Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday News And Views

The new Niner "Steel Mountain Bike Fork".
Niner Announces Steel Fork, New Investor:

A couple of things came down the newswire this week concerning Niner Bikes. First off, we saw the introduction of their "Steel Mountain Bike Fork". Okay.......wait a minute.......

So, you mean to tell me that you can name a bicycle or part with a sensible, easily understood name that doesn't require some form of "inside knowledge" of some bizarre sport or niche band culture to understand the model name? Really?!!

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. Now, as for this fork........

The Steel Mountain Bike Fork uses Boost spacing , a tapered steer tube, and obviously, it has a through axle. Axle to crown measurement is 490mm and the offset is 51mm. It has mounting points for cages and racks and is rated to carry up to 45lbs. MSRP is $179.00. See more here.

Now what was I saying just yesterday about how straight steer tubes, quick releases, and axle spacing was going to change? Hmm.........

Next up in Niner news is that they were able to find an investment company to partner with which will now allow Niner to continue onward and have the cash to invest into R&D for future designs and products. Chris Sugai remains as head of Niner and all operations are to be continued as they are now. Good news and "good luck" to the Niner crew going forward.

Differences between through axle 142, Boost, and Super Boost hubs. Courtesy of Pivot Cycles.
 Your New Hub May Be Boost Or Super Sized!

Noticing a theme of ever changing component dimensions here lately? Well, it isn't going to end anytime soon, so best get used to it. Now the rumblings are that longer travel mountain bikes may all be going to an even wider than Boost rear hub, called "Super Boost".

This is really all a result of where we have been stuck in terms of over-lock dimensions for hubs for decades. Only recently has the "Pandora's Box" of hub width been opened and I believe the dust isn't going to settle on this for some time. Obviously fat bike hub width was the precursor to this madness and it showed that consumers are willing to entertain new ideas for bicycles based upon crank, hub, and drivetrain needs.

Way back when the decision was made to go from six to seven speeds, mountain bike manufacturers, and in particular, WTB, were calling for "symmetry" in rear wheels, which meant that the rear axle was going to have to be widened. WTB already was championing wider than 100mm front and 130mm rear hubs for mountain bikes based upon Charlie Cunningham's experimentation with hubs and wheel design. So, the concept of a wider hub has been there, it was just a matter of breaking that traditional thought regarding hubs that was holding everything back.

Now I don't for a minute think that this is staying on the mountain bike side. I believe that road will see an increase in hub widths in the coming years and going to through axles will be the way that the "tradition" is broken. Younger riders will be familiar with disc brakes, through axles, and hub widths won't matter at all to them if it makes the bike better handling and wheels stiffer.

 T.I.v14 Update:

The latest on Trans Iowa; Cues- So far I have two sectors covered in the formatting department with one to go. I should have the last sector formatted this weekend. That will get printed out into a final draft and that draft will be final checked in the field sometime in late March or early April. Weather will likely play a factor in when I get out to do that. It is interesting whenever I do formatting that I can visualize the course as I fill out the format. I also have found a few places where I deleted cues, added cues, or made some small changes based upon comments jotted down while we did recon last year. So, refining the cues is always something on my mind until I make the final commitment to print them in April.

I expect also to be sending out a communication to all participants starting this weekend. The e-mail will detail the schedule of events and lay out the procedure I plan to use for handing out cues the morning of the event. This will be very important, so be looking for that if you are in Trans Iowa coming into your inbox next week.

Number plates will begin to get worked up sometime in March or early April. I also have a plan in the works for some schwag for the racers that is in motion right now. I am getting assistance for that in an unlikely place which will be an interesting story to tell you all when I can. Stay tuned on that front.

That's all for this week. Keep the rubber side down and get out and ride folks!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Wee Bit Slickery

Those darker grey-ish areas? - STAY AWAY! It's ice!
The big melt we had going on with all the warmth, rain, and fog went to the deep freeze over night and that means one thing- Ice!

Since I missed out on riding to work two days in a row due to the inclement weather, I wasn't about to sit around all day Wednesday and watch it be Sunny outside without putting my butt on a bike. No matter how icy it might be!

So, with no real agenda in mind other than to stay upright and pedal, I chose the Blackborow DS, decided to take things slow, and went out to explore. I had no idea how far I could get, so I didn't know if I'd be home in five minutes or two hours. But I was gonna get a ride in!

The decision was made to try riding down the Sergeant Road trail Southwestward and then I hopped up onto the dike for the Black Hawk Creek to get a bird's eye view of the scene in the Green Belt. With all the rain and warmth we had I found a lot of ice and wherever people, snow mobiles, pets, or whatever had been on the snow previous to the recent weather it was very icy and hard not to slip out on it.  I actually had to stop a few times just to keep from going down, and I wasn't going fast at all. Eyeballing the Green Belt at these stops it was easy to see that traveling in the Green Belt won't be happening anytime soon.

There is a lot of frozen flood water in places in the Green Belt right now.
So, I decided to run the dike out to the Sergeant Road Trail again, then up to Martin Road, and back toward Irv Warren Golf Course. I went up by the Pro shop and noted that the parking lot had been plowed. Hmm..... If you cannot golf, why bother plowing the lot? Weird.

The "Oh So Pro" parking at the golf course wasn't being used, so I took advantage!
In a few places I was running on what was left of the snow for fun. Now this snow has seen upper 30"s and rain, so it was really crusty. The Lou's were making an awful racket if I sank in a little bit. Ultimate "ripping Styrofoam" sounds! Almost deafening, actually. By the way, I don't think the Lou's treads have ever been cleaner!

On the way home I ran into NY Roll. He invited me in his home for a beer. We yakked about bikes and how I was able to get Ella, his Ridgeback, to talk to me. Apparently she isn't very vocal. Maybe I have a way with dogs? Dunno......

It was great to get out and pedal, but this ice business is for the birds. Penguins, I'd say. Anyway, it has to go. Hopefully with the angle of the Sun getting better everyday this stuff won't be around too long. It's what? A month till Spring? A little over two months till Trans Iowa?

Yeah, Winter is just about done, I hope!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Welcome To The Dark Side

Yep......carbon.
The latest craze in the gravel travel world is for a company to slip in a bike with 650B wheels and wide rubber. Then they claim that they have this awesome geometry, (generally it is warmed over CX geo), and they start in how all the roads and even single track is now your playground.

As if that weren't the fact with any bike, really. But whatever.

I'm not here to tell you what you should do, I'm just here poking a bit at the marketing machine. This gig they are telling us about isn't "new" and what they put out, (again, in the general sense), isn't really anything but cyclo cross stuff with 650B wheels shoved in. Sometimes it is straight up roadie geometry, (The new Surly Midnight Special), and sometimes they get it mostly right, (The new All City G.M.).

Anyway, I got these new Irwin Cycling wheels to test for RidingGravel.com and they are 650B based. Disc, of course, so that makes them an easy swap into my Raleigh Tamland Two. Now, my Tamland Two is a 2014 model. Yep...... Four years old, and it is steel, and it has reasonable length chain stays, and it can take a big, wide tire in 650B and 29", and it uses a standard road crank. Plus, it doesn't have cyclo cross geometry. So, not new, but in some ways, actually better than what many companies are putting out now.

Weird. Guess some folks aren't paying attention.

Steel- check, 650B wheels-check, big rubber- check.
So, to all you new entries to this niche- welcome to the dark side. 

The old Raleigh may be on the cutting edge with these wheels and its geometry, but there are a few things that will make this bike obsolete in a few years. First and foremost- the quick release wheels. Those quick releases are on their way out. You probably won't even know it when it finally happens to all high performance bikes, but we are in the middle of that "takeover". The other thing that will doom this bike eventually is the 1 1/8th steer tube.That's a good thing to have from the standpoint of front end compliance, but this will be made obsolete by the fact that all forks made in the future will one day have tapered steer tubes. Brands like Soma and Ritchey try to keep it going, but someday...... Then there is the standard road crank and bottom bracket width. Despite decades of bikes being built this way, Road Boost is coming and there will be a time when standard width bottom brackets and standard chain line cranks will become a thing of the past.

Look, I hope I am wrong about all of that, because if I am, I can keep my Tamland going. If I am right, well, one day I'll have to hang it up on the wall for good. Let's hope that dark side doesn't come to pass!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Six String Side: The Effects

When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In the Easter post,(2016), I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully y'all enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically. This time it isn't guitars, but the stomp boxes.......

The new pedal board I got over the weekend stuffed with a selection of my effects pedals. Here in construction mode! 
 I've periodically shown you my guitar collection over the last couple of years, but there are amplifiers and these little, funny, painted boxes of electrical massaging that we guitarists call "effects pedals" or more commonly- stomp boxes, since to turn on the effect of choice, you must step, or "stomp", on a button which is an on/off switch, most generally.

I think I got my first stomp box in the very early 80's, like 1980, or it even could have been 1979, but it was an Electro-Harmonix "Big Muff". I didn't like what it did at the time so I sold it. (Dumb! It would be worth a mint now!) I also had an original Vox wah-wah for a while as well, but sold that. (Again- dumb!) Anyway, the point is that I have been collecting these little funny boxes for years. I have a pretty good collection.

Anyway, I don't expect that a lot of you know or care about these gizmos, but I will list each one and link to the website for each if available. You can click the links to find out what they do. Starting from the little grey box on the lower right then and going clockwise from there.
So, you'll notice I favor this "Hungry Robot" company. Well, the guy behind the company used to live here in this area, so I started supporting him and as it turns out, he has some unique circuits that were things I was looking for. Plus, these are sort of rare birds in the pedal world. Not everyone will have one of these things. Anyway, Hungry Robot is now based out of North Carolina and I highly recommend his work.

The board is a "Pedal Train" model that was big enough that I could get on what I felt was a minimal amount of effects to get me by at my church gig. If I were playing out, there are a few things I wouldn't have on here and a couple of things I would have on here, but that's not how it is. Anyway, I have enough stuff laying around to set up a completely different pedal board. The pedal board idea isn't new, but this is my first. I used to "daisy chain" everything together, but the other guitarists at the church were hauling in all their stuff in these fancy cases which had everything organized and I thought it was a better idea, so........

Anyway...... Guitar nerds.....whatta ya gonna do?

Monday, February 19, 2018

News From Frostbike 2018

Salsa adds carbon versions of the Woodchipper, Cowchipper, and Cowbell bars for 2018
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Carbon Bars: 

Salsa Cycles could probably lay claim to the three most popular off road/gravel/back road bars in existence now with their line up of the Woodchipper, Cowbell, and Cowchipper bars. These bars have been around for a while in two versions, a 6061 T-6 aluminum version and a 7000 series aluminum version, but curiously there were no carbon drop bars.

That's all been changed now with Frostbike's announcement that a carbon version of all three bars would now be available. All carbon models are at the same price of $215.00 each. The aluminum bar model in each version in 7050 T-6 aluminum is $75.00. So why spend $140.00 more for carbon. Well, it would save you 75 grams, so says Salsa.

They also propose that the carbon bar, while being stiffer, actually absorbs more vibrations. Hmm......I've heard that story before with carbon forks. Not buying that one. The theory of carbon absorbing "higher frequency vibrations" is just that, a theory, and in reality, carbon just passes different vibrations than steel does. It isn't a "buzz" that we are trying to damp here. Anyway, yeah....... Not buying into that theory. The bar needs to move to mitigate the constant input from gravel and a stiffer bar will move less.

Then the bar has a wider 31.8mm section for better mounting of gizmos and aero bars, or whatnot. Okay, yeah, good deal there, but for $140.00 extra bucks? Look, they will sell every one of these they can make because, carbon. But I have a hard time with saving 75 grams for a $1.86 per gram. Especially for a stiffer bar. If the bar was demonstrably more comfortable? Okay, I might bite on that.

Surly Midnight Special- image courtesy of Surly Bikes
Surly Midnight Special:

I posted about all this stuff today on Riding Gravel here, so I'll spare the deets. Let's get to the meat of my opinion here then.

This is the furthest thing from a gravel bike geometry, short of being a rando bike, I can think of . High bottom bracket and a steep head angle make the Midnight Special a non-starter for me. But hey! Don't let what I think works best keep you away. 

That said, if you read the Surly blog post on this bike carefully it is right there in front of your eyes to see that this bike is an outgrowth of the Pacer, Surly's full on roadie sled. This just takes bigger tires is all, oh......and flat mount disc brakes. 

It is notable that there are roadie things going on here like down tube shifter bosses, a lack of all those wild fork braze ons, and short-ish chain stays which point to more of a road bike usage than it does an adventure/gravel bike use. Through axle front and rear and the aforementioned flat mount disc brakes are really making this a sibling to the Pacer with modern touches. If it couldn't take great big rubber, that would be easier to see here, I think.

No single speed option makes it an odd bike for Surly, or is it really a moving on? I'm noticing more and more that the "old Surly" is fading away, and the "single speed for everything" philosophy seems to be going to the wayside. Maybe I have that wrong.........

The "Gorilla Monsoon"..........Really? -Image courtesy of All City
Oh! That Name Though!

It is kind of a tradition at Quality Bicycle Products for any bicycle they make to have a weird name. That all started with the '02 announcement of the Surly Karate Monkey. That will be a model name no company at QBP will ever live up to, in my opinion, but bless those folks- they keep trying! 

All City is no stranger to bizarrely named bicycles. The Spacehorse, Mr. Pink, The Electric Queen, and now.........drum roll, please........The Gorilla Monsoon.

Please make it stop! 

All right, besides the weirdo name, this bike is really a pretty dang cool rig. That bi-plane fork crown! Steel fork! Fade paint job in Orange? Yes!  Okay, that had my attention, but the geometry is probably as jacked as the Surly, right?

Wrong!

This bike tics most of the boxes. They made the chain stays really wide here to accept these big, mountain bike WTB tires, so the chain ring clearances suffer a bit, but otherwise, this bike is the best thing I've seen out of QBP for gravel riding since the intro of the Warbird.

And did I mention that Orange fade paint job and bi-plane fork crown? Oh......I did? Uhh.......okay. Moving on now!

I could live with this bike. It's pretty nice on paper and the images are looking great here. I'm not sure about 1X for gravel. I'd have to see about that. The crank chain ring options seem a bit limiting, and yes......I like front changers. But that said, a 1X probably is in my future because, fashion. Gotta at least try it. Whether it is this bike or something like it, I will give it a try.

So, of all the Frostbike news, which also included a slimmed down Full Suspension line up from Salsa, the (gulp) Gorilla Monsoon is the best thing I've seen here. Although I despise that name. 

Anyway.......

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Touring Series: The Tour Gets A Name

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 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.

In this entry we get the backstory on the naming of the Tour and the beginning of the ride from the morning of the day we left. 
___________________________________________________________________


There is still the explanation of the name of this tour. A little of this can be guessed at, on my part, it is obvious. However; Troy and Steve had some panhandling to do as well. Troy, whose brother's bike he was originally going to use, had to abandon that plan a week before the tour. The bags on the rear struck his heels and there was no way to make it work. So, Troy had to beg and borrow a friends deceased father's bike. Then Steve, he borrowed money for the food for all of us on his girl friend's credit card. (Admittedly, that was a beg and borrow for all of us.) Troy and I also had to borrow sleeping mats and tents.

Another look at those 26 X 1.5" Avocet Kross tires I used. This image is a current one.
 All of this lead to a name for our little trip that hadn't even begun yet. Since my co-worker and the customer that were going along were around for all of this, we jokingly called it the "Beg Borrow and Bastard Tour". I had my bike cobbled together and it worked fairly well. I had my gear lined up. It was decided that we would leave right after RAGBRAI on the first week of August.

In a hurried frenzy to ready our bikes, Troy and I spent two nights late at the shop working on them. I had a check at the point where the stem for my drop bars wouldn't work on the bike's original fork. This required a fork change. After three forks we found that the headset needed to be changed as well. Then we discovered after two hours and three headsets that I needed a BMX specific headset! Then it was the tires. I couldn't get any tires to fit on my new wheels! I made my thumbs into burning blister pods trying to force tires too small onto my rims. Not even the efforts of a very drunk and funny Steve could avail me. I was led to cursing and I called out, "This bastard bike!" Well, "bastard" became a pet word of the tour and the title of our tour had been fulfilled.

Troy and I finished our bikes in the nick of time. Saturday came and went, and then I packed my bags and made ready to depart from Dewar Tap at 5:30am Sunday morning. I was a little nervous, very excited, and anxious to go.

On Sunday, August 7th, 1994, I awoke to my alarm clock at 4:30am, walked out into the kitchen and.....AARRRRGH! Glass in my heel! After a little first aid treatment, I got my wife up and we picked up Troy at 5:05am. The sun was just coming up. It was cool, but it looked like it could be a great day. Steve and Brenda, (his girlfriend) were waiting at the Dewar Tap when we got there at about 5:35am.

After fooling around nervously for about 15 to 20 minutes we said our goodbyes. We left northward from Dewar on a county blacktop on our trip. I waved goodbye to my wife and turned away. Goodbyes suck, so I didn't look back.

I really didn't know what to expect. The longest single bike ride I'd ever done was maybe when I rode about 30 miles on the Raccoon River Trail. I don't know what these guys decided to do for mileage when the day started. Although; the plan was to go to my family's reunion in Lime Springs, Iowa some 75 miles away. Maybe it was the motivation of having my relatives see us on our way. Maybe it was the tail wind we had all the way up there. I don't know, but I felt sure I could do it. 
___________________________________________________________________________

Troy's borrowed bike was a metallic blue Schwinn Voyager with 27" wheels and these ultra-plush Michelin touring tires. Ironically, Steve's bike was also a Schwinn, but it was a red Cross Cut model which originally had flat bars. Steve had converted it to drop bars. Of course, Cross Cuts were 700c based bikes. My, new-to-me 1984-ish Mongoose, all chrome, by the way,  had 26" wheels. Three different wheel sizes......hmm....not very good planning there! By the way, the bike Troy meant to take did have 26" wheels, An American brand mountain bike. A classic vintage bike nowadays! But as mentioned, the stays were too short and he couldn't get the panniers back far enough to clear his heels while pedaling. 

Next Week:The First Hundy- Part 1

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 7

My 1972 Gretsch Country Club
Ten years ago on the blog here I actually posted a ton of images! Pretty dang surprised at the stuff I had to go through for today's post, which has been unusual until now. We'll see if I was able to keep that up in future "Minus Ten Review" posts!

I posted this image of my Gretsch. Back then I didn't know what year it was or even what model guitar it was. Now through the magic of the innergoogles I have ascertained all I need to know about the thing. I still have it and it sounds pretty good when I take it out and play it. I don't use it a lot, but whenever I do, it gets way more compliments and comments than any other guitar I own combined. Something about that big ol' hollow body!

Of course, this weekend is another edition of Frostbike, the dealer only invitation show that Quality Bikes puts on. I used to go to this gig for several years, but I think this makes three years in a row that I haven't gone. I had many a good time there. Many! Too good a time some years!

2008 was not all that great, let me tell ya! Now I had been going to Frostbike regularly for five years by this point. This Frostbike was an entirely different deal. I went up with a former co-worker that was taking care of the Ergon booth for Jeff Kerkove, who had just taken on that gig the year before. The guy I went up to the show with was Carl Buchanan. He dropped me off at QBP pre-show where I hooked up with then Salsa Brand Manager, Jason Boucher. I was to "shadow" Jason all weekend and I was staying at his home while we were up there. It was a very gracious offer on his part, but it cost him dearly and I was ultimately embarrassed greatly!

Part of the gig as brand Manager was to deal with all the big dealers and international press and international dealers who were there to join in Frostbike. Back then it still was a legitimate "trade show" of sorts with a fair amount of product releases going on simultaneously. Remember, there was no Saddledrive, or anything else other than Sea Otter and Interbike for QBP to show wares at stateside. So, Frostbike was a "big deal" and it attracted a lot of dealer attention worldwide.

The "bike pile" in the basement of One On One Bike Studio in Minneapolis
So it was that I ended up in a brew pub/restaurant with Jason, the Surly Crew, the German distributors, and the Japanese distributors and their photographers. It was a wild time with food and beers flowing. Later, we were to go to the famous On On One Bicycle Studio, not far from where we were engaged in eating and drinking on a cold, snowy Minneapolis night. The Japanese contingent insisted on some kind of impromptu photoshoot with Jason and Salsa's Kid Reimer, posing them on their bicycles and filming them riding to One On One.

I was a bystander with nothing to do with any of this circus, and Jason, being cognizant of that fact, tossed me the keys to his Honda Element and told me to go ahead and drive to One On One, park the vehicle, and wait for him inside. Supposedly there was some shindig going on down there as well.

So, keep in mind that I was a total Minneapolis noob and knew nothing of the ways of the inner city. As I searched for a spot to park, I noted that there was a little used lot right across from One On One. I couldn't believe my luck as I parked the Element, locked it up, and strolled on into One On One where I saw a few folks I knew and started chatting. The conversation went to how horrendous it was to find a spot to park when I spouted off that I had found this awesome spot easily right across the street.

That's when I found out that was an impound lot- no parking or your vehicle gets towed. 

Yeah......Heart sank, felt one inch tall...... All the guilts! Anyway, I went down in the basement where the infamous One On One "bike pile" is and stayed out of the view of the crowd upstairs which was buzzing about the "idiot that got Boucher's car towed".

Obviously Jason showed up to find out the terrible news and he shot out of there to retrieve his vehicle. A couple of hours later and over $260.00 dollars poorer, I found myself in a very uncomfortably silent vehicle heading back to Jason's abode.

That was the longest car ride ever! 

And yes, we are still friends! 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday News And Views

I'm Never Gonna Let You Down:

What if you never had to refresh your tubeless tire sealant? Sounds like a fairy tale? Well.......it isn't, and it hasn't been for a long time. First of all, there are a LOT of available tire sealant products that will not dry up inside of your tubes or tubeless tires. Probably the most famous of these is Slime. Heck we were using Slime back in the 90's effectively to prevent flats in our mountain bike tubes. We never gave a thought to it drying up because.......well it never dried up. That's why.

But just this week Finish Line, the bicycle lube and cleaner company, announced a "new sealant" (To the bicycle industry)  that will "... last the entire usable life of the tire".

Sounds like a bold claim, but really, this part isn't new. Like I have illustrated above. The reason many sealants dry out is because the carrier fluid, the fluid that has the coagulants suspended in it, is generally ammonia. Latex is also commonly used and dries out as well. So, you get the very effective sealing properties, but the fluid and latex dries out in a few months, on average. Now there have been other sealants I have tried which do not dry out, but their sealing properties are.....not very good. That's why you generally do not find many cyclists bantering about this fantastic sealant which never dries out AND seals punctures with awesome speed and regularity. Those traits in a sealant- never drying out and effective sealing properties- seem to be mutually exclusive characteristics, unless Finish Line has figured out how to do it.

Of course, we have to keep in mind that "sealing" doesn't just mean plugging punctures, but sealing casings as well, because your tubeless tires are not likely full on UST, no sealant necessary tires. You'd know if you had a tubeless tire like that because it would weigh a LOT. Almost all tubeless tires for bicycles now require sealant to seal off the casings, otherwise you'd lose air quickly enough that you'd be pumping your tires up more than riding. So, will this fancy-pants Finish Line sealant do a good job of that? Don't know the answer to that question just yet.

Orange, bendy, secure......
  The Glorified Zip Tie: 

The ride was awesome and the crew you were riding with wants to head over to the local coffee spot for a drink and some vittles, but you are super nervous about your rig sitting out......there! All alone, nobody watching it with protective eyes, and you cannot see it from where you are sitting. One of your friends says something to you, but you didn't catch it because your mind is.......elsewhere. 

You know, you could bring along some sort of  cable lock, but they are sort of clunky. A "U" lock? Not on your life! There are those slinky steel cable locks that are small and packable, but they look.......anemic. Easy to cut? They look like they might be. Hmm...... What to do.

So, here is a possibility to consider for those sort of rides, or if you need to just run into a store or business quick. The Ottolock. It's pretty much best described as being a "glorified zip tie". It's light, flexible, and easily stowed into a jersey pocket, seat bag, frame bag, or looped around your frame, since it has a  rubberized covered, triple stainless steel layered band. Like I say, it is light, at 152 grams for the one I was sent. It is spendy, at $65.00, but that's more than worth it for the peace of mind and security. This is supposed to be better at securing your bike than a cable lock and maybe not quite as nice as a "U" lock.

Well, it seems like it makes sense and it seems well made. It should work great as a "medium security" type device for locking your bike to a rack, pole, etc. I will be using it here and figuring out if the thing is worth it or what.

Formatting in One, Two, Three.....
Trans Iowa v14 Cue Formatting Underway:

The goal before February is through is to have all the Trans Iowa v14 cues formatted for Spring Recon. That's when I take the cues out in the field and, usually, have someone drive according to them and check that they make sense. We wouldn't want you turning left when you should be turning right, for instance.

Anyway, the process got started this week with the cues to checkpoint # 1 getting done. I should have cues through checkpoint #2 done for sure this weekend. That's the biggest section, in terms of miles, and that will take slightly longer to fill into the cue sheet format than the last section. Although, I haven't actually counted the number of prompts, which could be more for the last sector. Hmm.....

At any rate, in other T.I.v14 news, the plan is set for the special gifts to the riders this year. I have done various things in the past, most notably t-shirts, but I will be handing out completely different items to the riders this year. If you show up, they will be somethings I think you will be stoked to have. We'll see. Thanks to Lederman Bail Bonds, one of our longstanding Trans Iowa sponsors, since it is because of their generosity that this is happening.

Okay, that's a wrap for this week. Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

To Flat Or Not To Flat

These swanky Fyxation Mesa Subzero's may be seeing a lot of gravel duty
I don't know what it is exactly. Maybe I am reverting to a childhood status when it comes to riding bicycles. Maybe I am too much about having more fun these days. Whatever the reason, I just got in these new Fyxation Mesa Subzero pedals and I was thinking, why not use flat pedals for gravel riding? 

I'm sure many of you have, and many of you reading here do use flat pedals for gravel road riding, but I generally don't give it much thought. So, why now? Well, again......I'm not sure! I just know that it suddenly seems like a great idea.

So, why not?

By the way, I have used flats on gravel road riding before. I did the "Fatbike Century" over a year ago on flats. I also used street shoes! It was a successful experiment and raised not a few questions in my mind about why we insist on using specific pedals and shoes for all our riding. I don't think it is necessary and I wonder if this predilection with using specific shoes and pedals hasn't actually caused more issues than it solves.

I suppose we could debate things till the cows come home, but I have had one observation that, along with clothing choices, seems to take down a huge barrier to getting out there, for me, at least. That is that when I have a bicycle with flats installed I am more likely to want to ride that bike than I am my bikes without flat pedals. To tag along this line of thinking, I am also more likely not to worry a bunch about wearing cycling specific duds as well. Just a jersey, pop on a helmet, go ride.

Easy.

Sure, that doesn't mean that it isn't a good idea to use that specific cycling gear much of the time, but if I had only clipless pedal bikes, and if I thought I could only ride in a chamois and jersey, I would ride a lot less than I do. Sometimes I even ride without a helmet. (GASP!) Yep! And it is awesome.....

Anyway, the less barriers to getting on the bike the better, I think. Yeah.......I think I may be mashing flats a lot out on the gravel this year. At least to start out with. We'll see where it goes.......

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mushy

All those tracks are deer tracks. They were busy down there!
Monday I rode to work in perhaps the last of the negative digit temps for the Winter. Oh......there could be another time for that yet, but the Sun is getting up higher in the sky and the Sun's rays are warming things up little by little. Spring is not far off......

We had a big dump of snow last Friday and the hope was that it would bring back the good times for fat biking. I went out with my snow shoes Sunday to beat in a bit of a path for my commute, but the bindings broke about ten minutes after I started. Anyway, it was a largely fruitless effort anyway. This snow is sooooo unconsolidated. About seven inches of sugar-snow is what it ended up being. Absolute mush.

But that didn't deter me from trying to take the long way home on Monday. The ride in wasn't very encouraging. I had to walk a lot of my "off-pavement" sections. Even the unplowed parking lot was only doable because some yahoos had been in there whipping doughnuts so I had some car/truck tire tracks to follow.

Going home the "long way" I ran into a lot of shifting, sand-like snow that saw me going a few feet then washing out the front tire. Or if that wasn't the case it was the severely "post-holed by walkers" snow that bounced me off into the more unconsolidated mush and coming to a halt.

Frustrating?

Very!

This was in the middle of a long stretch of pushing the bike.
Later into the ride I managed to pull off a stretch of riding in the snow only because the wind had blown off enough of the sugar that I could see blades of grass sticking through the mushy mess. Any deeper than this and the tires simply would not float. They would simply sink in and the bike was unrideable. It was akin to trying to ride on "thick water". Sinking was more the rule of the day than floating was.

It seems as though this snow will be gone soon enough and I am completely fine with that. The temps today are suppose to be into the 40 degree range and many subsequent days look to be above freezing with the exception of Friday which is going to be like yesterday, around 17°F for a high. But that's an outlier for the coming two weeks. We are supposed to be above freezing more often than not, and then it will be March. Fat bikes will be getting less of my attention very soon and the gravel bikes will be hitting the roads here.

I'm ready for it..........

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Got A License For That Thing?

We have licenses to allow military personnel into nuclear facilities, but can they drive?
Get a license for your vehicle, they said, you can't drive without one. But what does a driver's license actually say about your skill as a driver? Pretty much not a damn thing.

This matters to cyclists because we are at risk every day we ride in public by drivers who may, or most likely not, be very good at actually driving. It's pretty ridiculous, actually. Think about the following:
  • We make semi-tractor trailer drivers actually prove their skill at driving.
  • We actually make motor cyclist prove their proficiency at handling a motor cycle. 
  • Race car drivers are held to high standards for driving skill.
But every day drivers can pretty much waltz right into their living rooms, fire up a computer, and order up an extension on their license for years. Young people are sent through a rudimentary driver's education class, charged an exorbitant fee, and when they pass, they get a license to drive without ever having to show their skill set in driving a car. Then they are never tested again for the remainder of their lives. 

Wut, wut?!! 

So, maybe you are one of those that thinks I belong on a bicycle path. Get offa my roads! You don't want to have to "deal with me". Okay, so like the bicycle path I went by yesterday with a smashed bench where a car went right across the path? Hmm.....yeah. Bicycle paths will keep me safe from blithering idiots that cannot slow down in inclement weather. Right........

Anyway, I've said it for years, (and this article prompted me to remember) cars and trucks are too easily gotten by unskilled drivers and are too easy to drive in the first place. 

You want to license cyclists? I'm good with that if you have to prove your acumen in a car/truck every three years for the rest of your life. Not by some "pat on the back", wink-wink testing procedure either, but a Bondurant driving school type testing procedure. If you don't know how to safely make evasive maneuvers, when to use slower speeds in inclement weather, or ......pay attention, then why in the world should you be allowed a license to pilot a potential 5,000lb death machine?


The answer is that you shouldn't. Period.


 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Spring Geezer Ride 2018

The ride will start at Prairie Grove Park on the South side side of Waterloo
It's time to start thinking about the next Geezer Ride for this Spring. "Geezer Ride?", you say? Yes.....Geezer Ride!

So, at the Gravel Clinic that was dubbed the Iowa Gravel Expo by NY Roll done this past January, I made the announcement there that the next Geezer Ride would be about the beginners. Of course, if you know anything about the Geezer Ride that I put on it has always been about the beginners to gravel. 

I am going to make sure this gets pushed out on social media locally, but of course, it all depends on who actually decides to show up. Anyone and everyone with a working bicycle and the desire to ride approximately 40 miles of gravel roads is welcome to this group ride.

 It is no drop, no one gets left behind, and the focus is on fun. That said, YOU ARE  RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF! Come prepared to fix a flat, have water and food on-board with you, and a bail-out plan should you become tired of having this fun on gravel we have. The pace will be sloooooooow! Plan on FREQUENT STOPS to gather up the stragglers if there are any. There also will be a few tips on how to ride gravel doled out to any beginners there and a Q & A session mid-ride or whenever it seems appropriate, to answer any rider's questions.

Petrie Road's Level b Maintenance section will figure into the ride for sure.
Okay, so here's the date: Saturday March 31st at 8:00am

Yes.........there probably are a lot of other things scheduled for that Saturday. I'm NOT moving the date unless it rains. Then the postponed date will be April 14th. Otherwise I plan on doing this ride even if showers are in the forecast. Stay tuned to this space or the Geezer Ride site for updates to anything relating to the ride date.

The Course: The route for this Spring's Geezer Ride will be South of Waterloo and some gently rolling hills, at least one Level B Road, and then on some pretty flat terrain to wind up in Hudson Iowa where the group will have some decisions. One way we could do it would be to stop in at a tavern downtown for a "rest stop". We could also stop at the local Casey's store for refreshments, or we could just roll on homeward via paved bike trail or on gravel back to the park where the ride begins. I'm leaving those options open until we gather and see what the weather and group dynamics dictates.

There will be a few hills, but nothing too taxing. This is the corner of Mt. Vernon and Streeter Road from another Geezer Ride.


Expect the ride to be about 40-ish miles and take until perhaps mid-afternoon to complete if need be. Remember- no one gets dropped, so if we have to stop every three miles, we will. And actually, that's how the first Geezer Ride went. So, be prepared for a long, slow, easy paced ride geared to those who want to try gravel roads for the first time.

Besides this Geezer Ride, there will be another up in the Cresco, Iowa area, with details yet to be determined. That will likely be a Summer ride. Then there is talk of doing the Amish/Mennonite route from another past Geezer Ride sometime this year as well. Stay tuned to the Geezer Ride page and this spot for any future announcements.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Touring Series: A Look Back At The Horse That Got Me There

 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.

The following post is a remembrance from 2008 concerning the bike I used to get me where I was going to go on this tour. There will be a reference to the pre-tour happenings in the 1994 manuscript I am re-posting, but I found that there wasn't really a good telling of how that bicycle came together, so I wrote up something to flesh out that part of the story:

___________________________________________________________________

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
   I was in the process of putting together my first touring rig from an old mountain bike traded in at the shop I started at in the early 90's. The bicycle was a 1984 Mongoose All Mountain Pro. It was in pretty good shape, all the original parts were there, even the snake belly tires were still on it. Looking back, it probably would have been smarter to keep it as it was, since it was a somewhat collectible machine as it sat, but I didn't see it that way at the time. I saw it as a cheap way to get a tour worthy machine and head out on an adventure with some new friends.

The decision to get it and modify it was largely influenced by my co-worker at the time, Troy. He had been wrenching at the shop for a few years ahead of me while he attended college. His advice was to take the chromed beast and do the following modifications: Change out the wheels, handle bar, stem, shifters, brake levers, and fork. He told me that drop bars were the way to go, and that the bike's "bull moose" stem and bar set up had to go. He also thought the plate crown fork looked too spindly and that I should get a uni-crown fork for it. The wheels looked sketchy, and of course, new tires and tubes would be in order as well.

Sheesh! I suppose I must have gotten the bike for a song, because I was making wholesale changes to the bike. I stayed late after work making changes. It proved to be a frustrating and valuable learning experience.

I found out that the Mongoose had a BMX specific head set, owing to Mongoose's BMX roots. That was a bit of a problem since I had to order in a headset special to fit it. Then the fork needed to be compatible, which severely limited my choices. I ended up finding a chrome fork with a uni-crown in the shop's basement. All good except that it was a high tensile steel fork. Not as strong as a Cro-Moly fork. I don't think I told Troy that it was "hi-ten" since I figured he would disapprove and I'd have to try and find a Cro-Moly one. I doubted that I could do that, in the less than a week's time I had to pull this transformation off, so I kept that to myself.

The Avocet touring tires I used 24 years ago on the tour.
I used a Mongoose branded steel quill stem, seemed the right thing to do there, and a Nitto drop bar with some Campagnolo friction shifters that the shop had. The aero levers were something I think Troy had. I wired those up to the front cantilever brakes and rear SunTour roller cam. I didn't have a clue how to set up that rear brake, and for the most part it really wasn't functional. I pretty much did that fist tour with only a front brake!

I think I stole the wheels from off my Klein for this tour. A hand built set of SunTour Grease Guard hubs on Ritchey Vantage Pro rims. Shod those with Avocet tires. The ones with the inverted tread. Otherwise the bike was stock with the Avocet saddle, SunTour "AR" derailleurs, and serviceable bottom bracket with Sugino cranks sporting a 48-38-28 gearing. I had an eight speed 12-32T SunTour cassette out back. (If indeed I used my Klein wheels, which I think I did)

The bike had a triple strut aluminum rack already on it. I scored a set of rear panniers through the shop, and a front set from another co-worker. A few purchases through Campmor rounded out the set up. Inflatable Therma-rest pad, 40 degree bag, and some other small items. I borrowed a tent and a couple of smaller items from friends.
 ________________________________________________________________

A couple of notes to clarify things: The Klein I had was a '92 Klein Attitude and the wheels were hand built for that bike. Obviously you might remember that I wasn't on this tour in the last post, but obviously I was on it. That story will get filled in with the material from the manuscript I wrote in '94 and is forthcoming here. Finally, I still have most of this bike in pieces in the Lab. Someday I'm going to resurrect it..........

Next Week on "The Touring Series": The Tour Gets A Name

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 6

I'm still not really sure what this was all about.
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about how I wasn't having any fun setting up tubeless tires. Remember- this was 2008 and 29"er tubeless tire tech, and heck.....just getting anything actually meant for tubeless tires, was not a usual thing. So I was trying this and that, sometimes using all tubeless tech and sometimes mixing it up. But whatever I was doing, it was a struggle. A real struggle!

I almost gave up on tubeless tires back then, but somehow I kept trying, and trying, and trying..... Then it started working. I'm pretty much thinking that was because tubeless tires and rims for 29"ers started becoming really good. I'm sure it wasn't anything I actually did!

Then there is this image here. I still don't know what the heck that was all about. You know, after working at the same shop for 15 plus years nothing seems surprising anymore, but weird? yeah. Weird stuff happens all the time yet. I guess that's probably true for any place where the workers come and go with the years. So many different personalities have been there that the changes keep the weird level high. You never have time for anyone's oddities to get mundane. The average length anyone is there is probably less than five years. Then there is the "long timers" like myself. I'm skewing the curve!

The Dos Niner as a snow machine.
I also had a great ride on this old Dos Niner in the snow. Of course, it would be another 3 years before I'd actually have a fat bike, and I generally would default to whatever 29"er had the widest tires that I had at that time for snow riding.

This bike was a surprise 'gift" of sorts from Salsa/Jason Boucher. It just showed up at the shop one day with a note on it that said that I should just enjoy the bike and that I didn't have to review it. Blown away? Totally. Thanks again, by the way. I'm still bowled over that this happened to me.

I had never ridden a Dos Niner before this bike and I still think a soft tail bike is a viable design. Yeah.......you could do a suspension seat post, but that doesn't work when you are not sitting on the saddle. This bike had a rear end that did work over everything. No matter if you were on the saddle or not.

The Reba, the first widely available 29"er fork, with its 38mm offset, was kind of a clunker. It was the best thing that ever happened to 29"ers in 2007, but it was a stinker because it was flexy and it needed a lot of maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape. Later Rebas were really almost maintenance free in comparison. Anyway, this bike was really pretty good despite several short comings.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Friday News And Views

Could a Woodsmoke be made of wood someday?
Got Wood?

Years ago Trek pioneered the use of carbon fiber in bicycles. Their "OCLV" carbon was just another way of saying that their carbon was made to be more dense with less void areas. Of course, now everyone is doing their carbon that way. The less void areas in the layup, the better.

Now comes word that a couple of researchers have developed a "super wood" that has properties that rival steel and titanium for strength. (see article here) This is still very much a developing technology, and there is no way to know for certain if a bicycle would ever be considered as a use for such a product.

But what struck me was that the wood became "super" when the voids were taken out of the equation, much like when carbon fiber was being experimented with. The other thing was that chemicals are still part of the process to get the end result, so whether or not this is something that would be environmentally sound in as far as the idea goes is another issue. Yes- the source material is renewable, but the process is still maybe a risky deal. Hard to say at this point- again, this is very new.

Whether or not this gets anywhere and then, if it does, whether or not bicycles benefit from it, well......who knows. It is an interesting possibility to consider at any rate.

Upgraded but still awesome for Winter

Mesa MP Goes Sub-Zero:

Many longtime G-Ted Productions readers know that I am a big fan of Fyxation Mesa MP pedals. I have had a set on my Ti Mukluk that have to be something like 5 years old. They are certainly showing their age, the bearings are looser than they were, and the pins aren't quite as sharp as they used to be, but they are still kicking!

So, as far as durability, these pedals have shown me that they can handle the rough stuff. Since I got those first Mesa MP's, I have outfitted four other bikes in my fleet with some version or another of these pedals. They present, in my opinion, one of the best bangs for the buck in terms of flat pedals that you can get. Plus, as a Winter pedal, the nylon/plastic construction doesn't create a heat sink which could drain the heat out of your feet in cold weather. Not a good thing to have happen. Metal pedals do that- these won't. 

Now Fyxation has announced the Mesa MP Subzero pedals. These are an "upgraded" version of the Mesa MP's I so like. Here's a run down of the feature set:
  • High impact nylon body built to take abuse
  • Smooth running sealed bearing and DU bushing
  • Electroplated cro-moly spindle
  • Electroplated stainless steel replaceable pins for added grip with shoes or boots
  • Nylon body doesn't suck heat out of your feet like alloy pedals do
  • Installs with 15mm open end wrench or 8mm hex wrench
  • Pin Spec - M3x0.5 x 7.5mm
  • Spindle Thread: 9/16
  • Height: 14mm
  • Width: 105mm
  • Weight: 351g/pair
  • Color: Black/Black, Gray/Black, Black/Blue, Black/Orange
I'll be getting in a set to try out soon, so stay tuned for how they work out for me.

The Lezyne XL Caddy rear seat pack.
Bag Testing:

I got this Lezyne XL Caddy rear seat pack in a kind of bizarre, Christmas gift way from Lezyne's new media marketing honch. It came with an aluminum puck, which was supposed to be a paper weight, that was in a tin can like it was this ultra-luxurious gift dealio. 

Weird....

Anyway... This bag is another of the several that you'll see now coming around due to all this "rackless touring" stuff that people are calling "bikepacking". I don't see these bags doing the Tour Divide so much as I see them as a way to carry stuff without having to bolt on a rack to a bicycle, which is kind of a permanent commitment. Rear seat packs are so easily taken off and put back on again that they could go from bike to bike easily. This may be just what you need to make any of your bikes a hauler......to a degree. 

Of course, nothing beats a rack to make your bike a real pack mule, but really.......how much do you want to carry? Generally speaking, a seat pack will handle all you want short of groceries for a week. Anyway, it is a viable, easy to implement option. Nothing is perfect.......

Okay..... back to this bag! It has a couple of shaped, inner "wall supports" that keep this bag from looking like a sad "California Raisin". If you insist on that perfect, kidney shaped look 24-7, loaded or unloaded, the XL Caddy is your jam. I'll have more on this bag later. While I don't know that the marketing honch in question sent this along to me to be reviewed or not, that's what I'm gonna do. So, yes....this was sent as a gift. Regardless, I'll give my unvarnished opinion on it soon.....

Okay, it's snowing here and that means more FAT BIKING!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Trans Iowa v14: News You Could Use

Thinking about Spring made me realize that it has been a bit since I have posted any missives concerning this event. So, it is high time to post up some basic news you could use- that is if you are a rider in T.I.v14. 

Which leads me to the following statement I post ad infinitum every year: If- for any reason- you cannot be at T.I.v14, PLEASE tell me ASAP!! 

The amount of extra work I did last year for about 20 people that decided not to show up within 10 days of T.I.v13 was.......aggravating. That's being nice about it. Nuff said there......

Suffice it to say that it is of the utmost importance that any rider who is planning on not coming decide that long before two weeks to go before Trans Iowa. Please. It's a big deal to me.

Okay, now moving on from that, I wanted to make one more change perfectly clear: Cue Sheets To Check Point #1 Will Not Be Handed Out At The Pre-Race Meeting Friday Night- BUT YOU STILL ARE REQUIRED TO ATTEND! 

There will be waivers to sign, pre-race information to digest, and another important announcement concerning T.I.v14 that won't be made until the end of the meeting. If you are not there, trust me- you will not ride in Trans Iowa v14.  The meeting starts at 7:00pm, but waivers must be signed before 6:30pm. Doors open at 4:00pm to the Grinnell Steakhouse where we will be there diligently waiting for you, ready to go. It is the least that you can do to show up before then, I will not allow late sign ons, so if you are cutting it close, don't even bother coming. I won't allow you to sign in even if you are 30 seconds too late. It's 2018 folks. You can figure out how to get there early. We haven't had any issues in 13 years with this rule, so let's not start now.

Cues will be handed out at the start line. Image of the T.I.v13 start by Matt Gersib
This means that we will be handing out cues at the start line for T.I.v14. This also means you cannot dilly-dally around and show up 3 minutes to 4:00am. If you do, you won't get cues and you won't get them at CP#1 either. We are going to hand out cues and check you off at 3:45am and if you are not there, you will get a DNS next to your name and that's that.

I'm putting this very important info out now so you will have plenty of time to prepare yourself to be on the start line by 3:45 am. There will be no excuses for being tardy, because you people are smart enough to get this done and if you fail me in this, then maybe you shouldn't be riding in Trans Iowa. You may say, "But what if....." (fill in the blank) I will say, "Tough cookies." I ain't playin' that game with anyone for this deal. You know the drill- so just plan on being successful. That's what I am going to do.

Now, here are your tentative cut off times. This could be tweaked depending upon roads, future re-routes that may be necessary after recon this Spring, or other unforeseen events, but for now this is my plan. It's what I intend on sticking to. Here you go.....

  • Cut Off for Checkpoint #1: 8:15 am Saturday
  • Cut Off for Checkpoint #2: 11:00pm Saturday
  • Cut Off for Trans Iowa v14: 2:00pm Sunday
You may notice that these times are exactly the same as for T.I.v13. You are correct in that. The distances to checkpoints are similar to last year's checkpoints. That's why. Another thing to note about the course: THERE ARE NO SUPPLY CHANCES AT ANY OF THE CHECKPOINTS! Next, there are a total of FOUR convenience stores on the ENTIRE ROUTE. The last one is a 24 hour store and is about 100 miles from the finish. Plan accordingly.

You can figure on having to go about a 100 miles to start out with before you see a convenience store. I highly suggest that you avail yourselves of the opportunity at each convenience store you see. The route will go right past all four stores, so I am not marking the cue sheets with convenience store locations. It will be up to each rider to be alert and look for their chance to resupply. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!! 

That's it for this edition of T.I.v14 news and updates. Look for further updates to come soon.....

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Snow Home From Work

I decided to take advantage of the fresh snow dump, (which not many seem to have done, by the way), and I rode home from work the "long way". That means I didn't take any dirt trail, but I did take some not very often used paved trail back to Waterloo. I was able to grab a couple of cool images along the way.

Laying in the Snow-light
I rode underneath the Highway 218/27 bridge and looked down the bridge the long way. I have stopped and taken an image here before. The "typical" under the bridge shot where you line up your bike to get the arches of the supports to line up as if they are a cathedral ceiling. Then I turned and looked to my right at the embankment and saw a different view.

The snow had fallen through the small gap between the two sections of the four lane expressway. This snow landed in a way that made it look as if the snow was a shadow in reverse. Or was the snow representing where the Sun would shine down on the pavement below? Anyway, I haven't seen anyone post an image quite like it, and I've seen a zillion of the "other view".

A rare owl sighting
I was passing by the Sherwood Park sign not long after the bridge and I noted movement in the peripheral vision on my left side. I turned my head slightly to catch a large bird coming off the ground. By its shape I knew it had to be an owl.

Now owls are common here, but due to their nocturnal ways and their silent flight, they are not often seen, and hardly ever during the day. However; during Winter you can often hear them hooting during daylight hours, so you know they are out and about. Seeing one is rare though. I counted myself not only blessed to have seen this one, but doubly so that I was able to stop, fumble for my camera, set up the shot, and take not one, but two snaps, before the critter took flight again.

I'm pretty certain this was a Barred Owl, which are fairly common around Waterloo/Cedar Falls. I love these critters because they sound like they are saying, "Who-cooks-for-you?" when they hoot. But this owl wasn't the only wildlife I saw. Not more than a hundred yards later I saw about half a dozen white tailed deer as well.

That was a pretty good "Snow Home From Work" ride, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Real Winter Returns

I decided to use the Blackborow DS since they predicted snow- good thing I did!
Over the weekend the word was coming down from those meteorological minded folks that we were going to see some white stuff hit the ground. So, I watched closely and when it looked like we were going to actually see some significant level of snow I went down and set up the Blackborow DS for the Monday commute to work.

We had seen a Saturday which left many icy patches here and there, but otherwise, it was much as it had been- cold and barren. I ran into a couple places where I felt the rear tire slip a bit, and it made me wonder, how would this be with a fresh dump of snow on top? Well, it didn't take long to find out.

By 10:00am it was snowing really steady and it was piling up. The snow slacked off in intensity for a while, but we probably got somewhere around 4" after it was all over. It was still snowing though when I left from work, so it wasn't as bad as it was later on.

Fortunately the snow had enough moisture in it that it stuck to the icy spots well and I had no issues with traction going back home. It was fun riding in fresh snow again. My Lou's were probably overkill, but the Blackborow DS needs to be ridden and this was the best reason I had to get it out in quite a while. Since the first of the year, as a matter of fact.

First tracks on the way home.
 While this isn't really enough to form much of a base, it looks as though we may get more by week's end, and then maybe we have another week to enjoy that before it looks like we are supposed to start trending up over freezing more. That's mid-February and yeah......you know we're almost ready to hit Spring-like weather soon, right? I know it seems weird right now, but it isn't far off.

Soon I'll be hitting up mushy gravel roads and plotting Trans Iowa stuff. The season is about to get kicked off here soon......

Monday, February 05, 2018

I Fixed It Again

I had a "super" walk with my daughter on Sunday
It had been quite awhile since I had regularly ridden a fixed gear bicycle. For many years there I rode one several times a week in nicer weather for short jaunts. Usually to go pick up my kids at the elementary school or sometimes to run errands downtown. That was generally done on my "rat rod" fixie Raleigh Grand Prix. A bike that was from the 70's which I had converted in the most inexpensive way possible into a fixed gear bike.

I also can switch to fixed gear on my Surly 1X1 simply by flipping the wheel around. I had run it fixed briefly after getting it set up in its current configuration, but I haven't run it fixed since. For some strange reason, it had been on my mind to switch it over to fixed again.

I rode it to work on Friday and unbeknownst to me it started to snow a bit before I left. Nothing big, just a skiff in the end, but perfect timing to switch it over to fixed gear. I expected that I would be extremely rusty at riding fixed gear. It probably didn't help that I had on my heavy Keen hikers and was going to be riding those crappy aluminum flats I have with no pins or real grip to them whatsoever. I guess it is considered bad form to ride fixed without straps, but......what do I know. I just ride.

Well, I must say, I actually surprised myself by only having one "hiccup" where I forgot momentarily and had a slight kickback. I actually cleaned all the curb hops well and the rest went just great. Timing curb hops? Not gonna happen when I ride! I just went with wherever I was in the pedal stroke, and that seemed to work, although it is a disjointed feeling when your jerk on the bars isn't timed with a push down with the right foot.

I got home and that was all that mattered in the end. I think I will leave it fixed for a while, at least. I may try to sit my Karate Monkey up fixed too so I can do some country riding that way. I think it will be a good diversion and help with the early season training.