Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 4

Sunday was the closing day for Frostbike and I awoke at Ben's home to get ready. We then peeled out to his folks place for poached eggs and toast with some fresh coffee on top and then we hit the road northward.

I didn't have a whole lot on the agenda. A few things that I needed to hit up, then I just needed to wait until 2pm for a meeting with a Salsa rep concerning the shop. The pre-order for 2014 was on the agenda. My boss from the shop was supposed to show up for it.

Interestingly, there was a good, long conversation in the Challenge Tire booth with their rep and a person very high up in the chain of command at QBP. The overall feeling I got was that gravel road and fat bike segments were very high in focus and priority with QBP. It doesn't take much to see that is true when you check out some of Q's brands and how they have refocused over the past few years.

Salsa Cycles threw out that Mukluk in late 2010 and when the bike sold out, they brought a three bike line up the following year. 2013 saw the addition of a full on race bike in the Beargrease, and I thought that was pushing the limits. Nope! Now for 2014 we're going to see a high technology, super-fat bike in the Carbon Beargrease. Amazing! Add in those Warbird gravel road racers, the Vaya, and you can see a focus on those categories quite easily.

The new All City Macho Man Disc gravel/cross rig.
Another brand, this one switched up to cover cross and gravel riders, is All City. I remember when that brand was just Jeff Frane and a bunch of fixie-hipster componentry.

All City then branched out to offer urban bashers and fixed gear frame sets. But then one day this single speed cross bike appeared called the Nature Boy. It was touted as a cross rig, which it is, but gravel riders were attracted to it in significant numbers.

Then came the Mr. Pink all-road bike, then the Spacehorse, which really hit the gravel riders as a good rig, and then the geared version of the Nature Boy, the Macho Man appeared. Now when you walk into an All City booth at a show, it's hard to find a fixed gear selection. Sure, they have one hanging on in the line, and a couple of frame sets, but this brand has gone completely in another direction. Gravel and cross. The all new Macho Man Disc will only further that feeling.

So gravel and fat bikes are certainly where the action is at with the Q brands. Foundry, the oddly named carbon bike brand, is all cyclo-cross, for the most part. There is a token 29"er there, but whoop-de-doo. It, (and the other Foundry bikes),  looks like an overpriced refugee from a Chinese manufacturers catalog. Surly? Well certainly they are, (pardon the pun), the odd man out, but with the seminal Cross Check, and two very popular fat bikes, they have their bases covered already. Add in the 29+ Krampus, and you just may have a whole nuther segment created right there. Surly may be "anti-establishment", but they can't be blamed for not being at the front end of most of these niche cycling categories. Cutting edge misfits, those fellers!

Gravel grinding: It's the new black...
Well, I had all those conversations at one point or another during the weekend that I can tell you about. However; there was more. A lot more that I can not speak of......yet. But mark my words here- fat bikes are being fast tracked and what you see now will be prehistoric in terms of tech and performance in three years tops. I know gravel grinding stuff may see the same treatment. Fat bikes will be first though. It's going to be super exciting to see how it all comes down.

After jawing all that time, a guy can work up quite an appetite. Fortunately Jeff Kerkove put a bug in my ear to go to lunch with  him. We caught up on things and had a great time.  For those who haven't been along here for the entire ride, Jeff used to work at the shop with me and was the co-founder of Trans Iowa. Now he's with Ergon, and riding bikes all over the place. We get to see each other very rarely, so it was good to sit down with him.

And that meeting I was supposed to have at 2pm? Well, my boss changed the timing but neglected to inform me of that small detail. So I found out at 2pm that Ben and I could have been gone already, and my wife could have seen all of the Academy Award ceremony, and....... Meh!....... is sort of important. 

So Frostbike came to an end for 2013. It was a whirlwind of a weekend and I had a lot of fun. Seeing many people I don't get to see very often, and meeting new folks too was certainly the highlight of the time spent there. Bikes were the added icing on that cake.

Thanks! I wanted to give special shouts out to: Ben and Meg, the Witt family, Mike's Bikes: Mike, Stuart, and Jon- Salsa Cycles: Mike Riemer, Tim K, John Gaddo, Aaron Stehly- QBP: Jason Boucher, Mary, and all the staff- The Vendors: Jeff Kerkove, Morgan Nicol, Chris Clinton, Donn Kelogg, Matt Ruiter, and all the good folks there to show their wares. Friends old and new, and everyone that made the weekend what it was. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 3

No- You can not buy one like this from Surly.
With Friday behind us, Ben and I woke up early and hit "The Tavern" in downtown Northfield for some eggs and bacon. Then it was on to "Goodbye Blue Mondays" for our cuppa joe to go, and off we went to QBP's massive warehouse for the Frostbike show.

When I got there I headed over to Salsa's booth and saw the prototype tandem 29"er, which was pretty awesome. Then after a bit of chatting with the Salsa folk, I moved onward to check out the other booths. It quickly became apparent that besides fat bike stuff, gravel road talk was high on several folks minds.

I spent a long time talking with Clement's Donn Kellogg. The gravel scene is really drawing manufacturers in, and I also learned from sources at the show that major players are taking notice. It will be interesting to see how the genre' is interpreted by more corporate entities. 

These new bags for the Big Dummy are super-rad.
I talked so much to so many folks on Saturday, in fact, that I missed lunch altogether. The afternoon wore on and it ended up with me hanging around the Salsa area with Ben and Curtis. A small crowd was gathering near by for SRAM's XX-1 giveaway. I noticed Hurl Everstone of One On One Studio and Cars Are Coffins fame talking with Greg Herbold, former downhill champ and current SRAM spokesperson. H-Ball was holding a koozie with a Keystone beer in it. He was telling a great story about a taxi ride with two foreign drivers in the same taxi. (You had to be there.)

Before long H-Ball was getting into "show mode" to give away the XX-1 group. Ben said he was going to run over to see who might win it, while Curtis and I stayed clear and chatted with some other folks.

Suddenly Ben was shouting Curtis' name and I realized Curtis won. Curtis' face was in disbelief as he walked over and received the voucher for a complete XX-1 group. A bit later, he almost traded it to Salsa's Kid Riemer for a Buick, but that didn't quite happen.

Then there was this shindig going on upstairs, but only for certain dealers. I was wearing my media tag. An old friend of mine that works at Q whisked me right in though, and the next thing ya know, I am up in the Salsa Cycles cubicle area quaffing beers and gabbing with the fellas. Here is where I started to figure out that I needed re-fueling. It had been since early morning that I had eaten, and I was getting kind of weird feeling in the head. No wonder! About this time, a bag of cheese curds appeared and saved me from utter collapse.

The deal was that there would be a dinner provided by QBP at 7pm and all I had to do was hang on a bit longer.

Nickle, (facing), and Ben on our way to the Cutter's Ball
Well, finally the word came that it was time, so we all filtered down to the cafeteria and grabbed a plate. Once we got through the line, we found that the room was filled and not many open seats were available. So we had a former QBP employee in the group who knew the building well. He directed us to a nearby conference room where we squatted and ate our meals without further adieu.

Once the grub had been grubbed, we made way to the show floor where there was karaoke and folks milling about. I somehow had gotten separated from Ben and Curtis during this time, so I wandered over to the shadow box displays where the QBP brands each display a bicycle or product. I stopped at the All City booth, where there was a Nature Boy or some model of theirs surrounded by Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. I noticed the pull tabs were still in the cans, but I figured the cans must have been drained. I casually kicked at one nearest to me and it was full! 

With one less can in the display, I walked down back to the crowd and found Ben and Curtis with a few others. We hung around a bit longer before Ben made the announcement that we were leaving for the Cutter's Ball. This is an event that has been taking place for the last four years. I'm not sure it is a benefit, but the event features some facet or entity in the Twin Cities bicycle culture, and this time it was all the way downtown.

Chad Ament, (L) and Tobie Depauw of NC Cyclery @ One On One
Well, this Cutter's Ball was all about Handsome Cycles moving in next door to One On One Bicycle Studio. So we had to ply the busy streets of downtown Minneapolis. Ben was driving, and while he has several amazing talents, being calm in the face of urban driving madness is not one of them. In a bit of frustration, he whipped the car into some random parking garage and parked the car. We had a passenger, Nickle, (yes- his real name), and we went in search of One On One Bicycle Studio.

We wandered in the general direction and eventually found the place after going about 8 blocks or so. Not bad, actually, and the "people watching" opportunities were vast and varied. The area is known for its clubs and younginz all dressed up were walking up and down the streets trying to search for that certain "sumpthin-sumpthin" that younginz often are in search of.

Once inside Ben and Curtis walked off with Nickle into the party. Me? I never got more than 20 feet inside the front door because there were so many folks that wanted to chat with me. Interesting conversations were had, and time was not on my mind. In fact, I have no clear idea what time it was during most of what I am writing about here. I was not at all worried about time. It was rather pleasant, actually.

Urban Adventurers
Well, we had to go home at some point, and once again, it was Ben who made the motion to head out. We picked up three more guys who needed rides back to their hotel. The crew, now six of us, took off in the general direction of the mystery parking garage that, by now, none of us had any clear idea about its specific location or the street it was on for sure. Ben proffered his ticket, taken upon our entrance, and GPS'ed the address and we were on a bead for the location until I misguided us about a block too far South.

Along our route, there were perhaps even more revelers than before when we came the other way. Dance club music filtered out of double doors guarded by twin security men up and down the streets. Lights flickered in the cold, somewhat foggy air. Girls with over the knee boots and mini skirts were everywhere. All this prompted me to declare Minneapolis as the "Las Vegas Of The North".

Eventually we found the ramp, but the door we came out of was locked. We could not see another door nearby to use, so we simply walked up the off ramp cars used to exit the ramp. When we discovered the level we needed to be on was over a barricade, down about ten feet across a gulf leading down another story, we decided to jump over and down. All six of us safely by this obstacle, we walked by three ladies with impossibly long legs and found our car. 

Bright Lights- Twin Cities
Now Ben's car is a mid-90's era Toyota Camry. Not the largest of vehicles, mind you. The car is outfitted with front bucket seats and a rear bench seat. Four adults can shoehorn themselves into this vehicle and be "okay". Now we had two above that number.

I sat in front next to Ben who drove. Age does have its benefits! The other younger men crammed into the back, and I could see one of them was partially on anothers lap. Oh well! Off we went, and it wasn't long before the tired old Camry's springs left us to scrape bottom over the uneven parking garage pavement.

Once out on the road, we found smooth sailing. Ben was chuckling as he could see Tobie from North Central Cyclery snoozing behind me as he was wedged against the right rear door. The others were chatting away and Ben and I were navigating our way out of the downtown area successfully to deposit these fellows at their designated motel just off I-494. Then Ben and I, too tired to chat or do much of anything but drive, made our way back to Northfield under a bright, nearly full moon surrounded by stars and all that above a fresh coat of white on the rural scenery. It was beautiful, peaceful, and in direct contrast to what we had experienced over the last several hours.

Off to bed, then one more short day of Frostbike to go........

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 2

Mike's Bikes: Home of Real and Fictional characters.
Now it is time to back up and tell the story on the Frostbike adventure from the beginning. Friday normally is kicked off with the Mike's bikes events. But this year it was different.

Mrs. Guitar Ted and I went up during the day Friday to try and get me up to the Salsa Cycles 2014 dealer presentation by 1pm. The issue here was that we had gotten a fresh dump of about 7 inches of snow overnight. I had to clear that away, then we waited on the roads to clear up a bit, as we watched the D.O.T. updates.

We got off to a bit of a late start, after we were assured by direct reports that the roads were good. (The D.O.T. site said they were packed in yet!) Wish we would have gotten the good word earlier, but oh well!

The trip up was uneventful, and due to our late start, I was going to miss the first 45 minutes or so of the 3 hour presentation. No big deal, until we got to the fringes of the Twin Cities' suburban sprawl.This would have been around the Lakeville area. That's when we came up on three lanes of 20mph traffic. It took awhile to figure it out, but then I saw it.

John and his "beaver skinning gloves". Don't ask...
 The reason why was that there was an echelon of snow plows from ditch to ditch ahead of us, and no one could get by. This was really going to mess with my timing!

I waited until we crossed the Minnesota River, then I got off and took city arterials to get to the area where the motel was that had the Salsa presentation. I was really, really late now!

Funny thing was that almost immediately after getting inside I ran across Ben, I got updated, and got in to peer at some really cool machinery. Obviously, I didn't have long to stick around and when it was over, Curtis, Ben, myself, and a few others hit the motel bar. Initially the plan was to go to a Korean restaurant with Ben's wife and Mrs Guitar Ted later, but Ben's wife was a bit under the weather, so we determined that we were on our own. 

Ben coming in hot at the repair area
After a while we determined that we should head back to Northfield and get to Mike's Bikes. We picked up some "adult beverages", set course for Mike's, and got there a bit later than usual, but in fine shape.

There was the usual Greek pizza, beer, and riding shenanigans. I got to talk to Mike for a bit, which is always a highlight of the trip for me. Good stories about the early Marin scene at the birth time of mountain biking as we know it.

But while all that was good, it was all tempered by abit less excitement and a bit less craziness than previous years. Still- it was a good time. We stayed up fairly late, but this may have been the earliest end to a Mike's Bikes party yet. Ben and I headed back to his place, got settled, and hit the hay to rest before a big, long day of Frostbike.

So that was the day of Friday. Stay tuned for Saturday's saga and the rest of the Frostbike story coming tomorrow. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Frostbike 2013 Part 1: Carbon Fat Bike Dream Come True?

Carbon Beargrease: Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Frostbike 2013:

Everyone has probably heard by now, but the show was all about the carbon fiber fat bike, Salsa Cycles 2014 Carbon Beargrease.

The shop where I work is a Salsa Cycles dealer. So, I got to pre-view some of the 2014 line up. I signed a "NDA", so you are not going to hear me say, or read anything about most of what I know, but they did say we could run with one thing they showed, and honestly, it is one of the coolest things they are doing for 2014 anyway, so here ya go......

I saw this pre-production rig up close. I will say that there are things going on with the frame, fork, wheels, and drive train that no one is doing now in fat bikes. These are things that make the idea of a fat bike better. Much better. Never mind that it is a carbon frame and fork. And what a frame and fork!

Cartoonish frame tubes here. Huge, huge fork crown, legs that slant inward  toward the through axle front end. Tapered steer tube, inset head set, and the look is sleek, and every bit as top shelf looking as any high end road bike carbon fiber you can name. Check out that downtube/bottom bracket junction! Whoa! A through axle rear? Are you kidding me? 

Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
 Internally routed cables here, and note the fit of the fork to the head tube. This is a pre-production rig, so I was pretty impressed by this. The graphics aren't right, and there will be a bit of color, as I understand it, here and there. Still, the bike is stunning, both in appearance, and in technological level.

The weight? I've heard 24lbs for the XX-1 spec level. Oh yeah.......there will be an XX-1 spec'ed crank set, cassette, rear derailleur, and chain. The whole XX-1 deal on a fat bike. Awesome.

So, here's the thing: The bike does do a lot of things that I would have hoped a carbon fat bike would do. One is the shapes carbon can be used for were applied here. That aforementioned fork? Yeah- the crown flows out and around the top of the tire for maximum clearance, and that slants back to the axle, as I stated. The down tube is spread out to provide a shape that looks to me to be something that should resist twisting and prevent a lot of torsional twist in the chassis.

And of course, there is the weight. Wow. 24lbs for the pre-production bike, that has tubed tires, and no trickery besides the cool XX-1 drive train. You thought fat bikes were too heavy? Not anymore. This is a year round choice for mountain biking now, with the only caveat that tire prices are pretty dang prohibitive, so if you ride a lot, you may need to cut back on the beer budget a bit to save up for new skins eventually. I don't think you'll mind, if this is as fun of a bike as I imagine it must be.

So, there was that! There will be far more to say about this in the future. Of course, there was a lot more to Frostbike- both at the show and outside of it. Look for all of that later. Tomorrow and throughout the week.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On The Pre-Race Meat-Up #2

Prize for the Men's Open Winner
Okay, listen up folks because this post is going to be packed with information for both racers and support/family/friends that come along to Trans Iowa V9. Ready? Here we go.....

First off, all participants in T.I.V9 are required to show up for the Pre-Race Meat-Up which will be held, once again, at the Grinnell Steakhouse. As I did last year, I am going to do again for this year. So, if you are already registered for T.I.V9, and you show up,  here is the plan:

Show up as soon as possible after 4:00pm to get grillin' yer meal. I want to have the meal portion of this done by 6:30pm, or shortly after. Also- During this time you should check in with Guitar Ted, (me!), and I will tick your name off the roster. This is very important, because if you are not checked in with me by 6:30pm, Friday April 26th at the Grinnell Steakhouse, you will not be racing! We will also be having you sign waivers, sign media releases, and you will get your number plate and something to attach it with.

Next- Around 7:00pm-ish, (or before if things are moving right along), everyone should be inside the main room set aside for us and we'll have a short acknowledgement of sponsors, volunteers, and then the Pre-Race meeting proper. Here I will go over any fine details on the course, the start, checkpoint #1, timing, the finish line, and answer any questions you may have. Finally, if there are any course re-routes or issues to tell you about, these will be delineated and explained at the Meat-Up.The last thing that will happen is racer call up. (Remember the check in? This is important, because if you do not check in, I won't call you up to get your cue sheets.) Anyone that checked in will get called up and receive a bag containing any sponsored nutritional/prizing things I may get, and most important of all- your first set of cue sheets.

Hopefully that will be all finished before 8:00pm, and maybe even by 7:30pm, so everyone can get out of there and catch whatever sleep they can before the 4am start in front of Bikes To You in downtown Grinnell.

NOTE: I will be sending e-mails to everyone on the roster asking for your selection for the Pre-Race meal. There will be 4 options, as before, and you will be grilling your meat or veggie kabob on a huge open grill inside the Steakhouse. The e-mails should go out sometime in March. Keep an eye on your in-boxes!

Prize for the Women's Open Winner
The Barn: 

Okay- here are some details on "The Barn", which is an old, restored 19th Century barn located on Jacob Avenue approximately 3 miles West of Grinnell. This has been graciously offered to Trans Iowa to use not only as our very unique finish line, but as a base of sorts for support folks, friends, spouses, or interested parties to hang out during Trans Iowa V9. Saturday morning, after the event has started and the sun is up, there will be a free gravel group ride for anyone that is hanging out. Expect to ride at least 75-80 miles. The route will use much of the opening miles of T.I.V9. Saturday evening, around 5pm, the Barn will open. There will be a taco truck there supplied by Tacopocalypse. There will be room for folks to set up tents and camp* near the barn, there will be fun and media entertainment in the form of updates live from Trans Iowa's course, a showing or two of "300 Miles of Gravel", and other things we are working on.

Since the Barn is remote, and up a 1/4 mile of dirt road, with zero parking designated by it, we are going to ask folks to park about a 1/2 mile away at the Jacob Krum Preserve, which has a large, spacious gravel lot. It's a nice walk, mostly down hill, to the Barn. Hopefully the weather will be decent! But once inside, you'll find things well set up, dry, well lit, and warm.

This will be open then until the last rider comes in, or until 2pm Sunday afternoon, whichever happens first. Riders will be coming in, right up the last bit of dirt road, to finish right at The Barn, so you won't want to miss that in case you have folks in the race yet, or if you have had to drop out and want to see who finished.

Okay, more details as I get things squared away, but that's the gist of what to expect at the three days that entail Trans Iowa.
*Note: As far as camping is concerned, realize that it will be primitive. There is no running water, toilet, or electricity available on site. The Jacob Krum Preserve up the road will have a toilet and maybe water. Come prepared if you are going to stay out there! You should also hit me with an e-mail if this is your plan so I can account for everyone and send a head count ahead to the Barn folk. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday News And Views

Cielo's new "Overlander"

This weekend marks the NAHBS opening in Denver, Colorado. Likely some fancy-pants, outlandishly priced rig will win the "Best of Show" award, and similar rigs will take home the other traditional prizes at NAHBS, but this Cielo offering would be my pick.

Dubbed the "Overlander", you could easily say this is a high-brow steel Fargo of the Gen I variety. Cielo says" Informed by our love of gravel adventures, back country exploration, bike packing, long road tours, and urban commuting, the Overlander is constructed with the same attention to detail and elegance that is the hallmark of every Chris King product."

It isn't suspension corrected, and the fork was specially constructed for this bike. It accepts mini-top racks, low rider mounts, and even has water bottle braze ons- one on the outside of each fork leg. The bike accepts rear racks, fenders, and has a full compliment of water bottle braze ons as well. 

I like the color combo here!
Finally, Cielo also installed a swinger drop out for single speed and IGH compatibility. See that Salsa Cycles? The Fargo sorely needs this added! 

While Cielo shows it here with Jones bars and some flat bar or another, I would drop bar this bike and if it handled as well or better than my Gen I Fargo? Well, I'd probably let that old Fargo go because the one thing that bike misses is the versatility of a swinging drop out.

And I gotta say, that reddish-orange hue is killer! Love the white tire look too, but in practice, white tires don't tend to be the best quality tires for what I'd be doing.

Anyway, all that to show that adventure/gravel bikes are definitely a theme for NAHBS this year. Glad to see that too. Now- I wonder if Cielo is going to send one of these down Tour Divide? Might be a good marketing move there.

Ardennes Plus
Also getting introduced at NAHBS will be the HED Wheels Ardennes Plus that I reviewed recently here and here on Gravel Grinder News. The wheels will be getting a new set of tires soon, and then I will be doing a longer term update on them at some point this summer.

It will be interesting to see and read about the details on these wheels from other cycling media and fans at NAHBS. I think they are an interesting product and a different take on what gravel grinding wheels should be. But you never know- maybe I have that all wrong, and the fall out from the "official launch" will tell me one way or the other.


While NAHBS might be fun, and it is located closer to me than ever this year, I can't go when Frostbike is going on. This is the dealer only show by bicycle parts supplier giant, Quality Bicycle Products, located in Bloomington, Minnesota. But first-

I  have an appointment to see Salsa Cycles, in regards to the shop  where I work being a dealer, (that I won't be talking about here or anywhere for awhile, I suppose), and then its on to the "annual" shindig at Mike's Bikes in Northfield, Minnesota. It should be a scene. Usually there are three things. Okay.....four! Good friends, beer, Greek pizza, and indoor bicycle riding shenanigans.  It's more fun than a grown man should be allowed to have, however you slice it, and I look forward to it every year.

Alrighty then. I have a canned Trans Iowa post for tomorrow loaded with info, so look for that. Otherwise, get outside, have some fun, and we'll see ya soon!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Rejoinder To The Ponderer

Recently a dust up of sorts has blown up over a post done by Bike Hugger's main protagonist, Byron DL, who had this bit published on "Wired" recently.  (I recommend you read it to help make the rest of my post make sense.)

In the article Byron "ponders the point" of "snow bikes", (a term which is rife with misunderstandings right up front), and goes on.....well, go read it by clicking the link above!

Byron happens to also be on Facebook, and messaged me for my response to the article, knowing I was a fan of this sort of vehicle. I have decided to take the liberty of posting my entire response, verbatim, which I present here today. A couple of things to note...

  • Once again-  read the article linked above, or you won't understand the rest here. 
  • "You" in my response refers to Byron DL, the author of the "Wired" article linked here. 
  • Byron may or may not post some of the following in a follow up he mentioned he may do to me. (I gave him my blessing to do so.) This is one of the reasons I decided to go ahead and post this message from Facebook here, and besides, I stand behind everything stated here.
Without further adieu.....

"My take? Well, you raise some points that found me nodding my head in agreement, but you also seem to have some feelings that I find contrary to the experience of riding in conditions that are otherwise unrideable with "ordinary mountain bikes".

You seem annoyed by the slow, mind numbing pace of the riding, the high focus on handling, and some technicalities with components. I ask you- would you rather be riding rollers/trainers? For many, that is the only other option at times.

I also find that the high focus on handling actually pays dividends when I do get back on my "typical mtb" in the regular season. In this sense, I get a benefit, albeit not an immediate one. The bikes are heavier- this makes me stronger when I ride my other bikes. The bikes have technical challenges now- but as you point out, with refinement, you will see those overcome. (By the way, Grip Shift is the bomb on a fat bike with thicker gloves. )

The slower paced riding is actually peaceful, and not unlike what one might experience while hiking- only you are riding a bicycle. I am not holden to the belief that speed "has to be" a part of an enjoyable cycling experience, but many are. I get that, but I don't think everyone is this way.

Furthermore, I have witnessed first hand how many first time off roaders are tickled to death to find such a stable beast, which a fat bike is, which slows down the need to react to inputs, and is giving them traction for days in corners and on climbs. In this sense, it opens the off road doors to folks who are otherwise terrified of many of the mountain bikes you specifically call out in your piece. The "ATV" of mtb vs the "Honda 250 motocrosser", if you will.

That said- yes- they could be better, and I think companies like On One, who developed their fat bike with trail riding in mind, are on the right track. It also is interesting to note that J&B Importers, who have the house brand, "Origin 8" are coming out with a fat bike exactly as you have envisioned, (albeit heavy), by the way of the introduction of the Nuvinci 360 hubbed "Crawler", available in April.

I feel a front suspended, 3"-3.8" tired, fat bike with trail geometry would be the best representation of a bike that would bring a different flavor to mountain biking. I feel there is potential there. (Check out the Belgian brand, Sandman, for where I think this is going)

Anyway, I think there is much potential for a larger audience for these bikes, that isn't the "typical" 5 inch travel mtb freak of today."

As a follow up to the above, it should be noted as well that there is more to riding these fat tired bikes than snow. I know- most of you folks landing here "get that", but it needs to be drilled again to underscore the point. 

Are fat bikes better or worse than mountain bikes? Well, first off, they are mountain bikes. Secondly, while they are not the best for going really fast, dropping in a 12 footer, or for climbing as fast as you can go, they will cover much of the same territory as most mountain bikes, just differently. 

It is that "difference" which likely appeals to those fans of fat bikes who are willing to accept the short term limitations to the genre for the immediate benefits of this type of rig. Can they be better? Sure they can. I suspect "fat bikes" will become something a lot different than we know them as now, much like  a 1980's era "mountain bike" is not very similar to the modern incarnations of the genre today.  

As if on cue in terms of the above statement, SRAM officially announced their fat bike crank offerings yesterday. I see that as just the tip of the iceberg, as it were, in fat bike refinements. Time will tell, but I don't think the "Wired" piece is as negative as many seem to think it is. A bit misguided or misinformed? Maybe that, but certainly there are some points there that make sense, and given what I think will happen, in the end, it won't be a big deal at all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

That Wasn't For Me

Regular readers here may wonder why I have not posted much on my titanium Mukluk of late. No......I did not sell it. I single speeded it back in November, and after riding it twice that way, I decided that it just wasn't for me.

Of course, I did ride The Snow Dog a lot, since I was training for Triple D, and afterward, I just kept on riding it. (When I wasn't sick, which has been most of February.) Another thing folks might remember from way back last Fall, and that was my bikepacking plans. That was going to happen on By-Tor, but due to family issues, I had to abort the plan. Now I have been formulating how I want to return to the bikepacking idea, and how I might make By-Tor a better rig for that activity.

The bike has been a 1 X 10 for most of its time with me. That was "okay" for gearing, but 1 X 10 is a bit limiting if I want to go to places that are further afield and/or have tougher terrain. Unloaded, the titanium Mukluk was fine with that 32 X 36T low gear. However, loaded up, I may find I need something less stressful than that gear. In comes the FSA double ring set to the rescue. It has a 36T big ring and utilizes a matched 22T granny which works with it. Obviously- much lower gearing is available there, and a bit taller on the other end as well. The 36T X 11T combo should be more than fast enough.

It was cool and all- but gears are better in deep snow!
The FSA kit came with the two rings, special "ears" that make the spider look complete on the outside, and all chain ring bolts, which are Torx 30 fastners. This kit is tailor made to turn a triple into a good looking double.

The rest of the outfit will include a SLX direct mount front derailleur, and an XT DynaSys Shadow Plus rear derailleur shifting that 10 speed rear cassette. Initially I will keep the fat tires on until later in Spring when things begin to dry up, then I may have a surprise wheel set to spring on everyone that I have been contemplating for this specific task for some time.

If everything comes together as I hope, this will see duty on an epic length event soon as well. I am sure it should all pan out, but there are many peices that need to fall into place for all of this to come together. I'll continue to update this as things progress. So, while the single speed Mukluk thing was cool and all, I found that it wasn't as ideal as the set up the Snow Dog had, which was far more useful to me.

Speaking of The Snow Dog, it is high time to upgrade that bike's drivetrain and shifters as well, so look for those things to be written about here as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

State Of Tubelessness: How Far Will It Go?

"Proper" tubelessness?
I did a "Monday's With Mark" gig last night at the shop where I work. It was about tubeless tire technology and how it may affect the average cyclist in the future. Which brings up an interesting question to ponder: Just how far will tubeless technology reach?

To my way of thinking, there are three main things that will need to happen for tubeless technology to reach to the furthest levels of cycling that it could.

  • System Approach: There will need to necessarily be a universal, systemic approach to tubeless ready tires, rims, and sealant. It isn't this way now. There is UST, and variants. There is Stan's. There is Bontrager's "TLR". There is "Everybody Else In Between". This won't do. Somehow or another, these systems need to be weeded out to one, or two at most, systems. I like UST dimension tires and rims and how they lightly "pop" into place with each other and how the bead seat in the rim and the bead diameter of the tire, and its shape, are tightly controlled. It is a really easy to use system, and works brilliantly. Bontrager's is up there too, but there is one big issue: a four letter word spelled "T-R-E-K". No other bicycle company will use TLR due to this. It's really too bad too, since it is a brilliant system, works with regularity and simplicity, and is not very expensive. Then there is Stan's, which is really the "turn your non-tubeless tires to tubeless" system and always has been. This won't do either. Until the industry adopts a universal standard, we're stuck with chaos as far as tubeless tech taking over the tubed world. 
  • Sealant Technology: Sealant technology hasn't fundamentally changed since Stan Koziak brewed his elixir in the pits of NORBA races in the 90's. This will have to change if tubelessness for the masses ever happens. There needs to be sealant that lasts over a year without drying up in the hottest climates, and still seals holes up to a 1/4 inch in diameter. If that happens, then we can talk.
  • Ease Of Use: UST supposedly is a technology that you can use without resorting to tools. Well, in theory anyway. That is not always true. Great tubeless set ups can be aired up with a measly, poor quality floor pump. But again- this is not always the case. Users should not have to resort to metal tire levers and compressors to set up tubeless tires if it ever is going to be acceptable for average, everyday cycling.
Okay, with that said, here is a disclaimer: This does not apply to bike nerds, garage tinkerers with advanced degrees in "Cobbling" with a minor in "Rube Goldberg", nor for penny-pinching, "do-it-yerselfers" that think they know better. This is for the rest of the cycling world out there that make up the bulk of cyclists in the world. In fact, only bike geeks would put up with the tubeless world the way it is now.

Too bad too. Because if tubeless technology were made more universal, easier, and better, it would get more people's butts on bikes than there are now. That's what I think.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Numbers And Trends

There will be more from where this came from...
Last Friday I wrote a wee bit about the upcoming NAHBS, which is the custom bike builder's exhibition show of preeminence happening in Denver, Colorado this coming weekend.

I mentioned how gravel/adventure bikes were going to be a trend this year. Well, obviously there will be other bikes as well. One type of bike I'm seeing teased is the fat bike. I expect they will make an impact this year, and you can credit that to the burgeoning popularity of these bikes. I know many will scoff, but the numbers don't lie. Check out this from Byron from "Bikehugger", who runs a a popular bicycling blog, and had the following to Tweet from over the weekend:

"QBP says 10k Fat Bikes sold, expects 10k to sell, while independent builders have wait lists, 30% increase in sales."
So, with significant numbers of these bikes being sold- most during what is traditionally the "off season" for bicycle sales here in North America- it isn't any wonder that the custom bike builders are picking up some of the slack in sales of these rigs? In fact, several builders have staked their largest chunk of output on fat bikes. It's reminiscent of what happened when 29"ers took off as a trend in the early 00's, and we all know what happened then.

A Krampus I rode last September
 I see another trend starting up as well, but I don't know that NAHBS will reflect it or not. This might prove to be too new. It is the so-called "29+" wheel size as exemplified by Surly Bike's Krampus.  The main feature of these bikes are the 3 inch wide 700c bead diameter tires and the accompanying rims, dubbed "Knard" and "Rabbit Hole" respectively.   There are all kinds of folks slamming Rabbit Hole rims/Knard 29"er tires into frames, folks trying Knard tires on different rims and checking out fitments, and a general hub-bub surrounding this wheel size has started to flame up out of control like a wildfire in a forest infested with pine beetles.

This has all the earmarks of a budding "trend" as well, and perhaps some astute builder or two will be on that. Regardless, I see the 29+ thing as becoming another sub-category of mountain biking that is going to sell in bigger numbers than maybe some people are thinking now. Certainly the concept has captured the imaginings of the cycling nerds already. If that continues, you will start to see ordinary folks jump on the band wagon as well. At which time- of course- the "trendseekers" will have to shuffle off to find "the next big deal" and who knows who will invent that. I mean, who'd a thunk a Krampus up before this?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On The Pre-Race Meat-Up

Okay, I am getting some things going in regard to what we are going to throw down for a Pre-Race Meat-Up this year. There are two plans available to me, and each has its solid plusses. However; there is a certain "sumpthin'-sumpthin'" I can't divulge just yet that is making one of the plans really interesting to me. It would be really rad- however- (which is another, nice way, to say "but", and you know what that means), there are several not insignificant logistical hurdles that would necessarily need to be overcome to accomplish this "rad choice".

So- it may easily happen that I''ll have to choose the other plan, which is fine. It would be popular, it would work, and in several ways, it benefits the community more, so stay tuned. We'll be working out the nits in the background and let ya'all know what's up as soon as ever can be. My goal is to have all the details sewn up by month's end.

The Barn: Several T.I. vets might recall how we were going to end T.I.V6 in a restored barn West of Grinnell a short distance, but that the weather confrusticated things, (that's a technical term, by the way!), and the barn was not seen by most that year. Well, the Barn is back on tap as a finish line again this year, but there is more to it than that. I think it is safe to divulge at least a general idea of what to expect in terms of our plans for this facility.

J.Gorilla in The Barn T.I.V6
I posted this image of John Gorilla inside the Barn from T.I.V6. It'll give you a little flavor of what just to expect for the interior feel. Anyway, the deal is looking to be like this: Saturday late afternoon or early evening, the Barn is going to be opened for folks that want to come and hang out to do so. There will be a few reasons you might want to do this.

One, if you are a support person, or someone that had to drop out of T.I.V9, you'll find that at the Barn there will be grub to eat provided by the popular Tacopocalypse folks from Des Moines. Secondly, we're going to set up a laptop computer there that you can periodically check for updates from Trans Iowa V9 as I post "Trans Iowa Radio" audioblogs, Tweets, and hopefully Facebook updates. (If I ever get my i-Phone!) Thirdly- there likely will be adult beverages. Yeah......that's pretty certain. Then lastly, you'll be able to check out showings of "300 Miles Of Gravel". (At least, we think so at this point.)

Stick around as long as you'd like, or come back Sunday to see who shows up to finish T.I.V9, because the finish line will be right at the barn door! Weather permitting, I would say the absolute earliest that you could expect finishers is around 5am Sunday that weekend. Of course, conditions would necessarily have to be perfect for that to happen. It's most likely going to be somewhat more difficult than that, and I would think finishers would start showing up around 7-7:30am-8:30am in the morning and then off and on until 2pm when we shut the place down, clean up, and bug outta town.

Retroshift Contest: I haven't mentioned this for awhile, but I have been getting some awesome entries for this contest and it will be hard to choose a winner. There is still some time for you, (if you are in T.I.V9), to get in on this. I snagged the description/rules from the T.I.V9 site for your convenience here.

I have access to either the type that works with cantilever brakes or the Retroshifters that will work with linear pull/Mtn BB-7 disc brakes, or other mech disc brakes that use mountain levers.The winner will be asked which type they need and they will be shipped out the first week of March.  Okay- following are the "official rules".

 Trans Iowa is offering you the chance to win a set of Retroshifters. All you have to do is the following: 1- Be on the T.I.V9 roster. 2- Send Guitar Ted an e-mail describing why you need Retroshifters for your rig for T.I.V9 in 500 words or less. 3- Promise to use said Retroshifters in T.I.V9. 4- Allow for a media release and for your image to be used in any future advertising for Retroshifters. Contest requires no purchase and is only valid to current T.I.V9 roster place holders. Winning entry is judged by Guitar Ted and his decision is final. All entries become the property of Trans Iowa and Retroshift. Contest ends February 28th, 2013. If there is no winner the Retroshifters will be given as prizing for T.I.V9

The contest is sponsored by Retroshift, a sponsor of T.I.V9. Click the link and check out these great alternative shifters. If you contact them, tell them Trans Iowa sent ya. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday News And Views

e-13 Fat Bike double crank
Double Crank Thoughts: 

With the advent of 9spd mountain bike systems, folks started messing around with 2X set ups on their mountain bikes. Then when 10 speed systems hit, the manufacturers went whole hog into 2X stuff.

On one hand, I sure like the simplicity of having only two rings up front, and most of the time the shifting is really great. However; the limited choices in combinations has me at a loss sometimes. I suppose you can buy the rings in whatever size combinations you want, but in many cases, the rings are not optimized for shifting with each other, or with the newer, narrow chains. Or you have proprietary bolt circle diameters. Then all bets are off.

Maybe the new idea SRAM has proffered in XX-1 will pay off in the long run by getting rid of front shifters and derailleurs altogether. Still, I don't know if that is the answer for everyone though. Sometimes I think it would be great on a snow bike, then again, I have used the lower gears quite a bit this year in the deeper, shiftier snow we had.

Pizza cutter

I got these new mud specific tires in to test recently. I find "mud specific" off road tires for bicycles to be a conflicted product. On the one hand, we cry foul if anyone rides muddy trails. Trails are sensitive, and they are a precious commodity, which we as cyclists, especially off road cyclists, need to be careful with. Then I get sent "mud specific tires" to test. You know- I need to find me some mud then!

There is the Green Belt, which due to its nature, is oft flooded and cutting up that trail usually isn't an issue at all. However; I don't try to go there when it is muddy unless it's a last resort for tire testing, and even then, it's something I resist. So I was pleased to find some short, albeit great, testing ground right near my own neighborhood underneath and along the knot of highways that meet near here. Clay, wet muck, black dirt, and marshy stuff abounds now. The best part? It doesn't matter a lick if I want to go muddin' through here.

So, I have my conscious clear, but I still find mud specific mtb tires to be an oddball product. Obviously it must be okay, maybe even encouraged, to ride on mud ridden trails somewhere here. (I know the U.K. is well known for heinous mud trails.)

NAHBS teaser....

While I am not the biggest fan of  some of the things hand made bicycle shows stand for,  I still am a bicycle geek, so I love to check out the trends and the rigs to see what fancy-pants show bikes are like these days. This year, there seems to be an unprecedented number of "sneak peeks" of several builder's work.

It seems that gravel bikes, or bicycles geared for adventure with a gravel bent, are going to be one of the "trends" of this year's NAHBS. At least, that is an impression I am getting. I could be just seeing the few bikes that are geared toward this niche, but then again- maybe not.

One of the things builders and critics claim about NAHBS is that the "big companies", (read: Trek, Giant, and Specialized, along with some "second tier companies"), come in and look around, take images of all sorts of bikes, details, and components. Then the story goes that a lot of these "trends" in the form of certain bicycles, materials, ideas, and component usages show up the following year on production bikes.

True or not? I don't know, but I have personally heard a builder rant on this very convincingly. If that is the case, maybe you'll see some more gravel specific rigs coming down the pipeline. Maybe. Or not........Stay tuned next weekend for all the NAHBS images to start showing up from the Denver show and then we'll decide in a couple weeks what, if anything might be on our horizons.

Take care, and get outside this weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What About Aero?

Aero wheels- Not aero bag
Today I introduced a new wheel set from HED Wheels on Gravel Grinder News that is so new for HED, they haven't given the set a proper model name yet. You can hit the link to see all the tech on them. Tomorrow, my review proper will hit that site. What I wanted to discuss was one of the main features of this wheel set. That being aerodynamics.

Until I was contacted by HED late last year about doing that review, I hadn't given aerodynamics a second thought for gravel grinding, much to my shame. Really, it should be a seriously considered facet of this type of riding when you stop to think about it. I know some riders who have given it serious consideration too. I guess the "aha" moment never sunk in though.

Think I'm goofy? (Well.....okay, I am, but.....) Think about the numbers from a wattage standpoint. If you can save watt expenditures, even if they seem insignificant over shorter distances, that can add up over a longer ride of say- a metric century, or 100 miler. Energy saved that you would have spent on a non-aero wheel set that you could use to your advantage on a longer gravel ride. HED hasn't published data for the wheels I reviewed yet, but for other wheels in the same class that they make, savings are there, and that isn't anything to sneeze at.

This isn't anything new either. Those roadies and triathletes who are reading this are smiling and wagging their heads in knowing humor. They get this stuff, and I think it is rather odd that gravel road aficionados haven't taken to aero wheels in greater numbers. Of course, there are several reasons for this, most likely, but to the degree that it can be of an advantage, (besides the use of aero clip ons), gravel grinders seem oblivious to the possibilities that aerodynamics could have.

One of the reasons could be the perception that aero wheels are too expensive and fragile for this sort of riding. However; with the rims getting a bit wider on the road side, and with  materials technology getting better, I see this becoming less of an obstacle. That road wheels are seeing support for tubeless will help as well.

So, does having aero wheels on your gravel grinder make any sense? Maybe. I think that several things have to come together for that to take greater hold on the gravel grinder set. Tubeless support, wider rims for the preferred 35-45mm tires, and reasonable weights and prices, but it is intriguing to consider for this sort of pursuit. Then again- how many sets of wheels would a company actually sell. A lot of folks see gravel grinding as a place to "use up" equipment and not a place to spend a lot of money on high performance parts and bikes that will get rattled, beaten, and grimed to death.

But then again- you've got yer cyclo cross deal. So there is that to think about too. Those guys and gals spend a mint on wheels and stuff. Especially those tubular tires every season.

Then there are tubular tires. What about those for gravel? Ah...........

That's another post!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Vaya Gets Ridden

It was too nice out not to ride...
I know I may have been pushing things a bit, but I was feeling much better yesterday afternoon than I had in many a day. Dare I say "normal"? Well, close enough at times, at any rate.

So I get off work a bit early, the sun is shining, the snow is melting, and the wind is down. The streets are fairly clear of ice and snow, but there is run-off from the remaining piles of frozen crap alongside the roadways. Big deal! I was going to finally get that Vaya out and ride it.

Now- it was really going to be a shake down ride only- mind you. Not a full on gravel assault, or a ride of any duration. That was fine, since I probably shouldn't be out flogging myself so soon after getting this sick anyway. Still, it needed to be done, and I was feeling like I just needed to pedal for a while. It's been a long time off the bike, (for my standards), and I was beyond ready to go for a ride of any length. I felt risking a short ride was okay, especially when it was so pleasant for Mid-February.

It was my first ride on Vee Rubber tires X-C-X model too. So there was a lot of things I wasn't very sure about anyway. I pumped up the rear to 40psi and the front slightly less than that. Seemed to be a reasonable starting point. Then I was off. There were more questions about the drive train, shifting, and as always, whether everything was tight and going to work right. As far as the latter, I can report that there were no failures. As for the former things, read on.....

  • The BioPace ring worked fine. I was expecting something bad to happen, but it didn't. You might think similarly since the BioPace ring is from the seven speed days and I was running a 10 speed Shimano chain over it! That said, the ovality was noticeable at first as an easier down stroke, and then a sensation that maybe I might be able to suffer a bigger gear climbing than typical. We'll see about this later...
  • The Winwood fork is solid. Hardly any backward leg movement at all under hard braking. However; it still felt smooth enough. More after I've been on some gravel with this thing.....
  • Shifting: A big question mark going out, since I had a 9spd SRAM rear derailleur shifting over a 10speed cassette with a 10 speed SRAM TT shifter. After a not so good result after tuning in the stand, I found it was okay with a cable tension tweak out on my ride. I think it will be fine. Front shifting worked amazingly well, given the weird ring and all.
  • Carbon: Yes- carbon wheels make a difference in feel, which I think is more pronounced on smoother surfaces and hidden off road. Smoothness, and "quietness" in terms of a lack of vibrations. I'm sure the tires had a part to play as well. The carbon seat post is an awesome feeling one.
  • I felt too upright. Maybe a tad. A bit too short in the cockpit, perhaps. Well, there will be some tweaking until I find a good position. It isn't bad now. It just needs refining. 
Overall the Vaya feels smooth, quiet, capable, stable, (I had a bit of a run in with ice and snow which culled this out), and should be at least worth tweaking on for a better set up. I need to get it on some actual gravel and come to several conclusions before I can say anything with finality, but I like what I see for possibilities here. Obviously- I'm not the first one!

More soon......

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

So Many Bikes- So Little Time (And $$$!)

It's Winter, it's cold, and you may be sick like me right now and can not ride much, or at all. Well, whattya gonna do? Dream about bikes, look at bikes, and check out the webz for more new bikes. Here are a few things I found interesting for various reasons.....

Black Mountain Cycles Cross: US Made?
It was announced yesterday that Black Mountain Cycles is going to try to do a run of U.S. made frame sets of the "cross" variety. They will be made in San Francisco of True Temper tubing and in a very limited number.

Although the geometry numbers are supposed to be the same as the current "monster cross" frame and fork, (like mine shown here), the tire clearances will be slightly limited from the amount seen on the Taiwanese frames. Still, the claim is that 43mm tires will clear, which is plenty big enough for gravel riding.

If that sounds good to you, and a U.S. sourced and built frame ticks your boxes, prepare to pony up about 1600 big ones and contact Black Mountain Cycles soon. I've really been happy with the one I bought from BMC and it does what I need it to very well. I imagine the U.S. built frame will feel differently, but handling should be right in the ball park with mine and it handles really well on gravel.

Ed Oxley stands proud....
On One Surprises: 

The next thing that popped onto the radar yesterday was a modified single pivot full suspension device with an On One brand on the downtube.

What? On One to make a full susser?

Apparently. This bike is a prototype and has been dubbed the "Codeine". Through a screed of Twitter babble between On One designer Brant Richards, his test rider/mate Ed Oxley, and other U.K. Tweeters/Facebookers, I read that the bike has a 128mm rear travel and is fit for front forks in the 140mm-160mm (???!!!) range.

The bike's designer, Brant Richrads, was said to have been medicated on Codeine when he designed the bike, thus the name. Hmmmm.....well, whatever, a name is a name. According to more sleuthing I did, I found that the prototype is said to have 440mm chain stay length and a 67 degree head angle. The proto is said to be fitted with a DSP Dueler rear shock. Estimate on availability? Folks connected to this are saying about a year or so.

I think it is an interesting specimen from the standpoint that it isn't a 27.5" wheeled bike, (which Mr. Richards has said he doesn't care for in the past), and that it has different travel front to rear. However it goes, this was a surprise find yesterday.

Johnny Mole design
But Is It UCI Certified?

This "artsy-fartsy" rig was making the rounds yesterday as well. I'm not really a roadie, so take the following with a grain of salt...

This wasn't very impressive to me. In fact, haven't I seen something like this before, only better? Let me about a Look 596 track bike, or how about that Factor Superbike? Maybe the Specialized McLaren? Or about any triathlon/time trial rig these days. Meh!

And this thing won a design award already. Good luck with that. I'm sure it will go a long way in making this design something we start knocking down doors for. Now- I know it has some cool storage "tech boxes" and that the frame has a single structural element running from the stem to the rear drop out. Big deal.

It is about as appealing to me as a bicycle as living in a stark white room with one plastic chair would be. Meaning: it isn't appealing at all to me as something I would want to ride. As art, or an architectural element, or just an interesting shape? works for me on that level. Maybe you dig it? That's cool. I think it looks like it was designed to be a PlaySkool toy, but that's just me, maybe.

And that's what I was looking at yesterday in the world of bicycles......

Monday, February 11, 2013


HED Gravel wheels
I spent the weekend mostly down and out with a really bad head cold. It sucked the life outta me, so no bicycle riding, and being under the watchful eye of Mrs. Guitar Ted, (a Registered Nurse), I wasn't going to disobey orders to rest. Not that I would have. I really felt nasty.

Well, whatta ya do then? being a bit behind on writing, that is what I did, for the most part, when I wasn't in bed resting, that is. I am getting caught up on stuff, so that was at least something accomplished for the weekend.

One of the things needing done was a re-write of a submission for "Cyclocross Magazine", which should come out in a couple months. That was kind of a surprise assignment, as I thought it was done, but I got right on it. The next couple of things I am pretty excited to have coming out soon.

The first thing is that finally, the bag that many of you have asked me about on the front of my BMC "Orange Crush" rig will be written up in a review soon. That's been something that's been pushed back a few times, but if this date is solid that I got, you can look for that review at the beginning of March. Only a few short weeks away.

Then there is the wheel set on the bike in the image above. It came from HED Wheels and is a new product they are going to introduce at NAHBS soon that is especially for gravel grinding. They asked me to try a pre-production set late last Fall and I rode them until the snow flew. Look for the two part review on Gravel Grinder News this week, and I'll have more to say about those wheels here after that comes out.

And hopefully I feel better soon so I can start riding again too!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: This And That #3

How's It Goin'?

Here's an update on where I stand with Trans Iowa preparations thus far:

  • The entire course has been driven once. What I saw seems pretty straightforward. I'll have some specific details later. 
  • Cue sheets have been drafted, post recon, and they have been proofread and corrected once already. In March, there will be a full course recon by an independent source using my cues as directions. (We did something similar last year) If my course checkers see anything confusing, wrong, or if they find roads closed, I can then make any corrections necessary to insure the highest possible level of accuracy on cues for T.I.V9. Hopefully they will be on par compared to last years or better. (Last year they were lauded as being "spot on".) 
  • Thanks to a T.I. Vet, Keith C, I have been gifted baggies for all the cues once they are printed. Thanks! 
  • Number Plates: I'll likely use similar ones to last year. I have a source for those and it will take a few hours to personalize them, but I think that's the direction I am headed in with those. 
  • My next big hurdle is to get the Pre-Race Meat-Up all settled. Look for details to surface on this soon....
  • Volunteers: I have Checkpoints covered. Thanks to all who stepped forward for this. I'll contact you all before the event to get you all specifics on your assignments. I still need a couple of folks for starting duties. 
That's about it right now. Things are going pretty smoothly otherwise. We will have a couple individuals out on course doing photography. Because of this, all riders will be required to sign Media Releases at the Pre-Race Meat-Up, as we have had you do for the past two Trans Iowas. I am not sure how the images may or may not be made available afterward just yet, but I do know some things are being discussed with and amongst the photographers, so stay tuned for details on that.

Last week in the T.I.V9 discussion I ran some Tire Tips. Go see that post here if you missed it. Apparently, by the numbers of hits that generated, it's pretty popular.

Finally: if you can not show up, and have to drop out of Trans Iowa- for any reason- please let me know. I will be bummed that you will not be there, but it will help me out and prevent wasting time, money, and resources.


Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday News And Views

1993 Rock & Road
The Original Gravel Grinder:

The bike in the image here is representative of a model of bike from Bruce Gordon Cycles called the Rock & Road. This is a seminal bike from the standpoint of 29"ers, (which you can read more about their history here), but it also was a bike meant to go on off road rides and- as the name implies, on rocky roads. You gravel. 

Well, this wasn't lost on Mr. Gordon, who saw all the gravel grinder stuff popping up, and in order to acknowledge this, and point back to his own contributions to the genre', he is offering a 25th Anniversary Edition of the Rock & Road dubbed the "O.G.G. 25". (that stands for "Original Gravel Grinder 25", the 25 signifying the 25th anniversary of that model. ) Mr. Gordon is only going to make 10 of these rigs and you can get one by calling him up to get the ball rolling. Bikes made in this series will all be signed and numbered. Sounds pretty special! See the details here.

Pick yer axle options
 Axle Options:
I was thinking the other day- why do we even bother with 9mm QR's and 20mm through axles anymore? For anyone that isn't racing, self supported, and that doesn't need to get a wheel out in a nano-second, (read- almost everyone.), the 9mm QR for mountain biking is.......silly. 

Then there is the 20mm through axle- a fine and dandy idea in its day, but for whatever reasoning, Fox and Shimano conspired to effectively kill it for anything outside of down hill sleds. The resulting 15mm through axle standard is okay. But, since it has basically pushed out 20mm through axles, lets just go with that...

Then there are rear through axles. Okay, but why 12mm?  Make everything 15mm, and make that the through axle standard, front and rear. Simple. There, that's my rant on axle standards.....

Maiden Voyage?

Looks like a wet, windy, sloppy weekend is in store for us here. I have been wanting to get out the new-to-me Vaya but my body isn't cooperating very well right now. I have had a wicked head cold and mild flu, so riding has been not happening of late.

Let's say I feel a lot better by Saturday. If so....and that's a big if, I will get that Vaya out for a short cruise. I sure hope that works out.

There are other bikes I need to be getting out and riding, but it all depends upon the weather. If it turns, all the better, but I do realize that it is only early February. So, you know- I am being a bit premature on this Spring-like weather, perhaps! Be that as it may, this "tweener" weather is for the birds. Not really winter, not good enough to be out on the trails, and we are left with crapola. (That's a technical term- by the way!)

Okay, I hope all of you have a great weekend and get some good outdoors time in.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Thoughts On Weight From A Fever Addled Brain

Weight- It's a big deal, a hotly contested subject, and gets folks all in a dither. I've read many opinions on weight, from a total dismissal of the subject to folks who are so into getting the lightest bike they will sweat the finest details to achieve their goals. I've seen folks spend exorbitant amounts of money to prove a point, then sell the bike almost immediately afterward.

My take is that the truth is somewhere in the midst of all that debate. Having the lightest bike is not good, and neither is having a really heavy bike that is hindering your enjoyment of the ride. Like anything requiring balance in life, it is not easy to find the place where weight, (or lack thereof), is at a place which neither hinders you nor causes concern for parts breaking, loss of handling performance, or a credit card drained to the limit.

One of the best examples of this was back in 2008 when I was doing a lot of riding on my OS Bikes Blackbuck. Now the Blackbuck isn't the lightest steel frame on the planet, but it isn't a porker either. Pretty good, I'd say. Right in the ball park for a eccentric bottom bracket equipped 29"er.

I used that basic platform for testing all sorts of rigid and suspension forks on one bike. So- the wheels, components, and set up had to remain the same, (or as nearly the same as possible), for the duration of the test. The wheels I used were the stock set off a Raleigh XXIX+G and were not light. Nope. They were in excess of 2000 grams for the set, as I recall, but those Joy Tech hubs just rolled super smoothly. Plus, the WTB rims were stout and stayed stable all throughout that year.

The following year I was finished with the fork testing, so I removed those "old, heavy wheels", and put on some different, high dollar, lighter wheels. You know what? I didn't go any faster, nor did I like them better than those cheesy Raleigh wheels. But I do remember liking the feel of that bike very much back then. No matter that it weighed more than many other "blingy" single speeds out there.

So what was the deal? I think it had a lot to do with every component I set the bike up with for that year after the fork test. They all worked in concert and put me in a position to really get the most out of the Blackbuck. You know, I should build it back as close I can the way it was then! But the point is, I didn't need lighter weight. At least I don't think so.

But then again, I've had a low grade fever and wicked head cold the past few days, so I might be crazier than usual!