The big holiday weekend brought with it some real warmth and humidity. Finally. Maybe now I can pack away the woolen goods for a few months! I did that a few weeks ago, but it still stayed really cool in the mornings, requiring something warm for commuting. I think those days are gone for awhile now.
Anyway, I got three days of riding in, but they were three very different rides. My son, who will be 8 in July, just learned how to ride this past spring, and now wants to go further abroad than just "around the block". So, I obliged him with his first "on street" lesson. We went about a mile from home on back streets and back again. At the turn around point, I surprised him with about 30 yards of off road path. He didn't flinch, but his way-to-high-geared BMX street/park bike made the dip a bit of a challenge!
The following day, we did the same path again, and this time he did better, clearing the single track section, and learning that "burning legs" on uphills is something "normal" for cycling. We then did several laps around the block, and through the alley. He dumped the bike on a left hander, scratching up his arm in the process. But now, instead of crying, he gets up, jumps up and down a bit, and walks in a big circle in silence. Not sure where that came from, but I'll bet it is play ground related.
Later in the day, I took out the Xtracycle, and my son and I went to a graduation ceremony on it. You'd have thought we were aliens by the looks on peoples faces.
Monday was a ride on my own on the Camp's South Side. I ran across Paul M who was out weed-whacking the whole network of trails. The loop, along with new sections just added in, are all good to go now. Only a bit on the lower end is still too wet to ride.
I rode the loop both ways and had a great time. The combined heat and humidity made for some slow going, since I am not used to that just yet, but I made it through pretty well. The dirt was about perfect. Not too dry, not too wet, and no greasy spots. I had a great time for a couple of hours. I even saw a Bald Eagle up close. Pretty appropriate for memorial Day, I'd say!
<===From a recent issue of "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.
You know, I was flipping through a recent issue of "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News when this picture here caught my attention. It was what was painted on the shop door- "Stop War Commute $0.00 9/10 "
Obviously, I am for bicycle use, commuting by bicycle, and all. However; this was the first time I had seen any reference to "stopping war" connected to using bicycles. Funny thing is, I've made that connection all along.
I'm not one to get all political. I also haven't ever said much about this to anyone before, but riding a bicycle has always had a sort of meaning to me. One that was connected to "doing something" in light of the wars we find ourselves embroiled in these days. Right or wrong, I see them as being connected inextricably to our dependance as a nation on oil. I figure that every time I decide to use my bicycle instead of a car, I am distancing this nation, a tiny, tiny bit more, from its dependance on oil. I know I am only "one guy". Maybe you are laughing right now about this, thinking I am foolish. How could riding a bicycle save this country from anything? Well, here are a few facts to chew on.
Before I started bicycle commuting, I filled up my car with gas every week, and got my regular oil changes every 3000 miles, which happened a lot every year. Now? I fill my tank maybe once a month, and I don't get to 3000 miles between oil changes, because now I have to change oil less often, and do it based on time, rather than on mileage. So, in other words, I am using waaaay less oil than I used to, and I am looking for ways to lessen that even more by using a cargo bike, and running errands by bicycle, or (gasp!), by walking places.
What if we all did that? I bet it would make a huge difference. Maybe it could even end a war. Maybe. Even if it didn't end a war, it would make our country's dependance on oil a lot lower, and us as a nation a lot healthier. You and I would save a lot of money. You'll never know unless you give it a chance.
<====The "Official Artwork " for the GTDRI was done for me by Izabel Stevenson.
I received another e-mail yesterday that reminded me that a lot of you out there get tripped up by the grandiose, totally "tongue-in-cheek" name for my laid back, fun, no rider left behind gravel grinder in late July.
Specifically, it would appear that the word "invitational" is the offending bit here. Many of you seem to think that I need to specifically "invite" you to show up. And well.......that is the straight rendering of the meaning of "invitational", isn't it?
I can not say as I blame anyone for getting a bit put off, or confused by my attempt at humor, sarcasm, and irony. As far as the name of the event goes, anyway.
So, let's break this down again.....
"Guitar Ted": That's me. It's my event. Really, more of a "ride". It is free, as well. No charge. Self supported, of course.
"Death Ride": You hopefully will not "die", at least not in the sense that your life ends. maybe it will get changed? Maybe. It is a long, hot, dusty ride, and you may feel like "dying", or as if you had "died" out there. Get it? That make sense? It is a long, arduous ride that will tucker you out, at the least. There is a whole story behind this part of the name, but I won't repeat it here.
"Invitational": Simple really- I'd be honored if you would come to ride with me on the GTDRI. You are invited. (Can it be any plainer than that? No, I do not think so.)
Let's add it all together now- "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational" Looks imposing, and sounds serious. It is neither of these things, in light of the other gravel events you may know. Think of it as the "anti-Trans Iowa", if you will. Similarities exist, but it is waaaay more laid back and fun. (Well, when it isn't cooking your insides out, like what happened to me last year.)
So, there you go. If there are still misunderstandings, I'd be glad to clear them up. Just hit me with an e-mail. Otherwise look for references to updates here and on the GTDRI site soon.
My trip to El Paso, Texas is fast approaching, and I need to tweak out this rig to take with me. Of course, I'm talking about the Big Mama.
This is a bike I've wanted to take down there for quite awhile now. It is very rough, rocky, and the down hill parts can be quite technical. The bikes I have taken down there before were just barely passable as trail bikes there.
A couple of great additions recently to the rig are these Geax Gato 2.3"ers that are TNT which means they are tubeless compatible, but more importantly than that, they have a sidewall reinforcement that protects the casing, and it will allow for some (hopefully) waaaay low pressures so I can rock crawl my way through the Franklin Mountains.
The other nice addition is the Specialized Blacklite Command Post, which is a "dropper post" that will make going down a couple of the switch backs a much easier thing to do now. One thing that won't be easy- The heat! It already is getting upwards of 100 degrees during the day down there. Of course, that's a different kind of heat, but all the same, I'll be pushed pretty hard just by that.
I've got to get a bash guard in place of that big ring though. No sense in having a big ring down there. It won't be about going fast! That's for sure. I've got a 36T ring on that rear cassette though, and I'm hoping to finally slay that beast of a climb exiting the trails from the west in the Tom May's Unit.
Last time I was there, I did the Upper and Lower Sunset loop on a Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Expert hard tail. It was fairly brutal riding a hard tail for that loop for me. I know this bike, albeit heavier, will be easier on me, and hopefully, a faster loop time will result. We'll see.
I've got some tweaking to do, and hopefully that will get done this weekend. I hope you all have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
<===I like the "team aspect " of The Renegade Gentleman's Race "
Getting back to an idea I was bandying about last March, (see post here), I wanted to throw out some more ideas and get back up to speed with where my head is at on this idea.
First off, there are only a few vague details I am certain will be part of this, and to recap, here they are in no particular order.....
It will be a three day, (likely Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday), event to start out with.
It doesn't necessarily have to all be in Iowa, be in Iowa at all, or it could all be in Iowa. The route is open for discussion at this point.
It will not be run by Guitar Ted. I may or may not end up having a hand in this. If it never gets anywhere, I am okay with that.
It must be a free event, self supported, and self navigated. There may be some modification to this dependent upon the final formatting of the event.
My part will be as an adviser/facilitator person to get the idea off the ground. Why? Because I have enough irons in the fire, and I just want to see something like this take off.
I have some things to throw out there as to the formatting of the event that might make it more interesting. These include, but are in no way limited to the following:
Having the Friday portion, or "stage", if you will, be a night time event.
Perhaps include an individual time trial.
Perhaps have the entire event be based on 3-5 man teams that must ride together at all times.
Perhaps make one stage a "criterium", which could come into and go out of a small town, making it spectator friendly.
Riders or teams could accumulate "points", not necessarily based on time, or the event could be about time, or it could be about both, featuring "bonuses".
There could be "preems".
Basically, it would be a gravel racin' shindig for three days. Maybe if it really took off, somewhere down the road it could be a week long deal. I think a weekender makes sense to shoot for out of the gate.
Want to talk about it? Shoot me an e-mail, or show up at the GTDRI and we can chat. For now, I'll let the idea simmer till after the GTDRI happens, and then I'll make a decision for myself as to where I will be going from that point. In the meantime, if I hear about others that are going to "borrow" this idea, it is okay, just give me some credit for inspiration. That's all I ask.
As promised earlier today, here is the post I would have put up long ago, but for Blogger's hiccup last night that didn't get resolved until late this past morning.
Enough about that. I want to share with you my initial impressions on this new commuter tire from Geax called the "Evolution 29"" (Notice: The link takes you to the 26"er version because this tire isn't quite available yet.)
The tires are listed as "prototypes", so if changes occur that don't line up with the website, don't be shocked. I will say these tires I received from Geax to test are very "production" looking examples though. They have a wire bead, and don't seem overly heavy for a commuter type tire at just a bit over 800 grams each. These are listed as being 1.9" in width, but on my 24mm wide Alex TD-17 disc rims, I am getting a measurement of 49.5mm/1.95", and that with tubes in place. This is measuring the widest part of the casing, as the tread width is much narrower, obviously.
The tread itself is made up of many triangular shaped, very shallow blocks, with little open space between the tread blocks. When the tires are inflated on my rims, the casing forms a very rounded shape, and these tread blocks are very rounded in profile, not flattish in the middle as shown here. (Un-mounted tire in the image)
I also noted that the sidewalls of the casing were fairly flexible, and that the treaded area felt softer in compound than many urban/commuter/recreational tires I handle at the shop. Geax uses a "XC Casing" on the Evolution 26", which they claim is more supple for a livelier ride feel. The compound used in the 26"er is their "3D Aramid" compound, which has particles of Aramid fibers interspersed throughout the casing to help prevent punctures. Does this 29"er tire feature these same technologies? Geax hasn't gotten back to me on that yet, but I have no reasons to believe that it doesn't.
So, how do they ride? Well, pretty dang nicely! I am still experimenting with pressures, so I haven't had a chance to ferret out what I think will work best there yet, but these tires are smooooth at lower pressures! They still roll well too. How low? How about 26psi front, 30psi rear? I could detect a bit of a draggy feeling from the back, so I've bumped up pressures some, and I'll let ya'all know later.
I should add that I replaced a set of Gen I Specialized Fast Traks that have to be some of the highest rolling resistance 29"er tires I've ridden. Certainly for their class, they are the worst. So, anything feels better than those tires, but that said, the Geax Evolutions are nice. I also will add that I am not an advocate for high tire pressures. I'll get into that another time though.
Hope you enjoyed that sneak peek at these tires I am reviewing for Twenty Nine Inches. I'll have some more things to say about these after I get some time on some gravel roads with them, so stay tuned.
Well....Blogger is still partially borked, (Update: Images post now), but at least I can leave you a message saying that I am here, and to look for more posts soon. Hopefully things get starightened out and we're back to normal soon.
Till then, go ride a bicycle!
<===I'll have a brief report on my impressions of the Geax commuter tire later today....
I mentioned last week in this post that I wanted to break down my Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush" rig for you all to let you in on the "why" of each choice I made on it. Well, now is as good a time as any.......
First off, this is just my opinion. This works for me and my needs for a lighter, more speed oriented gravel grinding rig. You may or may not agree, and that is fine. I encourage each and everyone of you thinking about a gravel grinder bike to carefully consider for yourself what might work, and then go test it out for yourself. That's what I've done. This works well for me.
Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" frame and Fork:
I won't go into a whole lot of detail on this choice, since I want to do a separate full review on it, but this fit my needs in several ways. It is steel, which as long as I wasn't going to spend the dough for titanium, was my only choice. I just prefer how it rides. The BMC also has cantilever brakes, which I wanted, (reasons for this in the brake section), two water bottle mounts, (Not all cyclo-cross type frames have this), slightly longer chain stays than most CX bikes, single speed capability, and a bit taller head tube than many CX bikes out there. Finally, it has bigger tire clearances, which was key for me.
Ritchey Classic Series Seat Post and Stem: I wanted a silver component group for my gravel grinder. I like the classic look, and it looks better when dusty! The Ritchey Design Classic Series stem and seat post were no-brainers in the category of parts I was looking at. Light, well designed, easy to install, and ultimately invisible when in use.
So far I haven't been disappointed in their performance in use either. The seat post holds its position for the saddle like a vice, but is easily tweaked if needed. The stem holds my bars with a similar vice-like grip, and seems to be plenty stiff torsionally when yanking on the bars in climbs.
Revelate Designs Tangle Bag: My Revelate Designs Tangle Bag is a mainstay of my set up, since it can easily pack my 70 oz. Camelbak reservoir. (Note: Newer Camelbak reservoirs are wider and may not fit in a Tangle bag. Be sure you buy a reservoir that is long and narrow if you plan on stuffing one in a frame bag) Plus, I can get my tubes, tools, and a few other things in there as well. This is huge since it gets everything off my back.
I could even add a seat bag if I needed more storage, but this will do for 90% of the rides I will do with this bike. I also use a Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag. This thing works fantastically well. It is super simple to open, holds what I need it to, (Usually a couple gels, a camera, and a phone or more food), and is stable on the bike. It isn't too wide, so it doesn't graze my legs in out of the saddle climbing either.
Ragley Bikes Luxy Bar: The drop bar choices for rough/off roading have been getting better, and the Luxy by Ragley Bikes was the latest to be offered. I tried them and liked them quite well. Certainly, they are not for everyone, but they seemed to do the trick for me. I especially like the hooks on this bar. The silver color is a bonus as well. (Note: Curiously, Ragley Bikes does not list the Luxy as one of their products on their site. However; Chain Reaction Cycles shows them in stock)
I could use any ol' bar, but I like the Luxy, or a Woodchipper best so far for gravel grinding.
Velocity A-23 Wheel Set: Sure, I could have built my own wheels, but these Velocity A-23's were built by hand in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and they roll on great hubs that should hold up well. My big attraction to these was that the rims are 23mm wide, and therefore provide a better platform for my Bontrager XR-1 tires to work off of. So far, the A-23's have not disappointed, and spin up fast. They have shown me that they have good lateral stiffness, and that's all I need for a gravel grinding set of wheels. These get stopped by some old Shimano cantilevers. I chose cantilevers because they are lighter weight in terms of not only the brakes, but in terms of the hubs as well, since the hubs do not need to be disc compatible. I could get some lighter brakes, and I may do so, but right now the brakes are working very, very well. I would be hard pressed to make this any better, in terms of performance.
Components: Here I just went with Shimano stuff. Ultegra 9sp STI, non-series R600 compact crank set, an Ultegra long cage rear derailleur, and an old STX mtb front that works to shift the compact front gearing. Pedals are Shimano SPD's, and the saddle is a Bontrager Inform RL. The bars are double wrapped Bontrager Gel. I used two Velocity Bottle Traps for water bottle cages. Solid stuff that has worked well so far. I may change the front crank to a more CX like gearing, but so far the 50 X 34 is okay. I mated that with a 11 X 34 rear cassette for ridiculously low gearing. (I figured I'd need it for the Dirty Kanza 200, but....) I may change the cassette to a more reasonable 11 X 28T at some point.
So, that's it. I like everything I picked well enough to ride it just the way it is for a long, long time, but there are always ideas and small tweaks will happen, I am sure. Let me know if you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them.
Over the weekend we experienced some radically different weather at different times. It started out Saturday with rain, so instead of riding, I wrenched on some stuff instead. The Karate Monkey was slated to get the new Geax Evolution tires, since it is the most commuter-like bike I own, in my opinion.
It needed to get a wheel swap back to the original wheel set I had on it from 2003. I had some issues sorting the rear brake, but those were overcome and it came out fine. One more thing to do to it, which will be a vast upgrade, and that's swapping out the levers to proper ones meant to pull enough cable on the BB-7 Mountain calipers, which I've never had on this bike. (Proper levers, that is.) That can wait for a bit though. For now, she's street-worthy.
Then I got to doing some work on mounting the Geax Gato tires on my Gordo rims. Now, it is well documented how TNT Geax tires are just about impossible to mount on Stan's rims. Well, you can add Salsa Gordo rims to that list as well. Man! That was a tough tire to mount, and I had to use levers on both beads to get it on there. Mounted up brilliantly, and these shant be blowing off, methinks. (Yes- tubeless) Now with one tire wrestled on, I went to another project for a bit to let my hands get a rest. Then the sun came out. Well, my seven-and-a-half year old was bored, so we took time for a bicycle ride.
He was ready for something a bit more challenging, I figured, so it was off to the neighborhood cemetery. Lots of twisty roads and hills. Not big hills, but not the dead flat sidewalk we have around the block where we live. We had to stop a few times so I could "discuss" the issue of earning your down hills. He seemed to think the whole world should go downhill, or at least that he shouldn't have to ride up. Well, that was not going to fly with me, so a bit of "convincing" had to be done, and well, he got up there. More than once.
On one down hill he yelled at me as he went by, "Here comes your failure!" (You can borrow that for your next race, by the way.) I don't have a clue where that came from, but you might see it pop up on something coming up later. Keep yer eyes peeled.
Sunday was looking odd out there for a bit, but it cleared off, and I got a ride in after church and lunch. It was a great ride, and the conditions were still okay, even though we had plenty of rain Saturday and Saturday night late.
The good ol' Green Belt was greasy and fun, with a few hike-a-bikes for water crossings thrown in for good measure. The mosquitoes are still not a problem yet, so a couple of stops were possible without getting buzzed and bitten. That was nice, but I know those days are numbered, as are the days where weeds are not grazing your legs. While the City mowed out there recently, they won't be able to keep the "weeding in" from stopping. (Unless they mow more, which is highly unlikely given the economic climate these days.) Enjoy it while you can!
I usually try to stay away from talking about Pro Road Cycling since, well.......there are a lot of reasons for that, actually. Some of those reasons I will discuss today. The short of it all is that the whole mess just makes my head hurt when I try to understand it.
First of all, I received another anonymous post through the U.S.P.S. about a month ago in the form of a post card. I mention this because in this age of texting, Twitter, and the now considered to be "old school" way of communicating, e-mail, a post card is akin to placing a call via smoke signals. Who sends post cards, (or as a recent Trans Iowa V7 competitor did), writes a hand written letter these days?
I think I am still in shock from the rarity of the effort and the media used in these two cases, but I digress.....
Back to the post card, which featured a clipping glued to the card from the "San Francisco Chronicle " dated 4-13-11. (A newspaper clipping! GASP!) The card's attachment had a statement from Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci stating that doping was so prevalent in his country's cycling program that the cycling federation's leaders need to tell the teams and riders "to stop because nobody believes you anymore."
I heartily agree. And furthermore; we all should just stop believing any of the riders since it just doesn't seem to matter anymore. Oh sure, I know some of them are clean,but we all know some of them are not. It makes my head hurt to try and figure out who is who, and even the doping controls can't sort it all out. The Tour de France starts in a little more than a month, and we still do not know if last year's "winner" won it or not.
Sorry, but that's just crap. I can't be asked to believe in racing, or care to invest my time digging into being a fan of it all when the biggest champions of this ere are almost all, to a man, cheaters, or suspected to be such. When the winners of races are stripped of their titles due to this cheating. I can't believe in a sport that has drug controls that don't control anything. When, after every race, they proclaim a "clean field", only to find out months or years later, that wasn't at all the case.
Pro road cycling could be really cool, it is a beautiful part of cycling, but I won't be taking much notice until they get their act together and clean up the sport. They show no signs of getting that done anytime soon, even after the "Festina Affair", (13 years ago), and "Operacion Puerto", (5 years ago).
"Much has been said, my Lords, but nothing is being done. "
Just stop it, because I don't believe you anymore.
<===Another look at that new Geax Evolution 1.9" 29 "er tire for ya.....
The commentsyesterday remindedme of the perennial question that pops up in searches here and on Gravel Grinder News stats: What Tires To Run At The Dirty Kanza 200 ?
Well, this is purely my opinion, and purely speculation on my part, so take this with a grain of salt. I've been in the Dirty Kanza 200 three times, and I've never run a tire narrower than 2.00".
Ya know, I saw something in all three of my attempts, and that was guys having flat tires. Lots of them. I noted something, and that was that most all were predominantly narrower than two inch wide tires, and most skinnier than 45mm. I spoke with guys that had anywhere from three to as many as eight flat tires in 200 miles.
What if you didn't flat at all?
Seems like you'd save more time, and maybe, if you had the right "motor", that would be enough of a margin to win. Maybe.......
But let's face facts- Most folks entering the Dirty Kanza 200, or any gravel ultra, aren't entering to win it. Maybe 1% of the riders have any chance at that. So, how does the wider/narrower tire choice affect these riders? Well, that's obvious, isn't it? I think you all would rather be riding than fixing flats. Maybe. That might be a long shot, but I'm going with it..........
Maybe you'd also like to be comfortable? Have less numb hands? Maybe you'd like it if your bike didn't bounce around so much when you hit the bigger, chunkier stuff?
Maybe you've read tests where bigger tires run at lower pressures actually have less rolling resistance than skinnier tires at higher pressures? Or perhaps you'd like to enhance that even further by running tubeless?
I know that many do not have bicycles that fit bigger than your average cyclocross tire, and I know that a "fat" tire for a 120lb person is one thing, and totally another for a 220lb person, so you have to use some common sense here. There also are not many good, performance oriented, lightweight tires in between 35mm-50mm in width either, so I get it if you don't like your options. But, there are some options if you look hard enough.
In conclusion, I would advise that you may want to reconsider what you thought was a good gravel road tire.
"Once you held your finger on the trigger.
Now the gun is pointing at your head.
Once you reigned supreme,
Over all that you could see.
Now you walk on the other
side of the street. "
"How The Mighty Fall" by The Alarm
Well, if you haven't heard by now, supposedly the most damning evidence against Lance Armstrong will be presented on "60 Minutes" Sunday as they interview Tyler Hamilton, himself a convicted doper, and former lieutenant of Armstrong's in his early Tour victories.
Look, whatever you might think about doping, Lance Armstrong, his foundation's work, and the "effects" he had on cycling, the bigger picture here is that Americans, nay- The World, loves, loves, loves, to tear down the exalted. And we're witnessing the piecemeal dismantling of "Lance" into a mere mortal. Sunday will be just one more wrecking ball to the icon. Frankly, I'm amazed it took this long for it to happen. (Disregarding "the truth", whatever that may be.)
Still, there is another, human side to this, and it is very disappointing for a lot of folks, I am sure. Lyrics from "The Alarm " come to mind once again......(From "Sold Me Down The River " )
" I don't know why, I don't understand, How you sold me down the river. "
So, it was great interest that I heard about these new 29"er tires by Geax called the "Evolution" and that they were aimed at folks commuting on 29"ers.
Now I have a pair in hand to test on Twenty Nine Inches, and I will link my thoughts here as that unfolds. Right now, I haven't gotten any details on the availability of these, or how much they might be, but that will also be coming soon. You know what? I think these could even be great gravel road riding tires too.
Good Luck Cheq 100 Riders! Saturday is the second Chequamegon 100 event up around Cable, Wisconsin. Those are some mighty fine trails up there, and by the sounds of it, the weather is conspiring to make this one epic event. (70% chance of afternoon thundershowers, anyone?) If it does rain, it'll be chilly in them thar woods, I know that much, and riders better be prepared to be layered up, and then be prepared to peel it all off the minute the sun comes back out. In fact, these conditions sound a lot like the last time I rode up there. It was showering intermittently, then the sun would shine, and the humidity would kill ya!
Well, at any rate, the stories out of this event should be good. Good luck to Captain Bob, and Mike J, who are locals going up for this ultra-mtb ride.
Have a great weekend and I hope ya'all get some bike riding in.
There are many things that don't quite tie together to talk about today, but as usual, the theme is cycling. So, here we go....
<===Image courtesy of Hayes Brakes' Twitter feed.
In the first of what is sure to be many new developments for cyclo-cross brakes, Hayes Brakes released this image of a mechanical disc brake caliper they are calling the "CX-5". The description was that this is a polished, anodized, lazer etched and lightweight mechanical brake that will work with road levers.
I expect to see Shimano, SRAM, and others follow suit, and I also expect almost all of these will be mechanical disc brakes to start out with. Why? Because developing another line of hydraulically actuated brakes incorporating the lever body as a master cylinder/shifting mechanism will be a huge financial and engineering undertaking. Besides, the market for such levers is an unknown at this point, so without OEM support for such a project, I don't expect to see hydro road disc brakes with master cylinders in the shifting mechanism anytime soon. That's why most of the hydro brakes on CX bikes have used Bowden Cable actuated remote master cylinders tucked under the stem.
I'm not saying hydro drop bar levers won't come out, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see something pop up this fall as a prototype, but full on "brifters" that are hydraulic for the masses are a ways off yet, I think. Maybe just a lever will show up? I think that is more reasonable to expect.
<===Images courtesy of Raleigh's Twitter feed.
Raleigh is in the midst of their 2012 catalog shoot, and there are some sneak peeks of their line up of 29"ers showing on Twitter.
This is the 2012 XXIX, which looks relatively unchanged from the 2011 model with the exception of the paint scheme and tires. I'll be honest, I am not a fan of this bike's geometry, and that steel fork is the most brutal device for holding a mountain bike wheel this side of a Klein Attitude.
And here is perhaps the entire 2012 29"er line up on one bike rack from Raleigh. Rumor has it one of these is carbon. (I know.....I am shocked too!)
I am not sure what Raleigh is doing, but at one time, say......three years ago....when they had the XXIX Pro Reynolds 831 framed bike, and the hints of a 853 Reynolds single speed frame were being bandied about, well, then I was pretty stoked. Unfortunately, the XXIX got hacked so they could put a belt on the thing, and the 853 Reynolds stuff is gone. Too bad. I wish Raleigh had the same kind of vision for the mountain bike line as they do for the road bike line up. At least they are doing decent, relatively inexpensive aluminum 29"ers right. So, whadda ya say Raleigh? Hows a bout a "Heritage XXIX+G" in steel with a single speed option featuring that awesome geometry you used to do?
<===Command Post in "Descender " mode on the Big Mama.
I decided to give the thing a try on a steep chute at Cedar Bend I haven't gone down before, and it made going down child's play. Crazy! Just getting that saddle down and out of the way opens up a whole nuther dimension to riding that I wish I had jumped on sooner now. Likely folks reading this that have been on dropper posts are chuckling and shaking their heads, but if you are one of those that have never tried one of these, you really ought to. It makes a huge difference in how well you can go down.
In fact, I can tell you right now after one ride that I'll never go without one of these on at least one of my bikes from now on. That's how much of a difference it makes. Now whether or not the Specialized Command Post cuts the mustard or not is yet to be seen, but it is pretty good. I am thinking right now it is just a matter of learning something new, and making a few tweaks. We'll see.
Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking and planning in my head concerning gravel riding. Some of it is gear based, some ride based. Here's a quick run down of things bouncing around in my noggin' of late.
Velocity A-23 Wheels: First up are the Velocity A-23 wheels, which I've brought up before here. I want to do a few more longer rides on them, but my initial feelings are that these are some nice wheels that may be a great choice for gravel grinding. The cool thing is that Velocity U.S.A. can lace these a few different way, but you can also get rims and roll yer own.
I like the wheels so far quite a bit. They roll well, have good spin up, and seem to hold a line very well for a big ol' feller like me. I've hit big, chunky gravel, "hero gravel", and everything in between, plus done a fair bit of curb hopping during commutes, all with zero effect on these wheels so far. My favorite thing right now? The ultra-smooth, even braking surface. I didn't know my brakes could work that well!
Orange Crush: I've got much to say about this rig. I want to do a full blown review of the frame/fork, for one thing, and also do another full blown post on just the set up and why I chose each thing. This was to be the DK 200 rig, and I am sure that I am 99% there as far as that would have gone, but be that as it may, it's staying together like this. I have grown to really appreciate each and every aspect of the bike so far, with a couple minor gripes. If I do go with the proposed custom gravel rig, (and that's still on the table), I will base it off this bike.
Luxy Bar: I've got to do a final review on these bars, and also do my comparo on all the off road drops yet. I still need to get a WTB Drp Bar, but that should happen this summer yet.
That includes the Gary II bars on my Fargo too. This bike will also be getting a set of new 1.9" GEAX tires soon that should be great for commuters/gravel grinders. Stay tuned for that soon....
Stage Race Idea: This is still bouncing around in my head, but I've stuck the idea into neutral until I perhaps get some input from some other riders at my GTDRI ride, or some other gravel grinder event where I can pick a few brains and see where this might go. Speaking of GTDRI.....
Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: (Read: Fancy name for a "no rider left behind" fun gravel ride of 100 plus miles) I've got to sew up some route details here, and recon some unknown roads, but this is certainly a go for me at the end of July. Anybody can come, or if no one does, that's okay too. I'm going to ride it regardless. Since I can't do the Dirty Kanza 200, and I spaced off sending a card in for Gravel Worlds, I guess this will be my one big summer gravel dealio. That's cool with me.
And that's a wrap on my gravel exploits, dreams, and schemes.
The latest craze to sweep the nation? Maybe not, but "dropper seat posts" are definitely becoming more common. Once thought of as being in the realm of only the most "extreme" mountain bikers, they are now finding their way on to more and more trail bikes, and even some XC types are taking a look at what a "dropper post" could do for them.
Of course, these are nothing new, or at least, the concept isn't. Once upon a time, the idea of dropping your seat post for technical descents was actually quite common. In fact, a slick little gizmo was developed early on during mountain biking's early "modern era" that you could use "on the fly", just like these fancy-schmancy dropper posts of today. It was called the "Hite Rite", and was pretty simple in its design.
Basically, it was a fancy spring that grasped the seat post on one end, and was attached to the binder bolt on the other end. One simply had to open the quick release on the seat binder, use your body weight to depress the post into the frame, and lock the quick release back down at the desired height. When you wanted the seat back to full height, you simply got your weight off the saddle, released the quick release again, which allowed the spring to push the saddle back up, close the quick release, and you were back to full height once again.
Of course, it all depended upon whether or not your seat post and frame fit well together, allowing for free movement of the post when the quick release was opened. Hite Rite seat locating springs weren't without other draw backs. Longer seat post extensions that became popular with designers and riders in the 90's pretty much put the Hite Rite at odds with practical usage for mountain bikes since the range of drop was limited on the design. It wouldn't be for another ten years that dropper designs started to resurface that used a telescopic design instead of the spring the Hite Rite was based upon. These telescopic designs, while being more complex, offered a much wider range of "drop".
The Specialized Blacklite Command Post is one of the newest designs out, featuring lighter weight, and better performance promises over other telescopic seat post designs. We'll see, as one is on test now at The Cyclistsite.com.
.......But It Was A Ride! Saturday, as most folks in the Mid-West know, was a washout. Oh yeah.......except for those Almanzo 100 and Royal 165 dudes and dudettes. Congrats to all who toed the line in those challenging conditions.
No, I wasn't going to take an option on riding Saturday, as it was pouring rain for most of the day. The plan was to go down south and scout some of the route for the GTDRI. But that wasn't to be, with the weather that we had. I thought maybe Sunday might work out, but we had a special meeting at 12:30pm and I didn't know how long it might run. I thought that if I got out early, there might be a chance to get some of that recon in. The weather was actually nice too.
<===A late 19th Century church on my route Sunday.
Well, the meeting lasted longer than I thought, and I had to scrap the plan to recon down south. I instead went for a ride into the wind first, which was out of the north.
And what a wind! (Not like the wind I lived through 43 years ago on yesterday's date, but....) The weather said it was a 20mph wind, but I know it was stronger than that. On the return trip back to the house, I was hitting 30mph easily. That was a lot of fun! But I earned it with the trip out, no doubt about that. I'm sure my legs got toasted doing that work, and it is a mostly uphill route northward.
I know some folks will probably think this is goofy, but one of the things I like to do is to spot animals on my rides. Usually these are birds on my gravel rides because wild animals generally stick to the woodlands and grasses. There are not many animals that frequent gravel, although I have seen skunks, woodchucks, muskrats, and deer from time to time on gravel.
So, I generally just see the occasional hawk, Turkey Vultures, and scads of Red Winged Blackbirds. But today I saw something I had never seen before, and after looking it up on the inner-web-o-sphere later, I also identified a tree full of birds I saw while snow shoeing in 2000. (So, technically, I had seen this bird before, but read on.....)
I was riding into the wind, which made this all possible, since the bird had its back to me, and couldn't hear me in the 30mph blast. It was hunkered down on the gravel and looking into the wind, and it didn't take flight until I was right beside it. So, I got an excellent look at it.
It was red. Brilliant red, with black wings and tail. I obviously saw a Scarlet Tanager. Never had seen one before.........that was red! You see, the female Tanagers are greenish-yellow, and the males turn a similar color in winter. They lose the red color entirely. Well, once when snow shoeing I saw a small tree with several of these odd, greenish-yellow birds in it. Never could figure out what they could have been, until now.
So, while my ride wasn't what I had planned for, I did get a ride in, and I learned something by seeing a bird sitting on the road, and solved a decade old mystery in the process. I thought that made it a pretty special ride. But your mileage may vary.
As I write this, over 12 hours after theAlmanzo 100 and Royal 165 started, there are still folks out riding the course. It is raining, cold, and windy.
It's funny when you talk to people about these events like the Almanzo, The Good Life Gravel Adventure/Gravel Worlds, Dirty Kanza 200, or Trans Iowa. Some folks can't begin to grasp what it means to be on a bicycle for that long, or even what it is like at all to ride on gravel. I get that. I mean, not everyone is going to even have that on their radar, much less think about what it might be like.
<===Look Out! Big guy coming through!
Then there are those who have maybe raced a bit, done some ultra stuff on roads, or running, or whatever, that make some comments about this self-supported, self navigated gravel road stuff. They seem to think that taking more than 5 hours to do 100 miles is "going slow", or that the terrain is flat, what's the big deal?, and that it isn't near as hard as maybe what myself and others paint it out to be.
Then maybe some of these "big talkers" come and try it, or see/hear first hand what folks are going through out there. I've seen this happen, and it is rather interesting how the tune being sung afterward is of a different tone. Yes, it is quite comical sometimes.
<===Bundled up and sportin' the frosty beard at the checkpoint in '11's CIRREM ride.
But some folks don't get close and still turn their noses up and deride the gravel scene. I guess ya had ta be there! It's all good. Those that know.....well, they know.
Doesn't matter what the cycling world at large thinks about it. It is what it is, and it ain't easy.
And thirteen and a half hours after the start of the Royal 165, there are still three riders out on course. I'm thinking they don't give a rip what I, or anybody else thinks about their finish in that time space. They have something the naysayers will never understand. And that's maybe the way it should be.
I know I've been through pouring rain, walked muddy B Roads, been frozen, baked within an inch of my life, finished, come close, and utterly failed at all sorts of these events.
Well, all Thursday night and Friday until around noon, this blog was "in the dark" due to an issue Blogger, (the service provider), was having. So, there for awhile, it looked as though the last post I had done was Wednesday's.
Actually, I had done Thursday's post, and it has been restored since, but there for awhile you folks that got to read Thursday's post had a mystery on your hands there! I thought I'd temporarily lost it when I looked this morning, that's for sure. (Although some folks would argue that I've never had "it" to begin with!)
My Italian Feet: A long time ago, back when I first decided to get into clipless pedals for mountain biking, I decided on going with Grafton clipless pedals. (I see many of you shrugging your shoulders in a questioningly manner!) Yes- Grafton. It's a long story. Anyway, if you were going to go with Grafton peds, you pretty much had to go with Sidi shoes. So, I ordered some Dominators, and those lasted through the initial switch to Onza pedals, (Yes- "Onza pedals"), and finally to Shimano pedals, where I should have started with in the beginning. Oh well, live and learn!
But at any rate......Sidi shoes! The thing was that I have very skinny feet. Most shoes made my feet hurt, or they swam around inside making pedaling vague and weird feeling. The Sidi shoes, built in the traditional European way, were narrower, like my feet. Okay, so years go by, I start a family, and I decided I needed to not spend hundreds of dollars on single purpose shoes. I tried Lake shoes, (fit great, didn't last very long), then I went with Bontrager shoes, (fit not so great, but lasted longer than Lakes).
Then I got an e-mail from a guy with Vittoria shoes. Next thing ya know, I am being told that these Italian shoes are on par with Sidi's offerings and totally made in Italy using techniques that were pioneered by Vittoria and often copied by other manufacturers. Okay, sounded great. I asked to try the Impact mountain bike models, shown here. I can say one thing right away. I definitely have Italian shaped feet. These shoes fit very, very well.
Will they hold up to my Sidi experience? We'll see. Stay tuned and I'll report back with more later with my review on these at The Cyclistsite.
And that's it for your "Digital Blackout" edition of Guitar Ted Productions. Just a final shout out to the riders of the Almanzo 100 and the Royal 165. Have a safe, fun ride, ya'all!
<====If the Airborne had a brown anodized post and brown saddle, it'd be lost somewhere out there yet!
Too much, too soonis what it was yesterday. I need time to acclimate!
I'm talking about this late July weather we're having in early May. Heck, it was less than a month ago that it snowed last, and only last week it was below freezing coming to work in the mornings. My body hasn't made the switch to "summertime mode" yet, but I did go to work on that yesterday. It was a short-ish session in Camp Ingawanis' south side.
Everything is green now and growing like mad. It won't be long before the weeds and undergrowth are out of control out there. But for now, it is still manageable. Plus- no bugs! Well, very few, at any rate, and no mosquitoes to speak of. Yet. That will come with a vengeance soon enough, I am afraid!
<==I did get this awesome "dirt tan" on my legs though!
There was plenty of heat though, and as my ride went on, I could feel my body starting to get hotter and hotter. It wasn't "tuned" for this yet, and after a bit, that dreaded "head throb" I can get when I over-heat started in. It was then that I decided enough was enough for today. 80-something degrees with 70 degree dew points. Yeah, that felt pretty brutal coming out of chilly weather, but given some exposure to that, I'll catch on again.
<==Velocity A-23's as seen on the "Orange Crush " BMC bike.
Yesterday I reported on the A-23's and I figured I would show them off on the bike here. They are the 28/28 hole "custom" versions of the Comp Build A-23's. Velocity will do "off the menu things" for you if you want, and if it isn't outrageous, or beyond their capabilities.
These wheels are pretty light, and the main thing I was interested in was the slightly wider rims, (23mm, thus the name), and how that would be better for the wider, more voluminous tires I like to run. The other wheel sets I have used were rather skinny, and although I never ran into any issues using them, I know my tires have more support and will be less likely to roll off. This is important to me because I rarely ever run higher than 40psi in my tires I am using. In this case, they are the Bontrager XR-1's.
I was stoked to get these on the BMC, but it is too bad that Dirty Kanza isn't going to work out for me this year. I would have liked to have seen how this set up would have done for me down there. Oh well. I have plenty of gravel to burn down around here, and I need to get cracking on that route for the GTDRI.
Catching up on a few things. Here's the latest mish-mash of stuff on my mind.....
Heated Grips: Wow! The weather right now is about as far away from needing heated grips as you can get. But can you remember that just last week it got down into the upper 20's for night time lows? Yup!
I know some will say "Yeah, but pogies work and are cheaper." Yup. They sure are and they do work, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that they work "better".
While run time is not much better than a couple of hours, the time it does run makes pogies unnecessary, and I don't like pogies cumbersome look and performance when you have to be pulling your hands in and out of the things. (I do, because of photo ops, and other reasons) If you have yourself set, and the hands are staying put, plus your ride is very long, well then, pogies are it. I have some, and I'll use them in extreme situations, but these grips will get some play for sure. They lowered the price on them just recently too, which makes them even more attractive. You can read more about them here in my review.
I ended up with a bit of a custom build, since I got 28/28 hole wheels instead of the 24F/28R build they usually do at the Comp level. Mine still are radial laced up front and on the non-drive side rear. The drive side is two-cross. We'll see how they hold up.
It also will be interesting to check into something I accidentally overheard about these wheels at Frostbike. That they ran well sans tubes. Hmmmm.... Interesting.
One thing Velocity does is that they hand build and sign their wheels before they are sent out. So, "Jacobi", I am counting on you and your handiwork! I did check them out when I received them and they were tensioned very well, and they were very true. More to come on these wheels here and on Gravel Grinder News.
Speaking of Gravel Grinder News: You gotta click on the video and check out what the NCC-HAC guys did for their upcoming gravel event on May 29th. (Warning!: Loud, angry music! You might want to turn your volume down a tad, or not!) This production is awesome, I think. I am very impressed at the creativity and passion shown here for gravel road riding/racing. Very cool.
The Bitter: Of course, if you are a cycling fan, or a road racing aficionado, you know what happened during Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia yesterday. Wouter Weylandt was killed in a high speed crash on a descent on the course of the race, and the cycling world is in shock.
These kinds of tragedies are very hard to absorb, much less understand. I thought the esteemed blogger, "Bike Snob NYC" caught a good vision of what it is like for a lot of us. (Read it here)
There are a lot of folks that are not cyclists, or are casual cyclists, that may not grasp the "why" of what some of us engage in. (I know my family has a hard time with some of what I do!) I only hope that the negativism that may come from those quarters isn't allowed to dampen the spirit of adventure, the joy, and yes- the risk that all of us as cyclists understand is there.
My deepest condolences to the family, friends, and team mates of Wouter Weylandt.
The Sweet: Of course, if you hung around here through all the Trans Iowa madness, you know Janna Vavra notched the first finish in any Trans Iowa by a female. I found a link to her report for Nebraska Cycling News, which I read just yesterday. I thought I'd share it today.
I have to say that one of the most surprising things that happened when I got involved with Trans Iowa was how my perceptions of people that competed on bicycles was forever changed. It started that cold April day in 2005, and every spring since, that hasn't stopped happening.
Janna adds to that experience of mine with her class, her character, and her athleticism. She mentions how being in Trans Iowa forever changes people, and I can vouch that putting the event on has also forever changed my life as well.
Saturday was a pretty dang good day. one of those days you don't want to have end. The weather was top notch, and there was lots of cycling involved, of course.
It started out with sleeping in late. I know some of my friends are "early morning" types, and cherish that early morning ride. I get that, but there is something decadent about sleeping in late that I find appealing. So, my day started out with a moderate amount of that.
Then it was off to the shop on the Xtracycle to retrieve the Airborne Goblin 29 I have in for testing on Twenty Nine Inches. It took a bit of head scratching to get it on there safely, but it wasn't anything that a board, a ByKyle Simple Strap or two, and some various bungee cords couldn't fix! A few test bumps to make sure I had everything strapped down tight, and I was off.
Once I got the Goblin 29 home, I had to take some images of it. So, I spent some time goofing around with the camera. In the meantime, I had my son come out with his bicycle. He wanted to try and ride some. Well, I figured it was time he tried a few new things. First, I had him roll over a three inch diameter branch. Then I took that away, and taught him how to stand and coast. Then I brought back the branch and showed him how to absorb the bump with his legs and arms. He felt the difference, and the lesson was successful.
The women of the house were off shopping, so we had to fend for ourselves for lunch. I took my son on the back of the Xtracycle to get some vittles which we took to a local park and had a picnic with. Then it was back home up some alleyways and finally back home.
After awhile, the women came home, and I was cleared for a shake down ride on the Goblin. The woods were filled with Bluebells and reminded me of one of my first dates with Mrs. Guitar Ted where I took her for a walk to show her the bluebells and fell head long into a mud puddle! Ah! The memories...... But I digress.
I headed back after a good hour and a half of making sure the bike was working correctly. Then I started up the grill and cooked a mess of meat up while I sipped on a cold Negro Modelo on a fine late spring evening. I looked at the westering sun and thought, "This has been a pretty good day."
Yup! One of those I'd gladly repeat.
The next day was Mother's day, of course, and I visited my Mom and had a great time. Mostly spent the day relaxing. It was another really good day.
<===Congratulating an exhausted Charlie Farrow at the end of T.I.V7
It has been a long two weeks or so since I've been here with anything about the Dirty Kanza 200 event. A lot has happened since last I wrote about it.
Obviously, Trans Iowa happened and that took a big bite out of training time. Being stressed during that time about things surrounding the event took its toll, but surprisingly, I came out the other side in decent shape, really. I have had some coming back to do, but nothing like I thought I might have.
But there are things bigger than bicycling events, believe it or not. My family being one of those things. Well, something has come up- an opportunity- that I can not pass, so I am afraid the Dirty Kanza dream will remain just that.
I'll be taking my kids and Mrs. Guitar Ted to see her folks in Texas instead, starting the very weekend of the DK 200. They don't get to see their family down there very often, and a vacation time came up for my wife, and we had to take that, or leave it.
The choice was obvious.
So, this ends my ramblings on the Dirty Kanza 200. I wish everyone that makes it down there well, and I hope you all can finish of the ride, be safe, and have a good time. Thanks for reading about my lead up to this awesome event.
Awhile back I wrote my thoughts on the UCI frame certification deal. (See it here). Now there have been some new details that have come to light of late. The biggest new development is a "sliding scale" for the certification process, where the UCI is offering the smaller, custom manufacturers a "discounted" certification price.
How very droll.
<==These guys don't care if their frames are "certified" by the UCI, nor that T.I.V7 isn't a "worlds qualifier".
The esteemed tech editor and custom frame builder, Leonard Zinn, wrote a very detailed article on Velo News about this recently. He does a great job of showing how the UCI can essentially blackmail the entire industry into its evil plan.
What I found interesting was that the UCI is actually changing some criteria for qualification to race for a rainbow jersey in the Masters class by making "Gran Fondos" UCI qualifiers. Zinn makes the case that the UCI is going to force all manufacturers into the certification process by doing things of this nature, since no manufacturer will want to miss a sale due to not having the bike for a Gran Fondo certified. (Or arguably other future event series) This is a much bigger market than Pro cycling. Zinn says the "money" is what the UCI is after, and the Gran Fondos popularity makes it a potential cash cow for the UCI's frame certification process. Thus the postioning of some Gran Fondos as "qualifiers" to get a Masters Rainbow Jersey.
Well, to my mind, that means the promoters are in on the take as well, since being named a qualifier for Worlds is a big deal. Well, to some riders, anyway.
Zinn calls for a "revolution" of sorts. Asking that the people rise up and take out the UCI. Smacks of John Lennon-esque naivete. "Imagine there's no UCI. I wonder if you can....." Great idea, trouble is, there is no money in it.
The riders want the notoriety of winning a rainbow jersey, and those who know they never will get that prize know that they are in a consistent, decently run organization with relatively fair rules for all that ride in UCI events. The promoters know these folks will come to their events if the UCI says the event is a "worlds qualifier", and that means money. The manufacturers are willing to make sure they are certified so they don't miss sales because of the riders perceptions of UCI events and their "weight" in terms of importance.
Money. Perceptions. Traditions. That is the stuff that this idealistic "revolution" will be up against.
What we need is a bunch of cyclists that just say "Sod it", and will ride their bicycles just for the heck of it. For the challenge. Because it is fun. Not because there might be a muti-colored stripe across a white jersey with the letters "UCI" stylized across it up for grabs. (Not to mention money, and lucrative endorsement contracts). No. Why would anyone ride a bicycle for that?
The Date: July 30-31, 2011: Once again, my annual gravel grinding adventure will take place. The date has been chosen, and I will be working up a specific route soon. Here's the deal on this ride for those wondering.....
Who Is Invited? Basically, what this ride amounts to is a "no rider left behind group ride". It isn't a race, and anybody can come. The "invitational" part of the name is just a twist on the idea, and simply means "everyone is invited that wants to come".
Where Will It Be? Well, I held this ride two years running on the same course in Northeast Iowa, but this year I am bringing it back to Tama County. I had considered Jasper County, but there are some roads I want to see in Tama County that I have not seen yet. This is the excuse to check them out.
Camping: There will be camping, but unlike other years, here is how this is going to go down, to help save my brain cells! Saturday will be the ride. Saturday night will be the camping over night. If "revelry" happens Saturday night, that's cool. At least it won't impact my ride Saturday! Sunday I can sleep in. Then go home at a leisurely pace. You could too. What about Friday night? Well, I'll likely be camping then, but going to bed early!
Camp site may be Hickory Hills, (which we used three years ago), or it may be at Otter Creek State Park north of Toledo, Iowa, or...... I'll fill in that blank later with a specific site once the route gets figured out.
The Route: I've got a rough idea about what the route will be. The length will be at least 100 miles. It will include B Roads, and it will go through at least a couple towns for re-supplies. Oh yes.....this is a self-supported ride. You will be responsible for yourself.
Be prepared to ride a long way, and take care of your own water, food, and bicycle. The ride is free. Again, anyone is welcome. We rode last year with three guys, including myself, and there have been years with as many as ten guys. Gals are certainly welcome too, and we've had one women actually come and join in the fun. This is a laid back, good time ride that will be tough, challenging, and likely hot and humid. The only way it wouldn't happen would be if it stormed heavily, (although we have ridden through a thunderstorm on this ride before.)
In the meantime, have a great weekend! If you have any questions, just ask away in the comments, or e-mail me. Thanks!