Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Commuter Bikes: They've Got It All Wrong! Part III

Note: This has turned into a bit of a series! Today I will tie things up with my take on exactly how the "Cycling Industry" has got it wrong philosophically concerning "commuter/urban" cycling. Thanks for reading!

The "standard" equipment for these "commuter/urban" bikes being proffered by the industry of late seems to be of high quality and (unfortunately) high price. I have stated in my previous two posts how the price of entry for someone looking to start a cycling lifestyle as a "utilitarian user" of a bicycle is a negative. Why is there a seeming disconnect here? I think it's a rather simple situation and easy to understand if we look outside of cycling.

Generally speaking, if one wants to start an activity in the recreational/sports categories one starts by "testing the waters". For example: If you were to start fishing, and never have fished a day in your life, you most likely will get a "starter set" that provides you with all the necessary gear at a low price for entry. Now mind you, this is typically gear that a "serious" fisherman wouldn't be caught dead with. However; I think we can all agree that first time fishers are not going to buy a $300.00 reel, $200.00 pole, a fish finder, a boat, etc.... No, they are going to spend enough to get started, maybe a $100.00 total, get a license and drop their line in the local watering hole. This is where a lot of "fisherman" are made, from casual users that get "hooked" on the activity. (Sorry for the pun!) The same is true for golf, tennis, and several other sports. Sure, we all know that getting better equipment enhances your first time experience, but the high price of "real equipment" doesn't stop these segments from gaining new users. The cheaper, entry level stuff along with a healthy dose of encouragement/excitement help turn users into serious enthusiasts. Of course, a lot of folks don't ever get beyond the entry level stages, but at least there is an entry point that doesn't require a huge cash out lay to try things out.

An example of the opposite situation is skiing, where equipment costs have kept new users in the rentals, (which have been upgraded to pro level stuff, so why buy anyway?) and access to the slopes has been getting more expensive as well. If it weren't for rental equipment, I'd wager the ski industry would be far, far smaller than it is today due to the high cost of entry into the sport.

So, while conventional cycling industry wisdom is to get these folks on commuter bikes that are of high quality with parts that will be reliable and work, reality is that the price for entry is way too high to attain this. So, is the cycling industry prepared to provide rentals and live off of high end commuter sales, or is there another way? I say that there is another, better way.

In my experience the new user of a bicycle has a couple of common traits that should tip off the industry to where to go with utilitarian bikes. First of all, most folks don't know what to do with derailleur drive trains. They are confusing and seem unnecessary to a new user. A lot of folks are looking for simplicity. This is where the Shimano Coasting idea is right, but the price is still too high, and the design is too user unfriendly. Unfriendly? Yes, I dare you to hand a Coasting bike to a new user and have them remove a wheel in less than an hour. Really, it's not intuitive or simple and that defeats the purpose in my mind. I know, I own a Coasting bike, and even I think it's a bit wonky.

Which leads me to point #2: People are afraid of flats. New users have no idea what to do when it comes to flats, and lets be honest, nothing ruins a buzz on your ride like an untimely flat. New users that are putting a bicycle to utilitarian uses can ill afford a flat at anytime. So, a system of foam filled tires, or something similar would take that complaint right out of the conversation. While "cyclists" will scoff at such heresy, new users will see it as a benefit. Heavy tires/wheels as a benefit? Yes. The industry needs to look into a cheap way to do this for new users. Until they become cyclists and want something better, (lighter/easier to pedal), utility and practicality where they are at in life is paramount.

Which leads me to point #3: New users of bicycles are not as afraid of "work" as you might think. I have noticed on several occasions where new users of bikes will buy a derailleur equipped rig, put it in a gear, (Usually, but not exclusively the highest/hardest gear) and ride it till the cows come home. I have seen on several occasions where people who actually enjoy "cycling" and call themselves "cyclists" are going at a sub 50 cadence down the bike path. Typical cycling wisdom would say these people need education and are using bicycles in a manner that is on the other side of "right". Well, I say at least they are using a bike! If we could just get out of our own way and realize that new users are just fine with single speed coaster brakes, we might just see an increase in users and eventually cyclists. A single speed utility bicycle with a simple coaster brake, high tensile steel frame that is strong, cheap, and heavy, and can do some work because it's outfitted with a rack and a kickstand would be the ticket. Never mind that it might weigh 40lbs, or be geared too high. Folks that are new users will just think they are getting a good work out. Really.

In conclusion: If the cycling industry wants to get people on board with using a bicycle as a daily "tool", then it needs to provide an easy, cheap point of entry, not unlike other sporting goods segments do. It needs to create a pool of "users" of bicycles which can grow into "cyclists", or enthusiasts later. Trying to jump a new user from zero to cycling enthusiast in one leap is not really working. Users first- cyclists second.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Special Announcement!


Commuter Bikes: They've Got It All Wrong! Part II

I had an interesting comment left from yesterday's post that I had a reply to and found out my comment wouldn't upload to my own blog! Well.............anyway, I figured I'd just turn it into a regular post. So here you go. The first bit is an excerpt from the comment that I wanted to respond to. My response will follow.

"No matter how bikes are marketed, sooner or later people come to the realization that it's sometimes WORK to ride them. Wind in your face, rear-end is gonna initially hurt, trial and error equipment preference 'til you sort it all out, legs are going to feel like rubber-bands, you're gonna show up where you need to go sweaty, it just might take you longer to get there, might get lost on the way trying to figure out a good route... but oh so gratifying cause you did it on your own and you did it.

The best commuter is comfortable, ugly, preferably inexpensive, something you don't really care ALL that much about, and is reliable. When riding your ugly but trusty bike, there will be days when commuting might just suck. Hmmm... how would you go about marketing that? "
ken y

First of all, "ken" goes into the physical complaints that a new user might have in regards to riding a bike for utilitarian purposes. Well, I would submit that a very large percentage of "cyclists" go through this ritual every spring. Pain in getting back into "cycling shape" is common, and most of the customers frequenting the shop I work at go through it. Every year. So yeah, there is that physical barrier to cycling that a lot of us that have tried the sport know about. The thing is, we're talking about folks that have not ridden bicycles for a long, long time. That's the point behind the Coasting idea. That's the people Shimano is supposedly trying to market to, and that's the market they are missing, as I pointed out yesterday.

These people haven't got a clue as to what will or won't hurt. They are all still in their cars. Yes, they would find out that there is a physical price to pay for riding, but if the payoff is good, the pain will be worth it. Even "ken" alludes to some of this when he writes "... but oh so gratifying cause you did it on your own and you did it." The sense of autonomy and practicality have to be seen in the activity for most to deem the physical part worth it as a utilitarian form of transport. That and the rising price of gas will no doubt start to motivate more and more to consider a bicycle.

However; my point yesterday was that the bicycle we have to offer is aimed at what "cyclists" deem necessary and not what new users feel they need, or are comfortable with. The Coasting bikes are close, particularly Raleigh's offering, but still way too expensive and too complex. (Fix the wheel attachment situation, for one thing) The bike needs to be like a wrench, hammer, or screwdriver: nothing flashy, complex, or task specific, just a tool that's easy to use and own. This is also something that "ken" touches on in his comment that I agree with.

Now as for the marketing of this: well let's just say that it could be done. It has to be done in a very different way than we see in cycling today though. What I see is cyclists preaching to cyclists. We don't need that sort of inbred marketing strategy. We need to talk to the guy in the Hummer, the gal that uses her car to drive down the street to pick up a pack of smokes, and to the kids behind the gaming consoles. We need to find a way to make riding a bike make sense to them from a utilitarian standpoint, not a cycling one. Make users first, the cyclists will happen later. That's my take.

Blog News: Here's a couple of new sites that I found really interesting from a cycling and personal standpoint. First up we have a couple of guys challenging themselves to go "car free" in the month of November. The site is still under construction, but this could be cool.......really cool! (It will happen in the month of November in Michigan and Iowa, for crying out loud!)

Secondly, there is a new bike shop being "born" here in the Mid-West. Take a look to see what a fellow big wheeled nut has up his sleeve here and follow the progress.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Commuter Bikes: They've Got It All Wrong!

(Picture Credit: Image snagged from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News site)
Rant Mode: ON...Okay, that's it! I've had enough and I ain't takin' it no more! This silly notion that if you make a "commuter bike" and offer it for sale it gives you some sort of "green credibility". Bah! I ain't buyin' this load of crap. Take a look at this image. It's a Chanel commuter bike, yes....that Chanel! You know...."Chanel No. 5"? Yeah........whatever!
And while I'm on the subject of these so called "commuter" bikes, who the heck is buying these things and actually commuting on them? C'mon, these rigs cost waaay too much money for the average joe that might actually get something out of commuting, or have to commute. The name "commuter bikes" is all wrong too. What is that anyway? "Commute" sounds like something you do at church, not anything I'd do with a bicycle, well, not legally anyway.
No, the industry has it all wrong. These self congratulatory "commuter/urban" rigs are cool bike freaks! But let's be honest, a bike freak would ride to work on a Schwinn Typhoon if it was thought to be cool by his buddies. No, we're looking to get people out of their shiny metal/plastic/rubber boxes and out on something human powered with two wheels, or we ought to be. A "utility" bike, a bike that is practical, useful, and most of all cheap! That's what we need. A $250.00 rig that has sensible design, (read: not some funky Trek Lime modernistic take on two wheeled transpo) a dead simple drivetrain, (read: single speed, or at most a 3 speed internal geared hub), and is made with a coaster brake or a good canti set up. Something a step above "mart" bikes and maybe made from aluminum or high tensile steel. Fenders, kickstand, and reasonable, long lasting , tough tires. Sound heavy? Sound un-cool? Sound stupid? Good! Because bike geeks won't like it, and they shouldn't.
Who this bike is for are the people Shimano said they were after with the Coasting group. Great concept, bad execution. Don't get me wrong here. The Coasting stuff is super cool and fun to ride, but that's the problem. It appeals to bike people, and bike people don't need the "Good Word". We already "get it". It's the people out in those gas guzzling cars that we need to get on bikes, and they don't really care about what we care about. A bike has to be seen as something useful, advantageous to use, and practical to own. What good is a Coasting bike for riding to work, getting a gallon of milk, or to just cruise around on if you get a flat tire? Not too many people would have the first idea of how to get the wheel off of the thing.
So, get off of your "high horse", you industry wonks, and figure this thing out. Heck, the bikes going out to World Bicycle Relief have more common sense than a Coasting bike, a European fully decked out commuter rig, or for cryin' out loud, that Chanel bike! Lets get a dead simple, easy to maintain, cheap bike for the masses. Make like Henry Ford did with the Model T. A no frills, get er duuun rig. Build up a pool of "utilitarian cyclists" and then see your market base expand. Make ordinary people into users first, "cyclists" second. That's my take.
Rant Mode: OFF!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride: A Few Pics!

Finally got the camera to download these. Here's the few meager pics I have to share!

The start in Marengo. We raised a few eyebrows of the orange clad gun toters! They were all hittin' up breakfast at Doose's Cafe, just to the left of the view here. Most of them probably had never seen anything like us freaks before!

Here's a short break from the gravely goodness in the wee hours just before dawn. That's d.p. just ahead of me. The rest of the group had just made a sharp right hander up a gravel road before I snapped this pic. Although it had rained just hours previous to our passing, the roads were in excellent shape.

Here's a better shot of what the sky actually looked like. Yes, that dot above the white vertical line is d.p. again.

A victim of the cold. This snake was motionless, assumed dead, although no one would bother to try and handle it. I even provoked someone to try, but got no takers.

I'm thinking it was dead. Tail looked smashed and at 42 degrees, reptiles probably don't last too long on heat sucking gravel. Just a guess though.

I think the snake represented my day. Snakebitten! I'll be back to tackle those hills some other day, you can be assured of that!

Oh yeah, even though I had to bail out, I did stop and have a silent toast of Stranahan's to one gal who wished she woulda been there. Stopped at a bridge over the Iowa River and did a couple shots worth. Seemed appropriate. Get well soon, Em!

Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride: A Report

Well the tune up ride went off without much drama. I've got some pics, but my computer and card reader are not getting along well today, so maybe some other time for that. Anyway, here's the story as far as I know it.........

Went to bed early on Friday night because of the travel and early start on Saturday at 6:00am. I woke up about 10:30pm all hot and sweaty. Checked my temperature. Nope! Normal. Wierd, but I felt fine otherwise. Got up at dark-thirty and saw that it had rained. Yikes! I check the radar and it shows clearing skies and a temperature of 52 F. That's good! I load up a cereal bowl and chow down before getting all the gear loaded up for the hour and fifteen minute trip down to Marengo. I saw one deer that I had to brake pretty hard for. She looked like she was going to try and goacross the road but changed her mind at the last minute. Whew! Always a worry this time in Iowa. Lots of critters getting smashed on the roads including deer. Glad I missed that one.

I got to Marengo a little early and I fumbled around in the dark with some of my gear. A police car cruises by taking a long slow look at me. Hmm...........I see Doose's Cafe is already open. Thought they didn't open until 6am? Well, the cops go in and at least they are satisfied that I am not a threat to national security. The sky is clear and a lone dog howls at the full moon. Perfect!

Later I see a truck pull up and a rider on a bike. It's a couple of Trans Iowa vets and a guy from Milwaukee showing up, then David Pals. Then Paul and Matt. Good sized group. We're all about to take off when I get a phone call. It's a couple more guys coming in a little late. We are waiting for 6:00am and right as we're about to pull out, the two late arrivals show, so we waited some more. I think we finally got off at about 6:30am. Hey! No worries. It's just a ride, ya know?

So, nine guys and enough blinking red lights to make you go crazy! Ha! Well, we attracted a lot of attention from hunters getting ready for their first day of pheasant hunting season to start. That explained Doose's early opening! We head out of town and right where I always see deer when I come to Marengo doesn't dissappoint. Deer! Running in the ditch and up over the dike. Could barely see them in the dark.

Heading north into the 15mph-20mph wind. We're drafting on the pavement, but still working hard. It's chilly and windy which is always harder than warm and windy, at least I think so. We hit the first gravel. Straight up! It's hard to tell what the gradient is or how far you have to go up in the dark. You just find a rhythm and go. Lots of hills to strt out with and we're not rolling real fast.

I'm not feeling too snappy, but then again I'm a slow starter, so I'm not worried at this point. The sun starts to rise and the terrain is discernable. I found myself at the back with David Pals on a section of pavement where I took some pics from the bike. Then we made it to the top of another long grinder to find the group waiting for us. I knew the next three miles would be killer hills. I was getting a bit worried as I didn't seem to be coming in, still sluggish. I ate something and that seemed to help. We get over the nasty hills and stopped again to regroup. I ate something again, as I was really hungry. Not a good sign!

We were working a pretty solid wind and everyone was grinding along at about 11-12mph, (according to my crap computer) and not much conversation was had. Finally we turned west for a long stretch. It was daylight, windy, and the temps had fallen into the low 40's. The hills were more like what I'm used to, but I just was getting worse with every mile. Finally, on a little rise that I wouldn't have normally noticed I find myself in the lowest gear in the middle ring, contemplating going into the granny ring. My legs are shot, and the group is dropping me like a bad habit.

They all stopped at an intersection where there was some confusion and I caught back on. I told David I was cooked and I was going back. That's the thing, I could have slogged on till I was completely unable to continue, but you are responsible for yourself on these gigs, so I had to pull the plug at a point where I knew I could make it back on my own.

Well, it's a good thing I did. Even with flat terrain, food in my belly from Belle Plain, and a tail wind, I still took as long to get back as I did to get to the point where I bailed out. I was stopping every two to three miles resting my legs, which were hurting like.........well, let's just say they've never hurt like that! I almost passed out once too, before I ate, so I think I was headed for bonkville and I may have a stinkin' cold on top of it. Whatever it is, it ended my day early.

I saw lots and lots of hunters on my way back and all of them looked surprised to see a biker out on the gravel. Hey! It's a multi use trail! Ha ha! Sounded like David and company all made it back okay too. Lot's of wind made their day hell too, but you'll have to look elsewhere for those details.

All in all, it was a very close approximation of Trans Iowa. It was tough, windy, and made you think a bit. Just what we wanted.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday News and Views

Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride: Weather looks great, we've got a fair number of riders promised to show up, and the course should be in primo condition. There will be a follow up report with some pictures to see this weekend late or at the latest on Monday, so do check back in for that.

I had to make a late decision on bike selection last night. I had originally planned on riding the Pofahl but a serious creak surfaced in the saddle on Wednesday and I have not been able to rid myself of the annoyance yet. It'll require a disassemble and some cleaning/lubrication which I don't have the time for now. So, I am going geared on my trusty Raleigh XXIX+G set up with the Willits WOW fork, Ergon grips, and the surprisingly comfortable Bontrager Rhythm Pro saddle. This bike already has a computer set up on it too, so that made it a no brainer. Anyway, I'm sad I can't take the Pofahl, but oh well!

The Bike Lab: I know I mentioned this already, but it got it's "official" introduction yesterday and today it's on BRAIN's website as a press release. Guess that makes it really official! Take a look at the site sometime and let me know what you think. All suggestions are welcome!

The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo: Yes, it's coming back. Yes, it will be in Decorah, Iowa again! There really isn't a better place for it as of right now. Look, I know a lot of you think Iowa is lame, but if you do, it's because you have never ridden at Decorah recently. The trails are tough and a lot of fun. Plus, they are right near town and a quarter of a mile away from the camping area we are using for the event. Everything you need is within a mile- mile and a half. It's absolutely a great set up. Anyway, plan on coming on June 21st-22nd for a great time in North East Iowa. I'll post more details in the coming weeks and there will be an official web page coming for this too. Finally, there will be T-shirts! Stay tuned!

Dirt, Sweat, and Gears: Got another gem in the in-box the other day. Check out Dirt, Sweat, and Gears SSUSA. It's a single speed event in Tennessee on May 2nd, 2008. Sounds like a lot of fun. I'll have to eyeball this a little more closely and see if it's doable with the family, but as for you guys out there, you should look into this. Ol' Mr. 24 had some pretty high praise for the area and said the riding was stellar, so I know it is worth a look see.

Okay, that's a wrap for this week! Looking forwards to getting some gravely goodness this weekend and hope you get out to ride your bike too. Let's Ride!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Who's First? Who Cares!

Much has been written and said about who was the first "mountain biker", who made the first "mountain bike", and the "origins of the sport" of mountain biking. Several claims of "first" are out there with new "firsts" being discovered every other year seemingly. Here's something to illustrate my point.

Did you know that the guy that invented mountain bikes was murdered recently by a tree trimmer named Charlie Cunningham?

No, not that Charlie Cunningham! A mountain bike pioneer and one of the founders of WTB. Although he has been known to live in a tree......... No not that guy. Anyway, this is about Charles Finley Scott, who according to a story on Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and the recent movie "Klunkerz" is "the man many credit to having invented the mountain bike." Here is an excerpt from the BRAIN story:

"It was Scott, who, in 1953, outfitted a Schwinn bicycle with balloon tires, multiple gears and more powerful brakes, calling it his "woodsie bike." He was among the first in the United States to make a sport out of bombing down mountains on a bicycle, according to many cycling historians."

Too bad his "sport" didn't catch on in 1953, or I could have been mountain biking long before I was. That's the thing with inventors. They often are socially inept savants that can't promote themselves out of a wet paper sack! So what if he was the first. (Which is a dubious claim anyway) It made zero impact on cycling, sport, and culture. The "perfect storm", as it were, was attained in Marin County back in the late seventies. From that scene sport, culture, and cycling were forever changed. The tools used may have been put together before, but there's more to it than bombing down a mountainside on a "woodsie" all by yourself.

This fruitless "first" stuff is all rather pompous and silly anyway. Witness the recent flap about who made the first 29"er that came up in Dirt Rag recently. Really, who cares? I'm just glad that all the parts came together and that I can enjoy my off road experience in a better way than before. And why is it that one person has to be credited? At least the movie Klunkerz tried to point out that it was a group effort. Can't we just leave it at that and celebrate the spirit of the thing. It's more than just one person, place, or thing.

Who's first? Who cares! Let's ride!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday News And Views

Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride: An update for ya'all that might be coming. (What......all five or six of us. Heh heh!) Anyway, the course is draining well, road repairs are in full swing, and with little to no rain for the week the "B" roads should firm up rather well. We'll be just past a full moon, so the earliest part of the ride might be pretty fun with that and a rising sun. This should be fun and I'm excited. See ya early Saturday!

SE Racing Stout: I'm going to hang it up on the peg until after the ride mentioned above, but so far I'm impressed. Keeping in mind it's a $470.00 retail rig, this bike has been performing above my expectations. Would I change some stuff if I owned one? Absolutely. Is their some stuff on it that stinks? No, I just have high expectations of my equipment and some certain peccadilloes that I indulge myself in that would necessitate some parts swappage, that's all. In fact, I did change a couple of things I just couldn't do without. A longer seat post and clipless pedals, but then I think most riders getting this rig would agree with those minor changes. More soon on this surprising rig at Twenty Nine Inches.

The Bike Lab: I've mentioned this before but the newest addition to the Crooked Cog Network
is up and running with it's final look and layout. Check it out.

What a Blog! Okay, here is another one I previously mentioned, but with only four posts under his belt, Mike Curiak has really impressed, (as I fully expected he would) with his blog. Get in on the ground floor here and then don't miss a post. Really. You will find some pretty cool stuff there that you won't see anywhere else. His latest post on Alaska is worth a thousand of my posts alone. (Okay, so I'm a fan! Sue me!) But tell me, where else are you going to go to get pictures and words like that, huh?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Season's End

I was surfing the net checking out some blogs when I noticed that a lot of the new pictures I was looking at had snow in them. Snow? Yup! It's that time of year again and I am going to struggle.

The biggest thing is the lack of daylight. Yeah........I suppose I have that whatchamacallit syndrome. The one that says you get depressed if there isn't enough sunlight or something. I don't know, but coupled with the cold air it makes for an added challenge to overcome just to get myself out the door. You know......I think I'm part bear or something, because sleeping through the winter sounds like an excellent idea about right now.

Then there is the lack of cycling activities this time of year. That might affect some a lot more than me, but it makes for dull conversations at the bike shop. I suppose this factor of the "off season" doesn't affect me much since I don't ride a lot with other folks anyway. But it's there and that affects some of you, I'm sure.

I know that winter has it's delights. I mean, the first ride in snow always has it's novelty. Cross country skiing is really fun, but that has been a two week long season at best around here for the last seven years. Last time I checked winter was just a weee bit longer than that! Seems like our winters now allow for some extended late season riding until the temps get rediculously low and the wind chill spells death to outdoor seekers. Oh! And don't forget the occaisonal ice storm or two.

Hopefully the end of this season dovetails right into the start of the next one, but somehow I doubt it. Hibernation anyone?

Rider Down! This just in to me thanks to my buddy d.p. via the Folks From Lincoln: Emily Broderson, a fine rider and a tough gal, took a nasty spill at the Homey Fall Fest up in Minny-apple-puss last weekend. She's hurt, but she's going to be okay. Check out the Folks From Lincoln site and scroll down to get all the latest on Em and the Fest. (WARNING: There is a pretty disturbing pic of the results of Em's crash, so if yer queasy, beware!) Send Emily some encouragement @ Thanks for checking this out!

Monday, October 22, 2007

More SE Racing Stout and Some News

I have gotten a ride or two in on the SE Racing Stout 29"er single speed so far that I'm testing for Twenty Nine Inches. I think I'll reserve comment until I can get a nice longer off road ride or two in on it. This weekend was a washout, literally, from a rain standpoint. The trails around here were just too muddy or underwater.

Here are some pictures to tide you over.

Integrated headsets are not on my list of cool off road component ideas, but seem to hold up well none the less. I still say why make something that could roach your frame if it goes bad. Not a necessary development in my mind. Looks cool though, I'll grant you that.

Another seat post that's too short. This picture was taken with the post at max extension. I tried riding it, but no go! I took it out and realized it was only a 300mm post! When are we going to get it through to companies that we need to spec 400mm posts. You can always chop it down to whatever length you want. Just like a handle bar. Seems reasonable to me. On a positive note, the Velo manufactured saddle feels far!

Clearance is okay. I think some of those Racing Ralph tires by Schwalbe or a WTB Weir Wolf LT might be too tight a fit with the wheel all the way up in the drop outs. I'll have to experiment with that.

A smart move to have the geared option here. The 9 speed compatible free hub makes it a lot easier. The simple spacer kit also gives this a clean look as a single speed but limits your choices in cogs to stamped steel ones. A wider based cog, like a Surly cog, would not work without changing to a different spacer kit too. The chain tensioner on one side is smart. It's all you need. People with balance/symmetry issues need not apply!

More on the Se Racing Stout later, stay tuned!

Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride: The latest scuttlebutt is that the course has suffered water inundation at several points but that the river is retreating quickly. If we can avoid any real soaking rains between now and Saturday, we'll be okay. We're still going with the original route. Keep in touch here, or at the Trans Iowa site for any last minute changes on that. Otherwise the weather for this weekend looks to be clear and pretty cool.

Some New Linkage! I'm very excited to announce the addition of another new blog link here to none other than endurance freak/pioneer ultra endurance crazy/29"er nutcase/ and gear guru Mike Curiak. Mike promises some straight shooting talk on gear, racing, and whatever hits his radar. Plus, there are some killer photos that Mike has taken already up on the site. Check it out for yourself, you won't be disappointed. I've got Mike's new blog linked on my right hand side bar for future reference. Also, I have linked Mike's business, Lacemine 29. Mike has literally built over four thousand 29"er wheels and counting, so he probably knows a thing or two about what might work for you. Check him out for your next project.

I like Mike, I've met him a couple of times, and I'm a fan of his straight shooting style. His wealth of knowledge and experience in long distance mountain biking is huge. He also takes a mean photograph and writes an easily read story. That's my take and that's why I'm excited about his blog.

Okay, that's it for your Monday. Ride if you can! It's all about riding your bike, no matter what it is.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Commute In Pictures: Part III

Here's the final installment of my commute. Here I have just crossed the overpass of Green Hill Road and am looking at the curb hop of the on and off ramps from University to Green Hill. Lots of care needed to dodge traffic here! After getting back on to frontage road "safety", I pass by a K-Mart. This finally starts the downhill portion of my commute. I run a diagonal through their parking lot to the right to a side street named Progress. That's a downhill to the next left, on Acorn.

Here's the look up Acorn. Yes, back uphill again! This used to be a service road that crossed the back of the Star Lite Drive In Theater. Right about where those cookie cutter condos sit is where a lot of babies were concieved! Anyway, I go up to the next left and take it for a short spell to a quick right and down hill once more.

Here's the final run in to the back end of the strip mall where Europa Cycle and Ski is located.

I've just about been taken out several times by young gals on their way to work zipping up this street from the right in the photo. Just my luck. Someday I'll probably get nailed within sight of work!

And here it is! The back door to the shop!

And here's my work area. Ready to go for another day!

My Commute In Pictures: Part II

Last time we left off with my crossing Fletcher Avenue on Falls. Right after that intersection I pass a long time Waterloo resturaunt icon in Steamboat Gardens. Finest greasy cheeseburgers anywhere! Okay, focus....focus.....

On up Falls Avenue to my next major intersection at Ansborough. There's a gas station there on the right. 1st motivation for commuting in the morning! Also worth noting is that the final block approaching this intersection is slightly downhill. The last downhill since I crossed the Black Hawk creek bridge. Most of this commute is uphill to the West/Northwest. Funny thing is that we get West/Northwest winds all Fall/Winter/Spring too. Combined with the nearly all uphill profile of this commute it gives me quite the workout somedays. Like Friday when the winds were out of the West at 25-35mph!

Once I get past Ansborough, it's all uphill to University Avenue which is a very busy six lane affair. Fortunately the City saw fit to put in a walkway here that I can use to get up this hill. I call it "Water Tower Hill" because it's got a municipal water tower at the top. It's also the toughest part of my commute.

Things finally level off here at this gas station where I cut through the parking lot to a frontage road running parallel to University. Second motivation for commuting here! I get a kick out of the reactions from folks filling their tanks as I go gliding by. Still slightly uphill through here.

The frontage road dead ends just before the overpass of Green Hill Road. Again, it's fortunate that the City/State saw to it to include walkways over the bridge. University Avenue used to be Highway 218 after Falls Avenue was abandoned as the highway. Now 218 runs a different route and this is actually still a state highway. It's one of the rare unmarked routes, but I happen to know it's State Highway 934. Now you know too!

That's it for part two of My Commute. Stay tuned for Part III coming up yet this afternoon where I will detail out the last section of riding down University Avenues side paths and the final run up to my workplace.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Commute In Pictures: Part I

I got this idea from Endurosnob, but I tweaked it a bit. Hope you enjoy it.

My commute starts out with a four block long walk with my daughter to school. She likes to help push my bike.

After dropping her off, I back track those four blocks and head up Baltimore to it's dead end at a cemetery where I head left for a short jaunt to an alley for a block, get dumped out on another street and go left, and right down in front of some row houses. Another left/right turn combination finds me at a dead end. Straight ahead there is a 7 foot high embankment to the edge of HWY 63. I cross the four lane road and end up......

Here! On the other side of the road, I head left and down across this grassy field towards that overpass you see here. If your monitor is good, you will make out the path in the grass I've beat down over the last five years. That path drops down another 6ft embankment and dumps me out on the Sargent Road bike path. I go under that overpass, hang a sharp left on the bike path to.........

...this view. There used to be a casket company in this meadow. Now it's full of wild flowers and tall grass prairie. There still are flowers in bloom yet in mid-October, which is really cool. I see lots of birds here, including a Red Tailed Hawk that claims this area as it's territory. To the right there is a very steep 20-30ft high embankment to the Avenue of the Saints highway.

The bike path eventually turns right here, but I go straight from this dead end of Falls Avenue. Falls used to be Highway 218 from Cedar Falls to Waterloo back sixty years ago. Now it's a little used dead end spur at it's Eastern terminus. Up ahead is a bridge across the Black Hawk Creek, another cemetery on the right, and finally an intersection with a major city street, Fletcher Avenue, which used to be Cleaveland Avenue back in the day, but they changed it up about fifteen years ago. Anyway, I continue up Falls Avenue on my way to work.

That's it for today. Part II will detail the rest of the Falls Avenue portion of my commute.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Origin 8 Gary Bar Update

I've been noticing a lot of activity on the web regarding the attributes of the Origin 8 Gary Bar. For some details on the bar, check out my previous posts on it here and here.

I've also added a couple shots I took of my Pofahl 29"er custom that I hop illustrate what the bars look like mounted up and ready to go.

Now I'd like to address a few misperceptions about this bar and it's inevitable comparisons to a On One Midge Bar. The Midge, which made off road drop bar use a reality again, is a bar that was co-designed by a fellow named Don Person, better known on the web-o-sphere as "shiggy".
He and Brant Richards of On One worked diligently to bring what they believed to be the perfection of the old WTB drop bar that was originally a modified Cinelli road bar. The Midge proved to be a great success and works great for off road cycling.

Enter Origin 8, which is a "house brand" of J&B Importers. They made the Gary Bar as a competitor to the Midge. It's a drop bar for off roading that is more similar than different in comparison to the Midge, which I detailed in one of my original posts on these bars. (link above) The main difference being the "slope" of the bars from the bar tops to the drops. This is most easily seen from the front view of the bar.

The slope is there on both the Midge and the Gary for a reason. It's to help clear your wrists and forearms while in the drops for off road maneuverability. Without the slope, if you were to thrust your bike sideways for instance, leaning it to make a small steering correction, you would smack your wrists and fore arm into the upper side of the drop bar. So slope is important for increased maneuverability off road. The Origin 8 bar has more slope, which isn't a bad thing off road. This; however, places the brake levers at an unusual position compared to a Midge and especially compared to any drop bar we're used to seeing.

Is that a problem? I really think that it's perceived as a problem that's not really there. For instance, take a look at a mustache bar. The brake levers are on their sides, for crying out loud! I've never heard a complaint about that, and as a matter of fact, some folks praise the position as super comfortable while palming the hoods on a mustache set up. So the Gary Bar is about halfway between that mustache bar and a Midge. I feel it gives my hands a great perch to rest on, but I would say give it a try first before you pass it off as being "non-functional". Besides, you are not supposed to be riding on the hoods of a drop bar in the first place. A point that most are either ignorant of or reject out of hand. I use the hoods rarely off road, and mostly only on longer gravel grinders.

Other than that main functional/aesthetic difference, the two bars- Midge and Gary- are rather similar. The Midge being a more refined bar, the Gary a bit cruder. Both are fantastic off road bar choices, and either should prove to be a great choice for your off road drop bar rig. I like both and recommend both for their intended purposes. The only thing I find that is a bit more appealing in the case of the Gary Bar is it's price, which I think is a killer bargain for what you get. On a budget? The Gary is the obvious choice. Want a more refined, lighter weight bar? Midge is the way to go. Functionally their is very little difference, so either way should work well.

Now go ride yer bike fer cryin' out loud!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A New Bike And Gearing Talk

Twenty Nine Inches just received this SE Racing Stout 29"er for test/review yesterday. SE Racing? Yes......that company! Yes, they do a 29"er and have since 2005. They also have a few really cool fixies in their lineup as well. Anyway........this 29"er is just a bit different than most that you see out there these days.
A lot of these 29"er single speed bikes are a bit complicated......for single speeding. Sliding this, eccentric that, and disc brake worries. SE Racing just does it the ol' fashioned way. Track ends baby! Linear pull brakes, nutted axles, and track ends. Couldn't be simpler, or easier unless it was "fixed". That said, there is a gizmo on it that allows a derailleur to be mounted and there are full cable stops for a triple crank drive train on the frame. Don't worry! I won't succumb to the temptation of gears on this bike. It's got a 51.5" gear on it, so it's geared about perfect for our trails in this area. I shouldn't have any problems with this set up.
Speaking of Gears: In my "Endurance Racing and the 29"er" post's comment section, I received a comment pertaining to how I would gear a 29"er to compensate for the wheel size. I know that the prevailing wisdom out there is to reduce your cranks chain ring sizes to something like 40-30-20, although I've seen guys going for a set up with a 29T middle ring and a 20T granny too. Gearing is such a tough topic. Everybody is so different, how can you recommend a gear package and say, "this is it"? I don't think it works like that. There just isn't an easy answer.
Fitness levels, terrain demands, and individual riding styles and makeup are too varied and complex for there to be an easy answer. The thing is, you just have to experiment. What works for you won't for someone else. Or you could just take the single speeder way and live with what you've got and mash until you have to walk up the climb.
Here's what works for me, and in no way am I recommending this for anyone else! Single Speed: I gear on the tough side just a bit for the course. If I get down around 8mph I walk. Easy. Multi Speed Drive Train: I almost never use a granny gear (smallest chain wheel on the crank set) Heck, if you are going that slow, you can walk as fast and use different muscles for a bit. If I do get into the granny, it's in the middle of the cassette, which might be one gear lower than a middle ring/biggest cog combo. If manufacturers made a 29-42 crank set, I'd be all over it. Maybe a Stronglight or a custom assembled one is in my future. Whatever it is going to be, that granny ring is going away. It's dead weight and I don't need it. I mean, why would I ever need something lower than a 29 X 34? Again, I might as well walk if I do need something lower than that!
I had a crank set with a 20T granny once and a 32T rear cog in the cassette. It was ridiculous! So much torque that it spun the rear tire on climbs and you couldn't go faster than 10mph anyway spinning like a madman. Crazy I tell ya! I just don't need that. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday News And Views

Formula Disc Brake Recall: From Bicycle Retailer and Industry News website, we have news of this recall of Formula disc brakes. Here's a short quote from the article:

"The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Formula Brake USA, yesterday announced a voluntary recall on its Oro Disc Brakes. Roughly 5,700 of these brakes were sold. According to the CPSC, the brake’s hand lever can separate, resulting in a loss of braking. This can cause the rider to lose control of the bike, posing a risk of injury."

You can check out the full notice here.

Single Speed Throwdown Out East: I got this little tidbit in my inbox yesterday, so take it for what it's worth, but an announcement of an "Americas Single Speed Championships" to be held next year in September has been made. Part of a series in New Hampshire called the "Ultimate XC Challenge", the event is slated to kick off with a festival including an XC race that is part of the series out there. The Single Speed Championships will start out with a hill climb that will determine a male and female "red jersey" winner. Then there will be a loop course XC race to help determine an overall winner and an "Americas Single Speed Champion" in a male and female category.

Interestingly, there is a Single Speed World Championships going on out on "the other coast" too next year. Hmm............

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2008: There was some question as to which weekend next year that this event would be held on mainly due to the fact that on the sidebar of this very blog I have the date set in the middle of the week next year. (I'm like that! Sorry!) So, the actual dates are tentatively set for June 21st and 22nd. The longest days of the year sound like a good time to ride the biggest off road bicycle wheels, don't you think? Put it on your calendars and plan on joining us, won't you?

Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride: In a little over a week from now we are going to be setting off from Marengo, Iowa to ride about a 100- 110 miles of Iowa gravel, hills, and dirt. You can find the details and a link to a printable route map/directions here. We will be taking off at 6am in the morning and I expect us to arrive back at the square in Marengo about twelve hours later, maybe sooner or later, depending upon weather and other variables. The ride will have about an hour-hour and a half of darkness to start out with. Please bring a headlight and red tail light with you. Remember, this is a "tune up" for Trans Iowa so no support will be available. You are on your own. We will have one convenience store stop a bit less than halfway into this, so plan accordingly. The terrain ranges from extremely hilly, rolling hills, to dead flat on a combination of very little paved roads, gravel roads, and "B" level maintenance roads ranging from average condition to beyond primitive. If you plan on coming, just show up in Marengo at the East side of the downtown square at about 5:30 am to get saddled up and ready for the 6am take off. Looking forwards to this ride, it should be a hoot! Haloween costumes optional!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chris King News

News From Chris King: Many of you loyal blog readers will remember my mentioning that Chris King has a new "Mix and Match" headset program which I put to good use on my Pofahl Custom 29"er recently. Well now they have another new program that they have introduced called Wheels For Life in conjunction with mountain biking icon Hans Rey.

Basically, Hans is giving back by helping to provide bicycles to needy people in developing countries. Hans chose the colors based upon Chris King's ever popular "Dread Set" and because the colors are representative of Africa where Hans first realized the need for basic transportation for the people of that continent. Now Wheels For Life has spread out to include nations in Asia and South America, as well. Chris King states that Hans represents one of their longest running sponsorships and that supporting Wheels For Life was an easy decision based upon this history and this statement found on the Wheels For Life website:

"We keep our administrative costs and overhead as low as possible. 90 - 95% of the funds received are going towards buying bikes. Everybody in our charity works on a volunteer level for free. We only have to pay some minimal bookkeeping fees to our accountant. Hans Rey pays for all his charity related travel expenses out of his own pocket. We keep the costs down as much as we can, in order to buy more bikes."-Hans Rey

A portion of all profits from Wheels For Life products sold by Chris King goes to helping out this charity.

In other Chris King news, the problem with some 29"er frames not clearing Reba fork crowns, especially those equipped with Pop-Loc lock outs, has been addressed for those who use Chris King headsets. After seeing what folks were doing to modify base plates to help clear the fork/downtube interferance issues, Chris King has produced these steel base plates that add about 8mm to the crown of your fork to help get the fork crown knob controls to clear the down tube in the case of a crash.

You could also use one of these with a Chris King headset to slacken out your head angle a tad and use one of them fancy new longer offset forks out there now. Hmmm..........tuning options! Or, if you have monster, sausage-like digits, you could have yerself a fancy new stainless steel ring fer yer finger! Ha!

Me? I think I'll use this one to help a dusty ol' Reba I have in the Lab to clear the down tube of my '03 Campstove Green Karate Monkey, which is going to be revived as a single speed trail bike. Oh, yeah! That Wheels For Life headset will look good on that bike too, wouldn't it? Time to start saving my ducats!

Thanks to Chris DeStefano of Chris King for the info and the base plate! Chris and I have been missing meeting each other for about a year now, so it was finally good to have met him and to have gotten the personal run through on all of Chris King's new products at the Outdor Demo at Interbike. Thanks again, Chris!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Endurance Racing And The 29"er

This weekend marked the running of the 24Hrs of Moab and got me to thinking about endurance racing a bit again. My thoughts always run to what sort of bike to use for such stuff. I suppose that's only natural for endurance folks and bike geeks in particular. I'll tell you one thing, I can't imagine why you wouldn't do an endurance event on a 29"er unless you are really short in stature.

Just thinking about how 29"er wheels roll over stuff easier is a big plus. Coupled with it's momentum saving traits, one could learn to use those benefits to gain more comfort with less effort expended over a long ride. That's huge for endurance racers. The other traits of 29 inch wheels help here too. Better traction on climbs, better traction in corners, and best of all; stability on downhills and in slower handling. Things an endurance racer that is tired and worn out would appreciate.

Of course, it's not just about the wheel size. You've got to have a bike designed correctly for the wheels and for the job at hand. Today you can find a 29"er that will carve up switch backs with the best 26"ers. You can get a light weight rig, if that's your cup of tea. You can get a full suspension rig that is more than capable. You can get anything 29"er that a 26"er can have these days. So really, there isn't any equipment or handling negatives anymore with the 29"er wheel format.

Some folks still like to bring up the wheel acceleration issue. That's getting to be a pretty thin argument against 29"er wheels. As I've always stated, I'd rather use momentum to my advantage than have to rely on a quick accelerating wheel. In one case you can coast more, pedal less, in the other case it's the opposite. 29"ers also let you use more speed in corners due to the traction and stability benefits. All of this means I can be faster, safer, and less fatigued on a 29"er if I know how to use those benefits. Tight course? Probably a wash if you have to accellerate a 26 or a 29 inch wheel out of really tight corners. The difference is not much anymore in weight and gearing can accomodate. Momentum loss from a 26"er wheel compared to a 29"er? It's noticeable on every uphill and downhill. The difference isn't limited to tight courses there. Advantage 29"er wheels.

Endurance racing and 29"er wheels? I say they go together like white on rice. I can't see any reasons not to use 29"er wheels in an endurance race setting. Especially ultra long events, but certainly not limited to that. I predict that in a few years the 29"er will dominate the endurance scene.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished! Dirt ridden, fun had. I got the Pofahl out and muddied it up a bit at the Camp. Apparently the heavy rains earlier in the week had left some big mud holes here and there in the lower sections of the trail system. I didn't stick around long and left to seek out some higher ground.

Fortunately, the Camp has plenty of trails higher up that drain well. I beat a path over to the Pine Wood Section for some swoopy single track fun.

Yes, Iowa has some pine woods here and there. Usually laden with the needles for your trail surface. I've seen trails here in Iowa that are clear and free of underbrush, but this trail shares the needles with lots of native weedy vegetation.

It was overcast, cool, and there was no wind to speak of. Very quiet with the exception of the random gunfire in the distance. It is hunting season after all.

I had some trouble in spots finding the trail to follow due to the low traffic that the Camp gets and the newly fallen leaf cover. I was out right after four or five other fellows, but could only find slight evidence of their passing.

The trees don't seem to be co-operating with each other this year. Some of the maples are about done- leafs half gone already- while several other trees are still as green as they were in summertime. Color splashes here and there, but I've seen much better color displays in Iowa than this season has.

Two hours of dirt ridden, plus a sugary treat in the car equals perma-grin!

Had a great time, albeit a slow, steady one. Had to stop several times to decipher where to go. Also to take pictures and adjust a loose headset. It probably was a good thing I was by myself as I would have driven most people nuts, I think.

The Pofahl was great. I swapped out the 18 tooth Surly cog for a 21 tooth Surly cog before the ride. I think I found my off road gear for this bike. It turns out to be about 51 inches, give or take a few tenths! All that matters is that I can clean most of the climbs, although I have to stop to slow the "motor" down after a couple of the steeper/ longer climbs. The bike is fun to climb out of the saddle with, an important attribute for a single speed. The ride is smoother than I thought it would be, especially since the fork blades are much shorter than most 29"ers rigid forks. The Pofahl is not suspension corrected. It steers fast, almost too fast. I have to get some more saddle time before I can be totally comfortable with it. Industry Nine wheels are fantastic. I had forgotten how the highly tensioned spokes sounded when sticks hit them. PING! A very unique sound.

I was using a WTB Weir Wolf LT tire up front and a Nanoraptor out back. The muddy parts didn't agree with them, but the rest of the trail was perfect for them. Slightly tacky and covered with leaves and pine needles. No traction issues at all.

Overall, the Pofahl is just about dialed in. I think I'll be riding it at the Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride on the 27th. The 37 X 21 gear should get me by just fine, albeit not too fast! Looking forwards to meeting up with everyone that comes and having a good time. I just hope the weather holds out!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dirt Session Needed Please!


Time for a long, long ride on some dirt. It's been too long since the last time, and all of these pictures on the interweb of others riding dirt are making me get that itch that needs to be scratched.

So, it looks like tomorrow will be that day. Forget about the lawn, the flat car tire, or any other household chores, I'm going riding on some dirt. I need to clear my mind of some crap. My family will benefit. I won't be so grumpy, for one thing! Funny how you get grumpy if you don't get a real off road session in once in a while, isn't it? Besides, I'll be much more relaxed and in a better mood once the ride is over. Riding has that effect too. It's good to get out in the woods and get that buzz that only a ride can give you.

Yeah, tomorrow is the day and I can't wait. I'm going to bed early tonight, getting enough rest, and then hitting the trail early in the morning tomorrow. I'll check out my bike of choice tonight, get it ready. Lube the chain, pump up the tires, and give it the once over. I'll grab my hydration pack, stuff in whatever I think I'm going to need. Jacket, some things to eat, and fill the bladder with some good ol' H2O. Everything will be ready. Just grab it and go in the morning.

Then it's dirt. Riding on some great little ribbons of dirt.

Hope you have a great weekend and a great ride or two.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's In The Stable?

I sometimes get asked what I ride. So, I thought it might be fun to show off the current lot of rogue bicycles here at the Guitar Ted Labratories and tell you a bit about each one.

Of course, here we have the original 29"er here at the Lab, the Karate Monkey. It's been through a lot of versions, but all of them single speed. Currently it's in parts in the Lab awaiting it's transformation into a new version. Still single speed though!

I hate to say one of these bikes is a favorite, they all have great attributes for me. However; this would be one that I'd point to most often as my bike of choice for almost anything. The Dos Niner is a fantastic rig. I use it for a lot of testing of components for Twenty Nine Inches. Here it is on Franklin Mountain in El Paso, Texas.

Oh yeah! This bike is one of those that I can't bring myself to change or sell. (no matter how hard those guys from Twin Six try to convince me!) I can't say exactly what it is about this 18" On One Inbred, but it's got a certain feel I just get on with. To me it feels like the fastest bike I own. I have no idea if it is. Probably all in my head!

Here's a rig that also gets changed a lot, gets used as a test sled, and to be honest, I hated it off and on for months. I have it set up almost as it is here, but I have a different wheel set and a Salsa 17 degree bend flat bar with Team Ergon grips on it now.

You know something? I really like it now! I finally hit on the right combination of parts that has me sitting on this rig in a comfy yet powerful posistion. And the Willits WOW fork? Yeah, it's pretty dang sweet, that's what it is! Here's the Raleigh XXIX+G resting against the fence back in May.

The newest bike here, the custom Pofahl single speed drop bar rig. Yep! And it's a design idea of mine too. A pretty personal bike to me. I'm obviously going to be a bit biased about my opinion on this one. That said, I honestly love to ride it. It surprises with a rock solid lateral stiffness and steering precision second to none. I think I'll reserve any further comment for now other than to say it fits really well. It's what the Karate Monkey should be for me but can't quite do fit wise. And I've got room to tweak the set up, where the Monkey was at an extreme with the drop bar for set up. More on this bike later!

So, that's the current line up. I've got a Badger in the Lab that will eventually be added to this group, but there just isn't the funds now to finish that build. (I know! I know! Believe me, I've heard all the reasonings and solutions) It's just not going to happen now, and probably won't until next year. It's all good!

Hope you enjoyed the tour folks! Now, get out and ride yer own bikes!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wednesday News And Views

Lunch Anyone?: A couple days ago I posted about the new long travel/ big hit 29"er scene that is emerging. I mentioned that Lenz Lunchbox bike pictured on that post and said that it wasn't really available to the general public yet. Well, it turns out that is wrong, wrong, wrong! Actually, the story on that bike is that it is available as a regular model from Lenz now. The Lunchbox, named after a favorite set of trails called the "Lunch Loop", was put into production shortly before Interbike. The first small run was eagerly snatched up, but as they chip commercial says, "We can make more". So you really don't have to know anyone special, go underground, or use a secret handshake. Just contact Lenz Sport to order your very own long travel 29"er frame.

More Rumblings From The Coming Storm: As long as we're on the subject of long travel/ big hit 29"ers, I have heard more evidence of their impending arrival on a mountain near you. Seems that parts are being developed at an accelerated rate to make the genre' happen. Rims, tires, forks, and of course the frames to mount them to are now being tested. I can't say who, what, or where, but trust me: It's coming! This is interesting from the standpoint of what the "B" wheels were supposed to help "solve". Namely, the supposed problem of not being able to easily make a 29"er long travel bike work out. Well, from what I'm hearing, it can't be too much of a problem, or these companies wouldn't be hard at work trying to bring this stuff to market already. The proponents of the "B" wheels better hurry up and get some tires and rims done up double quick for AM/FR/DH or 29"ers will make that "B" size a moot point very shortly.

Shimano XT 29"er Wheels: Yep! If you missed that during Interbike coverage, Shimano is indeed going to bring a 29"er version of it's XT wheel set to market in '08. It's supposed to be a grown up version of it's 26"er wheels (scroll down for info at the link). If that is true then expect a lower spoke count, XC type rim with a center lock rotor attachment and tubeless compatibility. Stories on the prototype shown at Interbike indicated a late summer release, but my sources are saying no. Look for the XT 29"er wheels to be debuting at Sea Otter in April of '08 when Shimano has big release scheduled for new components.

.......And A Fork?: Shimano is also going to be introducing it's own carbon fiber rigid front forks for 26"ers and 29"ers under it's PRO brand component range in '08 as well. I took a close look at the currently Europe only 26"er "XC" model which bears a striking resemblance to the White Brothers/Fetish/Origin 8 forks, which we know are all the same manufacture. The fork crown in particular is a dead ringer for those 29"er forks mentioned. Hmm...........looks like that Asian manufacturer hit a home run with that catalog fork!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Why I Ride: Part II

Sometimes I think this whole internet thing is just goofy. Especially concerning the 29"er folks. Take for instance this post over at concerning Twenty Nine Inches recent face lift. Or take a look at this post which is getting goofier by the minute. It all points to a problem I've alluded to here before. This innerweb thingie is a big black hole that can suck you in hard.

I like to think of it like we did about televison back in the day. "The Idiot Box" we called it. It seems that the more information we have available to us, the more we get sucked into the hypnotic allure of staring at the monitor to find out more......and more........and more..... Like an addict, we lose sight of the "good" of the internet and how we are supposed to "enhance" our life experiences with it. Instead, it becomes our life, to some degree, and virtual reality takes over from what we used to go outside and experience for real.

Now it may seem mighty ironic to those of you who pay attention to what I do that I would be writing such stuff. I do benefit from the internet for sure, I won't hide that fact. However; it is a curse that has to be beaten back like a prowling beast, or it has the potential to take over my life too. I'm not immune. So I do something that I would prescribe to any of you. I ride whenever I can.

Just like yesterday. It was pouring rain. My wife asked if I needed the car to get to work. I chose the bike instead. Why? Not because I am trying to be a "super commuter", not because I'm a tough guy, and definitely not because I am trying to be "green", (although green is one of my favorite colors!) Nope! I needed to get out and actually ride a bike, instead of writing and reading about it. Even if it was in the pouring rain. And you know what?

It was good!

Monday, October 08, 2007

29"ers Going Big

At one time not too long ago it was unthinkable that a 29"er would be capable of anything beyond XC duty. The wheels were too weak and the tires too flimsy and narrow. There wasn't a proper fork and rims were trekking designs and didn't have the width needed for heavy hitting mountain duty.
Well, all that changes with this bike right here!
This is a bike that isn't in production, (well, if you knew the right people, you might get one.......maybe!) so it's not a rig you can run down to your LBS and order yet, but the point has been made. 29"ers can and do make awesome all mountain/ big hit bikes. Of course, a lot had to come together to make this happen. As I mentioned above, tires, rims, and forks all had to become available for the concept to work. Now that those pieces are coming, or currently available, it won't be long before bikes like this one will be available at your LBS, (that's local bike shop ya'all) and you too can bomb down steeps and crawl back out again, just like I did on the bike pictured here.
On the bike: It's a super rare rig. It belongs to Mike Curiak, the ultra endurance guy and organizer of some nutty off road challenges you may have heard of. He was kind enough to allow this flatlander to get a taste of what is coming down the pike. This frame is designed by Devin Lenz of Lenz Sport Performance Mountain Bicycles. It's got a super rare White Brothers long travel fork on it and Stan's Flow rims shod with a WTB proto type tire that was huge and grippy.
My very short ride was revealing. Long travel messes with your mind! I was thinking about attacking the terrain in a whole new way. Steeps and hills were somehow flatter. Ruts and small rocks were total non-issues that my ordinary 29"er would have had a tougher time with. I was even contemplating doing some things I never considered before, all because the bike could handle it. Almost scary, it was!
Of course, I was riding this bike on terrain that it was designed for. Out here in Iowa, this bike would be silly. There's only so many loading docks, ya know! However, out in the West or in the rooty, rocky East coast environs, this bike makes a whole lotta sense. The big wheels mated to big travel are a whole lotta smile inducing fun. It won't be long and you'll start to see this Lenz perhaps, or the upcoming Niner WFO 9 hitting the crazy terain in your neck of the woods, er......mountain, that is.
And you'll be getting a fork or two, and the wider, stronger rims are already coming, as are the tires. Hold on a bit longer and you'll see it. Big wheels, big travel.........on yer left!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Why I Ride

You know, sometimes I just have to check myself. I tend to see things under a microscope, what with the gigs I have going in the bicycle business and all. Looking at this issue and that new product, and every minute detail of a new bike. It takes away from the basic reasons I am involved in the bike business in the first place sometimes. It's like not being able to see the forest for the trees kind of thing.

The minutiae of daily looking at all of this stuff is not only distracting me from my true passion, but it's draining sometimes too. It sucks the life out of what really is important. Not just in terms of cycling either.

So what is it that I've lost focus on? What is it that I need to do to get back on track? I think I have a good answer, no.........make that answers to that question.

#1. Just ride a bike- any ol' bike!

This is probably the best cure for getting out of the geek mode I've been in for the last weeks. Just enjoying being out doors and pedaling some two wheeled contraption, not worrying about fork off set, suspension settings, or (GASP!) vertical compliance. Ha!

#2. Take my eyes off "cycling" for a bit, and put them on people.

Yep! Sometimes you get too focused. I think that it comes at the expense of some people that should get that attention. Family, friends, acquaintances, and just people that you meet that deserve being paid attention to. Time is too short to miss out on opportunities that might not repeat themselves in the future. It's nice if you can combine that with cycling or cycling related activities, but that's not always possible. Sometimes you just have to let go and spend some time away from the bike and all it's related stuff, ya know?

So this weekend I've got some good reasons to be away from cycling and I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I might even ride my bicycle, but not for cycling purposes. Nope, it'll be just for fun. For the joy of two wheels.

See ya down the trail!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Shameless Commercial Post

First Up, One For The Locals: In the tradition of Fall Friday night gravel grinders established by Mr.24 we have the "swan song" event. Since Jeff is vacating the area for Ft. Collins, CO soon, this may be your last chance to grind the lime with him. Digging the Godzilla theme here! Very cool!
Anyway, the pertinent info is embedded in the altered movie poster, as usual. Be there!
The Following Announcement Courtesy of Twin Six: It's time once again for the TWIN SIX SORT OF BI-ANNUAL FOUR DAY SALE. From Thursday 10/4 through Sunday 10/7 you can get all sorts of T6 goodness on the cheap. 2007 T6 men’s and women’s jerseys that are still in stock will be $45. Also, all of the 2007 T6 men’s and women’s t-shirts will be $15 (find them in the TRUNK section). In addition to what’s on sale, we just launched all of the 2008 T6 t-shirts, and a few of them are prototypes marked down to $12. The sale starts Thursday 10/4 and ends Sunday 10/7. Get while the gettin’s good.Ride with pride,TWIN SIX BTW: Shipping is free on orders over $100!
So there you have it! My commercial post! Stock up on T-6 goods and grind gravel with Mr. 24. What could be better? What else would you ever need? You'd be crazy not to do it.
Large Wheels Roaming The Earth: Word from up in Minnesota is that another 36"er roams the Earth. This would be Ben Witt's second Pofahl built design of his. Another Minneapolis builder has one as well that some of you may have seen/heard about at Chequamegon this year. Check out the two newest 36"ers here. (By the way, Ben built the wheels on that Minneapolis built rig) Fun stuff!
At least I posted some real bicycle stuff today! Ha ha! Now quit readin' and go ridin'!