Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bigger Must Be Better, Right?: Part Two

Goin off the rails on a crazy train..
Yesterday's post got a lot of attention. If you read it, you may have noticed I didn't delve into the price of fat bike tires. Well, today I am going to address that subject.

A lot of folks out there are aghast, flummoxed, and furious about why and how much folks charge for these tires. I think it is a bunch of crazy talk.'s the deal, plain and simple:

You don't "need" these tires, and you don't have to buy them either. 

Really. You could do without the fatties, and without your fat bike altogether. It is called "perspective". I could put it a lot of different, poignant, and significant ways, but just stop and think about this, know- you're smart enough to figure that out. I do not need to be "Mr. Smartypants" with the witty quote or example here.

Don't like the prices? You can vote with your dollar. Do not push play. Simple.

Then there is the argument that there is a lack of competition. What? Four years ago, how many fat bike tires could you buy that were different than each other? Right...... We're arguing about prices when we have awesome choices and forgetting they weren't available just a short time ago. Back then you'd likely have paid gladly just to get something other than an Endomorph, is what I am thinking. So what if most everything is coming from under one big roof? I'm just glad we can even get a hold of these things at this point.

So, whatever people. These tires are expensive, yes. But name a specialty sporting goods product that is high quality, made for a niche audience, and is cheap to buy. You are not going to find many things out there that aren't expensive that are pointed at specific target audiences for specific high performance activities. That's what fat bike products are- a tiny market with some kick butt product made especially for them. It is what it is.

The silver lining is that fat bikes as a whole are gaining popularity in many pockets of the country. If things continue to grow, the numbers will take care of the issues with pricing someday down the road. Kind of like........29"ers. Remember?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bigger Must Be Better, Right?

My Perfect Combo" BFL frt, Knard rear on 82's
There used to be one fat bike tire- the venerable, (and discontinued), Endomorph 3.7"er. Lots of things got done with that tire, and many people's complaint was that it was too squarish, causing "self steering" traits.

Then came "Larry". In the 3.8" size, people about went ga-ga when it hit the scene. It was sooooo much better than the Endo, that folks wondered if anymore Endo's would ever be sold. Funny isn't it? Now with the Bud, Lou, Big Fat Larry, and the soon to be released 3.8" Knard, no one talks about 3.8" Larrys anymore! 

I think that is telling, because in terms of this fat biking scene, Surly has whipped up a veritable frenzy over the next bigger, badder fat bike tire. And hey, maybe you need that huge, gnarly chunk-o-rubber. But ya know what? I bet most folks don't. Not even close.

We didn't have a winter like we did in 2010/'11 last winter, but that was the winter I got my first fat bike, and it came with 3.8" Larrys. You know what? I thought I didn't really need bigger tires. I thought I needed wider rims. I was riding some deep, compacted snow on those 3.8'ers, and I was doing really well. I probably would have done even better if I knew what I know now for technique, but I didn't think I needed bigger tires.

3.8" Larrys, floating...
 Then a series of events occurred that led to my acquiring some Big Fat Larrys. I put those on the Snow Dog, and my need for wider rims went away. Yes, they are bigger tires, so you could say I "needed" them, but one way or the other, rims or tires, the deal was that I needed just a wee bit more float, and I was good. Still am too.

I am still curious about what I would get with 100mm wide rims, but ya know- I ride a fat bike all year. I use it as an "all terrain bike", so I kind of think that with the tires that I have, bigger rims won't be better, just heavier. Maybe less adept at mountain biking too.

Then there are those monstrosities called Bud, Lou, and Nate. I have to say that I have not ever thought my Larry was deficient for traction here. Maybe if I lived somewhere else, I'd be singing a different tune, but a lighter weight, less blocky treaded tire is always better here, no matter if it is a 29"er, fat bike, or for 26"er bikes.  So again, bigger isn't better, just heavier and slower.

Right now, my thoughts are to just keep running BFL's on 82's for winter, and get a BFL/Knard 3.8"er combo for the other bike, and run that all year long. Until then, I'll just be pretty satisfied running the Larry 3.8"ers and I'll let you others scramble for those crazy, heavy, super knobby fat bike tires.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Course Recon Report #1

Sunday way before dawn I arose and collected Jeremy from his abode to hit the gravels and see what I had come up with for a course for the next Trans Iowa. Following is the story on the day, and some glimpses into what the course may hold in store for those intrepid T.I.V9 cyclists next April.

Somewhere in Iowa before dawn.
The plan was to drive a large loop that would start with parts of the course that would come later, then skip over a section of territory to the beginning of the course in Grinnell, and drive back on course to a point that was closest to home and return for the day. Jeremy was to be my note taker/navigator, and I was helping to look out for signage and ascertain how the course was going to be for difficulty, which will affect the time cut offs.

We got to the point on the course we wanted to start at while it was still dark. Signs were hard to read, as the reflective material was sometimes weathered to the point that the letters and numbers looked like something other than what they were. The air was below freezing, and in the light of the headlights, I could see the fields were covered in frost. Still, it looked like it would be a great day with clear skies and little wind.

We didn't get 25 miles into the recon before I found mud. I was pretty familiar with where we were going, and I asked Jeremy, "Hey, shouldn't we be coming up on that B Road soon?", and he answered immediately that we should be on it now. I looked up, a bit alarmed, and sure enough, the gravel was thinning out, and next thing we know, we're in it. I was a bit perplexed because I didn't see the typical warning sign. But the road looked okay, so we forged onward.

The roads that are unpaved can sometimes look okay, but I've been around on these long enough to know that because B Roads follow the land's contours, when the road goes downward, it usually isn't a good thing. Once again, my theories on B Roads were proven more correct. The road we were on went down, and of course, at the bottom was a mud hole. I punched the accelerator, Jeremy grabbed the "oh shit!" handles, and I plunged in.

The mud flew, the engine roared, and the ol' Tundra pulled through. Whew! That was close!

Oh yeah!
As if that wasn't enough, I drove Jeremy down another B Road later on. I didn't think this one would be as long as it was, but went down again! 

And it was a good thing we traveled in the direction that we did. The side we descended was slippery, very steep, and wet. Going up was drier, and just as steep, but there was traction.

I feathered the accelerator and gave it just enough goose to get the job done. Good thing the Tundra has a towing package, since I put that low end torque to the test on that climb!

Checkpoint Alpha was checked out, and I was pretty pleased with the layout. There is a small park we'll be using to do our deeds in and it has a shelter house, a Coke machine, and a permanently installed porta-jon. (I know. So ironic!) It'll be just perfect for what we'll be doing though.  Oh yeah....Checkpoint Alpha is 52 miles into the event, in case you were wondering. We left there and motored onward to check out some other stuff.

Winding climb

 The course is looking pretty good. It will be brutal in spots, but in others, (weather dependent), it will be nice riding with great views.

The gravel roads are in a state of repair after a long, very dry, and hot summer. This has caused the counties to lay down a lot of chunky, fresh gravel. Typical for what I have seen all late Summer and Fall so far here. Depending upon what Winter will bring, we may be looking at some chunky roads next spring again.

Right now I have 170 plus miles verified, documented, and waiting to be cue sheeted. The plan is to get out there and do the rest, (approximately 150 miles), in one fell swoop, which would conclude the recon for this course. Then it would go to cue sheet proofs, and those would be double checked in the spring again.

It looks as though I won't be needing to include a "Secret Checkpoint" either. Convenience stores will be spread throughout the course, and there will be more available on next year's course than last Spring's event had available.

Okay, so that's a wrap for this report. Hopefully I can get the rest knocked out soon, and we can focus on cue sheet production soon. Stay tuned.........

Sunday, October 28, 2012

3GR: Chilly Willy

Ron  riding toward me at the ride start
Another month gone for the 3GR. This was the last ride in October. It was a chilly one too! Still, it could have been a lot worse. We actually had a nice day, considering the forecast.

I went to sleep Friday thinking it would be in the low 20's Fahrenheit when I awoke on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was 32° instead, with very light Northwest winds. I was prepared for the cold though.

I had laid out my layers the evening before, and I slipped on everything and was out the door well before 8:00am.  I arrived early to the start, and by 8:25am, I was thinking I would be the only nutcase riding in this chill. However; right at that moment, Robert rolled up, and as we were about to leave, Ron also joined us. So it was a threesome and we rolled on North down the bike path.

I have to say, that was a fun ride, but more than anything else, I think that easily beats the record for the most wide ranging, deep thinking conversation I've had on a bicycle ride for a long, long time.

On the flatter, Northward section.
The winds never did appear, and that was a good thing. What has appeared are the deer. The rut season is on, and we saw several deer, both bucks and does, in a lot of places we do not normally see deer.

We saw one buck in particular, a good sized one, running flat out along a fence line in wide open territory. That just doesn't happen unless it is rut season. Those bucks just lose all sense of self preservation at this point. Unfortunately, it also means many automobiles hit these deer, both bucks and the does, as they chase each other around for mating.

By later in the ride though, the deer had ceased to be an issue, since during the day the activity seems to settle down some. Besides some dogs, the countryside seemed devoid of wildlife or farm animals. Getting back to town, Robert and I decided to hit Cup Of Joe's, and we actually got to sit inside this time. I think that is a first, and a good thing, since it was just too chilly to sit outdoors that morning.

3GR will continue on a week by week basis now as we get into November. As long as the weather holds out, I'll keep on going out. If we get snow, or if the temperatures and winds get to be too cold, I'll cut it off for the year. We'll see just how far we can go. I figure most likely until Thanksgiving time, at the least.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Working On The Route

Trans Iowa V9 registration will kick off in a little over a week's time now, but that isn't all that's been going on behind the scenes with this event.

I've spent a fair amount of time going cross-eyed over maps lately. Doing calculations, adding miles, and looking for interesting things to ride by. Now all of the investigation will be focused "in the field", as it were, as I and a cohort hit the back roads of Iowa in search of the route I have envisioned for Trans Iowa V9.

The plan is to start in Grinnell and then to drive the route to Checkpoint Alpha. From there the route will be traced to Checkpoint Bravo. By this time, I figure the day will be mostly shot. Doing 170+ miles of recon in one fell swoop is pretty time consuming. (And that doesn't count the mileage driving to get to the start and back from where recon ends.)

You see, you just don't drive pellmell down the road, making sure it is there, and get it over with. No- you have to look for signs, make notes on concerns like rickety old bridges, bad B Roads, or low water crossings. B Roads sometimes have to be walked, since cars may not be able to traverse them at the time they are checked over. Convenience stores have to be walked in to and looked over to see if they will have proper eats and drinks available. It's a lot of detail work, and it just takes a long time to get it right.

That said, I find it to be fun to do, (yet), so I don't mind. This year I have a partner in crime that is volunteering to help, so the work load will be a bit easier. It should be a good time. Look for a full Recon Report soon.....

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday News And Views

And the answer is.....
Canti Or Disc? 

This week I posted up on the question of whether "gravel bikes" should or should not have disc brakes. You can catch that post here if you missed it the first time. 

That post has garnered a lot of hits here on the site, so I figured a bit of follow up was in order here. The first result was seen in the comments section for that post where it seems that the majority voted for "no disc brakes" on their gravel bikes.

The other thing to note here is that this may or may not be a reflection of what cyclo cross bikes should have. However; here is something to chew on regarding both cyclo cross and gravel road going rigs. Until someone, (and my guess is that "someone" will end up being SRAM first), comes up with a reasonable hydraulically actuated brake in a drop bar specific brake/shift lever similar to what is in use now, the disc brake thing on drop bar bikes will be mostly a sideshow. This does not include "converter boxes", which are a kludge and add extra weight and costs. No- the lever will necessarily have to be self contained, or it will be a no-go.

And there are other details to mull over here as well. rotor size, rear spacing, (which looks to be going to 135OD), weight, and other details that would need to get sorted before the disc brake thing for these bikes would make more sense.You know- it reminds me of the disc vs canti mountain bike days of the late 90's/early 00's. Except this is with skinnier tires, which by the way, is something else that will affect the outcome greatly here as well.

This year's model.
Project Black was the other big draw this week. The post where I listed the spec and all of the images were heavily checked out here. Curious that.

I mean, I post a lot of bike's images here, and a few of them I'll post full spec on, but the Vassago Jabberwocky has brought more attention than any of the previous rigs save maybe the Fargo, my BMC Orange Crush, and the OS Bikes Blackbuck.

I can see why the mentioned trio of bikes gets interest. The Fargo- because it is a drop bar mountain bike/adventure rig. The Blackbuck because of the swoopy stays and rarity. The BMC Orange Crush- again for the rarity and the "monster-cross" and gravel bike possibilities perhaps. But the Vassago?

Someone help me out here and tell me what it is that is so fascinating about this steel hard tail. I am flattered that it draws so many hits, but frankly, I don't get it. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with the Jabberwocky, but I don't see anything inherently unique about it either, besides the marketing hype behind the "Wet Cat" geometry, which is not that big a deal, really.

Ride Free.
Pro Road Cycling is in a mess right now. Most of you are aware of what has been going on. Without delving into the details, I wanted to point up something I thought was kind of a stroke of genius, (and is close to my heart), with regard to maybe getting this situation righted.

Greg Lemond wrote a missive on his Facebook page yesterday which was quickly circulated around the Internet. You can read it, and the back ground of the issues here.

Leaving much of that behind, what I want to focus on is what Mr. Lemond wrote near to the end of his rant. I quote him here:

"If people really want to clean the sport of cycling up all you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.
Don't buy a USA Cycling license. Give up racing for a year, just long enough to put the UCI and USA cycling out of business. We can then start from scratch and let the real lovers in cycling direct where and how the sport of cycling will go."

First off, I wouldn't say that you should "give up racing for a year", because you don't have to. I do agree with the rest of this, which I think is brilliant if riders would do this en masse. Do I think this will happen? No. But it should. 

And if it does, there are a ton of "underground" events waiting for the racers. And hey- why not start up your own racing leagues. They did it in Wisconsin with a mountain bike series that flourished for years. can be done. It should be done. 

The UCI is tainted, if not downright corrupt and they- in my humble opinion- had to know what the heck was going on with regard to doping in the peloton. I like what Team Sky is doing- rooting out all past and present dopers. (They sacked Bobby Julich just the other day.) The UCI should do something similar with regard to those who turned their heads to look the other way, or were complicit in some way with what went on in road cycling. Clean house. Do it now. Lance Armstrong isn't the problem. He's just the highest profile rider involved. Caught up in something that the UCI was responsible to stop, to prevent, and to police more vigilantly. They failed. They should accept responsibility and do the right thing.

That's my take. Nuff said.... 

3GR: Yep! It is getting colder. Yep! It is darker in the AM. Big deal. 3GR is still going to happen, so if you want to ride, show up at Gateway Park, 8:30am, and we'll ride the route. Thanks to all you who gave it a shot and I hope more of you will try it out. We're having fun- you could be too. 

And that's a wrap. Ride a bicycle this weekend. Take care! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Nitty-Gritty Wham-Bam

Project Black: In The Wild
Or: Dancing With Project Black

Wednesday. The day off from the shop job Usually I go out and at least grab a quick test ride on whatever it is I am doing for This time I was doing that, but it also was the maiden voyage off road for the Project Black Vassago. You can check out the particulars on that rig here.

I decided to go out to The Camp yesterday. I figured the landscape would be right for the Geax Gato tires I was sporting on the bicycle. With several days of moisture around here, I figured the dirt would be softened up quite a bit, and I was right about that part. Even the deer tracks were post-holed and skid marks from their running, stopping, and changing directions were everywhere in evidence.

The thing I hadn't considered was that almost all the leaves that used to be on trees were now all over the trails. This made for a surface that was like grease underneath a layer of slippery sheaves of paper that would slide and shift if you pushed your luck too far. Treacherous to be sure, but even more so when one considers the rocks and roots that lay hidden underneath the multicolored blanket of foliage.

Like a mung covered tooth in blackened gums.
Project Black had one round trip on it to work and back to ferret out any niggling issues it may have. I tweaked the seat angle, checked all the bolts, and aligned the brake calipers, but it was pretty much spot on. With that I figured the only thing holding me back would be the unknown of the tires and the brakes needing bedding in.

Oh yeah, and that rear cog? It was ridiculously low geared for a commute, so I looked at it finally. A 22T!! What the....!! I didn't know I'd ever used a 22T before, but there it was, big as life. Oh well....

I was at the Camp and I was going to ride that Vassago no matter. It was a strange riding bike. On one hand, it is nice and smooth, even without considering the long seat post, because it felt great out of the saddle also. The Salsa fork is perfectly matched to this frame. The steering being not heavy, or quirky in any way. So, on top of it, the Vassago seems like a very nice frame.

But underneath it all, the "Wet Cat" geometry is sort of......well, it is boring, actually. The bike is so stable and refined feeling that nothing seems to upset you while you are riding it. Nothing stands out. Cornering is neutral to the point of being ho-hum. Climbing traction is great to the point that you shouldn't ever have to worry about it, (from the bike's standpoint. Now your legs are another matter.) Slow speed technical handling is so easy it is crazy. Only the tires let me down yesterday.

Untangling myself after the carnage.
Literally- they let me down right in the little technical rock garden after climbing out of the Lower section of trails. The slippery rocks beneath the leaves got me, and wham-bam! There I was sitting on my arse, legs tangled in the frame.

As I sat there assessing my situation, I noticed a small troupe of deer had come up from behind the hillock to my backside. They hadn't even noticed me, but suddenly they did and everyone, including myself, froze. I watched as the deer tried to ascertain my intentions, while I made some unusual sounds to confuse them for my entertainment. The deer responded by being confused as to what I was, and how to react to me. They eventually, cautiously, tip-toed away, giving pause to look back to see if I was moving every so often. Then they were gone. I love being entertained by deer. But now it was time to ride on.

Hmm.....let's see. A couple of small puncture wounds on the right knee, but nothing to fret over. I stood up and re-mounted the Jabberwocky. Its stable ride begged me to take right off again with no concern for what had just happened. Like a dance partner that knows the steps and you just follow their lead, the Vassago was a very easy to trust steed. Back in the day, there were cars called "business coupes". The Jabberwocky is like a business coupe. It works efficiently, with no drama, but it is "plain jane" while doing so. Almost boring, like a stripped down, workman-like business coupe of the early 50's. But you know it will get the job done every time.

Leaves obscuring the trail.
That low gear actually worked out to my advantage as well. It kept me from speeding too quickly and missing the clues as to where the trail actually was at. The trails were almost obliterated by those downed leaves and I had to keep a sharp eye out for where they were pressed down by other cyclists to reveal where the path lay.

Climbing was so easy, I stayed seated the entire ride, with the exception of coasting. The Jabberwocky just hooked up and went on up, no matter the pitch.

The Geax tires were pitching dirt around me like an old time manure spreader. It was humorous to see clods of dirt fly up and then disappear as I rode along. The gritty dirt was sticking to my shins, and the area near the end of the loop was drier, tackier, and more fun.

So the end of the ride was a bit more fun without the sketchy off camber and unseen roots and rocks knocking the bike off-line. By the time I looped back to the truck again, I had decided the Jabberwocky- although not very exciting- was going to stick around for awhile.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

29"er Geometry: Tuning Forks

Just over a year ago I posted this missive on 29"er Geometry. In that post I went back over where 29"er geometry had been, where it was, and where it looked to be going. My final conclusion then , (and still is), was that there is "No School" geometry these days for 29"ers. There just isn't a coalescing of thought on what the numbers should be like for 29"ers  today like there was 25 years ago with 26"er hard tail mountain bikes.

I've had several forks on this bike...
So, what we have today is the ability to change the front end geometry, and thus- the over-all handling characteristics of our 29"ers. This is an intimidating thought for a lot of mountain bikers out there. The geometry terms and how they work are confusing to many, and downright misunderstood by several folks.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

First things first- The Human species is a highly adaptable one, and the power of our brains to quickly learn and master new inputs and tasks is not to be underestimated. A rider can ride many variations of geometry successfully on many different types of terrain. The thing is, you have to "want to", and that may be influenced by preferences and perceptions to a high degree.

So take that all into mind while reading this post. Nothing I put forth here is going to reveal "the perfect geometry for 29"ers", nor should it. That said, I hope there is something you can draw from this to make your own considered judgments on what might be "right:" for your 29"er. This post will strive to show how you could "tune" your handling with simple fork swaps.

This is something I have done over the years with one of my bikes in particular: the OS Bikes Blackbuck 29"er single speed hard tail. this rigid Willits W.O.W. fork.
In 2008 I ran eight different forks with axle to crown measurements from 420mm to 510mm and offsets from 38mm to 51mm all on this one bike to gauge the effects of what front end geometry did to handling.

Head angle, bottom bracket height, and seat tube angle all changed with each fork, and I carefully measured each change to make sure I adjusted my cockpit to be as close to the same with each fork that I could. Then I tested each set up on various trails in the local area.

I posted my findings which maybe shocked some, and puzzled others. Basically what I said to start out here is the conclusion, but here are a few details for you to consider here. The terminology has to be understood first and foremost.
  • "Quicker handling" is basically steering that is less stable. The extreme of this would be a bike one has to really concentrate on to keep on trail, or you crash. Most folks want "quicker" to equal "easier to steer", but that can get confused with "stability", so be careful!
  • "Slower handling" is- you guessed it- more stable geometry. Essentially a bike that is so easy to ride, you can track stand it easily, and/or ride no handed over rough ground without the bike bouncing off line. Geometry can play into this, but so can wheel weight, rider weight distribution, and even tire pressures. "Slow" handling bikes tend to also be a chore to corner in tighter trails or switchbacks.
  • "Trail" is a result of a formula that takes into account the head angle, fork offset, and wheel diameter of a bicycle. A higher figure, (which is usually expressed in millimeters for bicycles), will indicate a front end geometry that is more stable, (slower), and a lower figure for trail would indicate the opposite, (quicker handling). You may have heard some folks in the rando world that will talk about "low trail forks" for better front end loading capabilities, and this is what they are referring to.  Mountain bikes tend to have higher trail figures for stability, and front end loads are not a concern here. 
  • "Axle to Crown" is a measurement from the center line of your front wheel axle to the base of the crown race on the fork. It is useful for adjusting the head angle of your frame without modifying the frame. For instance, you could use a fork on your 29"er that had anywhere from 420mm axle to crown to over 500mm and effect head angle changes of up to 3°-4°, which has a big effect on your Trail figure.
  • "Offset", or more correctly "Fork Offset", (which some refer to as "rake", which I liken to a gardening tool, but whatever...), is the distance the front axle is "offset" forward from the center line drawn through your steer tube to the ground. Where the axle is forward of this axis is measured as offset, but more here equals less. Yes- your front axle looks as if it is in front of your steer tube, but trust me- where the rubber meets the trail, that contact point is behind the center line of your steer tube if you draw a line straight down from the axle to the ground and compare the two points.  More offset = less stable Trail figures. So, if you push the axle further away from the steer tube center line, the tire contact point will get closer to the intersection of the steer tube axis with the ground equaling less Trail. (Of course, head angle and wheel diameter may negate this or enhance it.) Having a hard time visualizing this? Think of a shopping cart wheel. The axis where it pivots is your steer tube, the wheel's contact patch is behind that. Now tilt the axis, which is normally vertical, to be more like a bicycle head angle. See it now?
Okay- that's enough for one post. In the meantime, go knock yerself out playing with this Bicycle Trail Calculator . I'll come back again with another edition of "29"er Geometry: Tuning Forks" soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gravel Bikes: Canti Or Disc?

Ahh...they seem to work just fine, but...
Gravel Bikes- (well, assuming you even agree that there is such a thing), usually have cantilever brakes these days. However; that is maybe more out of convenience/necessity than choice. Cyclo cross bikes, for the most part, are cantilever braked bikes, and those bikes tend to dominate the gravel bike riding scene.

But there is a big push for disc brakes in cyclo cross circles these days. (Notice- I didn't say just who was pushing for this.) So bikes like my Orange Crush BMC are sort of getting looked down upon. (See this post by BMC owner, Mike Varley on this subject.) However; for gravel races and riding, the disc brake is not a "slam dunk" idea. I want to give my thoughts on the matter here and maybe gauge your reactions in the comments to see just where everyone's minds are with regard to this.

The argument for disc brakes is that they work better...... There are different ways folks will end that statement, but it always goes back to "they work better" than cantilever brakes. Okay, you might believe that, and say you know that to be "true", but I know a handful of guys that would tell you a different story. The story of T.I.V6 where several riders burned through their disc brake pads within 50 miles of the start and their cantilever braked counterparts rode onward. So, in bad weather, disc brakes are not necessarily the cure. In fact, they could be a disadvantage. 

Disc or canti? On gravel?

 There is also the concern for control. On gravel, that may mean having brakes that are not necessarily the most powerful brakes. As anyone knows, a wheel that is skidding is a wheel that is out of control, and on the ball bearing-like surface of most gravel roads around here, you want to be very, very careful when using your brakes on high speed descents or in corners. It is super easy to skid on gravel, and losing control could mean that you may pay a big price in skin and machinery out there in the countryside.

This doesn't mean that you can not, or should not use disc brakes. Heck- I use disc brakes on my Fargo on gravel all the time. However; I don't need disc brakes for gravel riding. At least, I can not point to one instance where I thought having disc brakes on my gravel ride was an advantage over cantilevers. (I am assuming a well set up pair of cantilever brakes here, which is a whole 'nuther subject. Not too many folks are good at setting up canti brakes, and you gotta have that skill here.)

Finally, I have to wonder what one will sacrifice in ride quality with a frame and fork set up properly for disc brakes. Looking at what is being offered up for cyclo cross bikes with disc brakes, I am seeing a beefed up construction, that maybe is heavier, or not, but more importantly, needs to be stiffer. This is especially true with the fork design, since the forces at work on the fork are entirely different than with a cantilever equipped fork. Maybe I am wrong here, but I can't see how one can get a disc brake fork on a gravel bike that is reasonably light without sacrificing ride quality.

Maybe looking at things backward would help with my viewpoint. Say disc brake road/cyclo cross bikes came first. Then some guy invented a cantilever braked gravel road bike. It was lighter, had a more compliant fork for better ride quality, and sacrificed little to braking performance on off-pavement riding. What would you rather ride?

I know disc brakes are coming, and disc brakes "work", but at what cost? Hmm......and then maybe I'll be proven wrong, and some designer genius will get disc brakes on there and have greater rider comfort than my BMC bike. Maybe. I'm skeptical, but I'm not against disc brakes if they don't "harsh my ride". What say you? Hit up the comments and let's hear what you think out there.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Project Black (And Blue!) Completed

Project Black:

Well, this ended up becoming a failure. I had to use a blue Chris King head set. Bah! 

Oh well, at least it is finished, and I have test ridden it around the house a couple of times. I think it should stay together! At least it felt like it should. The thing is, single speeds are almost too easy to set up, so I sometimes don't pay as much attention to detail on my own bikes when I build them up. Fortunately, I did happen to check all the bolts before I rode it! I'll just leave it at that. And the brakes actually work, which is a whole chapter unto itself. I won't get into that here.

So, without further adieu, here is the build list, which is listed in no particular order. Let's see here...
  • Vassago Jabberwocky 18" steel frame
  • Salsa Cycles CroMoto Grande fork- (first gen edition)
  • Sun Ringle' Black Flag wheel set 
  • Geax Gato 2.1" folding bead tires set up tubeless w/MG's Special Sauce
  • Thomson Elite 400mm seat post
  • Bontrager Race X Lite stem
  • TruVativ Noir carbon riser bar
  • No-Name lock on grips
  • Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes 160mm frt/140mm rear rotors
  • TruVativ Stylo Team 180mm crankset w/32T/bash set up. GXP BB
  • Surly Cog (Ginormous size. I think it's a 20T, but who's counting?)
  • Sachs chain. (Yes- an old 90's era Sachs chain!)
  • Bontrager RL saddle- titanium rails
  • Shimano clipless pedals. (Lower end ones)
Did I miss anything? I don't think so. Well, that should cover it. It all adds up to 22lbs, ready to ride. I could knock this build down a bit further in weight without too much trouble too. I'm sure many of you can see where.


I've only ever tooled down the road briefly on a Vassago once before which belonged to Captain Bob, (ironically enough, as that's who I got this one from), so I didn't have a very good idea of what to expect here. Once I got some components bolted to the frame, however, it quickly became apparent that this was a light frame. The build was going to end up being light, and it did go that way.

The "Wet Cat" geometry thing is definitely odd. Well- I should say it isn't so much the numbers, but the way it was laid out here which is weird compared to some bikes. For instance, the seat tube is a bit short for the top tube's effective length. In that way it really reminds me of the first Raleigh XXIX. (Thus the 400mm Thomson post, which this short seat tube made necessary.)  Secondly, that "shortness" carries over to the shorter head tube on this frame. The top tube/down tube junction here looks like it is from a small sized bike, like a 16"er or even smaller. Odd layout, to be sure.

Otherwise what you have here is a lower bottom bracket, a (for its time), slacker head angle, (although now it is right in the ball park with everyone elses stuff), and a bit long-ish chain stay length. Nothing too unusual there, but when it came out, it definitely was oddball geometry.

Although the bike is complete, here are a few things I may be swapping out in the future.

The Fork: The front fork has 44mm of offset. With the slack-ish head angle, it may be too slow for my tastes. I can put on a 47mm offset fork, and that is an On One Carbon Superlight fork. So it would get the weight down even further as well. Plus, that fork is black, (but not all black), so it would fit the theme here.

Head Set Spacers/Stem/Handle Bar: I have to figure out where I want the bars to end up  here. It's close, but things might change. The best bet is that a wider and a bit more compliant handle bar like the Whammy Bar may end up on here.

Gearing: Obviously, I have a low gear on here. Somewhere I have an 18T Misfit Psycles aluminum cog, or perhaps I'll get something new and similar to that. But maybe I won't. Depends if I decide I really like the bike or not. For now it is rideable, so I will live with that gear for now.

Pedals: I really need to try those XT Trail pedals. Mmmm......

Okay, that's it for now. I'll be back after some riding to update on this Project bike. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

3GR: Speckled Jerseys

Not A Put Down- A Challenge
Fall can be two things seemingly. On one hand it can be the spectacular clear, dry, colorful kind of season, then on the other hand, it can be the grey, dank, drippy, sullen kind of season.

We got the latter on the ride yesterday. Despite the weather forecast, which claimed it would be nice out, it wasn't. At least not until well after the ride was over, but that was okay. It didn't deter we three el loco riders. 

I wanted to get out early, but gastrointestinal issues that I won't get into here prevented that from happening.  Needless to say that I managed to get to the regularly scheduled start and met up with Craig there. We chatted for a bit, then split for the trail Northbound. On the way, we ran into Mike on his titanium Mukluk and he joined in to make it a party of three.

The air was cold, really, but at least there was no discernible wind. The gravel was wet from the nearly week long soaking it has gotten. It wasn't mushy, except in a few spots, but it was packed down and wet. Wet enough that our jerseys got splattered with gravel mud in a few places. And speaking of jerseys, we were chatting about an idea we all had independently on our own considered in the past.

Wet, grey, and cold.
The idea? Well, it is to make a riding kit specifically aimed at gravel riders. Just how that might look is what we spoke of, but I can not say much more than that right now. But I will say I think we talked about some exciting ideas. We'll see......

So, we had a great ride, as usual. One thing that seemed odd was that the traffic was heavier than usual. We actually had to stop at C-57 and wait for about five minutes before we could even get across the blacktop. Not only that, but we had to avoid a couple of trucks turning into the road we were on at the time. I'm not sure why all the traffic was dense on paved roads, but it was definitely noticeable.

I'm imagining that I may need to actually start out with lights next week. It was just barely light when I left yesterday, and I even caught a guy sleeping under the viaduct on the way over near my neighborhood. That was weird! In fact- I thought maybe I should have stopped to see if he was alright, as it was in the upper 30's when I went by him, but he was cleared out and gone by the time I went back by there. I don't need that sort of excitement on my next 3GR outing, that's for sure!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday News And Views

Project Black
Update On Project Black:

I have some new parts on the way for this. They are critical parts for the build. One of them is a Thomson Elite post at 400mm in length. The Vassago has a short seat tube with quite an extension above the junction with the top tube, so I want to make sure I have a proper amount of post into the frame.

The other thing is a set of brakes, but the Avid Juicy Ultimates will get me by for now. I already have yanked the Geax AKA TNT tires and replaced them with some Geax Gato 2.1"s. Those are a folding bead tire and save me over a 100gms a piece. I set those up tubeless on the Black Flag rims, which are a Stan's licensed design. The tires popped on beautifully. Should be grippy as heck even though they look mighty skinny!

The crank set is about to be yanked from its current place holder and transferred over. Then with a chain I should be good to get this out and about. Maybe this weekend, if I can find some time.

Wide Track:

I've been considering some things in regards to handle bars lately. I have been riding one of my several single speed bikes with a bar that is wide. I like the leverage for climbing, but it's more than that. As long as I can get through the trees, I think the wider bars are the way to go for me.

I used to have an On One 29"er with a Niner Bikes Flat Top 9 bar that was something like half a football field long. Well......not really, but it was pretty dang wide, and that bike holds some fond memories for me as far as how it felt up front with those bars.

While bars like the Salsa Cycles Whammy Bar, (pictured), might seem stupid-long at 780mm, I think I'm going to order one up in the coming week or so. (Besides- I play guitar and how could I not have a handle bar with that name!) I may be mating that with a shorty stem, and seeing how that turns out. More later....

New T.I.V9 Sponsor!
Back For More: 

Looks like Trans Iowa V9 has a returning sponsor in Gu Energy. It's always great to see companies like Gu Energy stepping up to sponsor grassroots racing events like Trans Iowa and other events like it. I think this makes three years in a row for Gu Energy to be a sponsor of T.I.

I get why companies want to sponsor marquee athletes, but it sort of warms my heart just a bit to see the guys out of the limelight, doing the events that are not well known, get some support. Thanks to Gu Energy and all the other Trans Iowa V9 sponsors. I appreciate each and every one of you.

Speaking of Trans Iowa, I have every intention of getting out there and doing some recon as soon as I can, (and as soon as the family is all healthy again), so stay tuned for a recon post. It'll happen soon. Also, there are less than three weeks to go before Registration starts. Always a fun time!

Fat Bike Fun:

At the risk of you folks saying "Aha! That's an offset wheel build!" I will let you all know that I know the rider personally and that he is a smooth, skilled rider. So, enjoy the video, and maybe get inspired to roll some rocks of your own.

I am constantly amazed by what can be done on a fat bike, (or for that matter, by the guys doing this stuff on road bikes as well), which maybe speaks more to the skills of riders than it does about whatever bike they happen to be riding that day.

Gravel Travel:

I'm feeling like I need to get out on the gravel again. Last week the 3GR was cancelled due to the inclement weather, but this weekend it is looking like it shouldn't be an issue to do that ride. But I think I may need more than that.

If I can get ambitious, I am going to try to get out before the sun comes up and fit in some extra miles Saturday morning. If it works as planned, I would then meet up and ride with whomever shows at the regular meeting spot for the 3GR at 8:30am.  Hopefully I can tack on about an extra 20 to the regular amount that I ride.

Gotta get on that early, because the rest of the day is spoken for, and Sunday may be a wash with my schedule filled up all morning and into the afternoon already. We'll see. I just am itching to get more miles in. Can't say why for sure.  Can't really put my finger on it, but I am.

Well, I hope you all get to riding a bicycle this weekend! Have a good one!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When The Jig Is Up

Image by Jeff Kerkove
Well, after yesterday, I pretty much have to say something about this, so here goes....

There was a time when the thought of Lance going down was unthinkable. The Empire would never fade. The Money was too important, the Foundation would suffer, and we couldn't let that happen. 

No- He was unassailable. Never failed 5 billion drug tests. Champion. Patron.

What we didn't know was that he was also a Dictator, Fraud, and a Cheat. Unthinkable as it was, there is no denying the evidence is overwhelming that stands against Him. Of course, like any individual, (and as our Pres likes to point out), He didn't build that alone. No- there was collusion on many levels.

While sponsors dropped Lance like a hot potato yesterday, it was also quite evident that they had no further use for him or his image anymore. Really. Think about that for a minute. Had these same sponsors, some who had more than an inkling of what was going on, done the right thing a few years ago, this would have been cataclysmic. It would have been much different. But it didn't suit the purposes then.

As it was, it was expected. Everyone turned coat at the same time when it was most convenient. It was almost like it was choreographed to be this way. Weird, really. Even his former team mates all "fessed up" at the same time. Doesn't anyone else smell a rotten fish here?

Well, I just hope this is the beginning, and not a convenient fall guy ending. Pro road cycling is jacked up, and it'll stay that way unless they pull down the entire doping culture. You think Lance is it? Ha!

In the meantime, go enjoy the bicycle for what it is to you, and don't let this nonsense get in your way.

That's all I got to say about that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fat Bike Style: 135mm vs 170mm

170mm fat bike hub
I've been thinking about fat bike frame designs of late. The times seem to be a changin' in that niche of cycling, and part of that has to do with how the frames are spaced in the rear.

To be sure- fat bikes weren't always "fat". Once they were ordinary mountain bikes. Riders found that the tires punched through the snow too easily, so there were a few tinkerers around that began to experiment.

These fellows first welded two rims together making the wheels wider, and mounting tires on that, then wide rims were made, and you know the rest. Frames had to be modified along the way. Of course, limitations existed.

One of those was the hub width of 135mm. Eventually, with the advent of single speed hubs, someone got the idea to use a rear single speed hub as a front hub, thus widening the front out to match the back, and allow for wheel swaps in case of free hub failure. One could put the front wheel in the back, and run the bike as a single speed, or fixed gear bike, to bail themselves out of the Arctic wilderness.

The Surly Pugsley picked up on this Arctic/Alaskan idea and propagated it with distribution to all corners of the earth for several years. Being able to use standard parts was important not only for survival in remote areas of the Northern latitudes, but for folks piecing together one of these from Surly's frame, fork, tire, and wheel  parts that were fat bike specific. It made sense then to use the "off set" frame idea.

Pugsley- The Standard Bearer
But now things are different. It started up there in Alaska with Fatback Bikes, then others picked up on the symmetrical rear for fat bikes which required a 170mm spaced rear hub. Hubs became easier to get in 170mm, and more are being added as we speak to the pile. Having to be limited to a 135mm rear hub is not an issue anymore, and the idea of front to rear wheel swaps is not important to 90+% of riders out there.

While there isn't really anything wrong in practice with an off set frame and off set wheel build to fit it, the symmetrical wheel build and frame theoretically should be a stronger wheel. Plus, it just looks less goofy. But again- Pugs and Moonlanders, (another Surly offering with an even more radically offset frame), are working great for a lot of riders.

However; it seems to this writer, just looking around the fat bike landscape, that Surly and maybe one other company are the only 135mm offset flag bearers, while just about everything else is a symmetrical rear/170mm layout. Which begs the question: "Is the industry going to 170mm rear ends and if so, where does that leave Surly and their fans?" Not that Surly or their fans care, but I just find it intriguing to think about.

I think I know at least part of the story concerning why it is that Surly so doggedly holds to it's ways of doing things concerning fat bikes, but ya gotta wonder, is that going to make sense five years from now? Ten? I wonder.

It's interesting to sit back and think about that, or better yet, think about that while riding your fat bike!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Batteries For Your Mountain Bike

Image courtesy of c_g
"Hey Hon! Can you grab the battery off the charger for my mountain bike? I forgot to get it on the way out the door."

That sound ridiculous?'s already a reality! Fox and Rock Shox have entered into the electronically controlled suspension game, and it won't be long before you start hearing a lot more about this stuff.

Probably the most intriguing of the two efforts for most folks will be Fox's set up, since it was they who collaborated with Shimano to come up with the electronic hardware that got Di2 off the ground for road bikes. Of course, Shimano has been using the battery to operate drive trains for three years now, but Fox was quietly coming up with a way to utilize the system for themselves. Of course, drive trains are not Fox's forte', suspension is.

So they cooked up this system that uses the very same battery a Di2 system does and hooked it up to work the settings on your suspension fork, because- you's easier than doing it manually.  There is a servo motor inside the right leg of the shock shown here, and also a servo that mounts on the damper for the rear suspension. Wires run into and out of the shocks, to the battery, and up to a ring shaped control module mounted on the handle bars.

Image courtesy of c_g

Fox dubs the technology "ICD", and it controls the "Climb, Trail, and Descend" modes on Fox shocks. For a full on tech geek fest, see "Pink Bike's" write up on the stuff here.

The stuff was also reported on here for Twenty Nine Inches

Thoughts: While it is easy to rail against batteries, technology in general, and all that on bicycles, one needs to pause and consider whether or not electronic suspension "mode selection" is worthwhile. Because this isn't really doing anything but making the selection of what platform your shock is set to easier to choose.  Keep in mind that the complete system, (Fork, damper, battery, charger, and harness with controller), is upwards of $2000.00USD. All that hard earned cabbage just to make switching settings easier? 

While the technology is impressive, for the minimal gains you get in faster switching of shock settings, one has to wonder why the system doesn't just decide all that for you for 2G. To my mind, this is the real benefit that needs to be pursued, if you're going to attach a battery and wires to your rig, anyway. 

Cannondale tried this once, and those that got to ride the prototypes said the technology showed lots of promise. Valving operated by electronics that could keep the wheels glued to the ground better than by mechanical means. Well, that sounds like something worth going after, and perhaps Fox is headed in that general direction with this. 

Also of interest is that since Fox collaborated with Shimano on this technology, it may be why we haven't seen a Di2 mountain bike group. Maybe. Just a speculation there that Fox has an agreement to keep that technology for shocks for the time being. 

Finally, as I pointed out yesterday, I am a single speed kind of guy, and I don't even fiddle with my suspension settings now. Why would I even want this Fox gizmo? Well, certainly, as the Pink Bike post stated, the long travel guys with their "squishy" bikes might like a "push to pass" button, but otherwise, I don't really see this as anything but a gizmo at this point.  An interesting, expensive gizmo at that.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Project Black: (Addicted To Single Speeds)

The subject: Project Black
Recently I traded Captain Bob a suspension fork I had for a frame. Not just any ol' frame- no- a single speed frame.

You might be thinking, "Okay, big deal , GT." Yeah, it isn't all that "newsworthy", unless you understand that I already have 8 single speeds that are rideable, (all 29"ers), already. Not only that, I have two frames hanging in the rafters that are single speed frames as well. 

So, what the heck? I don't really need a single speed hard tail, rigid 29"er, but.....I sure didn't need that suspension fork either! Addicted to single speeds? Maybe. Possibly. Either that or I just attract these things some how, I don't know!

Well, I guess I have to build this rig up, right? I mean, it does me no good as a frame, and it basically is in new condition. A black Vassago Jaberwocky. Steel. Wet Cat. All that stuff. Anyway....I figured I might have nearly everything to get this one going without buying anything. I am close, but I'll need to get a couple things to make this "right".

I also figured out early on in the process that the theme for this one would be "black". I figure it is fitting, since this is a Vassago, which is sort of a dark name with the model dubbed "Jabberwocky", which furthers the darkness and vaguely described here. So, I grabbed the "Black Flag" wheels I had sitting around, some black Avid Ultimate brakes, a black TruVativ Noir Bar, a carbon seat post, some black, nondescript lock on grips, and a Race X-Lite stem in black. The fork is a Salsa CroMoto Grande.

I have a few substitutions and additions in mind, but that will all get reported on later. For now, Project Black is well under way, and I guess I'll have another single speed in the stable!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back 2 The Fat

I swapped By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk's wheels back to fat, and I needed to get out there and ride the rig the way it was meant to be. I thought Friday would be that day, but it turned out to be Saturday instead.

"Skinny" Larry 3.8"ers
The 3GR got rained out in the morning. I slept in instead. Then I did a bunch of household chores before hitting up the writing chores for TNI. By the time late afternoon rolled around, I was feeling like something was missing.

That something was a ride. I figured that it had been several months since I hadn't put in at least a couple of hours of riding on a Saturday. Even through Interbike I had kept the streak going.

Well, I couldn't let that go now, could I? So I started getting kitted up for a ride on the fat bike that didn't get ridden Friday. That act of getting ready was a bit elongated due to the strange weather we were having. I decided that it may rain, so I  had to pack in the rain shell. Then I decided that it may cool off, so a woolen shirt was put on over the tech tee I was wearing. Endura knickers, wool socks, and Lake 165's on the feet. off I go then!

I had gotten into the woods and decided it was too humid to wear the woolen shirt. Off it came and packed nicely into the Osprey Raptor 10 hydration pack. I snapped off a few images then took off again.

Black Hawk Creek
The air was soupy. It felt like an August day, only not as warm. It was in the low 60's when I had started. No wind to speak of either. The rain earlier in the day had softened up the terrain, but there was little mud. A shame, really, as I was hoping to slog through some just to test the 3.8" Larrys.  As it was, I may as well have been riding a typical 29"er this day, as the ground was rather firm. Even the sandier sections were fairly packed down.

Well, I was still having fun, regardless, so I just kept on pedaling onward toward the very end of the Green Belt Trails. The end is a bit strange, and little used or visited by most riders. It is a spur off of Shaulis Road that is a "lollipop" out-and-back, which most folks merely dismiss, or don't even know about it, as the entrance is about 100 yards down Shaulis Road to the East from where you come out from the North. I discovered it once years ago, and I make sure to visit down this end a couple times a year, at the least.

Of course, there is this little grassy two-track that comes off the lollipop and goes around the edge of a farmers field. I had never ventured beyond the field, until this ride.

Probably where I shouldn't be....
Now one might go all the way around this field, or fields, I should say, but this day I didn't dare to go that far. It seemed unwise, and furthermore, it was going to be getting dark soon. No need to be out bushwhacking on unfamiliar grounds in the dark.

I saw a spot that looked cleared out on the edge of the woods toward the creek. I drew over to it, compelled for some reason to stop right there. As I dismounted, I noticed the rusty structure against a tree in front of me. A deer stand. Wow! I was glad no one was in it!

This only reinforced my desire to turnabout and go on back the way I had come. So, I did just that. Back down the two-track, then on to the backside of the lollipop section, out onto Shaulis, and back on to the "well used" part of the Green Belt.

By now I could discern blue shreds in between dark clouds. The sun was setting red on the western horizon to my left. I didn't have time to stop and ferret out a good viewing point, and the woods were pressing in on me as it was. So I pushed onward. Even though it was getting darker, I could see well enough, and the lights weren't necessary quite yet.

The last shreds of the day
 As I popped out over the four lanes of Ridgeway Avenue, I saw the red western sky. As I started into this section, I got a phone call from Mrs. Guitar Ted, and she wanted to know what I wanted for dinner. We decided upon Chinese to be delivered. After the call, I flipped on the tail light and head light to finish off the ride.

I headed over toward the lake and to make a round about. I did see the last shreds of the day slip away here in red fire with pink and bluish gray.

It was a weird ride in that I figured I should be seeing some wildlife, especially deer, but I only saw various squirrels, and I heard the hooting of several owls. But it was a great two hour ramble in the woods on By-Tor The Titanium Mukluk, and it was good to have it back on the fatter tires again.

I think I need to tweak on the wheels a bit. Seems that I was hearing some random spoke noises, which makes me think I may have a few loose spokes in the rear wheel. The noises went away, then the noises would reappear again. Kind of bothersome, and something I want to fix before it gets to far into the winter months.

As I pulled into the sidewalk in front of the house, and slowly dragged the bike into the front door, I noticed a car pulling up to the curb. The Chinese food delivery guy! My....I must say, my timing was impeccable!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Gravel Road Riding Etiquette

My friend Ari, who himself is a passionate gravel road rider, Trans Iowa Veteran, and soul leader of the "Slender Fungus Cycling Association", has posted on his blog some awesome gravel road riding etiquette thoughts and pointers. I hope Ari doesn't mind, but here are his bullet points. (You still should follow the link to read the rest.)
1: People live out there and need to be respected.

2: Do not leave your garbage out there. pack it in your jersey pocket or on bike and dispose of properly

3: If nature calls, find a spot where you are not visible.

4: Ride on the right side of the road so you don't get killed by a truck coming over a hill.

5: Be an ambassador and don't make the rest of us look like idiots. Wave and say hi. Maybe one day a rider will be stranded and a farmer will offer a ride.

6: If you have an encounter with a dog, for your own safety don't harm the dog as you will be harmed by a farmer that has the dog to protect his property. Most dogs will let up once you pass the property line. If they don't, get off the bike and use the bike as a shield until you can get away. Refrain from spraying the poor animal with any chemicals. We had an accident where a repair bike had an unlocked canister of pepper spray and when one of our mechanics went to put the bike on the stand that thing went out and sprayed us. It was terrible and it took me all day to feel better.

7: If you gravel grind at night please use a blinker in back and a bright white light in front. A cyclist just got killed in my old neighborhood while a pickup truck was passing a slow moving vehicle. It had a head on collision with a cyclist that was riding in the dark with no lights. The unfortunate cyclist was a family man on his way to work. It bums me out tremendously.

Great tips! These are super important things to me as well. If you ride in Trans Iowa, you are an ambassador for cycling, gravel road riding, and lastly- for Trans Iowa. Now normally we don't ever have an issue with these things, but I stress these points, as does Ari, because we care about riding and how cyclists are perceived by the public. But more than this- we care about your safety, and the freedom we have to be able to do this activity.

Besides, most of this is just plain smart.

Special thanks to Ari for his brilliant post. I hope you do not mind my borrowing some of it!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday News And Views

Back scratcher out of desperation...
It rained here on Tuesday. The rain was steady, fine, and soaking. It started after I went to work, and of course- I didn't bring any rain pants. 

I had ridden my OS Bikes Blackbuck with my new set of Geax Saguaro white wall tires on it. Tubeless- of course! They are the first wire beaded tires I have set up that way, but they were a snap to get tubeless.

But I digress- I was in desperation mode with 15 minutes on the clock before I had to leave work to come up with a solution for rear wheel spray protection. I found two seat post mounted racks that had been discarded at the shop, but both were missing critical hardware to mount them. With time running out, I moved on to look through the discarded fender pile.

I found a plastic front fender that with a rack strap might do something. I quickly moved to fitting it to the bike. I fortunately have the auxiliary seat post mounts for a water bottle cage on this bike's seat post, and that made for a perfect place to mount the fender from. A few minutes later and I was done.

It worked great. My backside stayed dry, my saddle stayed dry, and the fender was secure over curb hops, bumps, and what not. Wish I could have kept my shins as dry!

Okay- so now for a bit on the tires. They are new. Wire bead, as stated. 2.0 width. Heavy, but Saguaros wear like iron and with the tubeless set up, I saved the weight of a tube. I''m okay with them. They ride super-smooth tubeless. Crazy smooth. I do not know if they are available yet. More to come.....

On One tires? Yes. They are good too.

Yep- On One tires!  I purchased these from the U.K., and they have been quite impressive so far. A true 2.25"er, these set up marvelously tubeless, and have held air better than almost any tubeless set up I have done so far.

But the thing I like is their all around goodness for this area. Someone asked me recently about all around tires for the Mid-West and specifically this area. Well.....add these to the list!

Maxxis makes these, so the quality is there. On the Stan's Flow rims they can be run sub-20psi and that floats my boat around here. I might bump that up for rockier terrain. I have run them upwards of 30psi and they seem less supple, but still work great. Anyway, I know the guy that designed these, (Shiggy), and he knows a thing or two about mountain bike tires. I think that shows through on this design. Well done!

Just wanted to point these tires out, as I think they are deserving of closer inspection, and they are way under the radar for sure!

Making Plans To Go: Update- 

I had said after Interbike I would get out on a S24O to test the whole bikepacking set up. But there is more to life than cycling, and it is raising it's pointy little head here in a few ways.

Mrs. Guitar Ted has been under the weather to the point that I have been doing double duty as a parent and house keeper lately. That's put a lot of stuff on the back-burner of late and one of those things is the S24O and anything related to it.

Until she recovers fully, (and that doesn't look to be soon), I have to stick close to home and do what needs to be done. That said, as soon as I can get out, this will happen. Everything is in order, so it won't be delayed any longer but for this illness.

Related to this, I am returning the Titanium Muk to fat wheels. Winter, (hopefully), won't be far off, and I want to be ready for that when and if it decides to snow. In the mean time, I think the Fargo Gen II will be getting the On One tires from this fat bike wheel set. The bikepacking set up could go onto either bike then.

On The Radio:

I was a guest a while back on Mountain Bike Radio and the host, Ben Welnak, asked if I might pop on from time to time to discuss stuff. I said, "sure". It's easy- I just call in and talk. I'm a talker, really. If ya get to know me, you know that.  Well, anyway- Ben went and named the time slot "The Guitar Ted Show". So if ya'all want to hear what I have to say about fat bikes and land access/advocacy issues, and a tiny bit about all this Lance/Doping scandal stuff, click the link there and check it out. I think the show runs about 45 minutes or so. (It was supposed to be a half an hour, but I talk a lot, like I said, so.....)

3GR: Okay- this will be a "game time decision", but for right now, the weather looks to be holding off until the afternoon now. If that's the case, I'll be riding at 8:30am from Gateway Park. If it looks iffy, (as in there are a lot of green blobs headed our way on radar), I may cancel at the last second. You know you are responsible for you. I will trust you will make the correct call on this one!

And that's a wrap! Stay safe. Stay dry. And have a great weekend ya'all!