressive and it is especially when you consider that it was done on a single speed 29"er geared 36 X 17!

Now the really odd thing about this all is that some people are saying, "big deal! the course wasn't tough. It must have been flat, there is no way that could have been a hilly course. " And so on, and on..........

So, let me get this straight. A guy beats 1300 plus folks, including a three time Tour winner, the first ever NORBA XC champion, Gary Fisher, and a bunch of really fast geared riders, and you say it's no big deal?!! A guy beats a course down that is host to one of the toughest XC ski races in the world and you say the course isn't tough?!! You say that the course must have been flat when in reality there is no where to recover, you are at redline the entire 40 miles!!

Okay, so what this really tells me is that most folks idea of what is "tough" isn't based in reality. What it is based on, I don't know, but it is a good question. Maybe I'll get to the bottom of that some day. I just have to shake my head sometimes in wonder.

My take on it is this: Sure, the Lalonde crushing of the 40 was spectacular and a triumph worth noting. The thing is though, the 40 isn't that far removed from what you might experience in a Pro Class/Expert Class XC event. It's just point to point instead of a lap format. Taken in that light, it's not so out of the realm of possibility that a single speeder could win it, given the right conditions. Having said that, it's my opinion that a point to point race is tougher than a lap event, because you don't have the luxury of getting to know the course. Everything coming at you is new on a point to point course.

So, I think the whole thing is super impressive and was well within the capabilities of a stellar single speeder like Jesse Lalonde. I know the course is tough, since I rode that event back in '96, so the naysayers can stuff it. Does it measure up to being what is considered a huge accomplishment by many folks? I don't think it really matters what we think, especially to the guy standing on the top step of the podium.

Congratulations to Jesse Lalonde.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday News And Views

Bonus weekend post! Enjoy............

Interbike Leakage: Too much stuff to get into the spotlight for manufacturers and media means leakage, (on purpose, of course) so folks will notice instaed of it getting lost in the fray. That means bits and pieces of new product info will be getting some play here and on Twenty Nine Inches. (Earlier I had thought the news would dry up, but I guess I was wrong)

- Syncros introduces a new rim called the DS28 in a 29"er version. Disc only and probably a bit burlier. Offered in 32 hole only in matte white and black. Okay, this white thing..................yeah, I don't like it. Some of you may think it looks cool but I think it looks cheap. Just my opinion.

- Diamondback Overdrive 29"er lives again. I just heard about some more details on this bike coming out at Interbike. The original early 90's Overdrives were steel, but these new versions will be alloy. The $650.00 version will have a Rock Shox Dart and Deore components while the $1250.00 version will sport a Reba and higher end stuff. Both will be disc only brake-wise.

More stuff will certainly be on its way. Stay tuned!

Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 and Short and Fat Races: Lot's of locals in this event which is super popular in the Mid West. In fact, by the time you read this, it'll probably be over. Hope everyone had a great time!

Fat Tire Mystery! I have it on good authority that a monstrous fat, durable, but heavy 29"er tire made for serious all mountain abuse is already being tested out west. My bet is that it surfaces at Interbike, although the principals involved are sure keeping their cards close to their chests. It's probably going to be one of the major 29"er products at Interbike, if it actually shows up! I'll be keeping my eyes peeled! I know right where to look when I get there too!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday News and Views

Bits and pieces today folks. Enjoy!

Mr. 24 Gets Outta Here! : Well, I knew it would happen someday. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy either. Everywhere I go, folks all say the same thing too. He's paid his dues, and now Mr. 24 is moving out to Colorado's Front Range area. He'll be missed 'round these parts, but I suspect he'll be back to visit now and again. Good luck Jeff and congratulations on your successes. I look for many more in the future!

Update on the Pofahl Single Speed: You might go back and check last Monday's post if you don't know what I'm referring to here. The new rig is awesome so far. Rigid as heck laterally. I don't think I've ridden a 29"er as stiff laterally as this bike is. Industry Nine wheels help a lot there, I'm sure. The big question is, "how compliant is it vertically?". Well, it is and it isn't. Let me explain: The front end is pretty stiff since it's got a 430mm axle to crown fork, ( read- short fork blades don't flex like long ones do.) and the twin laterals make the front triangle, ( or would that be triangles?) like the Rock of Gibraltar. The rear end is nice and smooth, but it's not from what you might think. Remember, it's got a fair amount of exposed seat post and that post is a 26.8mm diameter one, so it'll flex more easily than a larger diameter one would. Secondly, I have that super plush Selle Anatomica saddle. It's very nice! And lastly, there maybe a bit a give in the rear triangle vertically, but it's minimal compared to the first two things mentioned. I'll report back with more after some real off road and longer gravel grinders. The bottom line so far: Keep a big squishy tire up front and I'll be happy!

Interbike Is One Week Away: Well, it actually is more than a week, but effectively it starts a week from tomorrow for me. I will have to get all my schtuff together on Saturday and I'll be flying out a week from Sunday. Next week will be the lead up. I expect that maybe a few more things may leak out before hand but not that much. Most folks are going to be holding their cards until the show now and will be busy getting last minute stuff together next week anyway. Any requests from the audience? Let me know what you want to hear about, and I'll try and track it down. Leave me a comment and I'll put it on my list.

In the meantime, check out the news as always on Twenty Nine Inches. We've upgraded the site just in time for the show and we will be throwing up our usual mega-pictures and giving you the lowdown on what's up with the 29"er scene with a nod to 650B stuff as well. This year I'll be doing the Outdoor Demo as well, so I'll have some ride impressions to pass along to everyone. Look for the fun to be broadcast starting on September 24th. I'll also update this blog with stuff from the show that's not really Tewnty Nine Inches friendly but fun none the less. Stay tuned!

Ride your bike this weekend and look for fall. It's hitting the Mid West already! Brrr!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rawland Cycles Sneek Peek

I was forwarded these images of a new frame coming out soon by Rawland Cycles, a company that will be offering several bike models in the future all based off the 650B wheel size .

Take a look at this cool "bi-plane" fork. I love fork crowns like this and this one is a beauty.

These drop outs are awesome! Dragon up! Looks like a single speed set up here and that lower lip on the dragon should operate just fine as an opener for your favorite adult beverage.

Check out the model name, "Olaf". And the "P" on the seat tube is for Pacenti which is the company owned by Kirk Pacenti that is the main proponent of this whole new 650B mountain bike movement. Kirk also sells frame tubing and lugs, so I'm guessing this frame is made from stuff from Kirk's company.

Interesting extended head tube here. Makes me think "drop bar", baby! if I need another drop bar single speeder! Dang but this thing looks great! I hate it when I see stuff like this. (Heh heh!)

Disclaimer: I don't sell these, I am not affiliated with this company, nor do I know anything more than I just posted. I do happen to know that these bikes will be shown at Interbike as frame sets and /or complete bikes. I do know one of the guys involved with the project. (Thus the photos I got)

I also expect that soon I will be able to test ride one of these to get a take on what this whole 650B thing might be adding up to in terms of mountain biking. I suspect that it will ride pretty nicely, but how much of a difference from 26 inch wheels and how close to 29 inch wheels will it feel? That's the $64,000 question on everybodies minds these days that is looking at these 650B machines. Time will tell. Like about two weeks or so! Interbike will be pretty interesting this year!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ergon BD 2 Back Pack: Update

I've been living with the Ergon BD2 back pack awhile now and I thought I'd chime in with my impressions so far. If you missed my first post on it, check it out here.

First of all, I still am amazed at how this pack feels empty when you ride with it, no matter what load I have in it. Weird! Well, weird in a good way. The only real pressure I feel is when the top straps are tightened and the buckle is fastened and the pressure under my arms is evident. It's nothing that I find as a nuisance, just different than you would expect. This becomes a bit less noticeable once you start riding, and to be honest, I'd rather have a bit of pressure there than on my back.

The biggest/heaviest load I toted in this back pack was the other day when I had the back pockets all stuffed and my three liter bladder filled and stuffed in it's pocket. Still no pressure on the back and it rode just awesome. Total freedom of movement while riding. This still is amazing to me and makes the BD2 well worth owning in it's own right.

Now not everything is perfect and of course, neither is the BD 2. The internal and external pockets are weird in that they are mostly all narrow and very deep. I stuck a multi tool in one of the two pockets inside the main pocket and it disappeared! I almost couldn't retrieve it due to the fact that my big ol' paw wouldn't go inside of the pocket very well to reach down far enough to grasp the tool. This could be a problem if you really need to get at something at the bottom of one of these pockets out in the field. I'd maybe split those long pockets into two smaller and less deep ones to make access to the contents easier.

There are two outside mesh walled pockets that are similarly shaped. Narrow and deep. I think something a bit wider at least would facilitate putting wetter things out there like gloves or head bands which would allow air to get to them. Maybe even a rolled up outer shell could be stuffed into this area if the pocket were a bit wider. As they are, they are perfect for longer items like shock pumps or mini pumps. The pocket that is part of the compression flap is perfect for your CO2 carts and a multi-tool. If it were a bit more voluminous, a tube could go in there, but as it is, you could maybe get a road tube in it with the other flat repair items. It would be nice to be able to get a mountain tube in there with that stuff, since this pocket is so easily accessible. That's important when conditions are poor, or if you are in a hurry.

Then there is the pockets I wish it had. The waist strap which bears most of the packs weight comes around you at a place that would make it super convenient to have some pockets for gel packets or energy bars. Maybe even large enough for a point and shoot camera. A pocket right there would be super, one on each side. Mesh, so you could kind of see what you're getting after. Another cool thing would be if you could get a satellite pocket that could be attached to the Velcro straps on the harness. The Velcro straps are already there to help hold down your hydration tube on either side of the harness, so why not? In fact, for the asking price of the BD2, it'd be nice if they included this. A cell phone, small energy/nutritional substances, or chain lube/multi tool could easily be carried here and obviously very easily accessed.

Of course, all of these wants and nits would perhaps make the BD2 even more spendy than it is, but after all: Ergon is going for the ultimate hydration/back pack on the market and not just another "me too" hydration pack. In that light I'd say there are some improvements to be made in terms of the storage and it's ease of use in the field. Once these issues are improved upon, I'd say Ergon will have themselves a winner in as far as the "ultimate cycling back pack" goes.

As the BD 2 stands currently, it is already head and shoulders, (pun intended) above the competition in terms of comfort. It has no rival in this regard which already places it high up on the food chain, if not at the top. I wouldn't consider anything else for a long ride unless it was the slightly less voluminous BD 1, which would eliminate dealing with the deep pockets of the BD 2 and be somewhat lighter to boot. However; for those that have to have a bit more gear on board, the BD 2 is highly recommended. Just be careful how you pack it up!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

650B: It's Coming And It's Not Going Away

One of the interesting new developments in mountain biking is this whole 650B tire size that's had new life puffed into it by Kirk Pacenti and his new 650B off road tire. It's started a ground swell of activity amongst rim manufacturers, fork makers, and most notably, small builders looking to jump on the next trend in custom bikes.

This is what's really interesting to me, the small builders take on all of this. Some are going the whole 650B route with mountain bikes using the wheel size front and rear. Some others are mixing the wheel size with 26 inch or 29 inch wheels for hybrid combinations, ( not to mention more dreaded numeric name combinations)

Mr. Pacenti promises that there will be several makes available to see at Interbike this year and perhaps some will even be around to ride at the Outdoor Demo. I'm hoping to be able to throw a leg over one whilst I'm there.

There is even a new brand debuting there named Rawland Cycles. So, this whole segment looks to be something that will be around for awhile at least. There is even talk of long travel bikes using this wheel size, although I haven't heard of any specific models coming anytime soon.

My take on the whole thing is that it's good for bike riders and bad for bike companies in the mainstream. Small, under-the-radar types will benefit, no doubt, but the mainstream bike business will need to weed something out before it accepts another wheel size for off roading for adults. Having another whole category of wheel size will mean another round of edumacation for shop owners/employees that are still trying to wrap their minds around 29 inch stuff. Heck, introduce a wheel size that looks nominally different out on a shop floor from the "standard" 26 inch wheel and your asking for a lot of crossed wires. Not to mention trying to get your average retail customer to "get it". They can't even grasp why Shimano thinks we need 10 speed cassettes.

No, this 650B thing isn't going away, but it's not built for prime time either. It's going to remain a "bike geek" wheel size just as it always has been for the past 60 years or so. If it does reach epic proportions someday, then my take is that it will signal the demise of the current 26 inch wheel size as an adult bike wheel size. In effect, 650B would become the "new 26 inch" wheel. It's the only way mainstream business and the average public would ever embrace the format. In fact, it'd be an easier sell if it was called "the new 26 inch" wheel size, in terms of marketing. You know, "This "26 inch" wheel is bigger, better, and rolls over stuff with greater ease!"

Then, if that's what you want, I've got a wheel size you should take a look at over here. (wink wink)

Monday, September 10, 2007

It's New And It's Blue

Introducing the Pofahl single speed 29"er. Custom fillet brazed 4130 steel framed bike designed by myself and Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles.

The whole idea was to shoot for a design aesthetic that was reminiscent of mountain bikings past but using modern features like 29 inch wheels, disc brakes, and threadless headset.

I had explored the possibility of going with a "Bull Moose" type bar and stem, but because of logistics and money, it fell through and I went back to the original drop bar idea for this bike. Which isn't all bad! I love the drop bar for off road/gravel riding and that's the primary purpose of this rig anyway. Mission accomplished!

I went single speed because it's no fuss drive train and longevity in adverse conditions was attractive to me for gravel riding. Plus, it's just plain fun.

I got some I-9 single speed specific cassette hubbed wheels in a custom anodized "orange" color. In person, the hubs look almost like copper wire to me. Those aluminum spokes still are a bit odd looking, but the wheels seemed to hold up and were rather impressive on the Badger Dorothy I rode last year, so I thought I'd give them a long term try on this bike.
The brakes are the good old reliable Avid BB-7's off my Karate Monkey, which is being torn down for maintenance and will be reborn next year. It was time to go through that bike anyway.

Chris King has a "mix and match" headset program now and I took advantage of that as shown here. (The top cap is blue, by the way) I liked how my Blackburn pump fit perfectly under the top tube just like it was meant to be there. (I hadn't thought of that, it just turned out that way) Nokon cable housings were made up from pieces off the Monkey and left over blue bits from my Inbred build. (Yes, it's a pain to thread all those pieces, but you only have to do that once!)

Here's a close up of the "business end" of the drive train. Paragon Machine Works slider type drop outs with integrated disc mount. Yeah! No fuss rear wheel removal! (I'm planning on finding some shorter and a bit more attractive tensioner bolts soon) A Surly cassette cog in an 18 tooth flavor graces the rear end along with the PC-58 SRAM chain. The front end of the drive train consists of a Profile 180mm bmx crank in steel with a European bottom bracket by Profile along with Profile's cool Imperial chain wheel in a 37 tooth size. (Just like the Karate Monkey set up as far as gearing) This should be a bomb proof set up that I can run hard even off road without fear of snapping something (me?) in two. Although this rig is primarily the replacement for the Karate Monkey as a gravel grinder, I still want off road capabilities.

Here's a shot of the fillet brazing talents of Mike Pofahl, the fellow who ultimately took what Ben and I dreamed up and made it reality. Mike is the guy that did Ben's 36"er and he has done some tandem work as well. I guess he thought this project was pretty cool, and it reminded him of his tandem work. Another guy that saw this frame after it was completed remarked that it looked rather like a Breezer from the late 70's. That was a cool compliment since this guy was actually one of the Marin Mt. Tamalpais bombers back in the day and actually rode with Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, and Charlie Kelly. I was pleased to hear that, because it meant that the heritage part of the design came through to somebody.

As far as that goes, the parts pic was partially done to reflect mountain bikings past. The drop bar set up is a cue from Charlie Cunningham's old aluminum rigs back in the early 80's. The BMX cranks reflect the time when much of the off road gear used in the late 70's/ early 80's was from that scene. I chose a Selle Anatomica leather saddle, since it's a modern take on a Brooks saddle which were popular saddles on early clunkers. WTB tires reflect the contributions of Wilderness Trail Bikes to the early days of mountain biking. The Chris King head set was the first off road worthy head set designed to give a lifetime of service. The stem (and in the future the skewers) is a Salsa part because Salsa was the first real off road company that made custom stems that worked for mountain biking. The Syncros post is an actual "vintage" piece off my old Bontrager Race bike. The only oddities, and nods to today's technology, are the wheels and brakes, which are far better than anything before them.

So, how does it ride? Well, pretty far! My long break in ride Sunday was interupted by a faulty seat post binder bolt that wouldn't hold the seatpost tight and stripped out the head of the bolt when I tried to tighten it. A little judicious sawing and a new bolt rectified that little issue though! A long ride will have to wait until next time, whenever that comes. Maybe this weekend. In the meantime I'll be commuting on it to see if I screwed up anywhere on the build, but so far so good. I'll chime in when I find out though. In the meantime, enjoy!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Things That Make Me Smile

Paging through Dirt Rag's latest issue #130, I came across this Surly add.

I know that there are a few guys on board at Surly that dig the whole Trans Iowa scene, so this made me smile. (Thanks by the way!)

Some other things that are making me smile: My custom single speed is done and I'm riding it today. That frees me up to start concentrating on the Badger, and that makes me smile. It'll be awhile before that bike gets done though. Oh, and I wonder how the Lincoln Folks did on their 155 ride yesterday. That makes me smile too. Then there's Mr. 24 out at the Vapor Trail 125, and the thought of my good buddy riding Colorado high single track makes me smile too.

Then there are my kids, and they almost always make me smile. And my wife, she does too. Lots of things to be smiling about.

Hey! Is that the sun peeking through out there? Looks like a great day to ride. See ya later. Have yourself a great end of the weekend!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday News and Views

Welcome to your regular end of the week bits and pieces. Here's some things that are on the radar here at Guitar Ted Laboratories.

The Tubeless Debate: Thanks to all who left comments on yesterdays tubeless vs. tubed post. I found a lot of enlightening comments. It would seem that we mountain bikers are all over the map when it comes to this subject. Personally, I am going to keep at it with the tubeless thing. In fact, I plan on doing a tubeless tire/wheel shoot out of sorts, since I have three "systems" available to me now to try out. Well, to be honest, I have already tried two of them, but the idea is to ride them back to back to back to see if there are indeed any differences/benefits to the tubeless ready systems versus a standard wheel set.

A Bike Is Born: I'll be throwing a leg over a new steed this weekend. I just about have it all assembled and the test rides will hopefully be positive. (You never know with a new bike build, even if you do the work yourself!) Assuming all goes well, there will be news posted later this weekend. Stay tuned!

Mr. 24 Gets High: Yes he does, using altitude this weekend at the Vapor Trail 125. Check out his recent blog posts and get the lowdown on it all. Just beware. That green and white Ergon rig is a bit eye rattling!

Mini Updates On Products: Here's some quickie thoughts on some accessories I am testing that I've posted on before. In no particular order: Bontrager Roll Bar multi tool; This thing flat out rocks! My favorite tool to throw in the pack by far. It is missing a Torx wrench for disc brake rotors, and the key ring gets in the way, (easily removed, by the way), but other than that, I love it. It feels soooo good to use this tool versus others it's crazy. Bontrager Rhythm Elite Saddle; I loved it, then I hated it, now I love it again. Really a great mountain biking saddle. Not so much on super long gravel grinders, ( but it does well in that capacity), just a smartly designed saddle that reminds me a lot of a cross between an old Selle San Marco Bontrager saddle and an original WTB SST saddle. If that sounds like it would fit your behind then grab this saddle. It's a winner, at least for me. Origin 8 Gary Bar: Like the "Space Bar", ( a knock off of an On One Mary bar) the "Gary" bar is pretty similar to it's roots and is stoutly constructed. Maybe a bit too radically sloped for some, I like it. I just wish it was of higher quality tubing for a more comfortable ride, but then it wouldn't cost $25.00 retail either! That said, it's going on my next bike.

Gravel Grinder Triple Crown: Trans Iowa- check! Dirty Kanza- check! Only one more event needs to be added to complete a vision for a gravel grinder triple crown here in the Mid West. Word is perculating that it might be in Nebraska. We'll see, but this is an idea that hatched not long after Jeff and I came out with Trans Iowa V1. We'll see if there is enough enthusiasm to carry the day. In the meantime, what should this look like? Obviously, the third event, should it come together, needs to follow in the same/similar vein as DK 200 and T.I.V4. Other than that, I'd say it needs to be at least 200 miles or more and within a month or two of DK 200, which is in mid-May. Give it some thought and comment here or shoot me an e-mail for more discussion off-line. Disclaimer: No! I am not promoting, organizing, nor do I have anything to do with this "future event". I am merely bouncing the idea off here to guage the audiences reactions to the "Triple Crown" idea. I do not even know if this will ever happen, I just think it's a neat idea.

Okay, the weekend weather looks to be ideal around here. Forget the football games, NASCAR, and baseball. Get out and ride a bike!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yes Tubes vs No Tubes: The Debate Continues

If you follow my scribing on Twenty Nine Inches much you know that I have been fooling around with tubeless systems for mountain bikes lately. Still am actually. You also may remember my rants on tubeless tires here in the past. Well, I thought I might as well give an update on what I think as of now about the whole slimy mess. (Yes, that's a hint!)

For the record, I have always been told by my mountain biking friends that the tubeless tire thing was over rated and "not worth the hassles" to use. They all went back to using tubed set ups within a short time of using tubeless. I had always shied away from tubeless stuff for this reason and the fact that up until recently, you had no real system meant for tubeless use on 29"ers.

Okay, so that's where I'm coming from. Now I have used the two legitimate tubeless ready systems and I am about to try the third and final available system for 29"ers to see how it stacks up. Right now, I'm in the "not so impressed" camp.

First of all, tubeless ready systems are expensive! You have special rims, or even complete wheels. Special tires, special valve stems, and you have that sealant you need to use to keep the tires air tight. Add it all up and you will be spending more than you would for a rim strip and tubed tire set up. So, tubeless is not an advantage in that way.

Then you have choice. Well, lack of choice, actually. While there are promises of new tires coming, they are seemingly unobtanium, and then you have few rim choices/wheel set choices too. With all the tubed tire choices, tubeless falls short again. That doesn't even take into consideration the rim choices for tubed tires. Especially so in the 29"er market.

Finally, you have performance. This is where the tubeless cognescenti say the advantages of tubeless will out weigh those previously mentioned negatives. Hmm.........oh really?! I'm not so sure about that one. First they say rolling resistance is better. Well, maybe it is, but I can't feel it. I have run one of my tubeless ready tires both ways, and I'll be danged if I can tell the difference. Next they say that the use of the sealant will help prevent flats. Uhhh.........not so much. At least not in my experience. One flat was a sidewall puncture and it wouldn't seal up. The second was a small slow leak that persisted in going flat for three days until I finally gave it another shot of sealant. It got better, but then it still wasn't holding air as it should and during a long ride it got tubed. Guess what? No problems since.

Which brings me to the whole flat changing morass which I'd rather not ever have to deal with. Really, what could be better than to be hot and sweaty, trying to hurry as your mates stand around waiting for you while you switch out a valve stem for a tube, all the while dealing with a goopy mess on your hands. Really, that's so appealing. Extra steps and mess not associated with tubed set ups. Hmm.........I know which I prefer!

To be fair, the anti-pinch flat abilities of tubeless is amazing. However; at pressures that low, the tire wants to flex in turns anyway, so I end up pressuring up a tad, and to be honest, it's enough that a tube set up wouldn't pinch flat either. So that's a wash so far in my mind.

I'm not giving up on tubeless yet. No-sirreee! I figure it's big business, so there must be something to it. I just haven't found what it is yet, but if it's there I will! I promise you that much.

To be continued at a later date...................

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Peering Into The Future: Interbike Time

Today I want to take a look at the upcoming Interbike trade show and give you my take on what's coming down the pike for 29"ers and mountain biking in general. If Eurobike was any indication, there will be a lot of 29"er craziness going down in Las Vegas once again.

Budget 29"ers Abound: You may have noticed on Twenty Nine Inches how we have been posting a lot of new releases for '08 and that many of them are sub $1000.00 entries into the 29"er market. Expect coverage of these models to be headlines and look for more new bikes yet to be seen. Last year was the "single speed/do-it-all" 29"er that made a splash and this year it'll be the "budget 29"er". Some related parts that will crop up in regards to these releases may also be news. Forks, wheels, and tires should be looked at closely. I suspect RST and Spinner will be players in the budget 29"er market with their new 29"er fork lines. Right now, expect to see most of these bikes sporting Rock Shox Dart 29"er forks. (If they have front suspension at all!)

Forks: Unless SRAM/Rock Shox is being ultra-stealth, I don't expect much ground breaking news in the fork market for 29"ers. I could be wrong here, and I hope I am. Rock Shox has been getting a lot of requests for a longer travel, thru-axle type fork for 29"ers and I have not heard a thing about any possible development there. Perhaps it's in the works, but it would be a huge deal at Interbike if Rock Shox took the wraps off on any project related to a long travel 29"er fork. White Brothers should be showing a 135mm travel single crown fork and perhaps a new 150mm travel proto type that is being tested now. Marzocchi, one of the first to accommodate mass market 29"er fork needs, hasn't had a fork in it's line up for a couple of years now, and it doesn't look to me as if they will again this year. Manitou has already made the move to a 29"er fork line, but plans could be unveiled for what's to come from them. Fox has already jumped in too, but their fork is just now coming online, so I don't see anything new from them just yet in 29"er forks. Some "under the radar" fork companies like FRM, or others may show up, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled.

Tires: Here's where I think "huge" news will be made. (pun intended) I think some mind blowingly fat rubber is going to show up at Interbike this year for 29"ers. I'm pretty sure at least one tire that's DH/FR/AM ready will be shown that isn't on anybodies radar yet. Plus, the Schwalbe tire, the Racing Ralph in 29"er sizes should be there. It's said to be quite big by folks that saw it at Eurobike. I suspect Maxxis, Geax, Continental, and Kenda will be showing tires that are new, or telling of new treads coming soon. I suspect new tubeless ready 29"er tires will be shown or at least rumored on the heels of Mavic's Crossmax 29"er wheel release. Other surprises surely lurk in this category, so stay tuned for the coverage on tires.

Full Suspension 29"ers: Again, we have shown a few new FS designs on Twenty Nine Inches and I expect there to be even more coming. The category will grow and several "growing pains" will be experienced along the way. (I'm not at all convinced that many FS 29"er designs are good or refined for bigger wheels) Look for something in the longer travel department to show up. Maybe more than one bike. Most will be in the threee to four inch travel range though.

Wheels and Rims: Mavic has already released it's wheel at Sea Otter, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was some additional news from them. Some other wheel surprises are sure to be had at Interbike. I'm betting on some rumors, or maybe even some actual hardware, concerning tubeless ready wheels and rims. Speaking of rims, I suspect more offerings to be shown for 29"er rims too. Wide will be the story line here, with many rims in the 28mm plus category starting to crop up. Perhaps another complete wheel set will be shown, as well.

So, these are the things I'm thinking will be big at Interbike this year for 29"ers. We'll see if I am right soon enough!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

24 Hours Of Seven Oaks Recap

(Note: Picture descriptions in italics. This is the rig I rode: Inbred 29"er with Superlight carbon fork.)

Well, the event that went down this past weekend was a pretty fun time. The 24 Hours at Seven Oaks went pretty well from the standpoint of the people involved and the riding was top notch. Great trails and the event was super well organized and laid back.

It all started for me by getting all the crap associated with going mountain biking together for the weekend on Friday night. I got it all down to two drop bags, my messenger bag, and my Ergon pack. This included changes of street clothing. Got myself into bed and slept great.

Saturday morning started out with a breakfast of PB&J and out the door to meet up with the rest of my Team Stoopid brethren at Bike Tech. We got ourselves out on the road and made it to Seven Oaks without any issues. Once there, we set up camp, and soaked in the rays of a beautiful Saturday morning. The weather was perfect!

Tatooed the Inbred with this fine sticker courtesy of Blue. Thanks bro!

Blue, Brother of Jackal, The Thin Man, and I were all set and ready to go, but none of us even thought to pre-ride the course, which none of us had been on! Oh well, I guess we had time to learn it. Blue went and volunteered to help put back a bridge that had washed out to help add over a mile to the course. After he got back, we went up and checked in, paid our money, and got a sweet event t-shirt that mimiced a label from a certain famous whiskey brand. Cool! Even better, it was a black t-shirt. I'll actually wear it. We went back after we determined that Brother of Jackal was the best runner and would lead out the team by starting on the Le Mans run. I took second turn, The Thin Man took third, and Blue took the last turn.

The start had us all laughing and joking as Brother of Jackal smoked the feild, got on his rig first and disappeared into the woods. WooHoo! Team Stoopid actually lead the race at one point. Anyway, my turn was expected to come around in about an hour, so I wandered over to the start/finish area to await my doom. About two minutes before I went out, I realized I'd left my gloves back at the camp. Doh! No time for that now! Before I knew it, I was up the days first climb.

It was a bit greasy, and switch backs were on tap. I ended up walking the last half of this climb. Up top I remounted. I never had been here and sight lines were really short, so I was very gingerly pecking my way along at an easy pace. I just wanted to finish out the lap as an exploratory one without any crashing and always moving forwards. I alternated walking and riding because my lack of momentum wasn't allowing me to roll stuff like I could have had I known what to expect. Of course, the 34 X 18 gear didn't help that either. I came across a couple of young newbies and took a short breather. We swapped places a few times, then one fell off the back and the other disappeared ahead of me. I was alone again for awhile challenging myself to some tough switchback turns.

The Thin Man and his game face

Then Paul Jacobsen came out of nowhere on his new Redline 29"er. Paul I know from Trans Iowa. He was riding pretty smoothly, so I let him go on. He stopped at a turn not far up and insisted I go on after which I promptly went ass over tea kettle into a ravine. It must have looked pretty silly! I was okay, but Paul went on and I was alone again. A few times after that, I got passed by the really fast guys, but mostly it was me, dirt, and lots of sweat. It got pretty stifling out there in the heat with no wind in the thick woods. I had to stop every so often, rub my sweaty hands on tree trunks to get a tacky grip, and remount. The lack of gloves was really a hindrance. After a slow grind up a gentle slope, I started to find a rhythm and was riding more. This part of the course was less technical, and I was starting to pick up some speed. I ended my lap in an hour and thirteen minutes and handed off to The Thin Man.

I retired to the camp and ate. I was hungry! Then I settled down and awaited my next turn, which came about six o'clock. Good! I didn't want to ride this in the dark, as I only had handlebar mounted lights, and the word was that sort of set up was no good here. By this time, we found out that we were the only four man 12 hour team there, so we won! Woot woot! Winning by default may not be too cool, but it's still winning, and it sure beats losing!

Carlos heading up to breakfast on Sunday morning

My second lap was far better and smoother. I was cleaning more sections and riding a lot faster. My goal was to not crash and cut off some lap time. I got about three quarters of the way in when I high sided a down hill switchback and was air bourne. I had to grab a tree trunk in mid air, spin around it like a stripper on a grease pole, and swing my legs downwards towards the steeply falling away hillside. I dug in my shoes and grabbed at anything I could to slow myself down. I came to a halt about 12 feet below the switchback and slowly crawled back to my bike. Whew! Close, but not a crash. More of a fancy dismount, I'd say!

The final part of the loop takes you around a campground. It was here that I started hearing a tink-tink-tink that got louder and louder as I went. Broken front spoke? Nope. What the......... I stopped to look at the brake rotor/caliper/pad assembly. Nothing looked weird or out of place. This stopping was made more difficult for the myriads of mosquitoes that would decsend upon me the minute I sat still. I couldn't even see since they were all about my head everytime I tried to take a peek. Minutes were going by, but not having a front brake wasn't an option here. I finally figured out that by slightly squeezing the lever, the sound would disappear. So I soldiered on and used more rear brake when I could.

The leader board tells the story!

I got going a bit and then hey! No rear brake at all! Rats! Good thing I was about done with the lap. I coasted in at an hour and twenty something. Terrible, but the brake thing did me in. What could I do? Shades of my past racing experiences swept before me as I remembered how I used to break stuff all the time in XC races.

Back at the pits, I found out one of my rear caliper bolts came all the way out. That explains it! At least the bolt was still hanging in the frame. I made a quick repair on it. Now for the front. I couldn't see what the devil was wrong with it. After fully disassembling and reassembling the unit, it was fine. Weird! Whatever caused the noise was gone.

I ended up not having to go out again. We had no time left for me to take a night lap, and I can't say as I was too discouraged by that news. I went out socializing and shared some fine Stranahan's Whiskey with some fellow racers. I fell asleep in the back of The Thin Man's truck at about 2:30am.

I awoke in the morning, downed some braekfast and we decamped. Took off about 10:30 am and left after having a fine and dandy time. I think I may have to do this again. Maybe for the full 24 hours and some night laps. We'll see!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ride Report: Seven Oaks Recreation Area

Coming off my first true off road event/race since 1997, I have much to say here, but this post will be about the venue because more folks should be checking this out.

Seven Oaks started life out as a ski area, but it also hosts other summertime activities and one of them is mountain biking. Seven Oaks is located just west of Boone, Iowa and is a stones throw off Highway 30. For a three dollar "on your honor" fee, you can enjoy about 8 miles of the most killer single track anywhere in the Mid-West. The trails are in a loop and you really can't get lost, but you better be an expert bicycle handler if you want to really enjoy them. This place is really demanding and tough.

The event I attended was the Iowa 24 Hours at Seven Oaks. It utilized all the trail that the place had, I'm pretty sure. (There may be some other trails, but I never saw any other trail heads) The place features real switchbacks, tough climbs, exposed traverses, several short wooden bridges, and lots of off camber sections. The trail often snakes back and forth on itself, so at times it's confusing to a newbie to figure out where you are exactly. However; if you just keep pedaling, you eventually come out to the end and back out to the ski area where you started.

The trails can get pretty slick and muddy if they are wet, so it may not be wise to go when there's been rain falling near the time you want to go. These trails are challenging enough when dry, I'll vouch for that. Climbing is a very necessary skill, but there really isn't any climb that is too long. Some are fairly steep though. Downhills are shorter than some other places, but still fun and rewarding. I especially enjoyed the downhill switchbacks, which required all of my skill to clean on my rigid single speed.

The trails consist mainly of buff dirt with some exposed roots and very few rocks. A tire with some low knobs at a moderate pressure will bite enough to get you around here, if it's dry.

In comparison with other Iowa trails, Seven Oaks ranks up near the top if only because of it's many switch backs and level of dificulty. There just are not that many places you can go here in the state and get a schooling that you can use elsewhere in the U.S. like you can at Seven Oaks. The switch backs alone are worth trying out in this regard. I would say that folks coming off the Decorah trails would be right at home here. The biggest difference being the aforementioned switch backs and the almost total lack of rocks, which Decorah has in spades. Length of the trail system is a negative here, as I'm pretty sure it's under ten miles while Sugar Bottom and Decorah have more. That short distance is extremely demanding though, so don't let the lack of mileage deter you from checking out this excellent venue.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Results from the Iowa 24Hrs at Seven Oaks.................

Squirrel takes the solo category by three laps.

Rassmussen's four man squad crushed it in the four man team 24 race.

And Team Stoopid wins the four man 12hr team category!

Pics here, here, and on this blog tomorrow night after I get my camera out of hock at Bike Tech.