Thursday, September 19, 2019

Unlooked For Adventure

Wednesday I wanted to go for a single speed ride in the country, but I noted that a pretty solid line of thunderstorms was moving through the state. The air was ripe with humidity, and you could tell it was going to rain in the way that the air felt. It was too iffy for me to go out and dodge potential lightning strikes. So, I waffled around and finally pulled out the Fargo Gen I as it needed to have those MSO tires ridden in some more to get the tubeless set up right.

So, I pumped up the tires, got into some riding clothes, threw on those snazzy new RX-8 Shimano gravel shoes, and headed out the door from the house to......

Yeah, where was I going? I had nothing I really was excited about, but I figured I hadn't been to George Wyth State Park for a while, so I headed over in that general direction. Along the way I hit up some good alleys. Around these parts, alleyways are everywhere and probably 98% of them are gravel. I used a bunch of these pieced together to get over to the network of bike paths, over the Cedar River, and into George Wyth. This park has been a mountain biking area for close to 30 years now. I've been around for most of that. It's a very familiar area to me.

Sure, the trails have changed, new ones added, old ones are gone, but Geo Wyth is still that twisty, mostly flat, river bottom single track that it has always been. I see now they have actually posted the names on the trails. Novel idea, that. I dove into one and went for a fair piece until I ran into lots of dead fall. We had pretty harsh winds out here last week and the leavings from the trees are still laying on the trails there, in some places to much too ride through. I cleared a little bit off, then headed in the general direction of the paved path. The thought here wasn't that I wanted to do single track. So, a little reminder was all it took to tell me I had enough of that, and now it was time to find something else to capture the mind.

That turned out to be the Canfield Access road which used to be private, but now is part of the park. It was muddy, ridden with big stretches of water, and......more of an adventure than trying to dodge a million dead branches on single track. I took this out to the boat access and then the Park road to the bike path. Then I headed back home. Along the way I actually learned a thing or two I can write about concerning the Shimano gravel shoes. Bonus. Then it was more alley ways, and eventually back home.

Bike rides are good for the soul, even if you don't know where you are going. Oh, and less than an hour after I got back it started raining. Good timing!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Update

Hey all you single speed nut jobs out there. Listen up, because N.Y. Roll and I have some news concerning the C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Road Championship.

They say "single speed is dead", "gravel has jumped the shark", and riding in the Mid-West is dumb, but ya know what? We don't care what they say. We're doing this again, and that's that. Y'all can come along for the good times or just sit there and be a typical keyboard warrior. What'evs. If you are in on this deal, read on. If not, move on......

Back in May, when we announced that this would, in fact, happen again, we posted this poasty-post. In that screed we asked y'all for ideas on what you thought about some prompts we floated out there. The ideas that got the most energy and the ones we liked are the following. First- There will be some sort of nod to the Military Veteran folk. One idea was that people could sponsor a Vet, have their name on the number plate, and that we'd do something with donation money that would support veterans in some way. (Big idea, may be too complicated, but it is interesting) The other thought was that we'd give those in the Military or Veterans of Military service some sort of discount. The first idea makes everyone pay the same and those who want to put in a little bit more would get their money donated and the name on the number plate, etc. The second idea is just cut and dry. Easy-peasy. Maybe we'll do both. Dunno right now.

The second idea was for a shorter distance for "fun". Y'know.....type 2 fun, single-speedy fun, early Spring in Iowa fun? Yeah........that kind of "fun". Anywho..... I'm thinking we offer one distance and that it be in the 25-30 mile range. Whatever I can cook up that makes sense for a course, but something in that range. We'd be expecting that to take folks somewhere around 4 hours maximum, so that "event", (ride?), could be over by 12:00. I think starting everyone at the same time, or close to it, would make for a cool experience, so we will consider all that as we detail things out. But at any rate, this will be a part of C.O.G the 2nd.

Okay, what we do know, and this all is set in stone, are the following bullet points for the next C.O.G. 100:

  • Single Speed bicycles only.
  • Self-supported
  • Self-navigated by cue sheet.
  • New Course out of Grinnell  
  • Event date of March 28th, 2020
We will be having a Friday evening get together/registration sign in at Peace Tree again, plus suggesting we all get there afterward on Saturday. Start time will likely be 8:00am again, and this course might be longer than 100 miles, but it will not be as long as last Spring's was. I'll try to get it down to close to a hundy, but things are not as cut and dry in terms of roads as some of you OCD folks would maybe like it to be. Bottom line: It will be what it is. There will be one opportunity for resupply only at a convenience store somewhere on the route. Do not request that it come at "such and such" mile. It will be where it is. You will need to carry what you need. Be Prepared. You Are Responsible For You! We will announce it all- fine details, course description and more- before registration.

Speaking of registration, we will also be working on the details of that and make a further announcement later into the Fall.

Finally- This will be a hard event. Many will not finish it. Maybe no one will. And we are alright with that. Don't plan on coming if that rubs ya the wrong way.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Servicing The Can-O-Gears

The Rohloff Hub Oil Service Kit
Most of you out there probably do not own now, or have ever owned in the past, a Rohloff 14 speed "Speed Hub". Since I have one and had to service it, I thought I'd share the process. This "can-o-gears" is pretty low maintenance, but what maintenance is required is super important.

If you can imagine all the gears, pawls, bearings, bushings, and other moving bits that having 14 internal gears requires, then it doesn't take long to realize that proper lubrication is paramount to the survival of the hub. And at around $1800,00 a pop, this is something you don't just put off. Maintenance is required and doing it makes the hub last a good long time. I don't want to find out what happens if you skip maintaining this hub.

I knew this maintenance was in my future, so I looked up what the servicing interval was, and what the suggestions for maintenance were, from the Rohloff site. Turns out that they recommend servicing the hub once a year, or at least at every 5,000Km intervals. Okay, I had no idea if this maintenance had ever been done, much less the last time it may have happened with my hub. So, I made the call to go ahead and do it now, before Winter comes, and just plan on taking this schedule Rohloff suggests into the future from this point on.

Since this was my first rodeo with servicing the Speedhub, I ordered the Speedhub Oil Change Kit. Then I watched the video on Rohloff's site which shows the procedure. It's fairly simple, but I will document it here. the Oil Change Kit comes with a cleaning oil, regular Rohloff Speedhub oil, a syringe, and a new drain plug. Instructions also come with the kit.

Removing the old drain plug with a 3mm Allen key.
First, you assemble the syringe and draw up the contents of the Cleaning oil. Then you remove the 3mm drain plug and set that aside.

The end of the hose for the syringe already has a thread-able end which connects to the Speedhub.
Then you thread in the end of the syringe hose to the Speedhub and push the plunger steadily and gently as possible, introducing all the Cleaning oil into the hub. Rohloff then recommends that you draw back the plunger to the 25ml mark to relieve the hub of any extra internal pressures. After this, you unscrew the hose, set that aside, and replace the old drain plug, being very careful not to thread it in too far. (See the instructions) Once you have that back in, you pedal the bike, switching back and forth between gears "3" and "5", while alternating in some backward pedaling. This is so that the Cleaning oil gets into all the gearing combinations and parts of the hub. Rohloff suggests doing this for three minutes in a stand, or riding the bike while shifting these combinations for 1K.

Draining the old oil and Cleaning oil from the hub.
Once the cleaning procedure has been done, Rohloff recommends setting the hub so that the drain plug is at a "six o'clock position" (pointing down ward) and letting the hub rest in this position for at least 15 minutes. This allows the oils to drain to the bottom of the hub internally. Then you unscrew that drain plug, screw in the syringe, and draw out the old oil and cleaning oil. You may not get much more than you put in depending upon when the last service was done, or due to "sweating" of the oil through the hub externally by way of seals, etc,  over time. (And yes, Rohloff hubs do this, I can attest to that)

Putting the new oil in.
Then you can turn the hub over 90° so that the drain hole faces up, and then drawing up the new oil into the syringe, screwing the hose end into the hub, and gently introducing the oil into the hub, you can then duplicate the 25ml back-draw of the plunger to relieve excess internal pressures. Put in the new drain plug, and that's it!

You don't have to use the new drain plug, but since it comes with fresh sealing dope, why not?
So, it really isn't too bad of a procedure to undertake, and now that I have the syringe, I can just purchase the oils in the future.

This should get me through the Winter easily and next year I will have to monitor the mileage, but I would imagine that getting slightly over 3,000 miles between now and next September on the Ti Muk 2 will be a big ask. I don't ride it that much! Although, I could if it were my only bicycle. The Ti Muk 2 is that comfortable to ride.

One thing I did note was that I did not see a lot more oil come out than the amount of Cleaning oil I put in. Yikes! Rohloff says that oil will "sweat" out of the hub, and I have noted that you see an oily film which collects dust and dirt on the shifter box at times. I suppose that to keep the hub from having excessive drag that the seals cannot be 100% leak proof. So,by my measure, I was at the minimum for oil in the hub! Good thing I chose to do the maintenance!

I also noted that the hub was much quieter and that it shifted very smoothly after the maintenance was accomplished. So, it's a good thing on many levels to maintain the Speedhub according to recommendations, as far as I can see.

Got any questions? I'm happy to answer them. Hit me up in the comments or send an e-mail to Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Fall Views: Dramatic Skies

Rain was on the radar, but I bet on it missing me.
Saturday was going to be a hit or miss day on getting a ride in. I had errands to attend to, plus rain was in the forecast. Originally the prognosticators were saying it wouldn't hit until later in the afternoon, but when I checked the weather in the morning, the radar showed a big mass of precipitation headed right for my area.

But, you never know when it comes to weather here. Just as it has in several instances this past Summer and Spring, the big mass of rain fizzled out before it got here. We maybe got a few drops. So, I was good to go with regard to a ride in the afternoon after all.

I managed to get ready and get out the door after 3:00pm. The skies to the Southwest did not look inviting. Hmm.... I also decided to start from a different spot this time. I went to a little village, now a part of Waterloo, called Orange. There I parked in the fancy new school lot and switched to riding gear for my ride. As I went through a back street in Orange, I discovered a small park, Lichty Park, that would be a perfect launching spot for gravel rides South of town. Putting that into my memory banks, I moved on and hit the one mile stretch of chip seal to Ansborough Avenue and headed South on gravel.

Before I left I peeked at the radar on my phone and saw that the darkening skies were due to some thunderstorms moving in a Southeasterly direction near to Orange. I bet that these would not drift Eastward and drag me into their wet clutches. Onward I went....

The dramatic clouds, darkened skies and golden fields made for great contrasts. 
Despite the threatening skies, I never got wet.
The wind was stiff out of the Southwest this particular afternoon. A pretty stout, consistent breeze that made the really chunky gravel just South of town a real chore. Holy Cow! They used some heavier gauge stuff, or laid it on thick, or something because the rattling I got was the worst I have had in some time. Thankfully, once I got South of Petrie Road, it seemed to get a lot better. The gravel, that is, not the wind. 

Barns for Jason
These oddly colored turkeys ran down the road with me for a bit.
The wind made the entire Southward push a big workout, so I knew that coming back was going to feel like I was on cruise control. I chose to come North on Beck Road and there are some hills, but with the wind I felt like a super hero on the bike. That's the pay-off when you are suffering going into the wind, that is, if you plan your route correctly and don't get shifting winds.

Barns for Jason- part 2
I just had to stop and take this image. FYI- This barn has already appeared as a "Barns For Jason", so it can't be used again.
The beginning of the return loop was good with the tailwind, but suddenly the wind laid down and there wasn't a thing stirring. That was okay. It still was far better than a headwind! The clouds looked menacing in the not-to-far-off distance, but they never got close enough to worry me. Later on in the day it did end up raining though, so this "window" of opportunity was good to take.

The super-chunk gravel greeted me back to Waterloo and I ended my ride. It was a good ride, and the colors were fantastic against the darkened skies out there. Trees are juuuussst starting to get showy, so soon Fall colors will be on full display here in the Cedar Valley. More riding will be planned to take advantage of this as well. Stay tuned.....

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Transition Phase

 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Thinking back on what Trans Iowa v3 was about for me has been a discovery process in many ways. To my way of thinking, the event was split into two distinct parts. The first part was where I was still in collaboration with Jeff. There was the friendly banter, the ideas being shared, and a sense of excitement and camaraderie which I found immensely satisfying. Then there was a second part to T.I.v3.

This was the part where I felt like I had been abandoned, left with the responsibilities of finishing an event which I had thought that I would be getting a lot of support from on Jeff's end. Jeff, of course, had a dream of escaping Iowa, going to the mountains, and becoming the mountain biker he had been wanting to be since his childhood. He was young, he had his immediate family here, and besides Trans Iowa, he had nothing holding him back.

So, he found out Ergon was looking to hire a few folks in the U.S. to set up their operations here and expand into the North American market. Jeff was highly recruited. He got flown to Ergon's headquarters in Germany in late '06. He met several of their top officials. More and more it was becoming obvious that Jeff would be the one heading up Ergon's offices in Colorado. So, of course Jeff had to leave everything behind if he was to pursue this dream. I know it was hard for him to just leave his friends, family, and Trans Iowa. But one thing kind of sealed the deal in 2006.

It was Summer, we were busy at the bike shop, and our boss/owner was "on the schedule" to be helping out. We had a ton of repairs to do. Someone walked into the shop, and there was not any sign from the office that our boss was going to budge. This was typical behavior, by the way, and it persists to this day. Anyway, Jeff finally walked around the corner of the shop, glanced at our boss just sitting there not doing anything, and said, "That's it!", in an angered voice and went out to help the customer.

And that was "it". It was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Jeff told me later that was the very moment he cemented into his mind that he would be leaving Iowa. And to be honest, it was the best decision he ever made at the time. He's gone on to realize the life he always dreamed of back then, and the fruits of his labors have been many and great. I was, and still am, very happy for him.

So, I was never bitter about his leaving me all this stuff to see through to its conclusion. I wasn't necessarily happy about it, and I felt really overwhelmed by it all. Two years prior I was simply a mechanic, with zero experience in putting on an event. Now, besides all of Trans Iowa's duties, I was also being recruited into doing reviews online. Jeff actually strongly encouraged this. He was keen on seeing me "get out of there" as much as he was keen on leaving. So, again- I had nothing but respect and happiness for Jeff's situation at the time. He deserved everything he has gotten.

But this was really getting to be a stressful deal, this whole organizational gig, and I didn't like the "stretching" it was causing. Sleepless nights, worry, trying to put out fires while more kept popping up. I had firmly decided that Trans Iowa v3 should be the last one. I'd follow through with what Jeff had started, but I wasn't about to continue onward without him. I felt the spirit of his endurance racing ideals, the influences of his friends and acquaintances who helped us out, they were all due to his presence. The influence of Jeff was what Trans Iowa was and what it needed. Me? Who was I to keep the wheel turning?

Next: Stories of v3

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-39

This was the fob for the room key I had in Deer Valley during the Fisher MTB Press Camp
Ten years ago this week I flew to the SLC and went to the Gary Fisher MTB Press camp.

Me......a bike mechanic from Iowa. 

I'd been blogging about 29"ers and other nonsense for just barely over 4 years. before that, no one knew who I was. By this time, yes, I was running Trans Iowa, and I was running the 29"er website called, "Twenty Nine Inches", but really...... I was hanging with other mtb journos, real journalists, and top flight athletes, and luminaries of the MTB world like Gary Fisher. Yeah......does the phrase "a duck out of water" mean anything to you? That's exactly how I felt.

Oh! I had fun alright. How could you not, being wined and dined, treated to your own personal test bikes with your name stickered on the top tube as if you were someone important. I had a mechanic at my disposal, and food and drink? Yeah..... I was well taken care of. My room was more like a flat you'd find in a big European city. Three freakin' rooms! The bathroom was bigger than my current bedroom where I live to this day. It was.....outlandish. 

The whole deal kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I just had such a hard time balancing this opulence and frivolous spending with what I saw going down in the local shop scene. No offense to those who were so gracious to me, but I just could not justify the experience. Am I worth that? Yeah, perhaps, but that isn't the point either. The whole thing seemed over the top and out of sync with the realities of the cycling world as I knew it. Anyway.....

It was the last press camp I ever attended. After that, I deferred to those who were helping me. Grannygear, or CG, or now MG, and I don't know that I'd ever go to another one of those deals. Maybe I would, if the situation was right.

The cycling industry seems a bit bent on sending journos all over the World to far flung places to test new stuff in situations that are beyond the means of most folks, or at least of most bicycle mechanics......or most anybody, really. Is that wrong? Is that okay?

I still have a hard time justifying this all today.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Friday News And Views

The Ibis Ripmo AF (Image courtesy of Ibis' site)
Metal Frames Make A Comeback:

There were several years running that whenever a company made an announcement of a mountain bike, it was all about the top of the line, carbon fiber framed model, and oh is offered in a cheaply spec'ed aluminum version too- but about that carbon fiber! 

Well, lately it seems that there is an undercurrent of announcements featuring.....aluminum framed mountain bikes? Yep. I wouldn't call it a backlash against the uber-spendy carbon rigs, because there aren't that many new-fangled metal framed ones out there, but there are some, and that is notable.

Ibis announced a new one based upon their Ripmo model and they call it the "Ripmo AF". (Yeah.....double entendre' and all) It's a cool idea with the potential to reach more riders who cannot afford to throw down 5+G on a bike that will be thrashed within an inch of its life. Basically, the metal framed bike could be said to be the bike for those who really use up equipment. They don't care about weight, scratches, and they don't want their bikes to be snapped, cracked, or punctured by their riding style or by the environment they ride in.

But of course, you can break anything. I get that, but if you have seen the manufacturers warnings about scratched carbon, well, that alone makes me think twice about a carbon mtb frame. Especially if I were to ride hard in rocky terrain. Heck, I wince whenever a piece of gravel smacks the downtube of any carbon gravel bike I ride. You just never know when that one hit will be the one to put your bike's frame into the trash bin. So, it is cool to see manufacturers looking to make aluminum something other than "the cheapest alternative".

One hangar to rule them all and.....oh, nevermind!
SRAM Attempts To Make A New Standard:

 Maybe you saw this? SRAM have announced the "UDH Hangar" for the mounting of rear derailleurs on through axle bikes from 2020 on. It is proposed as a "one solution" hangar that is compatible with all rear mountain bike derailleurs and could be compatible with all future MTB frames. That is- if the frames are designed around this standard.

Much like SRAM's DUB bottom bracket, the idea is to streamline the choices for rear hangars down to just this one. If you have ever noticed, there are probably well over 100 different hangars in existence for modern bicycles. Many are hard to source, and many are quite expensive, seeing as how they are simply machined chunks of aluminum.

So, while this is an awesome idea, I just don't see it panning out. It well may show up on several bikes, but if we think manufacturers are not going to make their own, proprietary hangars anymore, well then, we're stupid. I just do not see this SRAM UDH thing making that issue go away any more than I see DUB bottom brackets fixing the issues of the various different bottom bracket standards that are out and will continue to come out.

But kudos to SRAM for trying.

Impact Kanza? Yep!  Look for this next year.
 CrankTank Announces New Media Event At The DK200:

You probably know that the DK200 is a BIG deal in the gravel scene. It's far more than a race, these days anyway. It basically has become a week-long gathering of the gravel folk and now a company called CrankTank want the media in on the action. 

CrankTank has done something similar at the Kona Ironman event, (also a Life time Fitness event....hmmm....) and now they state that "With the shift to DTC (Direct To Consumer) that is currently happening in the bike market, we see brands introducing product to media and consumers in a more compressed timeline and we see inventory more aligned with media moments. For this reason it makes the most sense to integrate your brand communication strategy to include consumer events in your product marketing strategy. DK is the currently epicenter of gravel, and brands are jockeying for position in this emerging market. CrankTank makes it easier to bring new product to market in the gravel segment with Impact Kanza." (Read the full story on "Bicycle Retailer And industry News" here)

Curiously, CrankTank is taking the year off from doing the Kona event and another event in Sun Valley they have produced in the past. Apparently all hands are on deck to bring more media attention to gravel.

Geezer Ride Fall '19:

Hey ho! It's been a minute or two since we have had a Geezer Ride. A couple of years back, some fellas came down from Cresco and joined us for a Geezer Ride. They got "bitten", as you might say, and they decided to put one on themselves. (Which I allow, by the way) The thing was, one of the principals involved had knee work done last year, and since he wanted to ride, well, they put off doing a ride till now. That's one of the reasons why a Geezer Ride never happened in 2018. Anyway.......

This Geezer Ride is being put on by the guys at Cresco Bicycles. The date is SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5th, 2019. The time will be 7:00am for donuts and coffee at the shop. Ride starts at 8:00am sharp! 

The route has been devised by the fellas at Cresco Bikes and all I know is that they will be guiding us. It's going to be about 51 miles in length. THIS IS SELF-SUPPORTED! Bring what ya need for the distance! We will be going through one small town, so there might be some chance to resupply, but I am not sure on this. I was told it will have historical bits and only the first third has any hills while the rest is described as fairly flat. I know this area, and there are no real tough hills.

I also need to communicate that the route will not be released on digital platforms, there will be NO FILES to put into a computer, and NO MAP OF THE ROUTE beforehand. If ya wanna know what's up, ya gotta commit blindly. We'll all ride off that cliff together the day of the ride. If'n that ruffles yer feathers, don't plan on coming. This is a Geezer Ride, after all.

Check for any updates here, but I suspect that unless weather shuts us down, you won't see anything else other'n whatz there now. Geezer on!

Okay, that's a wrap for this week. Have a great weekend and ride them bicycle dealios!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Some (More) Eurobike Musings

A new tapered steer tube standard- 1 1/9th to 1.8", as seen on the 2020 Bulls Sonic Evo
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

While watching it rain yesterday, I decided to peruse more show news from Eurobike. This has quickly become the de facto "dealer trade show" for the world now that the pesky Interbike show has finally gone by the wayside. With technology having the impact that it has had, one show for the World is maybe all we really need.

To wit: "pinkbike", the mtb site, had virtual video tours through the halls of Eurobike showing off highlights for mountain bikers. They also showed some of what is charming about trade shows, and that is the weird and wonderful gadgets, inventions, and ephemera that one can find while wandering around at one of these events. Kudos to the site for making no commentary on some of these weird things. Raspberries to the site for the occasional show of "bro-culture humor". But anyway......

The single most interesting thing I saw was from Bulls, a German based brand. They have HPC's, (e-mtb's, for those stuck with that bad moniker) of course, and one of their newest ones, the Sonic Evo, has a new tapered steer tube dimension. It is a traditional 1 1/8th at the top, but swells out to a 1.8" at the crown of the fork. Rock Shox and SunTour are buying into this idea, for now, and are making the standard "open", meaning other companies (Fox) are open to using it if they so choose. why? 

Rock Shox was quoted in an article I read, and their officials were saying, it was a customer request and that they would watch to see "where this goes" for the future. (Read: Will there be any further OEM interest? If so, it's on like Donkey Kong! If not- it will die) SunTour said that it was a necessary evolution of fork/headset/frame design pushed by the electrification of mountain bikes. The heavier bikes with more power are exerting higher peak loads and this idea will help to handle that. Who is right?

Both are. 

Will it become an adopted standard? The folks at "pinkbike" weren't so quick to say it will. Here's the thing- If other manufacturers see the benefit in terms of marketing, engineering, and in preventing possible warranty/liability issues, then yes. It's going to be pushed out for HPC's particularly. If so, since HPC's and human powered bicycles are still so closely related, you might see some cross-pollination with DH bikes, or really long travel 29"ers. But one could also argue that this points to where HPC (at least on the MTB side) and human powered bicycles start to part ways.

Once standards start getting developed for electrified two wheelers, then the dam may break, and many connections to standard bicycles may cease to exist. Just like what happened a hundred years ago when folks found out that simply strapping on a gasoline motor to a bicycle wasn't enough. Parts and pieces had to be developed to handle the higher peak loads and forces a motor brings to the table. And we all know where that ended up.

And standards are being changed for HPC's in the MTB realm. Both Hope and Magura have 220mm rotors and brake adapters now in an answer for a need for better brakes on electrified MTB's. Magura also has an integrated cockpit specifically for these rigs which has a built in controller, hidden master cylinders, and internally routed brake lines. It looks as huge and clunky as it sounds. Fork manufacturers are already busy modifying internals to adapt to the heavier vehicles and different dynamics they bring to motorized two wheeled trail riding.

This will all continue to develop and change, in my opinion, and then at some point lines are going to start getting blurred between what a "bicycle is" and what a motorcycle is, as motorcycle companies continue to electrify their product. At what point do you say, "Well, I could by this 6-10K electrified bicycle deal, which I have to pedal a little bit, or spend about the same on a better electric trail bike I don't have to pedal at all?" When the motor cycle companies get there, and they will, this will likely be the death of the so-called "e-mtb".

You'll say, "But those things without pedals are banned!", and I say, when they all start looking similar, how will anyone be able to tell one from the other? Inspections at parking lots? Who has the time and money for that? These things will be silent, or nearly so, so how would you catch them on a trail? Maybe you are of the mind that law abiding citizens wouldn't do such things? Maybe some, but c'mon! We already have trail poachers, people who don't stop when its muddy, and laziness abounds.

But time will tell. It's going to be an ever shifting landscape for several years to come.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

It's The Light Time For Night Time

I've got the silver version of this light, purchased with my own money, in 2017.
Lights. You're going to be digging yours out soon, if you haven't already, and looking for that dratted USB cord to charge it with. Yep. It's about "Light Time" in these here latitudes.

I was reminded of this the other day when a guy I follow on Instagram was showing his morning group ride and it was dark. "Gosh! Is it already time for lights?", I thought to myself. Yep. It is that time for sure. I got to thinking more about this since then.

So, the first thought I had was, that for a guy like myself, the ultimate set up is definitely what I have on the Ti Muk 2. I cannot imagine a more simple, easy, and less thought intensive way to light the night than with a SON 28 dynamo hub and lighting system. I mean.....I just pedal and the lights work! I don't have to charge them, I don't have to remember to turn them on or to turn them off. I just ride. It cannot possibly be easier than this.

Now, I know that there are downsides. Like, I would have to duplicate the expensive hub into a wheel to be able to switch out to, let's say, a Summer wheel set. That's a big ouch because the SON 28 hub for through axle fat bike set ups is close to five hundred dollars alone. Just the hub! So, I guess I could put up with a measly $200.00 LED, self-contained unit and a separate "blinky" for what? Another $50.00 for something really nice? And that would cover all my bikes? Yeah......that's a good deal.

But I'm tellin' ya. There is no denying "The Power of the Dynamo Hub". Once bitten, you'll find it hard to look at other lighting systems in the same manner. It's just the money, which is a big obstacle, to get over with those. Otherwise, yeah.....I'm completely sold on dynamo lighting now. But until the entire world decides that dynamo hubs are the bomb, (unlikely), and until I come up with a truckload of cash, (also not very likely), to convert my fleet, I'm also going to be running "traditional" LED-type lights for cycling. Oh, and what about a light for the helmet? You aren't going to run that off a dynamo hub......yet. Maybe someday. But for now, you are probably looking at traditional LED lights for the helmet as well.

So, pretty soon I am supposed to be getting in some lights for review that have some crazy features. Every year these self-contained, LED lights are getting less and less expensive and feature more and more things which I did not know I needed.

Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Country Views: The Golden Season

A flat sky and golden hues.
The time of Summer has passed on. We're looking at Fall straight in the eyes now. The entire feel of the World here has shifted gears.

There is something about this time of year. It is........quieter. I think that has to do with the change of hues, partially. We go from Spring and Summer's loud,brash greens, eye popping flower colors, and bright skies to Fall's more subdued golden hues of yellow and brown under dun colored skies.

Then there are the sounds. The song birds have all fallen silent, or they have moved on Southward. Only the occasional bright rasp of the Blue Jay is heard now. Insects chirp incessantly, not just during the dark hours, but all day now. It makes it seem as if one should be sleeping. The trees are losing leaves and starting to fade. Some have already shown patches of golden yellows or oranges.

And out in the country everything is turning a golden yellow. Corn, soybeans, and ditch plants. All going toward a slow drift to the Brown Season. The color green is getting punctuated with contrasting colors, and it looks great, for now.

Petrie Road's Level B section was  no match for the Ti Muk 2, despite it being a bit wet.
I had to get out to ride. It was my first Monday off for the "off season". I suffered through this last Fall, Winter, and early Spring too. Work is not going well, but that's a story that will have to wait to be told later. Hang tight on that, and yes- I'll be all right. Soon.....sooner than later, all will be made clear.

Anyway..... It was a very humid but cool day, and the threat of rain persisted throughout the morning hours. I could have sat and waited to see what might happen, or I could get out and make something happen. I chose the latter. I'm glad that I did, despite the fact that it actually rained briefly just as I was on my way to my starting point at Prairie Grove Park.

As you know from yesterday's post, I re-upped the sealant on the Ti Muk 2 and it needed riding in, plus with the flat pedals that bike has, I could finish up a "last test ride" for some shoes I am reviewing for So, I loaded up that bike, strapped some rain gear, just in case, to the rack, and headed South with a view to ride Petrie Road's Level B section and then back to town. Just a short ride, but on the fat bike into the Southeast wind, it wasn't necessarily easy. The roads weren't bad but the wind was stiff.

In fact, speaking of those roads, the scars from last Winter are quite evident yet. If we have another difficult Winter, in terms of weather, this situation will play itself out again next Spring with more bad road conditions. Maybe we will get a reprieve from that and see the roads finally recover though. Hard to say anymore with the crazy weather that happens more often now than not.

The Ti Muk 2 bracketed by Sunflowers
Sometimes you have to just stop and look a little closer.
The Level B road was no match for the Ti Muk 2. I rolled that thing like a champ. The sandy bits, the muddy bits, and the rocky bits. Fat tires rule! A gravel bike would have made it a real challenging mile though. I seriously doubt I would have made it without a dab or two.

The Southeasterly wind pushed me back to the truck in a hurry after the B Road. It was almost too easy compared to the grind I had going out. But, I had other things to get to Monday and so I headed back towards the house and got busy. It was crazy to see how fast things change in the country though. That's definitely one thing that has remained the same about this part of Iowa and the World, ironically. There is a constant state of change going on here.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Tubeless Maintenance How-To

You're set up tubeless? Great. Do you know about maintenance for tubeless?
Tubeless tires are ubiquitous in gravel and MTB circles these days, but not everyone is running tubeless yet, and many who are don't know about maintenance of tubeless tires. If this describes you, read on. If not, then head on over to your next stop on the internet. (Unless you are just curious about how I do this)

Of course, just having your tires set up tubeless isn't the end of your concerns for your tires. Tubeless set ups require a sealant to seal the tires and to ward off any puncture issues, (hopefully) from sharp objects like bits of glass, thorns, or goat heads, for instance. That said, you can still get a tubeless tire to fail in any number of ways, (Which, by the way, would slay most any tubed tire anyway, so going tubeless doesn't get you a "get out of jail" card, so to speak)

I'm not going to give you the reasons to go tubeless, this article assumes you already have been over that road. No, this is going to give you some ideas on why, and then how, maintenance is done of tubeless bicycle tires. This mostly has to do with sealant, so let's talk about that briefly.

Bicycle tires could be made so they do not need sealant. I've tried those, and, for the sake of brevity, I'll just say you really don't want to go there! Why? Weight. Nuff said.

So, tubeless bicycle tires need sealant. This is typically from two major families of sealant products. There are the latex based sealants and the glycol based sealants. Examples of both would be Stan's and Slime, respectively. The carrier in a latex based sealant is typically ammonia, but in a glycol based sealant it is, well.....glycol, which is a liquid from the same family as your automobile coolants.  Glycol based sealants for bicycle use aren't common, and they act differently than the latex sealants do. Since latex is, by far and away, the most commonly used bicycle sealant, I will be focusing on maintenance for that type of sealant.

Tools needed: A valve core remover and a cable tie, (or Orange Seal dipstick, as shown)
Latex sealant is great stuff, when it is not dried up. Oh......maybe you didn't know, but your sealant has a service life. Typically this can be anywhere from three months to as long as six months. This depends upon the sealant brand, frequency of riding, and temperatures both while riding and where you store the bike. There is no "hard and fast" rule or service interval for sealant. It will vary with everyone. This is why you need to check your sealant levels. I typically go about three months in before I check on my tires. Here's how to do this.
  • Tools: First you'll need to have a small width cable tie at least 4" long, a valve core remover, and your air inflation device. (See image above for a visual on the core remover and cable tie/dip stick)

Valve stem at the "six o'clock" position.
Then you'll need to, preferably, hang your bike so that you have no weight on the wheels. Next, you should put the valve stems at the "six o'clock" position, make sure the wheels don't rotate freely from this position, and leave the bike hanging for at least three hours. This allows the sealant- if there is any left- to pool in the bottom of the tire underneath the valve stem.

Once the time has expired, we can safely assume any sealant has migrated to the bottom of the tire underneath the valve stem. then you should open the valve, release as much air as you can- but do not squeeze or touch the tire at all!  This and having no weight on the tires is VERY IMPORTANT so you do not break the seal on the bead/rim interface.

Once the air is mostly out, remove the valve core. I like the Park Tools VC-1 since if the valve core is tight, or gummed up with sealant, you can use a 10mm box end wrench to turn the tool without handling the tire. Hopefully you don't need to do that, but just in case, a tool like the Park one that allows for extra leverage of some sort could be helpful. Bonus: The Park tool also removes Schrader valve cores as well. So if you are running tubeless with those valves, the Park tool will work there as well.

Once you get the valve core out, examine it carefully. As stated, most latex sealants use ammonia as a carrier which is corrosive to rubber and metal. Also, there are two places on a Presta valve core which must seal correctly to make the valve air tight. If your valve core is corroded, or if those rubber, (or in some cases, plastic) seals are damaged, or look "collapsed", then just pitch them and put in a new one. Valve issues are a big reason for tubeless problems and you don't want to be chasing down a leak-down issue and find out it was your valve core. Valve cores can typically be purchased at most good bike shops, or on-line. Get some and make sure you do not re-use a corroded core, or one with used up seals. It isn't worth it. One more thing- Obviously the rest of the valve can get corroded and nasty looking at some point as well, but it is much more common to see a bad core first.

Once I cleared off the old sealant from this core, I found it to be okay. Note the white plastic seal.
Now lets take that cable tie, or use that dealie that Orange Seal sells with their sealant, and use this as a "dip stick" of sorts. Make sure the cable tie serrations are intact. The Orange Seal dip stick has these, by the way. Then insert the end of the cable tie carefully until it hits the bottom, which will be the inner carcass of the tire directly underneath the valve stem. Whatever pooled sealant s there will adhere to the cable tie and when you remove the cable tie, you can determine how much sealant is left, if any. Obviously, if it comes out dry, well then- you'll be needing sealant!

I used the Orange Seal "dip stick" to check my fat bike tires.
 In my estimation, if you see less than 1/4" wetness on your cable tie, you need to add sealant. You can introduce sealant in any number of ways, but most sealant brands have small bottles meant for re-upping sealant and will have clear tubes, or nozzles on the bottle that allow you to cleanly introduce new sealant through the core-less valve stem. I use a syringe set up from Effetto Mariposa since I do a ton of tubeless tire set up/maintenance here. I also mix my own sealant, using the "MG Formula" developed by my good Brother from another mother, MG. (Of course!) Here that is, (because I KNOW yer gonna ask)
  • Three heaping table spoons of Latex Mold Builder 
  • Four ounces of Purple Power windshield washer solvent.
  • Makes enough for two 29" X 2.4" tires. 
  • Adjust for smaller/larger tires to taste. 
I checked two of my bikes over the weekend. Obviously one was the Ti Muk 2 with the 26" X 4" Cake Eater tires. The other was the Black Mountain Cycles MCD rig with the 700 X 42mm WTB Resolutes. I found that the Cake Eaters had a little bit of wet sealant yet, but it was only about a 1/8th" on the "dip stick". So, I introduced about 60cc's of sealant into each tire. I could have rechecked then, but I am assuming that will get me by. NOTE- These tires were set up the second week of June, ridden fairly regularly, typical hot weather, and stored in a cool environment. 

The Resolutes were set up at the end of May and I found that they still had about a 1/4" sealant pooled at the bottom of each tire. That bike was ridden pretty consistently through June and July but then it was in the cool, dark storage for the month of August. 

Again- your mileage may vary. I just give you my examples as a data point to chew on.  

Despite running quite a bit in hot weather for a couple of months, the Resolutes didn't need sealant.
 So, if you don't need sealant, or if you had to introduce some, you then, obviously, have to put that valve core back in, or replace the old one with a new one. I cleaned up my old ones, which were new three months ago, and replaced them. Then aired up the tires, and I was good to go after that. 

That pretty much covers your maintenance issues with tubeless that will be the most common, recurring ones. You might, after some time, need to replace the valves. Depending upon your frequency in changing tires, you may need to re-tape your rims. But those things are far less commonly needed.  

Once again, I know I may have missed something you think I should have covered. Maybe I am not as clear as I could be on some points. Perhaps you just have a question you'd like answered. Well, if any of those are true for you, please hit me with a comment here or e-mail me at 

Okay, I hope that helped someone out there. Thanks again for reading. 

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories:The Media - Part 1

I was contacted by the author of this book previous to T.I.v3
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The story of Trans Iowa, up through v2, had largely been an underground one. Told only through the blogs of Jeff Kerkove, Guitar Ted, and what little folks shared on's Endurance Forum. Other well known endurance athletes had written blogs back in the day, but not many had a story about Trans Iowa.

As I recall, our local newspaper did a story about Trans Iowa before it happened, (so no real meat to it), and there was a bit in "Silent Sports Magazine" after v1, but distribution of that periodical was limited. The only folks that really knew anything about Trans Iowa were already connected into it, or knew someone who was, and that was a really small circle in reality.

As far as media was concerned, Jeff hatched a plan to contact local media outlets along the T.I.v1 route, but after getting no responses at all after his initial push, he pretty much gave up on that. Plus, we were beginning to think that having little to no one "official" having any knowledge about Trans Iowa was a good thing. Jeff and I then kind of took the "underground, under the radar" banner and flew it with pride. I basically was all onboard with all of that in the beginning. Seeking out media wasn't going to happen, and furthermore, we didn't need or want the attention it might bring. The less people that knew about what we were up to, the better.

Little did we know that this attitude was right up the alley of what author Zach Dundas was looking for as he was researching "underground" sporting events for an upcoming book he was to write. Mr. Dundas lived at that time in Portland, Oregon, and he happened to run across Ira Ryan, winner of v1, and who was seriously contemplating another attempt at Trans Iowa. He mentioned Trans Iowa to Zach, the wheels started turning, and I got an e-mail about a possibility of "shadowing" me during Trans Iowa v3.

Of course, I didn't know Zach, and "shadowing me" during a Trans Iowa? What fun could that possibly be? Keeping in mind that my only experiences doing the event on the weekends it had happened were anything but noteworthy. I spent a LOT of time alone, with absolutely nothing going on. The idea, to my way of thinking, was preposterous. I had already denied two requests from photographers to shadow Trans Iowa v3, and so I was having no problems dissing some weird author dude from Portland.

Besides that, all organizational details of the event were on me. Jeff was around a bit during the announcement for V3 up through Winter of '06, but he definitely wasn't up for recon, and besides helping me with decisions early on about registration, he was too busy with Ergon to deal with Trans Iowa anymore. This put me into a situation where, more and more, I was putting on Trans Iowa alone. That was stressing me out, and outside "distractions" were not anything I wanted, or that I needed.

But despite all of that, two things pushed through. One was that the Lincoln Crew had a guy that they knew by the name of David Story who was a photographer and a cyclist. Upon their recommendation I allowed him to follow the route, but I wanted him to be "invisible" as far as the participants were concerned. The second was Zach Dundas. He was not to be denied. Through persistence and very careful diplomatic relations, he managed to sway me into thinking this might actually be a fun deal. So, arrangements were made and that was that.
The image that became the T.I.v4 page header. Image by David Story

I'll have more to say about these two media folks and others in further editions of the "Trans Iowa Stories" series, but what I will say now is that in both cases- David Story's images and Zach Dundas' eventual write up- that the experiences and end products were pinnacles of their respective art forms in regard to Trans Iowa's history. No one covered T.I. the way these two folks did, nor any better, really.

Unfortunately, little of the hundreds of T.I.v3 images that David Story took are up anymore. (Last I checked his site, there were but a handful viewable)  but they covered T.I.v3 from stem to stern and had viewpoints that no other photographer of Trans Iowa- or of any gravel event I've seen photographed- has attempted. Cinematic in nature, David Story's images were timeless. Much like Jeff the year before, David had a knack for seeing the little things that riders were feeling and experiencing and took note. He caught moments as no other has since, and I was blown away.

Of course, Zach Dundas' "Renegade Sportsman" chapter on Trans Iowa v3 is epic. It really captured the essence of the event that year, and it really captured me. I am totally transported back to that weekend when I read that chapter. Thanks to Mr. Dundas' writing skills, I have a detailed snapshot of how I experienced Trans Iowa v3 which I never would have gotten any other way. No one else has ever told a story as well about Trans Iowa, in my opinion.

Next: The Downsides

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-38

One of six ever made. Someday I have to get this back up and running again.
Ten years ago this week on the blog I was writing about spiders on the trails, more news on the ill-fated Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and about some recent riding I had been doing. One thing I was reticent to discuss was the acquisition of a baby blue hard tailed single speed device that has sort of a rough story behind it.

It is a frame I have hanging on a peg these days and was fillet brazed by Badger Cycles for Milltown Cycles, at the time, owned by Ben Witt, a good friend of mine. It was supposed to have been a deal which would have been cool, had it worked out for Ben, but due to "issues" with the builder...... nuff said. 

Anyway, this particular bike was purchased by another friend of Ben's as new from Ben. The whole deal blew up then with these Dorothy bikes and after a while of riding this bike, this fellow, notorious for flipping his rigs after a while, decided to part ways with it. I got a contact from the seller who told me that Ben had informed him I was the the only guy that could purchase the bike from him.

Yeah, weird AND awkward. 

So, anyway, I negotiated a price and the bike came to me. Now there were, (maybe still are) a LOT of bad vibes surrounding this builder, and I used to get e-mails from upset folks every time I posted images of this bike or of my other Badger I have, as if there were anything I could do about their issues. I never did understand why folks felt compelled to regale me with their tales of venomous feelings and what not. (So, just don't, ya know?)

Anyway, the other thing that struck me about this time in my life was how busy I was! Holy cow! No wonder I was feeling the urge to bail out of some things I was doing back then in 2010 and subsequent years. It took me until 2014 to cut ties with a lot of this nonsense, but eventually, I did get out from under some of this pile I was under in 2009. That whole Big Wheeled Ballyhoo deal being a great example right there.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Friday News And Views

Big Numbers For Series On Trans Iowa:

First of all- Thank You readers! The suggestion to write the stories of Trans Iowa, the more "untold", behind-the-scenes the better, has been a fun thing for me to do. But more importantly, the series has been gaining traction and of late, has become some of the most looked at posts on this blog.

Look- I've blathered on about that event for the better part of 15 years, so I get it if you are one of those that just doesn't care about this stuff. However; it would appear from the stats I get from Google that many of you are actually looking at these posts, and I hope, enjoying them. I just wanted to point this out because it is encouraging to me and helps to push me to write better content.

So, I thought I might share a little bit about the behind-the-scenes on the series. First of all, I write these posts on the "Trans Iowa Stories" series weeks in advance. For example, I am already working on posts for the series that will show up in October. This gives me the chance to revisit each draft and revise, make corrections, or add any newly discovered memories before they "go live" on the site, at which point I don't plan on changing anything.

This also gives me chances to sift through the 15 years of posts that have bits of the story buried in there. I also have been looking at hard physical evidence- roster sheets, drafts of courses, and more that I have squirreled away in folders and three ring binders here. So, it's been fun, and I am enjoying the process, and I hope that it all results in good reads for you.

Thanks again!

Trek Supercaliber w/IsoStrut. Image pinched from Trek's site
 Could It Work On A Gravel Bike?

Design Mission Statement: Make a rear suspension design that is compact, lightweight, pedal efficient, and is "just enough to knock the edges off". This has been an idea that has been tackled by several designers and is an idea that is as old as the Safety Bicycle itself. Many have tried, some have succeeded, but not many have been reasonably priced, effective, and low enough maintenance to prove to be a long term solution.

Of course, we are talking about the "short travel", soft-tail idea. Moots YBB is probably the longest production version of this idea in existence. However, it is crude, not easily tune-able, and is maintenance intensive in dirty environments. Salsa Cycles had the Dos Niner, a fantastic design fraught with breakage due to the flexing Scandium infused aluminum alloy frame bits the design relied upon. Passive versions of this idea exist. Example- Like the aforementioned Salsa Cycles, who now make the Class V VRS system for the Warbird and Cutthroat. However, that passive suspension idea, while fairly bulletproof, is not at all tune-able. This brings us to Trek's latest announcement of the new Supercaliber MTB racing bike.

The Trek design is very much like the Salsa Dos Niner, which also used a strut and relied on flexing stays for its suspension travel. However; Trek's design moves the damper to become part of the top tube, and they employed carbon fiber as a flexing frame material instead of Scandium Aluminum. The Supercaliber has 60mm of rear travel, by the way.

Passive designs, like those being used on gravel bikes these days, all rely on the rider to be seated to work, but a soft-tail design does not, and it makes one wonder- Could something like this be a good thing on a gravel/all-road bike? (I was just thinking- "gravel/all road bike >>>G-ARB?) Anyway....

It's an intriguing thought, and you can bet Trek's in house R&D team have already been toying with just such an idea.

These are NOT looking like motorcycles. Nope! Not in the least....
Eurobike To Be Re-Named "E-eurobike"

Reports coming in from Eurobike are that the "electrification" of bicycles is reaching all-time highs. Euro-folk, apparently, are mad for anything with two wheels and a motor. Now the move is to make these rigs "more connected" and more powerful than ever.

Take this Trifecta RDR bike, shown to the left here. It's 74lbs of futuristic electrified power. It has the options of either 250w, 500w, or 950w power (!!!) and is said to be capable of covering 200K before needing a re-charge. The motor spits out a torque rating of 120Nm. (That's a LOT, by the way. 88.51Ft/lbs of torque on tap, or about 2HP @120rpm)

That's just one example of many. But here's the thing many are not thinking about now. What about all those lithium/ion batteries? What happens when they die? Where do those go? How many chains and chain rings will all this unnaturally created torque eat up? How many more wheels? Freehubs?

The PBMA (Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association) has a forum and you can read about how these HPC's are eating up components at an alarming rate, how these vehicles have to be hooked up to computers and analyzed, like your cars, and how riders, unskilled in shifting and braking techniques, are wreaking havoc on components built for purely human powered bicycles adapted to HPC use to keep weights down.

Eurobike is touting the windfall of profits these vehicles are bringing companies and dealers, but is anyone seeing how we are making bicycling more complex, less inclusive, less environmentally good, and less like.....bicycling? You will retort, "Yeah, but one less car!", or something akin to how your brother's cousin is now enjoying "bicycling" again due to the electrification of cycling. But I say, do we really know that all these HPC's are doing good things like that? My answer to that is- no-we do not. These are platitudes that make us feel better about this move towards complex two wheeled, motorized vehicles. These are things that "sound good" but we have no real metrics we can point to and say these "good things" are actually happening at any real, hugely impactful numbers. All we do know is that a metric ton of these things, full of wires, capacitors, resistors, magnets, and batteries, are being produced and where will they all end up?

Well, if Eurobike is any indication, people will get jaded by the idea of riding outside at all and take up indoor training on virtual bicycle courses, never to be seen in public again on a two wheeled vehicle. That's the other huge trend at the show this year. Indoor cycling.

Okay, that's z'nuff for this week. Have a great weekend and keep on riding!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Some Eurobike Musings

Pivot's new Phoenix DH 29
 This week is Eurobike, the show in Germany all about bikes. Here following are some newsy bits and musings I have on what has been shown on the MTB side of things.

Nope! Never Happen In DH. 

Ten years ago EVERYBODY that rode DH or long travel mountain bikes were saying you couldn't do it. That "it" would NEVER happen and that 26" wheels would ALWAYS be the standard wheel size for DH machines.

Now it is 2019 going on 2020 and find me a currently produced 2020 model 26 inch wheeled DH bike. There might be one, maybe even two, but everyone knows now that 26 inch wheeled DH bikes are rarer than hen's teeth these days. But.....they said it couldn't be done! Let's review the current release of Pivot's Phoenix 29 DH sled.

First off, it has a mind boggling 190mm of rear travel! Try wrapping your 2009 mind around that. Your head would have exploded. But that's not all. This new bike Pivot is rolling out has a lower stand over height than the outgoing 27.5" model had. Mind = BOOM!

Pivot also says this in their press release for the bike:

"Without a doubt, 29er wheels roll faster, smooth out rough courses and carry a ridiculous amount of momentum. They offer improved tracking and braking in turns too. Short 17” (44.3mm) chainstays add ‘playful’, ‘flickable’ and ‘manuals for days’ to its repertoire. This makes it incredibly fun in a bike park, and extremely quick in tight, technical wooded sections."

Obviously that has to be a fabrication. Lies! There is no way a long travel 29"er can do these things! 

Unless it can. 

Surly Troll says, "I have the most braze-on warts!" Marin Pine Mountain says, "Hold my beer!":

Bikepacking has gone off the deep end. Well, in terms of mounting points, it has. Example: Marin's 2020 Pine Mountain. Sheesh! Don't clamp a hand around that down tube, you may get punctured! (Only kidding!) But yeah.....that looks ridiculous. 

And that isn't the only thing that looks ridiculous on what makes for a "modern day bikepacking rig". To my mind, many things about these sorts of takes on the load bearing, off road touring rig don't add up. For instance- Short chain stays. Not just short, but really short. Joe Breeze once told me that the longest, uninterrupted tube is the kind that gives the best ride. He was right too. Look at traditional touring rigs, or ride any bike with long-ish chain stays made from high quality steel. Smooth for days. But no- let's make these tubes as short as possible. Then the riders hindquarters will be right above the axle of the rear wheel.  Uh-huh. Yep..... Where do you get the bumpiest ride on the bus again? 

Then there is the whole bed roll on the handle bar deal. Or any loading up front, really. Let's see, who had that all figured out already? Oh! Yeah! Those randonnuer dudes and lasses, that's who. "Short trail" works best for front loading, but, ya know, let's slacken out the head angles to chopper-like status and put even shorter off-set forks on there. Yep.....just the ticket. 

Now lets buy ALL THE BRAZE ONS! We MUST use them!! (Sorry.......not sorry!

Anywho......Maybe I'm the one that just doesn't get it. That could be. 

New BOX Components 9 speed MTB drive train

Less Is More?

The whole down hill mountain bike gig is, perhaps, so far removed from the reality of riding mountain bikes, that any comparisons to "normal" mountain biking activities is sort of an apples to oranges one. However; one thing has come out of DH that is influencing more typical MTB styles and that is less cogs on the rear wheel. 

While the two "Big S" corporations chase 12 speed dominance and a little Spanish operation is pushing 13 speeds already, there are some companies looking at what less cogs on a system can do for mountain bikers. For one thing, the system can be more durable, longer wearing, and less expensive, theoretically. One company pushing this technology is BOX Components

It's a nifty looking system, and it is less expensive. It may not be lighter weight, but it certainly could be more durable. I mean, just look at the chain. If there is one thing that these 11 and 12 speed systems are really pushing the limits on, it is chain technology. I'm starting to hear about more snapped chains and quick links these days. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why that is. 

One other thing a lot of folks don't understand is the "margin for error". This is the concept that a cassette with less cogs, thicker cogs, and heavier duty chain is less prone to minor out of alignment/adjustment issues. I remember seeing folks with 7 speed MTB components that were running around, happy as larks, with slightly bent out of whack rear mech hangars and derailleur cages. Try that with you fancy-pants 12 speed stuff. Your bike probably won't even shift correctly, if at all. 

So, it is cool to see companies bringing more durable, less complex systems back into the fold. TRP also announced a 7 speed DH based system as well. I think there is definitely a place for such things. Less maintenance, less "margin for error", and it means more fun for a longer time. That's what it really is all about anyway, right? 

Stay tuned for more show related news....