Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Making Plans To Go

There is a plan being worked through that involves the solving of the creak I detailed yesterday. I have had this thought for a plan for a long time, and now I am making way for it to happen.

I am going to use the titanium Mukluk with the 29"er wheel set as you see it here. I do have to order a couple of components yet to make all of this a "go", but that part order will go in this week. Once I receive and install the parts, I will be putting these oft too often put off plans into "go" mode.

Mistakes will surely be made. In fact, I anticipate that there will be perhaps many of them, but for too long I have put this off because I didn't have something, or was afraid I'd mess the deal up. If I keep the past pattern of thought going, I'll likely never get around to doing what it is I wanted to do.

Stay tuned....

Monday, July 30, 2012

Creaky Toy Part II

The creaky subject...
Saturday I wrote about my creaky Mukluk. I tested the bike after removing the bottom bracket, cleaning up a small fistful of dirt, and then re-anti-seizing the cartridge unit. But although that needed to be done, it did not eradicate the squeak. I still had the exact same amount and kind of annoying creaky-squeaky as before.

Now this is where a lot of folks might just throw up their hands in disgust and get angry. I understand that feeling. However; I've been a bicycle mechanic long enough to know that just because a noise sounds like it is coming from a certain place, it doesn't mean that it is. Such is the way of bicycles and noises. So, instead of giving up it was time to get crackin'.

Altenator B-bad
So I started thinking about what else it could be. While it seemed at first the noise only happened when I pedaled, I noticed small amounts of creaking when I hit bumps, and if I changed directions suddenly. Hmm......It could be something else entirely.

By-Tor The Titanium Mukluk has the Salsa Cycles Altenator drop outs. These are essentially a modular plate that bolts on to the rear of the frame at the chain stay/seat stay junction and can be "swung" by its upper bolt to adjust wheel base or to tension a chain on a single speed set up.

Anytime you bolt two pieces together on a bicycle it is a potential noise maker. Especially if those two peices are part of a high stress area on the frame, like the drop out area is at the rear of a bicycle frame. In this case, it became apparent that either contamination, oxidation, or both may have occurred between the titanium of the frame and the aluminum of the drop out plate. Obviously the rear drop out area is a place where dirt and grime is going to be constantly coating the frame through riding off road. No surprise that the Altenantor might make noise then. I did a few more tests and my strong feeling was that the Altenator was the source of my creak. There were a couple of other hypothesis, but this seemed the more likely of my choices.

Two bolts- simple!
By-Tor went in the repair stand and within a few minutes I had one Altenator off. Salsa's drop out design, called a "swinging type", due to it's pivoting motion when adjusted, is dead simple. Easily taken on and off with  5mm and 6mm Allen keys.

When I inspected the mating surfaces, I could see a white, powdery looking substance, which may have been oxidation, near the swinging bolt on the frame. There was a fine coating of dirt as well over everything.  A similar looking situation was discovered when I removed the non drive side drop out.

Obviously, a quick clean up was in order. Once I had the surfaces free of anything that smacked of foreign substances, I began to re-install the Altenator plates. I re-applied Loctite to the bolt threads, and put a very small amount of grease under the bolt heads where they would spin against the frame as I snugged everything back up.

I installed the Altenators dry otherwise. Some may think that a fine coating of grease would be good here, but I don't adhere to this way of thinking myself. The plates don't slide against the frame in use, (other than if one was to tension a single speed chain or alter a wheel base), and grease would only serve to attract more dirt, to my way of thinking. This would only yield a creak anyway, since dirt and contamination are what caused the creak in the first place. This is different than a bottom bracket shell, which isn't directly exposed to the elements, like the Altenators are. My opinion is that a coating of grease would get washed out of there right away after anything wet was encountered anyway. So- I didn't do anything but assemble the plates back together with the aforementioned Loctite on the bolts and grease under the bolt heads for secure fastening.

And did it work? Why yes. Yes it did. No more creaky-squeaky, and all is well with By-Tor The Titanium Mukluk and me once more.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

3GR Report

This 3GR was another threesome including Mike and Craig. Craig was wearing the same Twin Six jersey I was, so we were also the "Matching Guys" for the ride.

Same route as always, and also similar looking skies to what most of the 3GR's have had. Some overcast with threatening rain clouds out to the West.

The ride went pretty fast, just about the same as last week, and therefore conversation was at a minimum after we got into the rollers on Streeter Road. There also was some more fresh gravel that made the going a bit more difficult than last week. Even though the rain should have knocked down the dust factor, it was still pretty dusty out there, which shows me just how badly we still need rain.

The big thing that developed from this ride is that we decided that in almost two weeks the 3GR will be the 3GR- The Fat Bike Version. That's right! On Saturday August 11th, the 3GR will be for fat bikes. Mike, Craig, and myself will be planning to have our fatties there, and if you want to bring yours, please do so. If you do not have a fat bike, well come on and ride anyway. Listen to the car tire-like crush of gravel as we roll at least three fatties on this 27-ish mile loop.

Should be a good time, and there is talk of eating Pedro's burritos afterward. We'll see, but it'll be fun regardless.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Creaky Toy

Fat Bike Bottom Bracket: You make the world go round!
Recently By-Tor The Titanium Mukluk has developed a creaky-squeaky noise. I determined it was from the bottom bracket area, as it emanated from the nether regions of the bike, and made noise whether seated or standing. Mostly only making noise if I pedaled.

Well, I figured it was high time to take a peek in that bottom bracket shell anyway. I have been riding this since last December pretty regularly and in all sorts of conditions ranging from mud, snow, rain, to dry and dusty.

It really needed to be sussed out before winter gets here, (yes- it is coming, but I make no promises for snow), and now was the time to get after this. Besides, I have some immediate plans for this bike that can not wait long.

So I cracked it all open and whatta ya know.....I found a small pile of dried up dirt inside! Not muddy, not greasy at all, just good ol' dry dirt. A couple of table spoons full, I'd wager. Some of it was even slightly chunky, as in formed in small clods. Weird! How it got in there and in that form, I've no good answer for that.

Well, I cleaned it out easily enough, cleaned off the old anti-seize from the threads, reapplied new anti-seize, and re-installed everything. I figured that would take care of that! Well.........I was wrong. Creaky-squeaky still there! Now I am pointing an accusational finger at the Altenator drop outs. Still have not gotten around to taking that apart and cleaning them, but I'll report back with my results when I do.

Creaks. I hate 'em!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday News And Views

Salsa Cycles Reveal the Path Video Contest: Make a video, send it to Salsa Cycles Reveal The Path Video Contest, and win a Mukluk Titanium complete and a beach riding trip in Alaska.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me!

This is an amazing opportunity to go to a place that I've only dreamed about, and others have raved about. Salsa Cycles asked me to put the word out about this, so I am. (Apparently they think I have some sizable audience out there or something!) Anyway, I am glad to do it to hopefully help someone in getting motivated to go get this deal. I mean, you get a sweet fat bike, how could this be bad?

BMC with a 1.9"er
Thoughts On Tire Clearances: 

There were some new bikes discussed earlier in the week here on this blog and some "concerns" were raised by my comments about tire clearances. So following is my take on this subject in reference to gravel road biking.

Some folks have no need for a bigger tire than a 38mm on a gravel road machine, or so I am told. I find this interesting, since back about three years ago I did a survey of what tire diameters and sizes were going to be used at Trans Iowa and the overwhelming category named was 35-42mm. Yes- 38mm is right in the middle of that, but it is a range where most gravel riders seemed to be at that time for that event. A data point, if you will.

In discussing a gravel road bike on Rawland's blog, a discussion about tire size was struck up and most agreed that a 38-42mm tire was optimal. (It was noted that if you wanted to run a 35mm tire with fenders this was also necessitating a max tire size without fenders at about 42mm.) Okay, another data point.

My experiences have been that many gravel riders are looking for a 40-ish millimeter wide tire, and I have forwarded that on to tire makers and others interested in the industry. Clement responded with a 35mm and a 40mm tire. Interesting data point.....

So- if you were to make a gravel road racing machine, why not add in some extra clearance? Is it going to put off the "go-fast" racer guys? Is more mud clearance a "bad thing"? Is it really going to add that much extra weight? Wouldn't this sort of tire clearance make the bike more versatile and more appealing across a wider user base?

I don't design bicycles or market them, and this is merely my opinion. Take it for what it is worth. But it makes a heck of a lot more sense to me to allow the choices than it does to limit them when you can.

Nuff said...........

Come ride into The Black Hole with us...

The 3GR will be happening again on Saturday from Gateway Park across from downtown Cedar Falls at 8:30am.

We'll be doing the 27-ish mile loop again and if it is nice, we'll maybe even hit Cup of Joe's afterward. Please consider joining us. It is a group ride for fun and fitness and the vibe is pretty relaxed.

Maybe I'll have my "Orange Crush" back in action. It's been sidelined since late June when I traded off the wheels for a new ride for my wife. Good trade, but I needed to grab new wheels for it. Fortunately Mike from the 3GR ride had a nice set sitting unused- a XTR hubs with Delgado Cross rimmed set, so I have them but I need to get everything mounted before Saturday morning.

Now it may sound like I am procrastinating, but when my 9 year old son asks to go ride with him so he can get his brand new bike out, I am not saying no. Ya know what I mean? So, the wheels have set around for the time being.

Okay folks, I hope ya'all have a great weekend and get in some good rides.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back To Riding A Bicycle Again

The last few days of giving my opinions on the latest from Saddledrive has spurred a lot of interest on the blog here. But today I am giving you a run down of a ride I did instead. Hey......I can't be Mr. Entertainment every day, ya know? Suffice it to say that I'll be making more observations once I learn more, (and hopefully ride), some of the latest hardware from Salsa and Surly.

Yeah...we got yer roots and rocks.
Of course, I rode up at The Camp again. It is hard not to when it has so much that is good so close to home. There are other great places to ride in Iowa, but they would be 6 hour round trips for the most part, and the Camp maybe eats up an hour of travel time max. A no brainer when gas prices are as high as they've been lately.

I also bugged out at about 9:30am to beat the increasing heat. It was forecast to be brutal Wednesday, and I wasn't up for being zapped by the heat. It was in the 80's as it was, and the South wind was promising a heater of a day ahead.

The sled on deck today was the Fuji SLM LTD carbon hard tail 29"er. Say what you will about carbon fiber, but there is something to all the hoopla surrounding the use of this for frames and components.  It's stiff where it needs to be, (assuming it is designed correctly and all), and that translates to a definite "scoot forward feel" when you stomp on the pedals. The material can also be shaped in weird ways that metal can not be. (Hydro-forming comes close) This really helps in the torsional area, where 29"ers often feel like the front and rear wheels are tracking independently of one another. The carbon Fuji just rockets forward.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that this rig is decked out in XTR parts. Oddly enough, they picked the trail version of XTR for the braking duties. Finned pads and all.

The wild paint scheme almost acts as camo in the woods.
The neatest thing about the components on this bike is the Shadow Plus rear mech. If you haven't heard, this rear derailleur has a clutch mechanism making the cage more stationary during riding which cuts way down on, if not completely eliminates, chain slap on the frame.

This feature renders the Fuji as quiet as a single speed in most riding. Sure, I got the derailleur to move on some bigger hits, but the major clatter is gone. Besides, I probably could tune out all the noise by adjusting the clutch torque on the cage.

Now back to the ride. Here's a story illustrating how speed is your friend. I got out there yesterday to find another car in the grassy lot. I recognized it as being the rig of Eric, a guy I had just loaned the Milwaukee Bicycle Company single speed rig to for a test ride. Oooo! A "carrot" to chase!

I didn't know how long he'd been there, so I blasted off to chase. The loop comes back close enough after the initial few loops to see the lot again. When I looked, his car was still there. I committed to the chase. Further on I verified he was there by the Michelin Wild Race'R prints I saw. No one else around has these tires that I am aware of, so it had to be Eric on my loaner rig.

Fuji bike captured by a Fuji camera. Weird.
I went pretty fast throughout the loop. I was a bit conservative in the corners. I had the WTB Bronson on up front, and the trails were a bit blasted out. Many corners were pretty much covered in a fine, hour glass grade sand. Makes for really sketchy cornering.  That and those flexy knobbed Bronsons are not a good match. I did a preemptive strike though. I aired down the Bronson to about 18psi. This helped tremendously.

To keep the momentum high, I tried not to ditch off into the inner ring of the 2X10 crank. I was just fine with that too, motoring right up the climbs and steeps out there. I think I may have jumped to the inner ring once going out of the bottoms, but that was it. This let me go about as fast as I've ever gone on the South Camp loop.

Once I started getting past the flowy section, and Karmen's addition, I could see the parking lot again. The car was still there! One loop over to Eagle Lodge and maybe I'd catch him. But by the time I got to the trail head, his car was gone. Drat! Must have just missed him. That was okay though, as the speedy loop left me feeling really good about my riding and fitness so far.

So I rested a bit, downed a bottle of water, and headed out for a more leisurely lap. Took some images, (which you see here), and did a lazy loop. At one point, I decided to kick it in up a longer grade and while it wasn't near as fast as earlier, the result wasn't pleasant. I pinged a tree with my left side of the handle bar, which ricocheted me off to the right. I thought I could save it, then I dead headed a big ol' tree instead, which stopped me cold in my tracks. No harm, no foul, but it ticked me off. My lack of speed and concentration made me crash. Going real fast, and being "up on the wheel" made it so this section wasn't even memorable. 

As they say- "speed is your friend", especially when you are mountain biking!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Salsa Cycles Vaya Travel: An Interesting Creature

Stainless, S&S, AND single speed capable?
Salsa Cycles just released a slew of new stuff, and with Surly Bikes stealing a lot of the thunder with the new Krampus, a few things kind of flew under the radar over the weekend.

Yesterday I reported on the Warbird, the gravel road racing rocket. Today, I want to feature the bike that might actually be a better adventure/gravel road racer than the Warbird for many riders- the Vaya Travel.

Okay, maybe you think I am nuts. A travel bike? Yes- it is legit folks, and when you start digging in, this thing is probably the single most interesting bike Salsa Cycles has made since the Mukluk. Let's check out what we do know so far....

First of all, this is a Vaya. Salsa Cycles' original gravel road machine. The geometry is odd for purely road going, and it isn't quite right on single track, but put this bike on gravel and you will find out where its true purpose comes to life.

Secondly- it is steel, but not just any steel. It is stainless steel. This is cool from the non-corrosion factor, low maintenance finish, (no paint, just buff out scratches), and even the decal set is replaceable! (An extra set ships with each bike)

Finally, it is a single speed capable design.  Using Salsa Cycles excellent Altenators, one could simply get their single speed on and ride away, or gear it up for that crazy hilly Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational ride. (eh heh heh!) But it isn't for just that reason that I like this Vaya. Nope- here's the biggie. You have an option when you crack that rear mech off in a B Road, or on some other nasty-nasty. Think I am over-stating this case? Well, just from my Trans Iowa observations, I can easily list off over half a dozen instances where rear mechs ended someones day. With the Vaya, you could go on as a single speeder.

Okay- so maybe you don't race gravel. But there is that chance you might be out on a longer ride, and "pop"! The Altenator might just come in handy at that point. Big bonus points for the versatility here. While I am not 100% sure, I believe this has a 44mm head tube, so if you wanted a carbon tapered steer tube fork to lighten this up some, that's probably a possibility here. (I'm thinking it is a 44mm head tube anyway!) Update- it isn't a 44mm head tube. (But that doesn't mean you still couldn't get a lighter fork.) Also- the sticker kits come in different colors, and the quad butted tubing means this Vaya is lighter than the other steel ones.(Thanks Jason B. of Salsa Cycles for that info.)

Icing on the cake? Why yes- yes there is! This rig will easily take your 40-42mm tires. No problems. Take that Warbird!

So for my money, this is the real deal gravel road rig from Salsa Cycles this year. While it is not offered in titanium, the stainless is almost as nice, and with the couplers, it just adds to the value you get here. The Warbird is a single mission focused rig, in my mind, while this Vaya is the pinnacle of versatility for gravel adventuring, and still works a trick for those who want to race a gravel event from time to time. Add on Salsa's new titanium seat post, a carbon fork, and nice, light wheels, and I bet you'd be in the ball park weight-wise with a Warbird.

This bike is definitely on my radar!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Salsa Cycles Warbird: Gravel Road Bike

Salsa Cycles Warbird Ti: Image by Ben Witt
Recently I wrote on Gravel Grinder News about the concept of a "gravel road" specific bike. (see here) Many people will scoff at this idea, but Salsa Cycles has been working with some of the gravel scene's well known racers and from that feedback mixed with their engineer's ideas, they now present their version of what a gravel road adventure bike is. They call it the "Warbird".

While all the nitty-gritty details are not widely known at this point, here is what I do know: This will be offered in two levels. A titanium bike with mostly an Ultegra build, and an aluminum version with a mostly 105 spec. At the least, a titanium frame only option is to be made available as well. The fork is a special design in conjunction with the folks at Enve Composites standard disc fork. (Updated thanks to Tim K at Salsa!) Disc only, and has full run cable housings for running in the muck and mire that is part of many gravel road racing classics.

Okay, here is my take on this: Leaving aside whether disc brakes are good or no, I have had a close look at a prototype Warbird in titanium. It is an impressive rig. I actually got a very short spin on it, and I can say that the magical titanium feel was there. I bet it would make for a nice platform for long gravel assaults.

That said, this is a racer's rig. There are certain things I can see this bike will do well at, but there are certain things it makes compromises on due to its racing bent. It has the roadie position spot on, and makes no concessions for bigger rubber. (Claimed clearance is for up to 38mm tires) To my mind it cuts a line and leaves the explorer/tourer/, and yes- the adventure rider, on the other side of that line. Of course, there is the Vaya for those folks.

But there is no more Vaya titanium for 2013. That said, the Fargo is still offered as a titanium frame, and that bike makes a great, versatile platform that can not only race, but be an adventure rig, fat tired friend, and stay reasonably lightweight.

It's not that I am knocking the Warbird, but like it's namesake, these bikes will be for dog-fighting other gravel road racers on courses that most gravel races are held on. Most non-militaristic pilots will be better served with a more versatile rig. I'd like one, but then again, it doesn't really do anything my BMC already does so well, and doesn't do other things that BMC can do. Well......other than the Warbird's titanium material, which I have to say, almost makes it worth it right there.

I'll reserve final judgement until I see some more specs, but if you are looking to go fast on gravel and need a great weapon for that two wheeled pursuit, this looks mighty tasty.

Updated 7/27/12: I would like to underscore that the above verbiage is only my opinion. To address the concerns put forth on Facebook and on this blog that I received about tire clearances, I  would like to point you to my "News and Views" post from 7/27/12. Click this link to see this.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Titanium Mukluk Gets Upgraded

By-Tor with new DynaSys stuff
By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk has been upgraded to some new components recently. I'll give you the run down here and the "why" behind it all here as we go...

First up, I decided to switch from SRAM to Shimano DynaSys trigger shifters which are a big improvement over the SRAM bar end mounted on a Paul's Thumbie. Shifting in rough stuff was tough with the Thumbie, since it was so stiff, especially over older thumbies, like SunTour or Deore vintage examples.

DynaSys triggers can actually be actuated in a couple different ways, but the traditional "Rapid Fire" method works well with gloved hands. (At least I haven't had any issues with this) But the biggest thing is I don't have to move my hand from the grip much, if at all.

Next we have the Shadow Plus derailleur. The "Plus" part is what is cool. It is all about a little clutch mechanism in the pivot for the derailleur cage which can be switched "On" to prevent the cage from swinging and detensioning the chain over rough terrain. This is audible on "non-Plus" derailleurs as chain slap on your chain stay. But the big deal here is that since I run a 1 X 10, I may be able to ditch my chain watcher since it won't have to keep a flopping chain in check. The chain won't be flopping over rough stuff because the derailleur cage won't be swinging. Good stuff.

New shoes
Finally, I swapped tires for these new On One Smorgasbord tires. Listed as 2.25's, they actually measured slightly bigger than that on the Stan's Flow rims, (tubeless of course).

Out of the gate they measured 2.28", so with a bit of stretch they become 2.3"ers, which is a good, all around trail tire width.

The weight of these tires suggests that they may be pretty dang tough too. 860/870 grams for the pair. They are made by Maxxis and have what On One calls "ekso" sidewall protection. The sidewalls are thicker in the hand than many tires I've handled. The tires are definitely for bashing about, they have a nice, aggressive tread with an open pattern, and should prove to work well in tough conditions.

I have not had a chance to really put these to the test, so no ride reports yet, but I'll be back here with some observations soon.

Meanwhile, all the newest fat bike goodness has been slowly leaking out from Saddle Drive in Utah. The Salsa bikes will have some new features. Mukluks will now have Altenator drop outs, and there is a new model called the Beargrease. It has shorter stays, handles more like a traditional mountain bike, and weighs less than 29 lbs out of the box. Tapered head tube and frame tubing like a Mamasita. No Altenators on the Beargrease, which is a "race" version of the Muk.

Sounds awesome, but I'm fat-biked up for now, so I guess I'll be okay with what I've got here. Just wish my Titanium Muk had a 44mm head tube!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

3GR Report

Joe and Mike discuss Leadville 100 strategy
3GR Report: Saturday, July 21st: 

So this week, one removed from the GTDRI, I decided to ride a single speed on the 3GR. Then I decided to ride from the house, which tacks on an extra 14 miles or so to the ride for me. Finally- I gave myself a half an hour to get to the 3GR meet up spot on time.

Wonder of wonders, I made it there with a minute or two to spare! I saw Mike there on his Vaya, and since it did not appear anyone else was going to show up, we took off. About a half a mile up the bike path, I heard Mike speaking to someone that had come up from behind us, and by the tone of his voice, it was apparent that it was someone he recognized. Turns out it was a guy named Joe and he decided to join us in the ride.

Joe is going to Leadville soon to race the LT-100 and since Mike has done the event, he and Joe entered into a conversation about strategy for the event. While that was going on, I noticed how brown, stunted, and shriveled our local cornfields are. Nothing at all like last week, where around Grinnell everything was tall, lush, and vibrant green in color. It really is sad to see the fields around the Janesville area especially.

It looks like a black hole! Dead ahead!
The sky for the ride was increasingly overcast and the temperatures were in the high 70's to low 80's for the ride. Quite comfortable compared to recent days, actually. The clouds were thickening the entire ride, but it never did rain on us, which was a bit surprising to me.

Pace for the ride was kept pretty high. We never did slow down much and I think we were holding one of the fastest 3GR's yet. I felt pretty good during the ride, despite being the only one on a single speed.

Joe took leave of us near the end, and Mike and I rolled in to Cedar Falls the way we started out- a twosome. Mike and I then took our bikes to Cup Of Joe's and had some beverages and a small bite to eat sitting outside along the street.

Finally, I had to hit the trail back home. I made good time and when I got back, I felt pretty whooped. In fact, I was pretty much good for nothing the rest of the day! Must not be quite 100% after last weekend's ride, but I suppose the single speed had a bit to do with it as well!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bigger, Badder, And Green Metalflake!

Fat tires rule!
By now most bike geeks have seen this. Surly Bikes' newest crazy idea, the "Krampus". (Click on the name for its background) Surly has come up with a way to get around a previous barrier to 29"ers- that being the size of the largest ISO 622 bead tire one could make.

Previous to the Krampus, the largest sized 29"er tires could only be about 2.4-2.5 inches wide. This was due to mold machine constraints. Simply- a bigger tire just wouldn't fit in the mold machines available.

Obviously Surly has surmounted this issue in some way. The tires on the Krampus are 29 X 3.0, which would be the largest ISO 622 bead tire ever made, as far as I am aware. Pretty amazing right there, really, and a fact that is being looked over a bit in the hoopla surrounding the Krampus' arrival on the scene.

A couple of other interesting things stand out to me here. First, the tire, dubbed the "Knard", is said to weigh only 850 grams. Really? If that is true, then it must be a pretty thin tire in the side walls. Why is that? I have handled a lot of different 29"er tires. To get a lot of volume and low weight, you have to spread the butter pretty thin over the toast. I have not seen the 3.0" tire, but I know it can't weigh what they say it does without being pretty thin. For example, I have a pretty burly 2.25" tire in hand here. One I would trust to bash around in rocks, hold up tubeless, and be overall a durable, long lasting tire for general trail riding. Weight? 870 grams.

Get the picture?

So what is the Knard going to be good for? Probably lots of stuff. I'm just saying it isn't going to be very durable, most likely, for hard chargers riding in rock infested places where folks shred tires a lot.

Don't get me wrong here, I am excited about this tire and platform. I really am interested in getting one of these, but it isn't going to be my first choice for bashing into rough stuff. The dirt we have here wouldn't be an issue, most likely, and I can think of lots of places I want to ride a bike like this.

Secondly, going along with the places I want to ride a bike like this- I think the Krampus is the ideal platform for longer, really rough road/back road/fire road riding in a bike packing set up. The tires should exhibit lots of grip, and with the volume, lots of suspension. Plus, a bit lower angle of attack should smooth out bumps even more than a typical 29"er. It appears the Krampus has rack mounts, so frame bag set ups or rack set ups should be possible.

My only issue is that it appears from sneak peeks I've seen that the Krampus is limited to a single front chain ring. That limits gearing choices. Looks like it is time I bought a Rohloff!

UPDATE: Now learning the MSRP on the complete with 1 X 10 SLX drivetrain is $1950.00, available in March 2013. Frames, rims, and tires should be in this fall with a MSRP on the frame set @ $750.00 Total weight for bike as shown = 30lbs. This is said to be Surly's toughest, heaviest tube set yet developed.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2012: Ride Report IV

Gilman To Grinnell: Here we get to the final and shortest leg of the ride. But first, we had to stop in Gilman to rest, recuperate, and have an ice cold beer!

Six weary riders: Image by Celeste Matthias
When we rode into town, I figured we were on the wrong street to get to the convenience store the quickest. I signaled Matt to follow me while the rest of the bunch went the wrong way around.

Matt headed straight to the beer cooler and on his way to the register he lifted a sixer of Bud Heavy Tall Boys and softly asked, "Would you help me with these?" Of course, the answer was an enthusiastic "yes". I went about my business grabbing something suitable to munch on. Hmm....two packets of Planters Cashews should do fine.

Matt and I went outside and repaired to the back of the convenience store, out of sight from most folks, and started to drink our beers. Soon the rest of the guys followed suit and brought their purchases around the back and we had ourselves a little sit down for a bit.

By now the sun was back out in full force and we could feel the temperatures rising back through the 80's and on through the 90's again. But for now, we were just enjoying a bit of rest and conversations. Things eventually wound down though, and soon we were slowly adjusting helmets and topping off bottles for the final 14.8 miles back to Grinnell.

One last B Road
We weren't quite through with adventure though. First we were about buzzed by a crop duster, but we timed our passage across his flight path to miss his low flying antics. Those guys that fly those planes are dare-devils! Crazy to see them at work.

Then I had one last scheduled B Road to traverse. It was another goodie. Smooth, fast, and scenic. It's just great to be able to ride these in summer. It is too bad Trans Iowa guys hardly ever get to have that opportunity, but with every season there are drawbacks. Good B Roads in summer, but it was also 100 degrees at the time. Ouch!

It didn't stay that hot for long, as the sun was lowering in the Western sky, but by now, with all the heat and miles, my legs were zapped. I was pretty much in survival mode by this point of the ride. It was nice to have John slip back a few times to chat to take my mind off of my burning quads.

The thing about the Grinnell area is that there is hardly a flat road near it. The road we were on had some average rollers, but they may as well have been mountains at this point. I was barely crawling over the tops of each successive hill.

Dirty, Dusty, yet strangely happy: Image by Celeste Matthias
Finally we made the left turn towards Grinnell's paved streets and put the sun at our back for the last stretch home. The pace might have quickened a bit, anticipation for finally putting the pain behind us perhaps.

Turning the corner on Broad Street we laid eyes on the start line we left 12 and a half hours earlier. That was right about what I was hoping for in regard to time. I was satisfied with the group's performance, realizing that our stop in Gilman went on a lot longer than maybe it should have.

John's wife, Celeste was there and someone suggested we line up for a photo. We shook hands, congratulated and thanked each other, and waved good bye to Jeremy, John, and Cody. Matt, Mike, and I still had three miles to go to get back to our motel rooms and a nice shower.

These rides are always kind of odd at the end. You share an entire day on a bike, struggling with the others on the ride, and it is impossible not to have shared something a bit more than the usual. I won't get all dramatic here, but those that have done long, long rides with others through some less than ideal conditions will know what I mean there.

Making our way back to the rooms....
Matt and Mike agreed with me to take the pace slow back to the motel. I held up my end of the bargain gladly, but Matt and Mike got into a conversation and lifted the pace anyway. I stuck to the plan.

As I rode the last mile along the shoulder of Highway 146 South, I thought about how blessed I am to even be able to do this stuff, much less have folks come from so far away to join me in this madness. It truly is an honor for me.

We got cleaned up, were joined by Mike's wife Amy, (who celebrated her birthday that day), and had a killer Mexican meal. Afterward we went for some ice cream, and drove around like teenagers in Mike's car like we had nothing to do. It was a sweet ending to a great day of cycling.

Thanks to... The Riders: Dennis, Courtney, Craig, Matt, Mike, Jeremy, John, and Cody. Celeste Matthias for the awesome images. Jeremy and Mike for sharing images. Mike and Cody for sharing GPS data, and thanks to all our spouses and families for understanding our gravel road riding passion.

Ride Data: Total Distance- 122.5m (Matt, Mike, and I actually got in about six bonus "to and from" miles from the motel and back). Total Ride Time: 9:36.34 Total Elapsed Time:  12.44.03. Elevation Gain: 5873Ft. Minimum Temp: 59F Maximum Temp: 104F (Thanks to Cody Matthias for the Garmin GPS data)

NOTICE: The 3GR will be happening tomorrow at 8:30am from the parking lot of Gateway Park if you are interested. Should be about 27 miles of gravel road fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2012- Report Part III (Again)

Since the report was running so long yesterday, I decided to break it into two parts. Here is Part II of "The Longest Leg".

Wind farm and a wet road
After the bigger hills were traversed, we were headed back north some more into Marshall County. This saw us hitting flatter terrain.  The area is also home to a large wind farm. It was cool to ride through there on such a day.

It was still raining/spitting at this point and I was still loving it. But sooner than later I knew at some point we would be running out into sunshine again and warmer temperatures. In fact, I could feel it getting warmer already.

I was suddenly aware at this point that we were down two riders. I called a halt so we could have a nature break and wait up for the two stragglers. It turned out to be Mike and Cody. Mike had gotten chain suck and had to deal with his drive train issues before he could continue onward. Cody had just simply stopped to see if he could help.

We then hit the North bound part of the route again. Soon we would be turning East and towards the century mark of the ride overall. I kept asking Jeremy how much further it was to Gilman, since my computer didn't get reset at the start. I didn't discover that fact until we were well out of town, but I chalked it up to almost never riding with a computer anymore. I also had a hankering for some beer. Ice cold beer, and so did Matt. We were really looking forward to the next stop!

We were to have another B Road section coming and I was looking forward to it. So far, the B Roads had been great, and I was stoked about that. However; this wasn't going to happen on this section of road. Why? Because it was a C Road!

Level C Road means that the entrance and exit is gated. The control over right of way is ceded to the local land owner. That person can enforce the "No Trespassing" part, or not. Typically C Roads are often nothing more than double track, or barely double track. This one looked to be a recently decommissioned B Road.

As we did last year at the bridge out sign, we stopped and debated whether to go through. Everyone wanted to, but should we? The gates were open, and Jeremy said, "I'm going through, just like last year." As he clipped in, I said, "Well, let's go then." Off we went down a pea gravel double track.

Low water crossing on a C Level road
This was my first trip on a bicycle, (or in any other mode, for that matter), down a C Level Road. I had seen them before, of course. When you spend as much time running around Iowa on gravel roads as I do, you see a lot of stuff. That said, I was as new to actually going down one as anyone on the ride.

The very first C Level road I ever saw was near Osage, Iowa and thwarted a planned route on T.I.V2's course. Of course, no one ever got to see the solution to that bit!

At any rate, we were on the C Level road going gently down on double track with deep pea gravel as a base. I found a better line with firmer ground down the center, or just off to the sides. I surmised that the local farmer had just maintained this double track by the looks of the gravel here. Eventually, the pea gravel gave over to fist sized, embedded , chunky rocks leading down to a low water crossing with big chunky rocks in there you couldn't see. We all, (thankfully), made it through without incident.

Then it was a slow grind up and outta that C Level road, back onto gravel, and on towards Gilman and beer. We eventually passed the century mark, although it wasn't marked by anyone. We just kept riding on. It was as if the century mark didn't matter. Everyone was just pressing on to get off the bikes and rest. Refueling, getting water, and resting. That was bigger than riding past 100 miles at this point.

Smiling through the pain- (Image by Celeste Matthias)
And by this time I was also getting hungry. I suppose we'd burned through a few calories by this point, and my body was telling me it was time to eat. I held out as the miles counted down from the double digits to single digits to go. I figured that even if I did bonk, we'd be sitting around for a little while at least, so I could recover.

I powered down the last of my bottles and focused on getting off the bike for a bit. We'd been grinding since that stop on the wind farm for a nature break and that was a long time ago now, or so it seemed.

Finally we headed south on the route that T.I.V7 went out on Northwards. This was a short run into Gilman, but like anytime you are ready to get off your bike, the destination seems to take longer to get to than it should. But we did get there, and we had a hoot of a time.

Tomorrow: Gilman To Grinnell

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2012: Report Part III

The Longest Leg: Continuing on with the Guitar Ted Death Ride, we were arriving in Grinnell's Southernmost side at about 11:30am, which I was super pleased with, but also somewhat concerned about. I mean, we had the longest leg, (45.2 miles), on deck and maybe we'd burned too many matches already. It was hot, and we had more heat coming.

And then there were six....
In the first installment for these reports, I said something about how the spirit and efforts of the folks that come to the GTDRI blow me away. Well, true to form, John and his son Cody shepherded in Dennis, who said he'd just ride in by himself. John figured it needn't be that way, and literally was pushing Dennis over some of the climbs. Awesome!

Well, little did I know that our convenience store stop had a Subway sandwich shop attached to it. And also- I didn't know about Matt's egg and cheese delight that he has from Subway. I copied him to a "T" on choices, which befuddled the help there. It was a good choice too. Went down easy with no "gut bomb" afterward. Nice! Thanks for lettin' me copy ya Matt!

We had a nice stop, but Craig and Courtney were out for the rest of the ride. Craig felt the cramps and being out of shape was too much. Courtney had a month of job training coming up away from home and he had to leave the next day. Can't blame either one of them for stopping, and that's exactly why I planned a bail-out option. At least they got to ride some of the awesome course with us. So, with Dennis dropping in Grinnell as well, we cut our numbers back to six.

We headed out again on some flattish roads, went by the proposed, but never used barn finish from Trans Iowa V6, and crossed I-80 after some big rollers. Then we hit on some wide open, flat, brutally hot gravel just east of Newton.

Rollers! (Image credit- Celeste Matthias)
In fact, looking back on the data from Mike's GPS files, it was nigh unto 100F about this time. We were definitely getting cooked alive out there. With the humidity, it had to feel well into the triple digits.

Someone spied a small patch of shade cast by a tree just off the road and it was universally decided upon by us to bask in the relative coolness of this roadside treasure. The recuperative effects of just stopping for a minute or three can not be underestimated here when it is this hot! Unfortunately, folks were looking a little too comfortable for my tastes, so I called for a roll-out and we were off again into the heat and dust.

We were back on the back end of the T.I.V8 course. This was the section where folks were having a hard time of it with all the hills, chunky gravel, and winds that day in April. It wasn't as chunky, but there was a decent covering of gravel out here. Very dusty too.

This part of the GTDRI was also the hilliest part. I had told the guys under the shade tree that it was going to be brutal. In fact, I was painting a bad picture on purpose just to make it seem not so bad when we did hit those hills. Of course, with hills you get descents as well, so we had some hair raising falls into valleys and then the big grunts back up, which were baking us going Northward. 

If you've never been out on a hot day with some breeze or wind, it feels better going into the wind, or with a side wind, than it does to have a tail wind. Tail winds are usually a good thing, but when it is hot, and you are climbing a steep hill, no thank you. I'd rather have a head wind all day when it gets that hot than ride up hills with a tail wind. Your mileage may vary.

Salvation in the form of rain
Someone or another then struck up a conversation about cooking food on the bike as you rode. This was one of those conversations cyclists have when they are in the "pain cave", and they are trying to forget about it with diversionary conversations about silly stuff.

Ideas were considered from bread sticks and marinara sauce, to "hot pockets", (don't ask!), to the almighty pizza slice. This went on for several miles until a big grunt of a climb pretty much put us all into silent mode. It was very hot, still, and in the distance, we could see a massive thunderhead forming with peals of thunder grumbling from on high. We didn't think we were in any danger, but it was obvious this was a big storm. Fortunately for us, it was a well timed one.

We were going up the long climb of Iowa Street, then Immigrant Avenue to E 84th Street North. I called out that I needed a stop at the top. I was absolutely cooked about this point of the ride. I did my usual flop onto the ground, to the amusement of a few of the group, but the ground is usually the coolest place to rest on days like this. It wasn't long before I sensed a change in the air.

Welcome to the flat state of Iowa! (Image by Celeste Matthias)
I felt some cooler air. It was air coming off that thunderhead. Even if it didn't rain, it would mean that the temperature would maybe get knocked down for a bit, providing me with a much needed respite from the brutal air we'd been sauteing in before this.

Of course, the other guys were going to be digging this as well. We had a few guffaws and great conversation at the top of this hill. That said, we needed to get a move on, and I wanted to seek out this cooler air and make the best use of it while we could. It was also about 2:30pm, and the day wasn't getting any shorter! The good news was that at this point we were halfway to Gilman and our next convenience store stop.

So down we went and up, then down, and up again. This stretch went on for several miles. The further north we went the more shaded we were by the towering thunder storm clouds. Soon we could feel occasional rain drops. Then a full on sprinkle.  Now I was getting revived. I have always struggled with heat, but bad weather, rain, snow, whatever, seem to be the times I have my best rides. Long rides anyway.

Whatever the case may be, I was a different person now. Zooming up the steep climbs on North 99th Avenue East, I was getting teased by Jeremy, who was claiming I was passing him, "like I was Contador or something.". Hmm.......must have been the beef!

Okay- this is getting a bit long in the tooth, so look for Part II of The Longest Leg tomorrow when I show you a "C Road".

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2012- Report Part II

Brooklyn And Beyond: The first stop for the ride was scheduled for Brooklyn, Iowa at around 31-ish miles in. Trans Iowa has often skirted Brooklyn, but I'd never actually been within the city limits before.

Craig and Mike eatin' grub
We got in with a hot sun and rising temperature. The locals were a bit taken back by the sudden presence of nine dusty cyclists, but the employee at the register of the convenience store we stopped at couldn't have been nicer. I think she figured out right away that she was raking in some extra cash from an unsuspected source. Either that or she was amused by seeing a bunch of lycra clad gents prancing about the convenience store.

I scoured the aisles for some suitable grub. I went for the pastry and breakfast sandwich route with a side of blue and red Gatorade. I went out and sat with Matt while we watched the locals go to and fro about their business in the early Saturday sunlight.

I got a chance to finally chat with Dennis from Grinnell. He was riding a Gen II Fargo that he says has put all his other rigs out to pasture. He likes the Fargo so much it has pretty much taken over his cycling. In fact, you might catch him riding it on RAGBRAI.

Meanwhile we were all wrapping up final preparations to get going again. Bottles were being filled and gooped up with electrolytes and what have you. Helmets were being strapped to noggins, and it was looking like we'd be pulling out soon when Jeremy came up.

Jeremy started late, by-passed the first B Road section to save time, and caught up with the group. He had to get refueled so he waved us onward saying he'd catch us up the road. So, in the bright sunlight we took off out of Brooklyn on a zig-zaggy course which would lead us to an overpass of I-80 and back on the T.I.V8 course again. I was looking forward to this section as it would eventually veer off the T.I.V8 course and into a big chunk of country I hadn't seen yet on our leg to Grinnell and lunch.

More B Road!
I got a little confused on just where the route re-entered the T.I.V8 course, but John, who was in the event, caught on right away, recognizing a farmstead. He set me straight on where we were, and then I saw a "S" curve that I knew well which then reset my mind's GPS coordinates.

Sometimes I need a little "bump" to get the synapses clicking in the right order!

We went just about to Montezuma, where Checkpoint Alpha was this year, but we turned West before that and headed off into that uncharted territory I mentioned before. It wasn't long before I saw my favorite road sign: "Gravel Ends", and we were rolling down a somewhat steep grade on some awesome double track dirt road.

We decided to take a "safety break" here and lounged under the shade of some trees overhanging a deeply cut in creek. Dennis walked up to me and said he knew the way back from that point so we shouldn't wait around for him if we got ahead of him. He kindly thanked me and asked me to take his picture, which I did. After about 15 minutes of lounging around, we saddled back up and cruised out of the valley.

Flower lined gravel
 We hit one more section of B Road and then turned Northward back towards Grinnell and lunch. On the way, the hills got big, the descents fast, and the sun was a lot hotter. There still was little wind, but every time we turned west to sawtooth our way over a mile, the Southerly breeze would cool things down a few degrees. Going North brought the heat big time.

I was pleased to see the sides of the road rife with wild flowers of purple, blue, white, and yellow. So different than what we have back home. That was a bonus for the ride for me.

Although this leg was "only" 28.5 miles, it seemed to take longer than the first leg. Probably it was the bigger hills. It may have had something to do with the hotter temps, I don't know. I found myself cruising along with Matt, Jeremy, and Mike for most of this sector. Everyone else was strung out behind us. Back at the "safety stop", Craig had complained of cramping already, so we offered to download him some electrolyte, but undoubtedly the heat was taking its toll on him and all of us.

The new gravel-to-me was fun though, and I enjoyed this last bit. We ended up finally getting on the outbound T.I.V6 course as we tracked it backward into Grinnell. It wouldn't be long till lunch time now.

Next: The Longest Leg

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2012: Report Part I

Getting It Started: The GTDRI is a ride that means a lot to me. I do the ride to test myself, see some cool countryside, and to invite anyone that desires to ride, to come along for the adventure. There isn't anything more to it than that, but the people that do come always blow me away with their friendship, spirit, and efforts.

Home base for the ride.
This year I decided to move the ride to Grinnell. I like the terrain around Grinnell, and I wanted to share bits of former Trans Iowa courses, (not to mention experience them first hand from the saddle of a bicycle), with others. The route I wanted to take was easy to figure out, and I even went through some different areas I had not been through just for fun.

The move to Grinnell meant that I wouldn't be "roughing it" by camping. I figured with the heat we've seen this year, I needed a cool, restful night of sleep to tackle what would become the second longest ride I've ever done. Me and heat don't mix too well, so this seemed to be a good idea.  I barely got a room though, since Grinnell is so close to Iowa Speedway, and a trucks race meant most rooms were spoken for.

I arrived in Grinnell around 7:30pm, and I met up with Courtney who was in town for the ride. He decided to camp out, so we rendezvoused downtown at Lonski's in Grinnell for some grub and New Belgiums.

Matt Wills arrived from Lincoln, NE for the ride.
 Courtney and I had some great conversation and I tried not to indulge in too many Fat Tire Ales! We said our good nights, and I departed for my motel room to get some shut eye.

The night went by and I awoke at 4:30am to start getting set up to ride. I knew from the previous day that Matt would be driving in, (he started at 1am!), from Lincoln, Nebraska and was to meet me outside the motel. I wanted to be ready by about 5:20am to make sure Matt didn't have to wait too long for me. I made pretty good time getting ready though, and it was a good thing I was ahead of schedule!

Matt texted me at 5:07am saying he was there, so I did a few last second things and met him outside. I was super humbled that he made the effort to come, since he left at 1am to drive up, then do the ride with no sleep. Matt seemed just stoked to be there and to be spending an entire day on his bike, which was his beautiful Soulcraft "Fat Road" 1X8 rig.

With a few minutes more for Matt to get kitted up, we were off to ride the three miles from the motel to Bikes To You where I had told everyone to meet at 6:00am.

David- turn it around!
I didn't know how many folks would actually show up. I knew from previous day's e-mails, Facebook posts, and texts that Courtney, Matt, Dennis, Jeremy, and John and his son would be making it up for the ride. Friday evening I saw Mike's rig there in the parking lot of the motel I was staying in, so I figured he'd be in for the ride.

So when Matt and I rounded the corner to Bikes To you, I was only surprised that Craig was also in on the ride. Everyone else I figured on was there, except Jeremy, who was going to start late and catch us. Well, that would eventually make for 9 riders total. That's an excellent turn out for this ride, so I was really floored. Dennis, who was from Grinnell, was only planning on doing the first 65 miles which brought the route back to Grinnell, but everyone else was thinking of chewing off the whole bite.

Pictures were taken and last second preparations were made. We finally hit the route at about a quarter after 6.

Beautiful country

Our route was the beginning of Trans Iowa V8 for the first 30 miles. That meant that the group headed north up to just about the Powesheik County border before turning East. The weather was cool, humid, but there was no wind, and everything was peaceful.

The road was mostly up, rolling, but the grades weren't steep, and the roads were really quite smooth. (I know you T.I.V8 veterans will be unbelievers there, but really, the roads were near perfection!) We were motoring along at a pretty decent clip, but I didn't think anyone was feeling too worked just yet. Folks were sticking together and I wanted to make some hay before the weather got really hot, which it was looking like it was going to do later on.

One other thing I remarked on was how lush and green everything was where we were riding. The drought has really taken a toll up where I live. Lots of curled up corn, stunted beans, and corn that is completely dead and brown. Here it was the picture of health, but I suppose the heat has affected even these crops negatively, just not so you could see it. My riding companion, Mike, who lives up where I do agreed that things looked much nicer down around Grinnell. Even the wild flowers were in bloom, which totally floored me. I was expecting to see lots of brown and no flowers at all.

John's silhouette at the top of a B Road

Another concern that was growing as we went Eastward was the condition of B Maintenance roads. The area had gotten plenty of rain, which was obvious by the puddles we were observing at the bottoms of hills. Several B Maintenance roads we passed looked really wet and mucky too.

Our first B Maintenance road came at a place I routed around for T.I.V8, so it was all new to everyone on the ride. We dove straight on in to find that it was almost like dry cookie dough in consistency.  Your tires would sink in, and some of the dirt would stick to the tires, but would almost immediately fling off your tires as there just was not enough moisture to make the dirt collect.

I had visions of hike-a-bike coming into this, but much to our pleasure, it wasn't to be. The B Road went up a steep grade at first, which was great as the terrain was drier near the top of the hill. I didn't think we were out of the woods just yet though. I knew from past experiences that when the down hill side comes, there is often a big mess at the bottom.

Fortunately, it had firmed up enough that only one spot presented a bit of an obstacle to our "clean" passage, but that was easily gotten around. Back up once more to a right hander and back on to the Trans Iowa V8 course again for a while. Everyone was still together, so we pushed on to some more long-ish, rolling hills and descents which would lead us closer to our "breakfast stop".

I had eaten a couple of Clif Bars for my breakfast at 4:45am, but those were wearing off and I was getting hungry. I ate a few Shot Bloks and drank more fluids to tide me over.

Mike and Craig on the last B Road to Brooklyn
We finally made a turn Eastward and down, then up a hill to what was the first B Road on the T.I.V8 course. I recall that day on T.I.V8, sitting there shivering in a cold blast of East wind, squinting into the dim, dank scene looking for the T.I.V8 leaders. That day the B Road was a mess. This time it was dry and dusty.

We were flying down hill, silent, as you can only do on a B Road when it is dry, and I could see plumes of dust flying off the guy's tires ahead of me. It was a ton of fun, and why I like riding on B Maintenance roads in the summer.

Of course, there were two, really steep climbs coming out of this section leading to where we would leave the T.I.V8 course for a while. The road we took towards Brooklyn was actually part of the T.I.V5 course, only we were doing it backward. The hills get long and the grades slacker here, but it is still work none the less. Still- we were all together yet, and I had gotten word from Jeremy that he was on course and chasing us.

By now it was not cool anymore and the sun was full up in the sky. We were closing in on about 30 plus miles and Brooklyn was in our sights. We were all looking forward to a bit of rest, as we hadn't really taken a full on stop since leaving Grinnell. We got to Brooklyn in 2hr 54min, so I felt good about that. Not a pace that would win any races, but for such a diverse group of riders, we were doing nicely.

Tomorrow: Brooklyn and Beyond

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Barns For Jason- The GTDRI Version

There will be a report on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational coming up, but here are some "Barns For Jason", ('cause he shoulda been there), from the ride. Here we go...

And one ride image!
Okay, more from the 126 mile Guitar Ted Death Ride invitational to come. Remember- you can click on any image to enlarge it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

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Friday, July 13, 2012

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Friday News And Views

Got bicycle trails? Pretty nice, eh? Well, it wasn't always that way, and even when the first trails showed up, (around here anyway), things weren't as good as they are now. In other words, "those weren't the good ol' daze". Not when it came to trails- both paved and unpaved.

Back when I was younger and "bangin' my head", there was but two bicycle trails that one could use in the Cedar Valley. There was a point to point trail in George Wyth, and the Cedar Valley Nature Trail which was all pea gravel back then.

Geo Wyth was free to ride on, if you didn't go through the gates with your car, because they had a user fee back then, and everyone that came into the Park gates had to pay a fee. Only by bicycle could you avoid this, and the only access point that way was from Cedar Falls.

But the Cedar Valley Nature Trail was different. You could access it several ways from crossing roads. However; they did have a daily user fee that was enforced, and a yearly pass license that you could buy. This was enforced by riders riding up and down the trail whose sole job it was to stop any and all cyclists that were not displaying the tag. (An example of which is shown here.)

If you were stopped, and you didn't have the cash-ola to pay for a daily fee, you were escorted to the nearest access point and told to not ride on the trail! (I know- it happened to me once. I out-waited the impatient enforcer and got back on and went my way! I know- I am an outlaw!)

Of course, things are not done that way today. You can freely enjoy the trail at anytime without paying a fee directly. But- you never know, that sort of thing may come around again!

Off roaders had it no better back then. I've been sharing this lately again, but back in the late 80's/early 90's, there were only a few off road trails in George Wyth and the Green Belt. That was it. There was nothing else.

The Geo Wyth trails were actually meant for hikers and there was a fitness trail with a circuit layout. It featured stations where different physical activities could be practiced like chin ups, rope swinging, etc. These were spaced along a wide, mown trail on which you were supposed to jog between stations.

The mountain bikers took to these with joy, but the Park Rangers were not so accommodating to cyclists. There were several instances of rangers handing out fines to cyclists for riding off road/off-paved trail in Geo Wyth. Several stories were circulated concerning cyclists out-running the Rangers and how the park officials would sometimes rant on cyclists passing through on the paved trail because they were on mountain bikes. Maybe these stories were true, or not, but fines were levied and the rules were real against off road cycling in Geo Wyth.

Most of the basic, older trails that exist in Geo Wyth to this day were "rogue trails" done against the will of the State Park officials. Certain cyclist were known to be trail makers and would go out in the rain, or at night, and cut in new trails for mountain bikes. I was personally involved in showing the then new park Ranger all the off road trails in Geo Wyth in 1996, when he showed up at the shop to ask if we would do that. He was flabbergasted to find out about them. The State/Park Ranger had no clue about all the trails existed at the hands of renegade off roaders. This eventually led to the Park accepting off road cycling and dropping the fines/rules against doing such stuff.

Of course now CVAST and the State Park officials are doing things hand in hand to expand the trail system further than ever. Good stuff is happening now and it hearkens back to the halcyon days of the mid-90's as far as trail opportunities.

We've come a long way since those earlier times!

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: 

Tomorrow is the big day of gravelly goodness. The GTDRI  course is set, the motel room is paid for, and the bike is ready to go.  I would ride it alone, if it came to that, but it appears that several folks are planning to show up with a few more saying they are going to try. We'll see if we beat last year, which was a record, or not.

One thing is for certain- it will be hot and humid. Upper 90's will be the high, and the winds will be coming from the Southwest at 7-15mph.

We have a chance at, (much, much needed), rain tomorrow, but it'll be hit and miss thunderstorms if so. If the rains miss all or parts of the course, it'll mean we're in for a brutally dusty day on the bikes. Last 3GR I looked at myself afterward and there was a thick layer of dust on my legs. That was after only 27 miles! Speaking of the 3GR, I won't be here in the W'Loo/Cedar Falls area for that, obviously, but we'll pick that back up a week from tomorrow.

Well, like any of the past Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals, whatever happens should make for some great stories afterward. I can't wait! I think this marks the seventh year for the gravel version.

Happy Friday the 13th, ya'all! Don't be skeert, don't be afeard! It's just another Friday!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Encounters With Wildlife

More Encounters With Wildlife- (This time the animal in question is actually a live one!)

Fresh Tracks
Back in June I had an encounter with a suicidal deer, (which I posted about here), and on Independence Day I came across a big 10 pointer in Geo Wyth.

I've also had turkeys flying in my face and sighted a strange, huge black-ish bird that I think is an immature Bald Eagle. Owls, deer, and other critters have been abundant even though everything on the plant side is shriveling up and dying out there. Seriously- it is getting scary out there.

Well, anyway, this story starts- (where else!)- up at the South side of Camp Ingawanis' mountain bike trails. I headed up there for some tire/wheel testing on the Milwaukee Bicycle Company 29"er. It was a really nice day- in the 70's, dappled sunshine, and little wind or humidity. The trails are bone dry, fast, and clear for the most part.

The tires in question are the Michelin Wild Race'R model with a tubeless set up on a WTB Frequency i23 rim laced to American Classic hubs. I had been running slightly higher pressures, but for this run I was at 18psi-20psi.

Really- this bike rides soooo nice!
I don't know why, but everything just clicked on this ride. Sure- I have liked the MBC 29"er well enough all along, the wheels have been....well, wheels. The tires worked really nicely on the slightly narrower Velocity Blunt SL rims when I had those tires on those wheels and mounted on the Fargo Gen II frame.

But something about yesterday was so spot on. One of those rides you wait for ever to have. Smooth, fast, comfortable, legs felt great, and the weather was perfect as were the trails for the most part. I was honking along with seemingly way less effort than before. Either I have gained a big jump forward in my fitness, or the bike, wheels, and tires were just that fast. (Secretly I am hoping the bike, wheels, and tires suck!) No.....I can't say exactly what it was, but this ride was super-fun.

I even crashed big time! I was flying around a left hander with a few trees for good measure, right on the edges of the single track. I actually saw this one coming. The big, wide 3D carbon Answer bar caught a tree right at the end of the Ergon grip. thwok! On the left side, and I wobbled and went down hard into a dry duff of dirt, leaves, and old walnut shells.

I am okay, but I bruised up my left leg in a few spots coming off the bike and scratched up my right shin.Then later on I came across a downed tree. I stopped and I broke it off in bits so the next rider can clean the section without a hike-a-bike. That was some work!

But the best- the weirdest, and funniest part came right near the end of the ride. I was going through some twisty bits when I spied an immature squirrel. It did the usual "can not decide which way to scurry" dance for a moment or two, then it darted like lightning to my left as I came speeding by. I saw a small tree and unconsciously wrote off ever seeing that squirrel again. But.....

Suddenly I see a flying furball coming from my upper left. It is the squirrel! The dang critter hits the back of my right hand and I instinctively flick the crazed critter off with a backhand move and the animal cartwheels through the air to a surmised rough landing.

I didn't stop to see. I gave a hoot and a hearty laugh and figured I was lucky to come out of that without a scratch. Too bad I didn't have a video rolling. That would have made me a You Tube hero for sure, for what that is worth. What a great ending to a fun ride!