Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: More On The Black Mountain Cycles Sponsorship

Purveyor of fine steel framed bicycles and more.
A while back I announced that Black Mountain Cycles was going to sponsor Trans Iowa v14 this year by offering a frame and fork to the rider who puts in "The Grittiest Ride". (Must be in TIv14 to be eligible)

I made my social media and website posts, updated the T.I.v14 site's sidebar where I highlight the current version's sponsors, and went about my business. But low and behold, unbeknownst to me, Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles went and posted this on his blog. That was uncommonly nice of him to say those things, but more interestingly, it gives us some insight as to why sponsorships should happen- be they for an event like Trans Iowa or for an athlete.

Mike said that he hears a lot of people say that they first heard about Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frames from this source. Ya know, I have had several folks tell me that as well. So, that motivated this sponsorship. I certainly didn't seek this, but I am very grateful for it. 

Secondly, Mike really did a great job of explaining "The Grittiest Ride" and how the T.I.v14 volunteers and I will be judging for this prize, so please check that out in his post, linked above. And finally, I want to personally thank Mike and Black Mountain Cycles here for sponsoring T.I.v14. It is an honor to have such a great sponsor for this event. If you feel led, you can send Mike a word thanks as well by sending an e-mail via Black Mountain Cycles contact page here. Or if you have a question about any of his frames/forks, you can use the same link there.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

We Always Knew You Would Come Back Again!

The rebooted Pugsley. Image pinched from Surly Bikes Blog
Background: It was sometime in the mid-2000's. My bossman took me to Frostbike, (back when it was relevant) and we rounded the corner to the view of QBP's front door, There it was. I could see it as plain as day from a city block away. A purple steel frame with these enormous, cartoonish skinwall tires parked in the snow bank just outside Q's front doors. I busted out laughing. My bossman wondered at this and I pointed at this bike with the gargantuan tires stuffed in it. Of course, it was Dave Gray's prototype Pugsley with skinwall Endomorph 26 X 3.8" tires.

Fast forward about five years. QBP announces via Salsa Cycles that fat bikes will be available as complete rigs in a box for the first time. Surly quickly follows suit with a complete Pugsley offering. Fat bikes were hitting the trails and unridden paths all over. Stock was preciously slim and the bikes and accessories specific to fat bikes were hard to get. Technology raced ahead leaving old standards in the dust. Then everyone and their brother had fat bikes by 2015. The "bubble burst" and even the poor, barely changed Pugs with its 135OD spaced frame was being "closed out". Surly introduced the Wednesday, but despite all appearances to the contrary, Surly said that the dear old Pugs would someday come back, albeit in a new form.

Well folks, the day has come. Pugsley 2.0 has arrived. Some things have indeed changed, and some things haven't, but the basic premise of the bike remains- the swappable front to rear wheels and back country, expedition intentions of the original Pugs are still here with version 2.0.

Hey Doode! I think yer fork is bent! Image pinched from Surly Bikes Blog
The magic lies in the fact that anyone with two rear hubs, a bunch of spare parts, and the ability to lace up some special wheels and that can buy a special crank set can still put together their own fat bike. Or you can buy a complete Pugs 2.0. Either way, the focus is still on redundancy, versatility, and capability with a new dash of fat tire clearances.

You can read up on all the changes here on Surly's post on this bike. I won't delve into all that nitty gritty here, but I wanted to talk about why this bike appeals to my mind.

First off, Surly doesn't necessarily buy into the term "fat bike", and now they feel "Omni-terra" is a bad  description too. (The Pugs is now part of the "Dirt Touring" category.........yeah, that'll work! )  Although, they liberally sprinkled the description for this bike with the term "fat bike", so maybe they are just foolin' with us. Dunno.....

And frankly, I don't care, and probably neither do you! Anyway..... The whole "bombproof" survive-the-apocalypse nature of the Pugsley is pretty cool. The idea with the offset "bend" in the frame allows the wheels to be dished in such a way that the cassette is pushed outward enough that the chain can clear a big fatty-fat tire and still be using all 11 speeds back there. The offset also helps you use standard 135mmOD or through axle 142OD hubs, which are a dime a dozen, not special, and easily sourced the world over. The front fork takes the same set up, only if you are smart, you lace up your single speed hub there and put a cog on it. If/when you blow up your free hub body, or rip off your derailleur, you can bail yourself out by swapping wheels, shortening your chain, and using the track end tips on the rear to tension the chain all proper-like. Then you pedal home, not walk. Single speed, yes, but mobile!

Surly also did something long necessary to the Pugs- they finally tweaked the geometry. Thankfully they did not make another trail bike with fat tires. (Yawn!) They actually made an expedition worthy geometry which I think has been overlooked by almost every fat bike design since 2015. The head angle was only slackened by a degree, so front loading the bike won't be adversely affected. The rear chain stays were lengthened by a whopping 12mm. This gives your heels clearance with panniers, but it also gives a fat bike more stability in looser terrain. It helps keep the rear tire from "punching through" delicate top crust on snow as well. I think longer wheel based fat bikes are better "trail busters" too.

Previously limited to maybe a 4.0"er on 80mm rims, the new Pugs can handle 4.8"s!
Another sore spot for the old Pugs, and honestly, this is why I never got one, was that those older Pugs were limited to a 4.0" tire, and for this big guy, that ain't gonna cut it! I need float and I need float now! Ha!

Well, Surly must have thought similarly because the bike can easily handle 4.3" Ednas on 80mm rims and with a bit of gear tweakage and axle placement, along with a proper fork, the bike could run 4.8"ers if you so wanted, on 80mm rims. That's wheel versatility, and that is something I could live with.

Of course you get rack mounts, Three-pack bosses, and full run cable housings. Front derailleurs are a possibility with skinnier tires, maybe with 4.0" fat tires? Not sure Ednas would clear, Surly isn't 100% clear there as yet. But no matter, the point is versatility is built in and expected to be made use of.

In fact, 29+, 27.5 fat, 27.5+ and obviously 26 fat should all be possibilities with this new frame. (Note- 29+ has been confirmed as a fit by Surly.) I like that, as one bike with many wheel sets can be a thing that might be useful to me. Yes, I said, "to me", as I am seriously considering this rig as my Snow Dog replacement bike now.

I was thinking about a Wednesday frame/fork and swapping over parts off the Snow Dog, but now I think the plan is to let my son ride the Snow Dog because he is quickly outgrowing his newest fat bike, which will end up becoming Mrs. Guitar Ted's after he's done with it. I'll talk more about this later.....

Interestingly the new Pugs 2.0 is being ridden in the Arrowhead 135 now, so we should get a read on how it does with that soon. Until then, you can check out this brief report on here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Registration Weekend

A look at the ice jam on Black Hawk Creek from Falls Avenue Friday
Last week we lost all of our snow and we are back to "Brown Season" again. So, since the weather had warmed up I decided that Saturday would be my first foray of 2018 out on the gravel roads.

My only concern was that maybe it might be a bit mushy, but I have fenders on the Orange Crush, so no worries. I would just take that bike out. By the way, Planet Bike Cascadia ALX fenders are awesome.

But before I was to get out there and do some gravel riding I wanted to get registered for Gravel Worlds. I almost forgot about doing that too! It's kind of ironic, at least to me, that a fine event like Gravel Worlds, which has a killer vibe, a Friday get together with beer at a bike shop, and in all likelihood a tougher course than the DK200, doesn't sell out pronto like the DK200 did when they had online registration. I guess that Gravel Worlds isn't a "bucket list" event and doesn't get the media publishing spotlight like the DK200 does, or maybe it would be that way.

On second thought, I'm glad it is the way it is........anyway.

I got into the event, that's the main thing. So mid-August I'll be driving back down to Lincoln to get my gravel on again. Hopefully I learned the lesson from last year and I utilize that knowledge to at least avoid the issues I had which prevented me from finishing. If my guts actually functioned the way they were supposed to last year I know I could have finished. Oh well.......

Then I registered for another event. Same area as Gravel Worlds, just a couple months  (almost) earlier. This one is called the Solstice 100. I'm pretty stoked to try out this second running of that event. I know....... I wasn't going to load up the calendar, but I couldn't help myself! So sue me...... Maybe I can talk my buddy MG into doing that one. It starts in his home town of Malcom, Nebraska, after all.

No worries about mushy gravel out here! Hard, fast, and dry was the order of the day.
Then after lunch time I headed out for a little gravel action. The wind was out of the Southwest, so I headed South to my usual routes. I wasn't going to go very far because I didn't know how good of shape I might be in after coming back from the flu a couple of weeks ago. The wind wasn't supposed to be very strong, but, of course, the weatherman was wrong! 

I managed to punch out a little more than two hours of work Saturday. A good start to the base miles.
 The wind was tough, but I have to get used to it. I managed some good efforts, but my main goal was to just roll. I wasn't pushing real hard now since I need to get a base under me and have some decent fitness before I go nuts and put myself through the wringer. Miles. Miles and more miles. That's what I need to do now.

I'm not sure how many chances I'll get through February. The weatherman is saying it is going to revert back to cold and we are supposed to get a lot of snow throughout the month. February is typically our snowiest month in Iowa, but the way it has been going this year?

I'll be surprised if we get a whole lot of the white stuff. We'll see.......

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Touring Series: Introduction

A Guitar Ted Productions series

In 1994, I was only about a year into my career as a mechanic/cyclist, at least in earnest. While I had been an off-road cyclist since 1989, and while I had been a fan of cycling, and maybe more serious about cycling than many, I was far from being "good" at anything on two wheels yet. I knew very little about cycling techniques and road riding was absolutely alien to me. I had taken a mechanics class, and my year of wrenching had taught me loads, but I was far from being "accomplished" at the mechanics and definitely far from an accomplished cyclist as I could be.

Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned last week, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

Following will be the first bit of this story. I suspect this series, which will appear on Sundays, will take just about the better part of this year to get out there. Thanks for reading! Now, on with the story.........

Late one evening, I do not recall exactly when, Troy was longing for a vacation. A much needed respite from the daily grind of the bike shop at which he and I were employed. This vacation, ironically, must include cycling. This was Troy's only stipulation. A vacation mounted on a two wheeled steel horse off to anywhere. Wind in your face, freedom from daily drudgery.

The easy solution was RAGBRAI. Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, that's what it stands for, you know. A week long extravaganza spanning the state from West to East taking in a great number of small villages and towns along the way. Its reputation is well known nationwide. Drinking and dancing along the way. A veritable bacchanalian bike ride for the behaviourally challenged. This is; however, NOT Troy's idea of a bicycle vacation.

Troy was on RAGBRAI once. Once. He did not relish the experience. Troy hated it then and I know he really hates it now. Not just because the weeks before RAGBRAI are insane at our bike shop. No, he also dislikes the attitude of people associated with it. It reminds me of the day a cyclist came into the bike shop and says," Don't you go on RAGBRAI?" To which Troy flatly replied, "No." Then this man retorts back with, "Well, do you race any other time of the year?"

This boiled Troy's blood. You see, Troy is an accomplished racer by all accounts. Therefore and here after, Troy has dubbed RAGBRAI as the "bike ride from which all cyclists are judged." I suppose that this sarcastic description is what I think as well.

Since RAGBRAI was now out of the question, Troy declared that this vacation must be something epic. A trip that would be understood by even the simplest of cycling fools as a great challenge. No beer sodden ride through Iowa pasture land for Troy! He must make a fully self supported effort. Full bagged and loaded type touring.

A worthy destination was needed. How about Canada? Could Canada be reached within a week? Some muddled late night computations were done in our minds. The answer? Hell yes! But with whom? Troy was not willing to go it alone.

I did not offer up myself as a companion, as I did not have the bike or the base miles to do such a thing. I instead offered up the name of Steve. I knew him as a touring nut and a RAGBRAI trooper. Troy was stoked and when he asked Steve a couple of days later he said "Yes"! The trip was on! 

Notes: Troy was a racer/ex-college student/bike mechanic I worked with at Advantage Cycles. For the locals- Troy also was the founder of the "Bike Tech" shop in Cedar Falls. "Steve" was/is a local school teacher, and ironically ended up becoming my son's Principal  at the elementary school level years after this tour. At the time of this tour Steve was a die-hard RAGBRAI fan and had just come off the '94 RAGBRAI.

Next week on "The Touring Series": I Had No Business Going- But I Did!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 4

We used to ride in the snow here in January......once....long ago!
Ten years ago here on the blog I was talking about feeling better and getting out for a ride in the snow. Not on a fat bike, of course. Not that you couldn't get one, but to get one you had to build it from scratch via Surly or have a custom fat bike made by one of a few builders making rigs for Iditarod riders in Alaska. Neither option was inexpensive.

The thing was, back then I figured I would only need a fat bike for what? Maybe two months? Then I would be back on my mountain bikes and forgetting those fat bikes for 10 months out of the year. I couldn't justify the thousands of dollars it would take to get something I thought I would use so little.

Of course, I hadn't ever ridden one nor had I considered uses outside the box of Winter riding in snow. Sand and mud are big deals here in the woods at times and a fat bike can traverse that sort of  terrain with ease. They also work as "just a mountain bike", and of course, many folks use them on gravel, so there ya go. I wasn't considering any of those options. Had that made sense to me in '07 or '08 I may have had a Pugs a long time ago.

But I was getting along on 29"ers better than I ever had with 26"ers. I used the widest rims and tires I could. I'm pretty sure those are WTB Stouts on some wider rims in that image there, probably 28mm rims. Later I ran 2.4" Ardents on 35mm Blunts and that was even better. It is why I feel that now a 29 inch by three inch tire on a 50mm rim would be the bees knees. But who knows? It doesn't really snow that much any more!

New frame, borrowed parts from another.
I also revealed a new rig I got near the end of 2007. An OS Bikes Blackbuck frame and fork was purchased from Mark Slate, who ran that venture but is better known as one of the pioneers of mtb and a tire designer extraordinaire at WTB.

I still have this frame and the steel fork that came with it. Here in its first iteration I did not use that fork, but the Bontrager Swicthblade I moved over from the On One Inbred. In fact, everything in the picture came off the Inbred.

This single speed is a real nice single track sled. I probably will never get rid of it. I haven't done a lot of riding on it the last several years, but in the beginning I spent a ton of time riding this bicycle. I used it most famously in my fork test for this blog and TNI where I used something like 8 or 9 different forks on it to see what they all did to the handling of the bike.

Mr. Slate apparently was fond most of all of the steel fork he deigned for this frame. It had a really short axle to crown measurement. Something like 425mm or close to that. (For reference, a typical 29"er suspension fork now is around 500mm or longer) Slate also used a 51mm offset. So with that fork and a typical 29"er tire the trail figure was around 52mm. (For reference a typical XC 29"er these days has about 90-ish millimeters of trail. You can check trail figures by plugging in the info here.)

Anyway, the result of the Blackbuck with its steel fork was nothing short of being like a razor sharp steering missile. You had better pay attention or the bike was going to cause you to crash! I could ride it, but the concentration necessary to do so, and do so fast, was draining. I ended up taking it off and using longer forks which were more forgiving. I still have that fork, of course, but I don't know when, if ever, I'd actually use it! Maybe for bike packing where you carry a weight on the front? Anyway.....

Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday News And Views

Stans carbon wheels or just the carbon rims- Available now.
Stan's Carbon Wheel Sets And Rims:

 Stan's announced new carbon Crest based and Arch based wheel sets and rims available for purchase earlier this week. The wheels feature all the usual wheel "blah-blah" and the Stan's BST bead socket technology, yada-yada.....

 The thing I realized when checking out this was that carbon rim prices are coming down.......finally. 

When I got some Enve rims over ten years ago now, (they were Epic  Edge rims then), the rims were $800.00 per rim. Since that time carbon rims from China came along at about half that price and the competition heated up. There were those Derby rims, then another smaller company I cannot recall, then other companies like Whiskey and Stan's started coming along with their stuff. All of this has driven down the cost where you can now get some great product at about half of what those Enve rims would have cost in today's money in some cases.

I think it is also a reflection of the competitive nature of this segment that more rim only offerings are coming. This Stan's rim is now available as a rim only, albeit somewhat reluctantly offered, judging from the response a Stan's rep gave on their Facebook page.

I still think these rims are astronomically priced when you consider aluminum rims are going for about a C note or a little more. I'd be willing to pay more for carbon, but not four to six times more money. Your mileage may vary........

Gravel Worlds Registration Opens Tomorrow!

Set your alarm clocks for 6:00am tomorrow, January 27th, and register for this awesome event. Gravel Worlds will happen August 18th and it has two options- the "full course" option is the 150 miler and the "Privateer" option is the 75 mile course. 

Registration will be held on which can be accessed via a link on the Gravel Worlds site. For your $80.00 shekels you get a commemorative t-shirt, and some other schwag. It's a very well run event with great people and a nice course. I plan on registering again. This event along with the Renegade Gent's race are two of my favorite events ever.

Solstice 100: If August doesn't work for you to ride Gravel Worlds, well maybe this event that happens in the same area would. Starting out of Malcom, Nebraska, (the General Store there is a must see), this event will be on June 23rd. Registration for this event is also tomorrow at 7:00am. Click here to get to the registration page.

I suspect this will be a very cool event since I heard really good reports about its inaugural running last year. Check it out. $45.00 ducats for a century of Nebraska gravelly goodness with a bunch of rad friends. (Because gravel grinders are your friends, you just may not know them yet!)

Silca Tattico pump- High tech heavy metal
High Tech Pump:

When Silca announced this I was...... Well, let's say I was a bit dismissive. I mean, a Bluetooth mini-pump? Really? Then I moved on. But then I was contacted by the rep for this brand and the rep had some sensible points about the pump.

So, let's say that you have had a bit of a puncture, maybe you lost a bit of sealant before the tire quit leaking, and now your tire is under presure, or softer than you'd prefer. Yeah, okay.....time to pump it back up, right? But to what? Most of us are not packing a gauge, and if we are, it isn't really all that accurate. Think about it- before the ride you were careful to set your tires up precisely. Are you going to tell me that no longer matters if you have to pump up your tire mid-ride?

Okay........I get it.

So here's the deal- The Silca Tattico pump has a battery, (CR2032 coin type) and it sends a Bluetooth signal to a free to download app on your smart phone. This will tell you with an accuracy of 2% or less what your psi is. That's better than many floor pump's accuracy, by the way. Okay, so that may be a valuable asset to many of us riding tubeless or that have to have tires set within a certain psi range which is narrow in scope, like say for fat bikes, or plus sized tires, which are notoriously sensitive to air pressure changes.

I showed the image of this pump on my scale because it is made from aluminum. All aluminum. No plastic parts here, dude! It has a heft to it and the parts seem pretty precisely made, much more so than most mini pumps.

There is a lot more to this, and I'll have a lot more to say about it after I review it for soon. So stay tuned. This isn't as silly a thing as I first thought, I'll say that much now.

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and get in some riding if you can!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

What's In A Name?

From the mountain to the smooth paved surfaces- a bike like this can cover a lot of ground.
The cycling industry is hell bent on discovering the "next thing" in cycling to make a living off of. Currently those niche ideas are e-mtb's and the gravel bike category. However; I have had the opinion and still do, that the cycling industry is actually doing itself more harm than good by calling these bikes for any road, "gravel bikes".

I've been saying that since 2012-13 or so and I even went as far as "crowd sourcing" an idea for a different name for these bikes which came up with inconclusive results.  Why? Because calling these bikes "gravel bikes" is like calling fat bikes "snow bikes". If you don't get snow, or would never consider riding on/in it, then you are going to instantly eliminate such a bike as a possibility for you. That's what happens when we say "gravel bike". It is limiting and unnecessarily puts people off the idea of owning, for all intents and purposes, what is probably the smartest bicycle they could buy.

So, what name should we use? (Here we go again!) Well, I thought long and hard about this and I came up with something. It has to be easy, not really exclusive, but inclusive, and maybe the less understood it is the better. This name follows a similar convention to "mountain bike" which is often abbreviated as "mtb", although it is possible that a lot of folks really don't think what those three letters actually mean.

So, my idea is to call these bikes "All Purpose Bikes" or APB's in short. They serve the wide and varied gulf between mountain and road racing. The anywhere, do almost anything" bike that can be a gravel road going rig, a commuter, a light touring rig, a CX bike in a pinch, can do light single track, and also keep up on the club ride or Gran Fondo ride. RAGBRAI? A perfect bike for that. Skinny tires fit, but this bike would be defined by an ability to swallow 35mm tires at a minimum and 45's max, or then it becomes something else.

Okay, I've put that out there, that's my suggestion. What's yours?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Wear And Tear

My hands feel about as worn and precise as that friction shifter some days.
First of all, thank you to everyone that sent along birthday good wishes yesterday. I appreciate that very much. I didn't do anything spectacular. I had to work and I had a band practice in the evening, so a regular day for me, really. I'll do something special with my family, and as far as a bicycle ride, this weekend, hopefully.

Anyway, this whole marking of time thing got me to thinking. I've been working with my hands since I was about 20 years old. That's nigh unto four decades, not quite, but close. That's a lot of wear and tear on the body. I think it really didn't ramp up until I got my first bike shop job in 1993, but ever since then, my hands have taken a beating. Especially for the five and a half years I was a car mechanic.

So, my digits pretty much hurt all the time now. Bicycle riding on gravel probably doesn't help things, but really, that isn't what bothers my hands at all. In fact, cycling seems to make things better the more I do it. The thing is, I am just wearing out. Plain and simple.

There was this show my kids used to watch on the Disney channel, or somewhere on cable, called "iCarly". there was one episode where this goofy character on the show had a language program that was trying to teach him how to speak Japanese which required him to wear a collar that shocked him if he pronounced a word incorrectly. When that happened the language program would say, "The pain helps you learn!". I think the pain I feel in my hands has really helped me learn a few things too.

Like how to use tools to your advantage. Leverage tricks, working with my left hand more, and using gloves more really has been a game changer. But that's not all. Even the work stand I use has to be handled in a way that eases the stress on the hands. Which reminds me of a great story about how to use a bicycle repair stand.

We get greenhorns in from time to time at the shop and it is comical how they try to use a bicycle repair stand. I try to gently nudge these people into seeing how the repair stand can make your life a lot easier. But there was one fellow that was stubborn. He was resistant to my suggestions that the Park repair stand could allow him to rotate the bicycle up so he wouldn't have to bend over double to work on a bottom bracket he was trying to repair. He claimed that since he was young, it was "good exercise". I told him to come back and tell me how that "good exercise"works out for him when he is 50 years old.

He didn't understand.

I figure someday the pain will help him learn!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Orbit #57

I may be old and battered, but I'm still kickin'! Image by A Jardon/G-Ted Productions
Completion of Orbit #57 happened today. That's right, today is that day. 

They say you are only as old as you feel. They say you are only as old as you act. I say I don't think about how old I am. Well, once in a while I do, but for the most part, I have to be reminded and then sometimes I am surprised at how old I am. I hope that doesn't change.....

That said, time marches on, and I have a limit to what is available to me. If you've been paying attention, around about the end of every year I get to thinking and say that I should be making changes in my life. For the most part, I have, and it has been good. But there are changes coming in lives close to me that are going to make changes (willing changes) on my part happen sooner than later. We must change or die. Even death is really just a change.... Better get used to change now.

Anyway, I think you'll notice some changes here soon, and those will be good all around. Stay tuned on that........

However; today is today. I wish you all the best. Thanks for reading, as always. Don't worry- I'll be celebrating today, and contemplating what Orbit #58 will bring to view. Till tomorrow......

Monday, January 22, 2018

Changing Times

Well, a week makes a big difference. One week ago we were just crawling out of the depths of a wicked cold snap and now we are flirting with 50°F and thunderstorms! Talk about "weather whiplash"!

Last week, I drove to work on Monday due to the below zero degree windchill and my just coming off being sick. Tuesday I didn't have to be to work till 10:00 am, so I took the long way into work on the still snowy trails. Granted, there was barely any snow, but there was still something to scrunch fat bike tires over.

Then the weather started getting warmer, and warmer. The Sun shone forth, and the snow retreated. Since there wasn't much snow to begin with, the trail conditions were pretty much toast after Wednesday. Then it was a watch to see if we might get lucky enough to get in on this storm we are having now and get snow. Well, you can see the radar for yourself. It's raining here.

But between then and now we had one, glorious, Sunny January Saturday, and I got out and had a three-fer: Two bike rides and a long walk. Yes, I made the most out of my one good day! 

On the way into work Tuesday last week.
Recycle by bicycle! A gloriously Sunny Saturday downtown along the river in Waterloo, Iowa.
I also got in some time on the Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush" testing out some mushy road.
So, Sunday went all dreary, misty, and then rainy. Despite the news of the big blizzard, we aren't even close to getting a whiff of the white stuff. The ground is bare in almost every sense, and the forecast for the rest of the month is bleak for snow lovers. Oh well! I can always try my luck on a local gravel road, as long as the winds aren't crazy and the temperatures hold up somewhat.

So, as of now it looks as though we are going into February here with zero snow and the prospects for any kind of "Winter" are pretty much washed up now. Sure- we could have four weeks of Winter yet, but all that would do now is make people mad. It's too late. Once you reach February with no snow you are thinking Spring, and it better come quick. Any additional jabs from Old Man Winter now are just going to put that off. It won't be anything but a sucker punch now.

That said, I'd take a few more weeks of decent snow and fat biking. The likelihood of that happening is pretty low now though! The times- they be a changing, and maybe now this is what our Winters will be like, more often than not.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Announcing The Touring Series

A Guitar Ted Productions series
I was researching the "Minus Ten" post for this weekend when I rolled across an entry for my "Touring Tuesdays" series which ran from 2008 through 2009 on Tuesdays on this blog. I read a few entries and was prompted by the memories to post on Twitter the following:

"In 1994 I went on a self-supported cycling tour with two other guys for a week on $200.00 and came home with money to spare. #crazyvalueforthedollar So glad I did that then"

That Tweet got more likes than usual, so I thought it might be interesting to bring the series back for 2018. Here are the reasons why:
  • The "Touring Tuesdays" posts ran ten years ago. Many of you weren't reading this blog then, so you likely missed that.
  • Touring/bikepacking is seeing a rise in popularity. This series is relevant to this new interest.
  • I get a chance to revisit this and add any afterthoughts. 
So, my thoughts are now that I will run this on Sundays for the rest of the year to celebrate the "Touring Tuesdays" posts and to add any additional thoughts. Speaking of "additional thoughts", I figured it may make sense to give you a read on where I was at as a cyclist in 1994. Yes......that was a lifetime ago. Things weren't so good for me then as a cyclist and life in general was very alien to what it is like now days. Let me try to paint a picture.

In 1994, I was only about a year into my career as a mechanic/cyclist, at least in earnest. While I had been an off-road cyclist since 1989, and while I had been a fan of cycling, and maybe more serious about cycling than many, I was far from being "good" at anything on two wheels yet. I knew very little about cycling techniques and road riding was absolutely alien to me. I had taken a mechanics class, and my year of wrenching had taught me loads, but I was far from being "accomplished" at the mechanics and definitely far from an accomplished cyclist as I could be.

Then there were the times. Of course, the internet existed, but no one was on it outside of college professors and government people. (Generally speaking) There were no cell phones one could carry around easily, they were still super rare, and coverage was still in the dark ages. Google maps, Garmin, and anything that could enable easy navigation simply did not exist for the common man. Much less a scruffy cyclist. Paper maps ruled, and you had to do a lot of decision making and hope you were right. You couldn't "google it". There was no real good way to get information on a route through the back roads and byways of America. If you went off the beaten path, you may as well be flying in space or sailing in uncharted waters. There really was no way to know what you'd find "out there". There were still public telephones. People still were decent on the highways as distracted driving wasn't an issue. Your worst fear was getting hit by a drunk driver. Imagine that now days.

Finally, there was no easy way to photograph things. You had a film based camera, and shots were precious. You didn't take shots on a whim, so images from this time are precious and rare commodities. There was no social media. When you were on the road touring you were totally unplugged from society. No Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook sharing with their immediate, comforting, and enabling feedback. Nope! If you had an issue, you were on yer own! If you had a beautiful sunset, only you had that memory. So, I will be adding reminders about how things were very different then, because it may be taken for granted by us now that things were around then that weren't, and when I wrote this in 1994 and 2008, there were a lot of things that needed explaining that I never dreamed would need explaining.

It was a different day and age, and next Sunday we'll get to experience the first slices of those days again. I plan on adding a bit of commentary to each post. Stay tuned.......

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 3

Nothing is new: A Campy Record OR cassette crankset.
Ten years ago on the blog I was yakking about 29"er stuff, as usual. One of the topics that came up was gearing. See, when 29"ers came around, everything was focused on 26" wheels. That meant that the gearing, optimized for almost two decades for that wheel size, was too high for 29"ers. The gearing ratios were about 10% off. So a typical early oo's 26"er might have a low gear set up at 22T X 32T. That wasn't low enough for many on 29"ers. Interestingly, the focus back then was not on ultra-range cassettes, as it is now, but on lowering the range of triple crank sets.

Triple ring crank sets, you remember those, right? Well, the idea was to go to a 20T/30T/42T triple set up with an 11-34T cassette. That prompted some ideas from myself back then and a memory. First off- did you know that Campagnolo once made off road groups? They did, and despite their clunky, funky beginnings, toward the end of their run they actually had some brilliant ideas. Their cantilever brakes were better than many on the market, and they had a cassette style crank that would influence Shimano and later on, SRAM. Not to mention the after market companies.

The Campy Record OR crank set is probably one of the rarest "unicorn" components in mtb history. I've never seen one, nor have I ever heard about anyone having a set. But be that as it may, the Record OR crank predated the "spiderless cranks" of the early 00's which Shimano made and the later ones by SRAM and all the aftermarket companies. The Campy crank had only a big ring bolted in the typical manner to a hidden arm type, five arm crankset, not unlike the road version of the time. However; the inner two rings did not bolt to the crank spider, nor to the big ring. These two rings, the middle and the granny, were held on to the crank by a lock ring, the rings having a splined interface, not unlike a cassette cog. Campy claimed gearing could quickly be customized for different XC courses simply by swapping "cassette" crank rings.

Unfortunately, the next year Campy pulled out of the off road marketplace, so we'll never know if their ideas were really worthy. However; Shimano didn't wait long to take this idea and tweak it. In the very late 90's, XTR came out with a big ring which the other two rings mounted to. The whole assembly then was held on by a lock ring arrangement, not unlike the Campy design, to the driveside crank arm. This was trickled down to the other levels and I actually have a version which is the Deore, square taper crank take on that design. Most of those were the Octalink design interface.

Trans Iowa v4 Recon: 10 below zero craziness!
I also gave a brief report on recon for Trans Iowa v4. Unfortunately a huge Winter storm came only days before our planned trip and we couldn't see a whole lot of the course. It was -12°F below and all I really recall from that recon was seeing some young Amish/Mennonite children playing in the snow with their bonnets and hats on, all bundled up against the cold weather.

That Winter storm really put a kink in our plans but it portended an even wetter Spring. With the Winter run-off combined with copious amounts of Spring rains, we saw a lot of flooding pre-Trans Iowa. This also ended up being the last Trans Iowa out of Decorah, and those wet days were another reason for the change in venue, although for a reason one might not expect. In fact, it didn't have a thing to do with Trans Iowa other than I was connected to that. I'll leave it at that for now as that tale will figure into a Minus Ten Review this Summer.

Anyway, we ended up doing another big recon in the Spring in my wife's SUV. Then I had to go out a few times by myself doing recon of other sections of that course. There is another great story coming up concerning that while I was driving my "Dirty Blue Box". Who out there remembers that car?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday News And Views

Basically new cranks and bottom brackets with their own spindle size.
SRAM Introduces DUB- A New Bottom Bracket & Crank: 

SRAM is introducing a new size spindle and inner diameter bearing system for mountain bikes and fat bikes called "DUB". (Did anyone warn SRAM that is only one letter away from "not very smart"?) Anyway.....

DON"T SAY IT IS A NEW STANDARD! They don't like that, so I won't say it is. ( You can- many are) The big deal here is what SRAM is claiming as a better stiffness, (retains a big spindle at 28.9mm) and better bearing life with the new bearings designed for this system. It fits any current Press Fit or BSA bottom bracket with the correct spindle length for fat or mountain bikes.

I really don't like SRAM's website. It isn't very easy to pull out technical information without digging a few layers into it, which I find frustrating, but that aside, I don't see any issues with this as long as it actually does have better bearing life than BB-30 systems and as long as it really does fit everything out there. (Most crank sets are adaptable to anything out there, by the way.) The DUB system goes across several levels of SRAM componentry on the mtb side so you'll likely see it available on lots of OE bikes in the future. Whether or not road will get this hasn't been revealed, but I cannot see why it would not happen at some point.

SON 12mm through axle dyno hub- Possibility for the new MCD build
Dreaming Of Generators:

A conversation via text messenger and a new series on about lights has rekindled my interest in getting a hub dyno. This now would be a dream for the upcoming MCD build from Black Mountain Cycles.  

Both of those things sparked an interest in trying this dyno hub thing out. I'm not 100% sure about it, but having lights always at the ready might just be a reason to do more night time gravel riding in the Summer- a thing I've missed doing. Generally speaking, getting the lights ready, mounted, and whatnot kind of sucks the fun out of spur of the moment thoughts of wandering around in the country at night. The way my life is structured now, moments must be seized or they slip away. I only get chances to do stuff like night gravel rides on a whim most times because I generally have to slip out alone.

But would I do that enough to make a nearly $400.00 hub, (not to mention spokes, rim, nipples, etc) worth it? Hmmm...... Not sure about that. So, this is what I say it is for now- a dream. The icing on the cake, if you will, and certainly an expendable part of the plan for an MCD frame/fork build.

Time To Check This Out:

The other day I had someone ask if I'd ever consider doing the 24hrs of Cumming, (keep the jokes to yerself, people, it is a real town's name in Iowa) and I said probably not because it always falls on my GTDRI date. Well, this year the GTDRI is going to be on July 28th.

Then I found out that the Cumming, Iowa gig is the following weekend which is August 4th. So, then I was texting with my friend, Sam, a fellow Renegade Gent's Race team mate, and he asked if I wanted to tag-team the event with him.

Hmm....... So, I talked it over with Mrs. Guitar Ted and Sam with his lady and it looks like I am in on this. So, yeah...... I said that I wasn't going to do many big competitions this year. The thing is, I am looking at this as just a big mileage day in big hills with maybe some rad gravel night riding thrown in for good measure. Basically, fun. If we do the whole gig and we evenly split the distance/turns/laps, then I figure that I would have to do about a buck-forty and given 24hrs and rests in between, that's doable. Weather can affect that, of course. But we all know that!

Bonus Link: New Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast on The State Of Gravel Cycling & More: CLICK HERE

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Two Off-Seasons

New tires for a gravel tire review. Temperature well below freezing. Hmm....
Since about 2007 I have experienced several things every Winter. There are three of these things which are pretty consistent in their appearance though. One would be an "off-season" of sorts from whatever my primary form of riding has been previous to Winter. Lately that has been an absence from the gravel roads. When things get windy, real air temperatures dip below 20°F, and the roads are frozen solid as rock with ice and/or snow, I am not going to be doing anything effective out there. Even survival is questionable many days.

The second thing which I hate, but has been a regular visitor every Winter for years, is that I get sick. Really sick. Every late December or early January. I get pretty tired of that one! Next Winter it would be really good if I got an off season from that! 

The third thing is my off season from reviewing. December's approach generally sets off alarms here at Guitar Ted Laboratories where I can have three or four things going on at once in terms of reviews. Marketing companies seem to like to send out review things which should be used in hotter weather in the late Fall and early Winter. I never have quite understood this, but for over a decade now that has been a notable occurrence.

So, I generally am scrambling every day to do something which can further me towards the end of a review by late November. Once in awhile I get bonus December riding, as I did in late 2015. However; I generally am shut down sometime early in December and everything gets put on hold then until later into Winter or early Spring. Meanwhile I am in limbo, waiting, wanting to clear the slate, but that first 40° day and thawing roads is a bit a ways down the road yet.

Waiting to ride out there again too weighs on my mind. Sickness puts off even the odd commute and fat biking I can actually have fun doing right now. This off-season stuff is for the birds. I'm not a fan, but then again, I probably need the rest. Time off makes the time I can ride mean more to me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Winter Views

It's white for now, but not for much longer.
Last week we lost all of our snow in the first warm up of the year. Then we got a nice little dusting on Sunday evening. Essentially about 3 inches of Arctic fluff, but at least it was something. However; Monday we had blinding winds and that really blew off a lot of that fluff so it only covers the ground really, and just barely at that.

But, it is what it is, so I decided that Monday it was just too brutal to ride with that wind and below zero morning temperatures. Plus, I was just coming off the flu. So Monday was a no-ride day. Tuesday things were set to be a bit different though.

I felt great, for one thing, and the temperature at my departure for work was a balmy 1°F above zero with a 15mph Northwest wind. Of course, I ride toward the Northwest to get to work. But I did it. I made it there with no issues. Once work was over, the plan was to take the long ride home.

I decided just to putter around a bit. The wind was the same, but now it was 8°F! WooHoo! Actually, all kidding aside, it was Sunny and the snow was perfect. Now we are supposed to start getting warmer and by Saturday it will be 40°F and.....buh-bye snow! A replay of last week, it would seem. Sunday coming up another storm is due. We'll see what that brings. So, anyway, yesterday was going to be the primo riding day. I took advantage.

Lower Hartman hadn't seen much traffic and was a pretty nice ride Tuesday
I ended up wandering down to Lower Hartman Reserve where bicycles are allowed and wandered around on trails there. I first hit up what I know as "John's Trail", although I am sure that the CVAST group has their own goofy name for it. Whatever. It's "John's Trail" when I ride it as he is the one that put it in. Not that anyone cares anymore about history or anything...... Bah! 

So, anyway, the trail was completely navigable, and I decided to poke around some more. There is a tiny bit of trail South of old Shirey Way, (another lost name to the younginz), and I decided to take it back toward the Hartman shelter on the paved bike trail. Along the way I noted movement, as I had a bit earlier when I flushed out four deer. But these weren't deer. It was an older man and a woman following him hiking in the same direction as I was traveling. Of course, I was going to overtake them eventually.

I got about 30 yards behind them, my tires scrunching and screeching on the dry, fluffy, super-cold snow. I was making enough noise I figured that they would easily hear my approach, but they made no indication as to the knowledge of my presence. I could hear their talking, I was that close, but they couldn't hear me? Weird. Well, having had enough encounters with hikers to know that there was no way I wasn't going to scare them half to death, I decided to pull up to a huge cottonwood and prop myself against it while they went on ahead.

They got a good bit ahead, and I soft pedaled along, but I was going to overtake them again, so I stopped alongside another tree to sit and wait until they exited the trail and crossed over the paved bicycle trail into Upper Hartman. Then I proceeded to go my way. No harm-no foul. I am certain these folks had no idea I was behind them. No need to frighten the poor souls, so I did what I did.

"S" stands for Shirey. The old sand and gravel company used to own all the Lower Hartman area once upon a time.
After that encounter I went off a circumnavigated that big backwater pond next to the Cedar. That was fun, and then I started my way back home. I ended up riding for an hour and a half. Pretty good for having been off the bike since last week with a bout of flu in between. I was pretty hungry when I got home but my daughter saved the day with some good chicken curry and rice.

This is going to be a wonky Winter. Saturday I think I am aiming for a gravel ride, the first I will have done in 2018. We'll see. This weather swings one way then the next so hard it is difficult to keep track of what to wear and when. One day I am wearing two layers, or three, then a couple of days later I am wearing one jacket and feeling hot. Depending on what happens Sunday I may or may not have more Winter Views coming. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Another Option

"Well, of course they did.", is what I thought several weeks ago when my buddy MG let on that he was in the "DKXL" , a 350 mile version of the event, the Dirty Kanza 200. A couple of months previous to that I had been contacted by the Dirty Kanza 200 event director/co-founder Jim Cummins with a question about how I set up cut offs for Trans Iowa. I also noted that he and a group of other riders did a huge "bikepacking" excursion through the Flint Hills about this same time. Hmm.....something is up here, methinks! 

So, when my friend MG let on about the DKXL I wasn't surprised. It makes sense that is what they would do, especially after the other DK events on gravel seem to be maxed out in terms of numbers for participation. When your aim is to diversify, provide new ways to satisfy demand, and "grow", this news fits the bill. When your sponsor says things like, "The DKXL is very exciting to us because it represents a continued a gravel event..", well you know that some goals were set that are making them happy too.

At least, that's how I read the press release. YMMV.

So, some folks have asked what I think, because I run Trans Iowa. Well, I don't really mind one way or the other, frankly. It's their gig, they can do what they think is right by them and their customers. As far as a ride goes, yeah. It's cool. It would be a great challenge. I'm not sure what the DK Promotions has in mind for 2019, when they say they are going to have this idea fine tuned and ready for the masses to engage in. I would hazard a guess that it will be more expensive than the 200 miler. I cannot imagine it wouldn't cost some serious money to get into. So any ideas of this being like, say, an Alexander type event, well, that probably doesn't fit the DK200's "MO" of the last seven years or so. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but I wouldn't bet on it.

So, fundamentally I think it would be a different event than the older style ultra-distance events, but that's just a guess. When MG does this, I'll hear about it, and we'll know more then, I am sure. But at any rate, I  wasn't surprised about this and no- I really don't have any strong feelings about their doing this one way or the other. I'll be interested to see what they make of it next year for sure.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party Report

Guitar Ted pontificating. Image by Izabel Stevenson
The Saturday evening gig at Doughy Joey's almost didn't happen. Both myself and NY Roll, who was also helping to put this on, were deathly ill on Friday. I was fighting the flu and NY Roll had food poisoning, (he thinks). At any rate, collective sighs of relief were had by both parties when on Saturday morning we both woke up feeling human again. Whew!

So, I puttered around getting stuff together most of the day as we had to head over to the venue at 4:30pm to set up. NY Roll was already there, so we started hauling stuff in from the car. Oh yeah......I said "we". I should mention that my 17 year old daughter decided to help out. Izabel took all the images for today's post, by the way.

Anyway, people started coming in almost as soon as we got there. Des Moines was represented, and a few locals were showing up. I wasn't expecting a huge crowd. I had told NY Roll that if we got 30 folks I would consider it a success. He was fully convinced we were going to see a lot of folks. So we made a friendly wager that there would be more than 50 or less. I took the "under". Well, I was sooooo wrong!! 

People started coming and for a while, there was a line of people waiting to sign in for the raffle for tires and a seat bag. It was crazy! I was busy yakking to folks and before I knew it, NY Roll said, "That was 50!", and there were still folks rolling in. I think we eventually had 76 show up. Amazing!

A full house! Five more people and we would have been making the Fire Marshall upset. Image by Izabel Stevenson
A lot of people stayed and hung out well after I was finished. This started at 6:00pm and this image was taken at about 9:30pm. Image by Izabel Stevenson
There was free Grain Belt beer and pizza for all. Image by Izabel Stevenson
So, we had folks from all over Iowa and a couple of guys stopped in from Michigan as well! I was totally blown away by the attendance. The crowd was attentive for the most part and I received a lot of great feedback from people that talked to me afterward.

A few event directors were in attendance so we had them speak on behalf of their events. The Iowa City Gravel event director was there as well as the guys from the first time "Three Bridges" event which is happening in June from Waverly. We also talked about getting another Geezer Ride going locally this Spring for the gravel rookies in the area and, of course, anyone else that just wants to come and have fun. Then I was approached by the guys from Cresco Bikes that want to do a route in their neck of the woods and host a Geezer Ride, so it looks like I'll be heading North at some point to help with/ride that event.

Lots of great connections were made and I am hopeful that the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area can come together and get a vibrant, fun, inclusive gravel community together and that we start seeing a lot more gravel travel in the area. It certainly won't hurt to have more people on bicycles having more fun.

Soooo.... The $64,000.00 question: Will there be another Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party? Based upon the feedback we have received already? That answer would be a "yes". Very positive feedback. So, I don't know what that will look like, but I assume that this time next year we can expect something akin to what we had, at least, and maybe more. However; this was financed out of pocket, so funding for something like this in the future is a big question too. Stay tuned on that front......

Thank Yous: NY Roll, (financing) Riding Gravel (personality, resources, schwag), Doughy Joey's (venue), WTB (tire giveaway) Lezyne (seat bag giveaway), Izabel Stevenson (assistance, photography) and everyone who came out that made this evening worthwhile in spades!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Grassroots Events, Sponsors, And Sanctioned Racing

A Guitar Ted Productions Editorial
The series I posted dubbed "The State Of The Gravel Scene" a while back spurred a lot of positive commentary. Mostly I get the feeling that many of you out there lament the potential loss of the more "grassroots", inclusive events that don't have the "uppity", cliquish feel that maybe your USAC criterium is often accused of having. (Note- It isn't necessarily my experience, because I don't race crits. But it is an accusation I hear a LOT about crits.)  I don't know if any of that matters, I just know that the "feel" a lot of events I go to has is what it is that people are attracted to.

Well, with that in mind I found a parallel instance where the "grassroots feel" is being threatened by change and a change motivated by the need to accommodate sponsors. This is something which I feel is kind of a subtle influence on events and promoters. Of course, having a great sponsor is a wonderful thing for a lot of reasons, but sometimes, perhaps, there are perceived obligations that, maybe, can influence where events go in their futures. Well, I think the following link will take you to an article that paints a good picture of what I am talking about. It is an example from motorsports, a sector of sports I follow, and has to do with an event specifically. It is called the "Chili Bowl" and is a dirt sprint car event in Oklahoma. Here is the article by Jeff Gluck which might help explain how sponsors become influential on the "feel" of an event.

The other thing I want to say here is that sponsors are not a bad thing. It's how promoters and events use those sponsors and cater to those sponsors that can be a reason things get beyond the grassroots level. I know of great events that have excellent sponsors and still retain that "feel". So it isn't like we have to eschew sponsorship totally and refuse to be "influenced" by the monetary or other tangible and intangible factors at play when you get a sponsor. It doesn't have to be the "you sold your soul to the devil" thing that some folks I've talked to and messaged with say that it is.

And, as I stated in my series- some people actually like events where sponsors have radically changed the feel of the event. That isn't crazy talk either. It is a real thing. Just look at the Dirty Kanza 200 as a prime example. They wouldn't be having that lottery they had Saturday for entries if people didn't actually like how that event has changed over the years. So, in the final analysis, grassroots events still exist and serve their purposes, but so do the slick, high end, "bucket list" experiences that many people want. Choice is good, so don't be a hater. Just support the events that you believe in. The rest will take care of itself.

Another point that I wanted to make was on sanctioned racing. This scares the hell out of a lot of the grassroots folks. Here's the thing- there are a lot of folks that believe points, categories, closed courses, and "proper race environments" have a place in competition. Some are saying gravel events should be offered to satisfy this segment of racing. Now, I am not one of those folks, but hey! If they want it, build it and they will come. As a matter of fact, it already exists in many places. Try the Iowa Spring Classic as a prime example. Those events have occurred for several years now and guess what? It hasn't affected grassroots gravel racing one iota. They both coexist in harmony. Again- Choice is good, so don't be a hater. Just support the events that you believe in.

I'm not big on all the categorizations and points and whatnot, but hey! It trips some folks triggers and why not let them have an event on gravel. Ultimately it will be something that flies or not.  Grassroots or "big, slickly produced event", doesn't matter if you just pay attention to what you like and let the rest go. Both ways have their place. I think it is a good instance of "Live and let live".

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 2

The first Gary Bar, offered in silver, has been long discontinued.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was gabbing about stuff still relevant for 2018. One of those things was (surprise!) the weather, which ironically mirrors what we've had here this week. Snow looked great, then there was a thaw, which ruined the snow, then fog, which froze, and a threat of ice or snow that would sit on ice and basically screw up Winter sports activities for the remainder of Winter. Yep! Checked all the boxes for what is happening here currently. Weird!

Then there was the mention of "rumors" and knowledge I had of products about to be revealed. Same. The situation this time is that I happen to know about two new series of gravel bikes that are going to be pretty significant. On one hand there will be a "price point" set of gravel bikes coming that I think will present a great value to the consumer who is looking to get a "serious" gravel rig but doesn't want to spend a lot of cash on one. The second will be an innovation which I have seen coming and will, upon its debut, be the best gravel bike you can buy, in my opinion. It will become the bar everyone else will shoot for in gravel bikes. Expensive? Yes. But there will be a range of models and there will be some more affordable ones in the range.

Then there was Trans Iowa. Well, of course that is the same, but the details were not. In 2008 we were looking at doing the second "big assed loop" version of Trans Iowa. I was hinting that it may only be 320-ish miles maximum, and that the route would be "awesome". It was notable that I mentioned that I had many folks asking me to let them volunteer. That's been an ever-present thing about TI ever since then. I never have had to push for volunteers, ever. That's incredible and it still is happening to this day. In fact I had a request this week. One last week, and I will get more, I am sure.

I'll forever be amazed, humbled, and grateful for the volunteers I get for Trans Iowa. There is just no way to thank those folks enough when I know that other events have a tough time even getting enough folks to run their events. I have to turn folks away every year! Amazing! Thank you, thank you, thank you, volunteers! You rock!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday News And Views

Paul Components Klamper brake. Now works with Campy. Or would that be "Kampy" now?
Paul Components Klamper Brake Now For Campy Levers:

Paul Components did what SRAM had over a decade to try, but never would- That is to make a high end Avid BB type brake. Well, as the saying goes, if ya snooze, ya lose! I still cannot believe that SRAM never did a better BB-7. Actually, SRAM downgraded the BB-7 over the years, going to a two piece caliper body, which is far inferior to the one piece caliper version. I know, I have examples of both in my fleet.

Anyway, where there is a hole, something is going to fill it. Paul Components filled that hole with the Klamper. Now they offer a special one that works with Campy levers. I suspect that this was, in part, driven by the NAHBS builders who probably pestered Paul to do a Campy compatible actuation lever for the Klamper. But however that is, it is cool to see an American small builder/manufacturer doing things like this.

I also get that Paul Component parts are insanely expensive. At $208.00 per caliper, it isn't going to be on many people's radar to have these on their bike. That said, if you'd rather avoid hydraulic Campy calipers and be able to score a high functioning, silver anodized caliper for your Potenza 11 speed disc bike, well, here ya go

Mike Varley's Black Mountain Cycles "MCD" prototype
 Black Mountain Cycles "MCD" Update:

You might remember that a while back I was gabbing about the new disc version of Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike. I bet you do remember, because I have it from Black Mountain Cycles' proprietor, Mike Varley, that many of you tell him you heard about the BMC rigs here. (Thanks for the mentions folks!) Anyway, here is some news on this new Monster Cross version dubbed the "MCD".

Mike has pulled the trigger on production, but don't get all up in his face just yet about a pre-order. He ain't takin' yer money just yet! (See his latest post here) However; when that day comes that he will take yer dollars, he will only ask for $695.00 of them. Just think- you could buy a MCD with four Paul Klamper Campy compatible brake calipers and get change! (Whatever that would be in parts!) But that probably wouldn't work. I doubt Mike would take exchanges like that!

But really, only $695.00? (!!!) That's incredible for a through axle frame and fork which will, if I am not mistaken, be an awesome gravel rig. I'll let you read Mike's post I linked above, but there are a few subtle changes and sizing is a bit differently described, but ultimately physically should feel the same as before. Kind of hard to wrap my mind around what size I'd take just now, but hey! I have some time to figure that all out.

So, yes. I am getting one of these and I will retire a couple of rigs once I get one. That doesn't look to be happening anytime real soon. That means parts acquisition mode shall be activated this Spring. I have a pretty good idea on the build. Gevenalle shifters, White Industries crank, hubs, and head set, and probably some TRP Spyre brakes. In fact, I already have the calipers in the Lab here. Stay tuned for more on this coming up throughout the Spring. Whatever colors Mike decides upon will be a big factor in my decision making. He mentioned pink was in the running. (PLEASE! MAKE THE MCD IN PINK!!)

Trans Iowa v14 Sponsor News!

This is a good segue way into my next bit of news which is that Trans Iowa v14 is going to have sponsorship from Black Mountain Cycles. This Trans Iowa will see a BMC frame/fork given away to the rider in T.I.v14 that finishes and puts in what I and the volunteers deem as the "Grittiest Ride".

We did this same theme in T.I.v10 where Charlie Farrow won. He didn't actually finish, coming up about 6 miles short at the 2:00pm Sunday time cut, but we have the right to bend the rules a bit at Trans Iowa in instances like this, so be advised that the winner will be chosen at our discretion and the decision of Guitar Ted will be final.

Mike Varley told me that since so many folks have mentioned seeing and hearing about the BMC frames via this portal he wanted to support T.I.v14 in this way. So, if you would, don't hesitate to let him know that you heard about this and want to thank him.

More Sponsorship News! I also have Lederman Bail Bonds back as a sponsor again for Trans Iowa. The company believes Trans Iowa is a great event and puts Iowa in a good light, so they are helping out again as they have for several years now with swag items and behind the scenes support of the event.

Wolf Tooth Portable Master Link Pliers
Wolf Tooth Introduces New Gadget:

Quick links for chains are boon to riders in the field who need to fix a chain issue, or who need to go to a single speed set up due to a rear derailleur failure. While they can be assembled with ease, they often can be nigh unto impossible to undo. That's where the Wolf Tooth Master Link Combo pliers comes in. This tool pinches the rollers together to help release the link so a chain can be disassembled in the field. (NOTE- You still really need a chain breaker, so don't be ditching that tool just yet!) Here's a feature set from Wolf Tooth's press release:
  • Compatible with 9-, 10-, 11-, and 12-speed chains
  • Holds two pair of most brands' replacement links (sold separately)
  • Compatible with most tubeless valve and presta tube locknuts
  • Compatible with most standard (5mm) Presta valve core flats
  • 38g tool weight
  • CNC machined from 7075-T6 aluminum
  • Type II anodized in red or black
  • Choice of five pivot bolt colors on black pliers
  • Designed and manufactured in Minneapolis, MN USA
Since it serves a few functions besides being a quick-link pliers, it makes for a great tool to put into your kit. At 38 grams it won't weigh you down either. I can see this being a contender for a place in my kit for sure.