Wednesday, January 30, 2013

News Flash: On One Carbon Fatty?

 I don't know anything more about this, but I just saw the link to the Shed Fire site, which is On One designer Brant Richards place to dump all of his behind the scenes bike stuff.

He lists this as the "carbon One One fatty". That would indicate to me that this is destined for production.

While not the first carbon fat bike frame produced, it would be the first produced in any sort of meaningful numbers, and I am sure, it will titillate those who are seeking to cut weight and have stiffness in their fat bike frame sets.
 I would surmise this will follow the same geometry the original aluminum Fatty has which is purportedly more attuned to mountain biking than it is pure soft surface/snow/sand riding.

Carbon fiber: What don't they make outta this stuff!

More as I get it, or not......

By the way, the images were pinched from the Shed Fire site. I have no horse in that race, just thought it was pretty interesting. Enjoy!

Update: The On One "blog" has now posted new info on this special one off frame. They are not saying it won't be offered as a production bike, but they are not saying it will be for certain either. At any rate, see the details here. The estimated MSRP is going to make this the most expensive fat bike option, if it is one, at $3250.00USD

Salsa Cycles Vaya: Update

Many of the regular readers here know I picked up a Salsa Cycles Vaya frame recently. This is a used frame that I am building up for use as a disc brake equipped gravel grinder.

It's looking like today may be the day that I get most of this rig put together. "Most" because I am waiting on tires, and that will be something I should be getting later this week, if not tomorrow. But anyway, here is a brief preview of what is going on with this rig and why I am pursuing that for this build.

Okay, so here's the deal: The Vaya is billed primarily as Salsa Cycles' touring bike, but as anyone who has been around the gravel grinder  scene in the Mid-West knows, this is a very popular gravel racer rig. Why? I aim to find that out for myself. Obviously there is some strong likeness to Salsa Cycles' first Fargo, so I expect similar feelings with regard to ride quality on gravel. We'll see....

What Time Is It? It's Vaya Time!
The main goal for this bike, in as far as what I hope to achieve with the final result, is a lighter weight bike than the Fargo with similar feelings and capabilities, albeit with narrower tires. To that end several specific parts will be used to get me where I think this could go.

The main component in the build is the Edge wheel set, (older name for Enve), and the wheels I have are sub-1500 grams for the pair. They have lightweight, yet durable American Classic Disc hubs, which have never given me pause for worry or concern so far. As a matter of fact, they were on the Fargo Gen 1 bike I have had for quite sometime, so I should be able to get a feel for the Vaya's similarities, if any, since the wheels are a constant there.

Another component chosen for it's familiarity with regard to the Fargo is the On One Midge bar. In fact, these are the very same Midge Bars that were on the old Fargo Gen 1 before I replaced them recently with new, gold anodized Midge Bars. These bars are reasonably light and in the 25.4mm clamp size, quite comfortably flexible. I will also use bar end shifters which should help keep the weight down as well.

I am using a carbon fiber seat post, vintage mtb, by the way, and a lighter weight Bontrager saddle for the time being. The drive train will be a mish-mash of 10 speed Shimano and SRAM components with two front chain rings in 42 and 30 tooth sizes.

Okay then, if all goes well today, and I get the tires soon, I may debut the Vaya yet this week. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Musings On Tires

And now- the standard disclaimer.....NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Tires: they are a "big" deal for cyclists...
So you may have noticed that tires for bicycles are kind of a "big deal" no matter what discipline of cycling you might enjoy. Tires are the one and only thing that touches the terrain we like to traverse, or fly over, as the case may be! Tires have a bigger influence on your riding than about any other thing concerning a bicycle you can think of. They are suspension, traction, cornering, acceleration, and stopping. They have a lot to do with speed and comfort. Essentially, if you have a great bike, and crappy tires, (or tires not being used to their potential), you are losing out on how good bicycling could be for you. Shockingly, most folks do not understand tires and how they affect all these things.

It's a huge subject, and I could go on for a while about it, but I want to focus on a few things that are misconceptions, misunderstandings, and myths. Number one amongst these has to do with tire width and pressures you run tires at. Most folks think "higher pressures are always better" and that narrower tires are always faster." Both things are myths, and most folks have a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to these ideas.

I have been a wheel/tire freak for a long time. Anytime the subject of wheels and tires came up in the old bike shop days, I listened up. From customers, to racers, company reps, magazine articles, and later on, the internet. I took in as much as I could. It  was one of the reasons in late '99/early 2000 I discovered this thing called a "29"er". (But that's a whole nuther story...) Anyway, I began to understand that a lot of folks "in the know" were running lower pressures and wider tires and going faster. Some companies were doing research, like Continental, Schwalbe, and others and were publishing reports that confirmed wider tires at lower pressures were better, faster, and more comfortable.

The bigger, the better?
It wasn't until later on  that I understood what "wider" and "lower pressure" meant for road and off road though. I had read this article from "Bicycle Quarterly" in 2008, and it really opened up my eyes to where cyclist might go for a better experience on their bikes. Well, if only they could let go of those preconceived notions and "feelings of being faster", (as noted in the linked article- many cyclists prefer the feel of high pressure in their tires, even though they are slower.) Of course- there are limits, and going beyond them will yield diminishing returns. But in general, many average cyclists, (and some avid enthusiasts and racers), are running tires too narrow and/or at too high a pressure.

Doing the gig that I do, I get to ride a lot of tires. Mostly off road tires, but the principles remain similar for road tires. I often still am amazed at how well some tires improve in performance at significantly lower air pressures than marked on the sidewalls. I was floored, for example, when this past summer it was suggested to me by a company rep that I dump 10psi from where I was at, (27-28psi), and see what I thought about a tire I was testing. The difference was night and day. Yes- I ran 17-18psi in these 29"er tires and they came alive, were faster, and way more comfortable. I had an unsuspecting rider try out the bike, and he came back with nothing but praises for the tires at these pressures. 

Wider- Lower psi: Works here too...
But old habits die hard. I know this because I have ridden with, and spoken with, a lot of riders that use what I would term as "really high" pressures and skinnier tires on gravel than they maybe should be. I've watched riders go by me, or ride beside me that are on bikes skittering, bouncing, and fish-tailing on the gravel, while others who are using lower psi and wider tires are riding perfectly straight lines.....and going just as fast. 

It is readily apparent that if said folks would be able to let go of their notions that high pressures and narrower tires were "better", their bikes wouldn't be getting out of shape, they  wouldn't be getting rattled nearly as much, and they would be saving a lot of effort/energy in the process. But for whatever reasons, they hold on to those old notions.

And this extends to pavement riders I talk with at the bike shop all the time. I guess each person is free to do what they want, but it is hard to understand why one would not check out the ever mounting evidence that your tires should be absorbing shock, wide enough to keep your bike really stable on rougher terrain, and not rock hard and narrow.

That's my take, and I know there will be a lot of folks that poo-poo the ideas put forth here, but I'm convinced that lower pressures and wider tires- to a degree- are better. I've some other thoughts on tires I may get to at some point, but that's for another day......

Monday, January 28, 2013

Iced Down

Tweak, clean, grease.....
The weather went upside down on us Sunday here and we got a good dose of ice. It essentially made our street look like it was made out of dark colored glass. The sidewalk was shiny and the grass was crunchy when I walked on it. Yep......all day. 

So, I spent most of the day dinking around in my shop. I cleaned, arranged, tweaked, assembled. Searched, swept, stacked, and retrieved. It needed it all badly, and the worst part is, I only made a dent in the necessarys.

I did find some more bits to assemble on to the Vaya project. It's going to start out as quite the "mutt" build. That's pretty typical of me when I have to make do with what I have around here. Well, anyway, I decided to use a 2 X 10 drive train, and it is going to be weird. I'll save that all for later, but for now the gearing is going to be 42/30 front, 11-36T cassette. That should make me go over anything I have in front of me out on the gravel roads. The wheels will be the tried and true Edge, (so old! Now they are called Enve), with American Classic hubs. Light weight, tough, and maybe even a bit aero!

The tires and a few bits and peices have to be sorted yet. I tried Nanoraptors, but the front was juuuust a bit too big! Oddly enough, the rear fits fine with a wee bit of room to spare. But that's okay, I'll have on some nice, voluminous tires soon.

It was kind of hard sticking around the house all day. I was itching for a ride, since I started feeling a wee bit better in the afternoon. However; the conditions never improved, and I couldn't even risk going on a short errand. It was just too slick. But I managed! Working on the Lab and on the bikes needed to be done. I felt good about accomplishing that much.

But I feel like it is time to buckle down on some training, getting riding in, and maintaining some forward progress with regard to fitness. The weather looks to be cooperative early in the week, but later we go back into the deep freeze for a few days. Blecch!  It's high time to either get a huge amount of snow so we can have Winter again, or let's just get on with Spring already. This iced down stuff and cold weather is not working for me.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Getting Back On The Horse

Alien Robot Technology?
As I stated earlier, this was a tough week. I figured it was recovery issues post Triple D. But now I think I have a mild case of some sort of virus.  My legs feel like they are full of lead and I don't have any get up and go. That and the cold made getting out rough for me.

Saturday did not dawn much better. I felt really tired even after sleeping all night really well. I decided to wait and see how I would feel later. After a late lunch, I felt good enough to go shake down a test bike or two for I came back pretty bushed, sweating, and feeling like I'd just done three hours of riding. Meh......

Well, the good news is that I got a lot of wrenching done. Converting tires to tubeless, tuning, setting up a bike, and working on the new to me Vaya. I spent the most time getting stuff and ideas pulled together for the Vaya. It looks like it'll be a 2 X 10 with SRAM shifters and rear derailleur with a Shimano front derailleur and a Shimano 10 speed DynaSys cassette.

I was a bit bummed when the WTB Nanos wouldn't fit the front fork, but I have an idea for some tires that I need to order here this coming week. Another bit should arrive this week, and if I can find the other confounded brake lever, I'll be well on my way to getting this one road worthy.

Just in time too, by the looks of the weather coming......

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: This And That

Today's post on Trans Iowa will revolve around several bits and pieces of information. All important, but none big enough to carry a whole post on their own.

"300 Miles Of Gravel":

In case you hadn't heard, the movie that documented Trans Iowa V7, called "300 Miles Of Gravel", is available on DVD from this link. This film is about 26 minutes long. It won a Regional Emmy for Best Sports Programming: One Time Event, so, somebody thought it was pretty good! I will say that this film should give you an idea of  what to expect in an "overview" sort of manner.

The DVD cover for "300 Miles Of Gravel"
Retroshift Contest:  
Just a reminder about the Retroshifters that are up for grabs to a lucky guy or gal that writes to me describing why they need them for their T.I.V9 rig. Go here for the details on how to enter.

Pre-Race-Meat-Up and Finishline Details:

I have heard some super exciting possibilities for the pre and "during-event" festivities for T.I.V9. While I can not divulge any specifics as yet, I wouldn't be surprised if things are very different from other Trans Iowas this time around. But don't worry, the emphasis will be on fun. 

Also- whatever happens, the Pre-Race Meat-Up will happen on the afternoon/evening of April 26th, and is a required attendance function for those who want to ride Trans Iowa V9. Finally, if anyone can not make Trans Iowa this year for whatever reason, please advise me ASAP. I need to limit my expenses and work to best be able to cover each rider that will be there.

Volunteers: I've got Checkpoint #2 covered, but I still need bodies for Checkpoint #1, and some exta help at the start this year. If you want to Volunteer, drop me a line and let me know in the comments, or via the e-mail link HERE 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday News And Views

Fat bike in a hotel room
Feelin' Crusty: 

This week was dominated by the after-effects of  the Triple D Winter Race. I was tired and lethargic all week. Having my birthday on Wednesday didn't help matters any! Cold, cold weather didn't help any either. That will eventually pass, but I must have burned a few matches last Sunday.

Next up on the list of things to look forward to is the Renegade Gents Race. That will be in early April. It is a team gravel road event, and I will definitely need to be hitting the gravel roads again here soon. I have the new, (to me), Vaya frame to get built up and if that pans out well, it could be the rig I ride in the event.

But first I need to start getting back into the swing of doing some regular riding again. the Triple D training was a success, and the strategy used worked all right, but I see some room for improvements on both fronts. Hopefully this year will see better strategies and results throughout the coming months......

Penny, the shop dog does a final inspection.
Going Far:

The other big deal this week was getting a titanium Fargo built for local rider, Mike, who is going to attempt Tour Divide this summer. (Talk about your strategies and looking for results!) Anyway, it was a joy to work on some fine components and bolt them to such a beautiful frame. I'll have more on the bike and frame on the bandit shop blog, but what really gets me about doing jobs like this is how I sweat all the fine details.

I don't build it like I would for myself- oh no. If that were my bike, I wouldn't have cleaned and inspected every component that came off the old Fargo. I woulda bolted that stuff on dirty! But I went beyond what I would do for myself. I also worry about how it is going to work. I guess maybe I am a bit of a worry wart, but even with my own builds, I am rather cautious the first few times I ride a new build, because I don't trust the bike just yet. Is that weird or what? I mean- it's a freakin' bike! Either it will work, or it won't work. It doesn't have "evil intentions", despite my own misgivings about such things!

So when a new rig goes out the door, I kind of feel like a bomb might go off at any minute. I shouldn't. I double check everything. I test ride the bike, but I guess I have a weird superstition about that. I mean, I've seen weird stuff go down before, so maybe that's where I get that from. Who knows. Probably just me.....

What's In Your Toolbox?
I Am A Mechanic:

Over on the Black Mountain Cycles blog,  proprietor and opiner at large, Mike Varley, sent out this salvo recently on his take concerning the differences between a "tech" and a "mechanic".

Well, you could go there and read that and my commentary, or read the following.....

Essentially, I feel that there is a tendency for some folks to "throw parts at" the problem, or just accept that "there are no user serviceable parts inside". Maybe some out there can't find the time to be creative, or to modify something to work for a certain purpose. Mechanics do not do any of the above. Ever.

To me, a mechanic knows enough about the basic workings, (rules if you will), about a machine to know that moment when creativity, a bit of digging, or extra time can make something work, and when it is time to throw in the towel and start with a new part, or entire bicycle sometimes. It is a fine balance between getting paid, making the money the shop needs to stay afloat, and servicing the customer in the best possible way too. It also may entail doing diagnostic work on the fly, while a customer is there, to better manage customer expectations.

In other words- it ain't easy. You actually have to be good at not only fixing and adjusting a bicycle, but you need to be a good salesperson, not a clerk. You need to be willing to think outside the box sometimes, and you need to be efficient, consistent, and reliable. Anyway, I do not believe a "tech" person is any of those things. Being a mechanic is complex, it requires a skill set beyond knowing how to turn wrenches or write up a repair ticket. I'm not sure it can be taught to someone from a book, or online either. I'm pretty certain it can not.

Well, that's my take, for what it is worth, and I've been doing mechanic work in various settings for almost 29 years. If that means anything......

Have a great weekend! Hope ya get outside for a bit!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cold Commute

I don't use pogies often....
Tuesday was my first day back to work post Triple D, and with the "Truck With No Name" having a dead battery, I was relegated to riding to work. This would ordinarily be a cause for complete and utter joy; however, my legs were torched, it was below zero something, and the wind was out of the Northwest.


Well, there was nothing else for it other than to mount up and make the pedals go around. I dug out my ATV bar mitts, and with those in place, I pointed the Snow Dog Northwestward and off I went. It wasn't very pretty, I'll say that much!

I like commuting, and it is a great time for me normally, but that commute was pure suffering. It brought back the same feelings I had going up those long Dubuque hills on the Northwest Arterial, and the cold was even worse than during the race. My legs were aching and weak. I suppose it is good mental training!

As I struggled to get up the water tower hill on University Avenue, it occurred to me that the cold makes everything slower. The grease coagulates, maybe even my joints are "thicker", and the blood doesn't seem to flow like it does in warmer weather. I don't know, but the cold wears you down in ways that are.......depressing sometimes.

Anyway, the trip home was much, much better! I figure it is the rare sub-zero ride that was getting to me, but I'm hoping for warmer weather all the same!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Triple D Winter Race: Race Report Part II

Part II:

In the last part, I left off with the entrance on to the Heritage Trail section of the event. Heritage Trail is a converted railway that is paved with pea gravel, but in Winter it is snowmobile trail, as long as there is enough snow. Of course, we had enough snow for a time, but with all the warm days previous to Triple D, that changed the landscape dramatically.

There were plenty of sections of open, clear trail at first, and this was coming West toward Graf. That is a bit further east than where we dumped out onto the trail going out last year. At first I was thinking this would be easy, and event director, Lance Andre's words were remembered again when he had said that there was no more ice on this trail. That was pretty much true here, at first, but there were ruts from previous cyclists with skinny tires who decided they just had to "pizza cutter" up the trail while it was soft. Of course, these ruts went helter-skelter across the trail, and those played havoc with the fat tires by pulling the bike left and right.

Well, that didn't last long, as we made a slight right hander, the ice encroached all the way across the trail in long patches. I had caught Steve F. by this time, and as we chatted, I could see his tire squirming back and forth on the ice. I came around him as he slowed up, and he slid a bit more severely, almost taking us both down. Then I concentrated on my line, and by the time I felt comfortable looking back, Steve had slipped off my wheel a considerable distance. So, I trucked onward.

Image credit: K. O'Connor-Leigh
There were runners from Triple D's running events coming back at us, and I tried to give an encouraging word to each of them as I passed by them. This also served to distract me from the icy trail a bit, which at that time was a good thing. I ended up figuring out that if there were strips of snow at the sides of the trail, these were good places for smooth rolling and traction. Sometimes I'd even drop off to the edge of the trail, where the ground was showing through. Whatever line looked cleanest and free of ice. It was somewhat comical watching riders ahead of me zig-zagging back and forth looking for traction.

Eventually I came upon the two bridges that were out, and these demanded dismounts and careful picking of your way so as not to fall on the copious amounts of ice, or into ice cold running water. I ran up on a few other guys as we traversed a thin shelf which was too rough to walk on our right hand and fell off into the cold running water on our left. Then there was a sketchy rocky crossing where one could get their feet wet, but I managed to get out of there with pretty dry boots.

The rest of the miles into the Dyersville checkpoint ticked off without much drama. I ended up coming in at about 1:37pm to Chad's Pizza where we had the luxury of eating, changing out clothing, and re-supplying on water. I had come in with a few others, but they all escaped ahead of me. While at Chad's, I consumed a small amount of pizza, cottage cheese, and drank some of my special sauce I concocted. I didn't pay much mind to the time, but I suppose it was onwards of about 2:00pm when I left. There was a couple guys right in front of me, but I didn't come in contact with them until well into the final leg.

So it was that I found myself pretty much alone, dangling far enough off the back of at least two guys that I couldn't see them after a short while. Alone with the now completely icy trail. Even the once safe snow sidings were treacherous now. I was bewildered a bit, it all seemed so different coming back, and the handle I had on riding on ice seemed to have flown away from me back in Dyersville.

Bridge out, looking back West.

Somewhere in this part I made a small, corrective steering move while riding near the right edge of the trail, and the Snow Dog took off to the right, sliding out of control. I saw that the ditch was pretty steep and about ten to fifteen feet down into some rough looking bracken. In a split second, I made a twisting move to make myself fall to the left of my bike instead of high siding it off to the right and a sure trip to the bottom of the ditch. The move worked. I landed splayed out, face down into some crusty snow, but I only knocked some of the wind out of myself. I also found that my left leg was pinned between the top tube and handle bar of the Snow Dog. I was in a tiny bit of a pickle, since I was on a downward facing slope with my legs up higher than my head, but I finally disentangled myself. After calming down from scaring myself half to death, I took off again.  From now on I was sticking to the middle of the trail!

I somehow was better off for it as well. I was calmer, had my mind back into it, and I suppose I was a bit angry for having such a silly crash. (Later I would find out lots of folks were doing similar things!) No ice? Pah! This course was riddled with "death ice", as I like to refer to super smooth, slick ice. It was almost like riding rollers, in a way, since you needed to really concentrate and focus.

And looking ahead to the East.
I was drawing nigh to Graf when I spotted two riders in front of me, I thought it was Scott and Ron, two locals to me that I had been seeing off and on all day long. It wasn't those two. I drew up within about 30 yards of them, then I just couldn't seem to catch them, and actually drifted back a piece since I was unwilling to traverse the ice in spots as fast as they were doing it. Despite the conditions, I was really stoked at this point because I was still using up daylight, where by this point last year it was fully dark for me.

The pair ahead of me split up, and the follower was coming back to me, when all of a sudden the lead guy pulled off the trail, I suppose to relieve himself. I passed them by, and then came up upon Scott and Ron looking at some markers trying to decide whether or not to climb up the embankment to follow the trail. I quickly reminded them that this was a turn off for the poker riders, not for the Ultra-Cyclists, and bade them follow me to Durango, which I knew was maybe a few miles up the trail. It was there we were to check in so the event organizers would have a better handle on who was still on course.

Michael Lemberger offers congrats- Image by S. Wasmund
By the time we got to the bar in Durango where we were to check in, we had become a group of five, as the two guys I had passed came up to overtake us just before getting into Durango. I had been pushing the pace into the small town a bit, not wanting the two guys that caught us to get away before the checkpoint. We all piled in together and the locals at the bar seemed amused by our entrance. Much to my surprise, Jesse R, who typically does well at this event, was checking us in! Apparently he had a mechanical which put him out of the event a few miles before reaching Durango.

I ate a piece of pizza, guzzled some more of my secret sauce, and dug out my head lights for the remaining miles of Triple D. Another rider asked if he could join me on the ride back, and I agreed. It was Steve, a Trans Iowa vet, (Steve says he's not been in a T.I. Whoops!), and we made hay and got back to Dubuque on some really icy stretches of the Heritage Trail before dark. Once we reached town, we ran into a barricade that had not been there the day before. About 30 yards on the other side of this, we saw the markings for the course. We decided to jump the barricades and we took off to the right, leaving the Heritage trail for some bumpy, hilly, scrabbling over the last bits of the Triple D course of 2013.

These were actually the opening miles of the course from the previous year. Steve mentioned he was from Dubuque, but had no idea where he was at. I said it was all the opening stuff from last year, and I told him where the ATV trail we were on would come out. There at the top of that climb Steve got his bearings and then he was taking off, and I could not reel him back in at all.

L-R Myself, L. Andre, Steve S, : Image by S. Wasmund
 My legs were shot by now and I was really needing to stop, rest, and eat something, but being so close to finishing, I kept trying to ride back to Steve. Fortunately, he would stop and let me catch him at navigational conundrums and at the tops of hills. It was slowly getting dark all this time and the temperature was dumping fast. I was beginning to feel pretty chilled, but again, we were almost there.

We got a tag a long near to the end who was on a white Salsa Mukluk, but after a bit, he disappeared and Steve and I were at a corner trying to ferret out where we should be going. Finally I suggested we just plow straight on to Highway 20 and reconnoiter where we were at there, since fumbling around the streets in the dark was no good. I think our brains were addled by too much riding, cold, and lack of nutrition now anyway. We finally made our way back to the Best Western Plus, and I was really glad to see the front door of the place! Steve and I finished about fifteen minutes to six, and he disappeared while I stood chatting with a few folks in the lobby, legs a shambles, mind splattered, and tired as all get out.

Mrs. Guitar Ted showed up about then, and she chaperoned me back to our room where I got cleaned up, and we had a great time eating and hanging out at the restaurant there. About 10pm, the awards ceremony cranked up, and we had a great time celebrating everyone's accomplishments, and Irv's 70th birthday. He turned 70 the day of the event, and finished the Ultra-Cyclist course that evening. We all sang Happy Birthday to him, which he seemed to relish, and then we ate a cake Lance and crew had brought in just for the occasion. It was a lot of fun hanging out with the racers afterward. Then I stuck around in the lobby gabbing and drinking until 1:30am, after which time I finally hit the hay. The following day, we had one more free breakfast and we headed back to home. 

The Triple D may not have been the snow event we all wished for, but it was great none the less. I hope Lance and his crew can manage to keep the new stuff in, and perhaps we can have a crack at that course with some snow on it next year. It would be truly the best type of course for a fat bike's capabilities then. I was really happy to have cut off some major time from last year's effort and get into Dubuque before dark. I had a great ride, but it definitely whooped me with the rough trail, fields, and the stress of the ice riding.

Thanks To: Lance Andre and all the Triple D volunteers and staff. You guys and gals did a great job! To The Land Owners: Thanks for letting us cross your land and enjoy some beautiful Iowa backcountry! We all raved about it and we hope to do this sort of thing again next year. To the Asbury Snowhawks Snowmobile Club: Thanks for working with Triple D to give us the chance to ride off bike trails in Iowa! To the Best Western Plus: What a great venue and the rooms were ace! Thanks for the special deal. Thanks to Steve for hauling my sorry butt back into Dubuque and for having my back, (literally!), while we were in traffic. Thanks to all the racers and accompanying friends and family for making Triple D a friendly, fun time. Thanks to Salsa Cycles for not only supporting Triple D, but for making my Snow Dog, the first fat bike I've owned and it did me well again. Thanks to Mrs. Guitar Ted and my two wonderful kids who let me do this nutty stuff and even come along occasionally with me on my adventures. Thanks for all of the above since today is my birthday and this was an awesome pre-celebration for my 52nd trip round the sun! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Triple D Winter Race: Race Report: Part I


Saturday was a travel day to get to Dubuque and get registered and settled in for the event. Mrs. Guitar Ted and I arrived at around 5pm, got our stuff into the motel room and got down to the event headquarters. I got signed in, (one of the first signed on!), and then we went to find something to eat.

Before that I had spoken with event organizer, Lance Andre, and he told me that the event had about 110 cyclists and with the poker ride riders and runners added in the event was going to have over 200 participants. That was a pretty significant increase over last year. I know for 2012 there were about 70 cyclists.

Triple D is kind of an amazing event in that there are four different disciplines with four different finish lines going on all at the same time. How Mr. Andre and crew keep that all straight, I have no idea, but my hat is off to them for organizing and running a classy, fun event.

Well, anyway, then came the search for food. Mrs. Guitar Ted and I poured over the choices and debated what might be good. We eventually just hopped in the car and drove around until, by complete accident, we came across the same Chinese restaurant we ate at last year. We had a great, relaxing meal. Then, I went in search of a bottle of red wine. See, I have a solution I used last year for Triple D that worked really well, so I wanted to do this again. A bottle of red wine is necessary for it, so I got directions to a rather seedy liquor store in the downtown area of Dubuque.

I walked in and found the bottle liquor area where a sign greets you that says "Please, only one customer at a time in the liquor section." Hmm....a little red flag, perhaps, but I walk in and find a suitable bottle and walk up with my selection to the counter where the checkout lady, who is a rather disheveled looking gal of mid-40's vintage, is complaining about some life issue to another female who appears to be busy texting on her phone. Finally the counter clerk looks at me and says, "Are ya ready, Honey?" flag number 2? Yes. I make with some small pleasantries and briskly walk to the car as three gentleman who were standing behind me smoking cigarettes in the store eyeball me out the door.

 I got back to the motel room, and while Mrs. Guitar Ted went to the workout room to get her exercise in, I suddenly realized I had chose a bottle of wine that needed a corkscrew. Doh! I do not have such a device. So, being a mechanic, I search my "toolbox" for what I do have on hand that might be pressed into duty for such a job as removing a cork from a wine bottle. The solution presented itself in the form of my Blackburn Toolmanator multi-tool. It has a chain breaking tool that had a long, threaded section as part of the tool. I removed the main body of the chain breaker by simply unscrewing it from the threaded part, and inserted the threaded part into the cork by twisting it in.

Using the edge of the bottle as leverage, I could use the main part of the Toolmanator as a lever to pull down and I eventually broke the seal on the cork. A couple more gentle pulls and out comes the cork! Success!

As I am doing this, the wind is howling outside with gusts of upwards of 50mph, freezing all the melt and mud that we had heard was soaking the trails out on course. I was a bit concerned about the wind, because it might compound issues with regard to staying warm. I was hoping for light winds, but expecting the worst. I fell asleep and dreamt of warmer things.....

Lining up to start the race!
Race Day: I awoke on race day and got down for the free breakfast that was part of the event/motel package. After stocking up on corned beef hash, a sausage or two, and a pile of scrambled eggs with picante sauce, I went back up to the room to do the all important layering up before the 9:30am race meeting.

Gear Used: I decided to use a Craft wind front base layer, then a Nike thermal hooded jersey, with a Bontrager Thermal Winter jacket over the top of that. For the lower extremities, I used an Omni-wool pair of tights, over this a Trek Thermal Tight, and then a final layer which was the Zoic Blackmarket pant. For socks I wore a pair of Twin Six wool socks and a long, calf length pair of wool stockings over that. Boots were the awesome Keen Brixens and for gloves I used a thin Bontrager wool liner glove inside some Answer Sleestak "mittens". On my head I used a skull cap/beanie thing I got at CIRREM one year, and over the top of that I wore my hand made poly-fleece hat. That about did it. My hydration pack was the Shimano Unzen 10, and I had two insulated water bottles on the fork blades of The Snow Dog. In the hydration pack, I had extra socks, gloves, and a Marmot Precip jacket in case I got wet and needed extra protection. I carried two lights in the "basement" of the Unzen for later use.

On my 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk, I had a Revelate Designs Tangle bag with a spare Surly tube, a Lezyne SuperDrive pump, a Lezyne Air Caddy which has levers and two Co2 cartridges, and the aforementioned Toolmanator. I also stocked an extra base layer top of Omni-wool in there, along with a bag of unsalted peanuts. The Planet Bike Snak Shack doesn't play well with the Tangle Bag in the normal position, but works perfectly well against the seatpost, so that went there with some gel packs, a bottle of ibuprofen, and my point and shoot camera. I also had several gel packs in the wing pockets of the Unzen, and a balaclava and a large bandana in the top pocket of the Unzen. That should about cover the gear list! Now on to the event!

The Start: Lance Andre had told us that the beginning should have been all off road on trails, but since there was no snow, we had to roll out a ways on some pavement. Then on some newer trails, and finally back out on familiar Triple D course routing for a time. He also mentioned that the Heritage Trail sector had "no ice anymore" on it, which sounded encouraging. The field, which consisted of a mix heavy on fat bikes, with a significant number of 29"ers and cross bikes, set off to roll down to our big left hander and off into the woods and fields. I didn't position my self at the front, but rather about a third of the way back, which may be rather cheeky of me, but hey! Why not challenge myself a bit, eh?

Now off to the single track, which was new, bumpy, and had steep sections which necessitated pushing and ice covered creek crossings and ravines that also demanded a dismount. I was doing okay, a few guys passing me, but generally holding my own. We popped out on to a city street and bike path/side walk when I saw area honch Mike, a 3GR rider, stopped fiddling with his drive train. I pulled over to offer assistance, but after a bit of encouragement, Mike got the chain disentangled from between his crank set rings and he was good. I motored onward.

We finally reached the wide open fields which I remembered from last year, only this year they were brown and bumpy, not snow covered. We traversed the area and went down into the farm area, which was one of my favorite parts of last year's event, but which now was just an odd, bouncy-jouncy traverse through a pasture amongst frozen cowpies. Somewhere along the way here Mike jetted back by me and was seemingly none too happy, and well he should not be, since early race issues are definitely no fun. Oddly enough, the day seemed pleasant enough to me. Hardly any perceptable wind, and I was staying warm.

This sector continued with very bumpy, hard ground over some corn fields and frozen, marshy areas which had sedge clumps the size of bowling balls that would send you careening as if you were a ball in a pinball machine this way and that. Fatbike full suspension? I was ready for it right then! I found Mad Max along about this time plunking up a very rough climb. We chatted for a bit then he slowly pulled away. Here we came up to the point where last year we took a very icy descent down Humke Road, a B Level maintenance road. Lance took this section out, but replaced it with a longer wooded section that featured an incredible down hill, with a gut buster of a long climb interspersed with several cool descents and scenic views. This was a part of the event that was very technical, (as far as the down hills), but super fun. There was a bit of ice here and there which made braking tricky, and a couple of sketch creek/low water crossings as well, but wow! My favorite part of the event by far was riding this. So fun!

My camera was not liking the chill temps, so I didn't get a shot of anything here, unfortunately. Plus, with the ride being so super rough, I didn't dare take my hands off the bars for any reason. Eventually the rough stuff ended as we took a pavement descent down to the Heritage Trail and turned West toward the halfway marker of the event where we were required to check in.

That's a good place to stop for today. The rest will be posted tomorrow....stay tuned.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Changing Gears

Orange bikes are faster...
In October of 2011 I got a project bike, a red Lejuene, and had visions of making a tubular tired roadie/gravel/vintage rig at that time. The project was all there. It just needed a wheel build, tires, and sprucing up.

Well, as you regular readers of the blog know, I have not ridden this bike, and in fact, it still is in pieces all over the place. See, the thing is, I just do not have any passion for road bikes this old, or for road bikes in general, really.

It isn't that I do not appreciate them, I do, but I have nearly zero desire to ride one. Riding on a paved county road is heaven for many folks, but it barely moves the fun meter needle for me. I've ridden thousands of miles on pavement too. I've ridden several nice road bikes. I've owned some nice road bikes, and I still have a Colnago Super hanging from a peg. Just don't have the desire to do that roadie thing much now.....

So, the Lejuene sat there through 2012 with barely a wrench or anything put to it. That isn't right. So, I found a buyer for the bike that loves old road bikes and will give this the treatment it deserves.

Of all the "Woodcut" stuff, this isn't too bad.
At about this same time I found out that a friend had a Salsa Cycles Vaya frame set that he was going to pass on. It has been ridden to many gravel road finishes in several big gravel road events.

Maybe some of that mojo would rub off on me....?

Well, even if it doesn't, this was a great chance to find out about a bike that initially I wasn't too keen on when it was introduced. A "Fargo-lite", I think is what I called that then. Well, maybe I'll be eating some crow at some point, but I've just seen too many of these successfully ridden on gravel road events I've been at that I know there is something to it. I aim to get on one and find out for myself.

A secondary benefit is that it becomes a legit second rig to test out some gravel road items for Gravel Grinder News. The disc brake factor may help, since the other rig is a canti bike. Plus, if it all goes to heck in a hand basket regarding the rest, I have a disc brake touring bike that I can keep for that or pass on, if I do not have any love for the Vaya.

The project will probably see completion just a bit sooner than the old road bike would have. Stay tuned.....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Triple D Winter Race: "D-Day"

Short post today. I am in Dubuque, or more correctly, in the Dubuque area bucking a wind somewhere over hill and under dale. The Triple D Winter Race is today.

I put in my time and did the best I could do to prepare.   Today is about  having fun. I am going to be out there with 110 Ultra Cyclist class riders today. There are also several runners doing half and full marathons with a small bunch of Poker Run Cyclists cruising around as well. All told there are over 200 participants this year.

We got an upgrade for the event site as this year  the headquarters are being set up at the Best Western Plus, up the hill a ways from where we used to take off from. The first segment will be new stuff with a creek crossing and some other new off road bits thrown in. Unfortunately, there isn't hardly any snow, but that won't mean that I won't be having fun.

The challenge this year will be facing a 10-15mph headwind all the way to the turn around point in Dyersville where we will finally get to have a tailwind push all the way back down the Heritage Trail to Dubuque. Oh yeah, the high temperature is forecast to be 16ºF. Should be chilly!

I will be traveling on Monday, so any report I file won't show up here until Tuesday, unless something remarkable happens in regard to my efforts here. So stay tuned for more with pictures coming soon. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: Links & Some Thoughts

Today I was reminded that I have written reams on this event and much of what I have written might be good fodder still for Rookies to read through and may be a great reminder for those who have been Finishers and Veterans of the event.

So, this post will mostly be links back into the archives to things I think are worthy of covering again. But before I go there, I have a link for you from a Trans Iowa Veteran. Yes- I linked to this yesterday as well. However; if you didn't go read it- do so. There is a lot of great info there, not to mention experience and wisdom. Here is the link to Flandria Velosport's "A Letter To All The Rookies"

Cues Sheets: I probably have linked to this before, but here it is again- "Trans Iowa V8: Cue Sheets Explained" The cues sheets this year will be these dimensions as you look at them: 3.75W X 4.25H, otherwise everything in that post is spot on for this year as far as how you will read the cues.

How To Ride Gravel: There are certain nuances, a certain wisdom, and courteous gestures one should know and practice for riding out on the gravel roads of Trans Iowa's course, or any gravel road, for that matter. These ideas were inspired by my friends at the Pirate Cycling League and by my own experiences. "Tips On Riding Gravel Roads For T.I.V8 (Or Any Other Gravel Event)" Read that and remember- just be smart out there!

Image by W. Kilburg from T.I.V7
Volunteers: The event doesn't run without a lot of help. Volunteers were one of the big highlights of last year's event, and I would love it if T.I.V9 could be an encore performance of volunteer excellence.

Here are some needs we have for T.I.V9. You can read the description of volunteer jobs on this post: "Trans Iowa V7 Update #12: Volunteers". You'll note that my former co-director, "d.p." is mentioned there, but he has moved on to the tropical island of Fiji, (really!), so my volunteer needs are even more acute this time, (just like last year). If you can volunteer, just let me know by hitting me up here.

Gear Choices: I get equipment choice questions frequently concerning Trans Iowa. Bikes, what to wear, tires, and single speed gearing. Here are two posts about all of that: "Trans Iowa V7 Update #8: Equipment Choices" and "Trans Iowa V7 Update #9: More On Equipment Choices".

Psychobabble: In many of the discussions concerning this unique event, you will hear the term "mental games", or "Mind games" brought up. You will hear about facing your demons out there", and other weird, spooky stuff that sounds like it is a bunch of B.S. Well, let me assure you, it isn't B.S. It is very real. Here is a great post concerning mental toughness: "Trans Iowa V7 Update #14: Mental Toughness" Make sure you read all the comments there on that one. Some really great tidbits are laying there for the taking.

Finally- Some Thoughts On Roster Limits: I saw somewhere on Facebook where a poster had asked why "we don't let more into the event". As has been stated many times before, there are some very important reasons for that.

The first thing is that this isn't a metric century, it is not a 100 mile event, it is not a 150 mile event. No, Trans Iowa- just one Trans Iowa- is equal to all three of those events back to back to back without stopping. It is like doing three events in one. How many people do you know would even sign up for such a thing? See what I mean? The "pool" that Trans Iowa can draw from is limited. I get a lot of turn-over every year. Folks come once, fail, then are never heard from again. That's how hard it is, and why- even if there were no limitations to how many we'd let in- only so many will ride in a Trans Iowa every year.

Secondly, I do not want 400 people at Trans Iowa. I - as a promoter/course designer/logistician/main grunt am not prepared to take on anymore than will show up for any given Trans Iowa.

Finally, I don't want that many bodies floating around in a broken up string miles and miles long over a 300+ mile course. To me, it is a logistical and technical nightmare. To overcome those challenges in Iowa- the event would have an entirely, non-Trans Iowa flavor. Not gonna do it, but as I say, I don't have to worry about that. The demand just is not there anyway. So it is a moot point.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday News And Views

That Deal With That "One Guy" On That Famous Lady's Show....

You may have noticed that the lack of commentary on what happened with a certain cyclist, ("He Who Shall Not Be Named") , has been missing from this blog for a while. You may wonder what I think about the media event that occurred last night. Well, I am not going to say a word about it. But, I do have something to point you to that I found well considered and thoughtful on the subject.

The commentary is from former frame builder and musician, Dave Moulton. His take on the situation is something that hits close to my heart and feelings on the matter, so if you wonder what I think, this is a pretty close representation of what I think right here.

What I found that was particularly of interest to me was Dave's description of riding in "The Bunch" and how the culture of cycling was something a universe away from what he found here in the U.S., and obviously light years different than the world of Pro Cycling on the road over the course of the past couple of decades.

In many ways, I would like to believe that gravel racing today is what Mr. Moulton would find reminiscent of his formative days riding in Britain. Riders looking out for one another, camaraderie, and fun with a healthy dose of adventure. Maybe I am a hopeless romantic, but that's what I love about the gravel racers I know well.

Bianchi Boardwalk- circa 1994
Another Old Friend Comes To Visit: 

My first bike shop job was at a place in Cedar Falls, Iowa called Advantage Cyclery. Well, actually I worked at their satellite store on College Hill called Campus Cyclery first, but that's another detail.... The thing is, I worked at Advantage for three years before the shop went out of business.

Shortly before that happened, I was pretty much alone there most days. My boss had kind of disappeared in the sense that he never was there during store hours, or if he did come in, he was sequestered in his office down in the basement and I never saw him. I say all of that to put the following into perspective.

My boss bought about 30 small, medium, and large Bianchi Boardwalk hybrids that were already 2 years old. Yes- he got a screaming deal on them, because Bianchi, who perennially had old stock in their warehouses, years old, would jump at the chance to ship out bikes for pennies on the dollar  just to get rid of them.   By the way- this rarely happens anymore, so don't get any ideas out there!

Anyway, these bikes were steel, well spec'ed with complete Alivio groups, but were all Men's models in Bianchi's flagship color, Celeste. Not yer most manly of colors, and perhaps why these were languishing in the warehouse for so long. The normal retail on these was something around $700.00, but we were selling them for $399.99, or something crazy like that. It was a great deal, as I recall.

I assembled every one of the 30 or so bikes, and displayed every one of them in a giant row in the middle of the store. (I was pretty much free to do as I pleased in the store by this point.) I also sold every single one of those bikes, most to men. I don't mean to brag, but I was rather proud of that feat.

So I see one come back every once in awhile these days, some 18 years past the time I sold them. It's good to see them still being ridden and taken care of. This particular one was a medium and besides some rusty chain and handle bars, was in great condition. Good to see an old friend.....

Sage Advice: 

Hey, you may not be in T.I.V9, or even any other gravel event, but these gravel events are getting more and more popular all the time. If you've ever wondered what level of geekery it takes to do something like 300 plus miles of Iowa gravel in one sitting, you should check out my buddy Ari's post here

It is an open letter to trans Iowa Rookies, but anyone can certainly learn a thing or three from this. If nothing else, you get the sense of dedication and passion for gravel road riding and for Trans Iowa in particular.

So, thanks Ari! I really appreciate those thoughts, and I trust your info will help a lot of folks out there.

That's a wrap. I hope all of you don't forget why you ride a bike.  Now go do it....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Noobie Bike Questions" & Attempts At Answering Them

 From time to time I get an e-mail, Facebook, or private message on some forum asking me a question or two. Well, I got more than a few from a reader here. So, let's dive in, shall we?

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

Okay- with that out of the way..... The questions! First up, we have the requirements.

Polo seats are in- really!
 Stated Goal: "I am looking for another bike. I want to do gravel riding, little bit of cross racing (Just for fun), and RAGBRAI this year." (Price Range: $1700.00)

GT Says: That's a tall order. Basically, we're talking an "all arounder" that features versatility over any one specific attribute. Okay....

 Question #1: "I have never had a steel bike. But have heard the ride is great. How would an aluminum bike with a carbon fork compare to how (a) steel bike rides?"

GT Says: Typically one can ride any material, and one isn't necessarily better than another, especially in the competitive price range we're focusing on. "Fine ride quality" isn't mutually exclusive from "Inexpensive" bicycles, but it gets harder to find the lower the price goes. Steel can sometimes ride poorly, aluminum can sometimes ride great. Carbon forks are not always a panacea for a smoother ride. Of course, those ideas have been pushed forward by folks in the industry to serve as marketing touch points and to help close sales, but in reality, they are not maxims to live by.  So, what to do?

Fit trumps all, and then function, followed by weight, and color, (yes- really), for a cyclist at this price point, or someone looking to find their way to bigger and more adventurous cycling times.

Question:" I probably shouldn't worry about the weight, but is (a) steel (frame) much heavier than an aluminum one?

Un-bearded opinion
 GT Says: Not necessarily. Some aluminum frames can be pretty porky. For complete bicycles, it depends on component spec, to a large degree. Think of it this way- A product spec manager at any given bike company has to "paint inside the lines" when he/she specs a bike. The "lines" in this case are usually defined by what the MSRP of the final bicycle will be, along with some other design/marketing parameters. If the folks at company "X" decide to market you a carbon frame at $1700.00, the component spec will likely suffer. If, on the other hand, the idea is to give the consumer better components, you may see a (heavy-ish) aluminum frame hung with some outstanding components at a similar price. Chrome-Molybdenum alloy steel is, now days, generally a higher priced frame material, so generally speaking, aluminum frames yield better component spec value, then steel, then carbon. But that isn't always a rule. Just a guideline! Anyway, frame material, frame weight, and frame ride quality can vary widely depending on the spec at the prices we are talking about.

Finally, weight isn't everything. Yes- it is important, but for the stated purposes of the rider in question here, weight shouldn't be a top priority. I'll point back to what I said about fit, etc, above. Weight is really only on the top of the list for bike geeks and better yet- for racing. At the price range that is being discussed, I think function and fit are better focus points.

Kona Rove Prototype

 Question:  "Would a steel bike like the Kona Rove be good for all that, (RAGBRAI, gravel rides, and cyclo-cross), or is there a better bike in that price range? ($1700). I also am looking at a Trek IonCX, I read you could put a 40cm tire that bike. I have Trek Xcal 29er that I could use for the gravel rides, would steel ride better than that?"

 GT Says:I lumped all of this together, because really, the question is "which bike is right for me?". The answer could be any of the above and a few other great bikes to boot. (The Salsa Vaya comes to mind.) The bottom line? While I have my preferences the other bikes mentioned here are all good bikes that will get these tasks done well. Really- as I've said many times- there are not many "stinkers" in the bike world these days, and for someone looking for a all around bike that will do various rides and tasks, the Rove, Trek Ion, or the Vaya would all be able to fit. Even the X-Cal could be pressed into all these duties. Now, that said....

I'm going to summarily throw out the Trek bikes in this discussion. The 29"er for its off road bent, and the Ion because of the race/aggressive stance. That leaves the Kona Rove and the Vaya 3. Either bike is better suited to the all around tasks stated above. Both will be stable, yet capable bikes on all surfaces and are great touring capable rigs too.

Gravel Freak
Question: "What are the frame types that most of the guys in Trans Iowa use?"

GT Says: I saved this for last because it is really the odd question out of the bunch. Yes- one of the stated goals is gravel riding, but Trans Iowa riders bring such a diverse range of bikes to the event, it is hard to tell someone "this is the one". And then- which group of guys/gals are we talking about? The "pointy end" of the event- the fast guys and gals- these are almost exclusively on what is becoming gravel specific rigs. Either that or highly personalized/modified cross bikes. Then there are the guys in it to finish it. These will cover your Vayas, Kona Roves, Surly Cross Checks, Fargos, and 29"ers. Single speeders are another sub-set with a wide range of rigs.

Relevant to this discussion, I will say that I do not see a whole lot of aluminum frames on any given Trans Iowa. Not that guys do not ride them with success, because it has been done, but overall, the vast majority of rigs are steel, titanium, or carbon fiber. Maybe guys and gals have bought into the "aluminum rides harsh" mythology, but for whatever reason, steel bikes are commonplace at Trans Iowa and other gravel events.

Okay-  that's a wrap! I hope that helps a few folks out there and of course, comments are welcome.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Those Were The Good Ol' Daze

Remember when Rebas came out?
I was chattin' with my cohort, Grannygear the other day, and we were talking about something or another being scuttled because the company in question was too busy getting geared up for 27.5"er stuff. It is a common thing we're hearing.

Which got me, and Grannygear, to thinking- so is this it? Are we at the end of innovations and introductions of anything truly "big" in the world of 29"ers?

Ya know, I think the answer is "yes".

The companies that do not make a 29"er- Used to be a big topic of discussion. Now it doesn't matter. When will "so-and-so" make a fork for 29"ers? That used to fire up reams of forum threads. Now who doesn't make a 29"er sus fork? 

It used to be that we were waiting for "long travel" 29"ers to hit the scene. Well, the industry killed that off and went for 27.5"ers instead. That pretty much was the last "big" deal for 29"ers to cross over to, but it looks like it'll never happen now.

Does that bother me? No. Not really, but I have to say that I  thought I might not see the day when 29"ers weren't  waiting for some new innovation to push the boundaries a bit more. There used to be a lot of resistance to the big wheels. Now it looks like the edges have been reached.

Now it's all fat bike this and gravel bike that and 29"ers are.......well, just mountain bikes, these days. I always thought that would happen, and by golly, I think it pretty much is at that point now a days. That's cool. While it was all fun and exciting when all you could do was dream about a "real" suspension fork, and it is tempting to think that those were "the good ol' daze", I am thinking this is right where we wanted to be back then. I'm glad that we are. I plan on enjoying that for as long as I can.

The "good ol' daze"? Just over that hill up yonder. Keep pedaling, you'll get there.....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Triple D Winter Race: Training Log #8- Bring In The Gremlins

This trail is for non-motorized vehicles?
Well, I am in the "taper" phase of my training for this Sunday's Triple D Winter Race. Over the weekend, I decided to get out in the lower teens temps and I took my family with me. I figured a short, brisk walk in the woods might get the blood flowing a little bit.

Of course, the woods are the only place there is any snow now. And it isn't very deep at that. Also, it is rock hard and crustified. Not to mention icy in spots.

I happened to see some images of the course recon from the weekend. Dubuque and surrounding environs looks pretty brown. I would lay a bet that they have about the same snow/lack of snow/ice conditions that we do. It makes one wonder: "What bike do you bring to Triple D this year?" Because maybe you'd be faster on a mountain bike. Maybe. Or perhaps you decide to ride a cross bike. You could do that.

I am thinking that if I am right, and Triple D has limited spots where there is ice and really crusty snow, I am still going to ride my fat bike. Why? Well, here is my reasoning....

We probably will see little of this!
  • Northward facing slopes: There may not be many of these, but what there are of them will more than likely be snowbound yet. The ground is a lot more steeply tilted over Dubuque way, and there may be a few spots still covered in white stuff, regardless of the stories coming out of the weekend's recon. 
  • Heritage Trail: It has some pretty sheltered spots, and with the snowmobile traffic that was going on, I am betting there will still be a few icy spots here, perhaps some limited areas of crusty snow. (Not unlike our rail trail here.)
  • Woods- As mentioned above, if anything is added for single track/country riding and it goes through a wooded area, it will still be covered in snow, me thinks.
  • Creek Crossing- There were several mentions of a creek crossing, and if that is still on the docket Sunday, it will be icy, most likely. The temperatures are being forecast in the teens, so it won't be totally unfrozen, although the days leading up to Triple D are to be warm.
  • Night time riding: I will likely be coming in after dark, and hitting an icy patch with skinnier tires takes away my chances of keeping the rubber side down.
  • Lack of studs: I do not have good, functional studded tires, and in fact, I detest them, so I am stuck with going with standard issue rubber. I would choose the widest possible rubber in this instance and that's on the Snow Dog.
Okay, so I am sticking with The Snow Dog, but it must be because the event is in a few days or something, but I found an issue just yesterday. I was moving The Snow Dog around when I noticed the crank set felt as though it wouldn't turn at all.  What?! I set it in the stand and removed the chain from the crank, and it felt stiff, but it moved. Crap! Is the bottom bracket finally giving up the ghost?

Well, there was a gremlin I didn't need to see now. I rode the bike briefly outside, and all seemed perfectly fine. Of course, now I can not duplicate the issue. Perhaps it was dried up crud on the spindle/seals of that bottom bracket, but I'm not touching this bike mere days before an event. Nope! Not going to do it.

So, either the Snow Dog works, or I quick scramble to put gears back on By-Tor the titanium Mukluk. Gremlins. Gotta love 'em!

UPDATED: And now after all of that I see event organizer Lance Andre posted on Facebook that the "...snow is all but gone.", and advises a tandem rider that his regular tandem would be fine. Hmmm

Another gremlin.....

Monday, January 14, 2013

Project White: Finishing Details

That's a wrap....for now!
The Finish:

Okay, it is! The On One Inbred Single Speed Limited Edition. She's all done, and it has been ridden a bit.  Following are some finer details for those who may be curious.

Changes: From Project Black, the wheels are different, the tires are different, and the fork is obviously different. Otherwise everything else transferred over to the Inbred. Again, I envisioned this to become a test mule for, so the wheels and tires are on test, they will change at some point. Those wheels are pre-built Deore XT wheels with a 15mm through axle front/ 9mm quick release rear. The tires are tubeless Michelin Wild Grip'R 2.25"ers. The fork, necessary to support the axle standard on the wheel, is an RST First model with 100mm travel. I'll be mentioning some possible future changes later on here.....

The Look:

Visually this Inbred has a lot more appeal to my eyes than did the Vassago. That has a lot to do with the Vassago's odd short seat tube/head tube, which necessitated a bizarre set up to make it work for me. The Inbred looks far more natural here.

I didn't mind the blackness of the Vassago, but I gotta tell ya- the pearly sheen of On One's white paint is really a nice touch that doesn't really show well in images.  The wealth of black components here really work well with the amount of whiteness going on with the Inbred.

Of course, the lack of extra, unnecessary braze ons is a plus to my eyes as well. No odd tumor on the seat tube, no cable stop on the chain stay or seat stay "just hanging out there." No derailleur hangar dangling in the breeze. That may not be a big deal to a lot of folks, but I like the idea of a clean line and the idea that this frame, and those who ride them, are committed.


So, the big question is "what do I think"?  I did get to ride the bike a bit the past few days, and here are my initial impressions...

The Vassago geometry features a low bottom bracket. Well, you figure out real quick that the Inbred does not follow suit! I saddled up and found that the saddle was a bit higher than I remembered on the Vassago. Otherwise the only other initial thing I felt was the odd feel at the bars. The Vassago felt great with that stem and bar combo, but the Inbred had a floppy, vague feel at the bars that won't do. That stem and bar will eventually be replaced with a short, 80mm stem and some really wide bars. I may lower the bars on the steer tube at that point as well.

The ride was a bit colored, I think, by the super supple Michelin tires I was running there on lower pressures to handle the snow and ice. But there was definitely the feeling of a good steel frame. I will have to hold off on final judgement until I can hit some "real" trail with this thing with the cock pit dialed in the way I would like.

I'll tell ya what- I am thinking this will be a better, more of a lively rig than the Vassago was. Time will tell.....

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Trans Iowa Geekery

Here's an example of what I spent most of Saturday creating. (Note- not actual cues for T.I.V9!!)

5.0  B Level Road after Xing pavement
5.5   L On N. 87th Ave E.
7.5  BR On E. 156th St. N.
8.0  BL  On 340th
9.0  R On 20th St.
13.1  L On 380th/6th Street
13.3  R On Ferguson Rd.
13.8  L On 4th Ave. 
Cue sheets! The "lifeblood" of any Trans Iowa event, and if they are not right, things get pear-shaped in a hurry! So, I sweat the details on these things to a high degree. Over eight of these events, I've learned that there are certain elements to include, and certain ones that you can just ignore.  For instance, I used to call out every single stop sign. Even rural, in the middle of no where stop signs. Now days I don't even call out a single one. 

Also, I used to write down the names of the towns on the cue sheets. Now I rarely, if ever do that, because it was something that was causing possible cheating issues a while back. Folks in the event would get the second set of cue sheets at the first checkpoint, then look them over quickly to tell their friend/support/significant other to meet them in any towns indicated on the cues. Well, now they have no idea what towns they are going to unless they happen to see a water tower or find out when they get there from signage. 

But I did get out for a quick ride!
With that issue taken care of, I find a lot less people out cruising the event than I did before, but ya know what? it still happens. Even though I try to discourage it. Oh yeah....I'm watching you folks. But I have to say, it isn't a big problem anymore. 

Anyway- I did a hand written set of cues first, just to draft the way they would read, and to go over our notes from the recon. This obviously takes a while to do. But- it is imperative to dial in the accuracy of the event. The field notes weren't too complex this time. In fact- this time things were pretty straightforward in that regard. 

A few possible "trouble spots" were identified when we reconned the event, and those were noted in the cues. Now that a hand written set had been drafted, it was time to enter the data into a format I chose last year which seemed to be rather successful. I am a slow....slow typist. You might never think that for all the tapping of keys I do on the internet, but I am a two finger "hen-pecking" typist that maybe can do 20 words a minute. Really! I'm absolutely horrible at this. Anyway....

Now I have gotten things entered as far as Checkpoint #2. I'll do the last leg at another time, maybe tomorrow. We'll see. I spent almost all day doing just the above though! Well.......besides for about an hour or so. I layered up and rode this new rig in for testing on . It was a fun, very interesting bike. I rode a 2010 version of this, and the feel is really different. It is surprising what the enginerds can do with carbon fiber. But the ride was short because I am tapering down for Triple D. I  just wanted to get the legs spun out and get away from that dratted computer for awhile. 
Then I came back and geeked out on cue sheet sizing, number of sheets, and mileages. It was broken up by some family time and supper, but then I was back at it until close to midnight. Crazy! 
Well, the good news is that once it is done, I have only to do a final recon check with some volunteers that will verify my directions independent of  my input, using only the cues to guide themselves by. Then, if that makes sense to them, or if any thing needs clarification, I can act accordingly before printing off the final cue sheet forms for all the riders. That won't happen until Mid-March, so that means I can put T.I. stuff on the back-burner for a bit until then.