Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kicking Around An Idea

I would have put the word "registration" in the title, but I fear there may be an unintended response if I did that. So, anyway, here are a few things that may shape how registration goes for T.I.V11......

Due to the fact that there are over 100 finishers these days, I am going to have to head off a potential problem with Finishers possibly taking most of the slots for the next Trans Iowa. One thing we all know is that there are 120 slots. We also know that Finishers will be taking the first crack at the roster. The difference will be that I will no longer take any and all Finishers for the next Trans Iowa. Here is how this will likely work out.....

There will be a spot given, no matter what, to any former winner of a Trans Iowa as long as they register in the manner specified and by the time that is allowed to do it in. (NOTE- I am not giving any details now for specific reasons.) The list of "winners" will include the following individuals:

Ira Ryan- T.I.V1, T.I.V3
Lindsay Gauld- T.I.V2*
John Gorilla- T.I.V4*
Joe Meiser- T.I.V5, T.I.V6*
Dennis Grelk- T.I.V7
Eric Brunt- T.I.V8
Rich Wince- T.I.V9
Greg Gleason- T.I.V10
Janna Vavre- T.I.V7
Monika Sattler- T.I.V9
Agytha Gryglak, Sara Cooper (tied)-T.I.V10

The Asterisks: Of course, there were times when Trans Iowa was truncated, or had no "finishers". However; in these cases we recognized "winners" based upon shortened courses, or based upon the furthest anyone was able to go.

I also decided to recognize the first placed Womens Open finishers in the years we had women finish the event.

That's a possible 12 roster spots.  I am allotting a total of 30 spots for Finishers. Last year we had a record 34 finishers take spots, but remember- some of those folks were former T.I. Winners. I think having 30 spots for Finishers is good, and considering I am only going to go up to 120 folks total, I have to draw lines somewhere.

Veterans & Rookies: The remaining spots will be split between the Vets and Rookies, and here is how it will play out. The registration will happen for Vets first before the Rookies. If the Vets take 40 spots, that's the cut off for them. If for some strange reason that number isn't reached, the remainder will be added to the Rookie's total of 40 spots. The Rookies will register last, and will only get 40 spots, (unless there are some added from the Vet's allotment), and once all the spots are taken, the registration will close. There will not be a waiting list kept, there will be no transfers, and there will be no "Industry Cup" this year. You either get in the "old fashioned way" or you do not get in.

In fact, I am toying with the idea of making all entrants send in post cards. Why? Because the e-mail thing seemed to be taken to mean that one could e-mail me at anytime before a Trans Iowa as a Finisher and somehow get a spot in the event. Making post cards the "official" currency for getting on the roster and that having a short window of legitimacy makes for a cleaner, more level playing field.

And hey.......I'm not gonna lie, I like getting mail! You know, old fashioned mail.

So, don't get your writing utensils and stamps ready right now. Nothing has been "officially" announced for registration just yet, but it will soon. Stay tuned..........

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And Now For An Even Smaller Wheel...

Actually, they don't look too bad on there, but......
Last week I wrote about the B+ riding experience and that I've been messing with some wheels and now I've been riding these new hoops with 27.5er rubber on 'em. I had to scratch my head and think hard about what bike to put these things on, because I do not have a proper 27.5er rig, or do I....? 

The Sawyer is a cool bike but the thing has a bottom bracket drop of almost nothing. I always felt that as an odd thing when riding this bike. The front end is looooowwwww as well, I suppose it's just like Gary likes it to be. Well, the idea was that whatever amount these smaller hoops dropped the bottom bracket it wasn't going to affect the pedaling in a negative way. No dragging feet in the weeds. At least I hoped so.

It turned out that I was just fine. The 27.5er rubber was not dumping me too low, and I was good to go. It makes me wonder if this bike was supposed to have 26"ers on it from the get go. That would've made sense, in a clunker kind of way. Anywho.......

Riding the 27.5ers are not anything new to me. I rode them several times at Interbike years ago. I never really thought they were anything that different from 26"ers. Your mileage may vary there. The industry made a choice for riders to phase out 26"ers in favor of the "new" wheel size that would be all sparkles and glitter. So here we are with 27.5ers being the "new" 26"ers. That's what I have to to work with, so that's what I have here to test out.

The proper head badge.

And test I did. I found out that these wheels are twitchier than I remember. Nervous feeling. The main thing though is how fast you can spin these up and then how fast they lose that momentum. It was fun to play with for awhile.

Maybe the aspect of these being on a singlespeed was what made this a hamster wheel fest. Spin, spin, spin, coast a bit, spin, spin, spin...... This bike doesn't do this with 29"er wheels, that's for sure. The "coast" part lasts a whole lot longer. That and the roll over abilities are no where near that of 29"ers, and miles away from 29+. I spoke with my friend Grannygear yesterday and we both agreed that 27.5ers will remind you again of why you loved 29"ers in the first place.

But don't let me make you think I didn't have any fun. I did. These wheels just are not for me. In a world where there are 29 inch wheels, I don't have to stay with the smaller sized fare. Now, you may be completely opposite of myself, and that's great. Go knock yerself out with the 27.5ers. There are lots of great choices there.

This brings me to this point: That the difference between 26 inch wheels and 27.5 inch wheels is negligible, but the difference between both of those wheels and 29"ers is very noticeable. So, we aren't losing all that much if 26"ers go away, except that the old bikes have become maybe a sort of dinosaur. That kind of sucks in a way. However; it seems that is how it goes with mountain bikes especially.

Anyway, that's my take on the smaller wheel choice.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Singlespeed Rising

The Sawyer's sinewy top tubes
Fall is for singlespeed mountain bikes. Why? Well.......because I said so! <===HA! Not really, but I do think that and there is a good reason for it.

Fall is also twig, leaf, and dead weeds season. You know, the things that can clog up a drive train, or worse- rip off your derailleur. Singlespeed mountain bikes just chew right through that stuff. It doesn't faze them in the least. So instead of risking the dangly bits in Fall, I go with a single cog out back and it works great.

The thing is, I have a lot of single speed bicycles in the fleet. Somehow or another, I ended up with several more than I had intended to have. I've even decommissioned a few, relegating their bare frames to an existence on a hook in the darkened corners of the Guitar Ted Laboratories. I've sold off a couple too, but somehow, the critters keep popping up down there. Weird.

So, I've had to do a bit of upkeep of late, just getting them all tuned up and ready to ride. First up was the Pofahl, which honestly is a gravel rig these days. Next was the Singular Gryphon, another dedicated gravel bike for me. Those out of the way, I moved on to the Blackbuck. That one got ridden a few times within the last week.

Well.....howdy! Haven't seen you out and about for a while!
This weekend I resurrected two others that haven't been out and about for a while now. Especially the plum colored Salsa. Not because I don't care for those bikes, by the way.

The Salsa is an especially good bike for me. It's an odd duck. A 2007 El Mariachi that used to be Superior Blue and spent its early days as a demo rig in Salsa Cycle's fleet. Another guy picked it up from Salsa and I got it from him. I wasn't thinking it would be a "long term" relationship either. It was marked as a test sled for some work in the beginning. I was going to flip it after a year, maybe two. Trouble is, I ended up liking this thing so much I decided not to part with it and stuck it into the corner while I got busy with other bicycles.

Then there is the Sawyer, which ended up in the stable and got switched over to a belt drive. I stuck a Fox fork on it and then....... So, I had to get that one out again for some actual work, which is good, and that just about covers all the working single speed rigs in the house now. There is one more though, on the DL right now due to a stuck bottom bracket. If I ever get that out, there will be one more added to the active list.

Good thing it's singlespeed season!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules- Part 1

Okay, it is time to start the annual build up toward T.I.V11 here on the blog. Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

The race rules for Trans Iowa are an important thing, not just for Trans Iowa, obviously, but these race rules, written mostly by Jeff Kerkove in late November of 2004, were the foundation of a lot of gravel road events that came afterward. I see it all the time when I post a new event to Gravel Grinder News. Bits and pieces of Jeff's original rules that have shaped the way these grassroots races are framed and run right up to this very day.

I wanted to continue the celebration of ten years worth of Trans Iowas by recognizing Jeff's contribution to the niche of gravel grinding in the form of a post on each of the rules as he set them out back then. I will start with "The Golden Rule" and go week by week, featuring one rule at a time until I cover all 22 of them.

The rules read in a sort of odd way in 2014, and I will look at that and explain why that is the way they are. There are a few things I changed and added along the way, but mostly these are Jeff's rules, and I think I was done tweaking them out shortly after the end of T.I.V6. Probably 99% of it all was laid out by T.I.V3's running, and I maybe did two rules out of the 22 there all by myself.

So, look for these to start next Sunday with The Golden Rule.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

B+ Riding Experience

Bottom line? Fun wheels.
Many folks have been speculating on the B+ thing and/or wanting to know more about what I think about the way these ride. So now that I've put out some thoughts on here, I will expand a bit upon that with this post....

Okay, first things first: I like it. That's pretty much the bottom line, and of course, I will have a detailed account for why that is, but for those who want the short version, there it is.

Now- Why do I like it? Well, there are a few reasons, and there are a few things that don't quite add up. Let's cut to the chase: These won't be a 2.8"er on anything but a wider rim in the 45-50mm range, and then it won't fit on many 29"ers. Okay- now I need to back up a bit.....

When I was first told about this format, and the idea behind it, I was at Interbike 2012. So, this goes way back to the guy that had the idea, Bob Poor, and his idea was that 29+ was well and fine, but what could you do with a big fatty tire that had tons of volume in a frame that you already had? What could be made that already exists, (mostly), and only have to make a tire? So, the 584ISO size was becoming a big deal then, and what if a big, meaty tire was made to fit on that which would result in a 29" diameter? Could that fit existing 29"ers? This was the design intention for "B+"/27.5+ from the very outset.

29+ is great, but it requires a special frame/fork to make the wheels fit, and B+ was intended to fit what you already have.
So, with the intentions for B+ to work with existing 29"er frames and forks, it had to become a tire that would maximize volume first and width was going to be important, but somewhat secondary to achieve the design goals. As I have the B+ set up on Blunt 35 rims, the WTB Trailmaster tires are at 2.67" wide at the casing. They are about 60mm from the bead/rim interface to the top of the tire's crown. Compared to a Surly Knard 29 X 3.0 on a Velocity Dually, the Knard measures out to 2.93" in width and 63mm casing height. (Both the tires tubeless). So, the volume is mostly there, you are just missing the width of the casing compared to 29+.

The other important component to making these fit is the overall diameter. The 29+ Knard/Dually is around 31" in diameter. Clearly- that won't fit most 29"er frames at all. The B+ Trailmaster comes in at a much more manageable 28 9/16ths diameter. It does fit most 29"ers.

Okay, so does it work like a 29+ wheel? Better, and not so good. Better since it doesn't take so much energy to spin it up. Not so good since you don't have the total flotation characteristics and larger diameter of the 29+ wheels. It's a compromise, like anything bicycle related. It's better if you don't want to, or don't need to buy another bicycle frame and fork, (assuming you have a 29"er already), but not so good if you just want to have something cool and different. It's not so good if you are smaller and have to deal with geometry compromises with 29+. It's better since you can have most of what a 29+ gives you and have a frame that works better.

B+ is just getting off the ground, and so is 29+. Tires and rims are scarcer in 29+ but so are tires for B+. Rims? the 27.5"er movement has you covered there. So much for all the compromises.....

Getting back to the ride: Yes, it is pretty dang cool. It rails, it absorbs bumps well, and it performs on sand pretty well too. The Trailmaster is limited mostly to dry stuff, since it lacks any big lugs and wide spacing to deal with mud. It's a fast rolling tire. It spins up well compared to the 29+ wheels I've tried. Now- it isn't anything compared to an XC racing wheel, which is ridiculously easy to spin up, but those are not high volume, bash over anything wheels either. These are, more than not, a point and shoot wheel set. I think they would be great for smaller folks in a bike packing setting that feel 29+ wheels are too ponderous.

I'll be putting these on a front suspended rig and a FS bike, (maybe- I have to build one back up from a frame I have sitting in mothballs if I do it.), and I'll see how suspension does with these wheels. More riding needs to be done. Stay tuned.......

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday News And Views

It seems that 29+and fat bike stuff was the order of the day at I-Bike '14
Interbike '14: 

Well, if this Interbike is anything like the last eight, today will be a slow news day. Exhibitors will have their hands on the plugs, ready to pull them and pack up to get the heck outta that place they've been stuck in- likely for over a week now. It's "Consumer Day" at the show, so a little something new there, but we'll see how it goes.

Of course, with today's immediate digital connectivity, one can sit wherever they want and "see" everything of note, since it gets uploaded within about two hours of the doors opening on Wednesday. After that, it's rehash time, and small oddities and by Thursday evening, you've seen it all. All without being sullied by the swirling, sucking vortex of The Strip. There wasn't a whole lot to get excited about either.

So, it seems that fat bikes are a "thing" like the 27.5"ers were last year and the year before. Fat bike tires being introduced by the bucket loads and not just a "me too" model to fill in the void. No- we're looking at two widths, two levels of quality, tubeless compatibility, studded, dual compound, and folding and wire beaded fat bike tires from several companies, and even a new 29+ tire or two. Mentions of B+ models coming as well.

Dual suspension frames with fat tires were introduced by the smaller companies. If we see Salsa sell a bunch of Bucksaws, and these smaller companies selling rigs, it'll draw out the big guns and next Interbike could get real interesting. But who knows? There may be another niche trend by that time. Gravel going cycle trucks, that's what I'm hearing............

Trans Iowa V11:

Recon plans are being worked on, and a sketch for the entire route has been done. Getting out in the field soon will reveal much. I have a funny feeling there will be a major revision and several minor ones, but we'll see. I have a "back up plan", a "Plan B", if you will, that could be used if this new route doesn't pan out, and "Plan B" was originally the front runner, but things changed. Stay tuned......

Okay, so Registration is being fine tuned and an announcement will come at the end of the month. Keep your eyes peeled on the Trans Iowa site  for that particular announcement and afterward the fine details will get discussed over here. 

Part of what I am going to change has to do with how many of you have finished a Trans Iowa out there. Kevin Doggett, himself a T.I.finisher, likes crunching numbers and did a whole slew of data for me and this jumped out at me....

 "Over the 10 years of Trans Iowa, a total of 334 different riders have made 647 attempts. 
Just 153 of the 647 attempts have been successful.  That is 23.6% or a little less than 1 in 4. 
The 153 successful attempts have been made by 107 different riders.
" (Note- emphasis mine.)

You know, out of 120 spots available, finishers could take the lions share if I kept things unchanged. So- you know already that will be getting tweaked! 

Project 26- Still rollin'

 Utility Rig:

I think everyone needs a "townie". You know- a utility rig. A bike that you don't have to worry about maintenance for, one that you "just hop on and go", no need for special shoes- or heck, even a helmet. (I know some of you will bristle at that notion, but that's how I roll sometimes.) 

Anyway- remove all barriers to use, that's the point here. My Project 26 rig is that bicycle for me. I threw some lights at it and a set of old Jaand panniers which make this my most useful bike in the stable. I can just grab and go with Project 26. I air up the tires and wipe it down now and again, but with its super simple, sturdy build, it doesn't need much attention. It's always ready to go at a moment's notice. 

So it gets the lions share of short travel errand duty for me. Convenience store runs, grocery getter, and mailing out smaller items- it's all in the Project 26's wheelhouse. Bigger items go to the Xtracycled Schwinn I have, but this one can handle a lot of stuff. 

It's not perfect. Not by a long shot. It needs a front roller cam stud turned down, but I don't own that tool, and I don't have access to one. It needs wider fenders, since these barely clear the Continental Winter Contact tires. My replacement for the original saddle on here is better than the original, but a Brooks Pro isn't really ideal. Still need to get that B-67! The wheels still roll smoothly, but the spokes are rusty and need cleaning up. Maybe a rebuild on the wheels is imminent. 

But those things are overlooked when I am popping wheelies over curbs, going across a patch of grass, or smoothing down a side street. It's just an awesome, useful steed. It may not be much, but I don't think I'll ever part with this one.

Okay, that's a wrap on this edition of Friday News And Views. Have a safe and fun weekend- hopefully on two wheels! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Messing With Wheels

Messin' with the aspect ratio
I was busy building two sets of wheels on my own time here recently. You might be surprised to know that they were ISO584 rims. Yep.....27.5"er, or in French Camping Bike parlance- 650B.

I wrote about the wheel deal yesterday, and although it may come as a surprise to some, I don't discriminate when it comes to wheel sizes. I started out on 26"ers, had a 650B mtb before they were a thing, and of course, have really gravitated toward the 29"er thing. I still have a 26"er for a townie, and so these new wheels are 27.5"ers. Okay? Big deal.

The whole reason for this is to explore the B+ thing and contrast and compare it to the smaller wheel size. Of course, the whole "plus sized" tire deal has really thrown a wrench into how we perceive tires and wheels as cyclists. I wrote about that as well right here. Well, I didn't think about it at the time, but car tire manufacturers have had this figured out a long time ago. It's called "aspect ratio" and it takes into account rim width, tire casing width, and gives you over all diameter. Check out how car tires work here.

Anyway, I'm still in the throes of dealing with my impressions, getting rides in, and formulating an opinion. I'll have a lot more to say about it all soon.......

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Now Is The Golden Age

B+ wheels on the OS Blackbuck
Bike nerds rejoice! You have more crap to play with and occupy your time with these days than ever before. At one time there were only 26" wheels for "serious' off road action, then those pesky 29"ers came about at the end of the century. Next it was the 650B/27.5"ers, and then Surly comes out with 29+! If that wasn't enough, fat bikes get in the act, then Surly does a 26+ wheel, (as seen on the Instigator II), and finally, WTB introduces the B+ concept. Did I mention 36"ers? Yeah....those too!

Look, if you don't like any of these wheel sizes, or want to bitch about any of them just for being, then you don't like bicycles or off road riding. I mean- think about this- There are more ways to satisfy the itch now and probably more than there ever has been in the history of cycling. Now is the "golden age". Don't miss it because you want to argue about a stupid wheel size. Just pick one and ride it already! Again: Bike nerds rejoice!

29+ wheels on a fat bike? Get outta here!
I am amazed at any single one of the many bicycles I own now days. I mean- I woulda killed for these wheel size choices in 1995! Back then it wasn't even a thought. Wheel size? Well.......duh! 26 inch! And tires? If you could find anything wider than a 2.25" tire it was a rarity. Rim width? Whatever! There were Mavic rims, and maybe a Campy Thor rim, or Sun Ringle' rims, and Velocity AeroHeat rims. All were skinny, road bike width rims by today's standards.

So, I wince, and chuckle, and smile wryly when I see all this wheel size posturing and arguments going on in forums or in the bike shops. We have it good now- real good, but it seems no one is getting that. "Choices are good", they say. Good for causing negativity, it would seem. Too bad. Some even seem to want to return to that simplicity and lack of choices. Really?

Pfft! I say it's all good. More choices to meet more specific needs and more ways to enjoy the fun of riding a bicycle. Could we have gotten along without it all? Sure we could. We could all "Tom Ritchey Up" and just use a road bike for everything, but isn't it more fun the way it is now?

I'd like to think so.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Not Vegas: Part 2

Nope! Not even close to Vegas!
I suppose I should feel weird about not being in Vegas this week. It was a major part of my life for almost a decade. Thing is, I am really relaxed about this decision. I don't feel like I am missing much of anything, besides the people, of course. That part I cannot replace here.

Like I said though, I don't think I am missing anything. After eight straight years of going to the show, you get pretty used to the grind. The dog and pony show hasn't really changed much, it's just gotten less and less relevant. The trip itself is wash, rinse, repeat. It's the same nonsense every time with little variation. It also was the least enjoyable portion of Interbike every year. So, is there anything I do miss, besides the people? Yes........actually there is. 

  • The Bicycles: You do get to ride some bicycles which is always a good time. Actually- it's the only good reason to go, besides the people. If Interbike could be five straight days of Outdoor Demo, I'd go every year just to ride. The heck with the indoor nonsense! 
  • Great Buns Bakery: Pro Tip: On the way to Outdoor Demo, go down Tropicana Boulevard and stop at Great Buns Bakery. You will not be disappointed. I don't think there is a single thing they make that I wouldn't eat and that isn't totally delish! Heck- go out of your way every morning from the Mandaly and get a bag full of goodness. The prices are insanely cheap as well. Trust me on this.....go there!
  • Free beer: Hey! I like a free beer just as much as the next guy or gal. 
  • Looky-looing: Whether it is people watching, (always stellar when in Vegas), or checking out the outlandish Strip, or seeing the oddest products in the aisles and corners of the show, just checking out stuff is kinda of fun, truth be told. It only goes so far though, and by day two and a half you are ready to get outta there! 
So, it isn't a total bummer to go to Interbike, but after a few of these shows you could almost close your eyes and predict what will happen next. After awhile- there really isn't anything new about it.  That said, if you've never been to it, you should go, if you can. Every bike geek should see it at least once, you know, like RAGBRAI. You may even get hooked. Most don't that I know. But you might.....

I cannot leave this post without mentioning one person in particular though. My partner Grannygear. It is the only time we get to see each other all year, even though we talk pretty regularly. Now that part I will miss.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Not Vegas

On a different agenda for 2014
I mentioned it last week, but it struck me just yesterday while I was out riding my bicycle. "I am not on a plane to Las Vegas!"

I'll tell ya, it was awesome to think that and have it be reality.  

Eight straight years of trips to "the show" and I know that isn't anything to some grizzled show vets, but hey- eight was enough. Las Vegas is not my favorite place, I'll admit that right up front, and so when the show started to decline in importance, the fact of where the show is located really weighed heavily on my decision not to go back again this year.

The other thing that I am super stoked about is that I have hit the jackpot on weather here. It couldn't possibly get much better than it has been here the past couple of days. Add in the fact that I am feeling even better and stronger on the bike, and well, I am doubly glad I didn't go to Las Vegas this year for the show. I know- I'll miss seeing a bunch of folks that I only ever get to see once a year. It is a shame it takes Vegas to bring us all into one place. Reminds me of how you never see your extended family until there is a funeral. Fun times with people you should see more often for all the wrong reasons.

So, if you are reading this from the show in Vegas, (doubtful- you're probably too busy setting up a booth or cleaning muck off stuff at the Outdoor Demo from last night's rain storms), I don't mean to gloat, and I truly will miss all of you. But I am glad I am staying home this time. I'm going to try to make the most of it.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Geezer Ride: Roll Call

The gathering of crows signifies the coming of Fall and....
The Geezer Ride is slated to happen October 18th. For a general overview of what this ride is about, GO HERE.

This ride will start in the morning, but I haven't set an exact time, but I am thinking 9:00am. Now, I don't have an exact starting point set in stone, because I don't have a feel for how many of you out there might show up for this thing.

That's the point of this post- to get a feel for how many of you may show up. I plan on scouting out a start point once I have a handle on that. If it is a few to maybe 8 or 9 folks, I think I already know where we'll be starting at, but if it gets to be more than that, I need to think things over again. It won't be a big deal, but I don't want to cause any ruffled feathers with the locals or with attending riders.

One more thing: If it rains, there is no postponing this gig. I will be there no matter and if we that show up decide to slug it out, great. If not, we'll sit in a restaurant and chat over vittles and drinks for a while. That means that if you are good with riding in bad weather, I will be there to do that, unless it is pissing down cold rain and windy, then I won't be too amenable to riding, but I will show up to visit with anyone else that does. Cool?

Okay then- let's hear from you in the comments. Who is going to plan on being there?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Friday News And Views

It's Friday already? Yep! And here is the weekly post of ramblings sprinkled with some newsy bits.

Carbon rims that aren't super expensive.
Interbike is coming next week, and I am not going. That will be the first time I haven't gone in......eight years? I think that's right. Well, more about that later, but here's a few ideas and trends I see being bandied about that will make up the bulk of Interbike news coming soon.

Carbon Rims That Are Less Expensive:

This has been a trend over the last couple of years with companies like Derby, and others who are importing Asian made carbon rims, (and other components), that are bringing pricing down from the stratospheric levels carbon rims started out at.

Now I don't know if these are on the same level as, say an Enve carbon rim, but I've heard stories saying one thing and then another about these imported rims. Let's just say the quality level seems to be all over the map right now. The point is that these components coming out of Asia, either directly or through an importing brand, are driving prices down below the $400.00 a piece range. That's still plenty expensive, but when you figure that many carbon rims were 600-800 bucks a pop not long ago, this is an improvement. Anyway.....expect more of the same coming soon. 

Fat bike this-fat bike that!
 Moar Fat:

Eurobike was a bit of a surprise because of the plethora of fat bikes introduced over there. Now that I've seen this, a lot of these tire introductions make a heck of a lot more sense.

I suspect that Interbike will see some of the same thing. Cannondale's Lefty equipped fat bike might get shown there, and probably a few other fat bike surprises as well. One thing is for certain- fat bikes are a thing and this year will probably be the zenith for new introductions. I just don't see anything but maybe more carbon framed rigs and maybe some technical refinements in rims and tires down the road. A couple more suspension forks? Perhaps. Obviously, a proper fat bike compatible Lefty from the source is coming.

Bad Motor Scooter
E-Bikes: (Motorcycles)

Eurobike was also rife with every sort of electric motored two wheeled contraption you could think of. Guess what? The industry has decided that this is "the next big thing" and is going to jam the airwaves with bad motorcycles for the foreseeable future.

In advance of this onslaught, many concerns have been raised by off roading advocates and lovers of wilderness as to the effects these motorized vehicles might have. On the other hand, manufacturers are quick to point out that these motorcycles don't roost and are only "assisting" the riders on them.

My Take: Most of all, these things need to be called what they truly are- motorcycles. The so called "e-bike" industry would have you forget that term and would rather have you believe that these motorcycles will assist people and make them "real cyclists" someday. This is seriously flawed thinking on so many levels.

But no matter- these things are coming and we'll have to deal with the messy aftermath. Bike paths in municipalities will have to make judgments on what is and isn't acceptable. Trail managers, land owners, and stewards of the outdoors will have to make a line in the sand somewhere on these vehicles worthiness as recreational vehicles.

One thing is for sure, this will fundamentally change mountain biking access and bike trail access in the future. My opinion is that these motorcycles don't belong mixed in with human powered recreational activities that include running, hiking, walking, and cycling. These have mostly been separated activities and should remain so going forward.

Not to mention that if you think these things won't get modified, you're delusional. These things will roost, will go faster than they should, and will cause havoc in the hands of tinkerers. It's human nature, and these vehicles are not going to be regulated by laws, that even if they did exist, would be darn near impossible to enforce. At least within the current infrastructure we employ now.

Okay, have a great weekend folks! Ride those bicycles!!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fat Boinger

The 2015 Mukluk 2 with a Rock Shox Bluto.
When fat bikes and suspension get mixed into the same conversation, there is always the mention of the wheels and how those fat tires are already suspension and why do you need anymore than that?

Well, that's an easy question to answer, but I don't think the question is about how tires react on trails. No.....I think this question is more about where fat bikes get ridden. 

Most folks would never think about a fat bike as a "mountain bike". The thing is, a fat bike just might be the ultimate mountain bike. So instead of pigeon holing these bikes as "snow" bikes, or bikes for sand only, one really needs to look at what other all terrain vehicles use for wheels and tires. This would give you some clues. Take a look at jeeps, ATV's, rock crawler vehicles, and off road 4X4's. All use a big, fat, low pressure tires. The game is about traction and stability. Bicycles used off road are no different.

So, why wouldn't fat bike tires work the same way? They do work that way, actually, and since traction is enhanced, the extra grip leads to increased speed, and increased speed means high impact forces on the wheels. That leads eventually to a suspension fork. So, while the question about the tires being enough suspension is often asked, I think it really reflects a misunderstanding about how capable these bikes are off road. Because it is rather obvious to almost anyone that an undamped pneumatic tire hitting trail obstacles at speed will quickly become uncontrollable.

Don't call it a fat bike- call it the ultimate bicycle all terrain vehicle.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Becker Gear Frame Bag

My Fargo frame bag from Becker Gear
The recent addition of a Becker Gear bag to my Fargo Gen 1 has been an awesome thing to have. I wanted to spend a little time talking about this bag since it has some very different features than my other frame bag does.

First off, it is light enough, but it isn't all about being the lightest bag on the planet. The bag feels beefy in terms of its construction, and that's important to me since it will get abused a bit, (and already has!), so good seams, tough zippers, and stout construction are paramount. I should add that it fits really well, and that leads me to the process of how this bag came to be.

I live in Iowa, and Tupper Becker lives in Fairbanks Alaska. So, how did Tupps get my bag to fit as well as it does when we are thousands of miles apart? I sent him a template of my frame "space", if you will, that's how.
All fitted to the bike and ready to Adventure!

Take yourself a big, flat piece of cardboard, then cut it down to fit snugly inside your main frame triangle, marking where things like cable guides might be, or water bottle bosses are at. I made careful notations right on the cardboard and then sent it to Becker Gear via the post in a bubble wrapped envelope. Tupper Becker then gets this and with his experience and talent, turns this road map into a useable frame bag that fits your bike like a glove.

This one that I have has a main compartment accessible from the drive side of the bike via a big, beefy zipper that pulls open easily and shuts just as easily, even with over sized stuff like size 11 1/2 shoes laying in there.  The other side has a big beefy zipper as well, but this opens a very narrow compartment suitable for things like maps, flat objects, and the like. That's it, but I have found that this cavernous opening and big volume capacity really is nice. The Fargo Gen 1 really makes this work well.

I have to cut back and heal the straps to length and then I want to pack this thing up after which time I will give my thoughts on how this bag fares as an adventure tool for bikepacking or just for utility purposes like commuting and general urban riding, Because you don't have to be a big, back country nutter to have a frame bag, ya know?

More soon.....

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Day Of Hot Rods

I spent Labor Day looking at old hot rods in Iowa Falls. Here is a selection of images I made from the event. Enjoy!

Trans Iowa Masters Program Report

Greg Gleason- the only ITT finisher of TIMP
The Trans Iowa Masters Program is over. August 31st was the cut-off and amazingly enough, a last minute individual effort was recorded with less than five hours to go in the program.

But before I get to that, I want to rewind the clock a bit and give everyone an overview of the reasons for the TIMP in the first place and hopefully illustrate why it is a one time deal from my standpoint.

I have had occasional requests and comments that led me to believe there were some folks that would be interested in a cross-state version of Trans Iowa again. Let me state emphatically and forever......that ain't gonna happen ever again. 

The logistics on my end and expectations from participants would be too difficult to accomplish without some major changes in my life and in the formatting of the event. Having 50 people start out a ride across the state was one thing. Having potentially 120? That's on a level I cannot comprehend at this point. The infrastructure and manpower necessary to pull that off? Much more difficult than a "big assed loop". Not gonna go there!

So, I figured I would never be able to offer anything approaching the ideals that most riders would want to tackle. However; something happened in Canada that modified my views and caused the Trans Iowa Masters Program to take shape late last year. That was Operacion Muerto

TIMP Route- First Semester map courtesy of Scott Sumpter
I had a brain storm, (or fart, depending on your viewpoint!), and laid out a challenge based largely on the Operacion Muerto, but with an "academic" twist. Each participant would follow cues that would be divided into "Semesters" and Quarters" with a "Masters Thesis" due after the completed ride at which time I would issue a "Diploma" to individuals who finished the Program.

It was also done in an effort to help celebrate the early Trans Iowa efforts by Jeff Kerkove and myself. A "ten years of T.I." celebration and a way to allow for the old cross state T.I. routes to be ridden by those who cared to. In fact, a bit of T.I.V3 and V4 were also parts of the route, along with a totally new section which started just West of Highway 76 and ended in Lansing, Iowa, the original target finish town for Trans Iowa V1.

Oh.....I did add another new bit. Some of the route in Howard County was new. I routed the TIMP right by my family's original 1800's homestead. Just because. Not that anyone would have cared about that but myself, but there it is for "full disclosure". So, I had the route and everything laid out, a time period from May 31st till August 31st for ride attempts, and some rules and regulations in place for the deal. The beauty of it all from my point of view was that besides record keeping, publishing, and mailing out certificates, I didn't have a big investment into this like I do with a typical Trans Iowa event.

The route actually started at the border with South Dakota- Image by A Zeiner
Riders started whenever they wanted to from just outside of Hawarden Iowa on the border with South Dakota which is the Big Sioux River. They needed to GPS the route so I could verify it, and in fact, several used SPOT trackers so I just followed along to verify the route from home. They tracked across the old T.I.V1 and V2 routes to Central Iowa, and then into Northeast Iowa where some of the newer bits and V3 & V4 routes were employed. After finishing, a report was required with images for an official finish and a place on the TIMP Report blog, (seen here).

Conclusions: From my point of view the TIMP was a success. It was not a huge success in terms of numbers of attempts, but those that chose this path seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, even if they did not finish. Surprisingly, a large number of the attempts were by riders that had never attempted Trans Iowa before. In that sense, I feel good about providing the TIMP challenge since it affected people outside the traditional Trans Iowa sphere.

It was a success in that it showed that a traditional Trans Iowa is not immune from weather related issues if it is moved from its traditional Springtime date, as many have desired it to be, thinking they might avoid "terrible weather conditions". Obviously, by the results of several of the ITT attempts, weather in the Summer can be just as bad or worse for the possibilities of a finish.

So- You want to ride Trans Iowa in the Summer? Image courtesy of A. Brunner
It was also a success based upon the route, which was declared a challenging and scenic route by many of the riders. Interestingly- I have vivid memories of some of the route, even though many of the roads shown by the riders in their reports I have not seen for almost ten years. Then there are the roads which were new to the route, which I have never laid eyes on and were totally fresh and new to me. I'll have to get up there and ride that last 40 miles or so sometime!

The route was not without some faults- There was a rogue wire across a road near the end, albeit well marked, I was informed. There was a bridge approach out, but navigable by foot. Finally, there was a low water crossing that caused concerns, but wasn't a deal killer. There were a couple of instances of road work, but again, these did not block the route either.

The participants were great too. I was especially happy to see T.I.V10 winner, Greg Gleason, finish his TIMP Individual Time Trial with less than five hours to go in the three month TIMP window. He was the only ITT finisher, and it was good to have at least one!

So, why wouldn't I want to do this again? Easy- Three months of worrying, that's why. I may seem like, and come off to many, as one who is an "evil promoter willing and happy to send riders off to suffer", but trust me- I worry about folks when they ride a Trans Iowa, and the TIMP was no different. I care, as surprising as that may seem, and doing that for three months, even just a little bit, is energy I could redirect into some other efforts in the future. So, I hope you downloaded the TIMP course when you could, because it is gone, and I don't publish or share Trans Iowa routes, or related routes. As in ever. The TIMP was a major exception to my personal rule in that regard, and that exception lasted three months. So, don't ask me to put that, or any other T.I. related route, out there. I will not do it.

Finally, thanks to all those who attempted the TIMP. Thanks to Jeff Kerkove, my "Trans Iowa Family", and of course, my wife and kids for putting up with my non-sense over the years.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

It's Labor Day in the States, so this marks our traditional "end of Summer" ritual here.

I hope everyone is having a safe, fun, and exciting last day of a three day weekend. Tomorrow it is back to the grind and the long slide into Fall and Winter begins for us. Now that may sound depressing, but actually, some of the best mountain biking times I've had were in fall, and Winter? Well, that used to be a bummer, but now there are fat bikes!

Speaking of those, I will be looking forward to getting on that Blackborow DS this late Fall or early Winter and making some big, fat tracks across the Cedar Valley. Until then, I will be tweaking out some things on the Snow Dog and riding the MukTruk, of course!

And in semi-fat news, wait till you see what I was busy working on this weekend......

Stay tuned.