Mukluk/Winter party-dealio thing at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, Minnesota Saturday evening. Proprietor Ben Witt and his mechanic Curtis have been busy sprucing up the joint of late and this is kind of an excuse to show off their accomplishments and get some bike geeks that Ben wants to see to show up. And there will be some serious bike-geekery going on, lemme tell ya! I happen to have an inside track on some of the esteemed attendees and I know that the vortex of bike gab will certainly be swirling around the confines of Ben's shop well into the evening. Look for a report on that coming up on Monday, most likely.
Time For A Concept Bike: Part of the bike geek-speak that will be happening will have to do with this project while I am up there. Ben tells me that he has been cooking up some ideas and we'll have the ears of various bike designer types to bend while we are there munching on whatever Ben has cooked up on the grill outside. This project is not just an exercise in brain warpage either. I am serious about actually putting the plan into motion for an as yet undisclosed gravel adventure I am putting on my calendar as a goal for next year. More on that goal later, but do look for a report of sorts on this project soon.
And Speaking Of Concepts.... The biggest in mountain biking this century is arguably the 29 inch wheel. It has revolutionized the way people not only think about their off road ride, but how they ride off road. I know it changed the way I looked at mountain biking forever. It's more fun, and that's the bottom line. Well, some know the story and some don't, but I found an image this week I wanted to share with everyone. It's been too long for this blog to have been going without this image having been shown here.
<==March, 1999: The first "modern 29"er" is born. (image credit: Wes Williams)
A bunch of people including Wes Williams, Gary Fisher, and others, had persuaded WTB's Mark Slate to make a ISO622 X 50 tire based upon WTB's then current racing tread, the Nanoraptor. A small batch were made early in 1999 and handed out to the principals involved in the then tiny movement to bring bigger wheels to mountain biking.
Wes Williams, who had formerly been a welder at Ibis Cycles, had been quietly making his "28"ers" in Crested Butte, Colorado using the largest ISO622/700c tires he could get his hands on at the time. These bikes were made under the Willits Brand name. (Mostly Continental Goliaths) These tires were not really mountain bike tires, being somewhat skinny, (45mm or so in width), and not having an ideal tread pattern for mountain biking. Wes noted that the outer diameter was nominally 28 inches, thus the "28"er" designation.
Wes got some of the first Nanoraptors and was quickly turning 28"ers into what he dubbed as "29"ers", seeing as how the overall outside diameter had increased with the Nanoraptor. In March, 1999, Wes unleashed the first of these bikes. Moots made one later in the year, and Gary Fisher and Steve Potts collaborated with Mark Slate to build others by late 1999/early 2000. The 29"er movement was underway.
Now some will point back to other bikes based on 700c wheels and say, "What about ____". Well, the thing is, none of those bikes had a two inch wide/50mm tire and since that was the case, none of them had a nominal 29" outer diameter. Yes- there were 700c based mtb bikes and even going further back, 28"ers being made in the late 1800's, but nothing had ever been concocted to match that first orange rig in Crested Butte in March of '99. That's where we got our "modern 29"er". That's where this all started as far as a bicycle that could become what it has today. It all hinged upon getting that big, voluminous tire that just didn't exist before 1999.
It is as if several threads of thought got focused on that one moment when "The Tire" was conceptualized and first produced, then all those threads of thought were wrought into something new that spread back out and grew and became the 29"er movement, and now is well on its way to becoming "just a mountain bike".
Well, that's a shortened version of a very big, very complex story, but there ya go! Hope you enjoyed that and I hope ya'all can get outside and enjoy the world this weekend! Ride On!
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