Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Getaway

<===I got something to remind me of Sunday's fun for awhile.

Mrs. Guitar Ted was on call, but working at home, so she urged me to take the opportunity to go ride my bike. (Does she know me or what?!!)

I owe her big time!

The single track showed no effects from the rains of mid-week. The dirt was dry, fast, and hard. I took advantage and went a little faster than I should have into a corner with the results shown here. It's okay though. No bikes were harmed in the making of these marks on my body!

<===The Dos Niner with the Spinner 2Nine RLC fork.

My bikes of choice for the day reflected the work I needed to do for Twenty Nine Inches. I am testing out this Spinner 2Nine RLC fork for the site. So far, I'd say it's a decent fork, but it isn't broken in, and it is way too early to make a call yet. I think, based on the early indications I see, that it will fare well though. I mean, it's a budget priced fork, so I have to keep that in mind.

<===Spiders are still in business out at the Camp.

When I signed in at the North Unit, there was a massive horse show going on. As I signed in, I noticed that three folks didn't bother to sign out on Saturday. Not good! Gotta follow rules, since this is a privilege that can be taken away if folks start circumventing the rules. I realize it is a hassle to sign out if you ride on the south side, but if I can manage to do it, then I don't see any reason why everybody can't do it. Heck, you could always designate a "sign out person" to do the dirty deed. All right........nuff said!

Anyway, I got outta "Horse Town" and went over to the south side to ride. What a great day to be in the woods! Super quiet and I had the place all to myself.

<===Sometimes you just gotta stop and count your blessings!

Like I said, the single track was fast and dry. The recent trail work has yielded an excellent flow and raised the fun factor a ton over here. While it isn't as technically challenging as some stuff on the north side, it isn't easy either. Especially now with the better flow, you end up going for longer stretches which taxes your body more. And of course, there are little sections that keep you on your toes. Like the little rocky outcropping on top of a little hill out there. It's rough, has a distinct line through it, that if you miss will stop you dead in your tracks, or cause a pedal strike. Both happened to me today on two separate laps.

<=== Anybody out there know what this is? It was sooo red, it was scary!

I was in such a hurry to get out to The Camp today that I forgot my water bottles. I ended up stopping in Janesville on the way up at a convenience store to get a gallon of cold water. Since I had to stop after each of my laps back at the car, it worked out okay. I took my Blackbuck out on my third and final lap of the day to check out the next fork in my testing. I had a Reba mounted up front, but not just a Reba. A Reba with a Chris King "Plus Five" base plate. That little gem gives your frame enough clearance to clear the control knobs on a fork's crown in case of a crash. I didn't need it on there, but I wanted to see how that might reflect on handling, since it gave me an axle to crown measurement of close to 500mm.

<===The Blackbuck with the extra long Reba!

In case you were thinking that this would "ruin" this ride, think again. It was one of the best handling combinations I have run on the Blackbuck yet. What a fun way to end the day. I actually thought the Blackbuck was faster than my geared Dos Niner today, although to be honest, with the trail conditions as they were, anything would have felt pretty fast.

Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and this ride finally did. I got myself back home, cleaned up, and settled in to a big helping of spaghetti and meat balls served up by the best wife a guy could ask for. Thanks Honey!

I sure hope your weekend is going well too. One more day to enjoy this awesome end of summer weather we are having. Get out and get some!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday Night PostToasties!

<===Tubeless at the expense of corpulence.

Somewhere out there, (Boone area) they are riding their bicycles in circles..... Ahh me! How I wish I would have made that gig! Oh well, it wasn't to be. As a good friend of mine says, "Things happen for a reason.." How true.

Got some more rubber in and mounted. Hmmm......I seem to remember these XR's as being bigger than this. Yeah, these are 2.0's at best, maybe a 2.1 after they stretch a bit. Disappointed in that fact, but they are tubeless ready and they do roll pretty well. I heard that Bontrager is going to revamp the entire tire line for 29"ers to reflect the idiosyncrasies of the bigger diameter. Good on them! Let's hope that volume makes a big comeback in the future. Of course, it wasn't all that long ago that Bontrager tires were so voluminous that they wouldn't fit in the rear of Fisher 29"er frames. Perhaps what I have here is the solution to that problem. Hrrrumpf!

Hrrrumpf! 2.0: Due to scheduling at the hospital where Mrs Guitar Ted works, I now find out that I am "Stay at home Dad" for the day on Monday instead of "Ride my bike Guitar Ted". Rats! I had great hopes of going somewhere out of the locality, but now if I am lucky, it'll be the Scout Camp again. Things could be far, far worse.

I did a re-con of the Green Belt. Not good! They blasted through the flotsam and jetsam from the spring floods with a crude blow. The city, strapped for cash as they are, (although my rising property tax bill says otherwise), decided to go through the Green Belt with an end loader. of the big ones! Slash and burn like General Sherman, I tell ya. I don't even recognize some parts of the trail. Of course, the scouring of the bucket has obliterated whatever single track there was.

I suppose it was the most cost effective way to "get er duuun", but the trail is a complete disaster area and in some spots unrideable. After shock had turned to anger, I decided that if it is ever going to be anything to be worth riding again, it's going to take an effort from the locals to make it so. I don't know what that will look like, because honestly, there isn't much support for that area from cyclists, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see it get paved in the near future. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm sure it will. What a shame!

News Bulletin: Concrete and asphalt isn't the answer, people! I guess that's "Hrrrump 3.0"!

Anybody catch my famous Iowan reference in today's "post"? (That's another clue!)

Have a great weekend, ya'all!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Little Late.....

Hey everyone! I'm a little later than usual today due to a technical glitch here at Guitar ted Laboratories. Seems that the wireless router has a mind of its own lately. Anyway............

More Tire Goodness: I've gotten a set of Maxxis Ardents and a set of Bontrager XR Tubeless Ready tires within the last two days. So you know what that means! More riding, more testing, more writing. It's all good. Initial impressions are that neither tire is as big as advertised, ( an all too common thing) and the Bontragers being the worst of the offenders. We'll give them a day or two and see, but in no way do the Bontragers represent the girth of the original XR's that came out three years ago or so. I got the fast set up on the XR's: Two fronts, running them on the rear is a fast way to go, almost a race tire set up. With these new treads looking to be spot on two inchers, they might just be great racing tires after all.

Labor Day Weekend: Big end of summer bash for a lot of folks which includes racing for some. Sadly, I am not going to be one of the fortunate few. My wife has "on call" duty this weekend and the two kids need a parent at home while Mom is away. So, I will be going on an "Adventure" with the two little ones instead. It'll be a good time. Sunday may see me get out for a local ride, since Mrs. Guitar Ted can work from the house. Monday is wide open, so that's my target day. I hope everyone else gets their groove on riding a bike somewhere this weekend!

It Is A Busy Time: Lots of things are cranking up around here now. Appointments for Interbike, possibilities for test/review items for Twenty Nine Inches, trying to arrange some out of town riding/testing opportunities, and the regular things surrounding my everyday life. September lately seems to last about five minutes and the next thing I know, I'm wearing wool and watching the leaves blow around my local trails. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I have to hook up with d.p. and get Trans Iowa details sewn up before winter sets in. I vote for an extra month in between September and October. Any takers?

"Cagey McCagerson": This is a nic-name that has been given to a certain someone in the bike industry by a certain someone else I know. (Yes, now I'm the one being cagey!) It is sort of an unspoken code in the industry where everyone you meet has something they are busting at the seams to tell you about, (because they are dyed in the wool bike geeks) but can not due to marketing/company rules, or for maintaining relationships, so instead they give you this wink, a smile in an odd place, or maybe a highly veiled tidbit of info meant to lead you on towards the discovery of what they are so excited about. It can be really frustrating at times, on both ends of the equation. I only bring it up because I find it a fascinating part of how bicycle industry people relate to other bike geeks. Right now, just before the trade show season, this sort of micro-culture communication is at its highest form and use. Pretty strange stuff, and I admit, I am right there in the midst of some of it. So, stay tuned as a lot of this "caginess" gets diffused over the coming month. It'll be a good time!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This Is Gonna Be Huge!

With the "trade show season" upon us, there is always speculation that something really big is going to be shown that will blow us all away. You know, "The Next Big Thing". Who knows what that will be, or even if it will be.

Last year it was "urban bikes", this year it could be that again. Commuter/urban/fixie/utility rigs that people think are going to "save the planet". (Another misguided notion if there ever was one) Anyway, that doesn't really concern me. I'm not going to be focused on that part of what is being shown this year anyway.

While there really isn't any "big thing" in 29"ers coming for '09, there are lots of really great bikes that are coming. Some of them I already know about. I'm sure there are plenty more that I don't know about. Let's just say that I'm going to be very busy working for Twenty Nine Inches at Interbike. It may not be about covering "The Next Big Thing", but I know it is gonna be huge!

This is an Interbike that I predict will be the best show in terms of 29"ers since 2006. And you know what? I bet it is bigger for the 29"er crowd than that pivotal year was. That doesn't include Eurobike, which generally doesn't show that much 29"er product anyway, but I'm sure even there we will see some surprises.

Just wait, don't take my word for it. I'm betting you guys and gals out there will be blown away by a few of the new rigs. Just the few I already know about would be fodder for much press coverage and internet chatting. It is hard not to let on what I do know, because it is that exciting! Just know this: I would be seriously in debt if I bought every one of the new rigs that are coming out that I know I could use. Not just the ones I would want, these are bikes I could really use in the stable!

Oh yeah! It's going to be a good trade show season for 29"er freaks everywhere!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's All About Bikes, Ya'all!

<====Roadie versus......

Ya know, I ran into this again on the other day and every time I see this, it makes me wonder. "Why can't we all see, it's just about bikes?" How is it that we have to look down on "X" type of cyclist?

Really, I don't get it and I'm not buyin' into it.

<===.....Urban hipster versus.......

Ya know, it's two wheels, a crank set, a chain, and rear cog(s). Something to tie it all together and somewhere to sit, (or not, as the case may be)

Some folks draw the lines between those components in different ways, but really, they are still all just bicycles.

<===....Sixty-Niners versus.......

Even I have been accused of "the hatred" on occasion. Now while it is true some "claims" I take offense to, or disagree with from time to time, the end result of anything I have to say is that it is just a bike. Go ride it and be happy. It may not be my version of "what works", but I applaud anybody that chooses to ride two wheels. That works every time.

<===...versus Twenty-Niners. Whatever!

There are about as many ways to travel on two wheels by means of human power as there are humans. All of them are bicycles. Get over yourself. You are a bicyclist. Part of a big peloton of two wheeled freaks and fanatics. It's all good.

Whatever you may think of Trek and Lance Armstrong in particular, their latest propaganda is spot on when they say, "We believe in bikes."

Not just mountain bikes, road bikes, recumbent, 69ers, all mountain/freeride/down hill bikes, cross country bikes, BMX bikes, Wall Mart bikes, urban/fixie bikes, or what ever.

No, just, "We believe in bikes."


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trans This- Stage Race That

With the thoughts of Trans Iowa V5 running through my, ( and a lot of others) head lately, I have been perhaps a bit more attuned to what is going on elsewhere that is similar. I have always been a bit amazed at the interest in such events.

There is talk of several such events in places like North Carolina, Georgia, and even perhaps a route devised by Trans Iowa mastermind "J-kove" in Colorado. Multi-day, stage race type events are also being talked about in places like Colorado and California. There is a new stage race taking place in Mexico, and the list goes on.

Of course, big loops, grand time trial/tour events, and gravel road epics are still as popular as ever. (Within a certain niche group, that is) There just seems to be a bubbling up of interest for competitive/adventure/endurance type events all across the nation. I think that some of the things I have touched upon are part of this phenomenon. The desire to challenge oneself and compete against others, (not necessarily both at the same time) on a scale once thought unimaginable seems to be becoming a reality for more and more people. They are taking that desire and (at least thinking about) turning it into action in the form of events.

This is going to start to become evident in the equipment used to do these epic events. I know that some companies are going to bring bikes geared to this sort of stuff to market very soon. I suspect others will follow. Accessory makers and component makers will be, or already are taking notice. What might become of that is yet to be seen. I suspect a lot of product development will be driven with these sorts of events in mind, at the very least.

Whatever happens, it is fun to be a small, tiny part of it here with Trans Iowa. Of course, d.p. and I are doing this because we think it is fun. That others are going this route with events, or considering it just tells me that we aren't the only nutcases out there. I guess that is somewhat comforting! (Or maybe we should all be worried. Very worried!)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Singing In The Woods

<===Twas a bright, sunny day, and the Blackbuck was out of the house...

It was another ride at the Camp on Saturday morning, but this time it was a group effort. The call went out to meet up at 8pm at the kiosk on the North unit, (which is the main site of the Boy Scout Camp). We gathered there and found four of us ready to ride: Captain Bob, The Deerslayer, Casey, and myself. (We gotta get you a cool nic-name, Casey!)

Anyway, Casey had already warmed up on the North units trails and was saying how much work needed to be done there yet. Yep! And we should all pitch in, (If you are local) because these trails are well worth the efforts!

I was riding the Blackbuck with the Willits W.O.W fork on it. The colors almost made me feel "punk rockish" with that sickly green hue, black, and pink accents. Too cool! We decided to ride over to the South unit, about two and a half miles, I suppose, and so we got our groove on in the sunny but coolish weather.

<===An almost perfectly round spider web glistens in the sunlight. Natures cosmic ray deflector!

We got out there and took to the trails with a miss step through some nettles and other various itch weeds right off that bat. Well, now we have that out of the way at least........

It wasn't long before these local fast guys were working me hard. Of course, I did have the low gear of the bunch, and one of them had gears! Still, I gotta work on my climbing harder than they do because I'm such a tank. (A nice way of saying I'm fat. ha ha!) So it was that I often found myself bringing up the rear and that was okay. I got some time to look around and get some cool shots with the camera.

<===Captain Bob is shooting me shooting him. That's Casey in the middle and the Deerslayer on the left.

Captain Bob's "cuz", MTBidwell, was supposed to meet us out there, but he had run into trouble with his car and was going to be late. In the meantime, Casey had to depart for a company picnic, so we bid him adieu.

The three left of us went out on another loop. During that time, Captain's cell rang. It was MTBidwell saying that he had made it and was at the gate. We agreed to finish our loop and have him back track on it to meet up with us. When we did finally run across MTBidwell, he was bummed because his Blackberry jumped outta his shorts and landed somewhere on the trail.

We brainstormed an idea up. Captain Bob would continuously call MTBidwell's Blackberry and we would scatter up the trail that MTBidwell hd ridden listening for his ring tone, which was Radiohead's "Creep" So, we were running around doing this weird form of geo-cache' with our only clues coming from MTBidwell's directions. Finally, after about twenty minutes, the Deerslayer said, "I found it!"

<=== The Deerslayer belting out an a capella version of Creep in the woods.

It was one of those, "you had to be there" moments that was a gut busting good time. (Hopefully Captain Bob gets his bit of video up from this!) Anyway, MTBidwell was relieved and we all had a good laugh. Onward through the trails for some more fun!

We made a couple more trips, moved some offending blow downs, discussed some trail refinements, and had a great ride. These trails on the south side are so flowy, fast, rooty, rocky in spots, and generally super fun that I can't stop going here. It's a great single speed trail system too. Casey and the guys sawed up a few offending trees that had blown over and now you can really rip through here. It's much more challenging to the ol' motor now! Well, at least my motor!

If you ever are in the area, you should hit these trails up. They are well worth the trouble.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blog Tag

Blog tag............whatta-ya-gunna-do? Brendan from Siren Cycles tagged me, and I didn't even know it! (I suppose there ought to be some sort of notification of "tagging". Ha ha!) So for your enjoyment........

What was I doing ten years ago? 1998? Well, I was in my second full year of wrenching on cars, working 60 hours a week. I just met my beautiful wife, and life was looking much, much better than it had for several years.

What are five non-work things on my to-do list today?

#1: Ride my bike (Only partialy non-work related, in reality!)

#2: Go to the guitar shop to pick up some plectrums.

#3: Spend some time with my kids, Izabel and Jacob.

#4: Put some nine volt batteries in my stomp boxes.

#5: Play my guitar at church in the evening

Snacks I enjoy?

Hmm.........nachos, popcorn, and nuts.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire.

I would be very generous with my money. I would dabble in frame building and guitar making. I would take measures to help my family in the future.

Places I have lived:

All in Iowa: Charles City, Cedar Falls, Swisher, and Waterloo.

Jobs I have had:

Paperboy, dish washer, grocery clerk (6 years), jeweler (ten years), bike shop employee (nine years and counting), car mechanic (five and a half years), and professional writer (three years).

Okay, this is the part where you "tag" some others. Here goes! Blue, Captain Bob, Mtbidwell, and Carlos.

I wouldn't blame any of you for not playing along, but I figured I'd play nice at least once. Don't count on it again! I'm going back to my normal curmudgeonly ways in regards to blog tag after this!

Friday News And Views

<===Monster Cross/Adventure bike models will be coming your way soon!

A couple of days ago I mentioned the "Adventure Bike" concept. Here's some more proof that other folks are thinking along the same lines. Seems that VooDoo is playing with the idea and this "test mule" is based off of their 28"er Agwe model.

Look for more things to start popping up from other established cycling marks soon!

<===Another versatile, budget minded 29"er fork.

Last year, Twenty Nine Inches tested a RST M-29 fork. This year we have the opportunity to test a Spinner 2Nine Air RLC fork. This fork is another "under the radar" choice for budget minded 29"er riders. We'll be doing a full test on this fork on Twenty Nine Inches, but my initial impressions are that it is a pretty decent fork so far.

<====As far as mini-pumps go, this one is pretty impressive!

I also have the honor of testing out this little gem, the Lezyne Alloy Drive S. I have a bit of a write up on this at the site called The Bike Lab that I scribe for.

It's a well made, well designed pump that features that little hose which makes the pump a lot easier to use without bending or breaking a valve stem. I like that. It seems to push a pretty decent amount of air with each stroke too. I'll have some further updates coming at The Bike Lab.

<===The Blackbuck with another "shorty" fork on it.

I'm still testing forks on the Blackbuck. I have one more rigid fork to go before I move on to the suspended forks I have in mind. I don't mind saying that I've gotten pretty speedy and good at fork swapping this summer!

The other thing is, I've gotten a lot of ride time on the Blackbuck. What a great rig! I certainly do not regret getting this bike at all. Too bad it doesn't come in more sizes than this, because I think this bike would be a lot more popular than it is. I guess that isn't the point though. The frame is a nice blend of stiffness and steel ride quality. Just right for single speeding, I'd say. You can gear this bike up, but I just don't ever see myself doing that. I've got another bike for gears that could be a single speed in the El Mariachi, which I don't ever see making into a single speed. Funny how that works!

The week has been a kind of a hectic one. Change of schedules for everyone make things a bit stressful. Transitioning into fall is a bit tumultuous, it would seem. Hopefully things are smooth where you are. I hope to get a ride in Saturday morning at the Camp. I've got another fork on the Blackbuck and it is time to ride it!

Have a great weekend and ride your bike till yer stupid!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Seeing The Trail In A Different Way

Normally I take my Wednesdays and do work and test rides for Twenty Nine Inches these days. That didn't happen quite that way yesterday due to my cities wonky school scheduling. My children, ages seven and five, start school today. On a Thursday! That meant that our summer schedule of daycare ended last week and for three days now we've had alternative daycare, which included me yesterday.

I told my kids we were going on an "adventure". What I had in mind was to go back down to Hickory Hills and scout out the loop I ride down there while I walked the kids through the woods. I think both missions were a success, but I found out something that I didn't expect.

My mind sees everything from an "on the bike perspective" and that didn't work out well when on two feet. Especially when the little people I was with were working a lot harder than I was!

The loop we walked on doesn't seem very long on a bike. It is one of those trails you have to do two to three times to make it seem "worth it". Otherwise it is over before it starts and you seem like you just got going.

So it was as we were walking along that I found myself saying to my kids, "Aww, it'll be okay! The end is just right up here a little bit." Uh-huh................sure it is! What I found out was the trail is fairly long in reality, at least from a "feet on the ground" perspective! My children were, shall we say........less than pleased with my prognosis of finding our final destination. I think I was able to make it fun for them in the end, but lets just say that they were both pretty worked by the end of it all.

As for me, I saw the trail from a whole new perspective. Especially the down hill, where I was able to take the time to see lines that I wouldn't have time to consider flying by on a bike. I noticed the terrain off to either side, and was able to take in more of the natural beauty of the place at the slower pace I was going than I can while on a bike.

There were some disadvantages though. First being that you can not "sneak up" on wildlife while walking with two kids! Just a bit louder than a bicycle coming down the trail. Then there is time. Where I could do three loops of that trail, I could only do one. Of course, my kids weren't up for a round two anyway. They would have mutinied before going back out a second time!

In the end, we all learned some new things, enjoyed each others company, and had an "adventure". A good way to spend the last day of summer vacation, I think.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Dreamers Ideas To Make Mountain Bikes More Affordable

With the news that 2009 bicycle prices were going to be significantly higher, I was left wondering how much it might cost now for someone to get into mountain biking, and 29"ers in particular. Of course, it never has been really cheap. Mountain bikes, all terrain bikes, or what ever you want to call them, have always been a bit pricey. At least what I like to call "real mountain bikes".

And maybe that is the problem. Just what is a "real mountain bike" anyway? I mean, some folks are "mountain biking" on department store rigs, right? Well, for the sake of this discussion we will assume that the equipment must be serviceable, durable, and have a reasonable level of high performance off road. A bike that could be expected to give years of service with basic maintenance. The ability to fit at least two inch wide tires is also a prerequisite.

Okay, so what do you suppose a bike like that costs? $400.00? $500.00? Somewhere around there? I'm going to say that with today's future pricing in mind, you are looking at $500.00 and up.

That's a lot of cabbage.

Especially for those that these bikes are aimed at: the first time buyer/novice cyclist. Don't bother talking accessories. That will make the price even higher. Before I go on, I get that mountain biking is an equipment intensive sport. However; if we want to continue to grow the sport, (and I think that by all of the trail advocacy efforts I see, it is fair to assume that we do), we need to re-examine pricing and just what an "entry level" mountain bike should/could be. Here are a few suggestions and ideas to that end.

Make It Basic: First time riders are not "tech intensive" for the most part. Usually you are talking about someone that is concerned about durability, price, and having fun. A decent frame, a drive train that lasts and doesn't need to be fiddled with, and tough wheels. What would be so wrong with this: Develop an all aluminum seven speed drive train. Make it like the old STX RC stuff maybe, (although that had a bit of steel in it here and there), and get rid of the front suspension. Give it linear pull brakes. Give it a decent, tough frame. These days it seems aluminum wears well, but for this project, I would like to see a steel frame and fork. Give the customer a single speed option.

I know some companies are doing this already. It just needs to be given a wider audience.

Make It Versatile: Make the bike not just an all terrain bike. Make it a commuter ready bike. Sell it with skinny tires on it right off the floor. Rack mounts, fender mounts, a place for a kickstand. Again, I know versions of this have been and are out there, but the drive train usually isn't up to snuff, well.........because what I am talking about doesn't exist! Not from Shimano or SRAM. That said, I know Marin did the Hamilton single speed in this vein and by all accounts I've heard, they sold well. (They also had a geared version, as well.)

Make It Upgradeable: Sell this "basic all terrain" bike, but give the customer an "upgrade" option. Sort of a "good, better, best" set of packages that could be bolted on at purchase by the bike shop. Or at least a model that could be upgraded into a full on mountain bike hard tail at some point. Include disc brake tabs, suspension corrected geometry, decent handling traits. If it is the single speed bike, give it a derailleur hangar too.

Those are my thoughts. Would it be enough to get the price down? Would any company be willing to manufacture this "generic bike"? Could we ever hope to get a really nice seven speed drive train from Shimano or SRAM? That is a tall order and those are questions I don't have answers for. My guess is that you would say I am a dreamer and there is no way this would work.

Who knows. I can dream at least!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Spirit Of Adventure And Big Wheels

<=== The Call of the Road Less Traveled....
I have a belief that there is a growing interest in something I am calling "Adventuring" in regards to cycling. Actually, when you think about it, elements of Adventuring have been with us for quite awhile now. I just think that these elements are being drawn out and that the focus on a certain category of bikes is going to make it a full fledged "trend", if you will. Let me explain......
There was a big move away from XC mountain bike racing back in the 90's and it could be argued that it is still happening today. The experience was too short, the costs too high, and the attitude that pervaded the scene was, well.......less than fun in many cases.
Then the long distance, 24 hour type stuff came about which for a lot of folks put "Fun" back into mountain biking in a big way. Maybe too much fun, maybe too high an entry fee, maybe too many people. The reasons vary, but there was something missing, even though this was a step in the right direction, and for a lot of us, still a good thing. However; there are a few of us that wanted more. A lot more.
This is where things like the Great Divide Race captured peoples imaginations. Some of us got to "thinkering" about how we could experience something like that, and lots of events and rides have been spawned off of that. Now it seems that even the competitive part of riding is being left by the wayside for more of the "adventure" side. The part that seems to have a grip and call on a lot of our hearts and souls.
I know this may be a bit simplistic, so please bear with me. This is a blog for crying out loud, not a novel! That said, I believe that throughout this progression there has been an effort made to distill the bicycle into a tool more effective for "adventuring" than the common XC inspired hard tail. In many ways, it has come full circle.
Just think back to the early 80's. Mountain biking was populated by lots of folks that were "adventuring" on two wheels. Call it off road touring, klunking, plunking, or whatever, it seems that we are coming back to a sensibility, (at least in many areas) that is leading us back to using bikes designed for such purposes. Bikes that in many ways have their roots in mountain bike designs of the early 80's mixed with modern updates.
My belief is that the monstercross/adventure/touring/29"er elements are all coming together in certain designs that are about to be unleashed on the market soon. The bikes that will ignite ideas in many of us, inspire many of us, and start a new "trend".
A trend that has been going on quietly all along, really. I'm excited to be a small part of it.
Lets ride!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Few Observations From The Weekend

With the Trek Show behind me now I have a few observations to make concerning the aftermath and reactions I have seen so far. In no particular order, here they are......

A Bike Ride Sooths All Ills: Some of you industry types will relate to this. There is a lot of fun to be had looking at bikes, talking about bikes, and having bikes as part of your daily job, but riding a bike........ Ahhh! That's where it's at! I got out on the KMFDM (Karate Monkey Fixie Death Machine) yesterday and had a good one. What a relief from all that walking around Monona center and the windshield time to and fro. Whew!

Fisher Road Bikes: I suppose this will be the biggest story out of the Trek World show. I thought it was an odd thing for Trek to do, but after thinking about what some of the Trek and Fisher guys had to say about it, it makes sense. It makes sense in a sort of twisted, non-roadie way. I can totally get into it, if they pull off what they intend to do for 2010, when I hear the real deal will hit the show room floor. It should be a wild ride. As for the line up for '09? Uhh........yeah, the lack of time to get this done shows. I would say, "Don't pass judgement based upon 2009 stuff. Wait till 2010 product rolls out. Then we'll see what cards they are holding.

That said, the '09 stuff is solid, work horse road bike material. It looks flashy, like a Fisher should, I suppose. The highlight for me? The Presidio cyclo-crosser. True Temper steel and cantilever braked goodness. A real cyclo-crosser. Hopefully they can get it out before September is over!

No Carbon Fiber Single Speeder Fo You!!: The employees of Trek and Fisher dealers were offered a special price to get a limited edition Superfly single speed frame, Fox fork, headset, stem, and seat collar. I mean it was a smokin' good deal. One time only, and would not be sold to the public. Exclusive, cheap, carbon fiber........mmmmm! Yeah, well...........I passed it up! Yep! I showed restraint. You can call me nuts if you want to, (and you would if you knew the price), but I have my reasons for letting that one go. And no..............I ain't sharing all of them! I'm just going to say that I am holding out for something spicy that I hope is coming down the pike soon. That's all I'm gonna say!

Bontrager Shoes and Clothing?: In another stunner, Bontrager is now a shoe and clothing company. Sounds goofy? Well, I can't argue that, but the stuff is the real deal folks. I tried on the shoes and they are top notch. They even fit my skinny lil ol tootsies, which in itself is a marvel. Bontrager claims that their research led them to this foot bed/insole concept that they believe will fit the vast majority of riders out there. I say, if they can fit me, and some of the more normal footed brethren out there, mission accomplished! I was impressed.

The clothing was well thought out, but more importantly, it looked like stuff you would want to wear. Nothing goofy, no weird colors, no crazy logo emblazoned jerseys. Just sensible looking stuff. The shorts benefited from the Inform saddle project and their chamois showed it. It doesn't look anything like what I've seen before and features some high tech procedures. It will be interesting to see what riders think of them.

Commuter Me This Riddle, Batman: Commuter bikes are the rage all over and Trek/Fisher are all over this segment. Some bling-a-riffic fluff, (District) and some serious, (Allant) was shown. What wasn't widely known was that Fisher showed a select few dealers a long bike concept called a El Ranchero. Okay, long bike cool, ,,,,,name? Umm, did these guys steal the idea file from Salsa? That name isn't a Fisher kinda name. In fact, it makes m hungry for eggs with green sauce for some reason. is a cool concept and with the right mods, I like the bike. It needs a bit of tweaking though, before it is ready for prime time. You can check out some shots of this rig here. Why doesn't Fisher, or Trek for that matter just do a straight up version of this and get it out there? I don't know, but now is the time, and this is the place.

What's Up With That 29"er Line?: Well, not much news there. The Mamba is a new sub-grand 29"er and it looks pretty hot. The rest of the line gets dressed up in new graphics and colors with a few components custom colored to match. Nice.........but just that. I look for 2010 to be a pivotal year in the Fisher 29"er line. Other 29"er news came out of the Bontrager camp where I found out that a 29"er G2 version of the Switchblade carbon fork is in development and will be for sale by next summer. It's going to be an all new design too. The word is that the the old offset will still be supported too. Also, there was a new, all out, no holds barred racing tire shown called the XR 1. It will be a 1.90 wide tire with an Expert or Dual compound Team version available. Don't expect durability to be it's forte' as I heard that the race team said, "We don't care if it wears out in one race." You can check out my full report on this with pics here.

Okay, that's my take for this morning. First show of the Fall season done. Next up: Eurobike. No, I am not going. I'll just have to watch it all unfold over here like the rest of ya'all!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trek Show: The Social Report

Note: No pics in order to help keep the innocent bystanders protected!

Well, I'm back......most of me anyway! I left a few brain cells at the doorstep of the Monona Center, I'm sure. Anyway, here is a brief rundown of events that took place over just a 24 hour period.

Friday afternoon: We get out of work a little later than planned. Finally running out of W'loo by about 2:30pm for Mad-town and the Trek World dealer show. The drive was uneventful, but not horrid either. Nice conversation with Leans on Wood on the way. We get into Mad-town and then it happens.....

The Rush Hour: First off, why do they call it "Rush Hour" when typically you are crawling about as fast as a two month old baby down a steaming ribbon of concrete. Hmm...........anyway! We quickly realize that we are not going to make our 5pm dealer check in cut off. This is bad if we run into any rules nazis because you need to check in to get your dealer tag, which in turn gets you into all the places non-Trekkies are not supposed to be. We decide to park the car, forget about the hotel check-in, and assess the situation on the ground at the Monona Center.

The Theatre of Pain: We get parked, sling on our messenger bags/back packs, and trudge off to the Monona Center to see what is up. Well, we find out that we are not the only peeps in late-late land. Someone from Trek shows up and say to just head on over. A bus would take us to the theatre and we would probably just barely make it in time for Head Honch John's big speech. We get on a bus that went around a convoluted, tight route blocks! Ya think Trek coulda hired some pedi-cabs for this, but nooooo! Let's burn up some diesel and talk about decreasing our carbon foot print! Had I known, I would have forced a walk, and we still would have beaten the bus too! Anyway, the theatre was an old one made back when people didn't have Wheaties to eat, so the seats were a bit, shall we say, cramped? Tight? Sardine like? Yeah, well, Head Honch John and a few of his cronies rambled on for well over an hour, which was just enough time to make my blood coagulate and my muscles start to atrophy into uselessness.

The Big Shew! So, after the pomp and circumcision is over, we march over to the hotel, which is conveniently on the way back to the Monona center. Curiously, nearly everyone walks while the buses sit grumbling and waiting for anyone to board. We get our room keys from a pleasant, if not somewhat nonchalant desk girl, and head on over to the show. Leans on Wood finds another crusty former racer friend in the crowd and starts to regale him with tales of legendary insignificance. Finally, we arrive and go back to see if the dealer check in is back up and running. It is. We get into the hall and immediately grab a "Big Guy" brew. (Did I mention anything about eating yet? No?) Anyway, we get into the show and I start working it. I got my camera. I am clicking them off. I grab another brew and keep on working my way over to the Fisher booth.

Mr. Fisher, I presume?: I get over to check out the Fisher road bikes (which are looking good, but aren't anything technically stunning yet. See 2010) and I run into Gary Fisher himself. We had a nice little chat about the road offerings. I continued on my merry way. (Did I mention anything about eating yet? No?) I have a Spotted Cow beer. Hmm......nice! I continue to flash pics and talk to Bontrager and Fisher folks. Good stuff. Read about it here.

Just Chillin' Ya'all!: I see Brandon and Jerry from Milltown Cycles are up. I stop and talk to them a bit. They are cookin' up a plan to see if they can bribe the hired hands at the bar to give them an entire bottle of wine for ten bucks. You know, just for the sport of it! They were still scheming as I left them with another Spotted Cow in hand. I stop by to check on Leans and I find him regaling a couple guys with tales of enormous mediocrity. I hand him a Miller Lite and go about my bidness... I ended up yakking with Natacsha of Bontrager about shoes and saddles and what not that Bontrager is into now. I decide I'd better go back and check on the marathon tale-teller and his audience. Still there. Hmm..........I go and get another Spotted Cow. (Have I mentioned anything about eating yet? No?)

This Place Closes In Five Minutes!: After standing aloof for a bit, listening in on Tom's story about his "John Deere bike", (which is rather funny, by the way), I decide that my glass has developed a hole in the top and all the Spotted Cow has spilled out. I go over to the bar and see Gary again. He asks if I'm having a great summer. We chat for a second or two. He's really a great guy, down to earth. I appreciate his attention and grab my Spotted Cow. I see Brandon and Jerry. They modified their plan of attack. They decided to ask the hired hands if they would stuff as much beer as they could in Brandon's back pack for ten bucks. They got the job done and were heading out. You know, it was just a sporting proposition. That's all. Well, Leans on Wood wants a mixed drink and offers to take me out to a nearby piano bar. I have to slam my Cow and run. (Have I.......oh, never mind!) Two Guinness's later and I'm meandering to the bed at the Best Western with my name on it. I set my alarm for 6:30am and crash like a sacked quarterback on the frozen tundra of Green Bay.

A New Day, A New Meal! I decide that eating solid food might be a bit high on my agenda this fine Sunday morning. What I didn't know was that the Monona Center had croissants and rolls for our breakfast. Croissants........yeah. I was thinking eggs, hash browns, coffee, well, I did get the coffee at least! Leans on Wood and I listen to a guy stretch 15 minutes of good information into a two hour seminar. man! I missed my calling. I could B.S. people for an hour and forty five minutes easily and intersperse that with some solid info. And they paid this guy handsomely, I'm sure. Wow! Talk about getting ripped off. Anyway, I get to yakking with the Bontrager folks about wheels and tires and next thing I know, I missed the bus ride to the bike demo. Ahh.......crap! Demo Ken probably hates me now. (Sorry dude! I think I fried some "responsibility cells" the night before!) Anyway, I putz around and see ShockStar and his mate Zach from Decorah Bikes up wandering about. Seems that they slammed some urban up in Mad-town the night before. Smarter than I was! I wander up and eat lunch. Ahh! Satisfying, yet still healthy food. Nice. I am pounding the water and the results are good. I am not hurting too bad. In fact, I feel pretty good.

Get back, Get Back To Where You Once Belonged! So, we split about 1:45 and I got home right at five. Started working the photos and downloading. Lots of info. Lots of fun. Met some good folks and made new friends too. 24 hours.....amazing!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Trek To The Trek Show

Today I'm heading out to Madison, Wisconsin for the annual dealer show. I'll be checking out all the news and rumors to be had up there. Here is a smattering of what I'll be poking my nose around for:

-Pictures of '09 product. Mostly 29"ers, but anything else that is interesting too.

-Rhythm rim strips. Like when? Or will they ever come out?

-Bontrager Inform women's saddles. Again, when?

-Tires. Anything new for 29"ers?

-Fisher road bikes. I thought it was Klein......but what about......uhhh.....Huh?

-Superfly single speed employee purchase!

Other things will pop up, I'm sure. Anyway, that's what I'm up to this weekend. Checking out bikes, bike stuff, and bike people. I should be back with a report later Sunday.

In Other News: If you work in the bicycle industry, and are a cyclo-cross freak, there is a sweet deal on a wheel set that was just announced today. Dura Ace wheels, with Hutchinson tubeless ready tires, and a 105 12-27 cassette. The big deal here is that the Hutch tires are tubeless ready, (just use Fast Air sealant to use tubeless) and the Dura Ace wheels are tubeless compatible. So, a complete wheel set, ready to rage cross. The report I read says that crossers are running sub-30 psi in these with better lap times, better traction, and no pinch flats. Doesn't surprise me. Tubeless ready tires also will not roll off the rims and can be safely ridden to the pits if flatted.

I'm not a cyclo-cross guy, but this sounds like a sweet deal.

Ponca 155 Saturday: If it hadn't been for the Trek Show this weekend, this is where I would have been going. The Ponca 155 is sort of like the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational in that you ride with a group on scenic gravel for an insanely long distance. This year they are thinking of riding back from Ponca the next day to Lincoln where the start is! Amazing. I can't wait to hear about this!

Camp Ingawanis Trails Update: The guys did some clearing out of dead falls and some trail cutting the other evening there and they are declaring the South Unit finished and ready for riding. Supposedly Captain Bob's Berm Trail is more easily accessed as well. If you are a local, please don't forget to check in at the kiosk located at the headquarters on the North side. Just take the service road straight in and go about three blocks distance and it'll be on your left. Cost is $4;00 for a day pass or you can opt for membership in the Auxiliary for a bit more moolah. Just one more note: There is an archery competition going on in the North Unit this weekend, so those trails are closed to mountain biking for the weekend.

Summer is waning quickly and Fall is on its way. Get out and ride yer bicycles folks!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Mystery Of Captain Bob's Berm Solved!

<===The bright patch of sunshine gave this spider's position away before I had its web plastered on my face!

The Wednesday ride at the Camp, (now becoming a regular thing), went very well this week. I was able to get in a good test session and the trails were primo. Dry and fast. The bonus was that with so many outings there under my belt, I was able to piece together the "Mystery of Captain Bob's Berm". Ahh.....a good day indeed!

<=== A close up of the nasty blighter!

So I went and did a "regular loop" around the South side. This is the lap I took Mike Curiak around on Friday, as it's the loop I know best. Unfortunately, I knew there was much more trail there, but I didn't want to be fudging around trying to find my way while I had a guest. So today was the day to find out just what was going on out there. After my first lap was nearing completion, I saw a clue up near the Cope center. A glimmer of trail just off to my right not 15 yards away. I crossed the under brush here and set forth on my mission. It wasn't long before I found the berm and knew that I was on the right track.

<=== The Blackbuck with the Origin 8 "short" carbon fork on. No.....I haven't cut the steer tube yet! This will end up on a different bike soon.

I followed the trail until it dumped me out onto some double track. I marked the entrance here so I wouldn't forget where it came out. Then I cruised to the right and found another trail leading in to the right. I followed this and confirmed my intuitions. It was Captain Bob's berm Trail all right! I continued on back to the marked spot I came out of before. This time I went left and it wasn't long before I found my "known" lap route. I followed this for a bit to see how I had been missing the turn into Captain Bob's Berm trail.

<==== Snappy Cap camouflage! I do my best to blend in.

When I saw the marked entrance, I figured it out. I hadn't seen it before because it is sort of camouflaged by weeds. If you are not looking right at the entrance when you go by, you'll miss it. The next left was the one I always took, which leads you out and around the berm trail.

So, the mystery is a mystery no more. The berm trail is an inner loop to the outer loop and can only be accessed by the entrance and exit on the double track in the middle of everything. That's why it gets so confusing to new comers out there. You can easily get lost in going around in circles before you find the way out. But not me! Not anymore. I got it up here! (Pointing to my head)

<=== My neighbors are into "bikes" too!

Yep! I can't get lost anymore, which in a way is sort of sad. Finding your way around a new trail system is fun. It's like playing "explorer" when you were a kid. Yeah, maybe you get lost and frustrated from time to time, but there is a certain spirit of adventure going in. Now I do have the satisfaction of solving the "mystery" of the trails out there, but I also lost something in the process.

Oh well, I guess I will still have fun out there as the trails are a blast to ride. Now it is time to tackle getting over those huge logs out there. That should be a challenge. Also, they are adding a bit here and there to the south unit, so I will still have a few explorations to accomplish. I can't wait until my next ride out there!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

You know, our memories are kind of a short term thing these days. no wonder too, what with all of the crapola that gets shoved into our faces on a daily basis. In the realm of staying on track here, I won't get into a rant on that today! I just mention it in regards to the brief history of the modern 29"er.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself and remember that really, we've got it made. I think back to 2003 when I got the Karate Monkey. You could count the tire choices on one hand that I could get for it. There were two suspension forks. Two! Neither one of them would even be considered a choice in 2008.

So I come around finally to the point here of today's post. That being the oft heard comments back a few years ago whenever someone would bring up the idea of a long travel, full suspension 29"er. "No way, you will never see it. It doesn't make sense with big wheels. They are too flexy, there isn't a fork, there are no tires, the chain stays would be miles long. It is a ridiculous notion. Go back to your single speed wagon wheeler and be happy!"

Yeah, well it is happening right now and it is going to work. Five inch travel 29"ers have actually already been pounding trails for awhile now. More five inch travel stuff is on the way. This fall we'll see some six inchers hit the scene. It seems incredible, but these bikes will actually be very good at what they are intended for. Every bit as good as a 26"er could be. There will be a new, as yet unseen fork, new rims, tires, and everything will be top notch. Freeride, All Mountain, whatever you want to call it, you'll be able to choose the big wheels now and have a blast on them.

And to think they said it couldn't be done!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Trans Iowa V5: Some Notes

Well, as those who watch for such things already know, T.I.V5 was announced recently. I made some notes on the site, but here are a few things in addition to that for those who care.

First off, you probably noticed that we are going for a May date. The date was chosen for one reason only, to accommodate me! Yep! That's right. You see, I have been having to go to Sea Otter for the last two years, (I know, it just sucks, doesn't it? ha ha!) and Sea Otter had promised at on point to move its date to May. Then they changed their minds and went back to April with no signs that they are going to change that date in the future.

Well, I can tell you that doing Sea Otter and T.I. the weekend after really drains you! No........really! So I opted for a week between the two events. Benefit to you, the T.I. event participant? A fresher, less ornery Guitar Ted. There are those that will say it will be good from a weather standpoint, but don't you go believing that! Remember, it is just the first weekend in May, it still could be brutal. It could quite as easily be great, but the weather is usually still in a volatile pattern at that time of year.

The next thing you noticed is probably the location change. We have felt all along that Trans Iowa should be about showing folks that Iowa is something more than "flat", corn fields, and pigs. There is a lot more to Iowa than that. We have endeavored to move the event around since last year when d.p, and I started talking about doing T.I.V4, so this move to Williamsburg fits in with our plans and our philosophy.

That said, we hadn't planned on moving out of our Decorah base just yet. I'm not going to go into the "why now" of the move out from Decorah. That story is known to a few, they are free to tell the tale if they want to, and I'm moving on from there. That part of T.I. is history.

The registration set up will be the same as last time. We are going to let the vets in first, then any newcomers will be allowed to register. You may have noticed that the event field limit has been reduced to 75. I did that because even though we have sought to allow as many as would want to register, (T.I.V3) and maintain a waiting list, (T.I.V4), it still seems that only about 55-65 guys and gals are really interested in actually showing up. So, I figure that is what we should shoot for, with a bit of headroom. There will be a waiting list maintained this time again.

This means that we will only possibly have 75 cue sheet sets to print up, and probably less by the time we actually pull the trigger on printing. Less waste, less money spent, less work for d.p. and I. Sounds like a plan to me!

The course is 80% set in stone and about 80% checked out already. We are not waiting this year since last time we got frozen out until about a month before the event, which sucked. We are trying to research the course in terms of possible high water problems as well. Hopefully we can pull this off without re-routes or the epic wading adventures, ala T.I.V3.

It is looking like we will have three check points this time. The big reason for this is that Check Point #1 will be only about 45-50 miles into the event. (We have our reasons for this, muwah ha ha ha!)

So, there you have all the latest. This all will go up on the Trans Iowa site once it gets converted over to Version 5 status. Stay tuned for further updates over the next few months.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Musings On The Fork Swapping Experiment

<=== 430mm axle to crown on your suspension corrected frame? Sure! Why not?

Last year I had my eyes opened. Not that I was running around bumping into things, mind you, I was just caught up in a "box", if you will, in terms of my thinking on fork geometry.

The bike was Mike Curiak's Lenz Lunchbox, which is a 5 X 5 travel 29"er with geometry so slack it would make you fall asleep reading the chart on it. Well, it is a good thing I didn't read the chart on it!

Mike sent me out on the bike at the Outdoor Demo at Interbike and I had a hoot on it. Let me just say this, it steered and handled just fine. All that with a trail figure well over 100. (Most rigs I like are in the 70's in this regard)

So, that got me to thinking over the winter, (Yes.....I had a long time to think about that) that it might be fun to see what would happen if you tried to put other forks on bikes that weren't meant to be paired up and see what would happen. Then I got ahold of a Blackbuck that came with an optional 440mm axle to crown fork with 51mm offset. That isn't a big deal until you know that the Blackbuck is a suspension corrected frame. Now we're talkin'!

I already had some forks sitting around, or available to use that had vastly different geometries. The fork test was underway! Now I have just two more rigid forks to go and then it is on to three suspension forks with really different geometries.

So far it has been a lot of fun. I will say that it doesn't really help my views to keep doing this, as I am finding out I was more wrong than right about several things regarding fork geometries. Namely that you could 'ruin" a bike with the wrong fork. It isn't that way at all. More of a different flavor, and maybe one or two I don't particularly care for, but certainly not unrideable. In fact, I can see having a few different forks around to "tune" your ride according to the course at hand or the type of event you might be doing.

That is where I am at right now. I am having fun, riding more, and learning a whole bunch. That makes it all worthwhile right there to me. I sure hope other folks get something out of it too.

Special Mention: Congratulations to my ol' buddy "J-kove" on his big ride at pb-ville over the weekend. ("J-kove",'s what they call him now.) Also, congrats to all five Bike Tech-ers that made the trek out and dominated the mountain. Way to go guys and gals!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Conversation With A Visitor

<=== A Visitor From Out Of State

On Friday I had the distinct pleasure of riding with one of the endurance world's legends on one of our humble little single track loops here in little ol' Iowa. It was a very much appreciated visit and I am humbled that he wanted to stop by on his travels back to Colorado.

During our brief ride, we had a bit of conversation that I think some of you out there might find somewhat interesting. It started out something like this.

MC: "I think I read something recently that indicated to me that you might be thinking about Trans Iowa......what is it now? Four?

Me: "Five."

MC: "Five? Is it five already?

Me: "We already announced it yesterday."

MC: "Well, I guess I'm off the back then!"

Friday, August 08, 2008

2009 Bike Models: Hold On To Your Wallets!

<=== 2009 Raleigh Mojave 29"er. Expect big price increases across the board on 2009 bicycles.
I've been perusing some companies 2009 product and I won't lie to you, my eyes are having a hard time believing what they are seeing. Especially when I start looking at MSRP's. (That's "manufacturers suggested retail price" for all you acronym challenged folk out there)
I have been hearing about this coming for months now, but just like anything else in life, you just don't seem to really grasp something until it hits you. Man! Are the 2009 prices going to hit us, or what?
Here's an example of what I mean: In 2008 you could buy a sub 1000 dollar 29"er easily. Diamondback, Marin, and a couple others had some decent rigs coming in at $650.00- $850.00 that were pretty much Shimano Deore level rigs with a dart fork and Avid mechanical brakes. Decent stuff. Okay, now take basically the same rig for 2009 and it barely stays under a 1000 bucks! That's right folks, you are going to be spending about 150 dollars more for essentially the same bike as this year. (At that price level. The percentages have even greater effects when starting out at higher retail prices!)
Last year I saw a couple of single speed offerings that were really nicely spec'ed for somewhere between $1200-$1500. I thought it was insane for a 29"er single speed, but you know, there are folks out there that will plunk down the cash for that. Well, I just recently saw the specs on a 2009 model that resembles the stuff I saw in '08 and it had a MSRP of 2 grand! For a single speed 29"er? Yeah..............crazy!
Some of the early 2009 models are already out and I know that those companies are taking a beating amongst the cycling public for "gouging the consumers", but wait until the wraps get pulled off of everyone elses '09 products. Then we'll see the reality. Every bike companies prices are going to jump up a significant amount.
And you know what is funny about all of that? I work at a shop that has '09 bikes in some models already, and they are selling as fast as we can build them! So, while folks will complain, and loudly at that, they will most likely still be buying bicycles. At least if what I am seeing is any indication.
I guess I shouldn't worry about it. But these new prices have my eyes popping outta my head. I suppose I could start buying cheaper beer.......................
Nah! That ain't gonna happen!
Have a great weekend and ride, ride, ride! (Go Leadville Racers!)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

North Side Camp Ride: Spanked By Nature!

<=== A bit of traversing across a steep hill.

After some questions were answered by the members of the Ingawanis Mountain Bike Auxiliary, (Yes folks...IMBA. Just like the big guys!) I found out that I could ride the Camp's North unit. What they didn't tell me was that I was about to get slapped in the face by Nature. Literally!

And that's not all either.................

<=== Salsa socks were "peppered" with green!

The Camp's north unit has been out of commission since, well........last year! The spring we had brought record flooding, so no trail work had been done. By the time that cleared up, it was Boy Scout Jamboree, so nothing could be done then. I figure that I might just be the first guy to put a wheel to the trails out there all year so far.

It showed too. First of all, I want to say that I am not "bitching" or complaining. I'm just telling my story. I understand full well that the trails have not been cleared or maintained due to various circumstances beyond the IMBA's control. I was forewarned right before I rode by Ranger Tim, so I have no one to blame but myself for my little adventure. Okay, that said, I will say here that Nature gave me a hard time yesterday.

<=== Something to remember the ride by!

I had weed troubles, nasty weeds too. One that was full of spiny thorns that raked my bicep and bloodied me. Mostly though, it was just the nettles sticking to my socks and knickers. But the worst thing by far was the spider webs and spiders.

These webs were strung up between trees at about 20 yard intervals in some places. I'd be speeding along and thhwwwip! ( Yes, they literally sounded like that as the strands of the web would break off) I would get a web strewn across my face, chest, and arms. I would stop and glove off the sticky remainders and shake off the spider or it's wrapped up meals waiting for consumption and roll the next web!

<=== Wildflowers are on the wane in Iowa, but I did see some nice ones on the North Side of the Camp.

The "Pines" area was the only respite from the spidery mess, so I toodled around there for a bit. As soon as I left the last pines behind me though, it was thhhwiiip! thhhhhwwwiiiip! Two within five feet of each other! Gah!

There were lots of blow downs, but not a lot on the trails, amazingly. Only in the low lying areas, where the flood waters had been, was it impassable. Lots of "log jams" and sand down there. It's terrible and will take many man hours to get fixed up. I wouldn't recommend even trying to take your bike down into that part of the North Unit.

<=== The El Mariachi waiting to tackle another spider web.

Since I finally completed Captain Bob's Tomassini, which I traded him for the El Mariachi frame and fork, I felt a proper off road ride was in order for it. Man! I really like this bike for riding. The whole package of frame and fork are just the right deal. Steel feel, decent amount of "give" to the front fork without being noodly, and the geometry is neutral. Just right for woods riding. I have a medium sized frame and fork from an '07 complete El Mariachi, so it has the painted to match stem. Nice! It fits really well to my 6'1" frame. Thanks Captain Bob! Thanks Salsa!

<=== Evidence of spider web collisions. Click on the pic to see detail!

So that was my ride on the North side. Almost two hours of plunking about. It would have been really not that bad if the spider webs weren't so thick and so prevalent. Some of those webs felt like 8 pound test fishing line! The Camp isn't that far off from being really rideable, save for the lower section, which in all honesty isn't the most thrilling part of the camp's North Unit anyway.

I did notice a lot more exposed rock. More exposed roots. It is far more rough than it ever was before. You wouldn't believe how much rougher the trails are, and they are much more technical too. I actually appreciate this fact. It makes for more of a challenge, so in that light, the bad weather and flooding brought a new level of difficulty to the North unit's trails.

No doubt there is work to be done. One thing, (I was totally amazed by this!) down in the section they call "Dean's Demise", there is a big downhill and back up again. Locals will remember exactly what I am talking about. Well, there is a full sized, mature dead tree suspended across the trail above your head at the lowest point of the downhill. It has to be 30-50 feet up in the air across the trail held on either end rather precariously by two other live mature trees. Weird! I have never seen anything like it. It probably isn't too safe either! Just one of the many things that will need addressing in the near future at the Camp. Hopefully I will be available to lend a hand when the time comes.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Crank Length Musings

I posted sometime ago about my little experiment with shorter cranks. I actually have had two bikes set up now with the shorter arms, (170mm, to be exact) and here is my take on what it is like so far.

First off, the Salsa El Mariachi is the geared bike with 170mm arms and to be honest, I had completely forgotten that I had put 170mm arms on there! So in terms of feel, I guess I never noticed anything different about my pedal stroke. It feels totally normal every time I get on it.

The next thing I would have an impression about is this: The El Mariachi seems faster to spin up to speed than some of my other bikes. Granted, I have a really nice set of hoops on it, very light for a guy my size at about 1800 grams for the set, but I also have that on another bike. Oddly enough, that bike has 180mm cranks and seems to promote my slower twitch muscles or something, because I just don't feel that it easy to get leg speed up on that bike. Is it all in my head? maybe, but the longer cranked geared bike seems slower to speed.

On the El Mariachi, this translates to a bike I always want to grab for single track rides. I know, (or at least I "feel like it does") it will come out of corners faster than my longer cranked rigs will. I mentally like this bike better for some strange reason, (keeping in mind,I forgot it had shorter cranks), and this may be a reason why. If I think it is faster, it is, no? I figure there is something to that. I'll keep riding, knowing it has the short crank set, and report back later.

The other rig with the short arms is the Blackbuck. And I know this has shorter arms! How could I forget, since I had them anodized antifreeze green before I slapped them on the bike! It is a reminder of that fact every time I ride this rig. Anyway, as many of you know, the Blackbuck is a single speed. The 170mm cranks are definitely not conventional wisdom here!

Okay, so how has it been? Well, I rather like the shorter cranks here too. The spin up is there, yes, but I feel I can roll the crank arm up into the power section of my cadence easier on climbs. I can spin up some steeps that I would have been hammering at with 180mm cranks at a slower speed. The only time I feel that 180mm cranks might be an advantage here is when I am at or below walking speed on a steep climb, hammering out each pedal stroke like a guy swinging a sledge hammer. That longer arm seems to get you a bit further up the hill with every laborious stroke. Other than that, I would choose my 170mm arms for every other single speed situation. A big advantage goes to the 170mm arms on the flats when you can maintain a high cadence without bouncing yourself off the saddle.

Is any of this 29"er specific? Well, since I don't really ride 26"ers anymore, I can't really address that. I know the Crested Butte guys thought so back in the early part of this decade. I can say that there are some things positive going on with the idea. Enough so that I feel encouraged to pursue it further and keep testing it against my longer cranked bicycles here. I'll keep ya'all posted, but until then, there is a lot of riding to do!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Drop Bars And Top Tube Lengths For Off Roading

It seems that lately I have been seeing a lot of questions about what length top tube you need to get to run drop bars off road. This is a question that has some unspoken myth and serious consequences for "real" off road uses. Let me explain.....

First off, it is imperative that you know how to position your drops for off roading. The whole reasoning for even using drops might be useful here, but I'll just say that one of the benefits is that your hand grip can be more relaxed in the rough if you are in the drops. So, it is a generally understood thing amongst drop bar aficionados that you ride in the drops all the time.

If this is understood, then your drop bar positioning becomes clear. The bars drop section must be as close to the same height from the ground and distance from your saddle as your current flat bar/riser bar set up. You cannot achieve this by using a shorter top tubed frame. Why? Well, a shorter top tubed frame is, in reality, a bike one size too small for you! You wouldn't buy a frame that size for your "normal" bars, so why would you do this for a drop bar bike?

The reason that this myth got started was because the function of fitting a drop bar to a properly sized frame is the function of the proper stem. Usually a short reach, high rise affair that for years was nearly impossible to get easily. To compensate for this lack of stem choice, some made the assumption that using a shorter top tube, (ie: a bike a size too small) would solve the stem issue. Not a good idea for proper off roading.

Now stem choices in high rise/short reach are becoming more common, (IRD, Salsa, and a few others com to mind) and custom builders are available to do this sort of work all across the nation. (Check out the inner-web-o-sphere for more) There is no excuse now for not using the proper stem.

Just keep in mind that you will need to accommodate the reach factor of the bar into your stem calculations along with the bars drop measurement. will have a goofy looking stem! There isn't anything that you can do about that unless you go custom. If you end up loving drops for off road, you won't care about the stems looks anyway. Heck, you might even grow to love that look.

So, next time you see someone talking about getting a "shorter top tube" for their drop bar set up, set them straight. It is a bad mistake waiting to happen!

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Passion For Crashing

Note: This is a story I wrote originally for a gig I had at "The Biking Hub" I came across it today and thought you all might enjoy it. So, here is the original, un-edited version.

I went out for a nice after work single track ride the other day. That is a great way that I’ve found to clear out the cobwebs from a long day at work, which I highly recommend to you all, by the way. On my merry little way, I noticed that the trails were a bit damp. That reminded me of the previous days down pour we received. Not to worry, as the trail system I was on drains very quickly, being mostly sandy, silt dirt in composition. The soil was collecting on my tires a bit and was getting tossed up in the air around me in small bits by my tires. I always am amused by that when it happens, so I kept right on peddling and having fun. That’s right about when it happened.

I got that rude awakening that we all have received at one time or another. The trail went around a tight 90 degree turn to the left. I dove in it with a good head of steam. Then the dirt packed front tire started that dreaded slide that portends doom. I always find that somehow or another I enter a time warp at that moment. How else do you explain the slow motion feel that you get when you are about to be introduced to Mother Earth in a violent manner?

That feeling you get just before the impact. That is such a great moment! I had a physics teacher in college that put it this way: “It’s not the state of being out of control that kills you, it’s the sudden deceleration that does the damage.” He was right about that. I just wish the price of being out of control for that one glorious moment wasn’t quite so high. It seems like you are flying, free from the usual state of gravitational pull, and it is quite exhilarating. Then the bill comes and it’s time to pay.

Thankfully, today’s price tag wasn’t too high. Just a slide on the left leg and forearm in some greasy earth and bruise here and there. Nothing that a hot shower at the end of the ride couldn’t cure. It was fun, actually, and I look forward to the next on the edge flirtation with disaster. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think that it’s part of the mountain biking experience, whether you are a down hill rider or just plunking along on some twisty single track like me. Try embracing that facet of the ride and you just might be having more fun than you thought possible on your trails.

Crashing can even be looked at as a positive experience in another way. You learn what you can and can’t do. You find out what skills you need to sharpen. You can even make better choices in equipment based on crash experiences. A crash should always teach you something. What did I learn today? Well, I should be running a different tire combination when the trails are damp, for one thing. I also learned that people stare at you funny when you are covered in dirt riding home from the trails. That’s okay. I know I’m having fun getting that way. I can’t wait to do it again!

Final note: Funny thing is, I had a crash nearly identical to this last weekend at the Camp! Ride on ya'all!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dodging Deer

<===The Blackbuck with the Bontrager Race Lite Switchblade fork installed.

I made another trip up to the Camp's south side, the third in seven days, to hit up the excellent single track. If this trail doesn't get burned in, it won't be for my lack of efforts!

It had to be about the most perfect day for a mountain bike ride in a long, long time. Cool, but not cold, hardly any wind, and bright blue skies above a green canopy. The woods were super quiet, and I could hear deer walking through the twigs and underbrush whenever I stopped to listen. In fact, it didn't take long at all before I rustled a few up out of their cover.

<=== The Blackbuck is waiting to gobble up some single track.

The trail was twisty and when I came around a corner, I saw two fawns, most likely twins, jump up and skitter down the trail in front of me. It wasn't long before they both made a hard right into the underbrush. I figured "mama" couldn't be far away, and I was right. She was leaping down the trail in front of me, trying to get me to chase her instead of the fawns. Nature at work, it's awesome!

Well, she was going my way, so I gave chase, but obviously, the doe outran me easily and doubled back through the underbrush to find her little ones. Oddly enough, the trail almost doubled back as well, and eventually I found their fresh tracks on the single track.

<=== Mossy, chunky limestone makes this right hander and steep up a toughy!

I actually found Captain Bob's Berm right away this time on the first lap through! Couldn't hardly believe that. I stopped several times to take photos and made a plan that the second time around would be as non-stop as possible. There are some blow downs that require a dismount.

I took almost an hour on the first go round. Moving a busted down tree and chasing a dead end trail took longer than it should have. I came out of the woods and stopped by the Dirty Blue Box to get the time for a timed lap.

<=== One of my favorite spots on the trail. That's a stream off to the left glinting in the morning sun.

I headed out on lap number two to see if I could get around without any missteps. I did pretty well, except I somehow missed Captain Bob's Berm this time. What the......!!? I can't figure out how I miss that, but it is going to have to be something I figure out next time.

I made it around the rest of the loop in 17 minutes, which I thought was pretty dang good. I have no idea what the distance is out there, but I know I was haulin' pretty well. My legs felt snappy and I was more relaxed and fluid than I can remember being in a long, long time. It was really a great ride.

I can't wait to hit it up again real soon, but you locals will have to join me! Those trails are great, but they need to be burned in, and I can't do it alone!