Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday News And Views

Mike Johnson (foreground), from T.I.V8
How Many Miles Do You Have In This Month? 

I was at the shop today and the talk turned to local rider, Mike Johnson, who is accomplishing something pretty heady. He's about 2/3rds of the way through a 2700 plus mile ride. With just a bit more than 900 miles left to go, Mike has ridden over 1700 miles in two weeks. Off pavement for most of it. Over mountains, through snow, rain, and desert. By himself much of that time.

Over 1700 miles. In two weeks! That's more miles than many put in for a whole year! It's pretty amazing what you can do on a bicycle if you put your mind to it.

Follow along with the end of Mike's trek from North to South along the Great Divide Route by checking his Spot tracker page here.

Mike is on track for about a 25 day finish. There still are several mountain passes, desert, fire dangers, and more that he has yet to tackle. Oh......and check the Track Leaders main page. Lots of unbelievable feats of cycling going on this month!I'll be cheering on Mike from here, and continue being the "blue dot junkie" that I am.

The steed for the weekend.
Odin's Revenge:

Today I am not working, but I am traveling toward my date with some rustic roads in Nebraska. Odin's Revenge is a 150-ish mile long event that will be a good time and test my body and mind as I attempt to ride about as far as I ever have in one sitting. (My "PR" is something just over 160 in a day.)

I'll be bringing back a special report from Nebraska and possibly will post a couple audio-blog reports if I can.

The bike will be the Fargo Gen 1 and I've got her tuned and ready for a long ride. The bike shouldn't be an issue. Maybe I will be! At any rate, my main goals are to finish, have fun doing it, and have a good time with some people I don't get to see very often.


Obviously, I won't be here for 3GR, but if anyone wants to ride it on their own that knows the new route, they are welcome. I would suspect that Cedar Falls is still suffering from flooding, so my advice would be to satrt at Gates Park Swimming Pool parking lot at 8:30am.

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: 

The GTDRI is getting fine tuned by the great folks over at the Slender Fungus Cycling Association. President Ari says that we'll be doing a 135 mile route and that there are fantastic spots lined up for breakfast at about Mile 35, and lunch at a sweet burger joint. There will be B Maintenance Roads, lots of hills, and suffering with like minded folks.

President Ari also advises that all be prepared to start in the dark. We'll be setting off at 5:00am sharp to make sure we can log all 135 glorious Jackson County Iowa miles. There is a "Short Route" of about 65 miles for those wanting just a metric. There is a leader assigned to keep those short termers in line as well!

The GTDRI is welcoming any and all intrepid gravelists to be there for this no-drop ride. But know that it will be a huge test of strength, fitness, and mental acuity. This will not be an easy ride! The date is July 14th. Be there!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Announcing The "New" Gravel Grinder News

Finally! It emerges from the primordial ooze!
Wednesday is usually my day off from wrenching at the shop. I usually have a pretty chill schedule which includes a bike ride somewhere on some bicycle or another. But this Wednesday was not to be anything like that....

Going back to 2008, I had an idea on this blog. I thought "somebody" ought to be cataloging these gravel events into a list where we could find information on them, plan dates to attend, and maybe show the "world out there" that there were more events going on than they thought. Well, that "somebody" turned out to be me in the end. I found a new home for the Trans Iowa History site I had been working on, and turned that old Blogger site into "Gravel Grinder News". 

I figured that while I didn't need a fifth blog to watch over, it would be easy to just add links whenever the odd gravel event popped up in my inbox. The thing was, I got a lot more events sent to me than I ever thought I would. I kept finding out about others by word of mouth, looking at Facebook, and perusing Twitter. Then I got a review written on a Salsa Cycles rig. A new model at the time dubbed the "Vaya". My good buddy, MG suggested we try a review, and the next thing ya know, traffic on the site went berserk compared to pre-review days. It only got worse after that. Well......worse if your original intentions were to just have an easy to maintain list of events!

So, in an effort to make the site more than just an after-thought, to make it easier to use for the riders out there, and to satisfy an emerging demand I was seeing from the industry for a place like this, I suggested to my buddy in California, Grannygear, that we move forward on an idea he pitched to me to upgrade Gravel Grinder News to reflect all those things. To make it better than it was.

Riding into the future....
Grannygear and I started this project in earnest at the beginning of this year. We looked at tons of ideas, kicked around a lot of concepts, and got a development site going where we could play with, experiment with, and tweak out our ideas. Things were cruising along really, really well. That is until some interweb behemoth called "Google" reared its ugly head and stymied our intentions.

Well, we've got "real jobs", real lives, and families. It isn't like we can work on stuff like Gravel Grinder News whenever we want, and many times we can't get to it when even when we are free to do so.  Anyway, the thing sat dead in the water for weeks. Meanwhile Trans Iowa happened, a family vacation, work, and get the idea.

Then Wednesday came: I was trying to squeeze in a lot on Wednesday. I wanted to get some work done, so I could leave Friday to attend Odin's Revenge, which I was going to have to travel most of that day for. That meant no work on Friday. I also was dreaming of getting out for a bit of ride testing for Twenty Nine Inches, which has been sparse due to the very wet weather we've had around here. It had rained Tuesday evening......again! So, I went to work first, thinking later on, it may be okay for a ride.

Then I got a call from Grannygear. He was making headway on the switchover, but a new snafu had arisen. I made a suggestion, and after a couple more phone calls, it was looking good to go. Meanwhile I had a couple packages to mail out, one which I had to do some online research to get the postage right. This was cutting into my time! I was a bit frantic, and then I got a call that the site was live, in the meantime, I missed an important call from family. Wondering what the heck that call could have been for made me more amped. Then I found out the reason for the call. My Uncle Paul had died. I had to do a few quick things to get the news on GGN out, post a promised review up on GGN that I had said would be on the site when it went live, get the packages mailed, and deal with the news I had gotten. Needless to say, I was wrecked. I didn't get that ride in. But.....anyway.....Gravel Grinder News new site is finally live! 

All that to let you know the site is live. I just felt I needed to get the story off my chest, to let some folks know what the deal was who were "in the know" about the changes, and not to gain any sympathy for my troubles. It's been a tempestuous week so far, with many ups and downs, but getting this site upgraded and changed is a goal that Grannygear and I have had for a while. I am happy we've reached it, and I hope all that check out GGN find it to be an improvement, useful, and worthwhile.

We're particularly proud of the Calendar Of Events, which we hope will be much easier and informative to use. Check it out when you get the time. It's really the whole reason for the site in the first place. We're also going to, (hopefully), get more contributions from our riders in the field, like MG, who has contributed another great bike review on the Singular Kite here. Look for more from him and from Monika Sattler, whose articles will be re-posted from the old site very soon. There will be some reviews on gear being completed soon, which you will see, mostly on tires. Stay tuned!

Thanks for supporting Gravel Grinder News, and as always, keep sending in the news on events and I will get them on the calendar.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

About That Long Ride In France

Image by W. Kilburg from T.I.V8
There's this big ride happening in France soon. Guys that make some pretty good money riding bicycles full time will be arranged in teams and all will duke it out over three weeks running around France and some nearby nations trying to put one guy in a yellow jersey.

It's kind of a complicated scene, really. There's this "race within the race" for "points", and "best climber", and "best young rider", and who knows what all. In fact, it is so intricate, with time bonuses and team points that you usually find a "Legend' on many sites that will guide you to be able to understand it all.

What happened to a race where the fastest guy wins? How easy is that? Guess it had to be made "more interesting", for whatever reasons. And in that vein, if you actually go to see this event, there is even more layers to this thing. There is a huge "race caravan" of sponsors. Call it a speeding parade. Brands and manufacturers that give support to this deal roll by the throngs of spectators hawking their products and tossing out promotional materials for the people to wear and use during the event. When the riders go by, hopefully the T.V. cameras catch some of those icons for a bit of free advertising. Maybe some people will take these sundry items home and have a reminder of the race, (and in turn a brand). Marketing is a big deal at this event for sure.

It wasn't always like this. It used to be that merely knowing about the event and the riders and how difficult it was to accomplish the route was "interest" enough. Man against the terrain and the clock. self-supported over country roads. Miles and miles of them. Gravelly passes through uncertain mountains. Weather. Mud. The human spirit put to test against seemingly insurmountable odds. That was really riveting stuff back in the day for this event, but then it all changed.

Now there are support vehicles, team cars, race radios, and all in the name of speed and safety. The race has become something totally different than it had been. You may like it. You may even love it. However; there are a lot of folks that have grown tired of the hoopla, and the rules, and the breaking of the rules. Count me as one of them.

Here's a bit of an out take from Zach Dundas' book entitled "The Renegade Sportsman". This is a book about under-the-radar sports and the folks who have rejected the "sports-entertainment industrial complex". Zach felt Trans Iowa fit this mold and this is where Zach is quoting my take on Trans Iowa and how it relates to the big July race :

"All the big European cycling events have their roots in things like this, (gravel road racing), The difference is, they've been totally transformed by money and T.V. They've been sanitized for mass consumption to the point where they're no longer recognizable as what they were. I'm not saying the Tour isn't a great athletic event and a spectacle, because it obviously is. But c'mon- it's kind of become a sick joke, hasn't it? Even if you ride, you can barely relate to it because it's become so detached from reality."

From "The Renegade Sportsman" pg 68-69

 Maybe you don't agree, but if you do, there are things happening, right now, that hearken back to the original spirit of the event that we know now as "The Tour". Just check out what is going on with Tour Divide. I'm following a friend that has done over 1500 miles in eleven days already, all on his own recognizance. Man against the terrain and the clock. self-supported over country roads. Miles and miles of them. Gravelly passes through uncertain mountains. Weather. Mud. The human spirit put to test against seemingly insurmountable odds. You know.......some really riveting stuff! (For me, at any rate.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dealin' With Some Baggage

Odin's Revenge set up.
 A while back I mentioned BikeBagDude from Australia and that I had made arrangements to get a few items from him to use on the titanium Mukluk. Well, the package hit the door yesterday.....just in time for me to use some of the kit for Odin's Revenge!

Yep, I am putting on the Chaff Bags I got in onto the Fargo. What's a Chaff Bag, you might ask? Well, here's the description straight from the website:

"Handy little bags for the handlebars -they work both on the LHS and RHS. Can be 4, 6 and 8 inch deep. Bungy cord drawstring top made from Terrain X Pac and fully lined."

So, basically these can be used as a feed bag type of gizmo, or they fit water bottles really well. You could stuff gear of appropriate size in there too, I suppose, but since the bags are meant for the handlebars, I would assume the things you stuff in there are things wanted while riding. Perhaps.....other interpretations are welcomed! 

Chaff Bag
 The Chaff Bag has two Velcro tabs up near the opening that you can use on a handle bar, or put one around the bar and one around the stem, as I have here. (Note: The Chaff Bag on the other side of the bar is only looped around the handle bars.) On the bottom of the Chaff Bag there is an extra long Velcro tab to reach down to a fork crown, down tube, or what have you, to secure the bag so it doesn't flop around. The top opening is big enough that I can easily reach down inside it and it features a drawstring closure. (Note: Bag in the foreground is closed, bag in the back ground is open.) 

So, I basically just popped these two on in about two minutes and didn't even think about it, really. However; I think this might be exactly how I run them. The one closest to me will carry food and the one on the front of the bar will carry a water bottle. (In fact- there is a large water bottle in it in this image, you just can't quite see it from this angle.) This arrangement will allow me to carry three large water bottles and three small water bottles for a total of six for a total capacity of 132 ounces of water. All of that water and none of it on my back! I'll need it too, cause the forecast is calling for 95°F and low humidity. 

Custom frame pack
 The other bag is the custom made frame pack for the Mukluk. This is your frame bag with a "false floor" which is removable so you can have a divided compartment or a huge open area inside. The lower zipper allows access to the "basement" level when the floor is installed. 

The bag is very detailed, well made, and spacious. I'll have to do a post dedicated just to this bag at some point, but I need to test fit it to my Mukluk first and then I'll share all of that with ya'all later. 

But before that can ever happen, I desperately need to clean By-Tor up. He's been wallowing in the mire of late, (and it's been loads of fun!), so the frame is encrusted with a thick layer of dried dirt at the moment. No use getting the bag all fouled up right out of the gate with that! Even just yesterday, just before I discovered the bags had arrived, I was spinning the rear wheel up a greasy, slick, muddy climb. I had splashed through mud puddles and thrown up dirt all over it again, as it had just rained heavily here before each way of my commute. Once in the morning, and once right before I left work, so By-Tor is rather messy. 

I'll get all this done and probably wait till after Odin's Revenge so I can write up a proper review on the Chaff Bags and then fit those and the frame bag to a clean Mukluk!  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lost In The Mid-Size Hoopla

Big, aggressive 29"er tires? (Image courtesy of C. Artman)
For several years leading up to 2012, many 29"er fans were opining about the lack of "long travel" 29"ers and bigger, more aggressive tires for them. Then this mid-sized, 27.5"er deal happened, and many figured that longer travel bikes and bigger tires for big wheelers were all but a pipe dream that would never come true. Yep! Stick a fork in that idea.

And while the industry goes gaga for "enduro" racing and the focus is shifting towards the series growing up around that style of riding, there has been something going on quietly over in the corner just outside of the limelight: Bigger, more aggressive tires, longer travel forks, and bikes to put them on for 29"ers are happening. Right now.

If this all would have happened three years ago, it would have been grabbing all the attention of riders everywhere, but I wonder how many folks even are aware that Rock Shox introduced the Pike for 29"ers with 150mm travel, or that Specialized and Trek have long travel 29"ers available now? You just don't see a lot of buzz about those items. Then there are the tires: Maxxis is bringing out two versions of the Minion, and a Highroller II, WTB has the Vigilante, and Schwalbe has introduced an even burlier tire than the Hans Dampf dubbed the "Magic Mary".

Yep, this all would have been considered a really big deal in 2010, but now it is kind of flying under the radar, which I find interesting. It just goes to show you that the manufacturers marketing machine is doing a bang up job of pushing this enduro scene and the mid-sized bikes being pushed for that niche of the sport.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

3GR Report: Tune Up Ride

The 3GR ride was a test run for the new set up on the Fargo Gen 1 which I plan to use Saturday at Odin's Revenge. Tubeless Maxxis Ikon's on the Sun-Ringle' Black Flag Pro wheels was the biggest question for the day. Everything else was pretty familiar territory for me.

I had waited and waited Saturday morning to see what the weather was going to do. Some pretty heavy thunderstorm activity was in the area, but nothing materialized right in this locale. It looked pretty menacing out when I left, but I figured that if things didn't get to raining I would be okay. I left on the Fargo with plenty of time to spare to get there, but honestly, I didn't figure on meeting anyone since the weather looked so sketchy and well, I seem to be in the extreme minority around here when it comes to riding gravel roads. Either that or I am stinky. Something or another........

 Well, however that is with anyone else, I go onward. I am having a blast, and I know the folks that bother to make these rides have fun as well. Take Robert for instance, who I found waiting on me at the Gates Swimming Pool parking lot.

Robert fine tuning his ride.
Robert had a stem alignment issue he wanted to address before we left, so he borrowed my tool kit to take care of that, then we were off. The skies were dark, the wind was gusting out of the East-Southeast, and I was not so sure we'd get in a full loop, but off we went anyway. Up Moline Road, and the traffic was more than I figured it should be. In fact, I found it rather odd. Normally I hardly run across a car at all out this way.

While we were chatting away, we came up upon an intersection and at the last minute, Robert called out that a car was coming to our right. I slammed on my brakes, as did Robert, and we were nearly stopped by the time the driver actually saw us just off the corner. The woman driver must have been caught at unawares by our presence and slammed her brakes briefly upon finally noticing us. (Remember- we were nearly at a standstill at this point.) She fishtailed the rear end of her Taurus and then continued onward. I was a bit more cautious the rest of the ride as a result. It turned out to be a good thing too, as traffic was at an all time high until well past our half way point.

Overcast and windy for most of the ride..
Things went a bit more smoothly after this though, and we reached Denver and passed it by to our left. Then we made the left turn towards Ivanhoe Road and got that Southeasterly behind us.

This pushed us along at quite a good clip. The tires sang as we rolled along. My Maxxis Ikon's felt a bit squirrely to me at first, and I actually had been checking the rear for a flat a few times. However; for some reason, it felt as if the air pressures came up in the tires, and after the halfway point in the ride they felt far more solid underneath me than they had. The only bad thing I can say about running them was that they tended to spit up small chunks of gravel now and again. The odd, singing noise on smoother stuff was to be expected, and that doesn't bother me at all.

We were surprised at a couple of points by wildlife that scampered across the road or was spotted flying in the air. On two separate occasions we spotted pairings of a doe and her fawn on the roads. One fawn was so small I thought it was a gangly legged dog instead of a deer. The other time the doe took to the ditch and deftly avoided any obstacles while outrunning us on a downhill. Very impressive! I also spied a few jakes, (immature  wild turkeys), and two adult turkeys. Then I spied out of the corner of my eye a Great Blue Heron flying up a creek bed. A good day for wildlife.

That was a good diversion, because as we rolled around to end up going South, the wind was strong into our faces and we were working pretty hard. The wind got strong enough that it actually was blowing dust up the road at us.

Coffee stop...
We slogged out the final miles back to Waterloo without much conversation. I mentioned at one point that the head wind was a "pretty stiff " one to which Robert replied to with a grunt or some other unintelligible malediction that was immediately blown away by the rushing air. It wasn't very pleasant to ride into that head wind, let's just say that.

Along the bicycle paths and then to the downtown area of Waterloo where we stopped for a cup of excellent coffee at Cottonwood Canyon. The old downtown building has been refurbished and is quite nice inside now. They actually serve bits to eat and have a full lunch menu, but I was only there for the caffeine!

Then it was on to home. My feelings on the Fargo's new wheels and tires set up for Odin's Revenge is that it should work rather well. I think if the conditions are what I have been told, I should be good to go without having to manhandle skinnier tires through loose, dusty terrain. The "motor" I am not so sure about! Robert kept up a strong, consistent pace on this 3GR, as he is wont to do, and I did my best to keep up. My legs were burning for the rest of the day after that ride, and it isn't but a pittance of the distance I need to go next weekend, but I'll giv'r what I can.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gravel Mutt Project: Coming Together!

A Bike Shaped Object now!
Gravel Mutt Project Update:

So, I finally got the bike painted and buffed out a bit so I could start throwing on some components. Of course, the "lynch pin" for any bicycle build, in my opinion, is the head set. You do not have a head set? Then you just have a frame and a fork until you get a head set on there. I just have to start with that component, then I can make some good progress on any bike build.

Of course, the Gravel Mutt is of such vintage that one inch headsets were the rule of the day. Threaded at that. I had to do some scrounging and look at what I found! I had squirreled this component away years ago when I tore down the only carbon fiber road bicycle I ever owned, which was an Aegis. That bike had a one inch threaded head set, and the head set was just too cool to toss. A purple anodized American Classic Tri-Lock! Wow, I knew that was going on the minute I found it.

Everything was there for it, so I installed the thing and now I had a bicycle's foundation- the frame set. Next was the stem adapter from one inch to inch and an eighth. Then a no-name stem which led to the rare, much wanted, (apparently by the interest I've seen of late), Ragley Luxy Bar, which is no longer in production. On those went some DiaCompe aero levers with white hoods. They should clean up nicely.

Close up of the head set.
Then I cleaned up the XTR/Salsa Delgado wheels and popped a SRAM 9 speed cassette on there. I know I was thinking about sticking with a seven speed rear, but I also realized that if I go with a 9 speed rear on this bike, I then can easily swap wheels with my BMC bike. That would be kind of nice, so I decided against the seven speed idea. Besides, I had a 9 speed cassette in reserve, so it didn't cost me anything now to use it up.

I probably am going to stick with the idea of using the original bottom bracket with this old Sante' crank and a 40 tooth ring with my MRP guide to keep the chain where it belongs. We'll see how that all gets along!

Shifting is going to be by a single friction bar end shifter, of which I have several to choose from. I even have a Campagnolo one! However, I probably will stick with a SunTour unit I have. Then there is the final piece of the puzzle- the brakes.

I did find my box of cantilever brakes today, but I haven't taken the time to rummage through it just yet. I saw a glint of blue anodization though! Maybe I can make a set up of blue anodized cantis. We'll see. I also know I have a complete set of original XT linear pull brakes. The parallelogram ones. But if I use those, I have to track down my Travel Agents, which are.......somewhere! 

One more vintage item, which I would like to use, but probably will not, are some Curve titanium skewers in purple ano. The dang things are light, cool, but have a propensity to become loose, even when you have tightened them. Don't ask me how, I don't know, but they are spooky that way. Eventually, if you catch the first time or two that they become loose before that becomes an issue, you find that they suddenly work good. But loosen them once to remove a wheel, and it's back to chasing the final tightness. Yeah....weird!

Stay tuned! The Gravel Mutt Project marches on.....

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday News And Views

Fargo Gen 1 gets called up for duty!
Odin's Revenge:

Preparations for next weekend's trip to Westcentral Nebraska are in full swing now. Odin's Revenge is going to be (possibly) the longest single ride I have ever done in one sitting. In this instance, I need a comfortable, reliable, capable, and functional machine. I can not think of a better bike for this ride than the Fargo Gen 1

Due to the nature of the course, I have been forewarned that a bigger tire is best. No "skinny" gravel grinder tires for this event. In fact, I was told that some sections of dirt last year were suitable for fat biking more than any other type of bike. I could have taken my titanium Mukluk, and I almost did, but the Fargo beat it by a few strong points.

  • More water carrying capacity: The Ti Muk can't carry six bottles. The Gen 1 Fargo can. It sounds like it could be pretty hot out there next week. I'd rather have lots of water on the bike, not on my back. 
  • Drop Bars: The Ti Muk has flat bars, and while I could go with bar ends, it just doesn't work as well out in the open with wind and what not. Also, the "multi-level" drop bar not only gives you plenty of hand positions, but allows you to change up your upper body position as well. 
  • Weight: The Fargo is lighter. Not by much, but it is slightly lighter. 
So, I stuck on some Maxxis Ikon tires using a set of Sun-Ringle' "Black Flag" wheels and did the tubeless set up using MG's Special Sauce. (Home brew tubeless stuff) The Ikons have a slightly flattish profile, and as I recall, they had good traits in looser, sandier soils. They roll plenty fast, and are pretty light weight.

I'll be testing the set up this weekend, and then a week from today I'll be on the road out to Gothenburg, NE. Ready or not......

And in other Fargo news.....

I had a bit of a mishap with my other Fargo the other day. I was obliged to do some bushwhacking due to a bridge repair on my commute to work. I figured I could ease on through the weeds and reach the bike path with no issues. That was until I got bushwhacked!

You know when you hear that "twang-a-lang-a-ding-dong" sound in your rear wheel that things are amiss, and there just almost is never anytime to react quickly enough to prevent the mayhem that occurs. Well, sure enough, when I looked down and saw that small branch with all the leaves and twigs attached, I knew my derailleur was no longer in its proper position. I almost hated to get off and inspect it.

You see, last year I helped my friend Ben out of a pickle when he sheared off a derailleur and there was nothing to do but push him out of the country back to our cars. I think his frame was damaged in that accident as well, rendering the bike useless without a major repair. I thought I was in for a similar fate, with regard to the frame. I already knew I was walking that last mile home.

Well, fortunately for me, the replaceable hangar snapped off, just like it is supposed to, so my frame is still okay. (As you can see in the image here.) A new hangar is on the way, and then the Fargo Gen 2 will be as good as gold again.


It's happening tomorrow from Gates Swimming Pool's lot on East Donald Street, Waterloo, IA at 8:30am. Bigger loop which should net you over 30 miles, unless you ride over, then it will be more. Who will show up? I don't know. I'm going regardless on my Fargo to test the Odin's set up.

Okay- it is officially Summer! You'd better get while the gettin's good! Ride on!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Project White: Update

Current State of  The Project White Bike
It's been awhile now and I finally have the Project White Inbred rig dialed in. Sometimes it takes me longer than I want to in getting some of my personal bikes dialed due to my having duties with other bicycles and my life in general these days. However; this one is getting my stamp of "Done" now and besides some possible minor tweaking, this is it.

So, since the last mention of the bike here, I have swapped out the front fork for a Manitou Tower Pro in the 100mm travel option with the 15mm through axle. This fork is one of my favorite suspension forks I have ever used. It feels very linear, and I get all the travel out of it. With the Absolute+ damper I can dial out almost all the negative brake dive and standing climbing traits but still get supple, smooth suspension over all types of bumps. And yes......through axles do make a difference. That said, a stiff set of lowers do much more, and Manitou's latest cast magnesium lower assembly is the best yet. Besides the obnoxious graphics, this fork is stellar. Fortunately I can peel off the stickers! (I haven't yet, but I will be doing so.)

Last time I was running some XT 29"er wheels, and while they are decent, these Charger Pro wheels blow them out of the water from a stiffness standpoint and from a design standpoint. The  Charger Pro is a wide rim, which spreads out the tires quite nicely, and the rear wheel is noticeably stiffer laterally. Plus they look better to me as well. Yes- they are a bit heavy and the free hub is clackity-clack loud, but these are trail/light AM wheels fer cryin' out loud! I'm good with em.

The contrast situation makes riding interesting now!
Tires can make or break a rig, and I have to say that the combination of On One tires I am using is about the best I've used here. The Smorgasbord is out back with the Chunky Monkey 2.4"er up front. Both have ginormous volume for their respective sizes. Both grip like crazy. Yes- they are a bit heavy, but these are trail/light AM tires, fer cryin' out loud. I'm good with these too. Real good, in fact.

So.....what about the bike? I mentioned in the last update that the Inbred was neither "bad nor good- just different." I have more ride time on it now, and I can make a more definitive statement or two.

The Project Black Vassago, which the Inbred got a lot of its parts from, was a bike with a geometry that felt "dead" to me. I just could not cotton to it. This bike, the Inbred, does have a nice, smooth steel feel, but the chassis feels a bit longish in the back yet. That isn't a bad thing for climbing and for rider comfort though, so I am okay with it. The front end steers quick enough, and that stem, which I said I was going to change- I am good with it now because I can see that going shorter will unweight the front a bit and I like the steering feel now. This fork rides higher in its travel than the RST did, so that may be where I am getting the difference in feel from.

You must use a chain tug with this frame, which is not a surprise to me. A bolt on hub might even be a good idea as well, since I can make the XT skewer creak and pop once in a while on harder efforts. I have a Hope Pro 2/Salsa Gordo wheel set that I can use Hope's bolts on for the rear wheel, so I may go that route. Plus- those Hope hubs are red! Gotta keep the Union Jack theme going here.

More when I have something significant to add.....

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

News Season

It seems to be a normal thing now.  Summertime is really "Mountain Bike News Time" anymore. While there will be things sprinkled throughout the warmer months for us dirt heads to chew on, I think it was rather odd and ironic that both Niner Bikes and Salsa Cycles released news of 2014 bikes yesterday. Let's see now....

Niner R.O.S.9
Niner actually announced two models, but the big news here is a AM hard tail called the "R.O.S.9" This burly steel hard tail follows in the vein of those that have come before it like the Kona Honzo, Canfield Nimble 9 and Yelli Screamy, and models from Singular, Diamondback and Cromag, not to mention some others.

Same story here- Short chain stays, (sub 17"), slack head angle, (68° with a 140mm fork), and a 142mm X 12mm through axle rear end for stiffness. Dropper post compatible, yadda, yadda, yadda....

While more choices in this category are fine with me, I find a couple of things jump to mind: First, is this kind of a fad? I remember 26"ers went through an "ultra-short" chain stay phase in the early 90's and there were several reasons that idea was abandoned. Are we going to see that happen again here with these crazy-short stayed 29"ers?  It makes you wonder if the Trek Stache isn't so crazy now with its 17.5" stays and slacker angles up front. It just seems strange that Trek is the "odd man out" in this area. They either got it right or are crazy.

Secondly- isn't it odd that, with a few exceptions, most of these bikes are steel? Makes me wonder if the designers like the failure mode better with steel considering the use group. Hmm...... I could be totally wrong there. It is also interesting to note that Niner's first proto of this bike they ever showed was aluminum.

Image courtesy of Dirt Rag
Salsa Cycles Redesigns Their FS Range: 

Well, this cat is outta the bag, so I can talk about this a bit. I signed a non disclosure agreement back in February when I actually saw these rigs in the flesh at Frostbike. I gotta tell ya- it has been hard not to talk about this! 

Basically, Salsa called in Dave Weagle of Split Pivot fame and consulted with him to integrate his design into a new range of Salsa full suspension 29"ers. Still dubbed Spearfish and  Horsethief, with the same user intentions intact, these new bikes are going to be pretty cool. Split Pivot is a concentric pivot at the rear axle which helps divide the braking forces from the suspension forces. That helps keep the suspension active during braking, and that means more traction and more control. DW Link designs also can have varying levels of "anti-squat" depending upon the finer details of the design for any particular client of Mr. Weagle. So that may mean the new Salsa rigs will have some cool traits during climbing. I'm sure all the fine details will hit when Saddledrive happens next month and some of the other dealers get schwing-dinged out there by QBP to try them. I'll be interested to hear what they think. Me? pfft! I can't afford to get out there, so I'll be lucky to get to a demo, like last year. We'll see.

Salsa has more up there sleeves for 2014, so this isn't all you'll be hearing from that camp. And there will be more from other companies soon as well. "Press Camp" is happening in Utah right now, and more private dealer shows will be coming which are sprinkled throughout these high Summer months. Stay tuned for more....


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Catching Up Here....

Ah....this bike rack is too small!
Well, I have a few tidbits I wanted to catch up on before time got too far down the road on me. So, here are a couple of things that have happened recently around here....

Father's Day: Best Dad's Day I've had in awhile. I got to do a little grillin' ahead of the day, and on the holiday proper, it was a gloriously sunshiny day which I enjoyed by going for a ride with my Son. I rode By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk and boy! Does it ever need a cleaning! Oh well- I didn't let that stop me from enjoying a good time with my Son, and I even got in some slow speed grinding when we stopped at an abandoned school yard. Jacob played on the playground equipment while I made laps in some of the deepest pea gravel I've seen in a while. Just about mimics going through deep, fresh snow. Only it sounds a lot differently!

Mrs. Guitar Ted even got me a new tool chest! How about that? Yeah, it was a really great day. Thanks to all my family for making it a memorable one.

Speaking Of The Mukluk: 

I had a few e-mail exchanges with a fellow from Oz recently. He's a bag maker, and I have made arrangements to have a bit of a frame bag sent out for some upcoming adventures. 
Australian frame bag goodness.

In fact, this bag maker, called Bike Bag Dude, already has the frame bag done. I have an image he forwarded to me here. This bag is custom fit to my Mukluk and has a two zipper opening with a "false floor" that can be removed to make the interior a cavernous hold area for satellites and  transportation of small furry critters. (Well- no, not really! ) But the bag does have the false floor and can be made to be one big bag, or a two compartment affair.

This is the "Standard" bag and weighs 445 grams fully lined in an orange, which I figured would make it easier for my dim eyes to find stuff inside of it. Colors are chosen by the clients, and this one is a light grey to match the titanium Muk. Bike Bag Dude can also do an ultra-light version which is unlined, if you are super-freakish about weight.

There will be a couple of accessory items to go along with this, but I'll leave that for later. This frame bag will be doing duty at an upcoming long distance gravel event, and of course, lots of Winter time shenanigans as well. Triple D again, perhaps? We'll see.....I am excited to give this stuff a whirl and find out how I can utilize it for my adventures.

Project Two Six
Project Two Six Update:

It has been a while since I have talked about Project Two Six here. That is the Schwinn High Sierra that I refurrbed into a "townie". It has been a great little utility bike around the town here.

It has the rare roller cam style brakes on it, which you either know all about, or you think they are "weird U brakes". I have a boss on the front fork that is slightly mushroomed, and I do not have the proper milling tool for that repair, so the front brake is a little weird, but the back brake works like butter. One of these days I'll address that front brake and get it operating correctly.

The 1 X 5 drive train is simple, effective, quiet, near maintenance free, and has never given me a problem. Friction shifter, of course! Brooks Professional by way of Captain Bob is not really the "right" saddle for this bike, ( a B-67 would be better, or a Flyer), but doesn't it look "right" on there? It works well enough for me, so I am in no hurry to replace it just yet. I stuck a pretty upright Tioga stem on this with a Salsa 17° bar and Ergon grips with old Deore DX levers doing the brake duties. There used to be some nutcase that sold crazy cheap deals at QBP's open house back in the day. That's where the levers came from. I think I paid a buck for them and they came out of a bucket! This was waaaaay before Frostbike days. What was that guys name? Anyway....

I did a lot of detail filing on this crown
The biggest surprise for me about the bike is the Continental Winter Contact tires. These things are Winter specific with a special softer compound and all these grippy edges. I figured I would burn them up and swap out to other tires in a big hurry, but they have lasted. They show no appreciable signs of wear after three years of errands on pavement.

The rack and panniers are the self same set that I used for two overland self contained tours in the mid-90's. The wheels are off an 84 Mongoose Mountain Pro and have drilled out rims, just like the newer fat bikes. (What's old is new again!) Everything here is bolt on. No QR levers in sight, so the theft issues are less with this ike. Not to mention I had it powder coated in a textured military green color, which really makes it drab and  not noteworthy.

Anyway, it has been a great bike and really, really useful. The geometry is a knock off of the early Marin style mtb's. I figure this is my "poor man's Ritchey Timber Comp". I'll likely never get to ride one of those!

Well, that should about do it. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 17, 2013

3GR Report: Solo Beat Down

Rolling hills North of W'loo
It rained all night, but it cleared up by morning and was looking to stay that way. So, I rolled outta the sack at 7:00am to get to Gates Swimming Pool parking lot by 8:30am. I had done a little Father's Day pre-celebrating the night before, thanks to the family, and stayed up a bit too late as well. I wasn't on my best form for sure, but I had to get on the bike and go. I wasn't quite sure how this was all going to go, but I made it down there with 10 minutes to spare.

The day looked fine. A bit of wind out of the South, but the skies were clear and the temperature was very comfortable. It was just the rain that we had during the overnight that concerned me a bit. Fortunately, I have this SKS Race Blade clip on rear splash guard and I fixed this to the BMC just before rolling out. Later on I was super thankful that I had done that!

Visiting the "big rock" which gave Big Rock Road its name
I was thinking since it was Father's Day weekend that I may not see anyone for the ride. Well, that and the recent rain. It was still raining at 6:00am, so it may have scared off a few folks, I don't know. At any rate, no one showed this time, so I immediately started looking for a public restroom! I had to go!

Fortunately the park near by had a porta-jon that was actually clean and I used it straight away. Now feeling far better, I was going to go out and change up the route a bit. Instead of going up to the North a half mile from the start, I went an extra mile to Sage Road, turned North, and headed out of town on the rolling hills Northeast of Waterloo.

It didn't take long before I found out that the rains had made the gravel roads pretty soft and mushy. It was like riding through a really low rear tire, or as if you were dragging a brake. I was doing okay though, so I just kept pushing through it. Once I reached the corner of Sage Road and Big Rock Road, I took a quickie break to see how I was doing and to snap off a few quick photos. I felt okay, so I remounted and headed back up the mushy roadway.

So now the internal debate began. How far to go, would the rains develop again, and would I have the legs today to pull anything off? Maybe I would have to make an early left turn and cut the loop short? I wasn't really sure of anything, but I just kept turning over the cranks and thinking it all over.  The roads were not improving either. If anything, it was getting worse.

Cutting in....
I'd never seen these roads like this before. I've been out this way at all times of the year, and even during the Spring thaws, these roads hold up really well. However; the rains have been heavy and close together of late. The road way was saturated with water. The Vee Rubber 47mm tires were making that "wet mud" noise and I could look down at the front tire and see that it was wet. I was having troubles holding a line. I think it was the tires in combination with the wetter surface, which would allow the tire to cut in and that would grab the bike and send it off line a bit. Those Vee Rubber tires have an oddly crowned profile, which wasn't helping matters.

I was going slow enough that I ended up snapping off quite a few photos from the bike. It took my mind off from the grinding, heavy pressure of plowing through the soft road surface. Good thing the wind, what there was of it, was at my backside, or I may have gotten really cooked instead of slowly beat down. I got some satisfactory images out of it though, so that was a positive.

Still the internal debate was waged all along. I was trying to decided whether to go for the longer route, or to cut it short just as I hit a dead flat section that was about two miles in length. Apparently, due to the table flatness of the road, the water was not draining away, but was sitting there. It saturated the roadway and was like riding through a wet sponge.

 Maxfield School- One room German Schoolhouse 1881
In fact, it got downright muddy, and the gravelly goo was collecting on my fork and chain stays to the point that I was getting slowed down to a near halt. I tried to find more firm footing, but it was touch and go for a bit there. Like a B Maintenance road, this would have been better if I had walked it, maybe. Oh well, I slogged through and after the terrain got rolling again, the roads were better drained and not nearly as bad. It just about had me making a left turn at the county line though!

I didn't have to make that turn, which was nice, since the roads straightened up for me and actually were decent in Bremer County. Much better than in Black Hawk, so I decided to pull off the longer option after all. And I was glad that I did. the next four miles or so were all on roads I have not ridden before. As I turned left on 250th, I saw a church with a rather large cemetery and the headstones were large and ostentatious for a rural cemetery without a town at hand. I then noted an old, one room school house with a rather German influence on the signage. I later researched the location and found that it was a small settlement of German immigrants at one time named Maxfield. You just never know what you'll find off the beaten path in Iowa.

So, with all that gone by, I ended up joining the 3GR route of the last few weeks for a bit, as I entered Ivanhoe Road for a mile or so. Then I turned back South, into the wind, for the long stretch that would eventually become Burton Avenue in Black Hawk County.

  Gravel muck stuck on the BMC
But not before a few miles of big, steep rollers, mostly in Bremer County, that really were kicking my butt now. I somehow powered over these and survived to reach the flatter portions nearer to Waterloo, but by this time the wind was kicking up a bit more, right into my face.

I ended up having to pull off into a field entrance to have a bit of a "nature break", and noticed all the muck caked on the frame and underside of the clip on fender. This made me smile, as I was glad to have had that bit of plastic there to deflect what otherwise would have been plastered up my backside.

Back on board the bike now and to finish off the ride, I reached town to find that the bicycle path I had intended on taking was under water again due to the heavy rains. Hmm.... A bit of cross country and a connection to a nearby street solved the puzzle, but at the expense of my already taxed legs and lower back. Yep, and the previous night's celebrating was making it hard for me to eat or drink anything, so I was running on fumes by rides end.

Okay, I made it, but I was in a zombie-like thousand yard stare for most of the rest of Saturday, and still was feeling it yesterday as well. I did a little spin with my Son for Father's Day and that helped wake the legs back up again, but that 3GR was quite the ride! Combining poor pre-ride planning and tough conditions was not a good mix, but hey! Maybe I needed that to get stronger, eh? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Barns For Jason: Father's Day Version

My friend Jason just got back from a stellar trip riding beaches in Alaska. I'm sure the scenery he saw up there was majestic and awe inspiring, so what I have here is probably not very interesting, but hey! It's what we've got, and it is my "welcome back to the Mid-West" for him........oh! And Happy Father's Day to Jason and all you dad's out there today as well.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gravel Mutt Project Update; Nearly Done Painting

A look with the Brooks on there...
Gravel Mutt Project:

Well, I thought I was done painting! I found about three spots that need a touch up, and then it'll be good to go for assembly. I laid the frame and fork up in my hot, dry attic for several days to help cure the paint, and then last night I tried doing some final buffing by hand. That's when I found the three areas I missed getting enough paint on. A quick hit in the garage today and then that'll be done, and I will just proceed from there after it dries awhile.

I found a couple things that will slightly alter the planned build. First thing has to do with the seat post. I assumed it was a 27.2mm post, but when I went to fit my Ritchey post it would not go in. Subsequent investigation led to the original post and a discovery that it was, in fact, a 26.8mm post. Very common in the early 90's, but pretty rare these days. The original post does have plenty of set back, which is nice from the standpoint of using a Brooks saddle, so I think it will suffice.

The second thing I found was at work where I discovered that at some point I had squirreled away a vintage 105 model Shimano crank from about the same time period as this Trek. It is a double, of course, so it will work great as a single ring set up for the planned 1X7.

So, that's it for now. More updates soon!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday News And Views

Tour Divide: Today the Tour Divide kicks off in Banff Canada. I have an interest in this year's event since I know a few folks in the ride. One of them I know pretty well, since he is a local, and I have ridden with him a few times. That would be Mike Johnson, and I'll be doing the "blue dot junkie" thing for a few weeks watching his progress. You can check on any of the Tour Divide riders by watching this site here.

'Sippi Hole
Fargo Gen 2 Update:

Last Winter I got ahold of a G2 offset, 80mm travel Reba and stuck it on my Fargo off road specific rig. I've often wondered if this would be a "drop bar El Mariachi", for all intents and purposes. The suspension fork really changes the way I feel about the bike for sure.

I used to have my El Mar set up as a rigid, geared bike, and it was an awesome bike in that set up. The Fargo before the sus fork was similar, and now with that Reba, it is downright peachy. Very much different from the "gravel road" set up on the Gen 1 Fargo. Completely different bikes now, even though they are exactly the same color, (albeit with different graphics). That's a good thing, because it doesn't make any sense to have two Fargos that are the same, or even similar. Hint: It will not be the last Fargo I have either.......

So, this is good. I have a geared hard tail 29"er off road rig again. For awhile there I thought I'd have nothing but 29"er single speeds and fat bikes! (Not that there is anything wrong with any of those.) I may look into a frame bag for this one. But I may not and I may go a different route. We'll see.... The whole 29+ thing, which I hope expands, looks like a great platform for bikepacking, so I am holding out for more options to appear there. If they do, as I think, that will be where I go with a bike packing rig.

My Son on a ride with me recently
Upgrade For The Boy:

I was riding with my Son recently and I noticed his leg extension wasn't. So, I stopped him, grabbed the multi-tool and raised his saddle an inch and a half to the max extension line. No surprises here. I mean, he's going to be 10 next month and he's growing up. Well, we get back going again and I see that things are better,'s time for a new bike. 

Now he knows all about what a fat bike can do, and he gets real bummed when he can not go or do what I do on my fat bike. He has wished for one of his own for sometime now, but I always had to remind him that he was too small. Well, that's not an issue anymore. It appears from my measuring him that he may fit an XS sized Mukluk now. So, I've determined that I am going to put the youngin' on a fat bike. Why not? I know he'd love it, and why should I hog all the fun?

So, I'll likely be denying myself some goodies in the upcoming months to set the boy up with something. Stay tuned.... 


Once again, there is flooding going on and I will start the 3GR from the Gates Park Swimming Pool parking lot in Waterloo at 8:30, if it isn't raining. There are thunderstorms forecast for Saturday, but it may not kick in till later in the day. Still, if it looks iffy, I'll be calling it off. No need to be a lightning rod!

The route appears to be a tad over 30 miles the way we are doing it now, and if you haven't done Ivanhoe Road in Bremer County, it's a pretty nice ride. Join up and see for yourself. I may or may not be doing a single speed ride, but we'll see. I need to get the single speed legs going again.

Okay- have a great weekend and ride your bicycles!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"It" May Never Happen: Part 3- Brakes

Now on to the promised post about brakes- disc or cantilevers. There is a bit about what I think to be found in the first post- here. Check that out to see where I am coming from.

Secondly, I must post the TK inspired disclaimer, one more time:

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

First of all, I know there are a lot of bicycle mechanics, bicycle enthusiasts, and especially you bike geeks, that come here and read what I am writing about. The following screed about brakes is not about you guys and gals. This is about why I think it makes sense for the average Joe and Jill to have a certain kind of brake. The bike I am talking about, (seen in the second part of this series here), is the "all-arounder" that I think makes sense for the meat and potatoes of the cycling populace. Yes- I would likely "like" it as well, but that's beside the point!

Secondly, I am neither for, nor against disc brakes on road bikes. I can see why there are reasons someone may want disc brakes on a road bike, but I also see reasons why they are not such a great idea as well. I find it amusing that some folks just blindly accept that disc brakes "solve all the problems" and that cantilever brakes are "retro-grouch components" worthy of the dust bin. The truth, in my opinion, is somewhere in the middle of those two thoughts.

Let me start out with a scenario: Let's say disc brakes were the only choice you have ever had in brakes for cycling. Okay? So, along comes some whiz-bang engineer who declares that a wheel's rim can do double duty!

It can be a rotor and a rim, all at the same time! We simply move the caliper outwards, which should give us great power and modulation, if the "calipers" are correctly designed and set up. This will allow us to ditch the weight of that stainless steel rotor, make the mounting points less heavy, and less of a strain on the frame and wheels. The hub flanges can now be centered and wheels should theoretically be stronger. Overall, we think the system will actually save several grams over current disc brake technology.

What if that was the way things went? Sure- we know the pitfalls of caliper and cantilever brakes: Hard to set up, don't work sometimes in inclement weather, and are less powerful. Right? Isn't that the "party line" on cantilever brakes these days?

  • Hard To Set Up: And disc brakes are not? Especially mechanical disc brakes, which any mechanic will tell you, need to be meticulously set up with proper housings to get maximum braking potential. Of course, no one ever had a disc rotor rubbing, a bent rotor, or a rotor that made noises. Yeah- disc brakes are definitely better than cantilevers in this way. No question, right? Let's not even give credence to the existence of disc brake facing tools, bleeder kits, or shims, because disc brakes rule, and they are just better than cantilever brakes. Duh!
  • Cantilever Brakes Don't Work As Well In Bad Weather: Hmm...yeah, probably not. Because, no one ever had disc brake pads wear out in a single ride in bad weather. (Those racers at Moab that one year- that was all a set up by retrogrouch cantilever lovers. Lies!) No one ever had disc brakes make horrible turkey gobbling noises whenever they get wet. (Anyone who says they have is lying, of course.) And everyone knows that the minute it gets ugly out, everyone runs out and finds their cantilever brakes suck, and won't stop them at all, and swear off cycling forever. They should ride disc brakes. Dummies! No one ever lived that rode cantilever brakes in inclement weather, everyone knows this. 
  • Cantilevers Are Less Powerful: Yep, another no-brainer. Hydraulic disc brakes rule! (Never mind that trials riders- arguably the cyclists who need the most powerful brakes in cycling, have used hydraulic, canti mounted rim brakes for..... well never mind. They obviously don't count!)
Of course, I jest, but you get the picture. There are reasons that both kinds of brakes suck, don't work, and maybe wouldn't be the best. In the instance of the "all-arounder" bike, I submit that cantilever brakes, or caliper brakes that are actuated by hydraulic levers may, in fact, be the cats pajamas. Let the wheel do the job of two components, but get rid of the Bowden cable actuated calipers. I have had it suggested that having disc wheels allows the use of different wheel sizes in the same bike, but the average cyclist? Are they going to do this? I don't think so. One wheel set, durable, versatile, and that's all they'll be wanting, thank you very much. I'll grant you that when a spoke does break, the rim brake is not as desirable, but again- disc brakes are not without faults.

Okay, food for thought, for sure. That's it for this series for now. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It May Never Happen: Part 2

A while back I posted this missive which was about a specific bike to gravel grinding and how I felt the "bike industry" was not ever going to make this bike for various reasons. Just yesterday an e-mail exchange with someone related to the bike industry sparked what you are about to read today. (Assuming that you continue to read, that is!) So- I must post the usual "TK" inspired disclaimer: 

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

 First of all, the intentions of most of my ramblings have been about riding bicycles on gravel roads, but during the e-mail exchange mentioned above, it was suggested that just such a bike as I am envisioning is what most cyclists who ride on "any road" should be riding. So, calling this bike a "gravel grinder" might be a misnomer. It may not be the right name at all.

It reminds me of the "Rough Riders" , whose motto, "Any Bike, Anywhere" doesn't let the type of bike you have define the type of terrain you want to ride on. Which is pretty cool,but this "zen terrain cycling" mind set is not where the vast majority of cyclists are at with regards to "what to do" about picking out hardware suitable for "most riding needs".  And when it comes to those "needs", I believe the bike industry is mostly oblivious. Yes- they just don't get it. As a bike shop mechanic, I see it every day.

I saw a thread on an on-line forum that I believe is a doorway, -a portal, if you will- to where most riders are coming from when it comes down to "all arounder" bikes. I have decided to lift this list directly from the thread I saw it on:

A.) Strength / Durability - I am a Clydesdale and uses for the bike would include primarily commuting on some pothole infested roads, weekend solo road rides, and possibly some light touring. I am not interested in carbon, aluminum is just fine by me. Wheels would need to be relatively bombproof.
B.) Flexibility - The ability to easily convert the bike for a variety of uses (road rides, commutes, etc.) This would include the need for rack/fender mounts and proper clearance to run anything from 25mm slicks to 32+mm with tread.
C.) Comfort - I am not a racer. I'm not even a strong rider. I just like to ride. I don't particularly care if the bike is aero... or terribly light weight (I'm neither of those things, so why should my bike be). I do want something I can get on and ride long distances. I want to have to stop riding because I'm too tired... not because I'm too sore.
D.) Groupset - I've been spoiled by the performance of 105. I am also intrigued by the possibilities of Apex. Any higher up the food chain I know is going to conflict with my next point...
E.) Price - I am a cheap bastard. I would likely have to be out the door for under $1500.
Interesting, isn't it? I am going to comment- point by point- on this list.

Trek CrossRip: Close but...meh!
  •  Point A: Frame material choice can accommodate whether it is steel or aluminum, so I will table that for now- What is interesting is the comments about durability for what I would call "average sized people". Rear wheels- in particular- seem to be woefully inadequate. 
  • Point B: While I like the direction this person is going, I would say that the opinion expressed here is conservative. Listen- folks will do more on a bike that can do more. Give them clearances for up to 42mm tires and 38mm with fenders. More clearance will not hurt sales. 
  • Point C: Bike industry folks- (if you are paying attention here)- if you do not get anything else from this, take down notes from "Point C" and listen up: Folks are not interested in being someone like the Pro cycling team you sponsor. Heck- they can't even relate to that. They just want an efficient, very versatile, multi-road surface bicycle. This means taller head tubes, slacker angles, and better designs on frames and forks that are not so damn stiff. 
  • Point D: 11 speeds? Electronic shifting? Hello? Most folks do not have any interest in this sort of "halo" componentry. Decent, long lasting, good looking, and value oriented parts are what folks want and need. 9 speeds are plenty, really.
  • Point E: Yeah...the clincher. Bicycles are getting more and more expensive while the vast majority of cyclists are scratching out a living where expenses are increasing to the point that recreational activities are suffering. Here's an idea: Make the same, great looking 9 speed groupset for the next ten years. Do not change it. Make it affordable, durable, and polished. Want to see more folks on bicycles? Keep the price of entry reasonable, but packed with value, versatility, and durability. 
Okay- but what do you call this bike? Good question. I think the way the thread starter on the referenced post talked about it would be really a good place to start: The "All Arounder" bike. A bicycle that can go from pristine pavement to smooth single track and everything in between. It can haul stuff on a rack, but it isn't a touring bike. It can do gravel and some dirt, but it isn't a cyclocross bike. It can be ridden fast, but it isn't a racing bike.

I wrote about this five years ago and called it "Adventuring". I was thinking a bit fatter tires back then, but the post is still relevant today just as much as it was back then. Call it an "any road bike", or as some do- an "all road bike". Whatever- but in my opinion, the bike industry is really missing it here, and folks are left to scratch their heads in bewilderment at what most companies focus on.

Tomorrow: Brakes Revisited.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Odin's Revenge: Getting The Rig Readied

2008 Fargo
Odin's Revenge is a long, self-supported adventure out in West-Central Nebraska that I am planning to be at come the end of the month. The site says 180 miles, but I've heard it may be less this year. Well, whatever mileage it ends up being, it will be quite a beautiful and tough ride in some very remote country. Much like the Flint Hills of Kansas' own Dirty Kanza 200, Odin's Revenge will put you in a place where little, if any, signs of civilization exist to comfort you.

The difference here is that Odin's is a free event run by a small group of dedicated cycling enthusiasts and is no where near the size of the DK 200. It also lacks the trappings of that event. It's "quieter", and although they have some stellar sponsors on board this year, including Kona Bikes, you've probably never heard about this event, now in its second year. You've probably also have had an idea graven into your mind that Nebraska equals "boring landscape". I've been out there and had a little taste of what is available to experience, and I can tell you- nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, if folks that ride the DK 200 are stoked on that landscape, they would be totally enamored by the Nebraskan rural scene out there by Gothenburg, where the event takes place. won't get what my friend Tim Ek has called "the DK Rock Star" experience, but maybe more of what Tim might call the "spirit of Odin's".

From the Odin's Revenge site
Well, anyway- I have to get a bicycle ready appropriate for this little adventure I am going on. Since a few folks I know well have tackled the first edition of this event, I was able to pick their brains on what sort of equipment to bring to the party. It quickly became apparent from descriptions I had told to me about the course that I should consider something with wider tires than my Vaya or BMC could accommodate. It also became immediately apparent that with only a drop bag at a checkpoint and no convenience stores, I needed to be able to pack on some water and vittles for this gig. The bicycle I have that most closely fits the mission for this event is my 2008 Salsa Cycles Fargo.

I can easily use the Fargo's copious water carrying capacity for the sections of the course and keep the heavy weight of a bladder filled with water off my back. Up to six bottles can be mounted, so with that I should be able to get around to a resupply before I get into too much of a deficit, even if it gets really hot. Food can then be stuffed into my top tube bag and jersey pockets. The bag under the saddle can easily accommodate necessary tools and tubes, but I have an even bigger bag I may substitute to allow for a windbreaker. (In case of rain.)

The other attribute I am going to the Fargo for is the wider tire capability. I was told that wider is betterer, (or something to that effect), for certain parts of the Odin's experience. The Fargo can sport really big 29"er rubber, but I am not going huge, I am going for a volume and benefit that my normal gravel tires will not have available to me. Tubeless- of course!

I have even heard that word "fat bike" used in conjunction with Odin's, and to be honest, I had been thinking of my titanium Mukluk for this event a lot. However, the Muk can't pack the H2O punch that my '08 Fargo can, and that Fargo has a drop bar set up and feel I absolutely love. I could drop bar the Muk, but why when I already have this Fargo just sitting there waiting to roll. I'll simply swap the wheels for the slightly more voluminous rubber and be done with it.

More on my Odin's Revenge prep coming up. Stay tuned.....