Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday News And Views

Care of ImagineGnat
Tracking The Days: 

Nothing like a good old analogue calendar to track yer days by. I just can't imagine not having a paper calendar, which may seem old school to you out there, but judging from my visits to stores of late, I ain't the only one!

So in an effort to "shop small" and also to support someone I think of as a friend, I suggest that you consider one of these fine calendars from Gnat. (He of "Barns For Jason" fame) Gnat took all the images in these calendars and I think they are awesome. Mrs. Guitar Ted thinks so as well. You can get a calendar in color or in black and white, but these are so cool, you need to get both of them. Really.

These are staying with me, but they would make an awesome gift for someone as well. Check it out here.

Long overdue hangings
Speaking Of Art....

I finally got around to hanging a couple of things that have been safely rolled up in a tube for......years! 

I can not remember who it was that brought me three of these T.I.V3 header posters, but if you are reading this- Thanks! And lookee here! I finally hung one! Sharp eyed readers will recognize the image as the same as the T.I.V9 header image with different graphics.  The image is from a ride that co-instigator of Trans Iowa, Jeff Kerkove, took on one of his old "Friday Night Lights" gravel grinders which were held here when he was a mechanic with me at the shop.

The other poster is a Twin Six "Dust To Dust" poster which Twin Six sent to me at one time or another. So once again- Thanks guys! It's been too long, but it is finally out and being shown off at Guitar Ted's homestead.

I still have a couple of other smaller posters yet to get framed. I don't care if these are not matted professionally, or whatever. If I wait to pay for that to happen, it won't happen! Not that I am a cheapo- but things like truck tires, kid's clothes, and lunch money are more important, ya know?

My kinda bar action.
Blingle Bar:

I picked up one of these On One Midge Bars in a shiny gold ano recently. For the money, how could I not? (They were on sale for sub 30 bucks) These bars were developed by some aficionados of dirt drop use and- in my opinion- are still the king of off road drop bars. Others have tried, but they have not improved on these.

Now- I use Woodchippers, Luxy Bars, and Cowbell Bars, and those are all pretty good at some things, but the Midge Bar is great at most everything, with one tiny exception- The drop section is just a wee bit short.

And now I hear they are going to lengthen that bit, and allow folks to cut them back, if they want the old Midge length. Just hearsay, I don't have any confirmation at this point, but if it is true- yeah. That'd be about perfection. (Now that said- I still have an idea I think is better, but no one has been able to get it right, or has tried it yet.)

And these gold ones? They are going on Fargo Gen I soon.

 Weekend Goings On:

While most of you Mid-Westerners will be soaking up the last bits of warmer than usual weather, I will be doing two things. First up- Global Fat Bike Day. Saturday will mark a day set aside world-wide to do the fat bike thing. I know of a big ride in Iowa City, and the guys around here are getting together at The Camp. Minneapolis has a huge one going down. I suppose there are rides going on all over little and big, but going on none the less.

I'll be doing a combo gravel/single track gig Saturday. Gotta get in a training ride for Triple D along with the fat bike celebrating.

Then on Sunday I'll be doing Trans Iowa recon and hopefully will get that all wrapped up. Got new tires on the truck, an oil change, and checked over. Everything is a go. The weather should be perfect. I hope to move to drafting cue sheets then and following that in the Spring we'll check those out and catch any mistakes. It is the method I used last year and really made for the best cues T.I. has ever had.

Okay- that's a wrap. Get out and ride while ya can! It won't get any better than this in December.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The End Is Near

The Lunatic Fringe
The End Is Near! The end of the year, that is. With that thought in mind, I have been overtaken with a sense of urgency which stems from having so much needing done before winter clamps its icy grip on us. All day yesterday was pretty much consumed with thoughts having to do with this anxiety and the pile of things I think needs attention before The End.

So, in an effort to allow myself a channel through which to vent through, I now am going to dump out my mental cart here for all to see. The Mayans have nothing on me.

First there is the huge goal I set for myself of having all the recon done before Winter for the upcoming Trans Iowa V9. This was going to be a slam dunk until I figured out that the "shaky-shake" I was feeling in the seat of my pants when I drove the "Truck With No Name" was a broken belt in the left rear tire. Yeah......not cool! It was looking as though I was needing tires anyway, so I am getting those put on today, as a matter of fact.

Trivial Factoid: Each tire for a 2003 Toyota Tundra costs the same as one Big Fat Larry in the 120TPI folding bead flavor. I find this somewhat amazing.

I am not a Man- I am Devo!

Well, so there is that, and now a last ditch effort to squeeze out the recon will take place Sunday. It will be nice out, and it should prove to be a good day to knock it all out. If I don't, December will not allow for anymore chances, let alone Winter's possible arrival on the scene.

And that segue ways into what else is going on in my brain, which is my Family. I have a jam-packed December of Family Fun going on.

First it is a close family friend's birthday, (you could say she is a sister of mine, in fact), then there is Mrs. Guitar Ted's birthday, then it is my Daughter's birthday, then Christmas, New Years, and on January 2nd, it is my wedding anniversary. 

The social calendar be full! I will blink on December 1st, (which is the big fat bike ride day, by the way), and then I'll be staring straight into January and the big day of the Triple D event. Oh yeah!

Training for Triple D must happen around all of this as well.  I have to get going on that some more of that here soon. At least the bike will be set up pretty well already. (Did I mention the cost of new skins for that sled? Yes?) Uh-huh.....needs new tires as well. I may opt for something different than Larry's or Big Fat Larrys though, which could be even more spendy! That's not the only event prep I have going on either. There is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes for Trans Iowa V9 which is consuming a lot of my thoughts. E-mails and ideas are being slung around that might just amaze some of you out there.

In fact, stuff for that event could be so awesome I may explode before I can tell you all about it. It's going to be that good. Well, either I will explode, or the Mayans will be right. (Cue Corporate Anthem)

Stay tuned.....


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The "Interbike Golden Ticket": An Opinion

Notice: The following is this author's opinion and may or may not reflect the opinions of anyone else. I base my opinions today on published material from the Internet and my own personal observations and experiences from my Interbike attendance over the past several years. In the end, I suggest you make up your own mind based on your own research. Now, on with the story.....

For the trade only.
 Interbike- The North American bicycle trade show that happens every Fall. I have been to several of these shows, dating back to the 90's. A lot has changed over the years with Interbike since those days, I'll tell ya that much.

One thing that has not changed much is the consumer's desire to "get inside" and see the stuff before everyone else. Well, maybe it has changed a little bit, since you can sit at home and scour the Internet and see almost everything virtually, but actually being there still trumps all. The trade has not ever allowed consumers to venture into those noisey, bustling halls, until next year. That's when- if you are one of the lucky few- you can get what Interbike's Pat Hus describes as a golden ticket of sorts. He is quoted in a "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article as saying the following, " In year one, we want to make it feel exclusive...."

That's cool. The plan is for Interbike to allow a pre-determined number of "passes" to be made available to independent bike shops who in turn are advised to give  out said passes to "special customers" who will be allowed into Interbike on the final day of the show for a fee of $50.00 a head. The passes will be limited, (but no solid number has been proffered as yet), and will be heavily weighted toward shops in the Southwest. Details on just how this all will pan out will be made known at a later date.

Interbike's Outdoor Demo
Again, I have no horse in this race, so whatever happens is fine by me, but I find it rather odd that on one hand the Interbike folks are 'opening a door" to consumers and not "shutting the back door" that's been open a crack for years. So, is the new Consumer Day really exclusive?

What I mean is this: Consumers, (perhaps only the crafty and slightly cheeky ones, but consumers none the less), have been attending Interbike for years, and Interbike knows this is going on. 

My point is that if you are saying that the trade show is "letting consumers in on the last day only", and you are not providing answers for how the rest of the show will be devoid of consumers, then the whole to-do seems sort of meaningless. So far, Interbike has not provided for how they will police "sneak ins", other than to say that they are being more strict on who is an actual business and who is not upon signing up to get into the show.

Going back to my previous years at the show, one thing always stands out to me. The last day is always sort of a joke. In fact- I quit attending the final day of Interbike a few years ago, since it was a waste of time. Vendors were slowly packing up throughout the day. The last year I attended on the final day, it was not unusual to see several empty booths by noon!

What's more, the booth folk are just about fried to a crispy texture by Friday. And who can blame them? Many of these folks fly into the show a week in advance of the last day or even more to set up meetings, arrange for deliveries, and set up their show booths. Then they have to survive Monday through Thursday doing Outdoor Demo and the indoor show. Friday? All many want to do is chat, have a beer, and get on with getting outta Dodge.

Bicycle riding: The fun part.
Interbike says that with the new Consumer day on the last day of the show, hours will be extended until 6pm. Yep. That'll probably work, right? Consumers will really get a good look and feel for Interbike that way.

Well, I don't think so, really. In fact, I don't think it is a very good idea at all. Put people you want to impress in front of half crazed, bored, dog tired, booth ridden employees and expect that to turn out for the best? It's a little like the parents who expect toddlers to be perfectly behaved after 14 aisles of grocery shopping. Yeah.......right! But maybe I'm all wrong about that. It isn't putting the best foot forward though, in my opinion.

And getting back to the consumers who are slipping through the cracks anyway. Listen- I've seen them, met with them, and have noted some of them at multiple shows. Unless Interbike tightens the reins, I don't see anything changing with regard to these folks, and I feel that if you ever wanted to get into Interbike before, you probably have, and will again. But it won't be under the new "Golden Ticket" policy, I bet. No.....those folks will be at Outdoor Demo and the first couple of days of Interbike, most likely, just as in previous years. Why wait until the last day? All the fun is riding the bikes at the demo and seeing everything before anyone else you know does anyway, right?

The Golden ticket folks? Well..... Interbike says these folks will drive consumer sales at the retail level due to this new found exposure to the inner sanctum. We'll see how that all pans out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Get Your Own

Regular readers here will no doubt know that I have a certain love affair of sorts with an orange bike I ride on gravel mostly. There are several reasons for this, but that's not the point of this post. So, at the risk of sounding like a schill.....

Now in a fetching gray, or....
I pinched these images from the Black Mountain Cycles site (please forgive me, MV), and they show some new frames that are now on their way to the California based shop. These are the "monster cross" models which is what my beloved "Orange Crush" is. The new batch has the same features as mine with the exception of added rack mount bosses on the new ones, and the drop out spacing is now fixed at 130mm.

The steel construction gives this frame and fork just the right amount of stiffness without giving away the steel feel which many riders like. I know steel forks are heavy and not in vogue, but trust me- Keep the fork on this bike. It rides really swell, and better than a carbon fork does. (I know- I tried one on mine and didn't like it.)

The new color is a grey, as shown to the left here. I like it. It is an understated, yet classy look, and would be swell with silver bits on it. I had a grey Trek at one time with a similar color and it really grew on me, which I was surprised by, since I typically go for the more retina searing hues in the color palette.

...or get one like my "Orange Crush".
This is a really versatile frame set. I like it because I can shove big 1.8"ers in the frame, or I can opt for more reasonable 35's with boat loads of clearance for the goo. Fenders work a treat with these, and now with rack mounts out back, one could likely do light loaded tours, or set up a great adventure rig.

The geometry on these is a bit like a Surly Cross Check with notable differences in head tube length, (longer), and chain stay length, (also longer), which in my opinion makes the BMC frame better for gravel riding. But it also does "all road", rough road, or whatever ya want ta call it. It isn't just a gravel road rig.

Finally, I want to say that I am not being asked to pimp these frames/forks. I really just like mine a lot. I figure that most folks might benefit from knowing that there is a smartly designed, small batch rig available that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It doesn't look like a freakin' bill board, it has some class, and the fine details are really nice on these frames.

There are other great steel frames out there too. Singular Cycles comes to mind. The aforementioned Surly, and others as well. But I am just one guy that is stoked on a Black Mountain Cycles frame and fork. Maybe you will dig it too. Maybe not, but there it is.

I am sorely tempted to get another one of these frames and a fork. Why? I already have one, right? Well, my first build on my own BMC was a single speed. This bike makes a great single speed gravel rig, and I wouldn't mind having a dedicated frame/fork for that which mimicked my set up with the geared BMC.

That'd be quite the luxury, but it would be fun. Who knows? Maybe I'll clear the shed out of a few rigs to make way for this.

Then I'd have to figure out which color to get. Yes- I would entertain getting another orange one. I like orange bikes. Orange is fast.

But in reality, I would most likely opt for the grey. I like it a lot, and as I say- silver components would look trick on this, and I have almost everything I would need to set one up right down in the Lab now.  Or I could go and swap over all the geared bits from the Orange one to the grey frame and go back to a single speed set up on the orange one.

Sheesh! I think I am talking myself into another one of these! Better settle down there.

Anyway- if you are curious, see Black Mountain Cycles here. As I say- I don't get anything at all for pimping these frames, but you could do a whole lot worse than a Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frame and fork.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fat Bike Questions Answered

Because I like the B&W version of this.
 A while back, I wrote this missive concerning fat bikes. At the end of that post I received several comments and the last was filled with some questions that I will attempt to answer here. First up is the following:

"What pressure do you run on XC? "

Fat bikes are really, really air pressure sensitive machines. A difference of 1 psi will be felt and will make a difference in ride feel at the range a fat bike should be ridden at for air pressure.

Range? Yes, air pressure should be changed depending upon conditions. First of all, I never run my fat bikes at anything higher than about 10psi. That's paved commuting/hard packed XC riding pressure right there. Oh sure, you can convince yourself that a higher pressure will roll faster if you want to, but in reality, it makes the tire bounce more, which is actually losing your battle against rolling resistance, not winning it. At much over 10psi, I start to bounce. There- that is why I do not air up any higher than that.

On the low end, I go down till the side walls wrinkle, but no lower. This only for maximum traction. That's about 4psi for me. Usually I will range between 7-9psi, which covers most ride types. Told ya these were air pressure sensitive beasts! 

"Is there a pressure gauge that Fatties use?"

Well, as you can see from the above, a pressure gauge that reads really low psi and reads it accurately is best. Slime makes some readily available low pressure pencil type and dial gauge low pressure readout tools to help you get the job done. (Here's an Amazon link to the dial gauge)  There are other gauges too, but the point is, they are available, and almost always Schrader Valve types, which can work if you have a Presta Valve, (like most fat bikes), with an adapter.

Some floor pumps can get you by. They won't be really precise as to correct psi at that low a range, but some pumps can get you great "relative readings" which may be all you need. I have used a Topeak Joe Blow for just such a reason with good results.

"Front tire pulls to the left when hitting the brake. Is that normal?"

This type of question is something I've been asked a lot of lately. Not necessarily having to do with braking, but "pulling to one side" issues in general. This has to do with two things unique to fat bikes.

First, the tire footprint, if you will, is huge in comparison to anything else most people have ever ridden on in terms of  a bicycle before.  That means there is a lot more grip, and the dynamics of how that wide footprint interacts with the terrain is entirely different than any other off road bicycle. You will especially feel this amplified in ruts or on "lensed out" trails.

Imagine that the single track is a "U" shaped path. Your fat bike tire will want to grab the sides of that "U" shape and crawl up the walls of the trail/rut which will feel like a pull to one side. A fat bike is doing this incrementally on dry trail all the time. I feel it in my handle bars. It feels like the bar gets "heavier"- then "lighter"- on one side or the other. In fact, if you pay attention to this, you'll feel the tires twisting the entire frame ever so slightly at times.

While riding, your fat bike tires may encounter thousands of these little ruts, "U" shapes, and other things which are felt as "pulls" to one side or another. Depending upon the severity of the trail irregularity, this can be felt as a substantial pull, or just an odd feel.

Suspension: Not quite ready for Prime Time
Secondly, your tire pressure and overall tire profile can enhance or detract from this "pulling" sensation. Less air pressure enhances "pull"/odd feelings. More tire pressure lessens this feel. (And as you recall from above, a 1psi change may be all it takes to get rid of this feel for the most part.) Tire profile shape has an effect on this also. The "flatter" the tire profile, the worse the "pulling" effect gets. Surly Endomorphs are famous for this feel. Their flatter profile compared to more current designs makes the feel of an Endo much different than say, a Larry. Width of a tire also increases this feel, so a BFL compared to a Larry will feel differently, and the BFL will exhibit more of this "pulling" feel than a 3.8"er does.

Considering Lefty fork, any thoughts?

Ahh! Suspension forks!! They seem to be the "holy grail" right now when speaking of fat bikes for single track/off road use.

First of all, there are no really good solutions for a suspension fork for a fat bike. The Lefty will "get the job done", but it isn't optimized for the job, and it is very expensive to do a Lefty for a fat bike. Riders that have them report that they work well and that a "purpose built" fat bike fork should be considered for fat bikes as a whole. If you have the money and patience to track down the component pieces to make a Lefty work for your fat bike, it isn't a bad idea. Personally, I will wait for "the real deal". That's just me though. Nothing against Leftys in particular here. Oh, and I should mention that the European company, German Answer, has a fat bike suspension fork available. Might also be worth a look.

Any steps to remove the grin form your face when you get out off the bike??

Well.......yer on yer own there, Buddy! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Triple D Winter Race: Training Log 1

Mud flats: Black Hawk Creek
Okay- Turkey Day is gone, no more 3GR rides till next Spring, and now it's time for some training for the Triple D Winter Race coming up January 20th, 2013. (Registration is open now, by the way.)

This will be my second attempt at it. Last year I finished and came in 22nd place. Not bad for an old guy! So I am putting in some effort ahead of time to allow me to make a decent showing at this event.

That might have been the Turkey Burn out at the Camp, but I was tasked with sourcing a hair cut for my shaggy maned Son, so with the barber closing at noon, any morning chances at riding were not going to be possible for me. I ended up dinking around in the basement after the shearing session and turned my titanium Mukluk into a single speed. Then it was a bit of lunch, kitting up, and heading out on the Snow Dog for a bit of a ride in the Green Belt.

On the way out, I noted that the Black Hawk Creek was so low due to the continued dry weather we've had that I could ride under the Ansborough Bridge instead of across it. That was pretty fun. The mud flats would have been very messy if the temperatures would have been over freezing, but since the air was chilled, the traverse was easily done without a mess.

Safety Stop on the Marky-Mark
I went as far as I could go, then was forced up a ten foot high embankment covered in dead weeds. This led to bushwhacking my way along a deer trail until I got back to an ATV trail where I remounted the bike.  This led, in turn, to the trail proper.

I rode out and hit up the Marky-Mark trail again. I wasn't real sure how far I was going to go out in the Green Belt, but I was feeling okay. Even my leg that I biffed on Thursday was doing well.

So, I ended up doing the entire Green Belt trail out to the end. I turned around and headed back with darkening skies to my right. Darkness comes early this time of the year! About 3/4's of the way back I met a fellow on a Trek 820 with his enormous, hairy dog. He stopped me to ask about the bike- (of course!)- and thought it looked like a great idea........until he heard the cost of entry to fat town! My wheels cost more than his entire bike. It is a bit of a problem, but then, they don't make a lot of these bikes, do they? Maybe at some point we'll see prices start to become a bit more reasonable for these machines, but I doubt it will ever become like buying a Trek 820!

Well, I made it home before dark and was out for over two hours grinding away on the Snow Dog. I wore an Osprey Escapist 30 hydration pack with some gear and about a half a payload of water in it. I wore a base layer, a Twin Six merino wool hoodie, and a Trek Oslo winter soft shell over that. For pants I wore my Dickies cotton twill pants. A pair of Salsa Cycles wool socks and my Keen Brixen boots were on my feet. I wore Planet Bike Borealis gloves.

 Mystery cross
Everything worked great in the mid-20°F temperatures I rode in. The wind came up there towards the end of the ride, but it wasn't a big deal. If it were colder, I would have modified my get up a bit, but I typically will wear a bit less than some folks, since I tend to stay warm.

As far as nutrition, I am working on an anti-freeze mix for my water bottles. (I used something along these lines last year with great success) I did not take anything solid or gel-like to eat though. I probably should have because I was getting some "tireds" after the ride, which tells me my body needed to eat. I'll be working in some nutrition on the longer rides soon.

Stay tuned for more Triple D Training updates.

Trans Iowa V9: Registration Closes- Now For Some Training!

From The T.I.V9 Nerve Center
In a kind of weird week of registration, Trans Iowa reached its 120 field limit Friday. One day ahead of its scheduled closing. I have to admit that after getting only four entrants on Tuesday I had a little bit of doubt that the roster would get filled. But it did.

Now I will reiterate- If you end up finding out you will not make it- let me know ASAP!!

I will make a huge difference to me if you let me know when you find out/decide. Okay? Thanks.....

Otherwise, get that training regime cranked up. Right? lots of folks probably have a good idea of what to do, but for those of you that wonder about such intricacies, here are a few thoughts and tips I have for you. Hopefully some of you get something out of these....

  • Bike/Equipment: You probably have a rig in mind for this ride, but here are my thoughts on the bike and gear you choose. First- Make sure you are comfortable at three, five, and seven hours into your riding with your choices. How do you figure that out? Ride that many hours.....straight.....without stopping much, if at all. What won't suit you will quickly present itself. Then make changes, repeat, refine, repeat the ride process, until you get things squared away. Bonus: You have automatically set up a fantastic amount of base miles just by screwing around with equipment choices.
  • Prepare For The Worst: Prepare for bad things to happen- Bring an extra derailleur cable, (I've heard from a guy that actually had his ride saved by carrying one), bring a spare derailleur hangar, pack gear for cold temperatures, (It has been as cold as 28°F with wind chills into the teens), and pack food and water to get you by for at least 100 miles to start out with.
  • Hope For The Best: Figure out how to keep your kit to a minimum. Get your head on straight by training in bad conditions, terrible head winds, and at night. (Or all three at once!) Learn to always keep moving. Do these things and when you hit trouble on the road, or tough head winds, or a rough patch, you won't have a hissy-fit, or break down and cry. 
  • Don't Over Do It: Sometimes folks train too much. Overworked knees, sickness, and burn out have felled more than a few potential T.I. riders before they even lined up at the start. In the words of Trans Iowa co-founder Jeff Kerkove; "You have to rest as hard as you train."
  • Learn To Fuel Your Body From Convenience Store Fare: At some point, your gobble-de-gook protein paste will about make you want to rip the head off a ground squirrel and drink its blood. Really. I've seen this nearly happen a few times. Anyway, you will have to resupply at some point, and that means pizza slices, shriveled hamburgers, breakfast sandwiches, and Rice Krispie Treats. Remember- You will be attempting a triple century plus some that will extend into another day. You won't be wanting to exist by Nutritional Products alone for 28 hours or more. Besides, you probably couldn't pack enough on you to last that long anyway. 
 Through a mud splattered window...(T.I.V7)
Okay, with all that said, I will let you in on a little secret: Getting to Checkpoint Alpha at about 52 miles will be the toughest part of this event for many of you. I am not going to sugar coat this: It's going to be hard- not just a little hard, but really, really hard.

In fact I think it will be so hard that I extended the time to get there and there are no B Roads on the way there. None. The roads are that tough. This doesn't account for weather, which may make it even harder yet. So.....don't say I didn't warn ya.

Finally, I had a bit of a reminisce on the way to work Friday. The temperature was in the upper 20's, the wind was out of the NorthWest at about 20-25mph, and there was snow blowing in the wind.

Just like the beginning of T.I.V4. So, it can get nasty in Iowa in late April. Just don't get caught out under dressed or under-prepared.

More later....

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seizing The Day

I whacked my left knee here....
It didn't take me long to figure out my schedule for riding when I looked at the weather forecasts early in the week. Warm weather would rule till late Thursday, then we'd be going into the freezer for a bit.

I have a Specialized Camber Comp in for testing on Twenty Nine Inches, so getting some good riding very important. Fortunately I had both Wednesday and Thursday to get some significant trail time in on that rig. Once it gets colder, it seems that getting out and really getting after it on the trails becomes so much more difficult. Not impossible, but with all those layers on, it gets harder.

So I got a great ride in Wednesday, then on Thanksgiving itself, I went up to the Camp and unloaded for a nice afternoon ride. I had two layers on top, and when I felt how warm it was, I shed the one and wore only my short sleeved Twin Six jersey. I can't recall when I have done that on Thanksgiving, or on a Turkey Burn ride before.

Things were going along just peachy until I got to the first steep climb. There was just enough moisture in the soil that it stuck to the Ground Control tires, gumming them up, and subsequently causing my rear tire to slip out at a critical juncture. It was so steep at this point that I tumbled over sideways and backward, and as I came down, I smacked my leg just under the knee. It was at the point where the tibial plateau is, and it was really painful! That part of my tibia met a nice, innocent chunk of limestone embedded into the trail there and of course, was little bothered by the incident. But there is something about smacking bone on rock that creates an intense level of searing pain. Needless to say, I stayed on the ground for a bit.

Specialized Camber Comp
 Visions of Texas circa 2011 circulated through my brain there for a bit, but after some poking and prodding, I came to the conclusion that I had not broken a bone, nor broken the skin either. It just hurt like the dickens.

I got up and walked it off, but not 100%. I was still good to ride, and I figured getting the blood flowing would be a good deal. Gingerly I remounted and trundled onward down the trail. I felt okay, but the greasy mud was making things difficult so that I had to keep the speed in check so as not to go down again.

Further on down the trail I saw a few deer. Not surprising. They like to hang out in these woods. A bit further out and I came across a downed tree. It looked to have been dead for awhile, but obviously had succumbed to decay and wind pressure. In the process of breaking and falling down, it took out another dead tree, sort of like a domino would. It has blocked off an ascent to a ridge and working around it meant I had to go way off the beaten path.

But I got around it and by this time, my leg was feeling fine, which was a good thing. I worked my way over the ridge into the bottoms and got closer to the Cedar River. There I saw a lot of commotion.

Cedar River: There's an eagle's nest in one of the trees here.

First thing I saw was plenty of deer. I started to count as I slowed down to a safe stop. Looked like 12 does, then I saw one coming behind, bigger, cautious. It was the buck, of course.

Then I saw something else. Higher up, and there was no mistaking it- a big, mature Bald Eagle took flight from a tree on my side of the river, then another! I then swung in a bit closer, stopped on the trail, and started walking the 30 yards or so to the river bank. Three immature Bald Eagles all swoop down and up into the blue skies over my head. I stood and watched them making circles. Soaring effortlessly higher and further away until I could no longer see them anymore. Pretty amazing moments there.

Then I remounted and moved along, climbing out of the bottoms, (successfully, I might add), and moving towards the newer bits of trail toward the end of the loop. Those new bits of trail are really loamy right now, and the Ground Control tires were definitely not in control! I was having to walk at a few points, but near the end of the loop I was able to open it up and I ended up with a nice ride on a stellar early afternoon in late November.

As I pulled up to the truck to leave, I noticed the wind had shifted, the air was changing. It was going to get colder really fast. I was right at the edge of the last warm bit we'll likely have in a long time.

Glad I seized that chance to ride and enjoy it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Registration Update

A bit of T.I. Cheer
Registration Update:

Trans Iowa V9 is nearing the completion of its registration phase. As of Wednesday, there were 16 spots left up for grabs for the Rookie Class.

Of course, today there is no mail. Friday and Saturday remain and after this, Registration will close whether all the spots get claimed or no.

Will we get to 120 riders? Likely we will. I know of a few cards still on the way. If the roster falls short of 120, at least I'll know that everyone that wanted a spot got one. Remember- there is no Waiting List, and no transfers of spots either.

Post Registration: 

Of course, all that remains for you, if you got on the roster, is to train. Ride lots of miles, fret over equipment choices, and make your plans for the weekend of T.I.V9. It sounds simple, but Trans Iowa is still a long ways off yet- 5 months or so, and a lot can happen in that time. 

Another Registration gift. (Thanks!)
One thing I ask of you if you are on the roster for T.I.V9: Please let me know as soon as possible if you end up finding out you can't make it, or decide not to come. It would save me lots of time and money in preparations.

Otherwise, I'll be finishing up recon, (after I get a new set of tires on my truck!), and then the process of getting cue sheets done will take place. I'll be asking for Volunteers soon, and of course, the Pre-Race Meat-Up will be finalized.

Closer to Trans Iowa I will be contacting all of you on the roster to confirm that you are coming, and to get menu choices for the Pre-Race dinner finalized. Then it will come down to the nitty-gritty.

But before all of that there has to be this registration and the final two days should be interesting. Then to the recon for me. Of course, I'll be holding my Trans Iowa thoughts here for ya'all to read along the way as we go forward into 2013. Thanks for all the interest so far, and I look forward to getting a great course squared away for ya'all to ride on. There will be some good surprises, and this course will have an entirely different feel than last years did. I'm pretty excited about it.

Lots of great stories and things going on behind the scenes here. As always, it is a very rewarding and eye opening pursuit, otherwise I wouldn't do what I do. Take care, and if you have any questions, please comment here or e-mail me and I will respond.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Crux Of The Biscuit

So many burning questions and issues.....
Scanning the internet of late, looking at all the bicycle related stream of consciousness out there, one might come to the conclusion that the Mayans were correct- The "World As We Know It According To Cycling" is coming to a swift and confusing end.

Take for instance all we once assumed correct concerning mountain biking. You may as well throw it all out the window. Three valid and obtainable wheel sizes, a myriad of different bottom brackets, head sets, and fat bikes? 

Wow! And that's just mountain bikes. Go over on the road side and you find a similar treat for those in favor of anarchy. What with electric gizmos measuring power, moving your derailleurs, and navigating your route for you. Then you have the most iconic road cyclist of the last 20 years falling like Satan thrown down from heaven. And if you thought that was bad, it gets even worse! I mean.......hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes? 

Perhaps "climate change" really means that Hell is freezing over.

With all of the changes going on, you might think that cycling is either going off a cliff, or that these are the most exciting days we've had for a while. Depends on how you like your "change"- Medium rare or hot and spicy.

....but all that matters is the joy of riding.

You can drive yerself nuts digging into all of the details, trying to figure out the competing standards, what components are best, and whether he did or didn't do that. You can argue for changes or against them passionately, and that's all well and fine. At the end of the day though, none of that stuff really matters much.

Nope. All of that wouldn't amount to a hill of beans if it weren't for you and your love of pushing a set of pedals around, with the wind in your face and a goal to reach. It all pales when you top out on the steep hill, launch over that log, or rail that corner. It just doesn't matter when you look over at your riding partner and know without saying a word that this is the coolest, most satisfying moment on two wheels you've ever had.

When you boil it all down to the things that really matter, stuff like bottom brackets, race entry fees, and doping mean diddly squat. For me, it just it's all about the joy of riding my bicycle.

And that's what I am going to be thankful for when it comes to thinking about cycling tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some Thoughts On Commuting

Commuter time
Recently I read a nice, entertaining article on commuting in "Bicycle Times" latest issue # 20. It was written by Thom Parsons, and is well worth seeking out. (Plus- there is a great article by Eric Benjamin on Gravel Worlds in it as well.) Anyway, it got me to thinking about my own commuting experiences. there were a few things Mr. Parsons hit on that had me wagging my head up and down in agreement. Then there were a few places I was smiling wryly as I read his sarcastic remarks about cars. But there were a few things I thought he missed that I find integral to my commuting experience.

So, here are a few things I thought I could bring to the table in regards to commuting. I hope that someone out there finds these useable. But first, I should explain where I am coming from here....

My commute is about 4-5 miles one way. depends on how I have to roll- (more on that in a minute)- and sometimes I even extend the route. I have leeway with regard to timing some days, so maybe that doesn't work for you. I also have been doing the same basic route for over ten years. I commute all winter as well, so some of this will touch on what I do with my cold weather commuting.

  • Research More Than One Route: I feel that it is a good thing to mix up your route sometimes. It keeps things fresh, and you learn more things about where you live and ride. I also have to use a different route for snowy, icy conditions than I do in clearer weather where there is no snow. I actually found that a slightly longer route is faster then, since the road ways and bike paths I use then are maintained. 
  • Be Consistent With Your Commute To Breed Familiarity: I know- it kind of works against my first tip, but when you use a similar route at similar times the "regulars" out on the road will learn to accept you as part of "traffic". That will help cut down on the bad encounters, but it won't totally get rid of them either. But I've found that folks have said that they have seen me on my bicycle at regular times, so I know it helps. 
  • Learn The Lights: It's funny, but every traffic light on my commute has its own "personality", or way that it works. I had to learn how to work them to my advantage and best safety. Some I can trigger easily, others I can not. Some allow cars to turn while holding back straight on traffic, some do not. It will behoove you to figure out the lights and how to make things work to your best advantage. Like me, you may even have to swing over and hit the cross walk button at some lights. Whatever makes it work best for you. Do that. 
  • It's not every day that you see a dead deer on your commute!
  • Be Extra Vigilant In Winter: I've found that car drivers and "non-cyclists" instinctively think cycling ends when school starts in the Fall, and doesn't start back up again until Spring, or maybe even summer. Winter is the worst for commuting and cars being dumb to your presence, or just being down right evil to cyclists, because they "shouldn't be out there that time of the year". Put some snow on the roads and it gets even worse. I think some of these folks think that by hitting you and killing you they would be putting you out of your misery and ridding society of one more dumb person. Whatever. Just be really careful riding the streets in Winter! 
  • Use Different Bikes: I know this isn't reality or maybe practical for many, but having specific bikes for specific tasks makes commuting easier and more fun. I use a fat bike in winter, and sometimes in summer! I use a cargo bike for times I need to carry stuff I can not put in my messenger bag or backpack. I have a "townie" for errands too. It helps keep things fresh, and you have a "back up plan" in case one rig needs maintenance or breaks down.
Okay, a short list, and not meant to be a complete one. Get that story I mentioned above and read it. Good stuff, and maybe my little additions here will flesh it out for you. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The "Big Day"

My Son leading the way
The weekend took a weird turn when I was awakened out of my sleeping in on Sunday morning by my Son who had my cell phone. He gave it to me and Mrs. Guitar Ted was on the other end asking how soon I could get ready and get down to the church to play guitar. The scheduled player fell ill.

So, I snatched my clothes, made short work of brushing my teeth, and ran out the door with my gear and '98 Les Paul Standard in tow to play the morning's services. That went as well as it could have and when that was over, it was already past the noon hour. So, after some lunch, I took my Son out for a bike ride.

We missed the night ride on Friday evening due to his wanting to watch a movie, but I'll take a daytime ride too. We meandered down to Waterloo's newly refurbished River Front area which is pretty nice at this point. I don't know how long it'll stay that way, but so far I have not noticed any tag art.

Speaking of art, we rode by the arts and rec center where they have several sculpture installations outside. Jacob pointed at one and said, "Hey Dad! Do you see that fine art there?" Ha! Well, I answered that in the affirmative, but left off my thoughts on what constitutes "fine art". We'll discuss that in the future.....

It was a great ride, a nice day to be out, and we even got to see hundreds of pigeons flying down by the bridge over the Cedar at 4th Street. There were so many birds we decided the sky look "peppered".

Then there is today's big deal.  Today marks the final stage of registration for Trans Iowa V9 which opens for Rookies and ends on Saturday, if not before. I suspect I'll arrive to work and find some early entries, and the overnight letter folks probably will have a few items for me.

Then the U.S.P.S. will dump a big load of cards off, if past years are anything to go by, and I'll be busy putting names in the roster. If things are as crazy as I suspect they might be, I won't get the roster updated on the T.I.V9  site until later this evening. Please be patient! I'll get to it as soon as I can.

So that outlines my big day for today, and my big day out with my son yesterday. More "big days" are ahead. Stay tuned......

UPDATE: The day just got a little bigger....

 Trans Iowa V7 was filmed by Jeff Frings and made into the documentary film "300 Miles Of Gravel" which just won a Chicago Regional Area Emmy. Here is a part of the e-mail note I received from Jeff:

"Just wanted to pass along the fact that 300 Miles of Gravel won a Chicago  Regional Emmy tonight. I wasn't there, but I watched it online and posted it on Facebook."

So I wanted to post this to say thank you to all of the riders in Trans Iowa V7, David Pals, the volunteers that year, and the Grinnell Chamber Of Commerce/ Sheryl Parmely for making T.I.V7 possible and real. Thanks to Jeff Frings and his wife, and also to all those who helped make "300 Miles Of Gravel" a reality. I didn't need an Emmy to prompt these thanks, but it goes without saying that it needs to be done again for this unexpected turn of events. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

3GR: Pushing The Pause Button

Frosty, Chilly Start
Looking at the calendar, I am pretty amazed at the amount of Friday evenings and Saturday mornings I have committed to doing the 3GR. Since April I have only missed a few weeks of either Friday evening or Saturday 3GR's. That's seven months of riding this group ride.

Now with next Saturday being the Turkey Burn and the following Saturday being Global Fat Bike Ride day, it would mean that the next Saturday up on the docket for a possible 3GR would be December 8th. Then I would have to postpone doing another one due to birthdays, Christmas, and New Years. So......yeah. With the outstanding chance that we'll have some really cold, snowy, or icy weather by the 8th, and certainly in January, I think it is time to push the pause button on 3GR till things get better next Spring.

But there was this last ride, the last 3GR of 2012. I got out of the house to see a landscape of frost and ice where there was any water. It wasn't all that chilly, being into the upper 30's, but it sure looked like the edge of Winter was nigh. I wasn't worried this day though. the temperatures were forecast to soar into the 50's, eventually, and a light Southeasterly was predicted. I knew I would be meeting at least two other riders. Ali from work, and a friend of hers, who was a "rookie" at riding gravel.

Ali and Chelsea waiting on the train to pass.
I didn't see many humans or animals on the way over to the meeting spot. Strange, and maybe a fitting end to things for the year. Well, as usual, I arrived early- way too early, and I started fidgeting around with my bike and snapped off a few images on my point and shoot.

Moments later a white car pulled up and I heard the familiar voice of Ali saying hello. I walked over and met her friend, Chelsea, who produced a Mongoose branded department store mountain bike shaped object to ride. But hey- at least she was there to give'r. Ali was sporting her SE Racing Stout single speed.

So I could see this ride becoming a slower, more relaxed one. There were no other late comers, so it was just us three. We headed out Northward and the flatter terrain fostered okay speeds. I knew that wouldn't last, and I was okay with that. The turn on to Mount Vernon Road brings the first steep, and sure enough, this would be the point where we'd really slow down. But ya know what? Those gals got up that one pretty well.

Then we hit some more flatter stuff, and cruising up towards Janesville was easy. All of us were chatting occasionally and were enjoying the ride. Then we would reach the area near Camp Ingawanis, and there the hills kick in which would dramatically change things.

Looking back: The 3GR was a lot of fun in 2012!
I told Ali and Chelsea that the hills would be coming and I'd likely be bombing the down hills, which would separate us for a bit. Boy! Did it ever. I had to wait several minutes at the corner where we go Southward again for Ali and Chelsea to catch back on.

By this time I had committed to riding my Orange Crush in a single gear and working on my pedaling form, especially going up hill. Slow, meticulous circles were the order of the day. This sure helped keep my speed in check, and more importantly, kept me from getting too far ahead of the gals.

I had fun, and I think the gals were troopers. The ride took a bit longer than usual, so I didn't stop at my usual coffee spot, but instead I turned for home, getting there just in time for lunch. The slow work really worked me! I was torched when I got home, and I am sure it did me good to be riding like that. Probably should do that sort of thing more often!

Well, anyway, it was a unique ending to my gravel group ride experiment. I'll likely start up 3GR next year in the Spring. Thanks to anyone and everyone that participated in 3GR over the past several months.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Lighting Part II

Last week I hit on some stuff regarding lighting for those who might be attempting T.I.V9, (or any night time gravel grinder). You can check out that post here if you missed it.

The start of T.I.V7
This post will deal mostly with how I think your light should work for you. Mind you, this is merely my own opinion, but having done several night time gravel rides and events, I think I can speak with some authority here, and besides that, I know what lays in store for you on T.I.V9, and you do not!

There are two things, in my mind, that are paramount regarding lighting for Trans Iowa, or similar rides where fast descents may be occurring on gravel. First is getting light up the road. 

You can easily reach speeds of 35mph and probably up over 40mph on some of the descents on gravel for Trans Iowa. Your lighting may be adequate for pavement, but how do you "read the road" on gravel?  You only have a precious few split seconds to make decisions at these speeds, and on gravel- any sudden maneuvers will result in going out of control, or crashing, which are both bad things and usually go hand in hand. Knowing what is coming as soon as possible is very important then. And if you didn't know- the darkness in Iowa is........really dark! 

So here is the other important thing- the beam pattern and quality of that pattern. Having a high powered light with crappy optics isn't going to do you any good at night on gravel roads. Dark rings, spots, or weird shading may not be an issue while you are going down a paved road, because the differences between those oddities in optics are nothing like the surface you are riding. But out on gravel, these things can become trouble since the gravel can mimic shading, weird patterns, and yes- even circular shading, so it becomes difficult to know if you are looking at weird optics or six inches of gravel piled up in your path. You also need a broad swath of useable light. Spot beam patterns are not ideal. What if you want to switch your line to the right? If you are not sure if the gravel is deep, rutted, muddy, or dry outside your spot beam pattern, you have no idea what you are steering into until it is too late at higher speeds. 

T.I.V7: Image by W. Kilburg
Okay- so what should you look for in your choice of lighting? Good optics that do not have strange patterns, hot spots, or shading are best. A good, wide swath of even light is best. If that light can be pushed 100-150 yards up the road, that's even better. (You may want to think low/medium for the flats and hills and punch up the light to high beam for descents.)

My set up uses a cheapo Eveready camp light I hacked to a Cat Eye computer mount. The beam pattern goes from ditch to ditch and up the road far enough to comfortably ride the flats. My helmet mounted torch is going to be a Lezyne Super Drive, which will get my beam way up the road for the descents and will work for sign identification for navigation needs. My handle bar mount is going to be a Lezyne  Mega Drive set on a lower setting for down the road lighting.

I set my Eveready light on a mount off my front rack, lower than the handle bars, and it shows up washboarding, pot holes, and dips quite nicely down there. On my Fargo, that light will mount off my low rider mount which will do the same thing.

There is my set up for night time gravel grinding and it will be an improvement over my old set up, which wasn't quite adequate enough, (for me), on fast descents. Again- it's my opinion, and based off my experiences and perceived need. You should take this only as a guideline and do due diligence by testing your own lighting set up well before Trans Iowa.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday News And Views

SRAM XX1 Cassette
XX1: The Future Of Drive Trains?- 

 I had the chance to actually handle some XX1 drive train parts yesterday at the shop. The XX1 group is the newest technical advancement in drive trains for mountain biking.

SRAM saw that a lot of racers were not using the inner ring on their 2X10 set ups, so they developed an 11 speed system with the "bail out" gear on the cassette instead of on the crank set. This eliminated the front derailleur, shifter, and cable and housing on the left side. That makes XX1 lighter than XX, but the actual component pieces are heavier.

SRAM put a lot of neat little details into this. For instance, the rearmost cog is actually dished to help it clear the spokes. The cassette carrier is threaded and screws onto the cassette. That carrier has two cartridge bearings on each end to support the massive looking cassette, which is incredibly light, by the way. The carrier reveals the free hub pawls, and since the cassette is removed with a Shimano Hyperdrive lockring tool, you can get in there to clean out things anytime you want to.

The derailluer is also quite interesting. It has a Type 2 clutch to arrest movement of the cage, which stabilizes the chain. Interestingly SRAM used a roller bearing clutch to do this with. Shimano uses a band clamp. SRAM claims a no maintenance use for the Type 2 clutch mechanism for the life of the derailleur.

Downside here is that the entire system with the derailleur, cassette, crankset, shifter, and chain is about $1700.00. So, it isn't for everybody. There also is no option currently for a fatbike, which I think this system would be great for.

San Marco Pirelli damped saddle
Engine Mounts: 

 One of the ongoing pursuits of the cycling industry has been how to design components to absorb vibrations. This is important, since any vibrations or shocks that reach a rider have to be absorbed by that rider, which causes fatigue and loss of power, and at worst can cause failure physically and failure with components on the bicycle. Several ways of taking care of this problem have been attempted in the past. Suspension on mountain bikes is a good example of this, but even the tires and the air pressure you run them at are important in combating vibrations and road shock.

Lately I have seen several seat post based solutions to this problem. A few new ones on me were witnessed at Interbike. Now another one crops up from Cantitoe Road here. Elastomeric isolation from the rest of the bike for the rider is nothing new. (Note the Pirelli designed donuts on the saddle rails of that Selle San Marco saddle I have pictured here.) However; it could be a very effective way to get the job done. Just like engine mounts in a car isolate the activity of the engine from the rest of the car, the Cantitoe Road design could be a great product. However, typically this sort of idea has been problematic in its applications in bicycle components. We'll see how this pans out, but I like the idea.

Whoops! Not yet....
Hydraulic Road Shifter/Brake levers: 

 First off- yes, they are coming. It is not a hoax, something that is being pushed off, or a teaser. SRAM was going to pimp these at Interbike, but for technical reasons in other areas decided to hold off on these. They are just now making the rounds at cyclo-cross races.

Of course, everyone is wondering what Shimano will do. I hadn't heard anything until just recently, and this article in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" confirms it. Shimano is coming on board with the disc brakes for roadies too.

A few points from the BRAIN article are worth noting. First, that Shimano is involved and plans on coming out with something. Shimano is primarily a research and development company. They likely have had a prototype road disc set up for several years and now can fast track it into production. Secondly- that the CEO for Formula's German arm is quoted as saying, "Shimano will be right from the beginning the leader of the market". That tells me the stuff will be dialed and will be spec'ed everywhere. Thirdly- That standards for road bikes are set for another sea change. You already have different head sets and bottom brackets across several different design standards. Now the wheels and wheel attachment standards will also change. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see road bikes get their rear axle spacing bumped out to 135mm as well. This means that road bikes from now back to the early 90's will become obsolete. Expect choices in wheels and other components to go the way of Campy Nuevo Record. (E-bay, Craigs List, and swap meets.)

A Few Words On T.I.V9:

Tomorrow the registration for Veterans will come to a close. I do not know how many spots the Vets will leave unclaimed, but I am certain there will be a fair number. These unclaimed spots, (if any), will be rolled into the pool available to the Rookies starting Monday. 

Look for a roster update later today and again on Saturday. I will then post what total number will be available to the Rookie Class on the T.I.V9 site.  Rookies will surely fill out their chunk of the roster in a few days or less. Things get kicked off for them on Monday. I have been getting a lot of questions and requests from individuals concerning the way things will work, which tells me interest is high. I am especially pleased to be hearing from several women who are considering jumping in. 

Could be a record year! 

I saw a few kind words were posted by T.I. Vet, John Karrasch on his blog. I admire John for his "never quit" attitude he displayed at last spring's Trans Iowa. You can check out what he had to say here, and read a few suggestions for those looking to attempt T.I.V9 as well.  

Fat Bike Summit: Last night on "The Guitar Ted Show" I had the pleasure of chatting with Jay Petervary and Scott Fitzgerald concerning the upcoming Fat Bike Summit which will feature seminars, information, group rides, a race, and demos of fat bikes in some awesome groomed snow trail country in Idaho. Jay mentioned that there is over 800 miles of snowy goodness out there to ride, so check out the links here and maybe get yourself out there come late January to enjoy the "Moab of Fatbiking".

3GR: It will occur again on Saturday at 8:30am at Gateway Park.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Project Black: Update

Yesterday was a glorious late fall day. Sunshine, little wind to speak of, and time off to get out for a ride. I decided to take the Vassago Jabberwocky out for a spin.

I dubbed this "Project Black" some time ago, and used it as a platform to (a) see what the fuss was about a Vassago and to (b) do a lightweight version of a steel single speed. I think I have succeeded in the lightweight department. Project Black ended up at 22lbs ready to ride, as you see it here. That's without any "stupid-light" stuff on it too. So yeah- I could easily take this lower. 

That weight would come out of the wheels and fork. The Black Flags are decently light, but I have stiffer, lighter wheels I could use on it. The fork is a nice early version of a CroMoto Grande, which for a steel fork is light. However; a Niner Bikes fork, for instance, weighs almost half of what this does. So I could throw some money at this and get it down to 20lbs easily enough, but I ain't going to do it. Nope.

I like it fine as is, and I may not hang on to this bike all that long. I mean- I have plenty of single speeds!

 I decided to get out into the Green Belt for a spin. I didn't have all day to drag the rig up to the Camp, and this would be a good test for the Geax Gato 2.1"ers in slicker dirt, which I knew I would find in the Green Belt and not so much at Camp. I was not disappointed either.

The skinnier Gato tires are much like their bigger 2.3" siblings in that you have to run the air a bit lower to get the side knobs to work. It's a good thing I did run 'em lower too, as evidenced here by this sliding sideways mark in this curve. There was just enough side bite to keep it upright. Had the tires been pumped up a bit more, well then.......I probably would have went down here.

The Jabberwocky's longer chain stays probably helped a bit with the stability as well. Speaking of "longer", it is something the Jabberwocky is and you can tell this in tight turns. It isn't real adept at the tighter stuff, and that frame is a bit flexy when you are doing a slow speed maneuver too.

But the same flex that is a detriment there is really the Jabberwocky's best trait as well. The bike feels so smooth, and the lowered pressure in the tires made everything nice until you hit some real bumps in the trail.  Then you'd become aware again that the bike is fully rigid with no suspension to absorb that impact. In fact, the whole bike does this shudder/ringing thing when certain hits are encountered. It's kind of weird, really. I've never had any other bike resonate like a low frequency tuning fork before. Other than this, the Jabberwocky ranks right up there with the smoothest feeling steel frames I've ridden.

In terms of handling it seems to be okay. It isn't a very exciting bike to ride. Very smooth, very stable, and it seems very happy to keep both of its wheels firmly planted on terra-firma. If I had to ride a smooth-ish course for hours on end, I might choose this bike to do it on. If technical features, rough single track, or snappy handling are called for, I am going to reach for my OS Bikes Blackbuck, the Milwaukee Bicycle Company 29"er, or the old Salsa Cycles El Mariachi. If things call for a slightly more stable rig with great slow speed, technical handling and decent steel feel, I would opt for the Sawyer. All of those aforementioned rigs do front wheel lofts and snappy feeling accelerations better than the Jabberwocky does.

That's not to say that the Vassago is bad. It is more correct to say that it rides maybe like how a 70's steel Columbus SL tubed road bike rides in comparison to modern road bikes. Sure, it is smooth, but it isn't as snappy as a newer rig, and isn't as exciting to ride, maybe. If that makes any sense at all.....

Anyway, I ended up riding a loop through the old connector trail I made that runs along Ridgeway Avenue on the North side of the road. It's still all there. Funny that, since back when I made it, I couldn't hardly get anyone to help burn it in, and I gave up on it. Some folks dubbed it "Marky-Mark". (I got some help making the trail from another Mark) Kind of weird to ride a trail named after you.

So, back to the bike, eh? The Vassago is merely "okay". The "Wet Cat" geometry is about as attractive as its namesake. Stable to a fault, low-ish, long, and not conducive to getting active with your riding style like some bikes are. And that's okay. It is different. It just is not my cup of tea as far as grabbing this over other bikes I have sitting around. I'm glad I tried it. I am happy with how the build went and with the weight. I'll have to think it over for awhile and see what I want to do with this thing. I think I already have a pretty good idea what will eventually happen here!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


A completely disjointed and non-flowing stream of consciousness for your consideration today....

By-Tor was a little put out for being left out of yesterday's post
 Wow! I knew a lot of folks were interested in fatbike stuff, but yesterday took the cake. My blog stats revealed a huge amount of hits on yesterday's post making it the single biggest day on this blog ever.

That is impressive when you think about Trans Iowa, or some other posts that have been super popular here. But fatbiking has really captured the imagination of folks, it would seem, and after all- we are going into winter when most folks give thought to these beasts.

So I'm going to give you one more point on fatbikes before moving on to other things. It is a timely point as well. (Okay- it is a bit of a rant, really....)

Fatbikes are great indoor trainer killers: I used to try to keep in shape by doing the trainer workouts or by riding rollers. You know what? It never panned out for me. I'd sooner drive an ice pick into my forehead than ride an indoor trainer. You may have a different opinion on the matter, and that is fine, but as far as I am concerned, the indoor cycling scene is anti-cycling. I'd go as far as saying it is from the heart of the devil, but that is just me. If indoor training is soooo awesome, than why don't folks do it in air conditioned comfort in July? Yeah..........because deep down inside, they know cycling belongs out of doors. That's why. Now with fatbikes at our disposal, there is no reason on earth to buy an indoor trainer, set of rollers, or to buy a pass to the gym. Get outdoors and breathe some fresh air, not some sweaty, humid, gym air. Don't get stuck in a basement. Don't glorify your mundane indoor existence by calling it a "house of pain". Sheesh!

Why would anyone not want to ride out of doors if they could? Now you have no excuse. Go.....

T.I. post card
Trans Iowa V9 registration is in full swing. I get a kick out of the post cards I get. The one I am sharing with you today is from a guy that is suggesting that this is what the Secret Checkpoint people may look like this year.

Reminds me of a Nazereth album cover!

Anyway, it looks as though this Trans Iowa will feature a cast of regulars and I am really pleased to see that. You know....I've grown kind of fond of these folks over the years. I do not get to see most of these people but for a few fleeting moments once a year. Not that I am complaining. I count myself blessed to know all of them at all.

Nuff of that. The registration is going smoothly so far. There are 29 spots left for Veterans as of yesterday. More cards are due in today. Since going to this form of registration the Veterans have not taken all their available spots, and I do not think they will this year either, but I may be surprised after all is said and done Saturday.

Then on Monday the Rookies get their crack at getting on the roster. My prediction is that by Tuesday the 49 available spots will be gone. There may be one, maybe two unclaimed Veteran slots, and if so, they will go into the Rookie pool, but no matter. If you are a Rookie don't sleep on it if you want a piece of T.I.V9, cause the chance at getting in will be a short lived one.

Plus, I am not going to maintain a Waiting List, nor do I allow transfers. If you miss this, you'll have to wit until a possible T.I.V10. (Man! That looks weird- T.I.V10!)

Okay, that's the main stuff on my mind now. Back to regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow....