Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Gears I'll Be Turning

Homebrewed Components made these awesome gears for my Singular Cycles Gryphon. The company is a one man operation out of SoCal and is well known amongst single speeders for his myriad options for diferent crank BCD's and cog configurations in aluminum or titanium.

Shown here are the White Industries compatible chain wheel in a 36T count and the standard cassette based cog in a 17T count, both in a brilliant emerald green anodized finish. 

Being that Homebrewed is a one man deal, these took awhile to get. I ordered them in mid June, and got them July 30th, but the owner of Homebrewed, Daniel Wilcox, says that he's streamlined his operation a bit, and lead times are coming down some. At any rate, the fit and finish of these cogs is top notch. I am impressed.

I will be rocking these gears at the Good Life Gravel Adventure/Gravel World Championships later in August. Which reminds me......I'd better get a room arranged for! 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Six Things I Can't Do Without

Tubeless Tires (Especially Bontrager's TLR System) For Mountain Biking: There was a time when I was highly skeptical of the whole tubeless tire technology thing. The system that changed my mind, and that I think is still the best, is Bontrager's "TLR" system for 29"ers. It is bombproof in my experience. I did have a couple of hiccups with it at first, but ever since the first go round, I have been totally impressed with this tubeless system. I like others as well, but Bonty's is still the best.

Ergon Grips: (Especially the GP-1's) I have been riding with Ergon grips since 2005 and I wouldn't ever go back to traditional round grips. I have tried almost all of Ergon's grip styles, and I like all of them, but the first is still the best. The GP-1's I first started using in 2005 are still going strong in 2010 on one of my favorite bikes. Pain free hands are awesome to have on mtb rides. I thought it would never happen, but thanks to Ergon, it did for me.

Oakley Jawbones Eyewear : I have been wearing these for a year now and since the time I got them, I wore nothing else until a recent review assignment that I had to do on another brand. I'll tell you what, nobody nails optics like Oakley does. Nobody. Plus, add in the lens features that repel sweat and moisture, the anti-scratch feature, and the nose and ear materials that Oakley uses, and it is a no-brainer. Expensive? Brutally so. Worth it? Absolutely. They are my eyes for crying out loud. It isn't like I can get more eyes if I don't take care of them.

Ragley Carnegie's Bar: You know, when I get back to riding one of the two rigs I have set up with the Carnegie's Bars on them, I realize all over again how much I like these. The sweep is right in the sweet spot, and my control over the bike in corners just feels right with the Carnegie's.

Don't get me wrong, I still love drop bars, but if I have to ride a non-drop bar bike, these are my favorite bars yet. Now in carbon, which have a nice amount of give too. Sweet!

OS Bikes Blackbuck: If I had only one single speed, this would be it. The OS Bikes Blackbuck isn't a "high end" rig, it isn't made of the latest "unobtanium" frame material, and it isn't some high cache' custom frame builder's rig. It is a frame with some style and functionality to boot.

Not only that, but it is super versatile and can be set up with all sorts of forks and handle bar set ups. (Just ask me!) Good news: OS Bikes should soon have the "Gen II" frames in stock in three different sizes!

Salsa Cycles Fargo: And if I had to whittle it down to only one bike? This would be the winner. The Fargo can do it all, and do most of it as well as any bike can. I can single track it, I can gravel grind it, I can road ride it, and I can commute it. Hey, it's even pretty dang good at all of that as well! Maybe it can't do the "big" stuff off road, and maybe it's overbuilt to road ride, but between those margins, it has you well covered. Bonus: This bike, for whatever reasons, hits me as the most comfortable, best fitting bike I have. So much so that I am afraid to change anything on it! (But I still do, occasionally.)

And there you have it. Six things I can think of straight away if you ask me what are my favorite bicycles/bicycle related products. There are more things that could be added to this list, but not many that I think are almost perfect and would be very hard to improve upon.

Have a great weekend! Ride yer bikes. Have fun!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

650B: Neither Hot Nor Cold

<====Haro Bicycles announced recently that they pulled all 650B wheeled product from the line for 2011. (image by Arleigh Jenkins for Twenty Nine Inches)

In a not too surprising move, Haro Bicycles announced on yesterday that there will be no more 650B wheeled bikes in their line for 2011. This will be a blow to the wheel size since the brand manager, Jill Hamilton, was an outspoken proponent of the wheel size and brought 650B into mass production when the Beasley mountain bike line was brought out in 2008.

The comment made by Hamilton which I found interesting was that the decision was a dealer motivated one. Dealers were not buying into the 650B line because they were not wanting another mtb segment in their stores, or were not able/willing to spend more time and effort educating a labor force and consumers on a little known, niche wheel size. If that is true, then it is something I have said all along would be a cause for the 650B wheel not to grow in popularity. (References here - from the very first post I did on the wheel size, look at my comment #2- and here which is my last post on this blog regarding 650B wheels)

I'm not saying that I am any great prognosticator. I just feel that some of the thoughts I have on 650B are just plain common sense. That's all. Anybody could arrive at a similar conclusion if they study the facts. I've been in retail all my life, and my thoughts on the dealer side of the equation stem from that experience.

But that isn't all that is going on with 650B. (Or isn't going on, depending upon your viewpoint) This wheel size, which was ballyhooed as "the best of 26" and 29" wheels" isn't really that at all. It is a compromise that isn't as good at what 26 or 29 inch wheels can do. Basically, a "jack of all trades, master of none", if you'd rather. That isn't good marketing copy, and it doesn't get riders all that excited. It's a tough sell, and that isn't going away. Neither hot, nor cold, 650B finds itself stuck in a middle ground that I think it will be resigned to for eternity.

Going back to what Hamilton of Haro Bikes was talking about in the announcement, she related that Haro may "jump back in" if one of the "big three" gave the wheel size some support. (Translation: If Specialized, Trek, or Giant can convince the component manufacturers to make forks, wheels, and tires for a 650B line up one of them supports, we'll tag along for the ride.) I don't think that is likely to happen, and here is what Grannygear, my co-writer at Twenty Nine Inches so astutely pointed out. Why would any component manufacturer, or bicycle manufacturer jump into 650B specific components and bikes, when everyone can just convert what they are already selling?  For instance, the biggest viewed threads on mtbr's forum that covers 650B wheels are ones about which 26"er forks and frames fit 650B wheels. You'd be surprised how many brands and types of mountain bikes work with the slightly larger 650B wheel. 29"ers were not like that. They required specially built frames, forks, wheels, and tires. It made sense at some point to sell riders what they were asking for. 650B doesn't have that necessity. It's there for the taking, all you need are a set of wheels. That isn't going to motivate a big company to jump on board with another wheel size. My take? Don't look for Haro to be "jumping back in" anytime soon.

Finally, this whole conversion from 26 inch bikes to 650B begs the question, how different is 650B from 26 inch wheels? Ardent supporters of the wheel size will say there is a lot  of difference, but really, there isn't. It is an incremental change, and it definitely doesn't do what 29 inch wheels can do. Better than a 26"er? Not really. Barely, if at all. (And yes, I have ridden several 650B bikes) The thing is, it isn't a "big enough" difference to make it worthwhile.

The other arguments for 650B, (mostly aimed at 29"ers), are also falling by the wayside. Wheels for 29"ers are too heavy, (Not anymore), you can't make a good long travel FS designs in 29"er wheels, (now there are many), and small riders won't fit on 29 inch wheels. (That's been debunked by World Cup level pro women riders) There isn't really a good fit for the tweener wheels anymore, and that is going to remain a stumbling block to success for 650B as well.

Like I've said from the beginning in 2007, it just doesn't make sense that 650B will be anything but a curiosity for mountain biking going forward. I haven't seen anything that makes me think otherwise and I don't think I will.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thinking Ahead

<===It's been a wet, humid, and hot, hot, hot summer, but its about to end.

You know, it's going to be wool jersey time soon.


This summer is just about done. All the big plans for big cycling adventures are coming to a close for many. For me, it's time to start looking ahead. 

I have two more "big" events that I have scheduled since last year. The Good Life Gravel Adventure/Gravel World Championships in late August, and Interbike a month later. I just hope it isn't blazing hot in Lincoln, Nebraska on August 21st. My last two big gravel rides have ended in a melt down of sorts for me due to heat. The Dirty Kanza ended early for me and I had to bail out of my own GTDRI a couple weeks ago. Pretty demoralizing. Makes me think I should stick to a more temperate climate for my big rides anymore. It would seem that heat and I are not doing so well this year.

So, after and in between I have to fire up this Trans Iowa thing all over again with my partner, d.p. We'll be drawing up a final course and hopefully this year we'll actually get the course re conned before winter. And you know what? If we do, I'll bet you winter will be mild, with little to no snow, and fantastic for riding a bike. If we do not succeed in getting the course recon done, I'll bet that winter will come early, stay late, and be snowy. Hey! it's as good as the "Farmer's Almanac"! Take it to the bank.

I've got some tweaks that we're going to start talking about in regards to registration for Trans Iowa, and we're going to probably allow a bigger roster. Grinnell will be the start/finish town again. We'll still be doing 320-ish miles. It will be possible to finish it, barring any weather that decides otherwise. It will have time limits, even for the finish line. It won't have Impala Road in it up in Clayton County. That's really too bad. Someday, I'll go back up that way and d.p. and I will get that one in there for ya. It's that good.

Thinking in terms of gravel grinding rigs, I am looking at getting something more "cyclo-cross-ish" for gravel grinding duties. There are lots of great rigs out there that would work too. Rawland's Draakar and Salsa Cycle's Vaya come to mind. However, I may be looking into something else. Something I saw a sneak peek of the other day. Single speedy. Tasty. It may just push my Raleigh Rainier single speed on the chopping block. We'll see....................

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: A RAGBRAI Story

Once again, the time of the season dictates another Bike Shop Tales story. Here's one about "that ride in Iowa"....

I did the complete RAGBRAI route once. Once.

It was, as they say, enough. Sometimes things capture your imagination, and sometimes, well...........the experience falls flat.

At any rate, in 1996, I did the entire RAGBRAI route while tagging along with the Advantage Cycles crew. The Advantage Cycles Crew was officially the "Team Dead Skunks", but they only used that name to get RAGBRAI passes every year. Not one of the riders actually used the moniker "Team Dead Skunks" by '96. It was basically our boss, Tom, and a bunch of like minded hooligans with a bicycle problem. Not that I minded. In fact, at one time, I was them, only I never got to ride RAGBRAI while I was one of them. I know, it's complicated!

I was sort of at a point in my life where those sort of alcohol fueled shenanigans were old and tiresome. Actually doing outlandish stuff while completely straight and in my right mind were what I was into at that time. I had two willing partners in Ears and Matt too, and they showed up a couple of days into it to help me make some noise.

Ironically, the '96 route is very similar to the 2010 route. All across the northern tier of counties. Well, let's just say it is pretty flat, and almost too easy. Still, some riders were taking to each days route with the gusto and authority generally reserved for those partaking in competition. Actually, I am convinced some RAGBRAI riders think the event is a competition.

For instance, take the folks that I passed that were riding the high dollar road and time trial bikes of the day. (Yes- people actually ride full on TT bikes all the way across Iowa. ) When I went tooling by them on my 26" wheeled converted mountain bike-to-touring bike contraption, they would bury their chin on the stem, show their teeth in a menacing way, and click down a gear to re-pass me, as if the indignity of being passed by a friendly touring bicyclist was beneath them. A chrome ex-mountain bike at that! Oh my! 

There were more similar examples of that sort of snobbery on two wheels that occurred all week long that year. Not that I didn't try to be friendly, at least the first few days. But by the end of the week, I had given up on that, and was actually goading some of them on, just for sport. Probably not a wise course of action, in as far as cycling advocacy goes, but I had been jaded by the coolness of most riders responses to me, and I was out of patience. Besides that, it was just too easy.

So, in Fort Atkinson, we were cruising down a back alley when I came across some old gas station sign numbers for advertising the price of gas. I grabbed two and zip tied them to either side of my front low rider racks, like racing numbers. Then, as I rode alongside the fancy pants riders, I would look at them and instead of saying a chirpy "Good afternoon!", I said, "Nice day for a race, eh?", and sped on by them. This was usually met by some red faced, furious pedal stomping, and if they did manage to pass me again, I would laugh out loud at them. Why hide it?

I know. I was being a smarty pants. I was just not getting into, well.......whatever it is people get into regarding RAGBRAI. To me it was just like the chaos that is created when too many cars get on the road, and people get ornery, and there are attitudes, and stupid maneuvers, and all of this on bicycles, which for me, didn't make it better. Chaos is chaos, be it on bicycles, or in cars, or in big crowds of people. Maybe you think RAGBRAI is the "greatest show on the road", and if you do, you are probably on it right now. That's great. Knock yerself out.

It wasn't all that great for me, and even though I've done bits and peices of it since, I still just do not care for it. I came home in 1996 from RAGBRAI not very impressed. My boss couldn't figure it out.

Oh well!

Stay tuned for more "Bike Shop Tales" next week..............

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stan's vs UST: Tubeless Tire Technology For 29"ers

<===These Charger Pro wheels by Sun Ringle' use a Stan's type bead seat to get tires to seat up for tubeless use.

In the 29"er market, wide spread tubeless technology products are finally available everywhere. It wasn't always this way. Just a few years ago you had few choices, and a few years before that, no choices for tubeless tires on 29"ers. We've come a long way, as the saying goes. The thing is though, just as in the 26"er marketplace, two technologies are butting heads to win your hard earned dollar for running your big wheeled bike sans tubes. These two technologies are similar, but just different enough that in some cases, tires can be used on one system, but not with the other. Let's take a quick look at which is which and then I'll give my opinion on the whole deal.

<===The WTB Stryker wheels will use UST based bead seat dimensions on this upcoming 29"er wheel set which will mate up with their new TCS tubeless ready tires which will follow.

First you have the Stan's products. Without getting too far into the politics of tires and rim manufacturers, Stan's products main appeal is that riders can take folding bead tires and "convert" them to tubeless use with Stan's rims/strips/sealant. Basically circumventing the whole tire design question. This was okay, for the most part, but failures, and poorly performing tires converted to tubeless uses with Stan's are always a possibility.

Then we have UST type tires and rims. "UST" is an open standard for manufacturers use to design rims and tires with very close fitting tolerances that can be used in any combination to achieve tubeless status with or without sealant, depending upon the carcass construction of any particular tire. "UST" is also a trademark sometimes applied for and used by certain companies, but this is in essence a licensing agreement with Mavic, who founded UST standards with a couple of French tire makers. Some companies just use the UST dimensions, but can not advertise this fact due to Mavic's licensing agreement, which costs money for anyone wanting to say they manufacture according to UST standards, or wanting to use the UST trademark.

Theoretically, a rider could mix and match any UST spec tire and rim combination they wanted to, but of course, we don't have an easy way of knowing "who's who" out there in the tubeless tire world and rim manufacturing realms. Are you Stan's or UST? Can I mix and match with no regard for which standard I am using? I mean, a 29"er tire is a 29"er tire, right? Any rim made for a 29"er should work, no?

To some degree, the answer is "yes", but a qualified yes. Stan's rims do not play all that well with UST bead spec tires. Especially French companies tires. The bead seat on the rim is slightly oversized with Stan's rims, and certain UST bead spec tires won't go on without an extreme fight. Oh yeah, did I mention that Stan's rims will have an even slightly larger bead set diameter soon? Yeah, the Crest model is the first to feature it too. When Stan's trickles that throughout the rim line eventually, no UST bead spec tires will work with Stan's.

It looks as though half the wheel manufacturers are hooking up with Stan's type solutions for tubeless rims while the tire manufacturers are seemingly gravitating towards UST-spec beads. At some point, I think the UST dimensions will win out. Stan's doesn't make tires, (well, besides two models with limited appeal), and with the trends going as I see them, Stan's will become the "conversion tire" solution, while anyone making tubeless ready tires, (I believe most companies will end up doing things that way), will be using UST type dimensions and won't work with Stan's stuff.

But either way, it is a nice problem to have these days! Tubeless tire technology gets better all the time, and it is very reliable for 29"ers anymore. My personal favorite system? Bontrager's TLR system is bomber. I highly recommend it. There are other great systems though, so explore the tubeless thing if you haven't. It is a better way to roll on a big wheeler. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Got Gravel?

Calling All Gravel Grinder Organizers: Hey ya'all! I have been getting great responses from my endeavor over at Gravel Grinder News. I've heard from many of you out there that you look to GGN for upcoming events. I've also heard from some promoters that after their events appeared on GGN, the hits on their sites went nuts and in one case, it caused the promoters to expand the roster limits!

That is really awesome news to my ears, because I wanted GGN to be something that spread the news of gravel grinding all across the nation. I wanted to make it something that would help folks out, and I think I can say that in the short time it's been around, GGN has succeeded in doing just that. The feedback I'm getting proves it.

The thing is, it is a "one man band" over there at GGN, and I can not canvass the entire internet and dig up these events to post on the site like I would like to. I need your help out there. I do this for free. It takes time, but I think the time and effort are worth it, especially if it stokes peoples fires to ride gravel like it has. So, won't you consider helping out? If you know a 2011 date, or about a late 2010 event, shoot me an e-mail and let me know where to look, if nothing else. 

If gravel grinding is cool, and you want to see it grow, like I do, let's keep GGN fresh for those looking for events and help promoters out that need to get the word out. Many of the events I list are free, and Gravel Grinder News is becoming a go-to site for these events to be found, not to mention all the higher profile events like DK 200, Trans Iowa, and others. Consider making GGN a better place and contribute info, pics, racing stories, or more.

And I also want to thank all of you that check out GGN and use it. To those that contribute to it, my special thanks! 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday News And Views

Carbon Fiber Everywhere: So, you think carbon fiber isn't for mountain biking? Well, it is the newest craze in 29"ers now. It would seem like everyone that is anyone in 29"ers is doing a carbon fiber framed mountain bike with big wheels.

Sure, there are notable exceptions, like Salsa Cycles , but then again, they've done two models in 29 inch wheels with carbon fiber back ends, so even they have dabbled. Take a new entrant, like the Breezer pictured here, and it seems like that to be "legit", you have to dive into the magic black, plasticky goo that is carbon fiber framed bikes. Is it a good thing? Hmm........I dunno. Like anything else, carbon fiber can really be bad, or mediocre, or down right fantastic depending upon how it is made.

<===Not carbon, but has the look. 

I know that I've heard about bad frames in carbon. Frames that are failing. I've ridden some fantastic feeling carbon framed big wheelers, and I've ridden some terrible ones. I guess it's the "material du jour". You can make all sorts of crazy shapes with it that you can't in metal.......or can you? Now I've seen some pretty sexy looking hydro-formed aluminum, and I've heard from one company that thinks this technique will overtake carbon someday for the way it can be shaped, varied in thickness, and produced in a cheaper manner than carbon fiber, which is super labor intensive to use. Who knows? Maybe someday carbon fiber will fall out of favor as a frame material. It doesn't seem possible right now though, does it?

Night Nonsense 100: A new gravel grinder has been posted over on Gravel Grinder News that will be taking place in October. Okay, so we've done gravel grinding, we've done a hundy before, what's the big deal? Well, this one will be done completely in the dark! Starting at 8pm, it will already be dark, and of course, it will stay dark long after you are done in October, unless you are crazy slow! So get on over to GGN and check it out. The links are all there.

Monsoon Season: Too bad they don't do cyclo-cross in the summer because the mud is fan-freakin-tastic right now. It's been raining so hard, so often, that I can not remember a time like this in my life here. Even when it isn't raining, the humidity levels are so high, you really are still swimming in moisture. Can anybody say "drought" right about now? I'm game. At least the Dyna Sys 10 speed group will get a fair mud bath test in the near future here. I have it all completed now with the correct front derailluer on it and all. So hopefully I'll be riding that real soon. Maybe with pontoons........ and paddles!

Okay, that's all for Friday. Go for a ride, go to RAGBRAI, just go ride a bike. I'll be chasing down some sweet corn before it floats away in some flash flood and celebrating my son's 7th birthday. See ya'all later!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dirt Wash

<===One of these days, I'm going to do a woodland camouflage bike.

Well, yesterday wasn't a very good day, and that's all I'm going to say about that. I'm going to start moving on from that, and the first thing I did yesterday of consequence was to go for a mountain bike ride.

My mind needed a "dirt wash". 

Any ol' bicycle ride would've helped, I suppose, but for best results, I like to get alone and away from as much of the world as I can. "World" being anything civilized, that is. Well, fortunately I can get away fairly easily. The woods of the South side of the Camp are pretty canopied, even though it has been logged. It used to be dark everywhere under that wood. Now it is a brilliant strobe effect of dappled light as you ride through the trails. Still, it's a feeling that is good, like you are a million miles from it all, when you really are not. Good enough that it works for me to clear my mind of the junk, ya know?

So I got cleansed, so to speak, by riding the dirt, and while the issues from yesterday are still there, it sure helped to get away for a bit. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In the last twenty four hours I've heard some news about a friend's relatives that was tragic. I've also had something fairly major go wrong with the house here as well. I guess that sometimes bicycling isn't always on the front burner of importance, and what I am trying to say is that I am just not feeling up to posting anything concerning bicycles to you bicycle fans out there today.

Take a moment or two to take care of the important things in life. Hug a loved one. Tell someone you love them. Give someone you don't know a smile.

See ya down the trail. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: A Tour de France Story

"Bike Shop Tales" returns with a story that I think is timely, given that it is late July and all.........

If you work in a bicycle shop in July in Iowa, you know all too well what it is like before the last week in July comes around. RAGBRAI, (Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), is an all consuming topic of conversation amongst cyclists here and the shop rats get mighty tired of hearing about it after awhile. Sure, it puts money in our pockets. I get that. I don't mean to come off as an ungrateful elitist, but when a shop rat constantly hears about "the tough ride that RAGBRAI is", or how it is a "monumental achievement", in terms of the way people speak about it, it grates the nerves a bit when we are looking over our shoulders at the annual coverage of Le Tour

Here you have an event that tests the mettle of the most road hardened athletes on bicycles in the world. And RAGBRAI is tough? No. No way. Period.

Interestingly, it has come to light in recent years that both events have had plenty of doping incidents! So, I guess there is some commonality there. Still, it is easily seen by cycling aficionados that RAGBRAI is a mere ride in the park compared to the Tour. And the chatter about RAGBRAI by the naive is something that is hard to tolerate in light of all this.

So, to get away from all of that RAGBRAI madness, we used to leave work, head to the local pub, and catch replays of the latest Tour stages on the T.V. That was a new thing then, it used to be before that you had to wait for a week for Velo News to send you a Tour update. Maybe The Wide World of Sports would have some weekend recaps. Maybe. The late night update was cool, and on cable T.V. and it was free at the pub. The only thing was, they never turned the sound up. Oh well! Something was better than nothing back then.

Of course, this was during Indurain's reign as the Tour Champ. It was 1995, he was in yellow.....again! Could anyone step up and challenge the Spaniard?  Well, there was this impish Italian fellow that came in third the year before. Marco Pantani, Il Elefantino as he was called then, and which was a nic-name he hated, was in the race again, despite a horrible crash that left his leg shattered earlier in the year. He he was, racing up Alpe d'Huez, crushing Indurain's group, and on his way to setting a record for the climb. Here was this little mouse of a man with the distinctive ears, beating the Champ.

I really got into it. I was cheering Pantani on. Rest assured that I was seen as some sort of raving lunatic at the time. I mean, who ever heard of the Tour de France? Yeah, yeah.......Greg LeMond, blah, blah, blah. Nobody saw the Wide World of Sports the day he won the Tour in 1989. Too bad too. LeMond was a victim of the "Pre-Information Age". Had he had the luxury of a Twitter account and his own website publishing mega-corporation, (read: Trek), he too would have been known Nationwide. But no, I am sorry. In 1995 nobody in the bar I was in knew about him, or his three Tour titles.

As far as anyone was concerned on that hot July evening, I was retarded. Maybe consumed too many libations, or maybe I was just weird for all they knew. Even my bike shop cronies thought I was a bit too excited. I didn't care, I was all in for Pantani. He was crushing the tall, dark Spaniard on a mountain top finish steeped in cycling lore. And he won!

I was ecstatic. 

That was back when the Tour was believable, and as I said, even though we ended up seeing the veil lifted later, at that time it was almost magical. It was pretty cool, actually. I guess those were the days............

Next week: More from the vaults of "Bike Shop Tales"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational Report: Into The Heat

Into The Heat: The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2010 version will go down as one of the hottest rides I've been on. The Dirty Kanza 200's not withstanding, this was a brutal ride. But I'm skipping ahead, and there are things to say before I get into the burnt, crispy ending.

The ride is never a big one in terms of numbers, and I wasn't figuring on having many people on this year's version. That said, it was the lowest number of folks ever on the ride with just Jason Boucher, Jeremy Fry, and myself showing up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It made for an intimate group and we all got along quite well. Jeremy came up in the morning, so it was just Jason and I camping out Friday night with a short visit from Captain Bob, who was in the area for a family reunion. 

When Jeremy arrived in the morning, he said that there was a heat warning from 1pm till 7pm for the day. I didn't say much about it, but already I was thinking that this day could end in some difficulty. I knew the course, as did Jeremy, from last year, and it didn't give any quarter after the first 25 miles. We all remarked last year how a hot day would have made it so much harder. Well, we were about to find out "how much harder" it was going to get!

So the morning started without a hitch, as it was cool, and there was zero wind. None. This also bothered me actually. But for the time being it was pleasant, and the opening miles were very good with the river as a companion along the way. We could see the vapor from the morning dew burning off under the hot sun in the valleys around us. Again, something that raised a red flag in my mind, but we kept ticking off the miles, and we were making good time, actually.

My hope was that we would get well into the brutal middle section before 1pm and beat the heat up to that part. Then we would have to slug out what we could of the rest of the route. I knew we were making good time in the morning, but I also knew we weren't going to be capable of sustaining that pace in heat with the gradients we were going to face.

By the time we were approaching Elkader, I felt we were on a good pace to get by. Maybe, just maybe we were going to get away with getting this route done. Elkader was the first re-supply chance, and I knew we were going to have to stop for awhile. I was just hoping it wouldn't be too long.

 Once into Elkader, I stepped into the convenience store and thought, " Is it really that hot out already, or is it just super cold in here?" This also was a bit worrisome to my mind.

Still, we were having fun, and things were rolling along really smoothly. We had to stop a minute before leaving town so I could tighten the lid down on my Osprey's water bladder. It was leaking down my backside, which wasn't too comforting!

After Elkader, the hills kicked into gear and we would get up into the highest elevation sections of the course. It is really pretty up there and the view goes on for miles. We were running into more car traffic by this time, and every one threw up a thunderhead of dust that just hung in the air with little to no breeze to knock it off the road. I think we injested a fair helping of "Vitamin G" on this ride!

The climbs were rough, what with the heat, and little chance to escape it but the all too short down hill sections.  I was doing okay. I was gearing down, and the spinning, taking my own time approach was working well. I had a 29T inner ring with a 34T lowest rear cog, which for all intents was plenty low. I didn't ever wish for a lower gear, that's for sure. 

The other thing about my bike that was working well, but I hadn't really tried out much, was the Woodchipper bar/STI shifter thing. Now, I am not a big fan of STI levers, but I was getting the shifts I wanted, and surprisingly, the brakes were more that powerful enough to slow me down. In fact, the mechanical advantage of the levers was too great, if anything. It made modulation an exercise in subtlety. That's for sure!

 The first B Service Road was Imperial Road, which was lined with trees going up a steep hillside. It was rutted out, and even muddy in a couple of spots. A brief, but well accepted respite from the brutal sun we were beginning to bake under.

Then we popped out of the trees and back into the sun for some roller coaster like descents and climbs. Very, very steep! Still, we all rolled up these climbs, albeit in our lowest gears. It was a bit tougher in some places this time because the rocks were loose, and spinning out had to be avoided by making sure you were choosing the correct lines. It was no picnic then climbing these short steeps, which were  requiring not only muscle power, but mental sharpness.

 This GTDRI was typified by the brutal heat, and it also was the very best one from a standpoint of flowers. They lined the entire route, and there were more varieties than ever. Sometimes whole fields were passed that were chock full of flowers. At least the visuals were outstanding on the route. What you don't feel here in the images is the heat, the dust, and the total lack of wind in the morning.

With Impala Road looming, I had some good thoughts. I knew we were going to have some awful climbs in the beginning sector of that road, and I knew we were in for a real treat on the final two miles of that road. It didn't disappoint either.

 The climbs going in were totally killer. Super steep and it was getting really hot by now. But the ending was fantastic. You crest a steep climb and immediately dump down into a true mountain bike-ish drop in on loose, head sized boulders going steeply down. Into a canopy of trees, the road drops down every so often with exposed slabs of bedrock and loose, large, irregular sized stones. This eventually gives way to rutted out dirt and rocks, still going down at a fair rate of descent until it levels out to a good ol' dirt B Service road that hugs the Turkey River. Coming out onto a county blacktop at Elkport/Garber, there is a hedge of wild flowers where we sat in ambush of Jeremy Fry. Jeremy had a cross bike, and he doesn't fancy himself a mountain biker, so he was going slower. I found out later he actually took a couple headers coming down, but claimed he was none the worse for the wear.

We skipped the Elkport convenience stop and aimed for Strawberry Point. The only thing was that now we were facing some of the most brutal climbing on the entire route.

Basically, everything was going as well as could be expected. It was so hot by now though that we were all going pretty gingerly and the rate of progress was coming down rapidly. I was still climbing every hill without walking, or wanting a lower gear until the Fantail Road climb. My body was shutting down, and I needed to take a break. Jason and Jeremy disappeared up the 18% grade as I pulled over to cool off under a shade tree. I ate some trail mix, downed some water, and then I felt cooled down for sure, but I had nothing for power now. I walked the steepest part and rode slowly to the top where I found Jason sitting in a corn row and Jeremy standing next to him. I pulled off and joined them where I announced that I had cracked and this infernal heat was just too much. They agreed to head for the nearest town, which was Edgewood, to get refueled and plan a paved route back to West Union. Jason asked on the way in. "Hey, didn't you guys stop a Trans Iowa here?" To which I replied in the affirmative. He responded with, "How fitting!"

I suppose it was.

We sat in Edgewood, refueled, cooled off, and asked about directions. I passed on the clerks route, which would have had us going over two major ridges and doing the first part of the route backwards.

I opted for a Strawberry Point, Arlington, then to West Union type route which I knew would be much flatter and given the heat, a wiser choice. We set out for Strawberry Point on the highway, but coming into town I was fading fast. It was as if I hadn't eaten at all. I get really sleepy when I am hungry- weird, I know, but that's how I can tell if I am hungry. Well, I had just eaten, and now instead of pepping up, I was falling asleep on my bicycle. When we got to the other side of the town, I told the guys to go ahead. Jeremy said he would come back to pick me up. I suggested that I could limp into Arlington and he could get me there. So that's where we broke fellowship and I soldiered on alone the last miles into Arlington.

So the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational ended for me at a lonely, run down gas station on the eastern edge of Arlington after 80 plus long, hard, and very hot miles. Jason and Jeremy rode in the pavement and got their centuries in. Jeremy came back and graciously picked my sorry self up and carted me back to the camp grounds and I packed up everything and came home.

Looking back on what happened to me, I now know it was a nutritional issue. For some reason, my body wasn't absorbing the calories as it should have. I know this because everything was "expelled" from my system once I got home. Let's just say it wasn't pretty and leave it at that! Why that happened, I haven't a clue, but it did.

Thanks to Jason and Jeremy for riding. It was a great day to hang out with two fun guys that are great cyclists to boot. Thanks to Captain Bob for the timely visit at the camp ground. I know Jason was glad you stopped by as well.

That was the last ride for the GTDRI on that route. Next year will mark a move to a slightly less challenging, but still fun route in the mid-section of the state. Stay tuned to the GTDRI site for details.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday News And Views

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational Saturday: Looks like we'll have a small crew this go around. maybe five guys, but that's okay. I haven't heard from anybody else, so I won't be bringing any more than a few maps with me. Shout out early today if you want to come, 'cause I'm leavin' town early this afternoon. A report with pics will be up here on Monday, hopefully. If I live through this!

Shimano Comes Through: You might not like Shimano, but they were great to deal with recently in regards to the 10 speed front derailleur swap I needed. I mistakenly spec'ed a low mount instead of a high mount front changer, and the customer service women I dealt with was right on top of things. Very good service, and I thought it was worthy of mentioning. Ya know, 'cause we hear all too many times when someone "effs up", so I thought it would be nice to point out that things often do work out well in business transactions and customer service issues.

I Try To Look The Other Way, But.... When the subject of head butting and road racing are spoken of in the same sentence, well......I had to look into this!  Actually, I just read a short description, didn't even look at the video, but that was just downright goofy, or brilliant, depending upon your point of view. I mean, yes- it wasn't "fair play" or "good sportsmanship", I suppose. However; would any of us be talking about the Tour otherwise? I mean, another ho-hum stage finish turns into a spectacle worthy of being compared to roller girl action.  (Well, actually, the roller girls are tougher!) Look at it this way, the guys are doping, the sport is under the U.S. Gubbmint!, and this whole thing could be solved by adding in a few new features. I figure they ought to consider the following.......

- Protective gear for sprinters teams: Check it out- High speed action with high risk and riders wearing full DH gear to protect themselves in the ensuing melee's. Headbutting? Totally  legal! Arm checks, bouncing around. Think of the possibilities. Who wouldn't want to watch that carnage?

- Tour Derby Action: Who wouldn't be down for watching a derby at the finish of a mountain top stage? You make it to the top first, you then have to be the last man riding. Great test of endurance, skill, and toughness of bikes and parts. We all win!

-Tour de Cross: Yeah, yeah, yeah......high speed chasing and posturing on baby-butt smooth roads. Blah! Let's get dirty folks! I'm talking about barriers, mud bogs, and grassy hills mid-stage. Water carriers? Ha! We're talking beer hand ups that must be chugged by each rider before continuing. We're talking about throwing some off road into the on road action. Heck, its gotta be a great idea. Who doesn't remember Lance's off road excursion in Le Tour? Let's have more of it!

-The Doping Lottery: Look, they are not going to stop the doping as long as the stakes are so high for the riders, teams, and sponsors, so if you can't beat them, run the show! The Tour should have a "doping lottery" at the beginning of each Tour. Riders all sign in, grab the needle and inject. Is it "the real thing", or a placebo? Nobody knows! It's all a lottery chance that you'll get the dope advantage. It could be televised live. Look! He cried when he stuck it in! Oooo! He took it like a man! Then later on, maybe someone pulls an incredible stage out of the blue, they test him, and he wins the Dopers Jersey. Cool!

Sound absurd? Maybe, but the Tour couldn't be closer to absurd than it is now anyway, so why not? Doping, head butting, he said-she said finger pointing, I mean, c'mon!

Have A Great Weekend! Lots of big rides, races, and cycling fun is going on, (and I'm not talking about that nutty event in France either), so I hope you are finding something to do on two wheels and having fun!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitaional: Pre-Ride Report #2

<===This is where you turn left where the pavement ends outside of West Union to get to the campground.

I went up and did some limited recon Wednesday. I didn't have a lot of time, so I focused on the camp ground and the opening part of the route.

The camp ground is in great shape. I was worried that springtime and early summer rains and winds may have damaged some things here, but everything looks in order. One thing I should point out is that there is a low water crossing as you come into the camp grounds. So drive slow and try not to make a huge wake. This is a trout fishing stream that you will be crossing, and we do not want to tick off the local fishermen.

 <===This is where you turn right. It occurs immediately after you make the turn described above.

I poked around and found a short cut across a high flung walking bridge that takes you almost right to the start of the ride. (Which is at the big Echo Valley sign in the first image) I think Jeremy Fry may have found this last year, but I can not remember for sure. Anyway, it avoids having to cross the low water crossing with your bicycle. That may be a good idea this year, since the water is a bit higher than last year, as I recall. We'll be starting at 6:30am SHARP! We will need to get rolling as soon as we can to allow for enough time to get everyone in before dark. Or at least enough time to get me in to Camp!

<===After the first two turns, and a low water crossing, you'll go up to the left. Very steeply! Then you'll see this tree. Stay to the right! This takes you right and up some more.

The gravel leading out to the first miles of the route is loose! The county must have maintained the road recently. This gives me concern for the first big down hill, which has a dogleg curve in the middle of it and is a 10% grade descent. I almost ate it big time here last year, and the road wasn't laden with fresh gravel. Be careful if you come Saturday and ride this! You'll need great bike control and great brakes! I will say that it looked to me like the best line down was to the extreme left as we go down this steep, long hill. It will lead us out into a river valley where the views are spectacular. 

<===When you see this cul-de-sac, look to the right and I should be there! (Well, by Friday evening, any way!)

I specifically didn't take any images of the route to share before hand because I wanted to let it be a surprise to anyone that shows up. I actually had forgotten how cool it is!

At any rate, there are a few rollers to start things out with, then after the aforementioned gnarly downhill, we'll settle into a gentle river valley with a river escorting us along the way for most of the first 25 miles or so. This leads us through the sleepy burg of Elgin, and ultimately to Elkader. This hamlet is pretty picturesque. You'll want to scoot around and grab a few photos of the local architecture and the famous bridge over the Turkey River here before we pull out of the first convenience store stop.

 <===My steed for the ride.

The roads were covered with pretty fresh, very dusty gravel to Elkader where I had to peel off and head for the shed. I can only imagine that the rest of Clayton and Fayette Counties have been similarly maintained, so expect rougher, sketchier roads this year. I have heard that the Impala Road section was ridden this year, so that is still there for all I know. Even if it isn't, we can easily go around on pavement.

Okay, my bike for this ride is a variation of the theme I used at the Dirty Kanza 200 this year.  I swapped out the flat bar and controls for a Woodchipper and STI levers. I did a bit of fine tuning while on recon and I think it'll work okay. I can't get a "Bike With No Name" , so I had to come up with the next best thing! A Salsa Cycles Dos Niner with drop bars! It's light, it has some cush, and I could actually put a suspension fork on it if I so desired. With the Edge Composites carbon wheels, it is a pretty awesome ride so far. I'll give a final judgment on Sunday!

I did do something here that you are not supposed to be able to do. (And I do not recommend that you do this either!) I used mountain BB-7 calipers with road levers. It ain't supposed ta work, but mine does. Just fine too. I slapped on another part that isn't supposed ta work too. An Ultegra long cage derailleur that is shifting a 12-34T cassette. Not enough capacity on that derailleur, they say. Pssshaw! Works just fine. The front gears are 44T/29T by the way, and are rings pinched from an Origin 8 crank set which I mounted to an XT crank. Chris King bottom bracket and a Bontrager Switchblade 38mm offset fork round out the package. Stable handling be good on gravel! Especially with the crazy descents we'll be seeing Saturday.

Well, at least I hope to be able to see those descents on Saturday, barring any crazy weather damage from the overnight storms!

That's it for the Pre-Ride Reports. Look for a Recap of GTDRI on Monday!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitaional: Pre-Ride Report #1

The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational is this weekend! Here's some scoop on this gravel grinder for those who are curious.

Big Name-Not A Big Deal! This is a "no rider left behind" type ride. It is free- no entry fee. If you show up, don't plan on "racing", or dropping the group, 'cause that won't be cool. This is a fun ride for enjoyment, and challenge. Oh yeah..... and about the "challenge" part........

Get Yer Climbing Gear On! This will be a tough day in the saddle. Take a look at the image here. (click to enlarge) It is a typical climb that you will see a lot of all day long. The image here is about 85 miles into the 118 mile distance. We were walking climbs by the time we got to 50 miles in! Only two guys in our little group cleaned everything. wasn't very hot or humid. Bring lots of water, food to eat, and patience, because it likely will be hotter and more humid than last year.

A Note On Self Support: This is a self supported ride. You get in, you get yourself out. Bring what you need to survive a 40 mile stint without services. Bring some money! We'll have access to convenience stores at approximately Mile 27, Mile 42, Mile 64.5, and Mile 95.5. (Note, the availability of stuff at the Mile 42 opportunity is very limited)  You'll be doing a big loop, and you will be furthest away from your vehicles at approximately 58 miles into it. Just so you know. This ride took about 13 hours to complete last year with over 9 hours saddle time. Start time is slated at 6:30am!

Make sure you have spare tubes, a pump or inflation device, a spare link of chain or two, and a chain tool. A cell phone is an excellent idea, although you'll be in a lot of "no reception zones" on this ride. When I say, "no reception", I mean zero, nada, nuttin'. You want to make a call, you'll need to find a land line out in those valleys! On top of the hills, yeah....maybe!

Bring a camera! This route has some stunning views. 

Weather:  It looks like a perfect summer day is forecast, so bring some sunscreen! Sunny, high of 87 degrees, and a wind from the SSW at 10-15 gusting to 22mph.

The Campground: It's totally primitive. No lights, toilets, (pit toilet nearby), or nuthin'! That said, West Union is about three miles to the west of the campground and has convenience stores, a motel, and fast food. We'll be camping out after the ride, and I'll be up on Friday evening to camp beforehand. The rule of thumb will be early to bed Friday night, stay up late Saturday night!

Attendance: I don't expect too many riders. Maybe a half a dozen. Maybe ten. Possibly three or four. Doesn't matter if I am the only one. The deal is come if you want, and this is what to expect. I'll have about a half dozen route maps. If you want to know more, or tell me you are or are not coming, e mail me. I'd appreciate that!

Tomorrow, expect a recon report with up to date info on the course and camping.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Special Edition: DK 200 XXC Mag And GGN Vaya Review

Usually this is "Bike Shop Tales" day, but I have a couple of announcements that won't wait. "Bike Shop Tales" will return at its regularly scheduled slot next week!

 The XXC Magazine Dirty Kanza 200 Special Edition

If you have hung around here for very long, you know I like riding gravel roads and you probably have heard about The Dirty Kanza 200 . It is an epic, tough, beautiful event in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. This past June, 160 intrepid souls took the start line of this event in downtown Emporia, Kansas. Relive the event through the eyes of its participants in this latest issue of the XXC Mag. You can down load a copy on your hard drive, or opt for the "in your hands" approach and get a printed copy. Just hit the link and get yerself sum!

If you were one of the event participants, you owe it to yourself to get this issue. It is chock full of great photography that will bring the memories rushing back, (and show your unbelieving friends and loved ones how remote and awesome the Flint Hills really are!), while you read about several participants experiences that are sure to be something you can relate to. (Oh yeah, and some hack writer that wrote an introduction is in there too!) At any rate, this is really good stuff.

A Guest Review Of Salsa Cycles Vaya by Matt Gersib

I also am humbled and super grateful that my friend, Matt Gersib, wrote an awesome piece for Gravel Grinder News which is also re-posted on The Cyclist. It is a review of Salsa Cycles Vaya frame and fork.

For those of you that are unacquainted with Matt, or "MG" as he is also known as, he is a racer of mountain bikes and of gravel road events and has well over 20 years experience doing these things. He knows a thing or three about bicycles, and has worked in the cycling industry in the past as well. Matt gives a great viewpoint on the differences between a Fargo and a Vaya, which should help readers looking at both bikes, and gives a great look at what the Vaya is capable of after six months of thrashing the bike on all sorts of courses.

I am thankful for Matt's contributions to my sites and I believe his write up will be quite useful for folks looking into an adventure bike of their own, or for a perfect gravel sled. Check out his review and see for yourself.  You can catch Matt out riding gravel and single track in Nebraska and all over the Mid-West. Also, stop by his blog for periodic updates of what he's been up to.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Steamed Singletrack

The weekend was a good one. Finally, I was able to dodge the rain drops and ride some single track. The Camp was dried out from the previous days of dry weather, so I hit up the South side and took the Big Mama with me for the ride. It was a good thing I took the full suspension goodness of the Big Mama too, because the Camp is rough! Rougher than I remember it being since we've been riding back there.

I didn't check in with the atmospherical authorities before leaving, but according to my arms and hands, which the sweat was running off of like a water faucet was up my sleeve, I'd say it was pretty darn humid. That meant that the air was plenty steamy under the canopy of the woods. It's definitely summer! Better than winter, so I am not complaining.

Sunday I got out again, but since we had rain over night, I hit up Cedar Bend this time on the Cielo 29"er. The air wasn't quite as steamy as Saturday, but the humidity wasn't gone, just not as brutal. The corn on the far side of Cedar Bend must be nine feet tall, by the way!

There is something pretty weird going on with this bike. I was sent a size, (19.5"), that should fit me perfectly, if you had a typical, mass produced, big name 29'er. But this isn't a typical bike at all. First of all, it has a lot of classic cues, the more level top tube, the seat stay arrangement, and the frame tubing sizes are all classic mtb. The deal that strikes me as weird though is the top tube length. It is 25.3" long! I usually go for an inch shorter top tube than this.

Okay, the bike fits me, albeit I am "stretched" more, not a bad thing at all. The bike handles just peachy this way, and that is what I find weird. It shouldn't handle well for me. It should feel like a big truck. It doesn't.

So now I'm full of questions.

That's a good thing. I think it's always good to learn and look at things outside your "box"

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday News And Views


Chris King hubs: Love em or hate em, they are definitely unique. I like 'em. They are buzzy, come in cool colors, and are dead reliable, at least for me. Yeah.......they are spendy!  But you'll have them a long time, if you want to,  so they seem worth it to my mind.

Anyway, I bring this up because the Cielo 29"er I have here on test for Twenty Nine Inches has them onboard. I haven't ever really seen the gold anodized stuff before, but man! Does that color glow! Makes me want to set up a bike with gold stuff like this one now.

That's the trouble when you are an anodized parts freak like me. I just love anything other than black anodized parts which are so......common! It gets tiring seeing all that black anodized stuff. Even silver is better, at least to my mind. I should talk though! I own one set of Chris King hubs and guess what color they are? Yup! Black! Boring ol' me!

 Here's something else that's gold- flowers! Have you noticed the wild flowers are popping like crazy right now? I have and it is amazing here in the Mid-west. One of my favorite things is to ride some gravel and see the wild flowers, which reminds me, next weekend is the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational Think you might be interested in this? Are you planning on showing up? Then hit that link and it'll take you to the link to print out directions for the ride. I'll be up there a week from today in the evening to help get things kicked off. Hope to see you there.

 <===The gears are turning......

I have a plan for the bike I'll be riding next weekend too. It'll be somewhat unusual, that's for certain. Hopefully I can get it together for a test ride this weekend. If that doesn't pan out, I'll probably show up on the Fargo like last year. Either way, I'll be ready with a bicycle, but maybe not so ready with my body! I've been not having any luck getting out on the gravel roads of late, and long rides......ha!

Well, let's just say that the "death" part of the GTDRI may be more literal in terms of describing my riding than usual! Hopefully I'll be okay, but ya never know.

Let's hope we all can get out there and enjoy some cycling this weekend!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Okay, That's About Enough Of That!

<===The corner of Baltimore and 2nd on Wednesday, 8:30am. can stop anytime now! The rain, that is. We received 5 inches in less than 24 hours, and in probably less than a few hours, truth be known, on top of an already saturated water table. No where for the water to go but where we don't want it. Basements, roadways, etcetera, were all flooded out on Wednesday morning here. Places that never even saw a drop of water in the basement during the record floods of  '08 were getting flooded. Weird!

So you can imagine how our off road trails are about now! ha!

It rained until about 9:30am, and sputtered awhile after that. The waters subsided to a degree, but even at 6:00pm, you could see water flowing out of cracks in the street yet!  Thankfully we are scheduled for three days of drying out, although I believe I think we need about three weeks of drying out to really do the trick.

And for much of the day, we had the lovely experience of having the percentage of humidity way above the actual temperature, which meant that you were sweating bullets standing still. Just the thing you need for frazzled nerves and grumpy people. To say it was a bogus day would be putting it mildly. That said, there were some extremely bright, bright spots to this otherwise not so great day.

First off, I found out that XXC Mag has accepted my submission for an introductory piece to open up a special issue coming out soon. This is pretty humbling and awesome. I am happy to be a small part of this (what I think will be) smash hit. It's gonna be very cool! More on that later. 

Then I got a text message from a co-worker that another test rig for Twenty Nine Inches came in. It is a Cielo, which is Chris King's handmade bicycle marque. many folks don't realize this, but Chris King was a frame builder first. He didn't like the headsets available back in the late 70's, so he made his own and, well.......the rest is history, as they say. It got to where Chris couldn't keep up with the frame building side of it, so he started Chris King Precision Components. Just within the last few years, Chris started back in making road and cyclo-cross bikes again. The 29"er thing happened by accident, kind of. The rest of that story will be told on TNI. For now I'll just say that by popular request, we have this 29"er to check out for a short time. It's a pretty sweet machine, so I can't wait to get out on it.........if it'd ever stop raining!

Oh yeah! And I got a sneak peek of the following...........

 Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Dyna-Sys 10 Speed: "Dyna-mite, or Dyna-Thud"?!

It's here! The dreaded day has come when your 9 speed stuff is "old school". Yep, that's right my dirt bikin' friends, you are off the back now with the introduction of Shimano's XT Dyna-Sys 10 speed, and SRAM's already famous XX 10 speed. SRAM is also set to soon be flooding the market with 10 speed groups all the way down to its X-7 level. New XTR is, of course, 10 speed, and so is Shimano's workhorse SLX group. Yep! You can officially start hording 9 speed stuff and call yourself a "retro-grouch" if you are into 9 speed stuff.

Of course, I jest, but to some degree, this is our perception of the new 10 speed, no? I recall when 9 speed XTR came out. Wow! There was a lot of grousing and folks murmured how they were "never going to ride 9 speed", and how Shimano was "ramming it down our throats". Hmm..........I wonder how many riders still feel that way about 9 speed in 2010? Especially now that 10 speed mtb is a reality. 

And I'll be the first to admit that I have been on record as saying this 10 speed thing was/is a bad idea. Road 10 speed is none too impressive, in terms of durability and wear life. I was and still am expecting that 10 speed mtb stuff will also fall short of 9 speed in this critical area. One thing I will also admit is that the SRAM XX 10 speed stuff I have ridden is dreamy! The best shifting I have experienced in the field yet, hands down. Especially the amazing front changer. I used to hate front derailleurs until I met the XX front derailleur and shifter.

My co-writer on Twenty Nine Inches and The Cyclist, Grannygear, and I talked about the implications of 10 speed groups for off roading just the other day. He wrote this excellent post on his blog about the subject, which I highly recommend reading. I pretty much agree with his estimation that the biggest downfall of the ongoing race to add another gear to our cassette, (and in many instances, take away a chain ring too), isn't so much about lack of performance, but about cost of ownership. This stuff will be expensive to replace once the parts wear out.

In the end, the riders will decide what will happen. Will Dyna-Sys be a Dyna-thud, or a huge hit? Riders embraced 9 speed eventually, and the market fully supports it now. However; if the cost to replace an XT cassette and chain, not to mention that composite middle chain ring, is astronomical, and we find ourselves racing to replace those XT bits with Deore, or SLX just so we can afford to ride, it isn't going to go over too well. The flip side is how will those lower priced 10 speed options perform? It's going to be hard to accept an X-9 cassette that doesn't shift as well as a high dollar XX 10 speed one, even if you did save some money. Maybe that gulf between the lower end's pricing and the upper end's will just be too much to take, or maybe it won't.

At any rate, it's a new day. A 10 speed mountain bike day, and you can choose to not play along, but it isn't going away any time soon. I'll have the XT Dyna-Sys group on test on Twenty Nine Inches and locals can check it out in the flesh. Just give me a shout out here in the comments or by e-mail, and I'll be glad to let you check it out.

Hmm...........I think I'll go for a ride on my single speed today! Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Skid Lid

This "Bike Shop Tales" post, like last weeks,  is also inspired by "Ears"..............

When work got out at the bike shop, or before the shift was to begin, or- of course- on our days off, it was easy to find a bunch of guys and hit up the trails in George Wyth State Park. We usually hit up a big loop of the faster stuff and then headed home. Many times folks that hung out at the shop would join us.

I can't remember who all was on this particular Saturday afternoon ride, but Ears was one of the riders. He was young, and probably the only fellow in those days that was close to my size. We would usually make good riding partners because of this. We rode at similar speeds, and even though I was older than he was by a fair amount, I could keep up with the whippersnapper!

Well, on this particular day, we were heading back out of the woods towards the end of the Park, and further on, the shop. We all spilled out of some tight, single file only single track into a much wider path. This was pretty smooth, so we all spread out and big ringed it for all we were worth. This was all fine and dandy until the really wide path necked down a bit, and went into a slight turn.

I was up ahead, no worries. All I had to do was aim for the best line through and work on what needed to be done in the next section. Then I heard a commotion behind me, and Ears yelled out.

"On yer Left!

Ahhhh! On yer right! I mean.....(huff huff)....ON YER LEFT! 

Okay, so by this time, I have no idea what side he's coming up on. I veered slightly to the left, only because I was reacting to his second call, and his loud protest of "ON YER LEFT" at the end was too late. We bumped off each other like two bumper cars at a cheap county fair. Ears had the advantage, as he saw it coming. I didn't.

I swerved hard to the right, recovered to swerve hard to the left, and then I lost the front wheel, went over the bars to the left, and landed.

Right on top of my head!

It had rained a day before our ride, and Geo Wyth was a park covered in fine silt and sand here and there. Silt turns to a grease when it gets wet enough, and although the surface of the trail didn't show it that day, just beneath the crust the grease from the rain was still there. My Giro helmet caught that grease as I skidded on my head and packed in the silt all the way down to my head. I rolled over and ended up in a sitting position with a curious crown. There was grass on top, and even a small flower was sticking out of my helmet that just moments before had been growing peacefully alongside the trail. I was okay, but just a bit shook up. As I started to assess my condition, and think of some terrible malediction to direct at Ears, I heard laughter.

"Dude! You should see your helmet! That's awesome!"

Now I was curious. I unbuckled my lid to check out what all the fuss was about. Then I laughed too, forgetting all about my wrath at being knocked off my bicycle at a high rate of speed. We carefully escorted the bicycle themed planter to the shop where it was ceremoniously placed right outside the back door. We actually watered it, and the grass and the flower actually stayed alive a few days. Then I decided I needed to wear it again, so the end of the "helmet planter" was at hand.

Maybe not the best story for helmet advocacy, but there ya go!

Bike Shop Tales returns next Tuesday, stay tuned...................

Monday, July 05, 2010

All Washed Up

Well, if not for deciding at the last minute to check out the July 3rd fireworks in Waterloo, and an errand ran on my fixed gear bike the same day, this weekend would have been a big washout. Rain returns and with the stuff being flung from the sky at intermittent intervals, it pretty much shot my ride plans for the 4th up like a cheap bundle of Missouri fireworks.

I will say that I got an extended ride in on the fixie and with all the back pressure I was applying to control my speed, I managed to put a burn in my legs that lasted all through Sunday! Funny how that works. I don't know if any of you regular fixie guys can testify to that feeling, but I know it happens whenever I work my legs in that way that only a fixed gear bike can.

The other thing I seem to find is that whenever I ride a "skinny" tired bike, (skinny for me is 40mm or less), I seem to get a flat tire. Yes, I flatted Saturday. Makes me not like them thar skinny tires, it does! But they is fast on the pavement, they is!

The fireworks were pretty crazy in Waterloo.Well, at least at the end they were. I think it was somewhat like a ammunition dump explosion more than a fireworks display, but at any rate, it was most impressive. I don't think I've seen that much smoke in the air since that Pink Floyd concert I went to in The Dome back in the 80's. But that was a smoke from a different fire there!

So, Monday is an extension of the holiday for me, as I am sure it is for many of you. I sure hope I can salvage a ride out of this extended three day weekend, but if not, I'll just go and recon some of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational route. If you have the day off, I hope you have a good one. If not, well..............Happy Monday!

Friday, July 02, 2010


If you've hung around here awhile, you probably have figured out that I like my single speeds. Road, gravel, and in the dirt, it's all good with one gear. Really! Ya ought ta try it some time. Anyway, this isn't about trying to convince you of that....

Nope! This is about something else having to do with single speeding, and that a very integral part of the single speed bike: The Chain.

The Single Speed Nation has a triumvirate of power. These are The Chain, The Crankset, and The Cog. The Three C's. You can not have single speeding without The Three C's. Well, you couldn't, that is, until some devious beings came up with a spawn of evil called The Belt.

The Belt has been lauded in certain circles as being The Savior of Single Speeding. It is not.  Believe me, it is a terrible lie.

They said the belt would rid us of the greasy chain. Hmm...........really? I never have had a problem with that part. Okay, they said The Belt would be quieter. can it be quieter than "quiet"? (And I've heard some pretty squeaky belts, by the way) Well, then they said The Belt was lighter, and "almost as efficient as The Chain. S'cuse me, but I'll take "heavier and more efficient" any day. They said The Belt was better than The Chain in bad conditions. Really? I've ridden a chain in horrible conditions, never had an issue. I've seen The Belt fail in dry dust, and I've seen The Belt fail in mud. Oh yeah, and when The Belt fails, you need an entire "The Belt" to fix it.  The Chain can be fixed easily, without breaking the frame, with a simple tool and a couple spare chain links, or "quick links". Simple.

And I won't even get into the "ratcheting" deal involving The Belt.

As far as I'm concerned, going "Unchained" is only good if you're a Van Halen fan. Otherwise, I'll take The Chain every time on my single speed, thank you very much.  (Best use of a flanger EVER! by the way)

Have a great 4th of July weekend and ride those bikes folks!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Saw An Old Friend

Usually on my day off I am busy doing web related work and riding test bikes and parts. Well, my co-worker, Craig had told me that he wanted to go check out Cedar Bend Park and was too nice out to work! 

So I rode a bike just for fun!

I decided to give ol' Grimace the call up today, the 2007 Salsa Cycles El Mariachi with the Gun Kote finish and the purple Chris King head set I was gifted by George Wissell. As always, it rode awesome!

Craig and I had a great time riding, and Grimace was behaving well, climbing up all the steeps and handling like a champ. Funny thing about this bike is that it is a medium. Salsa Cycles  did things a wee bit differently back then, and I prefer the old medium over a large. (I'd definitely ride a large now!) It reminds me a bit of how things were sized in the 90's. A bit shorter top tube, a bit longer stem. I slapped on the 47mm offset On One fork on this too. Makes the Salsa come alive, and this bike just rips single track. The Industry 9 single speed wheels are great, and the free hub sounds like a cicada in August. Amazingly buzzy and loud. Someday I may upgrade to a titanium seat post, but this ThudBuster is a great post on this bike. Makes my back happy, it does!

Anyway, Craig and I decided a stop for something to drink afterward was in order. We pulled into the Janesville convenience store and what to my surprise did I see but my old "Dirty Blue Box"! I was floored! Someone decided it was worth fixing up and driving. Cool! It even had all my old cycling related stickers still on the end gate too! A little worse for the wear, perhaps. It was missing the entire rear bumper, and the right front fender was wrinkled, but when the lady who was driving it started it up, she sounded like a champ.

Don't get me wrong! I am waaaay better off with the "Truck Without A Name", but it was cool to see an "old friend" that I had spent tons of hours and thousands of gravel miles in still alive and kicking. 

I spent the rest of my day with Mrs. Guitar Ted, who also had the day off. We had lunch, and then I took her to the jewelry store to look for something special. See, Mrs. Guitar Ted has completed all her course work for her B.S. in Nursing at a local college, so I am going to get her something special to commemorate her graduation, which takes place in August.

Then we swung by the shop where I picked up the Shimano DynaSys 10 speed group. Yep! I'll be a busy bee mounting up some fresh componentry here soon.

Overall, it was about as perfect a day as you can get. So good that it makes you wonder: "When is the other foot gonna fall?" A definite "red letter" day for me! 

I sure hope everyone reading this has a great day today, and if not today, real soon. Get out and ride yer bikes folks. Grab that ride when ya can. You never know when "the other foot is gonna fall", ya know what I mean? Life is too short to not take those chances when ya can.