Wednesday, December 31, 2008
More rear view musings from 2008........
Honorable Mention: Before I move on into May, June, and July, I want to make a special mention on Trans Iowa V4. We had without a doubt the most epic of editions in 2008. The floods, the wind, the mudslide! Frost heaves, downed trees, and washed out roads. Re-routes on the fly, scrambling for information, and finally having to cut the event short. Wow! I hope we never have anything happen like it again, but it was pretty exciting! Thanks to David Pals, the volunteer group, and the racers who were very patient with us. That was a most memorable weekend!
May: After a crazy month which saw me all over the place with Twenty Nine Inches and Trans Iowa, I settled down into what I hoped would be a normal spring routine. I got my first Snappy Cap, made announcements concerning the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and 2008's Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, and then the wrench got thrown into the works....
Rain, and more rain started causing trails to become too wet to ride, and to top that all off, we had the Parkersburg Tornado. I don't know if I can properly convey what something like that can do to not just Parkersburg, but the whole region around it. I've been in an F-5 tornado before, so it really impacted me. I guess you'd have to have been here to "get it", but that was a devastating blow in a lot of ways. Still is really....
So with that and my fitness level really sucking towards the end of the month, I decided to pull the plug on the Dirty Kanza 200 race. I went and volunteered my time cleaning up in Parkersburg for a day instead, and felt much better for it.
June: This month started out by getting even worse. Wet weather plagued us here in the Upper Mid-West and flooding became the big story. Whole cities were inundated, lives were impacted forever, and a stupid little meaningless bicycle festival was one of the victims amongst the many other plans that were laid waste last June. The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, which was to be held in Decorah, was cancelled. This precipitated some behind the scenes acrimony on the part of certain North East Iowans which I will not revisit, but suffice it to say, those feelings resulted in some written words which have totally impacted the Trans Iowa event and the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. Not my idea, not what I would have done, but I am going to respect their wishes. Nuff said.....
Sol Sessions was a bright spot in all of this, and a much needed one at that. I got to ride Salsa Cycles Big Mama 4 inch travel full suspension 29"er for the first time. But most importantly, I got to be with a great friend at a down time in my life. Thanks Jason! That was a "pick me up" that was most definitely needed right then.
Then June ended on a brighter note when the weather started to finally straighten out and I began what would become a riding schedule that would last most of the rest of the year.
July: Well, the big deal of the month was the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. The getting ready for it, the minimal preparations, and the actual event were all super enjoyable. It was made even better by the folks that showed up. Gnat on the prototype Fargo, aka "Black Electrical Tape", MG, MW, Jeff Bonsall, David Pals, and Michael Beck.
The month closed out with a great ride on the south side of Camp Ingawanis with Super Saul, MTBidwell, and Captain Bob. It was the first ride I'd done on that side of the Camp in about a year and a half, but it wouldn't be the last..........
Thanks again to all mentioned here, (yes...even the disgruntled folks (you know who you are!). The events of July 2008 made a big impact on my future, and I think things will be much, much better because of it. Look for another Rear View 2008 tomorrow........
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
We scrambled across a busy roadway to a group of small wood framed buildings that made up the bulk of the town. The city was called Babcock, and it had one main attraction, the Cranberry Inn.
It was a white clapboard building with no real distinction other than the bar sign that hung off the upper story. Three or four steps led up to a door that led unmistakeably into a bar. A bar that was a happening place this late Tuesday afternoon. Troy was beside himself. He was not wanting to waste any time going in to a bar. However; Steve insisted that more "information gathering" was necessary and this may be our only good opportunity. Based upon what I saw of the previous miles since Millston, I had to agree.
So first Troy and Steve entered the bar while I stood guard over the bikes. They were in there for what seemed like an eternity when Troy finally popped out and motioned for me to go in and " get Steve out of there!" Apparently Steve had availed himself of the offerings inside, much to the consternation of Troy. This would become a sticking point later on, as we shall see.
Inside was your typical bar scene- well, rural bar scene! Guys would "belly up" to the bar, order beers, and "BS" their way through conversations about various subjects. Smoke filled the air and loud, boisterous men sodden with "barley pops" were the over riding sensory inputs. I found Steve at the far end of the bar with an empty stool beside him. I plopped myself down and made some small talk with a few locals, sipped my Coke, and convinced Steve it was time to go. My main memory of the place was of a t-shirt that they sold emblazoned with the words- "I got juiced at The Cranberry Inn" Too funny and all too true for the majority of the patrons there that day.
By the time I got Steve extracted from the grips of The Cranberry Inn, Troy was fit to be tied. Wanting to get in some more miles before sunset, he set an infernal pace on the busy, wood chip laden highway that was none too smooth. It was getting on to be evening and we had about twelve miles to go to get to the next town of any decent size.
As we approached the end of the day, we saw a big, tall smokestack emblazoned with a "GP" on it. Georgia Pacific, a paper company, had a huge mill here. The city was called Nekoosa and it looked mean and dirty. It was late enough that the light was fading fast. We were discussing possible overnight stay choices when we saw a sign for a campground. Too bad it was another seven miles down the road! We just didn't have enough light to make it that far. Just when I thought all hope was lost, Steve spied a church with cars parked in the lot. Ever the optimist, Steve said he would go in and ask to see if we could camp there. He came back out shortly after, proclaiming his good luck. Apparently the pastor and the church board were having a meeting, and we were allowed access to the "back yard" of the church to pitch our tents on.
It turned out to be a beautiful strip of lawn bordered on one side by the church and on the other by the wide Wisconsin River. It was looking like a rain was going to set in as we started to download our gear for the night. Steve was busy setting up his tent, but Troy was looking around the church. It had about a ten foot overhang to the roof and about a seven foot wide cement pathway around its base. "Why not sleep here"?, Troy wondered, and I agreed that it looked good, and too easy! We chuckled at Steve as he set about getting his stuff into his tent.
Stay tuned next week when we move to Day Four!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Fortunately as of now the freezing sheets of ice are minimal here. It looks like we might escape with just a mere coating. I went out and freed up the cars, warmed them up, and scraped off the death trap right outside the front door. Heh heh! Yeah........you can fool me once, but not twice! I'll explain........
A long time ago, probably the early, early 90's, I walked outside this very same front door on a day much the same as today. It was raining, but it was cold enough that it froze right on contact to the wooden deck of my front porch. It was totally invisible too. Black ice!
So, I step one step beyond the door and off I go! I started in to sliding on one foot with the other up in the air. I was in full dress up attire too. Leather soled shoes, suit coat, long wool overcoat, the works. Well, in the second or two that I was sliding on one foot, I had that experience where time slows down to a crawl. You know how it is. It seems everything is going in slow motion, but it isn't. A weird synchronicity of fast and slow time. Anyway.......
I decided that when I reached the end of the porch deck that I would cock the leg I was sliding on and push off with all my might in an attempt to clean the four cast concrete stairs to the sidewalk. I figured, in my alarmed state, that I was better off hitting the flat surface than the saw toothed stair case. Well.........I made it!
I landed flat on my back, feet out toward the street. I lay there totally still, the rain coming down in a gray sheet on my lifeless body. Well, in reality, I was doing that "man thing" where you sit there and assess whether or not you are paralysed, in pain, or otherwise injured before you move. I was also in a state of disbelief at what had just occurred, and was shocked that I wasn't hurt at all!
I got up, walked away, wet but otherwise okay. Lesson learned! That porch wasn't going to do me in again like that! So today, I gingerly stuck my foot out the door and discovered that yes, it was like it was that day so many years ago. Ha ha! but I am older and wiser, so I defeated this latest attempt to upend me easily.
But enough about me! Anyone interested in a gravel ride? A-lo is going to be back in town next weekend and is planning a ride of about 20-30 miles on gravel. More details to come! Stay tuned.........
Friday, December 26, 2008
So, if you recall, the bicycle industry warned us all throughout 2008 that prices were going to go up.....way up! Things like tires were supposed to end up being astronomically expensive due to oil and materials prices. We saw early '09 bicycle releases go up as much as 15% over '08 pricing. Now there is an economic downturn. I think it's time to revisit the situation in terms of bicycles.
In my opinion the market I see isn't going to support these price increases the bicycle industry instigated over the course of the latter part of '08. If the "whatever ya callit" economic situation continues, (I'm favoring depression these days) I just don't see folks buying into where the industry has set the pricing. (Pun intended) At this point, I think the high end will suffer the worst of it.
It seems as though the bicycle industry has found itself on the wrong end of the stick economically. In a time where, if anything, prices should be staying the same, or even going down, we find prices going up. Not a good scenario for keeping sales, or increasing them in this sort of economic climate. Not as far as I can tell it isn't.
I know a lot of folks in the cycling industry are optimistic, saying cycling will be okay through these times. That the depressed oil and gas prices won't affect the consumers motivation to cycle. I'm saying that, while that may be true, increasing pricing on bicycles isn't helping the bicycle industry weather the storm. And the thing is, a lot of these prices are locked in. There isn't much, if anything, that can be done in the short term.
Time will tell, but I think the situation is a bit more serious than the cycling industry pundits are letting on.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
<===The best 29"er carbon fork money can buy.......for now.
I was checking the blog stats yesterday and saw a bunch of hits from one mad 29"er purveyor located in merry ol' England. I investigated the source and found out that I am "near legendary". Hey.....I'm not making this up! Check it out here.
(What I said about the Carbon Superlight fork? Yeah....I mean it. It's awesome!)
In other news, I got wind of a new titanium 29"er frame with some really high end specs for a sub $1300.00 price tag. Sound interesting? See my Twenty Nine Inches post for more.....
Also, I commuted in the snow today again. Fun times in halfway decent temperatures. I will say it again: The Fargo and Geax Saguaro TNT tire combo is a killer winter set up. I was running some crazy sub-20 psi pressures the other day over black ice with no real worries. Yeah......you have to be careful! But, it still is a rideable situation for my commute, so that's cool. Today I really increased the pressures to a sky high 22 psi rear/20 psi front and I thought I was flying! No, seriously! These TNT tires have a thicker sidewall that is better at doing the low psi boogie, so I do it. What can I say? And I haven't even tried the UST version, with thicker side walls yet, out there in the snow. I can't find a reason to, but I will in the name of science!
I will be taking the day off for Christmas here on Guitar Ted Productions, so look for the next post to show up on Friday. So until then...............
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
It was called "Granny's Place", or something of a rustic nature similar to that. Inside we found a few people who stared wildly at what they saw as our outlandish appearance. They didn't seem very impressed. Well, the menu was not very impressive to us. Tit for tat! I could not find anything that I would have considered "bike friendly food". I ended up having a hamburger and fries, as did Steve. This was once again "food trauma time" for Troy. I think he had a fish sandwich, or something else that he found disgusting. I noticed that he ate it though! The thing that really made our stop distasteful was the dirty bathroom. Apparently there was fecal matter spread around in there, but I didn't go in. I was just disgusted with the high prices of the mediocre food.
Now we were back on the road, and in somewhat of a hurry, since it was now early afternoon. The County "O" road now took us on a rolling, turning path much different than before. We came upon great cranberry farms. They featured large, rectangular plots of flooded ground with cranberry plants growing in them. Many of these plots were arranged together forming large areas of flooded ground. Alongside of these were large expanses of flooded marshlands. The marshland waters were used to flood the cranberry fields in the fall for harvest.
Now Troy was pushing the pace. He was getting me acquainted with drafting techniques so we could go faster. It was getting breezy, so this came in rather handy. The drafting allowed us all to expend less energy and go faster. However; Troy never took a draft. He always lead, never slowing down unless we did. I was amazed at this and it made me feel bad that I couldn't lead and give him a break. Well, I could have lead, but not at the pace that Troy wanted to maintain.
The pace we kept was maintained by Troy calling out for average speed updates from Steve from time to time. Steve was the only one of us that had a computer. Heck, he even had a radio, which he kept on to take our minds off of the effort being put forth. At any rate, Troy wanted to maintain a 20mph average pace. Steve's computer was showing just slightly less than that. Well, you know what that meant! Go! Go! Go!
Well after all of that "go-go-going" we were soon out of Cranberry Country and coming into logging country. We came across a logging machine at work. It looked like an end loader fitted with giant hydraulically controlled scissors. It moved from tree to tree, snipping them off at ground level. It received bad reviews from Troy and especially Steve. They both vocalized displeasure with the contraption, so I didn't say I thought it was cool!
Now we found ourselves entering the outskirts of a town that we hoped we could stop at for a drink. We were hoping for a convenience store, but our hopes were dashed. The only things we could see right away were a pulp mill and wood chips everywhere. Well, in reality it wasn't all bad. For one thing, it was pleasant to see something other than pine trees and flooded fields of cranberries for miles! A town, any town- was a sight for sore eyes.
Notes: This brings us to the end of the original 27 page handwritten manuscript that I worked up shortly after the trip back in '94. (You'll notice that the last three lines of today's installment were in regular text) The story will be picked up now on my memories 14 years down the road. Fortunately, some of the most memorable parts of the tour are coming up. Things I won't likely ever forget! To help out, I have consulted a Wisconsin Atlas to jog my memories of places passed through and the roads we took.
Look forward to continued updates on Tuesdays. The ride must go on!
Monday, December 22, 2008
This Niner bike with American Classic wheels was shown at this years Eurobike. Is Europe on the verge of accepting the big wheels?
Throughout my time on 29"ers, Europe has been a market place that has been highly resistant to the idea of a "wagon wheeled" mountain bike. In fact, I have heard in the past that the never would accept them.
Well, all I have to say to that is the old cliche' "Never say never!" Especially now that there seems to be a hint of hope that the big wheels are going to grow in popularity in the Old World.
To say that the big wheels have taken root there is an understatement. The last two Eurobikes have shown an increase in the numbers of 29"ers shown. I have personally seen the numbers of hits to this blog from foreign countries increase steadily over the past two years. Many of those hits represent individual national 29"er forums, or mountain biking forums that host small groups of big wheelers posts.
Then recently, a thread has popped up on mtbr.com that I have found very interesting. This thread has shown me that the 29"er is truly an international phenomenon. There are pictures and rider stories from all over the sub-continent and the thread is an eye opener for sure. Certainly there is still much resistance to the idea of 29"ers, but there is also enough evidence of things happening that I feel that now it is only a matter of time.
A matter of time before 29"ers.......what? Become as big as they are here? Hmm.......that is a tall order and maybe not likely to happen. Of course, there is a long ways to go for the 29"er in North America. The future looks bright all around, the current economic crisis not withstanding. I look for 29"ers to become bigger parts of the cycling marketplace both here and abroad. 2009 should be an interesting year.
There is only one thing that concerns me about this Old World 29"er stuff: Does this mean I will have to go to Eurobike next Fall? (shuddering at the thought of the length of a Trans Atlantic flight.)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The sun came up today like an orange smudge in the Eastern sky. Accompanied by Sun Dogs. You know, when you see those apparitions flanking the morning sun, you know it's not fit for man or beast out there. Well.......unless you are this guy! I don't have near a tenth the knowledge or craziness he does. I mean that as a compliment and yes: Craziness and knowledge are both very important qualities to have if you are going to survive out there in that brutal world.
Craziness. You have to have it to be able to think outside the "normal", approved ways. Some might say its creativeness, but really...... If you are going to figure out how to survive to ride a bike in that atmosphere, that is crazy defined! Still, to be successful at that gig, you need one more thing.
Knowledge: All the craziness leads to things learned. If you can remember those things, recall them at the correct time, and implement them with surgical precision, you will survive. Knowledge is power, as they say.
Me? I haven't the "crazy" itch for that sort of thing to begin with. Some folks think I'm crazy for riding for 12 hours on gravel roads. Okay, so that's my "itch", I guess. Not everybody has that in them.
One thing I know, I won't be plying any frozen crushed rock roads this weekend. I'll just be watching that orangey smudge disappear into a black curtain of frigid arctic air tonight.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Winter Workout, Iowa Style!
First you shovel off the front porch, steps and approach......
Then you shovel over to your neighbor's approach to the east.........
Then you shovel the side walk over to and including some of the neighbor's side walk to the west........
Then you clean off and shovel all the way around the wife's rig......
Then you top all that off by cleaning off your own car and shoveling all the way around that!
So, the skis will see some action now. XC skiing is pretty decent around here and it gives me a great way to stay in shape and still be out doors. Plus, even if I had a fat bike, the XC skiing crowd would have me tarred and feathered if I sullied their trail with bicycle tracks!
Short post today, so enjoy your weekend. If you are leaving for Christmas, have a great Holiday! If you can still ride a bicycle, do it!
I may be back later with another post.....gotta run now though!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
<===The 2009 SE Racing "Stout" 29"er
I have noticed on my stat counter that many folks are doing web searches on the 2009 SE Racing Stout. Well, we happen to have one or two now in stock where I work, so I thought I'd lay down some images and give a bit of my impressions on the bike. Although I have reviewed a Stout 29"er before, there are enough changes on the 2009 model to warrant another look.
<===The classic plate drop out and loop tail.
SE Racing has adopted steel as the material of choice for the '09 Stout. The frame has many new details that the previous models did not have. For one thing, SE Racing has adopted the classic "loop tail" stay design and welded a plate drop out that has the "SE" logo cut through it. Cool! A drive side chain tug is stock as is an aluminum derailleur hangar for those that would want to gear this rig out. Also, the frame has cable stops for the rear derailleur only. If you were to run a front double crank or triple crank, your cable run would have to be full housing with the housing zip tied to the frame. At first I thought this was rather odd, but now I think I get it! SE may have been thinking that some of you may have top pull front mechs, and some of you may have bottom pull mechs, so the lack of cable stops for the front derailleur may have been intentional based on that, or not! At any rate, it leaves a cleaner appearance when running the bike as a single speed or "one by" set up. Finally, the rear wheel is a geared cassette wheel with a single speed spacer kit, which makes swapping over to the geared set up that much easier.
<===Disc brake ready hubs!
The SE Stout has traditionally been a cantilever braked model, and the '09 is no exception. By the way, the stock linear pull brakes work really well! However; if you would rather run disc brakes, SE Racing has made it very easy to do that. The hubs are disc brake hubs and there are International Standard tabs on the frame and fork. All you need to do is to throw on your favorite disc brake set up. The only downer is that these hubs are boat anchors. Obviously, a new disc brake wheel set would carve out a lot of pork from the SE's nearly 30lb weight.
<===The cool head badge.
Over all the steel frame is beefy and stiff. My short little test ride revealed no flex to be concerned with in the bottom bracket area. The frame uses an old way to attach the bottom bracket shell to the chain stays that is a hold over from Schwinn cruiser frame days. The rear of the bottom bracket shell has a short stub welded to it. In turn, the chain stays are attached to the stub. This yields a very stiff connection to the rear of the bike. However; this also creates a "shelf" for mud to collect on, so be aware of that if mud clearance is an issue. Also, the frame loses the integrated head set and now utilizes a traditional head set, which I am glad to see. The top tube length is a bit more stretched out compared to the '07 model I tested previously. The frame angles list out at 72 degrees for the head tube and 73 degrees for the seat tube.
The SE Racing Stout for 2009 strikes me as a traditional 29"er type bike. The handling leans more to the stable side, and I would say it is very "29"er-ish". Not a "quick" handling, 26"er-ish feel at all. Some may dig it, but a fork swap might be required for those who feel the SE is too sluggish in the front end for them.
Finally, I will say that SE Racing has stepped up and offered a great value packed rig for $580.00. When you factor in the price, all the features make this bike reek with value and the nits are no big deal. A great first time 29"er rig and a great addition to a stable that needs a "knock around" townie rig, or just a bike to play on.
<=====Somebody has a good sense of humor at the shop!
This is pretty funny, well.......at least to me! This is a printing plate from the Waterloo Courier, (which is no longer printed here) about the first Trans Iowa event in 2005. It shows Jeff Kerkove in his sponsors team kit hamming it up for a Courier staff photographer. There was a little story written up on the event there too. Pretty heady stuff for a first time event. Anyway, if you come and visit the shop, you can see this plate, but I won't promise that the stick up note will still be there!
Okay, as far as Trans Iowa goes, we're still waiting to recon the last bit and cue sheet production is set to begin after the holidays. Stay tuned for more updates, but honestly, that won't happen until after the first of the year.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
We once again noted how chilly it was for August as we made our way through the early morning traffic of Sparta. Once clear of the city, the terrain consisted of rolling hills and dairy farms. The road itself was clean blacktop with a narrow paved shoulder. Our bikes did not want to roll too well on this pavement though. We did not take much notice of this strange phenomenon, instead we delighted in making fun of the rustic names seen on each mailbox as we rode by. There were many of these names which, unfortunately, I can not note here. I was too busy riding my bike to write them down as I went by.
Soon our road sent us over some more difficult hills. the farms disappeared for the time being. We had come upon some sort of highland area. Suddenly I saw rising before me a very steep and tall hill. This reminded me of the hill outside of Preston, Minnesota, only this hill was not as long and was steeper than that hill. I was certain I could make it, but I was waiting to see how long it took my companions to drop me. As I gazed over to Troy, I saw him put his head down, shift up a gear, and walk right away from us. He crested the hill far in front of Steve and I, then he disappeared. I was busy in my granny gear again, this time holding my own against Steve. The dratted hill decided to steepen on me just then though. This was almost my undoing. Almost.
Steve managed to reach the top about fifty yards ahead of me. There he stopped to watch me as I agonized up the last section. My body screamed to halt, but I would not let this hill beat me! I made it to the top. I was breathing so hard that I thought my chest would never stop heaving. Once my mind cleared, I looked out to see the distant farmlands, but Troy was no where to be seen. Steve congratulated me on my victory over the hill. We had some water and pop tarts to celebrate right in the middle of the road. Soon though, we gave our attention to finding Troy.
The long, fast descent was a welcome reward for us. We made about two to three miles pass beneath us before we saw Troy. He was parked at a fork in the road near a farm waiting for us. We got regrouped and took off once more. We were looking forward to reaching the town of Cataract and maybe a bit of something to eat as well.
We pulled into the small city only to find a small gas station/grocery store along the road. The day was partly cloudy and pleasant, so we took our purchases out to consume them by the road. A local woman stopped by to say hello, but when she spoke, it was apparent that she wasn't a native cheesehead. We were surprised to find out she was a native of Belgium. She expressed her countryman's love for cycling and how she did not find that here in the U.S. The three of us nodded in unison. She went on to tell us that she admired us for our goal of reaching Canada. She was the first adult that had dared to talk to us vagrants. We thought that was really nice.
We left and found out we were not out of hill country just yet. Just north of Cataract the hills were not so big, they were just ganged together! Troy and Steve pulled away and I was left behind. Far behind! At the top of a hill I saw Troy and Steve at least three quarters of a mile ahead of me. This made me quite irritable. Absolutely mad! This in turn motivated me to catch them. I had a long down hill, a flat space, and then a short steep hill after a left turn. Going into the corner I thought I might actually reel them in, but I just didn't have enough left in me to get the job done. I was mad again. Then just as things were looking pretty grim, I noticed that Steve and Troy had pulled up and were waiting for me. I was immensely grateful!
After a short rest stop at the top of the hill, we moved on again. It was decided that we would not continue on towards Black River Falls, as it was out of our way northwards. We took County "O" to the east, and that road was a very nice straight blacktop that had young, tall pine trees lining both sides for as far as we could see. This screened off the view, and the wind. We could only see up the level road and the sky above our heads. There was no traffic at all on this lonely stretch of road which allowed us to all ride together and converse freely. After awhile it seemed that this road would never end. We knew that the next town up was called Millston, but we had no clear idea of how far away it was.
Then we saw an alarming sight. Fall color! Not just a little bit either, but a whole grove that had fallen under Fall's powers. We stopped to take some pictures which didn't please Troy. Apparently "stop" was a word equivalent to "defeat" in Troy's mind.
That became very apparent once we took off again. Troy set a pace that was borderline brutal. This had been a tough day for me and it wasn't even noon yet! Finally we reached a turn in the road, which was cause for some celebration since this road was so flat, straight, and boring. Troy agreed to a stop here and we discovered the reason for the turn. It was a lake, which we took some photos of. I was thankful for the break, but I wondered where Millston was. It seemed that it really wasn't on this road. Not much later on though, we came to the outskirts of Millston, and I was relieved to see that town. Since it was around noon, we hoped to find a place to eat. We didn't find much, just a local joint, but it looked good from the outside.
Next Tuesday we'll find out what he inside of that local joint was like and find out about Cranberry Country a bit more.
Monday, December 15, 2008
At my age, and with my experiences, I pick and choose my battles. I've paid my dues and I don't have anything to prove. Riding to work in negative 30 degree below zero windchill is not a battle I wish to engage. Nope. Not gonna do it.
So today that danged "Dirty Blue Box" had better start up and I will drive that thing into work without any shame. I'm not going to feel guilty. Ya can't make me! Besides it's Mrs. Guitar Ted's birthday, and I have to buy her a card, and then I'm taking her out to dinner. (Shhh! Don't tell her, she doesn't read this and she doesn't know about it yet!)
If you decide to take on the challenge of riding to work in this stuff, more power to you. Be careful, and be safe! I'm not sure you are wise, but am sure you are cycling, so that can't be all bad. I guess......even though it is brutally cold out there.
Here's hoping for a warmer tomorrow!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Looking back, it was a year of change anyway. More time on the web side, less time on the shop side, but still busy-busy. I am very thankful though. I got to be outside a lot this year. I got in a lot of great rides. Decorah, Cedar Bend, The Camp, and Hickory Hills. A few trips to Minneapolis. New friends, connecting with old friends. The change was a good one both personally and professionally.
Now it looks as though things could change again for 2009. I can't say what that entails yet, because a trigger hasn't been pulled yet. If the change comes though, you can expect to see it out there. This would be huge.
Friday, December 12, 2008
<==== Bustin' through the crust.
So I continued to have "fat bike envy" yesterday. When I realized that was happening I thought I'd stop, take a couple of photos, and show you why.
This shot is about a 100 yard long stretch of open, grassy field in the summer months. Now it is a huge obstacle. To get around this, I would have to ride well over a mile out of my way. (Maybe I should!) The thing is, the other, longer route is icy as all get out right now.
Time is also a factor. It takes me long enough to get to work now that I am perennially 10-15 minutes late daily. Going around this isn't really an option!
<==== More snow to come!
This is the view looking forward from the same spot. Go down an embankment, take a right at the bottom where you see that white line going across the photo. (That's the bike path) Then there is at least 150 yards of snow bound bike path and ice to traverse before it dumps me out on a dead end street.
So, I need a fat bike for 350 yards of trail? Whoa! Hold on folks, there's more. Once I get to the intersection of University and Green Hill, which is an overpass/exit-on ramp type intersection, I have another 200 yards or so of snow covered grass much like the photo at the top of the post here to get across. In between, there is the "water tower hill" which features sidewalk that is marginally cleared, (or not at all), of snow which can be another two city blocks of either snow or glare ice. Yesterday it was all ice. I made it, but it was super sketch!
The thing is, normally situations like this on my route last but a few weeks out of every winter. Last winter was an exception, obviously. So to get a fat bike for just this: to get to work for maybe three weeks out of the year? Meh!
That's hard to justify for me.
In other goings on....... The Rainier bike build is going to happen soon. I have a wheel set lined up to get by on for a time while I build up another. I have a crank set lined up that should work out great. I am putting in an order for a stem and seat post. I have some tires, that if they clear, should work great. I have a handle bar and a saddle.
Today I need to get a brake set coming, and I need to figure out brake levers for it. Stay tuned! A build will be happening soon! (Not that I'll be able to ride it anywhere. )
A storm is set to come through here this weekend, probably Saturday night and Sunday. The thing is, it will be all rain with temps above freezing. Then immediately afterwards it is supposed to get really cold.
Looking forward to running around on sheets of ice for the near future. Blech!
Have a great weekend and ride a bike if you can!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
<=====Girthy 29"er rim. The "Uma" 50mm wide rim from Speedway Cycles in Alsaska.
I could get close with a 29"er. I am thinking I need to pull the Gordo rimmed wheel set into duty on a single speed bike again. Those Racing Ralphs and WeirWolf LT's are really fat on those rims and would make the job easier. Or I could get Kris Holm rims at 38mm wide. Or........go all out with the "Uma" shown here. But I don't know. I still think I can get by with the Gordos. We'll see.
It's just that I know the Fat Bike would be sooo much more fun. Ya know, it would kind of be like owning my own two wheeled monster truck. How could that not be fun?!
This guy has one to ride in his shop, and I know I could run over there and get my jones on for awhile, but that ain't gonna cut it when I'm swerving and curving on my 29"er with tubeless tires through the pedestrian post holed snow. The ol' Fargo and Karate Monkey have failed to appease me so far. Maybe the Gordos with the big ballooners on will satisfy my urges. I will find out soon. Or not.......the snow may melt by then.
If the snow melts, then my fat bike envy fades and everything is forgotten. Forgotten until I find myself wrestling through another snow field on my way to work after a storm goes through this winter.
Ahh me! I guess I could take the longer way on pavement to work.
Nah! Ain't gonna happen!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I was either lucky, or crazy......or both!
<====Easton EC 90X carbon goodness.
So this thing, which was a one off show special, is now not only a limited edition rig, but is here and beckoning me to go bogtrotting somewhere. Too bad the season just ended!
Not that it would have mattered, because now I get to build it. Which is really one of the best parts of getting a new frame and fork anyway. Well.........at least for this bike geek!
<==== If it looks like a can of beer, well.....
So now comes all of the choices. The brakes, the cranks, the hubs, the rims. Wheels will need to be built. A handle bar and stem will need to happen. A seat post and saddle.
I didn't mention derailleurs? Didn't you know?
It is a single speed device, don't ya know?!!
<===Simple, classy, and white!
Yep! No gears here! Just a crank and a cog connected by a chain. No worries about shifting. No mud is too muddy! Bring it on!
Actually, the single speedness of the package is what intrigued me the most about this frame. If it had been a geared rig, I think I may have passed on it. Well, it is a single speed and it is white. I have a weakness for white bikes!
<=== The winter project is here!
So now parts acquisition mode will be in full swing. I've got my eye on some red ano bits, a single speed hub set that will be an Allen bolt on deal, and a carbon post with a white saddle, of course!
So I'll leave you with this view for now. Next time you see this, it'll be ride able. That won't be for awhile yet, so hold yer horses!
Time now to go down to the Lab and raid the parts bin.........
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
When we had gotten turned around and back to the scene of the crunch, we found Troy's clear lensed Oakley Frogskin glasses in pieces. Seems that they fell off his face because they too were bored with the trail. They fell off thinking that maybe somebody more interesting and exciting would find them and save them from endless trail hell! Unfortunately for the glasses, its plan failed. They were crushed by an unwitting cyclist.
Troy was actually able to rebuild his glasses and we continued. Finally we reached Sparta, Wisconsin and we could go no further. It was 7:00pm, and we had maybe an hour and a half, at best, of sunlight. The main problem was that we had no idea where we would spend the night. After we left the abandoned depot, we found an A&W Restaurant and decided it was a good time to eat.
While ordering our food, I realized that it would be brought out to us by a car hop. When she came out, Troy declared her a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately, his sandwich wasn't a beauty and Troy was again sorely disappointed in his food. A recurring theme for him throughout this tour. At least we got directions to a local campground.
On the way over we passed by a house with several "hippie wannabees" hanging outside. Steve figured that they were kindred spirits, sympathetic to wandering vagabonds such as ourselves. We stopped to see if we could camp and Steve went in as our ambassador. Well, after wasting time finding out the differences between Woodstock and the "fake Woodstock", we found out we were going to the campground after all. Steve never did come right out and ask those guys if we could stay there. He was disgusted that they didn't come right out and offer!
So much for that! It was getting dark outside fast now and we headed over to the campground as quickly as we could. It was a State campground and we had our fears confirmed that it was a "camping for a fee" joint by folks we met there. We decided to defy the unseen ranger and camp anyway.
On the way in, I realized that I had lost my beloved Fisher Mountain Bike hat, and I retraced my steps a bit as the others dove on into the forest to set up camp. I gave up hope finding it in the fast disappearing light, so I returned into the camping area alone. The campsites at the Sparta Trail head were rather unique, carved as it were right out of the young forest. The sites were all bowl shaped or oval shaped openings in the trees. Each campsite had a narrow opening on to a winding path of about four feet in width. This path had other paths criss-crossing it here and there. We never found out anymore about the paths, unfortunately, but they looked promising for mountain biking.
When I arrived at our campsite, I was surprised to see someone other than Troy and Steve there. My first thought was that we had been detected by Park authorities. However; I quickly dismissed this notion when I realized that the individual had a touring bike. Perhaps he had layed claim to the campsite? Well, it turned out that I had nothing to fear, he was just a tired, weary traveler like us, looking for a nights rest.
His name was Jamey. He also worked for a bike shop. He was two days out from Minneapolis. As we set up our camps, I noticed that Jamey didn't look much like a cyclist. You know, trim, athletic build, and tough in sinew. He looked rather soft and "couch potatoe-ish". Pear shaped was the description finally settled on by Troy and I. Jamey offered us root beer barrels and butterscotch candies as we set up camp. He held up two bags that were full of the stuff. At least five pounds worth. Perhaps this was the downfall of this fruit shaped young man.
After our supper, Troy and I decided to go directly to our tents as we were both very tired. Steve and Jamey decided to keep the fire burning and talk for awhile. I found out that I could not help but eavesdrop on their conversation. Soon the talk faded into the distance as they both walked away for awhile. What they did while they were gone, I do not know, but when they returned, I hadn't fallen asleep yet. I overheard Jamey giving Steve some Wisconsin maps geared for bicycle touring for our trip. With that bit of encouraging news, I finally fell asleep.
It was a chilly, cloudy morning when I awoke. we quickly went about our packing and breakfast making. Jamey had his own food and ate with us. When we were finished eating, it was decided that we should head north out of town. We had once entertained the thought of following the Elroy-Sparta trail, but this went southeastwards, out of our way. Troy was anxious to get northwards, as we hadn't gone that direction since the first day. Jamey said that Wisconsin Rapids would be a good place to ride to, so we took his advice. Once we were all prepared to leave, we rolled out to the entrance to the campgrounds. Here Jamey took leave of us. I noticed that the Elroy-Sparta trail actually started right at that point. Jeremy was going eastwards to parts unknown and the Elroy-Sparta trail was on his way. With a last "Goodbye! Take Care!", we turned and headed back through Sparta.
Check in next week for the beginning of "Day Three- Cranberry Country".
Monday, December 08, 2008
This post on Gnat's blog got to me so much I wrote this missive on The Bike Lab immediately after reading it. (I suppose I'm still incensed, since I'm writing this! ) The thing is, as I say on The Bike Lab piece, this doesn't make any sense from the industries perspective. At least not from what they are saying lately.
Be Good To The Earth: So lately, the whole of the industry has taken up arms against "car culture", saying that bicycling is the "greener" way to go. Nicer to the environment, better for our health, and a "solution" to high energy prices because of the obvious, but also because cycling is a sustainable way to transport humans and goods from point to point. Or is it?
Nevermind that mechanic throwing away those parts in the trash! So now I have to question the authenticity of the message being portrayed here when I see an industry that isn't trying to make the components it sells last longer, be more user friendly, or sustainable. We have plenty of throw away components on bicycles already, you'd think that a responsible industry would be taking those components and making them user serviceable, or at least making them last longer. Noooooo! They want to have less durable high end parts with no serviceability at higher prices. What?!!! This is madness.
So, what to do? Well, you can still have a choice in the matter as a consumer. Just be aware that the latest, shiny, slickly marketed gizmos that hit for 2010 may actually be garbage in a few months time, both literally and figuratively speaking. You can vote with your dollars. Buy it or not.
I'm just hoping that the end users come to their senses and send this stuff packing. Time will tell.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
<===Trans Iowa V1 winner, Ira Ryan stares down the camera man.
It has occurred to me lately that this silly little gravel grinder has engendered its own interest group that extends beyond the events competitors throughout the years. I recently have been asked (again! Sorry!) for route information on V1 or V2 from folks who are just looking for a good cross state gravel tour.
That got me to thinking, "Hey, I can't remember some of the stuff that happened and I was there!" Some of the details that led up to Trans Iowa and the initial pitch of the event to the masses, well.......I had forgotten some of that. So, I started thinking that perhaps some other folks might be interested in knowing the history of Trans Iowa. Maybe there ought to be a place where folks could go to learn about that.
<===The man with the plan. Jeff Kerkove riding in his own event: circa 2005
Am I right? Is there anyone out there that would appreciate something like this? What I am talking about is a site that I would set up, write down the history, tabulate all the results, (I know! Not too hard when only a hand full have ever finished the event!) Tabulate all the past starters, and maybe provide links to all the photo galleries and stories online.
If this is something worth pursuing, let me know. I am game for it. Just pop a comment on the blog here or hit me with an e-mail with your idea/take on this. If you have a contribution you'd like to submit for this, let me know that too.
Now, back to that route request reference made above. I am not going to post every Trans Iowa route ever done! Nope! Not going to happen.........ever! So don't get your hopes up for that. What I am going to do is post a link to a Map My Ride layout of a "hybrid" route drawing from the first half of T.I.V2 and parts of T.I.V1 and T.I.V3. Which parts will be what? I ain't saying and I don't think it matters to the folks that just want to ride across the state from west to east.
I have my reasons for this, but some of the more practical reasons are that some of the roads used for T.I.V1 and 2 don't exist anymore. Secondly, T.I.V1 was probably the weakest route from a scenic point of view and it had very few convenience store chances, as anyone who made it to Algona that year can attest to. Then you have the State Park in Forest City which I routed through, and that is very confusing. I will do a completely new section around that, if this route gets published. Finally, from a practical point of view, it might behoove me to eliminate some of the 15 miles of B Maintenance roads from this sort of route since brutalizing casual tourists is, well.........inhuman. I mean, this route will probably end up close to 350 miles anyway!
So, no cue sheets to mail out, 'cause I ain't doing that. I don't give away that which folks sweat and toiled to find out for themselves, and the end result would be a T.I. inspired route, using some of the elements from three versions of Trans Iowa. Don't even tell me to charge money for it! I am not at all interested in making money from this.
So, is there a place for all of this? If I do it, I am doing all of it, not just the route thing. Let me know. I don't want to waste my time if only a couple people find this interesting.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Just this morning I read that Giant is poised to give its Taiwan based employees a year end bonus equal to 23 months salary! Dude! That sounds like a nice little bonus deal to me!
Then you have Dorel Industries, which owns Cannondale Sports Group, a sub-division that encompasses Cannondale, Schwinn, GT Bikes, and Mongoose. They aren't scaling back, oh no! They actually added six executive positions to monitor a cycling division that they see growing- not shrinking- in sales to become what they hope to be, the #1 cycling company in North America.
I also know of several other smaller companies that are adding on. Heck, Salsa Cycles just posted on their blog recently that they are looking to add on an engineer position. Even the shop I work at is experiencing a potential record year after a record year last year.
Doesn't sound like your typical economic news now, does it? And what's more, experts and industry folk expect the cycling economy to hold its own, and maybe even grow, throughout 2009. Amazing when you look around at the rest of the daily news these days.
Like I said, I am really glad I work in the cycling industry! Besides.....I like to ride bikes! So, why wouldn't I like it!
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
This was a very unsettling atmosphere to be flung into after miles of hard riding. Fortunately Steve pulled off to the side and we conferenced. I thought there was a tourist information booth nearby the bridge, so it was agreed that we should turn back and look for it. We didn't find it and essentially we went in a circle. Then after another stop we just bailed off the busy road onto an eastward leading side street.
After coming across a local convenience store and getting some directions to a local bike shop, we were off again. There we found out how to connect up to the La Crosse River Trail. That was our plan in the morning, but that seemed ages ago now. We had planned on going the length of that trail which ended in Sparta Wisconsin. After that point, we had no idea where we would be going.
After getting the directions to the La Crosse River Trail, and after I had repeated these directions umpteen million times to Steve until he was satisfied that he knew where we were going, we were off again. Troy was no help at all. He was too busy being confused! After a short bit, Troy and I spotted a Taco Bell. Yes! It had been some time since a major refueling, so we made the best of it.
Troy and Steve took advantage of the stop by taking their tents out and spreading them out to dry in the brisk wind. Troy also checked his "laundry". During the whole trip, Troy always had some article of clothing in the wind as we rode along. He would clip the clothing to his exposed brake cables, or his rear rack via wooden clothes pins. A rather domestic touch, wouldn't you agree?
After appetites had been satisfied and tents dried, we were off once again. We passed a New Orleans Saints pre-season training camp just up the road. Many people lined the chain link fences gazing at these "gods of the gridiron". Troy took this opportunity to yell, "Go Bears!" The ninny! He doesn't even like the Bears!
Our bike friendly directions led us up onto a sidewalk which took us right to the trail head. It also kept us out of all the heavy traffic. I was glad to leave the manic city behind me for the peacefulness of a bike trail. I soon changed my mind about this feeling for the trail though. I even changed my mind about hills!
This trail was as straight as an arrow, and having been a former rail line, it was also very flat. This was a formula for endless pedalling, boredom, and sore butts! Compounding matters was the lateness of the hour which did not allow for any dawdling. It was getting towards evening and we wanted to get to Sparta before dark. We did make one stop, to allow for Steve to go to the bathroom. In the meantime, Troy and I sprawled on the grass and watched the puffy white clouds sail over our heads.
We cursed the bastard trail, we cursed the poor cheese eating bastards of Wisconsin. We attached the word "bastard" to everything imaginable, including each other. Then a remarkable thing happened.
Maybe it was too many long miles on a bike. Maybe we were going insane. But, we all reach a point now and then when we laugh for the sheer joy of laughing. The point where laughter breeds more laughter. Like a chain reaction. A chain reaction of nuclear laughter! Well, we had a good belly bust right there in the grass. I think that is where the tour finally got its name for good. "The Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" was now an official moniker. This was arguably one of the funnest, most free moments of my life up to that time.
Once back onto the trail the fun was soon forgotten. The endless ribbon of trail was brutal and relentless. We passed by the towns of West Salem, Bangor, and Rockland. Still we pedalled on. Somewhere along the way the conversation died out as each of us reached inside to find something to take our minds off the misery. Troy was leading, Steve was second wheel, and I followed. The only noise was the wind and Steve's radio. Suddenly, I was shaken out of my trail induced stupor by sudden movements by Troy and Steve. I came to just in time to see something go under my wheels...CRUNCH! "What was that?!!", I exclaimed. Everybody came to a halt.
In the next installment of "The Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" we'll see what was up with that crunch and get a lesson on how not to find a place to sleep for the night! Stay tuned!
Monday, December 01, 2008
So, if you are not into that sort of "end of the year" crapola", sorry! I ain't changin' it! I also want to specifically say that I am doing these posts in no particular order. Just doing them as things come to me over the next few months. Expect to see these pop up occasionally throughout December.
The first post in my series is dedicated to those wonky Twin Six
fellas. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't wear something from this outfit of lovable loonies. (I mean that in the most positive sense!) Their support of Guitar Ted Productions and Twenty Nine Inches goes waaaaay beyond common sense and is hugely appreciated. I love the stuff they produce, and wear it proudly. Besides that, I think it is safe to say that I have gotten to know the guys of Twin Six a bit, and can call them some of my Minneapolis buds. That's pretty cool of them to hang with, and support a lout like me. So here's a big Thank You to Twin Six and Ryan and Brent. You guys rock!
Also, I want to say that the Chatterbox , (The joint Brent always takes me to up there) is probably the most awesome little hang out spot I've been to (so far) in Minneapolis. So, thanks to Brent of Twin Six for hooking me up there. If you are going to be in the Twin Cities area, look up this joint, it is really good stuff!
As long as I'm on Minneapolis stuff here, lets also talk about Murphy-Hanrahan Park and Reserve. It's where I finally got an off road ride in with the Twin Six guys. A trail developed recently out of some older trails that previously existed "Murph", as the locals call it, is a stellar single speeders course and has about the best swoopy, buff, rolling trail anywhere around. I highly recommend this trail system, which is an easy drive off I-35 near Burnsville.
I'll be talkin' more about Minneapolis folks and places in the coming days, so stay tuned!