Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ergon BioKork Grips

Last weekend at Frostbike in Bloomington, Minnesota, I was visiting with my friend and former co-worker, Jeff Kerkove who gave me these new Ergon Bio-Kork grips to try out. This is all from Ergon's "GreenLab" project, which seeks to be more enviromentally sensitive. Check out the features of this grip to see what I mean, (from Ergon's webpage for the BioKork grip).

The new BioKork version of the GP1 provides ultimate ergonomics for the hand just as the rest of Ergon’s Performance Comfort series do, however the unique qualities of cork means that it is now anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic. Cork’s natural damping qualities also make it an ideal grip material, and its now density mean the resulting grip is a lot lighter. The GP1 BioKork uses 40% cork, sourced from sustainable forests in Portugal which is certified for its ecologically sound production. This ecological theme is continued throughout the rest of the grip. The inner core is plastic reinforced using natural fibre, which make up 40% of its mass. In place of mineral oil, the gel in the palm section of the grip is vegetable oil based. The clamp can also be 100% recycled. It is all a result of Ergon’s “GreenLab” project.
The "GreenLab" project also extends to the packaging for all of the Ergon grip line starting in 2010. Everything about the packaging is from recycled products and can be recycled. So no more funky plastic sleeves and what not to deal with. To be fair, all of the previous packaging could be recycled, but now the process is more convenient for the end user. From Ergon's packaging page on their web site:
Although these (The former packaging materials) could all be recycled, sorting them to do so was time consuming. By contrast, the new packaging uses only paper, making up its four components. Recycling is therefore extremely easy.

Back to the BioKork: The "green" theme continues with the inner hard sleeve (as mentioned above) and even the end caps being made from 40% Blowert grass fibers. You can even see it in the end caps.

Although the materials have been changed, the packaging changed, one thing remains the same- That is how the Ergon grip fits the hand. Perfectly comfortable, just like my other GP1 grips are. This is my favorite grip from Ergon, and I will be putting this through its paces through the coming months to see if it holds up to everyday use and especially for mountain biking. I have these mounted to my Gun Kote covered Salsa El Mariachi single speed right now. So, stay tuned for further updates.

Note: These grips were provided at no cost to me for evaluation on this site. I am not being paid or co-erced to give a positive review and I will strive to give my honest opinions throughout the review process.

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XV

The Renegade Sportsman: Drunken Runners, Bike Polo Superstars, Roller Derby Rebels, Killer Birds and Other Uncommon Thrills on the Wild Frontier of Sports by Zach Dundas.

Back about a month ago, I posted about the book that was coming out that included a bit about Trans Iowa V3 written by Zach Dundas, the fellow that tagged along to research the event that year. Well, here's what the book cover will look like. You can pre-order this from now.

(I have no dog in this race, so I do not benefit from the sales of this tome. I just thought T.I. vets and curiousity seekers might want to take a look.)

Tales Of Gravel Glory: Salsa Cycles sponsored racer, Tim Ek, has an excellent first installment to a recap of his Trans Iowa V5 experience posted on Salsa Cycle's website. I highly recommend the peice as it is very well written. Tim gives you an excellent account of what it took for him to be in the four up break that eventually catapulted him to a second place tie with Dave Pramann, just behind winner Joe Meiser in an amazing 25 hours for 320 plus miles of gravel road grinding. Tim will be back again this time looking for a repeat performance over the hills and dales of Iowa's countryside.

Are You Ready? Well, from the time of this posting there are approximately 55 days left before I honk the horn on the Truck With No Name and lead out Trans Iowa V6. There will be a lot of road work going on with you folks out there, I am sure, but also with d.p. and I. Roads need to be checked. Alternate lines need to be explored. Exact directions and mileages need to be dialed in. We'll all be busy!

During this time I ask that if things are not looking good for you to show up at Trans Iowa in April, that you let me know as soon as you can. I need to have numbers dialed for cue sheets and for our Pre-Race Meat-Up at the Grinnell Steakhouse. You can assure that we will not be going to extra expense and work if you are going to back out by just sending me a simple e-mail.

Sponsor's Corner: This week I wanted to highlight a special Trans Iowa sponsor. This company sponsored the very first edition of Trans Iowa. They introduced co-founder Jeff Kerkove to the product he would eventually end up representing today- namely Ergon. I just confirmed with Jeff what the products would be that Ergon would sponsor us with, and I think the lucky recipients will be pleased.

I always chuckle when I see how far and wide the Ergon grip has penetrated into the cycling scene. When Jeff and I stuffed those first race bags in 2005, nobody had heard of these wacky, paddle shaped grips with the exorbitant price of $35.00 each. "Who in the world would ever buy these things?", is something we heard a lot of back then.  Yup! Pretty funny when I think about that. I can't help but feel Trans Iowa kind of helped get that big green Ergon "ball" a rolling back then.

Please take the time to check out the Ergon grips and their excellent back packs. And if you see Jeff roaming around the nation as he does, tell him hello from me, and thank him for Trans Iowa too!

Till next week...................

Friday, February 26, 2010

In Preparation For The Ensuing Mess

Well, it won't be long now. The angle of the sun gives it away. Yes folks, this snow is headed for the nearest gully, ditch, ravine, culvert, creek, stream, and river. Whether it will be a slow process or fast, no one really knows yet, but in the recent years that I am aware of most clearly, by the third week of  March, this is usually all gone.

That's only three weeks away folks!

So, we're looking at some fine, peanut buttery gravel and mud for the next few weeks. Then the frost will come out of the ground, and who knows what havoc that'll cause this time. Will it be like the spring of 2008? Maybe. The frost heaves were so big that cars couldn't get down some roads!

So with all of that in mind, I am busting out the fenders folks! Yup. I plan on putting in some long, muddy, single speedy miles before Trans Iowa and I am sure it will be all a mucky mess, or at least most of that time will be.

At least I hope we're done with the sub-zero madness! I wouldn't mind a mucky, dirty ride about right now!

Get out and ride if you can this weekend! Good luck to all the CIRREM racers this weekend too!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Klunker Update & Some Vintage Stuff

Klunker Update: I have the '52 DX stripped now and I am having the seat stays re-brazed to the seat tube. Once that is done I will make a few modifications and then have the frame painted.

Ideally I will have to do some minor fillet brazing and knock off that kickstand mount. I may take a piece of steel tubing from an old frame in the back and fashion a chain stay bridge which will fit where the kickstand mount is now.
Here is an inspirational build from Mike's Bikes in Northfield. Notice the drum brake hubs which are modern Sturmey Archer units. If I go this route it will make my life a lot easier!

With drum brakes I can do a righteous five speed freewheel build on a SunTour Perfect or Winner free wheel that we have example of around the shop. We also have N.O.S. cogs to build up my own ratio with, so that would be cool. I've already got a SunTour Honor rear derailluer that is period correct, (but not the coveted Cyclone GT model!)

(UPDATE: I found a GT SunTour derailluer and a Cyclone front derailluer in my shop last night!)
Mike's had a lot of klunker material sitting around, so getting some inspiration and ideas was no problem. I am hoping to peck away at this while I have time on rainy days and what not, so this won't be a pressing project. However; it should turn out pretty cool.

The color has been decided upon already too. The frame shows signs of being a dark, brick red color originally. So I am going after that with a cream dart front end in the traditional manner. The wheels will be the gold Ukai rims on the Sturmey Archer drum brake hubs. Of course, I'll have to get a Brooks saddle for it sometime!

Well, that's it for now. Look for further Klunker Updates in the future.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ben's Sled

Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles had a custom Steve Potts drop bar single speed made recently and whoo boy! It's a honey!

For those of you that don't know, Steve Potts has been making killer mountain bike frames for as about as long as the modern mountain bike has been around. He was a principal in WTB's earlier days, and was one of the first to design and build a modern day 29"er back in 1999. To say that Steve Potts knows something about welding some thin walled tubes together is a mild understatement!

Ben got the titanium frame and a sweet Type II steel fork. It even has his name on the top tube! My favorite detail though is the head tube badge. Too bad I didn't get a shot of that! (I saw this when I was at his shop Friday).

Potts' work is incredibly clean and well executed. Look at this drop out. It is awesome! Beautiful in simplicity and purpose.

The finish is flawless. Amazingly so. The details like the brass jamb nut on the tensioner are nice touches to a simple, purposeful build.

There really isn't anything unnecessary here. Everything has a reason for being. I like that in a single speed.

Check out these welds too. Incredible!

There isn't anyone doing this any better, at least as far as looks go. And if the frames out there are any indication, Potts frames are pretty bomber too.

The worst thing about this frame is that it fits me perfectly! Ben's bikes usually do. It is uncanny, but he and I like the same set ups. 
Chapeau! Ben! You have a sweet rig there and I hope you enjoy it for years to come!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Welcome To The New Look

Well, by now you've noticed something is different.

I decided due to a failure in my old blog template to upgrade to a new template that supports the newer updates and formats that Blogger now offers. This has forced me to redo all of my links as well, which was long overdue, I suppose, after five years of piling up there on the right margin.

There will be linkage added, but it will take some time, so please bear with me as I rebuild a few things here. This may or may not be a permanent change as well. I am toying with some ideas which may affect the blog layout and look.

What will not change is the basic tone and content of Guitar Ted Productions. If you have ideas, please let me know in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Bike Shop Tales: Cutter's Ball, 2010

We take a break from history for a story from the present.................

Saturday evening, a new bicycle shop called the "Angry Catfish" was throwing a party in conjunction with a few local custom builders and Twin Six, the apparel company that puts duds on my back from time to time. (Thanks guys!)

Anyway, I went there with Jason B, Marty, and Ben. We hung around from the early part of the evening till about 11pm. I took the opportunity to snap off a few black and whites with my Fuji Finepix Z-1 point and shoot. Nothing spectacular, but it gets some cool images sometimes.

I like the first one here. It reminds me of when bars were all smoke ridden pits due to the foggy nature of the front window. (Of course, no one was smoking inside.) I was outside when I took that one. I like the shadowed, ghostly human forms and the highlights of the bicycle. 
The band was a unique outfit called 4 On The Floor where each band member could kick his own bass drum. The minimal equipment otherwise hearkens  back to the days of early rock and roll. I thought it was pretty cool.

We got there pretty early, so the place was wide open. Lots of conversations could be had, since the band wasn't playing. When they did, you could hardly hear yourself think.

Pretty amazing party since food, drink, and entertainment were all free. How often does that happen anymore?

By the time we left there was a big contingent of folks on bicycles milling around out front. Fixies and single speeds were the order of the evening. Kind of funny how nowadays there are mini-gatherings outside of bars so people can get their smoke on. Back when I was young, being outside was a lonely proposition.

Not anymore, it seems!

That's a wrap on the Cutter's Ball at The Angry Catfish bicycle shop/coffee bar. More Bike Shop Tales next week!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Frostbike 2010: Weekend Report

Frostbike is a dealer only open house held by Quality Bicycle Products every winter. That's what the short story is, but it doesn't really tell the story. It's more of a "family reunion". An excuse to get together with a whole bunch of bike freaks and misfits. It is a much needed infusion of bicycle culture in the midst of a long cold winter. A two wheeled version of caffeine for the bike persons soul. Good stuff!

I couldn't possibly begin to tell the whole story of the weekend's adventure, nor post the 78 photos of stuff that happened outside of QBP's walls during the weekend. I can not even begin to hit all the highlights in one post. So, here is a very tiny view of what was going on in my world over the past weekend. It was a good thing for the soul!

First off, I found out my two hand made drawings, one of MG and the other one my entry into Gravel Worlds, at left, made it safely to their destinations, which I was a bit releived to know. So, with that knowledge in my mind, I was set to head up north to see Ben Witt at Milltown Cycles. I got there plenty early, so I had some time to wheel around on one of his Drakkar bikes and chat with Ben at my leisure. When Ben was ready, we headed to Northfield, Minnesota.

That's where Ben grew up and used to work at another bicycle shop called Mike's Bikes. Mike's is the place where we went last year and the same folks were there again this time to share in some good times drinking a few beers, eating Greek style pizza, and zooming around the shop on all sorts of wacky rigs.

We were joined by Ben's fellow co-worker Curtis and another fellow whose name escapes me now. (Lots of beer will do that to a guy!) Anyway, we would chat awhile, and then the next thing you know a few guys would be zooming around the shop on anything from a 29"er, to a Pugsley, to a 20" Mongoose Moosegoose prototype. Fun was had, and lots of stories were told.

Mike's Bikes is one of those "lil bits o bike shop heaven" for gear freaks and cycling fans. In every corner, you just never know what you might turn up. Early 80's fillet brazed Fisher Montare? Yep! How about a 30's era Schwinn Excelsior frame? Or a few of them? Yep! How about the odd Superfly carbon frame hanging from the wall in the corner? Yep! Or, how about a NOS Kos Cruiser with rasta Bullseye hubs? Yep again.

After the evening was over, I spent the night in Northfield at Ben's parents house, (mucho gracias!), and the next day I went to the expo at QBP. Spent the day there re-connecting with friends and pretty much was pinned down at the Salsa Cycles booth all day. In the evening, Ben, Jason B, Marty, and I all went out for some Thai grub and a visit to Minneapolis' newest bike/coffee bar called the Angy Catfish where they were having a party called The Cutter's Ball.

We arrived early and the place was wide open. They had a musical outfit playing some really loud tunes called "4 On The Floor" which featured a drummer, bassist, and two electric guitar players each set up with their own kick drum which they lined up in a row in front of the "stage". Pretty unique to say the least!

Later on it got pretty packed, and memories of 20 years ago were coming back when I used to crash live music bars all the time. Well, we are all a bit older and wiser these days,(plus we all were going back to QBP the next day), so we bagged it about 11:30pm and headed to the shed.

The next day I went back and hit up some folks I missed the previous day, picked up a frame and fork for testing on Twenty Nine Inches, (TBA later), and hit the road for home. All in all a great time and fun was had by all.

I leave you with this final image from an undisclosed restroom in the bowels of QBP. The two coffees belonged to myself and a friend. The beer? Well, let's just say this pic is from Sunday morning and "The Borg" would not be pleased.

Thanks to the Witt Family, Ben Witt, Marty Larson, Mike, Stuart, Jason Boucher, The Salsa Crew, The Boucher Family, Jeff Kerkove, QBP, and The Angry Catfish, Twin Six, and all who played a part in making this Frostbike quite enjoyable and memorable. If I have forgotten your name, I apologize. I'm still a bit fuzzy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XIV

More Sponsor Love: First up we have some new sponsors of T.I.V6 to share.

I was thinking back to when certain past riders were feeling badly about loosing certain items when they rattled off their bikes in Trans Iowas gone by. I thought, what if they had a strap- a strap that was more than awesome- a Simple Strap!

So when ByeKyle got ahold of me recently and asked to partner with me to sponsor Trans Iowa racers with his Simple Strap, how could I refuse? I mean, at least I won't feel like I stood by and did nothing to prevent you- the Trans Iowa racer- from loosing something special off your bike while you are out there riding the route.

By the way, the Simple Straps you will be getting will be a Safety Orange one. (Other colors shown in the image to the left.)

I know- it is not normal for an event promoter to help sponsor his/her own event, but I ain't normal. Just ask anybody that knows me!

You will get your Simple Strap in your race packet at the Pre-Race Meat-Up, so don't miss that. (Or you won't be racing!)

Next up I was contacted by T.I.V5 vet, A-Lo from Velocity U.S.A. They know you need something to hold your water bottles with. So they are going to put a Bottle Trap into each racer bag for you to pick up, (once again), at the mandatory Pre-Race Meat-Up.

I've actually used these cages and they grip your bottle with authority! I highly doubt you will lose a bottle on a rough gravel road using one of these composite/plastic cages. (They remind me a bit of Cat-Eye cages, if you are familiar at all with those)

So, please make sure to check these sponsors out and thank them if at all possible.

In Other Goings On: I should be meeting soon with Oakley Super-rep, Rob V about the plans for his Gravel Grinder, (Official name to be determined), and some other sponsor-like stuff in terms of prizing. Activity schedules and logistics for the "Oakley O-Down At The Barn" will be hopefully nailed down. (Beer Sponsor??)

The City Of Grinnell will hopefully bless our start and roll out soon. A letter from the Chamber Of Commerce went out on Trans Iowa's behalf today letting them know what our plan was. That should wrap up any details necessary for T.I.V6 to roll off on April 24th.

Now we just need to get rid of this stinkin' snow!

Note: You got the Trans Iowa Thoughts post a day early since tonight and tomorrow and into Sunday I'll be in Minneapolis for Frostbike. Look for a special report on the show next week. Until then, do whatever you can outside in the snow, or ride your trainers, or something! Have a great weekend and I'll be back Monday with a new post.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's This "Dirt" You Speak Of?

Yeah.......more snow riding. Yay me! I'm getting to the point now where it is like, "Hmmm.......I bet I could ride through there if I walked through with my snowshoes a time or three."


Maybe. Getting old? Definitely.

So here are a few observations from my outdoor exploits yesterday.............

Those Ardent 2.4"ers are plumping up! Like a Dubuque HotDog, they are pretty swollen from their original size. I'd guess they are actually approaching the 2.4 inch status. Amazingly enough! The best part is the ride though. I have them set up tubeless and they are really rolling nice and smoothly! Very supple and the traction seems decent, so far. I mean, it is only snow and ice, afterall!

The Dillinger Gen III frame is riding just great as well. The frame swallows the fat Ardent with about three millimeters to spare. One thought kept leaping into my mind as I rode through the snowy cemetery roads at warp speed, and that was "stable". I could get all squirrely in the ice and still keep it upright. Cool! The frame squirts forward with instant acceleration too. Nice and responsive. The fat tires masked anything I might be able to feel from the frame as far as ride quality goes though. I'll have to put the XC set up under it later and figure out that part.

Finally, the Velocity P-35 rims/hubs are performing really well too. I'll tell you what- if there was any flex in that rear wheel the tire would hit the frame. Nothing of the sort has happened yet. I will have to touch up the front wheel though. It seems to sit in the Reba Team fork off center a hair. I'll re-check the dish here soon.

Then after all of that I went snow shoeing. Man! That works the legs, that's for sure. It was good and I tramped all over the Green Belt. It's funny to find boot tracks crossing the woods out there in the middle of nowhere! You know that post holing they are doing is really giving them a workout!

So, any idea when this "dirt" thing will show its face again round these parts? I've forgotten what it looks like!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Foundation Of "The Ride" : Salsa Cycles Fargo

A lot of folks may be wondering why I picked the Salsa Cycles Fargo as my number one 29"er product of 2009. (Or maybe not! At any rate.......) I was reminded why I did just yesterday while reading the Gnat Likes... blog where Jason, the blog author and head of Salsa Cycles, was opining about riding his Fargo and how it allowed him more enjoyment from cycling, and gave him an opportunity to clear his mind. Readers of the blog responded in the comments section in a like manner. Things like, "I've never ridden this much in winter" were written. Amazing stuff, really.

And that's just it. That is what the Fargo has done, (and more), for its owners. It has given them the means to do things that they would not have done otherwise. Could another bicycle have sufficed? Yes, absolutely. However; one must remember that the Fargo is a bike aimed squarely at something other bikes miss, or have only hinted at. That is our spirit of adventure.

The Fargo, when it was launched, was "foundational". What I mean by that is twofold. First, and most obviously, the bike could be interpreted in several ways by the end user. Mountain tourer? Yes. Urban commuter? Definitely. Gravel grinder? For sure. Long distance, ultra marathon machine? Just ask Joe Meiser! (Joe rode the entire Tour Divide route on a Fargo in 2009) The point is that while some folks just didn't get the Fargo, and still don't, others immediately saw possibilities for the bicycle they really wanted. They saw a "foundation" to build off of.

While that is amazing in itself, what I believe is the Fargo's most important feature and most impactful is that it can be a "foundation" for "the ride". What is "the ride", you might ask? Well, it is that ride, that route, that adventure that the Fargo becomes the perfect bicycle for. Take our situation right now. Winter, and a bad one at that. Yet folks that own Fargos are not sitting around wondering when the snow is going away. Nope! They are riding their Fargos all over, wherever one can ride this winter. When the trails open up, they will go there. When the gravel roads get clear of ice and snow, they will go farther there.

All this isn't because the Fargo is any better at snow riding, or cold weather riding than any other bike. No, it has something to do with how people's imaginations for what is possible have been encouraged by their perception of the Fargo. It has become their "foundation", if you will, for whatever "ride" lights their fancy. Something- for whatever reasons- other bikes have failed to do on such a wide scale across so many different users.

How could I not pick the Fargo as my top 2009 29"er product? Well, I knew these things were true for me about the Fargo, and I assumed by the numbers of web stats pointed at the Fargo that a lot of other folks were feeling similarly. However; when I read stuff like I did yesterday, I know I was right about it.

Still, a lot of folks won't "get" the Fargo. They will never understand what it is that folks find so cool about that ungainly looking frame and drop bars, and low bottom brackets, and all those goofy braze ons. But that is okay, becausefor the ones that did "get" it, and for the ones that will, the Fargo will be the foundation of a lot of sweet rides in 2010 and beyond.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Back To Work III

Here are a couple more stories from my everyday work at Advantage Cyclery......

Of course, most of my time at the shop was all about fixing bicycles, and that was usually just basic repairs and tune-ups. However; I got one job that was passed off to me after no one else could figure it out. I think it was one of those jobs that everyone figured I would fail at, since all the other more experienced mechanics there had not been able to get it worked out. They didn't say this to me, but no one was willing to give me any ideas on it either. So off I went, determined to overcome this problem.

The bike was a Klein road bike. Two chain ring model. The problem was that it wasn't shifting up front worth a hoot. You could make it shift up onto the big chain ring, but it then would not shift down into the small one. If you made it shift well into the small chain ring, it wouldn't shift into the big one, and to make matters worse, the derailluer was at it's limits of throw, just to get it up into the big ring. Of course, the derailluer was a braze on model.

Well, after much consternation, several test rides, and hours spent staring it down. I finally had a "eureka" moment.

The bottom brackets on Kliens were pressed in affairs. I thought, what if the spindle is pressed in wrong? Well, after some careful measurements, I found that I was on the right track. I pressed the spindle out, reversed it, pressed it back in, and the shifting was spot on. The owner was very pleased, and told me that it had been that way since he had purchased the bike new. He had been to several shops and no one had figured it out.

Tom, my boss, was very pleased, and the other mechanics were amazed, and I had gained their respect. It was a good day for me, and I think that was the day I knew I had become a real bicycle mechanic. (Wheel building not withstanding!)

After that, I got more complicated jobs thrown my way. I learned even more, and gained a lot of good experience. Before I left the shop when it closed in 1997, I had become Advantage Cyclery's head mechanic. Ha! I never would have believed that when I started. But I did it. From a full on bench jeweler, designer, salesman to a bicycle mechanic. Who would have guessed that?

Not I!

Next week: Working at the shop brought a lot of bicycles into my life....

Monday, February 15, 2010

What A Drag!

So, I was procrastinating on Saturday and didn't get a ride in due to a mid-day phone call to fill in on guitar in the church band I play in. It wasn't my week to play, but the guy that was on for the weekend came down ill. That's what I get for not waking up in the morning right away and getting it done.

So, things were looking good for a ride to church on Sunday morning, since I would be meeting Mrs. Guitar Ted later and hitching a ride home. I looked around for a likely ride. I pulled out the El Mariachi for the job. Pumped up the tires and went on my way.

Now while it is winter, and the rolling resistance is up some, I knew that I was working way harder than I needed to. At first I thought it might be the Rampage front tire. I was running it pretty low and I could here the knobs singing when I hit the dry patches of pavement. Rampages are not the best rollers, and for maximum bite and traction on ice, I knew I was giving something away in terms of rolling resistance there. Still, it seemed as if I was pedaling far harder than I should have to.

For awhile, I chalked it up to just being way out of shape. But even though I have much to gain in that area, it wasn't all the fault of my low level of fitness now either. Nope! It was something else.

My rear brake was dragging. Really badly! I thought I had fixed it, and had parked the bike when I last worked on it sure that I had it figured out. Hrummmpf! I guess not! And my legs are still sore from the ride!

I'm blaming it all on "basement gnomes" for now!

Saturday evening I dug out a couple skinny tired, (for me) bikes to do some crummy weather training on. I know sooner or later that the snow will start melting, and the gravel will get peanut buttery. I grabbed the Ranier and the CrissCross and started setting them up as single speed, fendered, 40-ish millimeter wide tired gravel training rigs. I have one more set of fenders too, and one more bike that can get in on this rotation if need be in my Grand Prix fixie. So, I'll have no excuses for not putting time in on the gravel this spring when things get mucky. While one bike is getting re-habbed from a wet gravel mess, the others can be pressed into duty.

Well, it's a plan anyway!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XIII

Sometimes I see something posted or e-mailed to me that makes my eyes open a bit wider. A newer person to an "under the radar" event comes in, (generally), and writes the types of comments that make me think....

"It's time for a reset of the playing field here!"

I can't really blame these folks. I mean, these sorts of events and their "rules and regulations" are more about unspoken things and having the correct attitude than what you will find from the rules for the typical "hamster circuit" events that are most popular in the mountain bike world.

Those events generally do not have a sort of loose, "suggestion-type" list as to what to do, wear, and bring to an event. They do not expect you will do the entire event unsupported and either provide all sorts of infrustructure or the actual support itself, or both. They "provide services" and charge a fee for it. In return you are expected to play by all sorts of rules, and the riders expect a lot in return from the promoters for following all of these rules for a fee to race. Like a closed course, ammenities, maybe a t-shirt.

And please- Don't take offense. It is okay to provide that sort of product and for bicyclists to buy into it. (Pun intended)

Well, at Trans Iowa, and a lot of other gravel grinders, you are not going to get that. You won't even have to pay a fee at all for many of these events. What you will get is simply this: A chance to challenge yourself mentally and physically against the clock on public roads while riding a bicycle. Like a big group ride challenge in the middle of the country. In return for pointing ya'all in the right direction, and for keeping tabs on ya'all for the purpose of bragging rights at the end, we expect you, the participant, to be of a reasonable mind and consider the following:

We are informing you all that are in the event that if you don't agree that you are on your own, that you are responsible for yourself, and that this is being undertaken of your own volition, then don't take the start.

The bottom line is this: Do not burden the event staff, promoter, or other racers with possibly having to extricate you from the course for any reason. This is a cardinal rule for all of the self supported, unsanctioned, "under the radar" events out there that drew their origins from "Curiak Rules"
Consider the statements highlighted here carefully. Most of you guys and gals "get it", but please- still give this some thought. It is important to really understand it.
The "Self Supported" ethos is what makes these events work. It is all about you. How you deal with a challenge, and if you overcome it, you get all the kudos. You did it. It wasn't by support of a crew. It wasn't by support by an event that had "aid stations". and you alone did it.
And that's pretty dang cool if you ask me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday News And Views

Whelp, it has been another cold and snowy week with little to no bicycle activity. I know it can't last a whole lot longer, and thoughts of getting out to test some of the stuff I have here for Twenty Nine Inches is growing heavy on my mind. I have a "responsibility complex", I guess!

<=== Oh! If only there were clear dirt trails near by! How I would thrash thee!

The one thing I really worry about now as warmer weather looms is just how fast is this stuff going to melt, and when will it rain? The right, (or wrong) combination of these two answers could mean that the floods we saw in 2008 could be eclipsed by a potential flood like we have never seen the likes of. I sure hope that doesn't happen! It would really be disastrous. But this pile of white stuff is doomed to melt, and melt soon.

In the meantime, I have made my reservations/plans for Frostbike. That will be coming up a week from today, at least for me, as I trek up to Northfield, Minnesota and hang out at Mike's Bikes again. After that I am doing the open house, and then Saturday there is some mystery plan that will probably only become clear on Saturday afternoon. But I am okay with that. Sunday I'll make a quick appearance and then get back to Iowa. Look for reports from the road starting a week from today.

About a month from now I'll be in Texas for a week and one afternoon I will get to ride a bike. Sheesh! One day to ride when I'm in a literal riding paradise! And no snow! Well, although I want to ride the whole week, I won't since I will have my family along, so that won't be happening. At least one glorious day in the sun should happen though. More on this as the date grows closer.

So, maybe I'll hit up the snowmobile trails again Saturday on the bike. It's not much, but it beats sitting around waiting for the snow to melt! Have a great weekend and I hope someone is riding a bike out there somewhere!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

If'n Ya Cain't Beat 'Em- Join 'Em!

So, it goes without saying that this is one of the, if not the worst winters in 30 years. Well, "worst" if you like to ride bikes outdoors and you don't really care for snow.

I guess that my take is if it has to be cold, let's have a bunch of snow to play in. Okay, we can check that off. We have lots of snow to play in!

But in a similar way to the winter of 2000-2001, we have snow and it really hasn't ever melted away. The ground has peeked out here and there at times, but for the most part we have had consistent and constant snow cover since the second week of December.

It's getting to wear a bit thin now that it is coming on to mid-February!

So, I could grouse about it, but you know what? It wouldn't melt the snow, and it would still be cold. That attitude isn't going to help.

So I chose to do something to work with what I have to work with.

I went skiing.

XC skiing is a total body workout too. Well, if you know how to do the "XC ski dance". It's a technique that isn't too hard to learn, but I find it to be a lot more taxing than riding a bike.

In fact, if I want to find out how much my conditioning sucks, I go XC skiing. Boy! It doesn't take long to find out my stamina needs to get off life support and get into shape!

The other thing I think is odd is that the place I go to ski hardly gets used. Not that it bothers me at all. I got fresh powder and made first tracks, which was satisfying to me. The thing is, everybody and their brother goes to Geo Wyth, but no one seems to remember that the Green Belt has as much, if not more, trail distance that can be skied on, and it is far less traveled. I mean, you can really be alone out there like I was today, if that appeals to you.

I would think that more folks would be in to that. Oh well! No worries here! I had a great time and got outside. It was beautiful, and I learned that winter can be pretty decent to get along with, if you are willing to quit fighting with it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday News And Views

Klunkerz Project Update: Well a major hurdle in the Klunker project was cleared when a co-worker of mine called in a favor owed to him and got me this 410mm seat mast machined out of solid aluminum billet for free! (Thanks Mark P.!)

Yeah, pretty much like a late 70's era klunker, as far as I can tell. There are still some big hurdles to leap over yet though. I need to source a crankset, possibly a tubular BMX style cruiser fork, and decide if I want to braze on some canti studs, or get some Sturmey-Archer drum brakes, (which could influence whether I keep the flat blade fork or not). I actually have some gold ano Ukai wheels for it that are laced to a Sturmey-Archer 3spd rear hub and a SunTour high flange front hub. I found some BMX levers from back in the day with white plastic covers too, which I could use for the brakes. Oh! And I can not forget that the frame needs some brazing work, as well.

This Hub Goes To Eleven! Yeah, I know! Old cliche'! But anyway, the Alfine hub is changing for 2011. It will be a 11 speed hub with a wider gear range and will go to an oil bath lubrication for the internals. I've always thought a winter commuter/gravel rig set up this way would be the bees knees.  I'll be keeping an eye on the availability of this. I almost popped for the Alfine 8spd version, but the lack of a really low gear kept me off it. Now Shimano claims this Alfine variation will dip into a lower range than the current 8spd. one does.

Salsa Cycles Announces The Titanium La Cruz: I have already posted a blurb about this on Gravel Grinder News, so I won't go all into the tech stuff. I'll just give you all my two cents on this deal.

Salsa Cycles came out with the steel La Cruz with disc brakes awhile ago. I have almost been tempted several times by that bike, but in my mind, the disc part was overkill and unnecessary for how I would have used the bike, which was for gravel road riding and paved road riding. To my mind, if you want disc brakes, tons of clearance, fatter tires than a typical cross rig, (read above 34mm), and the versatility of being able to go off road all dressed up in a drop bar specific package, you go to the Fargo. Then the Vaya hit the scene recently, and to my mind, it was too much Fargo and not enough of a lightweight road influenced gravel flyer. I guess the Vaya is to the Fargo what Miller Lite is to a good IPA. But that's just me.

Now when I saw Joe Meiser go to the front on that titanium cross bike in T.I.V5, and I realized what I was looking at was a titanium Salsa proto, I figured someday we'd see the rig bow as a La Cruz or Chille Con Crosso titanium rig. I'm glad Salsa chose the La Cruz moniker and the tire clearance that the name is known for. This is the gravel weapon I was thinking of. Light, titanium ride quality, plenty of room for 38's, and it doesn't appear to have a dinky head tube. Cantilever brakes work just fine on gravel, and are in keeping with the light theme set out by the gray-ish metal the frame is worked up in. Not to mention, I have become enamoured of the way titanium can ride of late, no thanks to Lynskey!

Get me some carbon clinchers, a tubeless set up, and some nice SRAM Rival group action and I would have "near perfection" for gravelly goodness here. Near perfection? Yes. It is missing single speed-ability and the price! Well........what do I expect? It is titanium after all!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Back To Work II

Here are some more stories about the day to day at Advantage Cyclery.............

Advantage Cyclery was a really busy place in the season. I remember putting in plenty of 12 hour days there. Most of my time early on was split between being a salesman and being a mechanic, but it wasn't long before I was in the back most of the time wrenching on repair after repair.

Early on in my tenure there, the shop was walled off. A doorway to the sales area being the only outlet other than the back door. So things could get really congested on a busy day by that opening. I remember one day early on that caused a bit of a problem due to this bottle neck.

It was a typical busy day and we had sales people running in and out asking questions and having us attach accessories to new bikes. I was busy with something when Mike, a long, lanky fellow with long, stringy blonde hair poked his head into the shop area with a bicycle in his hands. Mike was an employee at times, used to be on the Advantage Cyclery race team, and was a super mellow guy. This day he was helping us out on the sales floor.

He had this bicycle and was trying to do something but needed a tool. The customer that owned the bike was standing right behind him in the doorway, a young women, probably college aged. Mike said, "Hey, can someone hand me a pair of dykes?" Okay.....innocuous enough, but unbeknownst to Mike, the young women standing behind him was not amused. I saw her jaw hit the floor, and her face went white, then blood red. I started to chuckle, because I understood right then that the young lady was "gay" and was taking offense at the term Mike had used for "diagonal end cutters". Mike seemed unaware until he turned around, probably at the sound of a sharp intake of air by the young women, who then began to give 'er to Mike for being so rude.

Everyone in the shop was barely in control of their laughter. Poor Mike! We all knew him well enough to know that he would never throw out that term in a derogatory manner. And of course, the young women may not have been schooled in the layman's terminology for common shop tools. Ah well! It all turned out okay, and we got a light hearted lift during a stressful day!

Another customer story: There was a fellow that came in and out of the shop that was mentally handicapped to the point that he couldn't drive, but he held down a job and got around by bicycle. It wasn't uncommon for him to take some time off and go visit folks in towns up to a 100 miles away. He used some pretty low end bicycles, so we saw a lot of him due to his constant need for new parts.

Well, this fellow needed a saddle one day and because he had issues with women, the gals wouldn't help him. I don't know why, but he could not be anything but rude to women, so we had an understanding that he had to talk to Tom, or another male employee if Tom wasn't around. Much of the time, this fell to me.

He was hard to get through to, and very suspicious. So selling him anything simple usually ended up being a three hour ordeal, seemingly. I sold him the saddle, bolted it on to his rig, and off he went. Didn't see him for months afterwards.

Then one day he came in ranting, and had one of the girls in tears while the other came back to get me furious at the dude. I said I'd be right out. Well, it seems that his saddle wore out and he was upset that it had worn out like it did when he had "just bought it". Okay, keep in mind he had ridden the bike for three to four months and probably had three thousand plus miles in that time. He rode in all kinds of weather in blue jeans. The saddle he bought was a typical replace ment saddle too. Maybe $30.00 retail. All right?

Well, he got flaming mad at me when I tried to tell him he simply wore out the Lycra cover. He yelled at me and called me a liar. Whoops! Pushed the wrong button there he did! I looked him straight in the eye and asked him to repeat what he just had said. He did. I said, "You and I are going outside. NOW!" Yeah.....he was a bit surprised by that reaction!

Well, I took him outside the door and told him he could say anything he wanted, but never, ever call me a liar. He could go away with nothing, and never come back, or we could go back in, and talk civil about his issues. He apologized. We went back inside, found him a faux leather take off saddle, charged him $5.00 for it and sent him on his way. He never was any trouble after that.

The girls were amazed, and very grateful for what I had done. Well, all in a days work, I guess!

More people and stories about the old shop days coming again next week!

Monday, February 08, 2010


Scheduling the year is getting hairy already. Coming up in less than two weeks I have the annual dealer open house at QBP called Frostbike to attend. I look forward to this as on Friday evening I will be spending time in Northfield again at Mike's Bikes. Certain other Mid-Western luminaries will also be in attendance. You'll just have to check back later to see who was there!

Then after Frostbike it will be full court press on Trans Iowa V6 details. This will be mixed in with trying to get some riding in for Twenty Nine Inches testing, which all by itself would keep me plenty busy as it is. Add in that RAGBRAI is coming through our area, and I am sure spring tune-ups will be falling into the shop like rain.
I will try and get some racing in this year early on as well. This will serve to get some much needed testing done, and will help with training. Make no mistake, I am not going out to be competitive. My goal will be to keep the rubber side down, get a good high intensity workout, and get some valuable saddle time on some test bikes. I may only squeak in one, maybe two of these types of rides, but my eyes are open for opportunities.  I have seen the IORCA schedule and there is Sylvan Island and maybe the Camp Ingawanis race might work out. We'll see. But before any mtb racing starts around here I'll be going to Texas in March for a chance to ride Franklin Mountain Park again. This might be a one day shot, and if I am lucky, it'll work out to be a two day affair. Basically just getting in some riding here on some test rigs is the goal. (Yes- I drag them on the Thule T-2 all the way down and back!)

Of course, the end of April will be all about Trans Iowa. No Sea Otter this year. Too much going on and I can not afford it!

Then the next big deal on the event calendar is the Chequamegon 100, which will be quite the adventure. I've ridden here before and it is tough, killer, fun single track. If it rains anytime around or during this event, it could be epic. Late May still can bring the cold and wind, or it could be beautiful and kind of hot. Who knows? (I'm betting on the rain to affect this event) I rode up there last year in some rain, and I've been in some pretty moist single track up there, so hopefully I can use that to my advantage. This will happen in late May, and then two weeks later, much further south.........

....I'll be riding the Salsa Fargo in Kansas again. The third attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200 should be a toughie. More folks to keep me company out there this time though, which should be interesting.

After Kansas, I'll be doing another Fargo Adventure Ride in Minnesota. That's three big rides in the space of six weeks! If I am still alive after the Fargo Ride, we immediately head up to Chequamegon again for another dose of single track.


As if THAT wasn't enough, the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational is in the middle of July and we'll be re-tracing the route from last year's GTDRI up in the West Union/Strawberry Point area. Last year someone measured the route on a GPS at just shy of 10.000 feet of climbing with several ascents at plus 10% grade and one at an amazing 18%!

I will be trying to ride all the ascents out this time, but it will be insanely tough! This was by far the hardest GTDRI course ever and also the most scenic. We'll be camping out right afterward and hanging out till Sunday morning. This will be a great time.

Then just over a month later I'll be back in the Lincoln, Nebraska area for the Gravel World Championships/Good Life Gravel Adventure put on by the Pirate Cycling League. The 150-ish mile course is awesome and last year I attempted it on a single speed. This time I am entering in the SS class again, because I know I could do it on a single. If I had went to sleep at a decent hour last year, I would have made it in. So this time, even if MG says it is a bad idea, I'm goin for the single speed attempt again!

Whew! That's going to be an epic year of cycling if it all pans out. Of course, after all of this, at the end of September, I'll likely be headed out to Interbike too. So more riding in Bootleg Canyon. Oh yeah!

So, as you can see, I'll be plenty busy all year long. If I have to decline your offer to do something else, I think you'll be able to figure out why!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XII

<==Sticker me up!

This week's Trans Iowa V6 talk won't be so heavy on details. Still, there is much to say.

First off, we got in some sweet Trans Iowa stickers that all the racers will be getting at the Pre-Race Meat-Up on April 23rd. These would look nice on an aluminum top tube, or most any down tube, or wherever you want to stick something up with a Trans Iowa logo. These came courtesy of Wilson Bicycle Consulting which will also be sending out Kevin Wilson to help with the volunteer crew. If you get a chance to see him, tell him thanks for the support.

Speaking Of Volunteers: We have not really been beating the volunteer drum this time because we haven't had to! It has been pretty amazing so far, and I am glad to say that we have volunteers enough to run the event now- if all that have stepped forward do show up. This is awesome, and if you are a racer at T.I.V6 this year, please make an effort to say thanks to these folks. They are not getting anything but the satisfaction that they are helping out with something they believe in, (and a guaranteed entry to T.I.V7 if they want it).

Stay tuned for an e-mail from me closer to the event, if you are a volunteer.

Gravel Grinder At Trans Iowa: In lieu of a proper name for this, I am just calling it "the gravel grinder during Trans Iowa, and telling folks that if you are not in T.I.V6, you can still check out parts of the course.

That's right! If you want a wee little taste of what the guys and gals of T.I.V6 are seeing out there, you can check out about 50 miles or so of the actual T.I.V6 course. This will be a group ride with no rider left behind. Details will be released later, (with a proper name for it even!), and the total will be around 100 miles. Shorter options will be available as well.

A Moto: We will feature a motorcycle bourne course sweeper at this years T.I. for the first time. If conditions are decent that is. I mention this so that you riders will not be surprised by this and will know what is up if some dude on a moto is trying to get a close look at you. We are doing this in an effort to be more precise in pinpointing where people are on course, and this will obviously allow us to pass along more timely info to support folks. Because of this, I am going to be a bit more persnickety about where and how you place your number plates on the bike/body. I am going to ask that the plates not be modified in any way. I am going to ask that the plates be plainly visible from a distance. This will prevent the moto from having to get up in your grill and we will get better info.

Finally, in an effort to make sure we don't leave anyone unaccounted for, we are going to sweep the course after each checkpoint closes with this moto. Obviously, the moto will not be giving out free rides to town, but in exceptional cases, the moto will stop to make sure you have called in for the calvary, whomever that may be for you. Once again- You are responsible for getting out safely! You either have a support person, or you are on your own. If you are on your own, the moto driver is going to double check that you have called in to the DNF line. Then we are moving on. This is important! HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR GETTING OFF COURSE IF YOU DNF!! We will not be responsible for you, and if it is raining, cold, and blowing out of the Northwest at an ungodly rate of speed, (all things that have happened at previous Trans Iowa's), I'd hate to be you with no one to come and get me, and being stuck miles from Grinnell.

I say these things because I know many of you are coming to Trans Iowa alone, without a support person. Be smart! Don't try to be a hero, or think you have to finish because you don't have anyone to call. Better to cut it short while you still have something left in the tank than have Trans Iowa be sullied by some needless tragedy.

Roster Thoughts: This leads me to the final thoughts I have for this posting. Rosters have been increasing to astronomical levels in a few of the underground, unsanctioned gravel events. While the ideal of free racing for all comers is an attractive one, it doesn't come without strings attached. With great rosters come great responsibilities, if I may be so bold to paraphrase the famous quote. Let me explain.....

After Trans Iowa V1 there was a great outpouring of compliments directed at Jeff and I for doing the event. The thought that we had pulled off a succesful event was a heady feeling. We, (or rather more correctly- I) got our heads pulled out of the clouds by long time event promoter, Rich Gosen. Rich had been putting on gravel grinders, XC races, and time trials off road longer than I had been riding a mountain bike. So, to say he knows a thing or two would be an understatement. Well, Rich was non-plussed by our "accomplishment".

In fact, he was rather irritated due to our lack of care that we gave to tracking folks, in particular. There was more to it than that, but suffice it to say, it was a wake up call, and well needed. I'll just say this: event promoters better be very, very confident that they can keep track of all the nuances that each extra person on an event roster brings to the table. Not only that, but the impact of each person on the locality, and the locals themselves. (Which can be a good thing, or....) It only takes one disgruntled local to ruin it for everybody. I also would mention that getting help is paramount in putting these events on. Volunteer help is indispensable to me in running T.I.V6. I'll probably have around 10 volunteers for a roster on the day of the event that might number 50-ish folks. If I had twice that number on my roster, I'd want twice that number of volunteers. I've learned this over five Trans Iowas.

Okay- I've said all I will say about that. Folks can take it- or leave it.

Until next time..........

Friday, February 05, 2010

Chequamegon 100: A New Dirty Hundy

<===This here rig would work!

I got an e-mail from T.I.V5 winner Joe Meiser yesterday regarding some nit-witted idea he and his co-worker Tim Krueger hatched up. They decided to put on a 100 mile, self supported race through Chequamegon National Forest lands on CAMBA trails and fire roads.......for free!

Those doofuses. They oughtta talk to someone that could tell them a thing or two about numbskulled ideas like this. (Awesome! Way to go you guys!) I would tell them a thing or two about what they've gotten themselves into.

But, it would appear that it is too late for that. In keeping with the viral nature in regards to how fast rosters are filling up these days, by the time you read this, the event will likely be filled to its 100 rider capacity. And you know, if you've already invited people to come, it is really hard to tell them, "Whelp! We thought this over and we realized we were being rediculous, so ya'all just go on home now!" No.......that wouldn't really work very well now, would it?

Possibly the only thing that could be more silly than these two guys putting this event on is that I committed to doing it. Yup! My name is on the roster. Cleared it with Mrs. Guitar Ted, and it fits into The Schedule.'s two weeks before the Dirty Kanza, so I can always say "Hey! I'm just training, yo!" (Everything is training, right?) Anyway, I've already been told I have to "file a report" by the XXC Man hisself. I guess I better plan on showing up and finishing, even if I about die trying! Who knows what a guy that goes by "The Soiled Chammois" might be capable of! (I don't need to find that out!) 

Yeah, this idea is so whacked that it qualifies as a "badder idea" than Bad Idea Racing. Yes- that bad! But what can I do? I figured after last years embarassing outing that I had at the Rock Lake Trail I should get back for some revenge. We'll see how that all works out.

And like I said yesterday, I'll give it a try! 

Have a great weekend and if you are not in the "snow-pocalypse", maybe you can get some riding in! (I know I better get busy!)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I'll Try That

Okay, I know many of my readers are also fans of Gnat Likes... If you are not, you need to check out his stuff.

I like cycling, and cool imagery, and words. Gnat has a knack for imagery like few others in cycling. (I know he is going to poo-poo this notion, but it is true). Don't be surprised if at some point ol' Gnat gets published (more), or gets very well known as a cycling photog.

So why all the hoopla for Gnat? Well because he is a big inspiration for me in a few areas. I count him as a good friend, and friends often will emulate each other, as we all know. So it is with my photography. Honestly, I could have cared less about photography before Gnat's influences caused me to take a better look at what I was doing behind the camera. I got a better camera because of this, and even tried to figure it out! (Long ways to go in that area!)

Finally, you might recognize all of this just from today's image, which is a shot based off one of Gnat's ideas he has used recently on his site. He used a lake. I used a snowmobile trail. Obviously, his is better, but that isn't the point.

The point is that because of guys like Gnat and this guy, I find myself looking at things in new ways. It is a lot of fun, and it opens up a whole 'nuther exciting world out there that I was used to just passing by. It makes me want to try doing new things like photography, riding more challenging terrain, and more. So, in a small way, this image today is my way of saying thanks. Thanks for inspiring me to try.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bike Shop Horrors: Doin' Some Mechanikin'!

The part of being a bicycle mechanic that I love the most is when I get to do some "creative fixing". The kind of job that doesn't have a ready made solution. I have to invent one. I have fun with this.

So we got this custom made trike in the other day. The guy that owns it rides a lot and wanted fenders.

Uh............fenders? On THAT?!

Well, I got to thinking on it. Typically I will grab some bits and pieces and start playing around with them to get ideas. Trying to see what might work from the vast inventory of bike part images in my brain. I piece things together mentally first. Then when I arrive on a possible solution, I go off in search of parts.  Well, as you can already see, I came up with something.

Here is a closer look. The trike had an odd kingpin arragement that made use of a threaded steer tube and was capped off by the thick, almost ahead set looking aluminum chunk on top of the normal spacers which in turn were on top of the head set lock nut and adjusting nut. I removed the spacers, and I replaced them with a cable hanger meant for a 1 inch head set placing it upside down. This piece was heavy chromed steel and was there to give the rack strap I placed under a longer top cap bolt some support. This was all the structure I would have to hold a fender in place above the wheel. The rack strap and head set brake hangar were tied together with a normal brake anchor bolt which had the usual "D" shaped key which fit perfectly into the brake hangar. I had to space out the area between the rack strap and hangar where the hangar was recessed with a Presta valve nut. So, I had a solid foundation to mount a fender from and it turned with the wheel since it all was spinning with the head set.

Here is a view backed away from the previous pic showing my upper mount for the fender. I made this from a rack strap custom bent with a vise and hammer. I bolted through the straps to two orphaned, and matching Bontrager plastic front fenders. The fender was placed over the top of the rack strap and the bolt was run through from the bottom, allowing maximum tire clearance. The nut on top was a linear pull brake pad nut, chrome, and tapered, which looked nice.

My intentions were to provide the fenders the customer desired without going to custom fenders, or great expense. All the parts used were orphaned, used parts, with the exception of the two chromed matching steel brake hangar spacers. My goal was to also allow the fenders to move if they were bumped, or crashed into without breaking any of the mounting structure. All the parts are common bicycle parts. So if anything did get bent beyond repair, or lost, it could easily be replicated by the shop I work at, or another shop. I also had to make sure the fenders cleared the steering bars and other cables and what not. I think I managed to do okay, given the parameters.

It may look like a "Frankenstien-fix", but I had fun with it, at any rate!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Back To Work

While I did a ton of mountain bike riding while employed at Advantage Cyclery, I did have to work once in awhile!

My first year of work at Advantage Cyclery was a year full of learning, making new friends, and tons of lifestyle changes. I went from constantly hanging out with my boss from the jewelry store days in suits and ties to hanging out with bike freaks in t-shirts and Chuck Taylors. It was quite a shock to the system. I was introduced to a whole new level of folks. Folks that didn't do jewelry stores but rode bikes like crazy.

These folks would all have a huge influence over my life in the following years. However; I have to tip my cycling cap first to my boss from those days, Tom. He was a character, no doubt, but he was also well versed in basic mechanics and had a sharp memory for details. He seemed to take a liking to me, well......we were close to the same age, so I suppose that helped. Anyway, Tom made me feel like I could do things and was patient enough to teach me the ins and outs of basic bike shop work. Not only that, but he wasn't afraid to let me fail, and then kindly and humorously show me the right little trick to get the job done not only right, but quickly.

One of my favorite things I learned from Tom was how to build wheels for bicycles. I remember him telling me that I had to learn that skill, or I couldn't be called a bike mechanic. I was pretty intimidated by the thought of doing the task, but Tom had a way of making it seem easier. He started me out by swapping rims over using the same spokes and hubs. That was a good way to get my feet wet in the ways of wheel builds. Then he sat down and showed me the Wheelsmith spoke calculator and how to measure up the hubs and rims. Finally, he had so many parts lying around that it was no problem finding a wheel build for me to do. I took my time, and boy, did it take a long time! A few days as I recall!

Well, funny thing was that I ended up really enjoying the process, and of course, I sped up a bit to where I could get a set of wheels done on one shift no problem. Tom took the time to show me that and so many other things that I still am super grateful for. Things like tune ups, brake set ups, and adjusting bearings all had little tricks that Tom showed me. Plus, I read through a Barnett's manual and had Troy, who was the head mechanic, walk me through all the lessons he had taken at the mechanics school. By mid-summer, I was a fully functional part of the team there. It was such a big change that the year of 1994 went by really fast for me.

But in the end it always was about building wheels, and I built a lot of them back then. Mostly for myself, but also for customers. I still build most all of my own wheels and everytime I do, I think about Tom. Thanks dude!

Next week: More about the day to day at Advantage Cyclery........

Monday, February 01, 2010

More Snow Biking

Saturday I got out and did a bit of riding. A combination of an "urban decay" ride and a nice ride in some wilderness on some packed snowmobile trails.

First, the urban decay. These pictures are from the defunct Rath Packing Company that was located on the north side of the Cedar River near downtown Waterloo.

The big, monolithic building shown on top is where the animals were processed back in the day. I remember the last days of Rath's operations were when I came to live in Waterloo. If the wind was out of the Northeast, the stench from the kill was overwhelming. I really do not miss that part!

The other picture here is of the old entrance to the Administartion Building across the street from the first building pictured here. Note the date of 1925 on the facade.

I find this sort of scene ironic and sad. Ironic because Waterloo is in an area known as "Silos and Smokestacks" which is supposedly in existence to save stuff like Rath Packing's old structures and make them some sort of tourist attraction. Yeah.....right! Wherever that money went to/is going to, it isn't going to save anything here. These buildings are now used to store ice and are literally chipping away into tiny flakes. I saw several on the street as I rode by. These buildings are literally crumbling into dust before our very eyes, and there is a Federal Park set up that is supposed to take care of this? Amazing. (In essence, Silos and Smokestacks is basically a league of pre-existing museums, barn attractions, schoolhouses, and historical sites. Not what they originally said it would be.)

That's the irony. The sad part is that we used to make stuff here. That is what this represents to me. We used to employ hundreds of people to make stuff that is now made overseas. Why is that? Too many ways to answer that one, but I think we need to figure out how we can become a nation that makes things again. My opinion. Now enough about that!

The rest of the ride was on these packed in snowmobile trails I found along the Cedar River further East. The trails were hard, crisp, and fast. If I wandered too far off the beaten path though, I sunk and came to a grinding halt. It was so cold that the snow crystals tearing apart under my 2.4" Ardents were making a really loud noise. 

The trails weren't all that long, so I found a loop and went all the way around to lengthen it out as much as possible.

It is pretty amazing. In the photo at the left, if you rode where you see the tracks you were fine. If you got over there to the left, where the snow was undisturbed, you sunk down several inches and came to an abrupt halt.

I learned to stay on the tracks pretty quickly!

I can really see where things like Pugsleys and Fat Back bikes are appealing. We are having a banner winter for such a bicycle, but I am resisting getting one because I know that this probably is an aberration and we'll be returning to brown, snowless winters again. Well, I know that would happen if I got a snow bike! That's the way it goes, seemingly. If I stay away from getting one, it'll be snowy and cold 8 winters out of 10 for the next decade probably!

Here's the Dillinger all set up with 2.4 inch Ardents now. I probably should have just went with a rear 2.4 from the get go. That weak, dead 2.25"er was a time waster. It is so obvious that Maxxis has beefed up the 2.4 and changed the bead to interface with rims better that I do not understand why they just don't come out and say this is tubeless ready, because it is.

I ran the tires at 30psi rear and 25psi front which out in 8 degree Fahrenheit temps is "somewhat lower psi". At any rate, the tires gripped really well and that wide P-35 rim kept me up on top of the snow where the snomobiles and 4 wheelers had been riding. I rode about a hour and a half, and stayed pretty warm. I got the usual amazed and disdainful looks from the locals. Ah well......I was having fun, so I don't care!

The RAGBRAI route was announced Saturday. Looking for a gravel road alternative? Check out this.