Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday News And Views

5 Retro-tastic Ideas That Should Never Go Away, Or Should Come Back: 
  1. Quick release rear wheels on hard tail mountain bikes: The industry is going whole hog for 142mm X 12mm  rear through axles on hard tail mountain bikes. Really? Does anyone truly believe their current hard tail is laterally flexy to the point that a through axle rear wheel will help fix that on their next bike? I get the idea for a full suspension rig, but this hard tail, through axle idea is dumb. We do not need it.
  2. Square Tapered Crank Sets That Are Not For Rando Bikes: In the world of cycling, there hasn't been a component much better than the cartridge square tapered bottom bracket. (I have several 1990's era Shimano BB's that are still spinning strong) You can still buy nice UN series cartridge BB's from Shimano to this very day. However; there aren't any really nice crank sets to go with them. How about someone out there getting the old original XTR crank dies and making them again? Tell me you wouldn't look real hard at a Race Face Turbine LP with a square tapered interface if they were to make those again. And even the roadies could stand some of those old Record and Dura Ace beauties that were so classy.
  3. European Bottom Brackets: While we're on the subject of cranks and bottom bracket cartridges, how about those good old threaded Euro bottom brackets? PF-30? BB-Whatchamacallit? Whatever! Keep yer mitts offa the bottom bracket stuff and stop enginerding something that works just fine, thank you very much.
  4. Really Nice Steel Frames: While we are blessed to still have some choices, (especially custom, or small mass produced run options), there is a distinct lack of really freakin' rad TIG welded steel frames out there these days. I was reminded of such as I worked on a mid-90's mid-range Univega Alpina 500 at the shop the other day. It had double butted tubes, bi-axially squished joints in key spots, and a cool chain stay set up for maximum mud clearances. It even had a chain hangar. Yeah.....we've got steel frames, but the same ol' boring, round tubed fare, and heavier than sin, most often than not. (Yeah...CEN standards, blah,blah,blah....  These 90's frames are still kickin' around, ya know?)
  5. Skin Wall MTB Tires: Okay- this is a personal favorite of mine, but I loved the look of old skool mtb tires. I miss skin walls. I see some Onza, and maybe WTB tires, but they are rare as hen's teeth. Maybe I'm an odd one out here, but give me some good lookin' high end skinwall tires on dark colored frames, (TIG welded steel, of course.) Man! That's a good look right there. (And while we're at it, how about some re-issue Endomorphs with skin walls, eh?)
And that's a wrap for today. Hey! The 3GR will be happening Saturday at 8:30am starting at the Gateway Park lot in Cedar Falls. Hope to see some folks there. It'll be a good, warm one!

Otherwise have a safe, fun, and bicycle filled Labor Day Weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Plans To Go: Part IV- Fire!

Moments before a near catastrophe occurred!
Okay, things are starting to come to a head here with regard to making a stab at a sub-24 over-nighter. I had the Guinness last weekend, (it was merely okay, there are much better stouts out there), and along with a Diet Coke can, I had the stove done in amazingly little time.

The parts fit together as if they were meant to be used as a stove. I modified the plan a touch by leaving the top in the base, which makes the unit a bit more rigid and gives it more mass to absorb heat. The end product is pretty solid and you could bash it around a bit and I think it would be none the worse for wear. Quite unlike my first stove attempt, by the way, which was really fragile, in my opinion.

So, you guys that are "fire bugs" will enjoy this- it was time to fire this dog up and see just what it would do. I researched fuels a bit, and Heet in the yellow container was a recommended fuel, so I grabbed a container at the convenience store. A scrap of the first stove attempt made for a perfect wind screen. I fabbed a very quick and rather shoddy pot stand out of stainless steel spokes and went outside to try it all out.

I had a stainless steel container meant for mixing martinis and filled it a third of the way with water. I filled the stove with Heet and lit that candle. Holy cow! The heat generated was instantaneous and immediately warped the wind screen. I thought it was going to actually melt there for a second. The heat was intense, I could feel wafts of it as the afternoon was quite windy out.

In my fervor to play with fire, I took a big chance using zip ties to bind the pot stand together. It held weight just fine, that wasn't where I failed. It was the intensity of the heat which I hadn't figured on that did me in. Moments after this image was shot the stainless steel canister fell over because the pot stand zip ties were melting. Duh! I know.....but I was in an excited hurry, and I figured it wasn't going to work this well! 

In fact, this stove is amazing. It went on burning for well over a half an hour. I easily could have made a dinner with the thing. So- now that I have that behind me, I just need to get a decent pot stand together using wire, and I'm set.  I do have some concerns though.

The major one is that the flames from the stove are completely invisible. I couldn't see them in daylight, at any rate. I have a remedy for that though, and I will report on that after I have revisited some old knowledge I have.

Okay, so that's the stove! One more bit checked off the list. Oh yeah.....still have not found that cook set. Ya know- the minute I buy another one, I'll find the original. Oh well.......

Note: Here is the link for the stove plans I used, if anyone is interested. Thanks Jonathan!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Move Over 26"ers- Here Comes The 27.5"ers

Continental Announces 27.5"er tires at Eurobike '12
Back when 29"ers were a niche, (remember that?), there was a lot of comment made from different sources about how 29"ers would one day wipe out 26"ers and how 26"ers would never go away by others. What they all didn't know was that 26"ers maybe were going away, but not because of 29"ers, no- it was another tire size that would be proposed as the replacement for the "standard" 26 inch wheel mtb.

I've already pontificated on this subject here. But I'll make a few more observations based upon what is happening right now in Europe at the annual Eurobike show.

First- I never thought 27.5"ers were "the best of both 26 and 29 inch attributes", although you'll hear that a lot from the marketing wonks moving forward. 27.5"ers are different, but they can not do near what a 29"er can do. In fact, this is something of an issue for marketers, who feel that once 27.5"er product gets out there, it won't impress the 29"er folks, and won't get much traction there. Of course, this is why the 27.5"er will be heavily invested into over in Europe. There 29"ers are still very new, not entrenched, and marketers feel that the 27.5"er, being less of a jump from 26", has a better chance of becoming "the next big thing".

Tires, wheels, and forks are all going to be unleashed this very week at Eurobike to prove my point here. Brands will also introduce new 27.5"er bikes, (mostly in the longer travel categories, which are selling flat of late), which will further the reach for this wheel size.

Rocky Mountain recently intro'ed a whole new line of 27.5"ers
But what will become of 26"? Many see the 27.5"er as a replacement, more having to do with that it is "new" and has a "new story to tell" behind it than anything else. But be that as it may, the industry would love nothing more than to make your current AM/FR/DH sled obsolete. You know what they would have in store for you to replace that "aging 26"er platform" with too.

In the end, as I have always said, the riders will vote with their dollars, as long as there is a choice. That seems to be the case as long as the "Big Three", (Giant, Specialized, and Trek), don't capitulate and in one fell swoop, relegate 26 inch wheels to the dustbin of mtb history. Will that happen? Not anytime soon, that's for sure.

For now this will be an experiment for mid-level companies looking to capitalize on a "new trend" that they may have missed out on, (read: 29 inch wheels), last time. Make no mistake- this is an exercise in marketing, and we'll see if it pans out in the long run.

How can I say this? Well, 27.5"ers have been around at retail stores since 2007, and they haven't done diddly squat in the marketplace. That's six years ago in model year terms. Six years into the 29"er becoming available at retail stores the wheel size was well on its way to becoming more than a niche. All without marketing driven hoo-ha. (In fact, marketing departments resisted 29"ers like the plague in the early years, for the most part.)

Want another example? Try fat bikes, which have had little to no industry horsepower behind them, yet are a growing segment that shows no sign of stopping yet. Why? Because these are rider driven demand products, not "top down" marketed platforms. Again- I am not saying 27.5"ers will not be any good. No- this has to do with marketing. Maybe it'll work, but I haven't seen this sort of success in a product category in my years in the cycling business. That's what I am saying.

Again- I may well eat my words here, and that is fine, but I do not think 26"ers are going anywhere soon. But the mtb segment will have to make some room for these upstart 27.5"ers at any rate, whatever you may think of them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Discussion On Suspension: Fat Bikes

Yesterday I discussed my thoughts and gave some background on what may make an "all-road"/ gravel road bike better when you consider tires and other means of suspension. Today I am going to turn my focus on suspension to another area where common sense seems to dictate that suspension isn't necessary- that being on fat bikes.

Suspension is rarely seen as a foolish thing on mountain bikes, but fat bikes seem to have "built in" suspension in their tires, so why on earth would anyone want to use suspension here? That and the typical low speed travel these bikes seem best for doesn't really call out for a squishy solution to rider comfort and control.

Of course, that has not prevented the tinkerers and visionaries from trying it anyway. Following are some ideas to consider when it comes to fat bikes and suspension.

While it is true that the pneumatic suspension available from using a 3.8-4.7 inch tire on a bicycle is plenty for most, there are times when suspension would be nice. Why? Well, the number one reason would have to do with damping the tires proclivity to bounce. Take any bicycle wheel out of a frame, and drop it from a foot or more in the air on the tire. You know what will happen. The wheel will bounce a few times wildly and careen out of control to the ground. This is because the energy caused by dropping the wheel against the ground is returned and until that energy is dissipated, or damped, it will bounce around out of control. Fat bike tires like to bounce. A lot. Especially when you add in speed to the equation with successive bumps.  

And the speeds do not have to be high for this to occur. Take for instance the image here which shows some severely post-holed snow. This stuff was pretty rough to ride through, making control harder to maintain, even though it wasn't frozen solid, and I was going at walking speeds. A supple front fork would have tamed the bigger hits and jarring, making keeping control and maintaining speed much easier.

Outside the box.
 Now consider that fat bikes are also being pressed into service as all terrain vehicles. The wide footprint these tires lend a rider mean more traction. More traction means you can go even faster, and with no suspension on most fat bikes, the bouncing, undamped tires become uncontrollable very quickly at these sort of speeds in off road conditions.

I was feeling this just yesterday on my Mukluk. I have 4.7" Big Fat Larrys on Rolling Darryls at less than 10psi, and hitting some ruts induced some serious arm pump to keep the front tire in contact with the trail. A suspension fork would have saved me from absorbing those impacts, giving me more control and expending less energy.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. I have not had the opportunity to ride a fat bike with suspension, but I have spoken with a few people who have done so, and I have read others take on it on-line. The overwhelming majority of those who have tried it say something similar to what I was told recently by someone whose opinion I trust: ", (fat bike suspension), is game changing."  And if this is true, it will be akin to what happened when off roaders went suspended in the early 90's.

There will be detractors, and those who will cry foul, but I think in the end it will happen and become accepted. Rigid fat bikes will never go away, especially those aimed at the fullest amount of flotation on sand or snow. With the ever widening field of play for fat bikes; however, I can see a front suspension fork coming sooner than later that will accommodate wide tires and rims.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Discussion on Suspension: Gravel Bikes

Hey there! Hope you all had a great weekend. Today I'm kicking off a two part series on suspension. Today's discussion will focus on suspension for the gravel road rider.

Suspension can be derived in two different ways for anyone on a bicycle. First is pneumatic- suspension from the tires. The other way is to use a mechanical means to absorb vibrations, either passively, by way of frame flex or component flex, or by an active, purposeful means involving some form of moving parts.

Either way, absorbing vibrations is the order of the day. Vibrations are important to consider, because if the energy causing the rider to feel vibrations is not absorbed by the tires, frame, or a passive/active mechanical means, then the rider has to absorb those vibrations which eventually can cause fatigue, numbness, and other issues.

It's not just about width, it's about volume.
Without getting overly technical here, I want to explore why a rider on gravel roads would want to consider suspension. Obviously- everybody is going to run tires, so let's start there.

Tires are essentially air springs. Whether you choose tubed, tubeless, or tubulars, your tires are springs that can be adjusted. Furthermore, the tire casing, tube, (if any), and tread pattern also affect the way the "spring" will work.

Springs can be stiff, soft, linear, or they can "ramp up" in spring rate quickly due to volume available and/or tire pressures used. You as a rider can greatly affect the ride quality of your bicycle in a number of ways by your tire choices and tire pressures that you choose.  Go to a higher pressure and you get a stiffer spring rate. Use a lower volume/narrower tire and you may also have to move pressures higher and the volume of that tire will affect the ramping up of the spring rate as well.

Typically, you would not want to run maximum pressures as rated on a tire on rough roads because this affects how your tires can absorb vibrations. Higher pressures in tires make vibrations that the tire could normally absorb go past the tires and into the frame/rider.Likewise, the narrower/lower volume your tires are also affects the way you can adjust your spring rate, (ie; tire pressure), and this may affect your ride quality. Finally, things like frame clearances, terrain demands, rider weight, tire construction, and more will start to narrow down choices.

If you don't remember anything else though, remember this- a tire with a reasonable amount of air, but still at a point where it can conform to road irregularities, will be faster and provide more rider comfort and control than a tire at maximum, or close to that, pressures. (I would only add that a higher volume tire provides the rider with a wider range of adjustability in this respect.) A tire at higher pressures has to bounce up and over trail/road irregularities instead of conforming to, and rolling over them. Those little bounces have to be absorbed, and don't forget- overcome by- the rider. Yes, higher pressures result in more rolling resistance on rough roads.

The smoothest line is less fatiguing
 Obviously, tires should be a component of your ride that you pay close attention to. Especially on the longer events. They are your first, (and in most cases- only), line of defense against vibrations that can steal away your energy, cause you to be slower, and possibly cause longer lasting side effects like numbness or other physical maladies. Not only that, but a wider, more voluminous tire can also ward off pinch flats that would otherwise cause a skinnier tire to flat. Spend less time fixing flats, or use a tire that is lighter, but may flat more often. Oh the decisions!

Mechanical Suspension: Oddly enough, mountain bikers would never think twice about accepting the benefits of suspension, yet gravel/back road/rough road riders almost never consider such things. Too heavy? Too complex? Not worth the trouble? At one time, the answer to these questions was no. The proving ground was the cobbles of Europe, specifically the course of Paris-Roubaix.

Early 90's road suspension bike
Many folks may remember Rock Shox foray into the realm of road bike suspension. The overgrown Mag 21 specimen was called the "Ruby", and was actually used to win Paris-Roubaix. Many say Greg LeMond was at the fore front of the use of a suspended road bike for these cobbled races.

Probably the most outlandish example of suspended road bike design has to be the Bianchi piloted by Johan Museeuw at Paris-Roubaix, which you can read all about here. Said to have cost $20,000.00 to produce, the bike did not reach the final desired result when a flat tire ended Museeuw's chances near the end of the course.

So much for road bike full suspension, right? Well, the idea has not gone away entirely. Just take a look at Trek's Domane bike which has already won events like Strade Bianchi, a stage in this year's Tour de France, and most recently won at Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Domane takes a subtler approach than the overtly suspended bikes from the early to mid-90's, and hides the suspended component for the most part at the junction of the seat tube and top tube. (Which are in fact, decoupled) The fork is made to flex more, and in so doing this, Trek has retained a traditional look to the road bike, at a fantastic light weight, without resorting to an offensive assault on the eyes and sensitivities to bicycle overall weight.

Is there a place for such a beast on the dusty gravel roads? Is it even necessary to go that far with suspension, or are voluminous tires enough? It'll be interesting to see if folks can even envision needing such a device, much less having the option.

Okay, tomorrow I will explore the opposite end of the spectrum regarding suspension with fat bikes.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

3GR Report: Birds Of Prey

Ron making a dramatic point to Mike. Craig on the Right.
Once again, the 3GR was on a day with a good chance for rain. However; we didn't experience any of the wet stuff on our outing. This time we had Ron, Mike, and Craig along for the 8:30-ish start.

The weather was fine, low wind, sunny, but not too hot or humid. The shadows are getting longer at the start though, so you can tell summer is fading quickly into fall.

Things of note: The corn- if it wasn't already totally burned up by the sun, is very quickly turning brown now. I suspect the fields will be totally dried down by mid-September, and the harvesting should commence soon. I can't remember a summer and now going into fall where things were like this.

Then there is the gravel. It was noted and agreed upon by the riders that the gravel appears to be breaking down further, as in the base for the road- like it is turning to powder. The roads showed a lot of sections where the gravel had lost its hard pack nature and was getting deeper with dust and finer gravel. It has been one of the dustiest gravel seasons that I can remember.

A Hawk silhouetted on top of a pole.
This will affect Trans Iowa V9 if it continues to be a season of fall and winter with little precipitation. Just how it will affect it, I am not certain now. Heck- how would I know? I've never seen anything quite like this before.

Craig suddenly called out that he had a flat tire. So, we all stopped and gathered round as Mike and Craig began to take things apart and replace the tube Craig had in the front tire. I loaned Craig my Blackburn frame pump, vintage 1996, and it made short work of the airing up of the new tube. Meanwhile, Mike looked a bit puzzled as he examined the old tube.

Apparently, it was decided that the tube wasn't actually flat, but the removable valve core had loosened. No worries. We were chatting and being entertained by two hawks that were screeching up a storm. We surmised that there may be a nest there and that there may be little ones.

We got going again, but it wasn't but a mile or two when Ron announced he was peeling off and heading back to Cedar Falls. We bid him adieu, and then we made our way over to our South-bound turn and into the roller section of the route.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. We rode back up the rollers at an ever increasing pace, as if unsaid words were spoken that provoked us to race to the crest of each successive hill top. Then we rolled back in on the busy bike path and to the coffee shop. The coffee shop was super busy too. We could barely get inside to get some of the black goodness.

Things are going to get dicy for the 3GR in September. Here is the lowdown- Next Saturday is on Labor Day Weekend, and there will be a ride at the regular time and place. On September 22nd, there will be no 3GR on Saturday morning. I am going to attend the Moonshine Metric on Saturday night. (As long as my flight back from Interbike successfully lands me back in Iowa on Friday!) Anyway, you should consider riding in this too. It is a fun, laid back, all night time gravel road ride.

Then on September 29th, I am slating another fat bike 3GR. So put that on yer calendars!

Oh- and by the way, it did end up raining in the afternoon, which we desperately needed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

More Thoughts From The Salsa Demo

Vaya Travel: Stainless Steel
When I was going to the Carver Lake Salsa Cycles Demo Tour stop, I was asked a couple of times about which bike I was most excited about checking out. Neither time did I even answer that question, because, honestly, I didn't have a particular bike in mind.

I knew I needed to take a good, hard look at the Warbird, and I was curious about the Beargrease. I was also interested in the Vaya Travel, and the new Mukluks. But to pick one bike I was excited about?

I couldn't.

So it is now. I wasn't blown away overwhelmingly by any single model. That isn't to say I wasn't impressed, because I was. I've spouted off enough about the Warbird already, so here are some brief thoughts on the other rigs I was curious about.

Vaya Travel: I called this "...possibly the most interesting bike Salsa has made in a while.", and I stand behind that statement. Others are being wowed by the Warbird, or maybe the Colossal, but for me, this rig is outstanding. Stainless steel is much like titanium. Hard to work with, doesn't need a finish other than bare metal, and is pretty light. That right there is pretty cool. But for my money, the Altenator drop outs, (which should be on Fargos and all Vayas, as far as I am concerned), makes this especially interesting. I've seen my fair share of busted derailleurs on back roads, way more than I have mountain biking, and being able to single speed yourself out of a disaster is a good thing. Plus, you can run single speed on purpose, which I probably would on this bike. Add the S&S couplers and this just gets better. A negative: The Vaya I hefted at the demo, (they didn't have one big enough for me to ride), was disappointingly heavy, but it still looks like a great SS gravel rig to my eyes.

Muk 2 for 2013

 I like what Salsa did with the new Mukluks. 44mm head tube, Altenators, and nice crank sets that will work well on fat bikes in all gear combos.

I must say that when I saw the catalog pic of the Muk 2 in white with green and black I was let down. That is until I actually saw one. I am still not 100% down with the green rims, but the rest of it has grown on me to the point that it has bumped the needle off "Ugly" for me to "Okay".

It's pretty obvious that Salsa sees the fat bike as more than a snow/sand machine by the specs for the new models. No Grip Shift or thumbies here. Nope! It's traditional trigger shifting  which will definitely work better when doing mountain type cycling than the Grip Shift or thumbies, which work great under pogies in the cold. (Although I happen to be just fine with Grip Shift off road.)

Off road performance is also hinted at by the choice of hydraulic disc brakes and Nate 3.8"er tires. Grip and stopping power for fast off road action and climbing traction. Yes- they will work in the snow, but these items are not geared toward the snow factor so much.

Muk 3 in green for 2013
The Mukluk 3 gets two color choices for 2013, and I immediately loved the orange, but that color is great on almost any bicycle. The green rendering I first saw left me flat.

When I laid eyes on it at the demo I was blown away though. "Flat" indeed! The color is a flat green and looks killer. It went from being one of what I thought was a questionable choice by Salsa to an awesome one. I mean, who doesn't get the "military" angle here with regard to running over stuff with those knobbly Nates?

The spec on the Muk 3's is really good this year too. These will be a great value for a fat bike in 2013. Better crank sets, better cable routing, and the aforementioned frame attributes make this a better Mukluk than any before it. The Snow Dog is jealous for sure!

I haven't mentioned the Ti Muk because it will be exactly the same as last year, only offered in a complete though, and there will be limited numbers of these as well. Hmm.....makes one wonder what is around the corner for a Muk ti bike.....

Beargrease in pieces
 Of course, the most amazing new bike, to my mind, is the Beargrease. It comes with a really decent, solid spec, but the overall weight of this package is what will open a lot of folks eyes. Fat bikes have been known to not only have "fat" tires, but porky complete weights as well. It was considered the price you paid for flotation.

Not anymore!

This bike is incredibly light for a bike of this class. I hefted Salsa Cycles' employee, Bobby's bike, and my jaw hit the pavement. The thing is stupid light for a mountain bike with fat, fat tires. Seriously- there are stock single speed rigid 29"ers that weigh more than a Beargrease.

No- it doesn't have any rack mounts, no extra mounts on the all new aluminum fork, and no Altenator drop outs either, but for those who were thinking these bikes were porkers and they'd never ride one, you may want to take a close look at a Beargrease. Well- that is if you get a chance. My feeling is that these will fly out of shops faster than you might think. Fat bike guys and gals will be hip to this and those sitting on the sidelines kicking tires will be left wondering what the fuss is about. You heard it here first. I wouldn't fudge around if you think you want to check one of these out. Okay, I'll say this then stop- 28.5lbs complete. And that could be lowered more easily.

And those were the highlights. I also was found ogling the Spearfish 2, the Horsethief 1, and I was trying to get myself to like the brown Fargo 2, but I just can't. I just do not go for brown unless it is a really rich, dark hue, or has something like a bass boat sparkle to kick it into high gear. Meh! At least the Fargo 3 will be a nice blue.

But who am I kidding? The titanium Fargo is the only one I would seriously consider getting anyway!

And that' a wrap on the demo and my trip to the Twin Cities. Thanks to John, Aaron, Ben, Meg, Jason, Justin, Eric, and everyone else that made the weekend special.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday News And Views

Getting Ready To Go Update: 

Well, here is the latest on the bikepacking set up. I got some dry bags for my sleeping bag, ground cloth, and sleeping pad. The bonus thing here is that the tent has its own dry bag, so I didn't need one for it, but just in case I ever get another tent, or go to a tarp, I purchased an extra dry bag.

Another thing I noted was that the lateral dry bag has loops where I could stash poles for a tarp in the future, which is nice. 

Next on the "to-do list". Find my cooking set. I know I have one, still in the box for a tour to New Orleans which never happened. Gotta track that down. I also fabbed up a stove, but since then I have seen another design I like better. It requires a Guinness can. Oh....I suppose I could force myself to get one of those! 

The dry bag on the bars is resting mostly on the brake lever master cylinders. Not an ideal situation, but the bag is light. I may let that go for now, but ideally I will probably get into a Minimalist rack for the fork. (My other bike I would use this on has plenty of room for the bag on the handle bars.)

I scouted out a place to do the S24O on Wednesday. I saw three good, out of the way, remote, (as remote as one can get here), spots. One borders on a bit of Cedar River backwater and would be awesome from a "view" angle, but I won't be too picky. At least one of these three will work, and all are within a mile of each other.

And In This Corner....

I also am getting this cute little chrome number for another project. This is a "Pass Hunter" rack from Velo Orange I have something else coming that goes onto this rack, but that will have to wait for a bit.

Oddly enough, I will not be "pass hunting" with this rack, but I will be hunting something else.  That would have to do with Trans Iowa V9 . I plan on getting this mounted and with the "other component" I will be getting, they will help with a long ride or two that I have planned to scout out the Trans Iowa V9 route.

We'll see how that turns out, and of course, a full report will follow. I am pretty stoked about the T.I.V9 route so far. I have things pretty firmed up as far as exact routing goes for the first third of the course. That could change, of course, depending upon what I find out there, but I am pretty hopeful there will be little if any trouble.

In other T.I.V9 news, I've got the request in to the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce's Sheryl Parmley and things should start happening later this year with regard to news on that front, but suffice it to say that they are pretty happy about our coming back again.

2013 Salsa Mukluk 2
A Dilemma:

A couple of years ago, some dear friends went way out of their way to hook me up with a 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk frame and fork. I ride that bike regularly, and I love it. However; those dastardly folks at Salsa don't sleep until they have improved upon a design, or so it would seem. Here we have a new 2013 example of a Mukluk. You may not see much of anything different here. Trust me- much has changed! 

I happen to like the 44mm head tube, the new Altenator drop outs, and ability to run a slightly shorter or longer wheel base with those Altenators than I can now. I don't like that my current Muk, The Snow Dog, is a special gift and replacing it with an "upgrade" seems kind of unsavory to my sense of sentimentality and loyalty.  


Well, we're getting some of these Mukluks into the shop soon, and I will have to decide what to do. I do know that black with purple decals on the frame set only choice will be hard to resist!

3GR: I'll be at Gateway Park again at 8:30am to get some gravel on. Hope some of you can join in on the fun. Should be a good time.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ride Impressions: Salsa Cycles Warbird

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Okay, let's start out with some pertinent links for some perspective here: My initial reaction to the Salsa Cycles Warbird is here: My take on a gravel road rig- Musings On A Gravel Road Bike will give you some back ground on my position on what I feel makes a good gravel road bike. Okay, so with that, let's dive in...

This is not a review: I don't believe that ride tests, demos, or whatever you want to call them are in any way, shape, or form a "review" of a bicycle or component. This is merely more of an impression of mine regarding this Warbird rig. Want a review? See the guy that has ridden the bike in the heat of a race, or done significant time with a component for a long time, (my thinking is more than a couple months), and get his take. Obviously, there are very few that can say this about a Warbird now, and they are all Salsa Cycles sponsored riders and employees. (Not that they wouldn't know, but.....) I don't typically ever do a review here. I will give my opinion though. You may find something different, but be that as it may....

E-Fred's personal Ti Warbird (Note: Not to spec)
 Titanium Warbird:

I had the brief privilege of seeing a titanium Warbird prototype up close and in actual use at last spring's Trans Iowa V8. John Gorilla was the rider, and he let me take it for a parking lot spin at the finish line.

I kept that under my hat, as anything other than how it looked would have been speculation at the time being it wasn't known publicly how the bike would be positioned or spec'ed. But now I can say more, having actually ridden one on trails and on some pavement.

The Warbird I rode was a bike belonging to Salsa Cycles' Eric Fredrickson, or "E-Fred". The bike does not have the spec wheel set or fork, just so you know. (The fork is a Whiskey carbon number, as I was told.) E-Fred picked the 58cm size for his bike, which, for a 58, is quite rangy, even without the long tiller E-Fred uses. Note the seat height in the image which shows little post. That's 31" from the BB spindle to the top of the saddle for reference. The Warbird has a taller head tube, so the nearly slammed stem wasn't an issue at all from my view. I could make this size work easily with a zero offset post, centered saddle on the rails, and a shorter stem, but Salsa's next size down is a 56cm, which would look more "normal". Salsa went for a big main triangle to fit frame bags better, and to allow for easier portaging, when necessary. (More on that in a moment.)

Chain stay clearance with a Clement X'Plor MSO tire

A note on tire clearances: I made the comment early on that I felt the clearances for the Warbird marginalized the bike for a certain segment of the gravel riding fans out there. Let me say up front that I haven't been convinced otherwise. Salsa claims clearances for up to a 38mm tire, and I feel that is a very fair assessment of what you can expect to fit any Warbird- aluminum or Ti- that you see.

We had the chance to swap a Vaya Travel's wheels, shod with Clement's X'Plor MSO 40mm tires, (claimed width, actual width is slightly narrower), into the titanium Warbird and the fork, (remember- it was a Whiskey fork, not the Enve as spec'ed), cleared the tire fine, but the chainstays were tighter. Probably an okay set up for dry conditions, but obviously, not optimal for wet/mud. Well, take a look and judge for yourself.

Nuff said about that....

Ride Impression: The Warbird in titanium is a bit more like riding a steel bike than a titanium one. Salsa managed to make the titanium feel racy, not noodly, and for all out gravel assaults, you should find a solid feeling bottom bracket, but no "zing" in the seat stays that speaks of harshness. Despite the rangy frame, the front felt well composed, and even throwing it around the tight single track of Carver Lake didn't show up any flexiness, vagueness, or funny handling quirks. The geometry is really good for gravel, I think, and the Warbird is a stable feeling bike at speed and in the tight twisties, (likely where most folks won't ride it, but it holds its own there.) On the right course, a set of supple 32's at a sub 100psi pressure likely would feel like a magic carpet ride.

The ride positioning is race-like, but again, the tall head tube will preclude any Euro-racer boy extreme saddle to handle bar drop set ups unless you size down in frame size. That's as it should be anyway for gravel racing, and especially for longer events.The big triangle will certainly leave room for a Tangle Bag and bottle cages. Some have made a stink about the under the top tube cable routing making portaging painful. Well, I don't see a ton of that going on anyway, so I think it is a bit of a moot point here.

Warbird in aluminum
A Note On The Aluminum Warbird: Much of what I have written will transfer right over here to the aluminum model, but the ride feel is different. The aluminum Warbird was definitely stiffer feeling. Some may be looking for the efficient feeling, racy, no compromise transfer of power to the rear wheels and the Aluminum Warbird feels like "that bike" in spades. Tire choice and presure may mitigate that to a degree, but for those looking for a less sharp feeling ride, I would suggest the titanium bike over the aluminum one. I rode a smaller sized Warbird to get a feeling for fit here as well, and although I could have made it work, for gravel I would opt for the longer, rangier frame every time.

My Take: The Warbird is exactly as advertised- a mean, nasty gravel race bike, the likes of which hasn't been unleashed upon the public before. My feeling is the geometry is dialed, the execution is excellent, details abound which show Salsa has listened to gravel racers, but only on tire clearances has the Warbird maybe fallen a bit short. If you don't ever see the need for any tire bigger than a 35mm, then take a good hard look at this bike for gravel racing and training.

What would I like to see different? Obviously my take on tire clearances has been beaten to death, but besides that, how about a steel framed version of this?

Note: Thanks to Salsa Cycles and their employees at Carver Lake for the demo and information used in this post.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just A Little Trip: Part III

More two-track
Jason led us onward and I think that guy knows every stretch of two-track, minimum maintenance, and grass back road in the Dakota and Rice County vicinity.  At least he was stringing together a worthy ride of them on Monday.

He was telling Ben and I that we were going to try and ride to a road Jason thought I hadn't been on yet. We worked our way down some two-track and gravel that Jason reminded me I had been on last in 2010 on the Fargo Adventure Ride. I had a vague memory of some of it, and some was utterly foreign to me now, even though I believe Jason when he said I had been there before.

I can not stress enough how nice the day was. Low humidity, pleasant temperatures, light breezes, and abundant sunshine were the order of the day. How could you not want to just keep on pedaling? Ben was kind of egging Jason on in regard to his later plans and teasing him to stick with the bike riding, but Jason was adamant that he had a busy schedule later and could not ride for much longer.

Well, we still had that mysterious stretch of road to find yet, and we were miles from Farmington, so I wasn't too worried about things stopping too soon. 


Unfortunately, things changed abruptly not much afterward. Jason suggested a turn off onto some grassy two-track alongside a gravel road which went up a long, steady grade. I was third wheel, right behind Ben, when I noted a few branches in our path. As Ben hit these one of them went right up into his SRAM derailleur and whacked it into two bits while shearing the derailleur hangar. Ben tried to stop when he realized what was happening, but it was too late. Fortunately I was able to twitch my Fargo off his line enough to only brush his shoulder as I went by him to his right.

Okay, now we were in a pickle! Ben had to try to single speed his rig, but there was no good "magic" gear, and the attempt failed after only a few pedal strokes. Ben was beside himself with frustration, as you would imagine. Jason realized his plans were altered, not by a desire to ride more, but by a desire to help Ben out of the countryside. Me? Well, I was wondering how far we were going to have to push Ben back to town.

Ben thought he would scooter it back, or run for a bit, but that didn't take long to play itself out. Finally Jason convinced him we were going to push him all the way back to Farmington.

We got yer back Ben!
It had been 15 or 16 years ago, but I remember getting pushed out of Geo Wyth after whacking an XC Pro derailleur once. It isn't easy being the one getting pushed. You have to be really calm and stable on your bike, and you lose an amazing amount of stability when the chain is gone.

I was a pusher this time though, and Jason ended up taking Ben's right side while I pushed on the left side. Eventually we found pavement, which made the job easier, and what is more- the paved road had a generous, wide shoulder. Bonus!

We executed a perfect switch over- Jason trading sides with me, without skipping a beat and Ben never lost much momentum at all. It was almost like a Madison event. We laughed at what the drivers in cars and trucks must have thought as they saw three grown men in what looked like an embrace as we rode three abreast. Well, eventually we got about seven miles  of pushing in and we were back in Farmington once again.

Then it was decision time for us. What would the next few hours hold? Lunch plans were discussed, and possibilities weighed, but in the end, Jason had to get on a conference call, so Ben and I departed and went in search of Carter Lake and the Salsa Cycles demo that would take place later that day.

Lunch somewhere in South St. Paul
Ben was a bit off track when he suddenly slowed and said, "We're eating here!" It turned out he had also been a bit lost at one time with his wife, and they had happened upon this very same cafe.

Well, the grub was fantastic. I wish I could recommend you to this joint, but all I know was that I was in South Saint Paul, Minnesota.

It was really good hot ham and cheese though. You should eat there.

At any rate, then we went onward towards Carter Lake. After going round about due to a detour, we found the spot and we beat the Salsa demo truck there by about 20 minutes. Eventually we helped get them set up, and I did my business while Ben hung out and helped get folks set up for rides.

Ben and I finally bailed out of there by about 6-ish and promptly got turned around trying to leave the Twin Cities. After getting back on track, we then nearly got taken out by traffic three times before turning off the main highway onto a county blacktop headed back to Northfield. I pretty much left for home immediately upon our return from Carter Lake and did the three hour ride back to where I belong.

What a great getaway for a couple of days. It was fantastic to see friends again I rarely get to see, and I cherished each and every moment. Thanks to everyone, you know who you are!

For more on the bikes at the demo, stay tuned....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just A Little Trip: Part II

Barns With Jason, (and Ben!)
I awoke in a chilly room on Monday morning in Northfield, Minnesota and readied myself for what was supposed to be one of the Jason/Ben gravel rides out of Farmington, Minnesota. Ben hadn't gotten up yet, so I sat down and read an old "Adventure Journal" by Salsa Cycles which had a reference to an old GTDRI in it. I hadn't ever known of the existence of this tiny pamphlet before, but it was cool to run across it. It was good inspiration for the day.

Ben did emerge from his slumber and we took off to go get some grub at The Tavern restaurant in downtown Northfield. I had the Tavern Special, as did Ben. Good grub for a day of gravel grinding should include bacon, so I had that with my meal! After this, we headed to Farmington to, (where else!), a coffee shop to hook up with Jason. (The same Jason I post barns for.) We caught up on a few things, then we hit the road. 

Things had indeed started out chilly, but were warming up quite nicely, and there was nary a cloud to be found in the bright blue sky of the morning. It doesn't get much better than it was that day!

Jason was in charge of navigation, and he was steering us over toward "U-More", which is an interesting area owned by the University of Minnesota and has the ruins of an old WWII facility on its grounds, not to mention many fantastic double track roads and gravel.

But before we got there we went through many tree lined roads near the Vermillion Wildlife Area which were really awesome to behold in the dappled sunlight. I didn't keep track, but I think we spotted at least 4 big hawks in this area which were close enough to really get a good look at.

You could tell you were riding amongst good friends, as Jason and Ben were chatting up a storm as we motored along at 15-17 mph. This area is kind of odd in that you have what seems like miles of dead flat road and then suddenly you find yourself grunting against the onset of rollers with steep slopes that appear out of nowhere. Added with the frequent turns in the tree lined grid of roads and it was almost bewildering to me as I wasn't really paying attention to where we were going for the first several miles.

An example of the ruins on U-More land
We were merrily riding along with little regard to time or purpose until Jason started to become a bit concerned about a potential missed turn. It turned out he was a bit premature in his anticipation of the somewhat hidden turnoff, since we eventually came upon it.

It turned out to be an old service road of some sort, paved in a narrow cement with weeds rising in ever higher ranks on either side. In the shadows and riot of wilderness one could spy the ruins of what, none of us could fathom. They were rather odd structures from the WWII era. Surely someone knows of their past purpose, but at any rate, it remains a mystery to me. I imagine a moonlit night ride would feel a bit spooky out here!

After this we found some of the old route of the original Fargo Adventure Ride. Then they were dirt two track, but now they are gravel. Jason told us that the U of M is to make the area a "model community" featuring sustainable solutions for living. It seems all that gravel and dirt two track is destined to be paved at some point, which only made this ride more special to my mind.

Stay tuned for Part III tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just A Little Trip

Well, here is what I've been up to on Sunday: Played my guitar at church for the band through a Vox AC30 CC2 that I'm demoing to see if I want to buy it. Then I headed home, had a quick lunch, and made my way through some scattered showers to Northfield, Minnesota.

I hooked up with Ben and his wife, ate at Tokyo Grill, (mmmm sushi!), and then Ben and I went for an early evening cruise in a restored, red on red, early sixties Mercury Comet convertible. Top down, heater on, since it was in the low 60's out in the country!

Then we repaired to Ben's place, had a "Last Judgment" brew, and another one called something, something blonde. Can't remember now since the Last Judgment brew was 10%. Oh well.

Then we gabbed, had some homemade chicken noodle soup, gabbed some more, and then I hit the hay. All that to say that by the time morning is over, I'll have had 20 miles of gravel and will be heading out for lunch, then to the Salsa Cycles demo at Carter Lake.

A full report will be forthcoming. Stay tuned......Until then, "Goof Off Mode": ON!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

3GR Report- August Daze

That's Ron on his C'dale.
August- The "Dog Days", they say. Usually, they are right, but this weather has been anything but "usual" this year. Last month we were getting blasted with heat, and now it seems that we are experiencing the early throes of Fall-like weather. Have we completely skipped over August humidity altogether? One would think so.

Well, an update of sorts is in order on the Velocity/Clement X'Plor USH tire odyssey. I have the rear sealed at about 70%, I would say, and the front is just not co-operating what so ever. Time is pressing, so I think I am going to abandon the project for now and run tubes. I just don't have the time to devote to the success of tubelessness on those wheels and tires. My comment now would be that the USH just isn't amenable to being set up tubeless. Too irregular in the bead area to seal correctly. I could get this to work, but it would be a major time suck, and as stated, I don't have the time.

So, I chose the Fargo Gen I as the steed for the day. I hadn't ridden it since the GTDRI back in July, and the Bontrager XR-1's just needed a shot of air and I was on my way. Unfortunately, the fettling with the Orange Crush put me off the back in regard to time in the morning. I was running a bit late getting to the start of the ride. It worked out okay though, as the only other rider, Ron, was also running a tad late and we were off and rolling by about 8:45am.

Big Hawk
The weather was cool. The sky was clear to start with, and the roads were dry, with nice patches of new gravel here and there. Not much of a wind at all either. Quite a great day to be out, actually, and the multi-use path on the way out was rather busy with recreational cyclists and walkers.

Ron and I were chatting so much that I hadn't pulled my camera out at all until we were almost as far North as we would go. At one point, we scared up an enormous Hawk. It was screeching and acting not at all too pleased with our presence, which is unusual. I whipped out my camera and snapped a few images. Then we saw why the screeching was taking place. The Hawk was calling to its mate, who was flying in to see what the commotion was about. I guess it wasn't really all that concerned with us at all.

More conversations, more patches of chunky, fresh gravel. It seemed as though the ride was short, but in fact we were on a bit of a casual pace compared to weeks past. Eventually we got back to Cedar Falls where Ron took his leave of me since he had a longer ride period plan than what we had taken up. I went in for my usual Cup of Joe's goodness. Then I checked into a plan I have for something that might be going on for Trans Iowa V9.

Can't talk about that just yet, but the plans are just in the talking stages right now anyway. Not much to say at this point.

Finally, a note on the next two days: I will be heading up to Northfield, Minnesota later today and tomorrow I will be hitting up the Salsa Cycles demo to see and maybe ride a few of the newest 2013 offerings. Stay tuned for my report. Due to this, a post for Monday and Tuesday may be delayed a bit.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Need Something To Read?

Might I suggest the latest issue of the "Dirt Rag"?

I wrote an article in this month's issue. (Shameless promotion machine: ON)

I bet ya can't guess which one? (HA!)

On news stands and at retailers now.....

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday News And Views

2013 Trek Crossrip Elite
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Initial Excitement Dampened: 

This week was the annual dealer only show dubbed "TrekWorld" and although much of what was to be shown was already known, a line of disc only, aluminum framed, budget conscious cross bikes were announced called "Crossrip".

The line up consists of the Crossrip and the Crossrip Elite, (MSRP $1269.00USD), and is being touted as an alternative to commuters, cross racers, and as I understand it, to gravel road riders as well.

Initially I was excited by the offerings due to their subtle looks and pricing, but I am now not quite as enthusiastic as I once was. You see, as I have already pointed out, I have certain ideas on geometry for gravel road riding/racing bikes. The Crossrip series, unfortunately, doesn't measure up so well.

Bottom bracket drop numbers were not available, but the head tube angles on most sizes is 72.5°. Really? That's steeper than most cross bikes, and certainly not gravel bike territory- well, that is unless your back roads are very smooth. Where I live, they certainly are not so. Chain stay length was a nice 430mm though, so for light touring with a front load on pavement, yeah......I can see that. But this ain't no gravel road eating machine. Too bad.

2013 Trek Stache
Initial Excitement Dampened Part II: 

Okay, here is another one I was a bit let down about, the Trek Stache. Initial reports were that this would be a short chain stay, slack angled fun trail bike. Well, they got the slack head angle all right.....

Unfortunately, the listed chain stay length is 445mm, which converts to 17.52 inches. Yeah.......that's not a short chain stay length on a 29"er hard tail, Trek. 

 I had noticed that in all of Trek's hype leading up to the catalog being made public that no mention of chain stay length in specific numbers, or anything alluding to a specific length, was ever mentioned. Just "short chain stays". Ha! Well, that cat is outta the bag now and this model is now going to be seen as a slack head tube angle hard tail 29"er that is neither a XC/Trail ripper or a highly maneuverable AM type hard tail. It will just be an oddball bike. Good? Yes.....probably, but the perception battle has already been lost here. Again......Too bad. 

3GR: Saturday morning at Gateway Park, 8:30am. I'll be there and hopefully will be debuting my tubeless Clement tire set up. I've been working on this all week, and hopeful signs are showing me that I may get away with getting these out on their first long ride Saturday. If not, the Orange Crush has the trusty tubed MSO tires to fall back on.

And while I'm on the subject of is another nugget that you folks can chew on over the weekend. It was a reminder from a reader here that prompted me to post this link. It is about how wider tires, with supple casings, at lower pressures are faster with less energy expended by the rider. Go here for the deets.

You may or may not agree, but for my money, this stuff makes a heck of a lot of sense. This is also a big influence on my thinking on gravel road bikes. (Yes- I've read through the "Bicycle Quarterly" articles in the past, so I have been aware of these tests for some time.) I've seen the practical results of how skinny tires vs wider tires has played out in Trans Iowa, the Dirty Kanza 200, Gravel Worlds, (which is this weekend!), and on other gravel road rides and events. It is why I like the lightweight, supple, higher volume tires for gravel road riding. And if you read the link, you'll see that running tires like these do not make you slower. On the contrary, seemingly.

Have a great weekend folks! Ride yer bicycles and have some fun already.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Making Plans To Go: Part III

Okay, so it looks like this is becoming a mini-series here. Look here for my last update.

Somewhere out here looks pretty good to me...
Last time I showed you By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk with my crude set up for bikepacking on it. Since then I have done the following to get prepared for the S24O I have planned.

  • I got a chunk of Tyvek for a tent groundcloth from a co-worker. Obviously it is a vapor barrier and it packs up nice and small. 
  • With an eye to lightweight minimalism, I tried the rain fly from my Eureka 6 man dome tent as a tarp tent substitute. It doesn't really work, so I abandoned that idea. 
  • For now the Topeak ByKamper is going to be the tent. Bonus- it has its own stuff sack with straps that goes right on the Anything Cage. Negative, it weighs a freakin' metric ton. 
  • I broke down and ordered some Outdoor Research dry bags. If this is going to "take", I figured I had better ante up and get these.
  • I found the place where I want to test this all out. The route we used last weekend for the Fatbike 3GR went over some really rough, rocky spots, which will test the bike set up with gear loaded, and there are several spots to discretely camp out there. 
  • I started a penny stove. (Project was arrested in development when the drill battery died.)  I will make a pot stand from stainless steel spokes, and with my cooking gear, I should be set there.
And so far, that's where my project is at. I should have the final peices to the puzzle put together real soon. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Traction Action

Things have perked up a bit since the soaker on Sunday
These "fat bikes", are kind of funny, because of the mindset folks have about them. It's either one of two things, and sometimes both of them. One- Those tires are huge! What are they for? And then there is Number Two- "I bet those are really heavy and hard to pedal, aren't they?"

These are bad bikes folks. Whatever you do- do not get one. Not because the tires are weird, and not because they are "heavy" and "hard to pedal". No- do not get one of these under any circumstances if you are against fun and mad traction. You'd just better stay away if those two things scare you. Really.....

But seriously- the traction these tires have on stuff that would normally sketch you out is astounding. It makes stuff easy, really. Like child's play. Take for instance the sand pit under the Highway 58 bridge in George Wyth. It's nigh unto impossible to ride a normal mountain bike across it without washing out, dabbing, or going helter-skelter off line. The Snow Dog went across this like it wasn't there. Straight across it, no issues. I thought I'd have to drop the tire pressure from my road-ish 10psi, but nope. I didn't have to do that either. Too easy.

Stopped again to admire some more green stuff.
So I continued on, trundling carelessly across the dried out single track. There comes a section of off camber stuff that is steep, blown out from the drought, and on a 29"er would be a tiny bit of a "pucker-up section". The Snow Dog showed no signs of sliding out at all. Just big time traction like I was on level ground. So rad!

This on Big Fat Larrys, and at 10psi. Had I used Husker Du tires, or Nates at a lower pressure, the traction would have been even better, or should I say "massive over-kill for the situation."? Yes- it would have been far too much good stuff right there for what I needed.

Two other things that jumped out at me while on this ride. First- the Ergon SM3 L saddle is really growing on me. I like that it supports me well, and with no chafing, while allowing my legs really free movement. Better than a lot of saddles in this respect, I would say. I need more long, (as in 3+ hour rides), on this to really give it a green light for me, but so far, I have been happy with it.

The second thing is that on my off camber sections I was hearing a creak-groan noise. I recognized it as an aluminum against aluminum noise. I stopped once in the clear and investigated. Found two loose chain ring bolts, (check your bolts and fasteners often folks!), and that wasn't it. Then I investigated further. The rear QR was tight, but not on the tightest end of the spectrum. So, I really wrenched it over and that did the trick. On that note, I thought that a through axle rear end is going to be in order here for fat bikes used as mountain bikes. The traction, leverages from the terrain, and pedaling forces all conspire to really over-work that poor quick release, which was really designed for a much narrower axle spacing on a road bike. So what I was thinking is we need a 177 X 12 through axle rear hub and frame to accept that.

Otherwise it's all good. Really good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Round In Circles

Formerly known as Mr. 24, aka Banned From World's, aka Jeff Kerkove
It was 2006, and I had not been blogging very long, when I last pontificated on 24 hour racing's "World's", as they were known. Back in those days I worked with a fella by the name of Jeff Kerkove, who went by the Moniker "Mr. 24", because he lived and breathed the 24 hour racing scene.  Through Jeff I got interested in the 24hr, endurance junkie racing thing, and of course, hooked on the train that would become Trans Iowa. Jeff was profoundly influential on my views of endurance racing, not only from a training point of view, but really from an organizational and philosophical viewpoint as well. I know I am not alone in that respect.

24 hour racing was a "big deal" back then. Gravel road racing was about as well known as Jimmy Hoffa's grave site, and "ultra-endurance" stuff like the Great Divide Race was almost unfathomable by most folks. XC mountain bike racing was still around, but not what it used to be. That was the scene back then.

Well, something happened to Jeff back in 2005, a year before I last spoke of the "World's" here on this blog. That event, I think in retrospect, was a watershed moment for the both of us. It wouldn't be long before neither one of us had much to do with 24hr races, and the subject went off my radar, (and off a lot of folks radar screens), until just yesterday when I saw the a link to this posting on Facebook.

So, what do I think of that? Karma? Justice served? No......nothing like that at all. I was shocked, and actually, a bit sad for those who were busting their butts to do this event. I know what it meant to Jeff back in the day, and I saw first hand how hard he worked to get there and have a good result, if possible. I saw him handle the situation with grace and aplomb when the carpet got jerked out from underneath him. He moved on to better things.......

No, I think it might serve as a signpost that the 24hr racing genre, which is not dead by any stretch , has maybe waned like XC racing did. Maybe the grassroots racing scene, like the gravel racing events, has taken a bite out of the base of participants for 24hr racing. I don't know for sure, but it seems that way to me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rainy Day Experimenting

New wheels for the Orange Crush
Well, it was a good thing I wasted my legs on Saturday, because Sunday was a, (much needed, much appreciated), washout. It rained steadily off and on for most of the day, making any effort to ride an unwise decision for the most part. Not that you can not ride in the rain, but for mountain biking and gravel, it isn't preferable or a good idea at all at times.

So anyway, I decided that it was as good a time as any to mount up the new A23's in silver I just got not long ago. While I was at it, I used some Velocity tubeless tape and valves to try and do the tubeless thing with skinny(er) tires than I usually do. These are the X'Plor USH tires that will be stock on Salsa Cycles Warbird bikes, just so you know. Well, the tubeless process is well understood by me, and I will report that these tires are not super easy to set up tubeless. Experienced folk with the process will have to use most every trick to get these to go tubeless on Velocity A23's, at any rate. I'm not 100% stoked on how they will turn out, but so far.....

I am stoked on the silver rims/hubs on the Orange Crush from Black Mountain Cycles. This is how I had envisioned the build from the get-go. Classic silver parts are just really good looking, and the Orange Crush comes off in a totally different way with these wheels. The new Velocity silver color is a result of actual polishing of the metal and then is clear anodized to preserve the shine. All made in the U.S.A. as well, by the way.

I'll be doing some testing with the tubeless thing if the Clements can hold air for any length of time tubeless. Not knocking Clement here, so don't get me wrong. These are not tubeless tires. I understand the risks involved and will be fully okay with it if they do not go tubeless, as I hope they will. Besides that, there is something else in the works that will be going on as a test product on this bike. Stay tuned for that and more soon....

Sunday, August 12, 2012

3GR Report: Fatbike Edition!

The 3GR was to be a fatbiking affair Saturday, so I got myself out the door a bit earlier than usual to make sure I'd get over to Island Park on time. It was a wee bit chilly. I even had to wear a jacket! Such a big change since last week, and a waaaay big change since two weeks ago.

The main thing was that there wasn't a hint of a chance of rain at all. Blue-bird skies all around, and a very light, whisper of a North wind. Basically, it was perfect weather for a bicycle ride. I cranked the Snow Dog steadily Westward and Northward toward downtown Cedar Falls and then checked my phone for the time. Six minutes to spare. Perfect!

I saw more than a few cyclists in the parking lot and a couple of surprises. I had expected Craig, Mike, and first timer Charles to show up, since I had forewarning of their coming, but I didn't expect the two other riders. Ron on his Fargo and Scott on a Specialized 29"er were there for the festivities. Cool!

A wee bit of a problem early on.
Since we were leaving from Island Park, we took the bike path toward Black Hawk Park and squinted into the dappled sunlight. I had shed my jacket by this point, since the sun was quickly rolling the temperatures through the 60's to the 70's. But that was as warm as it was going to get.

Past the shooters at the shooting range, we about made a guy stumble as he was staring at our big fat roaring fatbike wheels. It wouldn't be the last gawker we would see for the day.

Finally we got to the trail leading up to the Union Access. I went in first. Boy!  It sure had gotten rockier back in here since I last rolled tires on this trail, which has to be about 5 years ago now.

No problem with a fatbike though. Just point and shoot. The big wheels just bounced and rolled right on through. I was going a bit fast, or so I thought, but I peeked behind me and everyone else was right on my tail. Okay then! I kept on the gas and we were having fun. I went down and to the left around some branches down on the ground, and then I heard it.

Great views on the Access Trail.
The tell-tale "bloosh!" sound when a tire gets punctured, and by the frequency of the tone, I knew right away that a fat bike tire had punctured.

Sure enough, it was Mike's rear tire that had been center punched by a quarter inch sized twig that put a big star shaped hole in his tire too. Well, I had a good fatbike tube, and Mike used a tire boot that wasn't the greatest, but he got it back together and we were able to move on again.

I took it easy coming out from our unplanned stop, but Mike didn't make a peep, so the tempo went back up to where it had been before until we popped out at Washington-Union Access park and then we turned East down the fresh blacktop for about a mile until we could hop onto Ford Road going North.

The tires buzzed loudly on the new black top. Craig and Charles paced us up this section, and I didn't have a computer, but it felt faster than ever. Finally we peeled off onto Ford Road and gravel again. This bent Eastwards eventually, and we hit old 218 and were obliged to go about a quarter mile North to Gresham Road and back to gravel for good for quite awhile.

We hit the new highway, crossed over without issue, and within another mile, we were back Northward and on the traditional 3GR course again.

Four Fatbikes Kickin' Up The Dust!
We had a great group this time. It was fun to chat with the different riders and I think everyone got a chance to chat with one another at some point during the ride.

At one point, Scott, the fella on the Specialized 29"er, asked if he could take a shot of us all together abreast on the road on our fatbikes. So I obliged him and he pulled off a couple good ones, one of which I have shown here. Thanks Scott!

Late in the ride, Mike pulled up alongside and remarked to me how the ride wasn't a very slow one despite the fatbikes. I heartily agreed! We were really not any slower than we were on our regular rides. But I said that we definitely were burning up a lot more energy going as fast as we were. To be honest, my legs were starting to feel the effort too.

The gravel was really dry and dusty yesterday, and of course, that was no surprise. But I didn't foresee that the fatbike tires would kick up more dust in the air than a traditional bicycle tire. There were times we were riding in the dust plume from the fatbikes ahead of us. I tried to stay up front after I noticed this, since I get a really dry nose if I breathe in too much of that stuff. This summer has been bad that way.

Washed March Mud off to be replaced by August Dust.
We finally pulled back into town and Mike suggested we stop at Pablos for some "cat-sized burritos", (his words, not mine! I like cats and would never eat one.) Charles and Craig were up for that and also joined us while Ron and Scott continued on to ride some more.

The downtown area was bustling with vendors showing wares right out on the sidewalks yesterday, so I figured we wouldn't draw any attention to ourselves with all the hoopla going on. Wrong! There were a lot of folks gawking at our bikes, wondering why we had such big tires, and what they might be for.

One tall, thin, bearded fellow was the best though. As our group engaged in conversation, I noticed his furrowed brow and the stroking of his hairy chin.I overheard him making remarks about how the wheels on our fatbikes wouldn't be good for much of anything. There were better bikes for what most folks were doing.

Obviously, he didn't get it. Probably the concept of "F.U.N." had not entered into his cogitations while he perused our enormously endowed, dusty rigs. Oh well......... It definitely made for a wry grin on my face!

Well, it was noon by this time, and I had to be getting back home. So I motioned that we adjourn the meeting and we all took leave of one another and went on our separate ways. By the time I got home, I was good and whooped. Another 50 miles down and a lot of fun later made for an excellent start to the weekend.