Saturday, May 27, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 21


The Badger drop bar specific 29"er Image by Josh Patterson
On the blog ten years ago this week I was revealing my two "secret project bikes". One I have already spoken of, the Badger drop bar specific bike. This design, other than the fact that I wanted it to be a single speed, and it came to me as a geared only bike, was something that foreshadowed another bike I would get a year later. That bike was the Salsa Cycles Fargo. Interestingly, there was no other time I can recall when a fat tired, drop bar, 29 inch wheel based bike was so desired by a lot of people.

Consider that during this period that not only did I have this Badger brazed up, but that Salsa Cycles heard the customers out there who, like my friend MG, were clamoring for a drop bar 29"er. Consider that at the same time, Singular Cycles' Sam Alison was busy working on the drop bar specific Gryphon 29"er. So, it would be a time that this sort of bike was in the limelight. Not that it isn't to this day. Salsa Cycles longest running model now is the Fargo. Sales of that model are still pretty strong. I don't see it going away any time soon.

But, at any rate, the Badger was an idea that was slightly ahead of its time. A steel framed drop bar 29"er. The Badger is not festooned with the amount of braze ons that the Fargo was and is, but the basic idea is there. Oh.......and yes- I still have it. Stay tuned........

A naked Pofahl Special. Image by Ben Witt
The other "Secret Project Bike" was my Pofahl. This odd little deal was straight out of my brain. When 29"ers were still a rare thing in the early 00's, I would often draw up frame designs as a way to doodle and pass the time. Yes......I used to have spare time. That was before blogs, Trans Iowa, and reviewing stuff! See, it was dangerous for my mind to be idle. Just think of all the wonky designs I would have come up with had I still been idle all these years!

Well, when I met Ben Witt concerning the Badger mtb I reviewed, I mentioned this design to him and he got excited and encouraged me to work with him and Mike Pofahl to make it a reality. Ben took my basic design and then made all the necessary tweaks to that idea to make it an approximation of a  "Karate Monkey/single speed specific" 29"er. Ben even designed a swoopy take off of a Jones Bar that he wanted me to put on this bike. It was to be made in titanium. However; things didn't quite go as planned in regard to the bars that were intended for this design.

Ben was excited about a builder in Colorado many of you have heard about. Now this will be the first time I have revealed this. It is the story, and the truth, but more importantly, water under the dam. Ten years of it....

The design was sent to Black Sheep. We were excited to see how it would come out. Ben initially heard back concerning some details, but then the communication grew cold. Eventually, after months of waiting and trying to get through to Black Sheep, we gave up. I ended up putting drop bars on the Pofahl, and that's the way it has been ever since. So, what became of the "swoopy Jones-like design"? Funny thing- About six months later Black Sheep has a variation on Ben's design offered on their site. Coincidence? Maybe..........

But, as I said, water under the dam. I have the Pofahl as a drop bar bike and that works fine. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday News And Views

Trek introduces a 29" wheeled DH sled. Yes......Trek.
Trek Announces A Production DH Big Wheeler:

Trek, and by extension, the former Gary Fisher brand, have been on the forefront of 29 inch wheeled developments for close to two decades now. I have to hand it to Trek. They have kept their feet to the fire, (mostly), that entire stretch of time. This production DH sled with big wheels is yet another example of this.

While Trek gets poo-pooed often because they are a "big brand", or "corporate" or whatever, you also cannot deny that Trek has put a lot of R&D effort into the 29"er over the years. Have you ever wondered why there are forks with 51mm of offset, frames with shorter rear ends and slacker head angles, and components like Fox Shox and Rock Shox forks for 29"ers? You can thank Trek for all of that. Trek tested ideas in labs and in the field to come up with many of the innovations in 29"ers we take for granted today.

So when I hear that Trek tested their Session 27.5"er against the Session with 29"er wheels and found that the big wheels were faster everywhere by up to three seconds per minute, I believe that. When they claim the 27.5"er was not better in any form of their testing, you can believe that they actually did legitimate testing, and those were the results.

Again, I was a naysayer when it came to 29"ers and DH competition, but kudos to Trek for proving me wrong here. Not that a 29"er DH sled matters at all to me or most folks. But when it does show to what extent 29" wheels make sense across the board for any mountain biking, well, that is significant.

The alt design which we didn't use.....
Tremendous Response:

Thank you so much to all who purchased t-shirts over the past week. I was floored by the response and I sure hope that these t-shirts bring a smile when they get worn.

By the way, if you wear a size medium, you could get one as well. I have about 9 left, and when they are gone, that's it! Interested? Go to the Garage Sale Page for the deets.

I'd sure like to see those final sized medium shirts get used up, but if they don't I will likely figure out another plan of action. But thank you again folks! Because I only have 9 shirts to handle now, not three times that many! As far as the money goes, I am thinking I may need to do some sprucing up on the "Truck With No Name", since that is the main recon rig. The tires are getting pretty chewed up on that vehicle, so I am thinking I'll get some new ones soon. And then, who knows.... If there is another TI the truck will be all good to go for it. All I can say is that all the gravel miles have started to take a toll on that truck's shoes.

The flowers are back again!
Flower Power:

 I have gotten a couple rides in recently out in the country and the views are really getting good again. The ditch flowers are popping already and the purples, yellows, pinks, and whites flourish in different corners of the county now.

So, I have gotten some time on this suspension stem I am testing and more time on the WTB Byway tires also. I will be posting about those things as well as some Banjo Brothers bags I have and a couple of other odd parts I am checking out as well.

But the main thing is getting out to see what is going on in the country and also to get some miles in my legs. I'll be honest,this year has been a struggle and yesterday I jacked up some muscles in my left calf taking of a shoe of all things. Mrs.Guitar Ted has been made aware of the problem and has a course of action for me to take. I am not bad, it is just a muscle issue, but it hurts like the dickens.

So, yeah, I may be riding more now but I'll be riding slower! At least for a while until this issue clears up. I just hope that I can get out there and enjoy the scenery, ride against the wind, and be gone on my bicycle for several hours. I rode my bicycle yesterday and that was right after I injured my leg. It was fine, but I have to take it easy. The flowers are waiting though! I'll be getting out there, don't you worry about that!

That's it for today. Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wolf Tooth B Rad - Introduction

The Wolf Tooth B Rad 2 and Double Bottle Adapters.
Wolf Tooth is a company that is perhaps best known for drive train bits and pieces, like those fancy derailleur adapters or ginormous cassette extender cogs. That's all great and stuff, but I never really was too interested in those things. Then they recently announced a new product range dubbed "B Rad". It is a system of bits and pieces that allow a rider to mount things on the bike and get them off the rider's back. Literally. Like water, for instance.

Okay, now you've got my attention Mr. Wolf Tooth! I checked this out and found that it may be something worth getting for my gravel bikes. With my "DK My Way" ride coming up, I figured that I would try to graft that gizmo on to my Gen I Fargo. That's my adventure bike and it carries a lot of water as is.

The B Rad system is modular and you buy the system parts separately. I chose the B Rad 2 rail and the Double Bottle Adapter since what I wanted to do was add an extra water bottle. Actually, I was also making a difficult to get at bottle easier for me to access and add another bottle. You see, the original Gen I Fargos in size Large, XL, and XXL had two down tube mounted bottle cage options inside the front triangle. I can put two bottles there, one on the seat tube, and one underneath the down tube. That's four bottles plus the two I can mount on the fork blades.

With the B Rad parts mounted, I can run seven bottles on the Gen I Fargo.
The trouble was that the upper most down tube mounted bottle was really hard to get out and remove. It was possible, but it wasn't ideal. Last year I ran a frame bag and stuck bottles in there. For Gravel Worlds I ran a top tube bag with an extra bottle in there. This year I am maxing out the water carrying capacity for what I anticipate will be a hot, drier Kansas trip. The B Rad gets me the water I need without dealing with a hydration pack.

Here is a good look- The rail mounts to the bike and the adapters to the rail.
I still need to work on my storage for other items. I have been using the under the down tube bottle as a tool kit. (That's what you see here in the image, by the way.) That leaves six other 20 ounce bottles for water so I figure that if I can plan resupply points at four to five hours ride time I should be okay on water. The new-to-me black Carousel Design Works bag on the top tube will be used for some food carrying duties and I have yet to add my Bike Bag Dude Garage Bag on the top tube which should also be handling food and some personal items. I will likely also use a couple Chaff Bags from Bike Bag Dude as well for easy access food or possibly a wet weather jacket storage.

But back to the B Rad..... I have only done a short test ride, but out of the saddle pedaling shouldn't be an issue. I noted that I had the B Rad mounted up the down tube far enough, (due to an interference issue with a cable stop more than anything else), that it places the bottles far enough forward that I have plenty of clearance for my legs. The bottles are easily accessed while riding, as you might imagine, and the extra clearance gained above the lower down tube water bottle will now allow me to use a larger sized water bottle in that position, as well as a large sized bottle on the seat tube. Actually, if I decided against the Chaff Bags, I could use large sized bottles on the B Rad mounted cages.

Speaking of wet weather. If I am wrong and the weather looks to be more like the way it was two years ago, I may use a Bar Yak mounted dry bag with spare clothing. But I won't make that call until closer to the event. Late next week I should have a better idea about that, but either way the B Rad set up stays.

Stay tuned for a full review post DK.......

NOTE- The B Rad bits were bought with my own damn money and I was not asked, paid, or bribed for this post.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In Regard To The "Gravel Triple Crown"

Dan Hughes coming across the line at T.I.v13
Since Trans Iowa v13 happened I have seen a few folks reference a concept known as the "Triple Crown". I have a "horse in this race", and I also have the history on this concept, so I figured I would set the record straight publicly before the myth gets out of hand. Grab yer favorite beverage and get ready for the true story.

I think it would be prudent to go back a bit and give you all the back story first. But before I even go there, let me make something very clear up front......

I never have, nor ever will I say that Trans Iowa is a "premier event", a "gravel classic", or "the grandfather of all gravel races". These are  things which I have had other people tell me (and more) when they think about Trans Iowa. However; this sort of talk isn't coming from me or any of my Trans Iowa production efforts. Trans Iowa is "Trans Iowa". Period. Nothing more than that.

However; since the beginnings of the modern gravel road riding movement, there have been ideas bandied about. One of those was the idea that there could be a "Triple Crown" of gravel events which would help determine the best gravel racer. This idea was first presented to Jeff and I right after we had put on the first Trans Iowa, so probably sometime in 2005. Let's put that in context, shall we?

In 2005 there was no Almanzo 100, no Barry-Roubaix, and no Gravel Worlds. We had never heard about Paris-Ancaster, nor about any other long running, big mileage, classic gravel event which may have been going on before we got started. We knew about the Flint Hills Death Ride, (70 miles), and the Colesburg Classic, (40 miles), but there just were no other events like Trans Iowa, and the planned Dirty Kanza 200. The idea that any other events could even be considered for a "triple crown" just was not possible at that time.

My shot that I took at the first DK200 of winner Dan Hughes and Doug Long, a volunteer that year.
We were in contact with Jim Cummings and Joel Dyke as they made their plans for their gravel event. In fact, it was Jim Cummings that first broached the subject of a possibility of a triple crown with me in an e-mail. There were rumblings of a big mileage event in Nebraska, according to Jim, and if any of that materialized, we should consider a "Gravel Triple Crown". In fact, the mere thought of another event coming on with big mileage actually was an influence on the dates for the DK200 and Trans Iowa.

Some time passed and the gravel event which was going to be in Nebraska was a complete mystery to me. With time I had heard about an event planned by Skip Cronin, who was known as the "Endurosnob", which was the moniker of his blog as well. That event was a "one and done" deal, so the gap in the "Triple Crown" was still needing to be filled. That seemed to be possible when I heard about the efforts of the Pirate Cycling League to bring a long gravel event to the table.

The PCL was a loosely knit group of gravel riding enthusiasts from the Lincoln Nebraska area and one of their group, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey, had some e-mail discussions about this Triple Crown idea. The way that I remember it being left was that we, (the DK200, the new Nebraska event which became the Good Life Gravel Adventure and eventually Gravel Worlds, and Trans Iowa), were all separate events with our own ways of doing things. This might be hard to reconcile in to a "series" which could result in a legitimate "Triple Crown" of gravel. Plus, the whole idea of a "series" wasn't what Cornbread and I wanted. So, that was the end of that. Or so we thought.......

At the start of the 2015 DK200- The DK200 has become a "big time event" these days.
Moving onward through time, the DK200 became a much larger, more polished, and more mainstream event with chip timing, big start and finish line hoopla, podiums, prizes, and now spreads out over four days time to take in. The Good Life Gravel Adventure became the Gravel Worlds, a tongue in cheek take on Pro World Championship racing with a grassroots, down home feel. It has its own "rainbow jersey" for different categories of "Gravel World Champions". It is also a much bigger affair than it used to be.

Trans Iowa? Not so much. It hasn't changed much in years. It isn't on the same playing field as these other events these days when it comes to the mainstream idea of an "event". It doesn't have the same cache', nor does it have the same high profile outside of the gravel community that the other two events do. I kind of scoff at the idea that it would even be considered in the same conversation as those two events when it comes to talk of a series of events worthy of a "Triple Crown". But that all didn't matter for years, since the idea was dead, or so I thought. The idea of a "Triple Crown" would not even enter most of our minds again until this year.

Dan Hughes had a specific goal coming in to the Trans Iowa v13. He wanted to be known as the winner of the Dirty Kanza (four times), Gravel Worlds, (once), and Trans Iowa. He may or may not have been aware of the whole triple crown thing back in the day, but Dan brought it back when he started talking this goal up post Trans Iowa this year. I was aware of a comment made by Rebecca Rusch concerning Dan's use of the term, but I figured that it was friendly banter that would go away after a while.

But it seems that the idea of the "Triple Crown" of gravel is gaining some steam since I have noted that the term is being used by some on social media. That has prompted me to get the story out, and straightened out, before it gets murky and twisted by anyone else who doesn't know what they are talking about. The story above is the true history behind the term in regard to Trans Iowa and is accurate as far as I can remember. 

That's the story of the mythical "Gravel Triple Crown". Now you know.......

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bikes Of The Almanzo

Of course, as a dyed in the wool "bike nerd", I notice the bikes folks are riding at these gravel events. So, I took note of a few rigs and I have some comments to share. Let's take a look at what caught my eye at this year's Almanzo Cherry Grove checkpoint. (NOTE- Obviously there were other cool bikes. Not everyone went by me and some that did never stopped, so it is entirely possible I missed a lot of really cool rigs.)

Okay, this may be the best example of "an Almanzo rig" that there is.......or not.
The Ridley, in my opinion, is the "average" Almanzo rig. A cyclo cross bike with canti brakes. I can't tell you how many bikes like this went by me. It only goes to show you that, at least in the area near the Twin Cities, cyclo cross bikes are gravel bikes. They work fine for that purpose, obviously, and can do a UCI legal cross race, if you are so inclined. But I still say that a bike designed to be super efficient over an hour long event and that has to do what a cross bike needs to do isn't ideal for gravel roads. Been over this a million times here. Maybe someday I'll pin all my posts about that and put a perma-link in the margin or something....

Custom, steel, and different.
I saw this rig underneath Andy Tetmeyer of HED Wheels and I was glad to see him park and dismount so I could get an image of this steel rig. It is the antithesis of the Ridley above. Fender mounts and (nearly) full coverage fenders. Steel, lugged crown fork, disc brakes, and what looked to be a decent amount of bottom bracket drop compared to a cyclo cross rig. Of course, those outrageous HED rims were what most folks noticed, but take note of the non-cross approved frame pump under the top tube. Terrene Elwood 40's (Likely measuring over that), top it off. Andy got a top twenty finish on this rig for the Almanzo 100 category.

Riders were often too tired or couldn't be arsed to park their rigs proper.
This bad image of a fat bike was grabbed on the fly, because I was having my attention drawn elsewhere, but I wanted to get this anyway. It is of the first fat bike we saw Saturday in the event. Note- Steel frame, and drop bars. I thought that warranted inclusion here. Not many folks run fat bikes with drop bars.

Perhaps the perfect drive train for a messy Southern Minnesota gravel ride.
Finally, I saw this Surly with a Rohloff drive train. The massive torque arm on the non-driveside was the giveaway for me. I thought this was a smart rig for a day like Saturday was. Just look at all that limestone crap! You have to imagine that a lot of drive trains died Saturday in the messy conditions. Perhaps this rig suffered a chain replacement, maybe a bottom bracket issue, but the drive train likely is fine otherwise. A lot less expensive to maintain than some of those fancy exposed drive train set ups are. I'm not 100% sure, but this rig was running a chain tensioner and there might be an inner chain ring there......hmmm. 

Of course, I did see a smattering of actual "gravel bikes". There were your Warbirds, Vayas, and Tamlands running out there along with some other gravel rigs from other brands.

Again, not all the bicycles even made it to Cherry Grove. There was the Stiller tandem, which I heard broke down, and likely a lot of other, super cool bicycles, (and people, obviously), that didn't get to Cherry Grove or who just rode on by like Greg Gleason did on his Cutthroat. So, I am not saying this is a definitive listing at all, but it is what I saw.

Thanks again to the Almanzo folks, Penn Cycles, and the Spring Valley Tourism board for letting RidingGravel.com come and be the sponsor of the Cherry Grove stop. We are tentatively scheduled to do it again next year. Let's hope for better weather next time!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Almanzo Report: Cherry Grove Checkpoint

Jacob waiting in the cold rain and wind for things to get started.
The Almanzo 100, probably one of the most classic of gravel road events, was held again this past weekend up in Spring Valley, Minnesota. The 11th running of this event was marked by some brutal conditions. My son, Jacob, and I were up to help with the RidingGravel.com Cherry Grove Checkpoint. This is the tale of the day as I saw it....

Our trip was arranged so that we could ride up and back again with my friend Marty in his Ford Flex. Marty picked us up at 7:00am and we hightailed it up North, raining and blowing all the way. Marty had an intrepid attitude going in to this event and he seemed to be well prepared for the day. He dumped us off in Cherry Grove at about 8:30 am and headed off to find his starting spot in the event.

We were left in the forlorn looking town made even more dreary by the cold, wind driven rain which was slashing down and drowning everything in a heat sucking, watery curse. Only the robins seemed pleased as they hopped about, joyfully chirping as they pulled doomed earthworms out of the water-logged ground. Whomever showed up for this Almanzo was in for a brutal day, that was for sure.

Jacob and I shivered and milled about as best we could, trying to stay warm and engaged with each other. Actually, with the sub-40 degree temperatures, the wet air, and the strong winds, I was already going in to the throes of hypothermia after only being there about an hour. My chest ached and I tried to do some exercises to get the blood pumping again. Fortunately, after a little over an hour, Ben and Matt showed up with all the supplies and we set about to getting the checkpoint operable.

Matt chats with Troy from the USECF Gravel Nationals
Ben scored the use of this fire pit from the local Spring Valley hardware store owner. It was much appreciated!
We set about to getting some shelter up first of all. It  was a pop up tent given to Ben to use by Surly Brewing. The work was welcomed by Jacob and I and it helped to warm me right up. I think had I had to stand out there much longer I might have been in trouble. The work went fast with many hands. We were joined in our efforts by Troy from the USECF Gravel Nationals (If you haven't heard of Gravel Nationals, I recommend listening to this podcast) Matt and Ben also helped a lot to get the checkpoint looking like something within a short period of time. Matt kicked right in to frying bacon and my son assisted him in that task. Meanwhile, Ben and I got a fire going in a borrowed fire pit that Ben had secured from the local hardware store owner in Spring Valley. Not long afterward, the man from Cherry Grove in charge of taking care of the community center stopped by and opened up the place which had heat and a clean, dry place to sit. Now we were ready for the first riders.

First rider through.
The first seven riders trickled through within an hour or so of each other and then it took a long time before we saw anyone else.
Suddenly a call went up that there was a rider spotted. He was all alone and looked a little unhappy, but who wouldn't be in those conditions? Anyway, it was quite a few minutes before we saw another pair, then quite a few minutes more before we saw another lone rider. Finally, we had about seven go through within about an hour or so of each other, then nothing for a long time.

Meanwhile we went in to the community center, which was a country school from the 1880's to 1954, and warmed up by the gas furnace. We "cooked" our wet clothes on top, just like we used to do back when I was a kid at many of my relative's country homes when we would get wet playing in the snow as kids.

(L-R) Sam Cohen, Troy from Gravel Nationals, and Ben Welnak gathered under the tarp behind the RadTour's Sprinter van.
We noted a Sprinter van which pulled up, set out a big, blue tarp, and had a dog cavorting about. It was Audrey Wiedemier and Sam Cohen who were helping support some folks, I believe, on the Almanzo. Anyway, Audrey has a touring business going where she takes folks on short, mixed gravel and pavement routes to farms where the idea is to get local produce and meats to eat. I probably have some of that wrong, but maybe someone could comment on this post and set me straight?

Anyway, Audrey and Sam had tea and were very gracious to anyone who ducked under their blue tarp for shelter. And we needed all the shelter we could get. It blew hard and rained a lot most of the day.

Riders that stopped by at the checkpoint were treated to a warm fire and lots of attention from the bystanders.
Jason O'Mahoney of Gravel Cyclist avails himself of the hospitality at the RidingGravel.com food table.
We were told by Pat Sorensen of Penn Cycles that "everybody is dropping out..." and while we didn't know exactly what that meant, we had only seen about 15 cyclists by 3:00pm! However; a slug of bikers were spotted, and then a slow trickle of wet, weary cyclists were coming by in ones and twos until probably around 5:30 or so. By that time we were seeing a few of the Royal 162 riders, of which there were only seven or so left of that started the event. One of them, the leader, Greg Gleason, went steaming by on his distinctive Salsa Cycles Cutthroat. He looked really strong.

I was told by Joel Raygor that Ben Mullin, who was in Trans Iowa v13 this year, had a "special gift" which he was carrying for me and that I should wait for him to reach Cherry Grove. By this point, Marty, who had abandoned in Preston, was there waiting with our ride back to Waterloo. It was a great thing that Marty was so amenable to the idea of waiting around a bit longer. Thanks Marty!! In fact, Marty ended up giving a local to us rider a hitch back to the starting line. So, it all worked out.

Me (L) and Ben Mullin, who hauled this sixer of beer for 100 plus miles in his hydration pack to give to me. Photo by Martin Bunge
Ben eventually rolled in with a few other riders and proceeded to dislodge six cans of craft beer which he had hauled around the Royal course to give to me along with a movie pass for my wife. What a guy! Don't try this at home kids, because hauling around all that extra weight in those conditions was a handicap Ben didn't need. That was super awesome of him to do and I won't soon forget about that.

Well, a few more riders came around after that, but according to the report we had from Joel Raygor, the last of the riders were to arrive very soon. I have no hard numbers on how many folks went by us. I lost track at 25-30, but I would be very surprised if more than 75 riders passed us at Cherry Grove. (NOTE: Initial Almanzo tabulations show 110. I find that hard to fathom myself.) It was a very difficult day, and many made a wiser decision for themselves and pulled out after shorter rides, or decided not to come at all. Ben Welnak, who was at the start, said maybe 300 folks were in Spring Valley to start the event Saturday. So, obviously this unseasonably cold, wet, windy weather has had a big effect upon the turnout and the finishing numbers.

Martin took us home and we arrived shortly before sunset. Probably about a ten hour day of exposure for myself and my son, but we had a blast and we hope that our "gravel family" had a good time despite the conditions. I look forward to seeing many of you again and more at the Dirty Kanza 200 in a couple of weeks from now. Hopefully the nasty weather will leave us alone!

Thank You: To Ben Welnak and Matt McCauley of RidingGravel.com, to Troy of the USECF Gravel Worlds, Penn Cycles, The Spring Valley Tourism Board, The Cherry Grove Community Center, Surly Brewing Company, and especially to all of the outstanding Almanzo riders. Thanks to all that came to hang out with us at the checkpoint. It was wonderful to have been with you all. #gravelfamily Finally- A big Thank You to Martin Bunge for the transportation and great conversation.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 20

The Badger's plans
Ten years ago on the blog this week I was yakking about one of my "Special Projects" which I had done back then by two different custom frame and fork builders. Yes- I had two custom bikes made at the same time. I've never had any done before then or since.

This was a Badger. Now, if you know anything about that brand, there was a lot of bad blood related to this builder starting right around the time I had this frame done up. I won't get in to all of that, and I am not at all interested in dredging up old hurts and hang ups any of you may have concerning Badger frames or the guy that made them. It was what it was, and it is over now.

But when this was being planned, all was on the up and up, at least as far as I knew. Originally, this frame was supposed to be a single speed, but then things went on, and on, and on..... I had heard a few rumblings of bad news surrounding the builder, and I had no updates for several weeks. I was worried, I'll admit. Then I got a call from the builder. "This was suposed to be a geared frame, right?".

Yeah..... Right. I figured I'd be lucky to get it, so just go with the flow, even though the Industry 9 wheels I had purchased for it were single speed specific. Dang it......

Then there was my last ride with "Mr 24". That happened at the Boy Scout Camp. or "Camp Ingawanis". The North side, of course, because that is where we rode back then. I was on my old black geared Raleigh XXIX+G. I remember my BB-5 brakes came out of adjustment and I about ate it on a fast down hill corner. Anyway, I never have ridden with Jeff Kerkove since then, and if I am not mistaken, it was one of the last times he was around the area to ride.I guess I didn't really know it, but it was his way of saying "goodbye", perhaps.

That weekend ten years ago was the Dirty Kanza 200. I was supposed to go, but I ended up playing at a friend's outdoor wedding. I couldn't get out of that gig. I remember thinking the whole time at the wedding that I'd rather be in Kansas that weekend, and I still do. Oh well. I believe that was the earliest the DK200 was ever run also. It would have been good, but that was not in my cards.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday News And Views

Limited supply. Help me clear out my house of these!
Garage Sale:

Some of you may have noticed that I have a "Garage Sale Page" here on G-Ted Productions. I put the odd part or bicycle up there that I need to move on down the road. I don't always "advertise" that, and some folks have stumbled upon a good deal by watching that page. Anyway.....

If you were thinking that the TIv13 t-shirt was cool, you aren't alone. They were a big hit at the event this year. Unfortunately, I was stiffed by several late droppers from the event that asked to have a t-shirt reserved for themselves. Now, I am stuck with a pile of t-shirts that are (mostly) not my size, so I cannot use them. Maybe you could?

I'm not going to lay it all out here, go to that Garage Sale Page and read it. The info is all there. I'm just going to ask you to help me free up some space here and to help me get these on people's backs so they are getting put to good use. The price is right, (basically cost plus shipping), so you cannot go wrong here for a limited run design in three colors on a quality cotton t-shirt. Shirts will be sent out in cardboard boxes and I may throw in a couple stickers there as well.UPDATE: Thanks for the awesome response so far! I am out of size Small and XL now. Plenty of Mediums, and 4 XXL's as of 7:00am.

 I have some other hardware that I will be putting on the page later on this Spring/early Summer. It is low priority on the "To Do List", but eventually there will be some cool stuff popping up there. This would be all bicycle related, of course. Things like frame/forks, maybe a wheel set, or other parts. Stay tuned.....

 Almanzo Weekend:

My son and I will be spending tomorrow up at Cherry Grove, Minnesota to help support the Almanzo 100 with RidingGravel.com. We should be dodging rain drops, by the sounds of it, so there maybe will not be the throngs of riders that we saw last year. Hard to say. It's been my experience that when you have a free to enter event with a bad weather forecast it tends to put a damper on turn out. 

But regardless, we will have fun. I'm not sure exactly what Ben has planned, he just wants me to show up and I'm sure he will have everything in order. I do know we have a RidingGravel.com banner, the signs from last year, and we will be in a Surly Brewing pop up tent. Same location as shown here in the image, so it shouldn't be too tough to find us. You should be going right by us on the road and we will be on your left side, if you are planning on riding this event. 

And if you are riding, and worried about the weather, well, just go and ride. Any day out riding is better than not riding. Have fun, and enjoy the gravelly good times. I hope to see some of you up there, and if you are riding, or just hanging out, please stop by and say hello. 

I'll have a report on Monday, so stay tuned.  


I will be back grinding gravel in Kansas' Flint Hills again soon
The Next Big Ride:

After the Almanzo support weekend I will be dialing in my rig that I will be taking to Kansas to ride the Flint Hills with. As of now I have no reason not to be doing that ride on anything but my Gen I Fargo, but that could change in a couple of weeks! 

I have a route plan in mind, and I probably will be doing a similar ride as I did last year when I was down there. I'll have to start checking the weather and looking at maps here so I have a better idea of where I will be going before I get down there. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing some of the same stuff I saw last year again. It was good and I am sure I will have to include at least a few things from last year's ride. Well, depending on the wind! I should probably plan an alternative route just in case of contrary winds.

 Okay, that's a wrap. Try to get out and ride, and if you are doing the Almanzo, good luck!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review Of Parts Past: Wilderness Trail Bikes Vulpine Tires

Today we are going to take a look at something you cannot get anymore. Parts and pieces that graced our rides in days past that were noted for some special characteristic, either good or bad, will be featured in this recurring theme from time to time here. I call it "Review Of Parts Past", but that will get shortened to "ROPP", so there! Today's featured part is the WTB Vulpine 29"er Tire.  

My Vulpines are still rolling, but are showing their age!
This review is for a tire called the Vulpine. I never knew what that word meant, actually, until just recently. I always figured that it had something to do with a mystical animal, but as it turns out, it has to do with foxes. I don't know, but whomever designed this tire was crazy like a fox. They didn't know it then, but it is a perfect tire for gravel riding on a 29"er or a drop bar bike that can take a 2.1"er, like a Fargo.

I received the set I am still riding on as test tires for Twenty Nine Inches back probably almost ten years ago. I had several tires from WTB to test back then. The Stout, some other all around trail tire I cannot recall the name of, and these XC racing treads. None of the three are still in production, but this tire, The Vulpine, deserves to be.

Oh, I've told WTB. Believe me, they know all about how I feel about this tire. I have said something to them every year for years. But you might wonder, "why", and I am here to tell you! So, let's get into why these tires are so good for gravel riding and why WTB should be making this tire again.

A very "Terrene Elwood" looking affair, but there is more to this tire than meets the eye.
Somehow or another, the designer of the Vulpine, (I assume it was Mark Slate, as he does most of the WTB tires, if not all of them), hit the jackpot for gravel riders when he made up this design. A fast, minimalist tread in the center with graduating outer knobs from shallow to deeper. Ostensibly this was done for straight line speed and cornering grip, but the gravel acts differently than dirt. In gravel, those gradually taller side knobs give the tire a lateral stability in the loose stuff, and help propel you forward in peanut butter mud and loose, sandier gravel. But there is one more, odd, unique characteristic that the Vulpine has which makes it a standout gravel tire.

The casing is kind of flattish in the middle and then falls away sharply where the bigger tread blocks take over. This made the Vulpine corner oddly on dirt, but on gravel, where high lean angles are rare, it does a great job of keeping the fast part of the tread floating up and over the loose stuff and that contact patch is narrower. More like a 40mm tire.

The shallow tread in the middle is just enough for finer, gritty gravel or fine dirt. But it never slows you down. The casing wasn't fantastic, but it was decent enough. The Vulpine damped vibrations in an average way. Nothing spectacular there. The weight was in the ball park, but I don't have a current figure to share on that. One nit- It it was never offered in a tubeless ready version.

The Pofahl has had these tires on it pretty much since day one.

If I Could Change Anything: If the Vulpine were to come back again, I'd obviously want it to be offered in WTB's excellent TCS tubeless ready version with a 120TPI casing in their "TCS Light Casing" technology. Then I would probably tweak those side knobs a bit to optimize them further for gravel. Finally, I'd offer three sizes: 700 X 40, 29" X 2.1", and in WTB's "Road Plus" 650B X 47mm width.

Some might say this tire and the Riddler are almost the same deal, and while that is a fair point, the Vulpine has that unique side treads and the way that the casing is shaped is cool for speedy travel. That may not translate to a 40mm tire though. Too narrow a casing, perhaps.

That's my take on the Vulpine. A great tire for something it was never thought to be designed for in the beginning. I'll have my Vulpines till they are in tatters, which won't be long now! Hopefully I'll find something to work on the Pofahl before long.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mineral Design Mini Bar Tool

Mineral Design's Mini Bar multi-tool
If you are a bike nerd like myself, you probably have a bunch of multi-tools. You know, those bundles of Allen wrenches, screw drivers, and what not all in one package. Most fold out each individual tool like a knife blade in a Swiss Army knife. There are some other types I've seen around as well. Each have their own pitfalls and most are not easy, comfortable, or fun to use, but this one I got in for review on RidingGravel.com is a different animal. You can read my review of it here.

I had already posted the review and was doing a test ride around my local test track when I had to stop to adjust my Avid BB-7 mechanical disc brake. If you have ever had a set of these, you know that the caliper can migrate on the concave and convex washers with time. I figured that was what had happened. Well, I busted out the Mineral Design Mini Bar and discovered something kind of neat.

To make the adjustment correctly you need a T-25 Torx and a 5mm Allen wrench. Generally with a multi-tool you have to refold and unfold the tool every time you want to switch tools. That seems to be a given with most do-it-all wrench kits.
Two tool bits at the same time? Nice!
But because the Mini Bar has three sockets where you can place bits, I can have both the T-25 and 5mm out and usable at the same time. I just have to flip the wrench around. Simple! Plus, with the strong, neodymium magnets holding the bits in place, I do not have to worry about the bits falling out when I am using one end or the other of the tool.

So, the adjustment went without a hitch, and was no more difficult than it would have been at the shop. The tool is really nice and compact too, so you can store it easily enough in a small bag, or throw it in your pocket if you are wrenching on bikes at home and doing test rides, etc. Maybe I'm an oddball in that way. I do that kind of thing a lot and am always wanting for a wrench. Your mileage may vary.

I may end up getting a few of these tools because they work so well and are easy to carry. There are not many multi-tools I can say that about. I was also thinking that since the bits seem to use the universal, Allen type base, you probably could find replacements, in case you did lose one or two bits, rather easily. But the bottom line for me is that this tool makes working on my bike out in the Styx easier and more effective. Leverage? Easy. Access to bolts and fittings? Much better than with most multi-tools. Ease of use? Top of its class.

133 grams of high functioning "fix it".
That's a neodymium magnet down there. It holds the tool bits quite securely.
Anyway, I use a lot of tools and this one impresses me. If you are curious, you can check out this and some other stuff at http://www.mineralbikes.com

NOTE: Mineral Design sent over the Mini Bar for test and review to RidingGravel.com at no charge for test and review. I was not bribed nor paid for this post and I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Dropped Ball

Specilized Command Post Blacklite- circa 2012
Back in about 2010 when I was still writing for Twenty Nine Inches, there was this thing coming around called a "dropper post". Now I have been around long enough to know what that was all about. It was an updated idea from the early days of modern mountain biking. Back then it was a fancy, sprung clamp affair called a Breeze and Angell Hite Rite. The idea was to get that saddle out of the way for descents. Of course, most early mountain bikes did not have very much exposed seat post, so the idea never really benefited riders like it does today. In my opinion, every serious off road rider should strongly consider having a dropper post. There is only one thing holding me back from saying a dropper post is essential for mountain biking......

That is because most of them are flawed in some serious way. 

First of all, one has to realize that the contact points of a bicycle really need to feel and actually be solid connections. Having unintentional  movement in the grips, saddle, or pedals will not impart a very high level of confidence. Something necessary for good mountain biking experiences, in my opinion. The thing is, almost all dropper post reviews mention that the saddle has some lateral movement. That's unacceptable.

Then there is the higher degree of maintenance involved in owning one of these devices. If you've ever noticed the backside of your seat post after a dirty ride, you will see lots of grit, or mud, or grime, or all three, splattered on that seat post. That stuff plays hell with seals and surfaces that are supposed to be smooth and slippery, like a dropper post's sliding parts. That dirt and mud causes sliding parts to not slide as well, and that's a problem many dropper posts end up having. This ends up causing lots of money to be spent on maintenance, not to mention down time while the post gets serviced.

It doesn't go super-droop, but that Command Post Blacklite still works good.
 Then there is the cost of entry. Many dropper posts are in the $400-$600 dollar range and you can get a halfway decent suspension fork for that money that will easily outlast most any dropper post in terms of longevity between necessary service times. Something seems weird here, but again, a seat post isn't as easy to design as it sounds. There are a lot of forces and some serious engineering is necessary to work around those forces at play here.

Some dropper posts have overcome many of the pitfalls that are bringing down the others which don't seem to be able to perform very long without play in the saddle or that need constant maintenance. However; those posts seem to be the ones that use a simpler, mechanical style design, and these don't appeal to all mountain bikers due to their inherent limitations.

The thing I see is that it is 2017 now. I mean, these things have been around a while and yet they are still really pricey and fraught with issues that cause me to hold off on getting one again. It feels like the dropper post manufacturers have actually dropped the ball instead of good product. It seems like we have sub-par choices instead of dropper posts that have value for the buck spent and work for a reasonably long time without maintenance. I feel that by now the issue of play in the saddle should have been put to bed. I think that maintenance issues need to be addressed so that these posts last longer between service intervals, and finally, we should be ditching the cables altogether that operate these things. I mean, we have Di2, E-tap, and whatnot, why can't we have a reliable, wireless controlled dropper post? (Yes, Magura, but they are the only players as of now)

Dropper posts are probably one of the best innovations in mountain biking in a long time. It is high time that the component be brought up to speed and then it will become an essential item for all of mountain biking.

Heading To The Almanzo

That's Ben displaying the new RidingGravel.com banner we will have up at Cherry Grove.
Last year through a series of bizarre circumstances I ended up in Cherry Grove, Minnesota on a chilly, super windy day, cheering on riders in the annual Almanzo 100 and Royal 165 events. I took my son with me, and he had a blast. It was a great day, albeit totally unexpected on my end.

Now it is 2017 and RidingGravel.com is committed to supporting the Cherry Grove checkpoint for the Almanzo 100 again. Last year we had minimal "presence" in terms of our name being out there, so if you didn't catch that it was Riding Gravel doing that checkpoint, I totally understand. It was a last minute effort which we were not 100% prepared for, but in terms of what counted to the riders, we did a good job by all accounts.

So, this year we have a banner, and we have those two road signs we had last year, so look for us if you are in the event. We will try to have a good time, provide drinks and snacks like last year, and generally be supportive of the efforts of you, the riders. Stop by and say "hi", if you'd like, or ride by and give us a wave and a smile, if you care to.

We look forward to seeing you, if you are going.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Geezer Ride '17: Ride Reporet

The Geezer Ride for the Spring went off without a hitch, (well, there was one flat tire!), and was well received. We had nine participants with one coming from as far away as Little Rock Arkansas! So, without any further adieu, here then is a short tale of the day with some images....

Six miles to the start
The Geezer Ride started at Prairie Grove Park, where the GTDRI started last year. Many locals might know this park better by its old name, "Dinosaur Park" because back in the day there was a large cement statue of a brontosaurus there.

That park is about six miles from the house, so my Geezer Ride started at 11:00am to give me the time to cover those six miles with time afterward to sit a bit before the planned noon time start. I need to be a good host and all!

I took a nice, easy pace getting there on the Pofahl single speed. I was geared 37T X 18T so it cruises okay on the flats. The day was perfect. Even the wind, which was stiff at probably 20mph out in the country, was from the "mostlyWest", maybe a bit from the Northwest, so going into that to begin with on fairly flat roads would be nicer. The only way it could have been better was if it would have been a Southwest wind. Oh well! At least it was not humid at all and the air temperature was climbing to a nice and comfortable 80°F for the bulk of the ride time.

There were few folks already at the park when I pulled in and we had more arriving. To start out with, there were eight of us: Ken from Pella, Shannon from Pella, Martin from Williamsburg, Aaron from Little Rock, Arkansas, Josh from Burlington, Ross from Cedar Falls, Robert from Cedar Falls, and myself. Yes, there were 9 in the end, but not to start out with.

Shannon (L) and Ross. Bike Iowa represent!
Big sky, freshly turned soil in the fields, and freshly laid gravel met us early in to this ride
I said a few words and we were off. The ride started by going up the bike path to the West on Shaulis road. As we did, I spied a car with a fancy looking rig on the back. Perhaps a Fargo? Hmm....... Maybe someone was late? Oh well..... We were off and running down Aker Road before we knew who it might be.

As I related in my post for the recon of this route last weekend, there was a lot of fresh gravel, and that was also the case yet for this ride. Headwinds and fresh gravel! Oh yeah! Everyone seemed to be ignoring that though, given the amount of chatter I was hearing from those in attendance. The route took us down Holmes Road eventually and we entered Hudson on the pavement from the West where a driver gave us the "angry throttle" as they passed us and went speeding off into the distance. Whatever!

Old Glory flying in the wind on Holmes Road
(L-R) Robert, Josh, and Shannon heading Southwest on Eldora Road where we picked up #9 and a flat tire.
There was anticipation amongst the riders for our "mid-ride" stop at the Broad Street Brewery in Reinbeck, Iowa. I was a bit concerned that our pace was going to deliver us there too early for the brewery's opening time of 2:00pm. Those concerns all went out the window due to a couple of events which occurred just Southwest of Hudson on Eldora Road.

The first of those was a phone call from my wife. All the riders respectfully stopped as I took the call which was about meeting some friends after the ride. So, with that small interruption out of the way, I figured we wouldn't have to wait so long now for the brewery to open. However; as we were sitting there, someone pointed out that there was a bicyclist coming up the road. I strained my old eyes to see up the road and discerned a figure riding a bicycle which resembled the one I saw on the back of the vehicle just after the ride's start. Sure enough, it was Ray from Des Moines, who had indicated that he had intentions of making the ride. He was indeed on a Fargo, but a new one with the 27.5" X 3" tires and nice carbon Whiskey rims. Pretty blingy. So, since Ray was out of breath from time-trialing it to catch us, we delayed just a bit more to allow him to recover.

Ross holding the stone "tooth" that punctured his tire. Image taken at the Broad Street Brewery
 We no sooner got going again, had just crossed into Grundy County and over the Black Hawk Creek bridge, when someone behind called out "Flat tire!". So, I pulled over and as I looked back, there was a lone figure on the bridge. It turned out to be Ross, and he punctured on a sharp shard of limestone that looked like a tooth. Several of the guys joined Ross on the bridge deck while I waited ahead with the remainder of the group. This delay certainly would put us in to Reinbeck well after 2:00pm, so now there was no more concern at all about getting there too early.

After Ross got his Ogre back up and running we took off and then headed South on V Avenue toward Reinbeck. The final approach was on the Pioneer Trail in to town. Robert and Martin missed the turn, and since they were so far ahead, I couldn't yell at them to stop and go left. Instead, they reached HWY 175 and went in to town that way. As we rounded the corner on Main Street to Broad Street we saw something that we all found surprising and rather pleasant.

There was a barbecue competition going on in front of the Broad Street Brewery complete with cask beer on tap.
We saw several pop up tents and smokers going full steam. There were lots of people milling about, (considering this was a rural town in Iowa, it was a lot of people), and there were already lines of motorcycles and bikes parked along the street. The Cedar Vallet Cyclists road riders were there already in deep in to their cups of beer, lounging in the bright afternoon Sun.

Our little group integrated in with no issues and we had a really nice time there. Extraction was going to be difficult, as our group was enjoying the beers on hand and the food which was completely unexpected. I couldn't have scripted a better mid-ride stop, and it was totally all by chance that we had as much fun as we did. That's why you have to come to these rides. You never know what might happen along the way!

Eventually we peeled ourselves slowly from the bar seats and booths, remounted our bicycles, and slowly made the left turn on to Main Street leaving all the frivolity behind.

Reaching the turn to start heading East and then eventually back North again.
The Sun was heating things up by now and the wind had not relented, but now seemed to have a Southwest component to it, which kept coming around so that by the time we finished it was a quartering tailwind. Again, I could not have asked for better conditions. But first, we all had to navigate the three mile stretch of Level B Road on 110th in Tama County.

At the start of our Eastward trek on 110th's three mile stretch of Level B Road. 
The Level B stretch went by without incident and then it was North up P Avenue, eventually back in to Black Hawk County where the road becomes Lincoln Road. It was getting on into the late afternoon by now and I was feeling tired, pushing my single speed gear up one roller and then another. Apparently Aaron was feeling that as well, since at a stop to cross a county road he rolled up to tell us he was done and was going to slow roll it back to wherever it was he was staying at for the weekend.He had a cell phone, so I figured that he would be okay. We bade him farewell as the remaining eight of us headed back up North.

Ray, (L) and Ross looking up the road for our errant three riders to come back and tackle Petrie Road. (behind them)
Eventually we reached Holmes Road and Robert, Martin, and Josh were on a "breakaway" which ended up leading them past the somewhat obscured and unmarked entrance to Petrie Rd. That was where they should have turned right, but they all rolled right on past. The rest of us stopped to wait, and wait..........and wait! Finally Robert appeared and a bit later after that Martin and Josh came back to us. Then we tackled Petrie Road.

Eventually the "Bonus Miles" club members came back to us.
Petrie Road proved to be challenging. It almost always is. I tell folks it has "a little bit of everything" when it comes to Level B Roads, all packed in to a mile. This is pretty much the only through Level B road in the county, that is not a dead end, so that it has such variety is a nice bonus.

Then it was a few easy miles back to the cars where my wife was to pick me up and whisk me off to a friend's birthday party and a long night of conversation. The Geezer Ride was a success, everybody seemed pleased, and I was encouraged by the turnout. We'll do this again, sometime. Next Fall will be a different route, maybe somewhere else, we'll see.......

Thanks to all who came out to ride. I had a great time with you all!