Thursday, March 31, 2011


Back in my yooth, I used to live to play football. I didn't care about doing much else, with the possible exception of riding my lime green metal flake 20"er with a black and silver metalflake polo seat, a five foot high sissy bar, high rise handle bars canted slightly forward, and a 2" "cheater slick" on the back.

But I digress....

Anywho, I used to have to do what we called "two-a-days" to start out the season's practices. One practice in the morning, one in the early afternoon. I guess it was sort of like "football boot camp", and it was meant to whip us younginz into shape quickly. Or make us tired and surly. Maybe both, come to think of it.

Well, today I did a cycling version of a "two-a-day" I got the kids off to school, and loaded up the "Truck With No Name", (or "TWNN"), and headed off for a long drive to a secret point on the T.I.V7 course. This would not only get me much needed training miles, but would also allow me to check another site by bicycle, and a couple more with the "TWNN" on the way back.

The ride was awesome! Blue-bird skies and little wind. The temperatures were rising quickly too. It started out chilly, but by the end of the ride, I was dressed too warmly.

The gravel was dry, but there were a lot of places where it had been laid out fresh, so there weren't too many good lines where you could really fly. There was a bit of that "fluff" in places, and that stuff is hard to ride through. It wants to wash out your front end, so T.I.V7 riders will need to beware of that stuff.

I did a loop, so not all of my ride was on T.I.V7 course. (Are these pics from the course? maybe, maybe not.....) I ran across some dogs, which were pretty funny, as they tried in vain to catch me as I sped down a hill away from them. Eat my dust, Pooches!

Well, with that fun behind me, I came home, had a bit to eat, since I missed lunch, and then headed out for about ten miles of riding my fixed gear bike to run some errands. Man! That back pedaling to control your speed kills my hips! (Or whatever muscles are up in there) Anyway, it was good to get that "rat-ride" out and have a go on it yesterday too.

All in all, a pretty productive day on the bike. How can you argue with that?

NOTE: Eric Brunt, Jim McGuire, Jack Lewis This is your LAST CALL! Get ahold of me by midnight tonight, or I will have to take you three off the T.I.V7 roster!!

Also: I'm going to start a "Snow Dog Down" counter, since it's been so long since I've heard anything. Today marks 36 Days and counting since I sent the wheel in for repair.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This is the story of a cast off Schwinn Sierra mountain bike. Vintage: 80's. It ain't much, but I like it.

The story begins with Captain Bob and I talking about how we should get a bicycle to check this whole 650B thing out. That was at least three years ago. Well, Captain Bob found, got given to him, or paid little or nothing for- this Schwinn. 

It had a freewheel, horizontal drop outs, and the brakes......well, we'd figure that out sometime. Captain Bob parked it in some shed somewhere and well, it got pretty much forgotten.

Then Captain Bob was cleaning house to make way for a major remodel at his casa. "Did I want the Schwinn?", came the question one day. I said, "sure", and he brought it over one day to my place in its dusty, spider ridden condition. I parked it in the garage, where- you guessed it- I forgot all about it, again.

Well, it sat out there, like a lot of bikes across the nation and like this particular bike probably had, for most of its existence. Such a shame. I mean, there are a lot of people that would cherish this bicycle, really! (Don't be a snob!) I knew that, and I sorta figured one day I'd meet that person and I'd pass it along.

Then "A-Lo" came into the picture. He used to work with me, and now he spends his time hanging around in "The Mitten" working at Velocity U.S.A. and going to seminary. Well, he wanted my old Schwinn Voyageur, and he had an Xtracycle Free Radical kit to trade for it. Cool! I immediately thought about the old, red Schwinn. I sent the Voyageur to A-Lo, and he dropped off the Xtracycle kit. (Read about A-Lo's Voyageur here)

While A-Lo went the whole hog route, and restored the Voyageur to glory, I went the "re-cycled" route. I used as much stuff as I had laying around as I could. Let me tell ya! It wasn't easy, as I divested myself of most 26" stuff a long time ago. Fortunately, there was enough stuff to get the job done with minimal cash out lay.

I found an old rear wheel, which was necessary because the Schwinn was a 130OLD standard frame, and the Xtracycle uses the now standard 135OLD spread. The wheel is definitely worthy: Suntour Grease Guard hub laced to a Ritchey Vantage Comp rim with double butted Wheelsmith spokes. Yepper! One of the last bits o kit from my '92 Klein Attitude I once had. I also dug up a linear pull brake, and got a Problem Solvers "Travel Agent" to make that work with the old style motorcycle-like levers. I bought a new Bontrager commuter tire for the rear from their Eco range, and found an old cast off WTB "Epic Wolf" tire from Jeff Kerkove's old stash he left behind for the front wheel. A little bit of cables and housing, and I was rolling.

Now I look for reasons to use this rig. My son loves to joyride on the snap deck, so we go out for liesurely cruises, or run errands for "Mrs Guitar Ted" when we can. I gave some neighborhood kids rides on it once, and last night, I ran up to the convenience store a mile away in the dark with my lights blazing just to get my Lady a Diet Coke.

It was an amazing evening outside, by the way.

Remember when I wrote that I would pass this bike on to someone who would cherish it someday? Well, I did.

I just didn't know it would be me!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Musings On Drop Bars

I have been following some commentary on a blog recently concerning set up for drop bars on road going bicycles. The blog is written by a guy by the name of Dave Moulton. He's a very good frame builder, or was. I guess he's somewhat retired these days, but no matter. The guy has been around and knows his racing bikes from back in the day.

He laments in this piece he wrote recently that too many folks are not getting it with regards to how to "properly set up drop bars". While many commenters are taking him to task for a homeless person comment, (which I honestly don't even remember reading), this comment that he highlighted really struck me:

"With a road bike it is akin to buying a Formula 1 race car then trying to convert it to a family minivan. In the end you achieve niether comfort or performance."
Wow! Did he ever nail my experiences as a bicycle mechanic working on "road bikes" or what?  So many times it is all about the tipping up of the bars and slanting the aero bars up at a ridiculous angle so folks can get their "bar lean" on as they pedal the bike.

While commenters are going back and forth on what constitutes a good bar set up, I think a few things that bear mentioning are being left out of the conversation.

First off, people want to be "faster". The thing is, they put their confidence in equipment first. "Will these tires make me faster?", or "Will this gearing make me faster?" are comments I've heard so many times I cringe when they are spoken in the shop. I mean, I get the thrill of going faster. It's what the fun of cycling is mostly about- speed. The thing is, equipment can't buy you "love".

Secondly, and obviously tied to the first thing, you'll need to become more fit to get more enjoyment, (if speed is a big part of what attracts you to cycling), out of cycling, on whatever bicycle you want. This is particularly tied to "road" cycling, it seems. Really. Who cares where your drop bars are at if you are out of shape and unwilling to "invest" in the "motor"? We "died in the wool" cyclists know this, but the guys and gals that see cycling as recreation don't a lot of the time. (I speak from experience in the shop from where I work. Your mileage may vary)

Finally, and more to the point of the quote I pulled from Mr. Moulton's blog, drop bar bikes that are bred from racing are not what most recreational cyclists should be riding over the road. It is why I see a lot of "Formula 1 race cars" trans-mutated into "mini-vans".

Now, let me temper this by saying I do not say anything about my philosophy at the shop where I work. I keep my mouth shut, unless my opinion is earnestly sought out, which is rarely. Why?

Well, for one thing, folks that want "road" bikes have their minds set, most of the time, as to what will be making them faster. They want to ride a bicycle, and my boss wants to sell bikes. Manufacturers make "Formula 1" type road bikes because folks get all starry-eyed about going fast, and these bikes are "fast", right? So, they buy the bike, then they try to bend it to their will, and many times end up with a "mini-van" with 23mm tires. The drop bar set up comes with the territory.

Hey! "At least they are riding bicycles", right?

Well, on one hand we can all shake our heads in agreement, and find solace in the fact that one more person is pedaling while we ride home on that "all rounder" we've been working on that is 100 times more comfortable and practical than the carbon-wonderbike-of-the-day that just went out the door with a seat post rack, slanted upward aero bars, and that wireless, 90 function computer. But the bike that I ride isn't anything like what would actually sell, right?

I don't know, but something seems wonky about that to my mind.

And this was supposed to be about drop bars! Okay, let's get back to that for a minute. Looking at what goes for road drops these days, I'd guess most folks rarely, if ever, use the drop section. (Based upon wear patterns I notice on bar tape and hoods/tops on the bikes I work on) If I am right, I am thinking most folks could (A) use a different bike with a flat bar, or (B) use shallower, flared drops like we weirdos on off road drop bar bikes are using. I know that when I test ride a regular road bike with "normal drops", my arms get all tight, and my wrists twist in an uncomfortable way. In fact, I can honestly say I'll never use a "standard drop bar" again. Ever.

I bet a lot of road riders would really dig flared drop bars too. Easier to reach the drop section, so the "more hand positions" would actually be something usable, instead of a pipe-dream. The flare of the drops puts the upper body in a more relaxed, less tense position too, so comfort is actually increased. Yes- it is less aero, but c'mon! We're not talking about criterium racers going out for a racy group ride here. We're talking about regular "Joes" and "Jills" that want a drop bar road going rig.

Raleigh actually puts a flared drop bar on their touring rig called the Sojourn, so maybe I'm not so off my rocker as you might think. So, as odd as that might seem to Mr. Moulton, I would suggest that the off road drop bar is a great way to start the "de-programming" of the recreational road cyclist. That and the "fresh air" that some companies are bringing to the marketplace with some smartly set up "all-rounders" like Raleigh, Salsa Cycles, and others. (And yes- Rivendell has always been hammering on a similar drum).

So, at any rate, my hope is we can start steering away from the weird way road bikes are marketed now into a more practical, more comfortable, and more sustainable road bike that will foster a life-long pursuit of road biking. You could be fast, but be somewhat more practical and comfortable too. I dunno. Maybe I am just an odd-ball mechanic that should stick to gravel and off road! I mean, who'd want to do that kind of riding anyway?

Monday, March 28, 2011

On The "B Road" Of Broken Dreams

Saturday I had an encounter with a B Road, (parlance for "no maintenance", or "minimum maintenance" roads in Iowa), and I haven't seen one quite this bad since the section in Tama County we had as a part of T.I.V5.

The road started out okay. It was really, really steep, but do-able if it was dry. I never had been on this road before, so I had no idea what to expect on it as I climbed up and up.

I reached the top, walking my Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush" bike, since it was geared too high in the single speed mode I had it in. I saw some great views from the top, and stopped to assess the situation, munch some crunchy goodness, snap some images, and poke out some sticky clay that had mired itself in my front fork.

Up here I saw the last bits of snow hanging on here in Iowa on a "road", if one could call this "evil slot cut into the Earth" a road. Probably the last bit of snow on a road I'm likely to see around here in a long while. (Hopefully!)

Funny thing about this soil is that it clings to anything it touches. Yes- merely lightly pressing on this stuff will garner you a muddy mess. It doesn't easily let go, unless it is very nearly dry, and then, and only then will it ball up, and crumble away like cookie dough with too much flour in it. Otherwise it is a tangled, snarling mess of mud that is at once super-tacky and super-greasy. If dirt could be evil in any way, this stuff is the dirt that takes the prize for being evil.

The only things that seem to have any power over this type of stuff are the animals. I saw this paw print that was as big as my hand pressed into the sticky goo. Probably following the smallish deer tracks that were the only other prints in this soil here. Well, other than my sticky marks and the trail of two 1.9" wide Geax Barro Race tires. Unfortunately, neither I or the tires possessed the mojo necessary to escape the clutches of said soil.

I was considering using this section for Trans Iowa V7, but a really bad case of erosion which caused two ruts to form near the bottom of a valley at a depth of four feet a piece made me reconsider those plans. Having riders trying to get down a very steep, clay-ish "path" lined with two "pits of death" on either side seems like a recipe for broken dreams, maybe even broken bones. It's still under review, but I am thinking this section is just too much.

Ironically, I was Tweeting about the situation Saturday when a Trans Iowa competitor Tweeted back "please keep all evil intact". That still makes me laugh! You know, it is a cool place to check out, but being next to unrideable, it makes me wonder about putting it into Trans Iowa.  Danger and excitement are all good, but.....well......there is a limit too. We just have to decide what we want throw at the riders. It is a public "road" yet, but really, I can not imagine that the county won't close this one up, and soon.

Glad I got a look at it before that happens!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trans Iowa Course Update #2

Note: All images can be clicked and enlarged for a closer inspection.

Trans Iowa Course Update #2: The words from this venture are "fresh grading", "fresh gravel", and "chunky". Oh yeah! let's not forget our old friends "frost heave", and "powder", along with "sandy".  Mud too.

All of those things I found on my ride/drive on Saturday along the Trans Iowa V7 course.Let me explain...
Fresh Gravel: There was a lot of maintenance already finished in the county I was traveling in Saturday. Almost every road I looked at had been graded and had fresh gravel put down in many places. Not all, but enough to make skinnier tired rigs bounce all over the place in many spots. My image here should give you a good idea of what I mean by that.

The basic conditions of most roads, besides the fresh work having been done, was excellent. Mostly dry roads were encountered. This is a good point to note, since we received rains over the course last Tuesday. (It wasn't much, but it did rain over the entire course.) This bodes well because the ground isn't totally saturated and drainage seems to be ongoing right now. I only found a few spots where "weeping" from frost was still going on and the roads were "peanut butter" consistency then, but this was only very minor.

There were a few roads that hadn't been maintained from the winter yet that are on the course. The image here shows one of those. Notice the "wood rats" that are bounding across the road in front of me? I was on my bicycle and had to stop for them. This is the tail end of the herd, as it took a second to grab the camera and fire it up.

I point this out to show that yes: You could be taken out by a deer or two......or more, on Trans Iowa's course. These critters are unpredictable, so be aware of that and be careful! (By the way, it isn't a twilight/night time thing. These deer were out mid-afternoon!) At any rate, it isn't something you might consider normal for your area, but here, it is all too common. Dogs were out as well, but none I encountered were anything but friendly and mainly were content to run out and bark at me as I rode by.

Mud was on the B Roads, but that was expected. It'll take more wind and heat to dry up those roads. It will probably happen, as I see the temperatures are forecast to reach the 50's and 60's soon. Barring rain over several days previous to the event, the B Roads should be good to go.

I did find one that David and I may re-route around though. It has been too badly damaged from the winter and recent rains that I am afraid it would become a hazard we can not afford to risk. We'll make a final determination soon, and it shouldn't affect mileage one way or the other. It would mean adding maybe a few tenths at most.

High Traffic: Of course, the activity levels on these roads is set to increase dramatically very soon. Farmers will be hitting the fields soon to start the planting process, and grain will be transported by semi-tractor trailer rigs as well. This will pulverize the higher traffic gravel to a fine dust. Last year we encountered some areas that were a foot deep in fluff. This will be a concern for the skinnier tired set, and an annoyance for those with fatter tires, should it occur that we have dry weather. I hit some of this Saturday and it definitely upped the effort to push through it.

I'll be checking more parts of the course later, so stay tuned for further updates as I get the chance to do the recon.

The Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles; Coming To My Senses

<===Nothing like a long, steep-ish climb to knock some sense into you!

The week of training was light this time since I had the "Secret Agent Man stuff going on mid-week, and the weather went south on us as well. There were some longer rides to and from work, at least. Then Saturday I combined a bit of recon for T.I.V7 in with the training ride. (So, I can't really say where I was!)

I did hit some steep ol' hills and the 40 X 18T was not a great choice for that. I made the hills all right, but I wouldn't have gone too many miles in that gear on that terrain, and oh yeah, did I mention that the wind was whipping on Saturday too? Yeah.....

So, I think that was just what I needed to get me motivated to put some gears on this rig soon.

I tried out the Camelbak bladder in the Tangle Bag and played around with the hose arrangement a bit. I got it to be in a place where it wasn't banging off my legs on out of the saddle climbs yet it wasn't flopping around loosely either.

I wanted to see if I could figure something out that didn't require any more gadgetry, like clips, spring loaded leashes, or whatever. I think I am there, but I am still unsure if it will work well enough to promote good hydration. Sure- the potential is there. I just have to keep at it and see if I can get it to work well enough to pass muster for the Dirty Kanza. Right now the set up is about 80% there, I think.

I still have to fit a computer and see about the cue sheet holder system. Last year I used a wireless and for cues, I just followed tracks and occasionally looked at the sheets as they were stuffed in zip-locs and tucked in my bento-bag. This year I think I want something a bit more easily seen. Then there are the lights, which I have zeroed in, but I just need to re-test them once the nights get warmer again.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trans Iowa V7 Update #20: The Final Countdown!

Trans Iowa Update #20: The Final Countdown! Well, you've got less than a month to go to Trans Iowa V7. Are you ready?

The long and winding road to this event has just about reached its ending. Final tweaks and preparations are underway on our end. Cue sheets will be printed, and menu choices submitted.

Speaking of which, I received an outstanding response to the call out last weekend for riders that I couldn't seem to get a response from via e-mail. However; a few of you are not getting the message. You Have Five Days To Respond! If I do not hear from these folks by March 31st, I will assume you don't want to be in T.I.V7 and you will be removed from the roster. Here are the non-responders as of now. If you happen to know any of these guys, get ahold of them and ask them to respond to this last call.

Terry Brannick, Eric Brunt, Jim McGuire, and Jack Lewis .

 I can not continue to e-mail you forever guys, so this is it. 

Okay, so moving on from this, I want to cover some things I have been asked about recently via e-mail. I figure more of you have similar/same questions. 

Pre-Race Meat-Up Schedule Of Events: One question I received was about whether or not you, (the riders), had to be "there" for three hours. Okay- here's the schedule.....

5:00pm: We open the doors to the meeting room at The Grinnell Steakhouse. You should get there early, and check in with me. I will get your name, and check it against the roster. If you do not check in with me before 6pm, you will not race T.I.V7. 

In the interim time between opening of the doors and 6pm, you should sit down and put in your order to start off the meal process. Keep in mind that we have about 40 more folks than last year, and this will take awhile. I recommend getting there early, and gettin' ta grillin'! 

6:00pm: I stop checking in riders. Once again, if I don't check your name against the roster before 6:00pm Friday night, I will not call you up to get a race bag, and there won't be extras! Inside each bag is a T.I.V7 cue sheet set that will get you to Checkpoint #1 Saturday morning. You can not ride without cues. At 6:00pm I will start to fixing my meal, as will David and the volunteers present. This will take us approximately a half an hour tops, (I hope). 

6:30pm: By this time, everyone should be eating, or very nearly done grilling up their vittles. As soon as possible at around this time, I want to start with remarks from David and I about the course, rules of the ride, and any other pertinent information we might have to share. This will immediately be followed by a Q&A period for you, the riders, to ask anything on your minds pertinent to the event. Hopefully we can wrap that all up by 7:00pm or so. 

7:00pm: Rider Call-Up: The time will come then for Rider Call Up. Each rider will be called up that checked in before 6pm to grab their race packet.   We will have the exact number of race packets lined up to be picked up. No more, no less. If you didn't sign in by 6:00pm, you won't get called up, and there won't be any cues for you. This will also include each rider signing a waiver and media release form. This will take awhile. I hope to be completely through with the rider list, sign in by 8:00pm. You will be free to leave as soon as you sign off on the waivers and pick up your race packet/bag.

A Word On Checkpoints And Support People: 
I was also asked whether or not folks supporting riders will be allowed at checkpoints or at any other spot on the course. Basically, anyone that wants to can sit around at the first checkpoint, (to be revealed at the Pre-Race Meat-Up), and watch the riders come through. After that, no support people or spectators are allowed on course!  You can ask me or my volunteers all you want, but it ain't gonna happen folks. I've said over and over again that Trans Iowa is not a spectator sport, and we will not tell you where riders are on course to "ease your conscious", or "just so you know where your sweetie is" at 4AM Saturday morning. If that rubs you the wrong way, don't show up at Trans Iowa. This is for the riders, and if the riders want to stop and call you up, then I can not stop that, but do be aware that in several places the cell phone coverage will be bad, or non-existent, and riders generally turn off cell phones to conserve battery life in roaming areas.

Secondly, we will not reveal the location of Checkpoint #2!  Don't even try asking, and I have a mind to DQ any riders attached to anyone who does ask. (I had a bad experience with regards to this last year, so don't test me.) First off, Checkpoint #2 is in the middle of no-where, with zero parking, and no amenities. Not a good place for your support, or spectating voyeurs to be hanging out. I don't want more cars there than our volunteer's car so we do not attract any more attention than necessary. More cars may jeopardize the event. So , no one will be allowed to hang out there other than my three volunteers. (And riders that show up, and pass through, of course)

You can hang out at the finish line, which will be at Lion's Park on the western edge of Grinnell. Please park in the street and walk over to where we will have a finish line set up by the very early hours of Sunday morning. No one has ever finished a Trans Iowa in less than 25 hours, so let that be a guide. The event ends at 2pm, Sunday, so any awards , (assuming the possibility of a finish), will be doled out as the morning unfolds, as has been done in the past. So, if you want to catch it, you'll have to be patient, wait, and most importantly- be there.

The Course: This necessarily answers another question I got about the course finish and start points. Both in Grinnell. The start is in front of Bikes To You on Broad Street, downtown Grinnell, at 4AM sharp on Saturday morning! The finish will be at the Lion's Park, as described above. The course is one "big assed loop" that riders will traverse out of Grinnell over gravel roads navigating by cue sheets provided by us. The fist set of cues will take riders to Checkpoint #1, then if they make the cut-off, they will receive cues to Checkpoint #2, which will be approximately halfway into the event, give or take ten miles. If riders make that checkpoint before the cut off time, (Cut Off times will be announced a week or two before the event), then they can receive cues to the finish line. Riders must finish before 2pm on Sunday for an "official" finish to be recognized.

Basic Rules: If you don't make a checkpoint cut-off time, even by one minute, you are done. We will not give out cue sheets to late comers. We do not make the route public- ever. So, if you fail to make cut-offs, or DNF for any other reason, you will not be able to gain access to the route that you didn't get cues for.

If you have to stop, get help, ask for a ride, or are too slow, you are on your own as far as getting back to your room, or homes. This is a self-supported event, and every rider is on his own journey. We will not be responsible for you. Ever. If you think you can't handle that, or your support folks can not deal with that, do not show up in Grinnell for this ride.

How will you know where to get someone that is pulling out? First off, the rider needs to call in to us via the DNF line. (You'll get this number at the pre-race).  We can give the rider his exact position. Then its up to you and the rider to figure it out from there. (Obviously, the cue sheet can be helpful to some degree here) You may need to back-track to a previous town. You may need to knock on a farmers door, but whatever it is you need, you'll have to get it on your own.

So think about that for a minute.

If things are looking badly, you may want to pull the plug at that town you are coming up on. It would be an easier place to find, right? (And you'll pass through several towns). At any rate, this is what self-support means. It means you have to make good decisions about you and your own safety. It means you have to think logistically, and carefully. Other riders may help you, and we suggest staying with at least one other rider as you go.

Okay, that's all for this week. Next week I'll have more......

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday News And Views

Whether The Weather Will Allow It, Or Not: Guess what folks? It is less than a month till Trans Iowa V7. That means that David and I need to start cranking down the screws on the finishing touches for the event.

Tomorrow it is supposed to do "something" in terms of the weather. Snow? Possibly. Cold? Yes- certainly. I wanted to ride a section of the T.I.V7 course tomorrow, but I may end up having to drive it, or perhaps, stay home!

The thing is, the dang weatherman doesn't know exactly where the storm will track, so it is a crap-shoot right now as to what is to be done about Saturday. I only know one thing: I am stoked that we got the recon done at the end of October last year! (Look for a Trans Iowa Update tomorrow and a course update, if I can get it, later)

Is It The Gas, Or What? Something sort of odd is happening around here. I can't speak for anywhere else, but around these parts, I am seeing more folks out on bicycles already. Even though it has been cold, and not that great out. This has been corroborated by folks coming into the shop and telling us that they are noticing more commuters as well.

Added to this, I am seeing more bicycles going out the door than I can recall in the past several years. Even more than last year, and last year was really good. Whatever is motivating folks: gas prices, or? I don't know, but it seems things have changed a bit. That's a good thing, I think.

I Didn't Plan This.....Really! All along late last year I was telling myself that I wasn't going to sign up, or commit to a bunch of events and then have those things drive me bonkers trying to prepare for them, and what not. Well, I already did CIRREM late in February, and now I have this event coming up next Saturday.

Something about gravel events and "gentleman", that I don't quite get. It is as if we ride in tweed outfits and smoke pipeweed in carved wooden smoking devices. (Well......actually some folks I know smoke that know.....uhhh.....yeah!) Anyway, I'll let you know if I see anything untoward going on at this deal.

Right now all I know is that it is a team event, and it will be self-supported, free, and 75 miles long. Hopefully it won't be cold and snowing, but you know what? I bet the weather will definitely suck. I just have a bad feeling about that. (Hope I didn't jinx things!)

I think I'll ride the Badger again. I won't have the gears on the BMC yet, and well, I don't want to be the slow guy holding up things with regards to the "team". We'll see, but I think that's going to be "the plan". (Better get those squeaky brakes un-squeaked!)

Hope you all have a great weekend! Ride yer bikes, and at least thing "spring-like" thoughts!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Which One Works?

Yesterday a subject came up that I found intriguing. It seems that Carlton Reid of BikeBiz, (he of 15,000 Tweets), Tweeted that he recently got both of the magazines pictured here in the post yesterday. His question was, "Which sells cycling better?"

I quipped back via Twitter that I didn't know, but I knew which one would tick off the females most.

Carlton answered back to the effect that it was okay since Momentum Magazine catered heavily to female cyclists. (The mag cover on the left is Momentum Magazine) In fact, Momentum is run by females, oddly enough. (But most folks would have no idea by looking at the cover) My point was that most would have no idea about the mag's content, just by looking at the covers. (My thinking was as though you were perusing a news stand, and saw these mag covers.)

If you want to know, I said "Momentum" would "sell" cycling more because of the sexy image, which would garner more interest. And in the process, the ire of women who are tired of having their sexuality used to "sell" anything.

So, we were both right, but I disagree that it is a "no big deal" issue, which is what Carlton seemed to imply. (Granted, I could have been reading into his Tweets. They are only 140 characters long, you know.) And later I added that the other magazine cover, (the one on the right), was really a motorcycle magazine, so the whole comparo was a moot point.

In the end, Momentum Magazine needs to sell units. They know a provocative cover image will get the eyeballs of the mostly male population of cyclists to take a closer look. That's smart, but it is also pandering to the "sex sells" way of doing things. Being run by females and having "great content that is focused on females" doesn't exonerate you from the painfully obvious.

Just for fun, take the lady on the right, (the one on the motorcycle), and with that same outfit, put her on the bike in Momentum's image. If you are a marketing person, which would you use for the cover to sell more units? The one Momentum used, or the one I just proposed?

Yeah....."Which One Works" indeed!

Seems like some folks have higher ideals and still use images that seek to titillate. I don't have a horse in this race, but I'm thinking this is pretty obvious, and silly. You can't have it both ways. The Momentum cover is sexist plain and simple, no matter who is running the mag, and no matter how helpful the content is. It's no different than saying Playboy was okay because they had great articles.

In the end, you decide, but I don't see this sort of thing as anything but what it always has been.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Secret Agent Man

Last year I got to go to a Shimano Special Invitation gig and was told all about the XT DynaSys 10 speed stuff, along with XTR, months before it was released to the public. Then they gave me an XT DynaSys group to play with. All "Secret Agent Man" like. In fact, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to even attend the meeting. Like if I said anything early, a special ninja agent would blow a poison dart into my neck, and it'd be curtains for me.

Or not.

But I didn't press the issue, I'll tell ya that much! Anywho, they did another one of these deals again yesterday up in the Twin Cities at Theo Wirth Park. I'd never been there, so that was cool to find where that place is at.

Oh yeah.......I had to sign another Non-Disclosure Agreement, so..........

I'll talk about the stuff I can talk about. The trip up was okay until I got to Owatonna. Man! There are certain places where oddities happen on Earth. You know- para-normal activity, places where gravity doesn't work, Area 51, and Washington D.C. Things where the normal fabric of life is unraveled and up is down, black is white.

Owatonna, Minnesota is such a place in terms of weather and its being bad. once I crested the hill going into town from the south, there was ice all over the sides of the road, it was spritzing rain, and the roadway looked shiny. Great! Just great. Everything was okay though, and once past Faribault, it was clear sailing once more.

I had to go to Theo Wirth, as I said, and having never been there before, I had no idea where to go, since a "certain someone that shall go un-named" didn't forward me the official invite. Regardless, I found it via the wonders of the inner-webs and discovered it was a golf course with a huge clubhouse that was where the event was taking place. And I was only 5 minutes late, annnd....the meeting hadn't started yet. Fashionably late? Well, I didn't plan it that way, but......

Now there were some media embargoes that were spoken of and secret stuff was shared. But.....not everything was secret! There was the much ballyhooed cross specific crank and brakes, and some 11 speed Afine talk. Nothing earth shattering there, but it is cool to see Shimano doing the CX stuff, as it will make more cross bikes available out there in 2012, I'm sure.

Yeah.......the really cool stuff was secret. 

Then I had to get home. 4pm. Rush hour in the TC. Good thing I know some side street action! Bonus for riding and driving the Twin Cities as much as I have, and for paying attention while doing so! I avoided the bumper to bumper madness, and got out of there in great shape, only to face sideways rain and horrendous winds all the way home. It was definitely one of the worst drives I have been involved in for years. I narrowly missed getting wrecked by a semi-tractor/trailer that was spewing so much water into the wind behind him that I nearly went blindly under his trailer wheels at 60mph. Not cool! Then there was that gust of wind that got my truck sideways. Sideways! At speed. Crazy stuff, and I was super glad to get home unscathed. 

Anyway, what would all the secret stuff be without some drama and adventure, right?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Being A Traveling Man And Other Thoughts

<===The Truck With No Name

Today I'll be spending a lot of time inside this red steel, plastic, and rubber cocoon going up to the Twin Cities and back again. It all has something to do with Shimano. I'll know more when I get back, but how much I'll be able to talk about, I do not know yet. Stay tuned.....

This might sound ironic, but I am not a huge fan of the actual traveling bit. Not by automobile, and definitely not by aeroplane. Maybe I have some of my Grandpa in me. He never went anywhere! Well, not as long as I knew him, he didn't. Not sure why that was.....

But, be that as it may, traveling gets you to do things, see places, and most importantly- meet people, you otherwise would not get to. So, I always weigh the traveling against those factors, and try to see what comes out in the balance. This particular trip better be a good one! That's all I'm saying right now. I had to cut back on one attractive facet of it already, which made the whole deal distasteful right out of the gate. That and having to set up all the scheduling with work, family, and my other goings on. So, we'll see later.

Three Strikes: Okay, so what's the deal with SRAM DoubleTap shifters? I know of three that have had the shift levers just fall off now. Three. Makes me think something isn't quite right there. I mean, I haven't heard of any big, catastrophic failures with STI levers or Campy Ergo shifters, for that matter. Not that it doesn't happen, but when a SRAM shift lever falls off, it means you are relegated to high gear in whatever ranges you have up front. Not too appealing of a scenario, especially for gravel travel, where I would likely use such shifters.

Methinks I will be staying away from those until something is done to address that issue. Besides, I don't even have the proper gear to run the stuff anyway, so in the end, it isn't a big deal for me. Maybe those of you with SRAM stuff may want to keep an eye on that, just in case.

And Speaking Of STI...Has anyone got an opinion on the newer STI levers? I'll give you mine: They stink! Well, compared to the old ones they do. The old ones with the "non-aero" cabling. Those were "easy-peasey" to change cables on, had a neat, clean appearance, and were reliable as the day was long. The newer ones have absolutely gone backwards in every way, with the possible exception of reliability. Cabling is overly complex, and the appearance looks incomplete. Shimano needs to do something about this, especially the brake cable re-fitting. It is just stupid compared to the previous generation shifters. The shifter cables? Well, they are no better, actually, now that I think of it.  New STI? Fail. If the old STI came out after this newest generation we would all be jumping for joy, that's how much better it is.

And More On Drop Bar Levers! While I am on the subject of drop bar levers, I came across something interesting yesterday. An older Cannondale touring bike came in with a set of Magura hydraulic drop bar levers and brakes. You remember those Magura brakes that Tomac used and the trials guys are crazy about? Same ones actuated by a Magura drop bar lever. I know some guys are huge fans of these brakes, but I don't particularly care for the clunky look and funky set up. What is cool is that it reminds me of what we're going to start seeing really soon- drop bar hydraulic STI/DoubleTap shifters. I know, I know.......there are cable actuated hydro-box-dohickeys. They are a kludge too. Don't think so? Then tell me why folks keep trying to hide the master cylinders under their stems and in front of the head tubes? I'll tell you why- because it looks stupid and everyone wants it to be part of the lever, that's why.  I believe it will happen, and when it does, the Fargo, Badger, Gryphon, and Karate Monkey will be getting switched over at some point.

Have a great Tuesday, ya'all!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pushing The Bigger Gear

Saturday I met up with Captain Bob, Karmen, and a chilly 25 degree blast of air west of Denver for a nice little gravel loop. This was the first ride with the BMC "Orange Crush" set up with the 18T rear cog versus the old 20T one. Would I be able to even keep up? I had no clue, but I was out riding with like-minded folks on a clear blue sky morning. What could be better?

The route was kind of up in the air, but I had something in mind to get us started out with. So we took off without standing around, since it was not conducive to staying warm.

It was pretty chilly, but the wind was low, and the frost was everywhere, sparkling in the bright morning sun. It was as if the entire Iowa landscape was bejeweled and gilded in silvery stuff. Even the road showed signs of crystals that had formed from the moisture welling up out of the ground due to the warmer weather of late. The frost also was keeping the road solid, instead of mushy, which it would have been had it been warmer.

As we started out, we were obliged to hit some of the bigger rollers around the Boy Scout Camp. I was fearing being dropped out of the gate, and Captain Bob spun away, as I expected, but he didn't get away too far. The big gear was pushing my limits, but then again, I just hopped out of the truck and onto the bike. One of these days, "warm up" and "stretching" will become more than words for me!

Then after we cleared the Camp Captain Bob wasn't feeling it too much and before I knew it, he had slid back to Karmen and I was cruising up the road by myself until we got just north of Denver.

I stopped at Highway 63 to wait up for the other two, and I had just passed a car pulled over to the north side of the road where a man was standing just outside his car retching and coughing violently. While I didn't spy any substances being projected, I felt that soon there would be, or at least some vital organs were rebelling and on their way out this guys mouth.

I was wondering if I shouldn't reach for my cell phone when up rolled Captain Bob and Karmen. Seconds later the guy was driving off, so I guess everything stayed in place for him. Good thing.

Then Karmen was feeling it and "chicked" us for a bit, but it was all good. Captain Bob and I chatted away for a few miles, and then we rolled into the place where we had started. A nice ride, and the bigger gear didn't feel so bad after all. I guess I warmed up!

I know, I know. People will look at the images and say it is very flat. Well, I am making all my images of gravel leading up to trans Iowa look flat to give those tuning in for info on the roads for the event a false sense of security. Yes......I am devious that way!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trans Iowa Course Update #1

Course Update #1: Well folks! It's only five weeks away, and it's time to start giving you my course updates.

<===Gravel looks good so far! (image from 3-19-11)

As followers of the blog already know, the course has been re-conned and is figured out. David and I will now get around to re-checking some critical areas to make sure we are still all good to go.

As of this weekend, the frost is still coming out of the ground, but rains over the course this weekend should hasten that process to completion soon. Temperatures in Iowa have been in the 50's-60's recently, and as far as snow and frost, it has mostly been dispatched over the last three weeks. The big drifts from winter are merely small piles now waiting to finally disappear, if they haven't after this recent rain. That's good news from the standpoint of drying/draining out the land here.

Gravel is primo for riding right now. Many Iowans have been out and are reporting excellent conditions on B roads and gravel all across the state. County maintenance has been happening already, as well, in preparation for the farmers who will be hitting the fields very soon now.

This is the best the roads have come through a winter for any Trans Iowa except maybe the first one. Certainly, they are on par with that sort of condition this year. Sounds good, but we have over a month of weather to survive before the honking of the horn, so don't get too excited just yet!

More to come. Stay tuned................

The Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles; Tweaking The Set-Up

I have been tweaking the set up on the Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike, which I am re-naming "Orange Crush", since it looks the color of that delectable soda that once came in 16 ounce glass bottles.

So, anyway, here is the bike all dressed up in bags, minus a possible seat bag. This is getting real close to how I will leave the bike for the Dirty Kanza. Maybe even single speed!

The changes made include a new stem, seat post, and a "Joe Mesier Set Up" for the water bladder. Joe may not have invented this way of doing your hydration, but he was the first guy I heard about it from, and he's all about bags anyway!

I topped off the deal with one of my ever-present Banjo Brothers Top Tube bags, which is a great way to carry gels and a camera.

Here is a closer look at the Revelate Designs tangle bag with the 70oz Camelbak reservoir stuffed inside it. I laid it in there sideways, so to speak, to keep the width down to a minimum. I filled it completely up and it sat in there, pretty as a pea, for my entire training ride with no issues.

Now I arranged things so the long hose comes from down low and in the back end of the bag so that gravity will help feed the drink tube, although that isn't entirely necessary. It does make all that hose length easier to manage though! The Wide Mouth openng is at the front of the bag. There is still a little room up there for some smaller items as well. Maybe a spare tube will reside there for the DK 200.

Here is a look from up top. This particular hose has one of those fancy-pants Flowmeters on it, which as far as I am concerned makes a great hangar for the hose and not much more than that. Although, it is a pretty accurate way to see what is left "in the tank".

I simply hang the Flowmeter on the brake cable as it comes out from under the bar tape. It stays put really well on gravel too. Notice I have the end of the hose sticking straight up here to illustrate how you do have to bend downwards a bit to get the bite valve in the mouth. On riding this set up, the hose is typically laying down across the top tube bag, and that pulls in that loop to the left you see here against the bike and it isn't rubbing or catching on anything.

And that bad ol' black Bontrager Select stem has been swapped out for this good ol' polished silver Ritchey Classic series "4 Axis" stem. Wow! Not only good looking, but insanely light. (As light as I'd ever feel comfortable with using)

Now I just need to make that ol' black GT branded cable hangar all nice and silvery. Either that or track down something silver to replace it with. A minor detail? Yes- but since I am bothering to go to the trouble of making the bike look classic with the silver bits, I may as well finish off the job.

Finally, the silver Ritchey Classic Two Bolt post. This replaces the arguably better, (from a "classic" standpoint), Campy Aero post. The thing is, the Campy post was at minimum insertion, and I wasn't totally comfortable with that. This Ritchey post is a 350mm one, and allows me to go up a "smidge" if needed, while assuring me that I won't be damaging my BMC "Orange Crush" by running too little seat post insertion.

Okay, so what about training? Well, I did get in some slower training rides, focusing on constant power output, spinning circles, and concentrating on not pushing too hard. The bigger gear is treating me just fine. I have not noticed too much of a negative on hills, and flats are faster for sure. The double wrapped tape job is great. No hand issues so far.

The next step will be getting some bigger rides in occasionally. Something in the 3+ hour range is needed to start to assess comfort issues and for just getting used to living on the bicycle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trans Iowa V7 Update #19: Pre-Race Meat-Up Edition

Trans Iowa V7 Update #19: Pre-Race Meat-Up Edition: If you didn't receive the following e-mail from me, either you (a) slipped through the cracks, (b) had a spam filter block it, or (c), I couldn't read your e-mail address properly on your post card and got it wrong. You also may have gotten this and not responded. At any rate, here is what you need to see.....

Hello All!

David and I are excited to meet all of you at the Pre-Race Meat-Up April 22nd at the Grinnell Steakhouse starting at 5pm- 8pm. This is a required pre-race meeting and you will not be capable of starting T.I.V7 without attending. No exceptions.

This is an important e-mail! Please read it thoroughly. It does require a response, so please make sure you send me your answers to my questions within a week of receipt of this message so I do not contact you with the same details once again. Thanks!

The Grinnell Steakhouse will be allowing us use of their space in return for your support by buying a dinner. While you don't have to purchase anything, we know you do have to eat somewhere, so why not support a local business? The Grinnell Steakhouse is a great place with a large indoor grill where you will be able to mingle as you cook your own vittles and get to know your fellow T.I.V7 riders. Here are your menu choices for the evening: (Keep in mind that if you are attending with support folks, friends, or family, they can come, but we will need their choices and a number of attendees for your party)

For The Vegetarians: Veggie meal for $15.95.  (That is the Salad Bar for $9.95 and the veggie Kabob or veggie skillet for $5.95 plus a free soft drink with the special. )

"GYO Special"   Ribeye Steak -$17.95
 ...or... Veggie Meal - $15.95
 ...or... Pork/Chicken - $12.95. 
(Salad Bar and a soft drink included.) 

 Please Note: a 17% Gratuity and sales tax is added to each meal. 

Alcohol and beer can be purchased separately.

Please Indicate In A Reply The Following:

1- Your Number Of Folks In Your Party: (Yourself as 1 plus "X")
2-The Meal Choices For Each Member Of Your Party

Please respond no later than one week after receiving this message to avoid my having to re-contact you.

Also, if you can not attend the meeting, you can not ride in the event. If you can not attend for other reasons, we need to know that as well, so please respond with a "decline" if you can not make it this year. 

Finally, if you have any questions, please copy my address over to a new conversation and e-mail me. I'd be glad to answer, but please keep this communication limited to the Pre-Race attendance and meal choices. Thanks!


Okay, that was the e-mail. I need a response ASAP! Now, for the list of names that I need to hear from.

   Jim McGuire, Jack Lewis,    .

Okay- If your name is on this list, I need to hear from you no later than March 31st, or you will be stricken from the roster and out of Trans Iowa.

If you know someone on this list, get ahold of them and let them know. I will also re-sent the e-mail one more time, but after this, I will no longer pursue trying to get ahold of anyone. Since Trans Iowa is a free event, we need to do this to keep our costs and efforts to a minimum level. The expenses and time to do Trans Iowa come directly from David's and my pockets and away from our jobs and family. Please respect that and be up front about your commitment to the event, either by responding with the proper information, or by declining. The e-mail you need to send any correspondence to is this one.   

I will be removing names from this post as I get responses, so please check back to see if anyone you are interested in has responded to me. Thanks!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday News And Views

<===Image from Team Leopard Trek's Facebook page.

Hey- Maybe he's just that good.... The latest supposed "controversy" surrounding Fabian Cancellara, the current World Time Trial champ, is that he was using some "super-greased ball bearings" in his bikes last season. A report in La Derniere Heure newspaper suggested that a technology called "Gold Race" was used which is claimed to give its user gains of up to 2.5 seconds per kilometer.

Either that or Fabian is just that good at time trials. I mean, last year they were claiming Fabian was using an electric assist in his bottom bracket. What's next? A magic miniature nuclear generator hub? Sheesh! Can't a guy just dominate and be left alone anymore?

Road racing. I tell ya..........

Mini-update on the gravel road stage race deal: Okay, I have to say that I am just amazed at the responses I have gotten surrounding this idea for a three day gravel stage race thing. I have been getting comments here on the blog, e-mails, and offers of help and even a preliminary sponsorship idea.

So, this idea will get further attention for sure. I have some people whose advice and thoughts I want to receive and consider before pushing ahead any further, so please be patient with me and know this is being thought about and planned for by some passionate folks. When I have some more solid news, I will be back to share.

Trans Iowa V7: I will have the usual update on the blog for tomorrow, but additionally, I will be posting a separate "Course Conditions Report" this weekend, so stay tuned for the latest gravel roads report on the T.I.V7 course soon.....

The Snow Dog Update: Well, it had been since mid-February that I had any communication with The Phil Wood & Co. regarding the Mukluk's rear wheel. I sent the wheel back in on February 23rd, and then.......

I decided to shoot them an e-mail Wednesday to see if they even had the wheel or not. Yesterday I received a short e-mail stating that they indeed had my wheel and that they were waiting on free hubs, which they were out of, and the earliest they expected to have those was next week. Then the communique' stated that they would let me know when it was ready.

That was it.

So.........the saga continues. 

Have a great weekend folks. It's springtime! Ride yer bikes and have some fun!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Springtime Muddin'

With the snow fast on the way out and the sun shining brightly, I decided it was high time for some springtime muddin'. I got in a Bontrager Mud X 29"er tire, slapped it on the rear end of the Sawyer, and headed out the door.

I was definitely over-dressed, and before too long I was shedding my outer coat and gloves to stay cool.

<==I'm as happy as this alien to be riding without a coat again!

I headed down to The Green Belt to ride, since those trails are unaffected by early season mud riding. In fact, the next time it rains my tracks will be all gone. The old Blackhawk Creek overflows the Green Belt so often that you'd be hard pressed to cause anything that could be construed as trail damage on a bicycle.

So, it is the perfect place to test tires in the mud for performance and there is plenty of sticky, gooey river bottom mud to play in there.

Besides the tire testing I was just enjoying the fact that I was riding on a sunny day without having to be bundled up. In fact, all I had on for most of the ride was a long-sleeved jersey. Gloves? pssshaw! Too warm for that too. It was definitely the first ride like that since last November.

Amazingly, there was little snow left in the woods. In fact, if we could stay dry for a week, the trails would be bone dry and hard. Right now the frost is oozing out, so that is why the mud is so easy to find at this point. Normally it doesn't stay muddy for all that long out there.

The mud was thick and gooey, so I stuck to a steady, slowish pace to keep the flying clods at bay. It was a great resistance workout, that's for sure!

By the time I made it over to the lake cut-off trail,my front tire had turned into a mud version of an Endomorph 3.8"er. I had to head over towards the lake, out of all the mud, and clean up a bit. Then I headed around the lake where I ran into the only patches of snow left on the trail. Probably won't see that again until next December.

I figured that was enough mud testing, so I headed out for a longer bike path ride, just because it was too nice to go back home. Welcome spring, and the mud, and everything else that comes with it. It's been a long time since we've seen you around these parts!

Hope you are getting out for some early springtime riding too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Okay, So I Had This Idea For A Gravel Road Race....Part III

UPDATE: I am still working on things "behind the scenes" in regards to the stage race idea for a gravel grinder. There have been a few developments, and to keep things on the front burner here, I wanted to let everyone know where this thing stands as of now.

You can check into the last update I posted here for those that need to"catch up" to where I am at so far.

All right then, here is the latest "fine tuning". I have decided that this event shouldn't be tied to a state, since it can then get sort of pigeon-holed as an event "belonging" to those who live there and I already have Trans Iowa going on here. I don't think we need another "big" gravel event solely based within these borders. I didn't like the idea of being limited that way. So, I have spoken with a couple of folks that are willing to take this into a multi-state based direction while still retaining the "clover-leaf routes" out of a centralized area to keep logistics easy for those thinking of doing this deal.

Unfortunately, that means that the acronym I came up with- TIGERR- is now not going to be used. As of now, this event is un-named. That's okay. That can be ironed out later. Secondly, it means we're looking at something based out of Southwestern Iowa, Northeastern Kansas, Southeastern Nebraska, and Northwestern Missouri. Whether we get into any, or all of these states has yet to be determined. Might only get three in there, but the idea is to cross some borders right now.

Okay, so the region where we will be working out of has been sketched out. Now, the format will be something along the lines of the following, keeping in mind that it should be easy to get there to do this, and not push folks against the wall, leaving no time to get home for work on Monday.

So, I figured that a noon-time start to the thing on Friday would work out best. That day would necessarily be a shorter route. Then Saturday, the big, long, arduous loop would take place. Sunday would start out early and a reasonably short route would be set up to end the weekend. Hopefully leaving time on Sunday to allow for folks to get home.

Total mileage would be determined by the organizers depending upon the difficulty of each days loop. I would guess that 250-300 plus miles could be a target for the three days, but that's a shot in the dark. Don't hold me to that. Right now everything is on the table as far as details go, so look for lots of changes as this gets figured out.

Finally, I want to make a few points very clear.

#1: This won't happen in 2011: I thought about it for awhile, and conferred with a couple of trusted minds on this. I want there to be a reasonable amount of time to "thinker through" this thing. I want input from lots of folks and some special people are already being pulled in to tap their thoughts and ideas on this event. There will be more folks contacted too. This won't be "Guitar Ted's idea". I don't want it to become that.

#2: There Will Be A "Ride" In 2011: At some point there will be a "fact finding" ride, which basically will be a recon of some route ideas and a way to get a handle on how things will actually work out on this deal. I like thinking from a bicycle, and this can be thought of as a "rolling meeting" of sorts. I will announce when this will occur, but it should be roughly about the same time frame as the event will take place, so probably July. All interested parties will be welcomed on this. More on this later.

#3: Guitar Ted Will Not Run This One: I have enough to do, and I don't want this to become "my deal". I think it is a great idea, and I will help, but I do not want to run it all. There already has been some volunteering for the directorship of this event, and eventually, a couple of folks may end up taking this under their wing. I don't know. I just know I won't be running the deal myself, and I want to have a minimal level of involvement eventually.

So, there you go. The next update will be awhile in coming, perhaps in a couple of months, post Trans Iowa.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Know What I'd Rather Watch

Ever since this whole UCI thing started up, I have been thinking about how they will "certify" frames for use in professional road racing and triathlon. They have a weight limit, of course, and an aero tubing profile limitation, and some other wonky rules that limit bicycles and their construction for record attempts on the track, and so on and so forth. Of course, rules are part of any contest, and sport couldn't be run without a structure.

I think we all get that, and agree upon it.

However; the entire process of extracting money from bicycle companies to "certify" that they meet UCI standards is a bit unnerving to me. It's going to do two things: #1: Make the UCI a lot of money, (and so- where does that money go?), and #2: It will raise the prices on bicycles sold to the public.

Now the UCI says it is to make sure everyone is on a level playing field and the race inspectors jobs would be easier.

I say, "it's a bunch of bovine excrement.", that's what I say. Here's why......

You want a "level playing field" for bicycles? Okay, take a step over here and see what the sport of NASCAR has done. Spec cars, and besides the "engine", they are about as identical as you can get. They even have templates the cars have to fit into. You know, so they are "certified" ready to go. Certified parts in the chassis. Certified body shapes. Everything is controlled.

In my opinion, this is the direction that the UCI is headed in terms of bicycles for professional racing. I say- "cut to the chase". Just make 'em all ride one bike. A "UCI" made turnkey chassis kitted out with whatever drivetrain choices from Campy, SRAM, and Shimano are available. What? You dont like that the manufacturers would be out of it? I say that it would save them a ton of money not sponsoring professional teams, and therefore should make bicycles cheaper for all of us. Or maybe they could actually make bicycles "for people" instead of bicycles for "people's fantasies". But who am I kidding.....

Like that would ever happen.

So, what is reality, and what would really work here? I say, let the boys be boys and have at it. We already have testing for safety, and those standards are pretty darn high. So make every race bike pass the safety tests. Then- have a couple easy rules. You know- like overall length, identical wheel sizes front and rear, and a weight limit, (that is what they have now, and I think that is just fine). Then the all-important rule: It must be an off the peg bike. No custom-one-off anything. Everything in the Pro peloton must be manufactured ahead of time for consumers to ride as well. Race on Sunday-sell on Monday.

Inside of those simple boundaries, let the bicycle companies go nuts with technology. That's something I would rather watch than homogenized bicycles according to some arcane cycling over-lords being ridden by bio-freaks controlled by radios. Oh wait.....

They got rid of radios, right?

Update: Late this afternoon I received a press release from the UCI. (Hmm.......veddy eentahrestink!) So, at any rate, here is a brief synopsis of the contents. The UCI states that the confirmation/certification process is in "high demand". Really? (Thank you "Mr. Obvious"!) Of course it is going to be in "high demand" because manufacturers "need" to have those bikes underneath pro riders. Okay, so no news there. Then it goes on to say that Richard Sachs was one of the first to "request certification", and that he said it was as "easy as registering for a race".

Okay, another bombshell! No offense to R. Sachs, but those frames could be certified from 5,000 miles away by a monkey, since they haven't changed in 30 years. The guy is building bikes that the UCI would love to see everyone riding. Tell me that something cutting edge has been certified, then I'll be impressed.

Finally, this one is rich! Straight from the press release: "It is important to note that the above mentioned costs are merely cost-covering prices. The UCI will not in any way profit from the approval process." How much are they charging, you might ask? Well, for each model, and up to eight sizes, the UCI is asking the following: (Again, straight from the press release)

"The cost of the comprehensive procedure is CHF 5,000 (SwissFrancs), that of the intermediate procedure CHF 3,000 and that of the simplified procedure CHF 500."

Those prices are roughly equivalent to US dollars, by the way. (And I bet not including shipping!) The highest price is for things like time trial bikes, the mid-price for your monocoque type carbon fiber road rigs, and the lowest price for "tube constructed" bicycles, (read: Like Richard Sachs bicycles). It costs more if you carry more than 8 sizes of each model.

Okay, 5 grand to measure a frame, and they say it isn't making them any money?


Monday, March 14, 2011

All Good Things Come To An End

Friday I saw some activity on Twitter that was giving me the slack-jawed, wide-open-eyed look. It was being said that Race Face was closing its doors, (or by some accounts, had already done so.)

Later on Saturday it was confirmed by several credible sources. I was amazed and saddened.

On one hand, I realize that not everything will last forever. Good runs turn mediocre, fade away, and either slip into oblivion, or get taken out by a catastrophic event all at once. Race Face seemed to suffer from the former more so than the latter to my mind, although the scuttling of the company may seem more abrupt to many. I remember Race Face somewhat differently than some, I guess.

Back in the 90's, Race Face was one of the first of the "CNC era" companies to switch to forging their cranks. It was a huge step forward for them, and set them apart from everything else available, with the exception of Shimano. Shimano was still looked down upon by most of us "dirt bag" mtb guys, and with the exit of Campy and then Sun Tour, nobody was standing tall against the "Big Bad Shimano" machine with quality, reliable cranks and other gear.

Race Face stepped up with the classic Turbine LP forged cranks and with several length options and anodized colors, set themselves apart from everything else out there. They followed this up shortly afterward with a killer sealed bearing headset, also available in ano colors. All made in Canada too.

I was a huge fan, (note my 1996 era cap above), and Race Face was immensely popular with mountain bikers right though the ISIS bottom bracket era. Then Race Face dropped the Turbine LP from it's line, dropped the ano colors, lost its swagger with XC/Trail guys, and fell behind the "8 ball" in terms of technology, reliability, and spec from bicycle companies. Sure, they did start to find a niche with the whole "North Shore" thing, and definitely were a company ready to crawl back into prominence with their newer stuff. But to me, they were pretty far off my radar until recently.

So why now? Why are they done? I've heard some unsettling rumors of greed and mismanagement, but who knows and it doesn't matter now. They are done. Next up- I suspect the name and intellectual property will be snatched up by some company and the Race Face name will live on somehow. It still has cache' with riders, that's for sure.

In the final analysis, all things come to an end sooner or later, and in the big picture view, it seems petty to even think about such things in light of world events of late. Let's count our blessings, help where we can, and ride on.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles; Light Training

It has been a lighter week in terms of time and mileage on the bike for training. Weather and circumstances have played into this somewhat. Even with that, I got in some solid, albeit shorter, rides in, and made a few minor changes to the BMC that I'll share with you this time.

Here we are with the Velocity Bottle Traps, Revelate Tangle Bag, and single speed set up yet. Minor changes include another layer of bar tape and a two tooth lower gear in the back.

My position seems really good on the bike, so I have decided upon a couple of new components in silver to match the rest of the look here. There will be a swap in stems to a Ritchey 4 Axis Classic and a switch to a Ritchey Classic two bolt seat post. I really like the looks of the high-polish silver of these components and the functionality of them is proven to me. (I have used a Ritchey two bolt post before on my Karate Monkey, and the 4 Axis stem is a great design) Besides those things, these components will be slightly lighter as well.

 Here is a closer look at my wrap job on the extensions of the Ragley Luxy Bar. I wrapped the first layer in the same green, Bontrager gel tape, and when I did the over-wrap, I concentrated the layers in a place where I will get a fatter diameter of the bar into my palms. You can kind of see that here in the image. It's almost like a cork grip shape, which is an idea I got from looking at late 19th/early 20th Century grips made from wood that folks were using on the ends of their "droopy-bars", which were the precursors of drop bars later. Another cool little detail I discovered by doing this is that the hook, which has a slightly slimmer profile now, is a great place to rest my paws in the rough stuff, because that fatter section behind kind of keeps my hands tucked into the hook of the drop and won't get bounced backward out of there as easily.

Well, it isn't for everybody, but I did some trial and error testing on my fixie-rat-ride-Raleigh with this idea, and I really liked it. So far, it has been good on the BMC too. More riding will ferret out any necessary changes. Matt Chester does something similar, he just uses a different way to get there. Check out his style here. My style is a little more subtle, and you could modify it easily by how much, or by how little, you stack the wraps.

I've tried padding underneath the tape, and it was too much for my tastes and seemed to migrate a bit on me. This over-wrap seems to be working out better for me, and that's the main thing. Everybody should experiment by riding a system and deciding for themselves. I just wanted to point out my way of tackling the issue for a chance that it might help someone else develop their own style.

  Here is a look at the entire bar from head on. My brake levers are a smidgen too high, but I erred on the high side to give myself the option of a better place to sit on the hoods when I get really tired. If I were doing this for pure single track, I would lower the levers about 10mm.

In the drive train department, I decided that (1), I wanted to get the rear tire back a smidge to allow for better clearances, and (2), I wanted to go to a slightly taller gear, since the 40X20 was a bit on the easy side.

To my surprise, the two tooth change in the rear cog was easily accommodated by the BMC's horizontal drop outs. Good, old technology! As you can see, I could slam it back a smidge more if necessary. It wouldn't surprise me if the bike could accommodate a three tooth change in cogs without breaking the chain. By the way, the outer cog in the picture is only there as a lock-ring. (Old seven speed cassette style!)

I am contemplating doing something different with the geared set up. I may do a 1 X 7 with a bar end shifter. I have a line on an old seven speed cassette which I can modify with my own ratios, and I have a seven speed bar end shifter already. Simpler and lighter, with durability in mind. Uses what I have, and I won't have to change anything much about the bike as is. We'll see......

In other training news, I have become pretty enamored of the Clif Shot drink mix and the gel packets. I'll have some more to say, along with my co-writer, Grannygear, on The Cyclist in a review on the Clif Bar products soon. The gel packet design is rad, and the electrolytes in the Clif Shot mix is good stuff. So check that out soon on The Cyclist. (Should be sometime this coming week) I'll still be using elete, because I just can't imagine not using it now after it totally eliminated cramping issues for me. Their additive for water is clean and tasteless.

Been talking about some stretching exercises with folks and I am looking into getting a foam roller for self-massage. Seems like it may help a lot.

Okay, that's it for this edition of The Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles.