Sunday, June 30, 2019

Barns For Jason: The Solstice 100 Version

The occasional "Barns For Jason" image or, as in today's case, a full post, is a way for me to share my love of old rural barns. These structures are quickly disappearing from the Mid-Western landscape as farms become more corporate, larger, and therefore have outgrown the use for the humble wooden barn. The genesis of this idea was a 'contest" between Jason Boucher, then the head of Salsa Cycles, and myself. We were seeing who could post the most barns on our blogs. Rules were that only barns seen on bicycle rides could be used and once a barn had been posted it could not be used in the "contest" again. Well, Jason capitulated to me long ago, but I still carry on the tradition. (I know he still digs barns too.)

Anyway, these are the barns I saw and photographed during last weekend's Solstice 100 which was largely Northwest of Lincoln, Nebraska. Enjoy!






Trans Iowa Stories: Jeff Kerkove & Guitar Ted - Part 3

Always a cut up. Jeff driving his Mazda on Trans Iowa recon for v2 in 2005
In this post we learn a bit about Trans Iowa co-founder, Jeff Kerkove and his background. 

Trans Iowa ended up becoming the vehicle that brought Jeff and I closer together than we ever had been. It was the only real "outside of the work place' activity we ever enjoined in besides one, maybe two bicycle rides.

So, as I recall, we went out and drove the v1 course in a weekend. I won't get all into the finer details, but working with Jeff was actually really easy. First of all, I don't think either one of us had a clue as to what to expect. So, with open minds and a lot of creativity, we were able to get along really well.

I guess that in looking back it was mostly the evening on Saturday of recon that stands out to me yet so many years later. I visited Jeff's family and stayed overnight with them in the home where Jeff grew up in Algona, Iowa. I think it bears mentioning this, since I learned a lot about who Jeff was, and is, from that brief time at his parents house.

If you've ever had the opportunity to visit someone's childhood home not many years removed from when they lived there, you will relate to this. Mementos and pictures from Jeff's and his sister's childhood were still everywhere in the home. Of course they would be. Jeff had a great relationship with his parents and they were still,(and are still to this day), married and at that time were living in that house where he grew up. No real reason that this kind of stuff wouldn't be up there. And no real reason for his parents not to regale me with stories of Jeff's upbringing, much to Jeff's embarrassment. Stories about his passion for fishing and how that led to his love of cycling. Stories about how the local bike shop helped push Jeff into trying a race, and then how that blossomed into a successful XC racing period for Jeff. In fact, I got to visit Jeff's "home town shop", a converted garage, and in it hung a banner showing Jeff and his MTB bike in some race, as if he was a Pro racing star. It was impressive.

This was the main impact I had from our weekend of driving gravel roads together, and it made me appreciate Jeff's down to Earth attitude and our friendship even more. Plus, the Scotcheroos his Mother made for dessert that night were to die for.

But furthermore; Jeff was an "activator". He knew how to get people activated, and he knew when those people were good for what he wanted to see getting done. Take me for instance. Jeff must have seen something in me that not even I knew I had. In fact, he just assumed the day of race stuff I would handle, so pre-race meeting, checkpoint details, and all the clearing of the route ahead of the riders was all my baby. Jeff just wanted to know what I was going to do, but he very rarely asked for any changes or considerations on my end. I was kind of thinking I was just going to be the "right hand man" in the deal, but Jeff kind of made it so I didn't even realize that I had a integral part to play.

Next: The People Of Hawarden, Iowa and how Trans Iowa v1 was welcomed with open arms by the townspeople. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-28

The Woodchipper Bar was officially released at Interbike 2009.
Ten tears ago this week on the blog I released details for the fourth annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. The ride was going to be held in a completely different area and as it turned out, it was one of my classic courses. One of my all time favorites, and also one of the hardest 100-ish mile courses I have ever ridden.

I also was pointing out that a new drop bar for off road was finally coming. It was in addition to the two basic bars we'd only had a choice of for several years. those would be the classic Midge Bar and the Gary Bar v1 by Origin 8.

Back story: The original prototype for what would become the Woodchipper was shown to several of us Fargo riders at a Fargo Adventure Ride earlier in the year. I remember seeing it and being a bit taken aback by the weird bend to the drop section and the extra long extensions. It wasn't at all what I had been hoping for in an off-road drop bar.

My first impressions of what became the Woodchipper were spot on. While I held out with some enthusiasm and hope that I'd eventually come around to love it, I just never got on with that design. I tried it on different bikes with different levers in different ways, but to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that my first impression was correct. It wasn't what I would have done for a dirt drop.

But that said, the Woodchipper was popular, and still is, with many riders. Then Salsa came out with the Cowbell, a slightly flared (12°) degree drop bar with a very comfy radius. At Frostbike one year, one of the Salsa product managers tasked with coming up with a potential redesign of the Woodchipper, asked myself and Ben Witt for our input on what Salsa should do for a Woodchipper v2. We both heartily asked for a more flared, more swept version of the Cowbell. The product manager was pleased and stated that this idea could become a new bar and that perhaps the Woodchipper didn't have to go away after all. That new bar, of course, is the Cowchipper. Now maybe you can see why it got its name.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday News And Views

Geezer Ride 2018:

Last year I tried putting on a Geezer Ride, but it got put off by the weather twice and I finally just gave up on it due to my busy schedule in 2018. That was a bit of a regret for last year. However; this time the Geezer Ride is planned and hopefully it will go off on its date of Saturday, October 5th. 

In another change, this time the Geezer Ride goes North! During one of the past Geezer Rides, a couple of fellows came down who are affiliated with Cresco Bikes. They expressed interest in doing a Geezer Ride, but due to injuries and what not, it did not happen last year. (Another reason there were no Geezer Rides in 2018) That health issue has been overcome, seemingly, for one of the organizers, and it appears that the group out of Cresco Bikes has a great route, not very hilly, but interesting, for us to tackle this Fall.

This would not be the first time that a Geezer Ride route was not planned by me. This occurred a few years back when we had the Geezer Ride out of North English. That ride, in fact, was an inspiration for part of the last route for Trans Iowa v14. It took us through some Amish country, and we had a fantastic time. This route that is being planned by the Cresco Bikes folks is, apparently, going to have some cool stuff on it as well, so I look forward to being a part of this.

Stay tuned- I'll have more detailed information as the date draws nearer.

The Black Mountain Cycles MCD did really well- once again.
Gear Review For The Solstice 100:

The report of my wanderings in the Nebraska countryside are well detailed in my three Solstice 100 posts from earlier in the week. This little bit will be about some of the gear I used during, and before and after the event.

Of course, the Bubblegum Princess was used, (Black Mountain Cycles MCD) and it performed flawlessly. This bike is so comfortable and smooth. The shifting (Shimano) and the brakes (TRP Spyre) both were quiet and fault-free. The tires and wheels were WTB Resolute 42's on Spinergy wheels. No flats, no issues.

I wore a Twin Six Standard Wool jersey over a Bontrager base layer with liner shorts from Zoic and Showers Pass shorts. The socks were wool, Hiwassee brand, and the shoes were older Shimano MTB shoes. I wore an aero helmet from Bolle', which surprisingly was quite cool and comfortable.

One big plus in the gear department wasn't used on the ride, but it sure helped me get to the ride and back again. It was the Silca Maratona Minimo Gear Bag which I just reviewed for RidingGravel.com. You can click through to read the review if you want to. All I'll say here is that I doubt I ever forget my shoes for an event again. The bag is good. I like it.

So, gear-wise, I was not let down at all. It was a failure to be prepared on my part in terms of fitness. I also screwed up navigating, somehow, and that also contributed to my failure. But as far as gear goes, I was spot on. I wouldn't have changed a thing there.

The new version of the All City Electric Queen.
 Enough Of The "Shred-Tails" Already:

Mountain bike "fashion" has swung this way and that throughout the decades. First it was all about touring/exploration. then it was XC racing, then Free Ride, and "Long Travel", then "Enduro", and on and on. It used to be that the base MTB bike was a hard tail. You started there, and then you branched off. Hard tail MTB's were declared "dead" in the late 90's/early 00"s, but 29"ers brought them back. Somehow they persist. Yet, it could be said today that the "hard tail" is dead. The "all-purpose", go anywhere, do anything MTB has become what I call the "shred-tail". Long, slack, and low, it is a tool bent by the designers for going down. Fast.

The slack head angle on a lot of these rigs handles like a wheel barrow in tight single track. Most "younginz" have zero experience on a bike that actually shreds tight single track, and can do fire roads, and can do berms. Because the pendulum of geometry has swung so far to the "playful, down hill oriented, fast, shreddy, jumping, popping, wide open trail type of bike that it suffers on anything but groomed, buff single track with long sight lines.

Anyway, All City claims that this new fashioned rig "climbs well" and does all the "fun stuff". yeah....hmmm. I bet it does. Ya know, I recall the days of the old geometry 29"ers, and the fast, razor sharp steering and climbing abilities of my old Bontrager Race 26'er. Now those bikes climbed and were awesome in tight single track.

I'd rip my old OS Bikes Blackbuck any day in the woods here over a slack front end, long traveled, short rear ended "shred tail" that is the norm now. But I can also see where 27.5 X 2.8's on the Electric Queen could be a blast as well. I just think these shred-tail rigs are compromised in the "all arounder" category hard tails used to live in, but are seemingly extinct as far as choices go nowadays. (Or are they? Read on...)

The New Jones LWB Complete
Then Just When You Think All Is Lost:

So, are there any hard tails that aren't "shred-tails"? Why, yes there are. Here's a great example of one- The new Jones Bikes LWB Complete which was just announced recently.

I've spent some time speaking with Jeff Jones, the designer of this bike, and he would not like it if this was called a mountain bike, because in his parlance, it's just a great bicycle. Good for anything- road, gravel, mountain, touring, and....well, you get the idea. But there is no denying the fact that Jeff Jones was selling these designs as mountain bikes first, and that's probably how they are best known.

That said, Jeff Jones would also tell you that his design, unconventional as it may be, does the climbing, descending, and single track shredding all well because it was designed to excel at everything. To my way of thinking, this is a great example of what an "all-arounder" is. I'm sure there are others, but it does stand out from the herd and according to its owners, some who I know personally, the Jones Bike is just a great bicycle.

So, there you go- the hard tail lives.

That's a wrap for this week. have a great weekend and keep on riding!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

What "They" Don't Get

My Tweet from Tuesday night. (Click to enlarge)
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Tuesday night I saw a press release about a brand new carbon fiber "gravel bike" that made me think. It made me think a lot about many things. Like most things in life, it's complicated. In the end, I Tweeted about this, but even though Twitter allows you 280 characters to express yourself, plus images these days, it really didn't, nor couldn't, impart all of what I had considered. So, I thought, since the Tweet garnered a lot of response, that I would elaborate here on some of those, (but not all) thoughts.

First let me say that I love bicycles, geeking out on bicycles, and technical stuff is cool. Angles, numbers, curves and straight lines all conspire to catch my attention. Bicycles are an art form, a utilitarian device, and a spiritual medium, and sometimes all at once. But there are things about the sport, the usage, and the lifestyle that get lost in marketing, making money, and being "relevant" that makes me sad sometimes. But that's what we humans often do- we muck up beautiful things sometimes. I guess I kind of felt that way Tuesday evening.

This was the bicycle I Tweeted an image of. It was seen at the Solstice 100.
I have to paint a bit of a picture here for you, which I hope helps you, the reader, understand where I am coming from. It has to do with a couple of gravel events I have been attending. This seems to be a Nebraska phenomenon, but I cannot say that it is limited to Nebraska folks. I'm sure good examples exist elsewhere. Anyway, I've noted an ongoing use of what I term as "gravel mutts"- bikes that have been re-purposed to gravel use that were.....something else. They may have been cheap, 1970's "bike boom" bikes, or old 26" wheeled mountain bikes, or what have you. Bicycles that, maybe, are not considered "worth anything", but find use on gravel and back roads, (or city streets, or MTB trails, I imagine), and are ridden well. You probably have seen bicycles like this. I have noted this almost anytime I have ridden an event in Nebraska. Gravel grinders using "gravel mutts".

But it isn't about the 6G carbon gravel bike, or the gravel mutt. Nope. It is about the reasons a person would choose one or the other. It is the reason one company would make such an expensive rig, and why choosing the unloved bike instead kind of flies in the face of all of that. It's about why a scene grew and became popular and what conspires to ruin it all, without understanding what it is "they" are doing to effect that.

Like I said, it is complicated. 

Can a person buy a carbon wonder bike and have their heart in the right place when it comes to gravel and back road riding? Absolutely. Can a rider that chooses a gravel mutt be a total dick? Again- YES. But it goes even beyond this.....

Once again, in my opinion, a lot of the cycling industry is complicit in a game of "getting all the hay in while they can", against any reasonable notions they may have about "why the scene exists" and who they should/could be marketing to. What I see is a bent towards the "racers needs" as opposed to making bikes that just work for the Average Human. I see things implemented now that I heard product engineers and marketing guys telling me were things "racers wanted" in gravel bikes two-three years ago. It is what ruined road riding for a lot of people, but yet here we are- doing the same damn thing again. In terms of clothing, gear, and yes- bikes. 

It seems it is all about racing, it isn't "inclusive", and it isn't grassroots. So, pretty much it seems to me it isn't about "gravel grinding" as I came to understand it. Because when I see a friend on a fancy bike I am happy for him. When I see the fat bike with the non-typical female rider on it smiling, I am stoked. When I see a guy in flannel rocking an old Schwinn Collegiate converted to a single speed, I smile broadly. That's the gravel scene I know. That's real.

That's my take. For what it is worth........

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Solstice 100 Report: Part 3

Moving through the farmland of Nebraska on a rail trail towards....?
In the last part of this report I told you about how I got off-route and that I had found a rail trail. I decided that, wherever it went, was in the general Southward direction I needed to go. I knew the race route took us pretty much straight North of Malcom, more or less, and I also knew a rail trail was sure to come through a village or town sooner than later. Plus, with supplies running low, I also knew the easier railroad grade wouldn't force me to deplete my stores as quickly. So onward and forward.

In my mind at the time I was figuring this path would lead me back to Dwight where I had taken my leisure under the shade of the cottonwood tree. However; I noticed something before I reached the next village. The rail-trail was shadowing a road, and that road was gravel. It was down below me a bit, and there were trees and shrubbery shielding me from view of whatever was on the road that was moving in the same direction as I. It wasn't a vehicle, at least not a car. Then I made it out. A cyclist! maybe it was a random person cycling, but my first thought was that I had come upon some part of the route again. The cyclist path took him out of view again, so I focused on the task at hand and moved onward. Then I came out at a rustic trail head. Still, other than the name of the trail, there was no place name I could see. I went out onto the road, and then I suddenly recognized the place.

I had been here before. Not during the ride I was on, but several months ago. It was Gravel Worlds. The route last year took us up into some high country North of Lincoln for the very first time and it turned out to be my favorite part of the course. The near ghost town I was in was Loma. I cruised to the right, which I knew was backward on the old Gravel Worlds course. I hadn't even thought about what I was going to do when I saw two cyclists leaving the Loma Tavern, an old wooden structure of indeterminate age. A woman walking out of the door of the tavern mentioned that the burgers were good inside. I dismounted, and figured I would eat, resupply, and find out how I could get back to checkpoint #2 to announce my DNF, or perhaps I could ride back, or.... I didn't care at the moment. Food and drink were at hand!

The bar at the Loma Tavern is a throwback to a simpler time.
I walked in and as my eyes adjusted to the darkened room, I noted that the place was deep and had many tables running back to two "back rooms" of sorts. The bar was on the right side as I walked in, but a large white, porcelain beverage display cooler was the main focus of the room before the bar started on the left side. It caught my attention, and amongst the several brands of beer there, I spied a tallboy Schlitz. Then I turned to see a young family- two parents and four small children- sitting at a table, with one elderly woman behind the bar.

I sat myself at the end of the bar, closest to the cooler, and the elderly lady approached me and asked what I'd have. I asked for the can of Schlitz. I hadn't seen one in years. My grandfather used to drink the stuff. Anyway, I also replied that I had heard she had tasty burgers on sale. She replied in the affirmative, and then she said something I wasn't expecting.

"Could you come back to the kitchen with me? I need some help".

Now, just what help did this woman need that some big ol' sweaty cyclist could provide? The woman was short, certainly, and my first thought was that she might need me to reach something on a high shelf for her, but otherwise, I had no clue.

What she wanted me to do though was partake in making my own meal! She walked into one of the two "back rooms" I had seen when I walked in. It was the one on the right side, and it looked like someone's disheveled old kitchen. There was a stove like you might see in an old, old house, and some cupboards on the walls with a large table in the center of the room that was covered with stuff except for a corner that was exposed. There the woman placed a paper plate, reached into a bag of Lays potato chips and gave me a handful of the crisps. (No plastic food gloves here, by the way!) And then she plopped a hamburger bun down on the plate, saying, "Here! You can split that open. Put some pickles on it! ", as she placed a nearly empty jar of pickles on the table produced from the refrigerator. She gave me a spoon and I fished out four slices of pickles. In the mean time she put ketchup and mustard down for me to use. When I had prepared the bun, she used a spatula and gently placed a burger on my bun. "There you go!", she said. And I thanked her and walked back to my place at the bar.

That was about the best tasting burger I had ever had at that moment. And I helped make it!
The beer was cold and tasted great. The burger was satisfying and tasted wonderful. The chips were salty goodness. I felt like a million bucks after that simple meal. Meanwhile, the old woman came out and was chatting up the young family. I learned that the old woman's name was Mary. I also learned that she had owned the Loma Tavern for approximately three years. One of the young children, a girl of no more than 4-5 years old, asked how old the place was. Mary said she didn't know, but it was built before there were cars. Apparently it had always been a tavern, except during the Prohibition years, when the tavern became a community center of sorts, but I had a hard time hearing that part of the building's history.

Well, it was time to go and I asked where the best route was toward Malcom. Mary said, "Well, I don't get down that way much.", but she offered that the bike path I was on was the best, easiest way to get toward that neck of the woods. It led to Valparaiso. Perfect! I knew that town and the area between there and Malcom fairly well. Mary was a bit surprised, but I explained that Gravel Worlds was always held in that area and that's why I was familiar with the country down that way. I took my leave of Mary, the young family, and the Loma Tavern. I headed Southeastward toward Valpo on the trail.

I hadn't gone far when I got sight of a lone rider ahead of me. I considered hanging back, so as not to ruin their solitary experience on the trail, when my phone buzzed me. It was MG texting me that he had called it a day due to intestinal issues. If I needed a ride, I should let him know. I immediately stopped and told him I was headed toward Valpo, and that he should come to meet me there. Okay....so now I had a bail-out at the next town. My mind was at ease.

The ride ended at the Sinclair station in Valparaiso, Nebraska, for me at any rate.
I started riding again and didn't see the lone rider until I was almost upon her. She was off to the side of the trail doing......something, I don't know. She waved and smiled as I rode on by. Then I overtook some horses and riders. Two young girls and an older man. They trotted, galloped, and walked until they pulled up to let me pass. I respectfully dismounted and walked by the horses as I spoke with the man. They were pleasant folks. Then I ended my ride in Valpo at the convenience store.

 I purchased a tall boy can of poor domestic beer that does not deserve mentioning, and walked outside. Curiously, the lady at the counter did not place my beer in a paper sack, or even seem to care that I was obviously drinking it outside the place. A lawnmower cruised up the main street just then with a wild haired, overweight male driver aboard. Apparently, lawnmowers pass for reasonable transportation in that village. Later, a young rider, no more than six or seven, raced up on his BMX style bike, carefully parked it on the curb, and shot a brief, nervous glance my way before disappearing into the store. Just some interesting stuff as I waited for MG. Of course, he eventually collected me and we were off back to Malcom to share our stories and eat some grub.

That was pretty much the story of my Solstice 100 experience. Someone said at the start line, it may have been Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey, that this was a true "grassroots gravel event" and I would have to agree with that assessment. It was fun- yes I had fun- despite my getting lost, DNF-ing, and not making a 100 miles. I had a great, memorable adventure. I met some interesting folks and saw some interesting stuff. Experiences. Gravel travel. Fun. Well.......that's my kind of fun anyway. 

Certainly, I need to continue to try to get into better shape endurance-wise. I need to ride more. (Weather permitting) But I am not down at all. Joe Billesbach, Rob Evans, Jamie Grandquist, and the Gibson family, plus all the volunteers and sponsors of the Solstice 100 should be proud of their efforts. I would recommend this ride to anyone- fast racer or adventurer alike. Word is the Solstice may move to a new venue next year. Hmm..... Perhaps new adventures await me wherever that is.

Thanks: MG and his family for providing lodging and great friendship. Thanks to Joe, Rob, Jamie, The Gibsons, The Volunteers, Kevin Fox, Lippy's Barbecue, The Town Of Malcom, Mary at Loma Tavern, and everyone that stopped to say hello or said hello along the way on the journey.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Solstice 100 Report: Part 2

At times you are reminded that Nebraska was once one big ocean of grass.
The day was clearing and warming up as I rolled on toward Checkpoint #1 in a little town called Garland, Nebraska. This is one of my favorite reasons for riding gravel events. The way the event directors take you by and through towns and significant sights and history that dot their backyards that I would miss otherwise. I mean, who drives to Garland, Nebraska to see what is there? Maybe a few folks do, but I would never have thought to have gone there. So, next time you do an event, keep that in mind. You are likely seeing and sharing things that the event directors think are cool and relevant about the area you are riding through. (If they are anything like me, in regards to routing. I'm betting most are.)

So, I rolled on into Garland and the checkpoint was set up in the downtown area of the village. A guy was barking out rider numbers and some other volunteers were handing out pipe cleaners which were to be used as "proof of check point passage" markers. It made me think, because a lot of events have borrowed this form of checkpoint marking of riders and I was trying to remember where I first saw that. It was at an Odin's Revenge where, I believe, I first came across this practice. I don't know where it originated from, but Nebraska is where I first ran into it. Anyway......

There was a well stocked aid station under a tent there and I was very glad of that. I had not seen a convenience store and I was in need of water and something else to munch on while riding. I didn't see anyone I knew there, so I wasn't distracted, and I re-filled the bottles, used the Hammer Heed that was available to all riders, and grabbed a couple of packets of fig cookies.

An old, classically inspired bank in Garland, Nebraska.
I rolled on out of Garland, but not before I stopped to take a picture of this cool old bank building. This is another thing I have noted about Kansas and Nebraska. Unlike in Iowa, where the small villages kind of let everything moulder into a deteriorated state, these tiny communities in the Plains States seem to keep up some of their more significant architectural gems and even if they are seemingly unused, they look kept up. Not sure why that is, but I saw more of this in the next town on the route too.

While the event directors wisely took out all the minimum maintenance roads, there were still some pretty rustic byways in the Solstice 100.
During the pre-race chatter with Ashton Lambie, I picked up that there was going to be a "flattish" section from around Mile 20-something for about ten miles. Well, it obviously wasn't before Mile 24, because that was what I had ridden to CP#1. However; there was a short section after Garland and before the next town out that was flatter and it was good to have a break from the hills. Of course, that flat section didn't last. The hills kicked back in and the Sun was riding high in a clear blue sky. Now it was hot and humid. Something I hadn't experienced in Iowa yet this year. By the time I got to Dwight, Nebraska, I was hoping to hammer out to the 50 mile mark and then take the next break. But when I rolled through Dwight, I saw a big cottonwood tree and the shade was too inviting not to take advantage of right then and there.

Another example of a nice building in a super small village that has been kept up really well.
The view from under the nice, shady tree in Dwight I sat under.
When I sat down, I happened to notice that my legs looked like they had worms crawling just underneath the skin. They were twitching and moving oddly, yet I couldn't feel that. I saw this the first time years ago on one of my Death rides, so it isn't an unfamiliar site. Anyway, I made the decision not to go on until I noticed that phenomenon was gone. That took about 15 minutes, and I was up and off into the blazing Sun again.

It was one after another on the Northern side of the route. 
So, as I was out rolling up one long, steep grade after another, I was trying to figure out where I was on the loop of the course. I knew that soon I was to be coming back down Southward toward Malcom. I figured it had to be around the 50-ish mile mark based upon the knowledge that the next checkpoint was after Mile 60 and was on the route back to the start. So, I was thinking I may have to take several breaks, but perhaps I could piecemeal this thing into a finish. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, since I was at the ends of my rope in terms of fitness.

Of course, that was predicated upon having everything go right besides that part. Mentally I was fighting between stopping and carrying on. Nutritionally I was okay, but I was going to need a resupply. I also needed to have the bike to continue to work well, and I needed to keep navigating well. There was a town on the route I was supposed to be coming through, so I was hopeful that would provide the re-supply.

I did stop and take a short "ditch nap". I probably would have slept longer had it not been for the biting black flies. Dang sleep interrupters! So, I decided I wasn't getting any further sitting there and took off again for the next long climb. Interestingly, I hadn't seen another rider since I sat under the tree in Dwight. No one had passed by as I sat in the ditch for about 15 minutes. One good thing: The clouds gathered again and it was cooler when I started again. I felt reinvigorated, at least for the time being.

I reached a "T" intersection right on cue with my mileage, but instead of "Road 25", I was pretty sure the sign said "Rd 27". One small note about Nebraska rural road signs. If the name of the road is short, so is the sign, and their font is about 3/4's the size of what Iowa uses. Add in nearly 60 year old eyes and well...... I wasn't sure I read that right, even after two double takes. Hmm.... Concerned, but the mileage was right and the direction for the turn was there, so I took it. The next cue was in another mile. When I arrived there, nothing made any sense. None of the road signs matched anything I had on my cues. Only the mileage was correct. I pulled up my mapping program on my phone, but it did not show a "Rd 25" at all in the vicinity. Bah! Lost in Nebraska!

The only way that made any sense at the time. A pea gravel bike path to somewhere......
Now something was way off, and I wasn't game for finding the route again. Besides, if I was going to continue, I knew I was running low on water and I was going to need more to eat. Especially if I was going to go scrambling around those hills trying to get back on course. So, that didn't make much sense. I saw a pea gravel bike path which also terminated at this spot. There was no signage, and my maps program did not show any bike trails in the area. Only gravel roads and small villages. This thing looked like it headed in the general direction I needed to go to get back to Malcom. That was it. This path was sure to take me to a town with water, at least, and hopefully food. I was off route and done with the Solstice 100 at that point. But I still had adventure to enjoy.

Next: Part 3 of the Solstice 100 Report.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Solstice 100 Report: Part 1

No turning back this time. I didn't forget anything!
The third year for the Solstice 100 was this past weekend and I made it there. No forgetting of shoes, or anything of that sort this time. (In fact, I got something recently that was a huge help in that area. Stay tuned...) At any rate, the plan was executed and it began with leaving work Friday at noon to make the 300 mile drive to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Things started out on the moist side as it was raining lightly when I left town. However, within about 50 miles in it stopped and the rest of the way I had a mahoosive tailwind and partly cloudy skies. Since I didn't get underway until 1:00pm, I had to hoof it straight through to make sure I arrived at the Cycleworks shop on "O" and 27th Street in Lincoln in time to pick up my race packet and get checked in. No thanks to the gridlock in Omaha. That was stop and go traffic all through that city. But I made it with time to spare, and MG, who I was to be staying with, was already there.

Later on we hooked up with the race promoters and a few of the volunteers and went out to a local Mexican restaurant for something to eat. It was good that I did, because I hadn't eaten since breakfast! (No stops on the way out, so.....) Then MG and I caught up on things until way too late and I finally got a few winks on his basement couch until the cats his family has started in on their pre-morning hi jinx. Well, it was okay, since we had to get up at 5:30am anyway.

There was a chance for a morning shower in the forecast, and so as MG was starting the drive to Malcom, Nebraska, I mentioned that it sure looked like we were going to get grazed by a thunderstorm complex moving in from the Southwest. MG peeled back to the house and we grabbed rain jackets, then we hightailed it outta town to Malcom.

MG and others were chatting with eventual Solstice 100 winner, Ashton Lambie (Bent over here) at the start.


Rain at the start line forced people to take shelter wherever they could find it. This is the Malcom General Store porch.
We arrived and started getting ready to go. It hadn't started raining yet, but the skies were threatening to unleash the rain at any minute. We rolled up on Ashton Lambie, who made a stir when he won a track racing World Championship recently, and we all chatted him up a bit as he slipped into his skinsuit. He, of course, went on to win handily later in the 100. But before that happened, it started into raining, and the event director, Joe Billesbach, announced that the event would start a half an hour later, to allow any potential lightning to clear the area. This ended up being extended for another half an hour, so MG and I went back to his vehicle and chilled out for a spell.

Waiting out the rain and lightening in MG's rig. 
Eventually, as 8:00am rolled around, the radar was clearing and we headed over to the starting area to get the event rolling. Kevin Fox gave a blessing over the racers, and then at 8:00am, Joe rolled out in front in some vehicle or another and we were off! I haven't been in an event since the beginning of April, so I was excited and ready for some riding. Well......in spirit. I knew going in I had a woefully low amount of miles for the year so far due to weather, circumstances, and whatnot. So, the goal was to finish, and short of that, just to have a good time. Pretty lofty goals for someone going into a very hilly century whose longest ride up to that point maybe was 40 miles. But, whatever. Ya gotta start somewhere.

Headed out of Malcom on rain soaked pavement.
It was cool, wet, and humid, but the rain soaked roads were firm and the skies looked hopeful. 
Well, I was underway. I held to a pace that was within what I considered to be fairly easy, but above a 10mph average, and just let everything else play out around me. I tried to stay calm, and not chase down riders passing me, or ones I was coming up on. There were hills. One after another, and Nebraska hills are longer and just as steep as the nasty steeps we have in Iowa. That meant getting into a rhythm when climbing and blasting out some high speed descents. I decided to pedal as much as possible during the opening miles, staying within "the plan", which worked well. I actually passed a lot of riders to start out with.

The hills are longer, but no less steep than where I am from.
The first checkpoint was about 24 miles in, and I was cruising along with no issues. I hadn't eaten any breakfast, and honestly, I typically ride better when I don't eat in the morning. I tried nibbling on some things I had brought along, which was okay, and I was keeping tabs on water, figuring about a bottle an hour, which was working well. I used Elete hydration additive, which keeps me from cramping well. So far, so good. I didn't even get the nasty "sleepies' which I have gotten in the past which makes me want to just nod off while riding. Dangerous! I had that happen last year at Gravel Worlds.

Anyway, I shifted early and often, spun as much as I could, and was doing nicely as I approached Garland, Nebraska and the first checkpoint of the day. The Black Mountain Cycles MCD worked perfectly, and it was super comfortable. The roads were firm and smooth anyway, and rolling along the first portion of the day couldn't have been better.

Check In Tomorrow For Part 2

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Influences Of Mike Curiak

Mike Curiak, (seated) had a huge influence over what made Trans Iowa what it was. Here he is at T.I.V1
Another big influence on Trans Iowa came from a man who ran a few ultra-endurance events in the Rocky Mountains. You may recall a couple weeks ago where I told of the influence that Richard "Deke" Gosen had. Deke set the tone for the "spirit" of the event.  Mike Curiak had perhaps the greatest influence upon the event in the sense of the rules and the way we implemented the event. So, maybe more a nuts and bolts kind of influence, but it was very important.

Early into our planning for the first Trans Iowa, Jeff Kerkove contacted Mike and asked him for advice on what to do and how to do it. Mike was free with his advice and was really a very important resource for us. In fact, I'm pretty sure Jeff just copied and pasted one of Trans Iowa's rules straight from what Mike allowed us to see of his rules. (I wrote a bit on this before which you can see here.)

Jeff shared with me what Mike was giving us to go on. I recall a few salient points:
  • Make sure you do not charge anything for the event.
  • Make sure you have the start in the dark.
  • Make sure you make it VERY CLEAR that riders are on their own- YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU.
Of those things only the last was willingly adopted by Jeff. He reasoned that we should have insurance for this crazy deal and that the entry fee just cover that. I basically was on the fence about that, but in the end, I agreed. He also wasn't quite so game on the night start, although he wasn't totally against it. I thought it was a great idea. In the end, facilitating the riders coming in kind of dictated a start after Sun up. Of course, eventually all these ideas were adopted into the event. By the second Trans Iowa we were starting at 4:00am and by Trans Iowa v3 we weren't charging money anymore for entry.

Mike had very specific reasons for those three items. One I won't get in to. We all understand the responsibility clause. But not charging for an event? This was a new one on me. However; Mike made a very good point. If we charged an entry fee, people would have expectations of us. If we didn't charge, we could place those expectations back upon the riders. Plus, we weren't going to be seen as "providing any service", since we weren't getting paid. Mike felt this put us on a different legal ground.

Mike also felt that by starting at night you forced riders to use the required lighting, and they couldn't "cheat", or be stupid, and not bring lights. We ended up starting at night so the time cutoff for the event could be earlier Sunday. But yeah....we didn't need to inspect anyone's bikes for lights either.

Speaking of cut off times, I don't remember discussing this as a feature based upon Mike's influences, although it is true that the Great Divide Race had cut off times for half way and for the finish. That is exactly what we did at T.I.v1. I do remember thinking with Jeff that we didn't want to have his parents, (the CP volunteers) or us waiting around till who knows when to have riders finish. I believe T.I.v1 had a published cut off for the end of the event at something like 4:00pm Sunday. The check point cut off was not decided upon until late into the planning stages and was announced at the start of T.I.v1, which caused all sorts of grumbling. But at any rate, it very well could have been that Jeff got the idea for the cut offs as being legitimate based upon what Mike had told him, or it could purely have been a coincidence.

Mike also shared with us how he did cue sheets. It was pretty interesting from the standpoint that his need for being clear on a direction necessitated more information than we really needed to give. Of course, he was dealing with wilderness, we were dealing with well marked gravel roads. But that said, he had an influence on those early cues.

I know this doesn't make for much of a very interesting "story", but Mike was like that. Very direct and to the point. This was about setting up the framework for an ultra-endurance event, and since we were doing this via e-mails, the chances for personal interaction with Mike weren't there. None the less, I feel this is a very important part of the story to tell, since everything about Trans Iowa afterward was framed by the influences of Mike Curiak's helpful advice and tips.

Next: Jeff Kerkove And Guitar Ted- Part 3

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-27

The Badger Dorothy. Not many of these around, and it is a sad tale.
Ten years ago on the blog it was Summer in full swing. Green was everywhere, and so were the skeeters. Hmm....2019 seems about the same, ya know?

But there was this one thing I had going on back then that I didn't say a whole lot about at the time. Probably still won't. It has to do with this baby blue beauty pictured here. It's a Badger Dorothy. One of six ever built.

And I got to ride two of the six. The first one I tested for the old "Twenty Nine Inches" site was a hard tail with verticle drop outs. That was a magical handling bike. Man! That thing could slice and dice Mid-West single track like nothing else. Then that had to go back, and well, that was that, or so I thought, until I got a strange e-mail one day in 2009.

The current owner of the rig wanted to sell it, and supposedly, the only person he could sell it to was me. Stipulation of the original owner of the Dorothy brand. apparently, and so, I was quite puzzled by this. Of course, remembering the previous ride of the Dorothy, I did want the bike. It was set up as a single speed and had Paragon sliding drop outs, a blinged up spec, and one bad thing- It had a dent about the size of a half dollar on the underside of the downtube. I maybe posted about this bike a few times, then I dropped it. The story was just too volatile and personal at the time.

Well, the price was negotiated and I ended up getting it. I rode it maybe three times, but the ding in the downtube weighed upon my mind, and I ended up stripping it, using the parts on other bikes, and hanging the rare bird from a peg in the Lab. "Someday", I thought, "I'll get that fixed."

Well, "someday" still hasn't come. I need to get that taken care of, but yeah. It's a pretty bike. I love sky/Robin's Egg, powder blue colors and the combination of that and the sparkly panels in deep blue. To die for. Plus, no one makes anything like this anymore. This is a hand made, fillet brazed frame and it does ride really sweetly. I should get it back together again, but..... Too many projects!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday News And Views

Let's look at these flowers from my yard and try to forget about the rain.
Trails Close Due To Flood Damage As More Rain Hits The Area:

Wednesday it was learned that a major connector trail from down town Cedar Falls to the George Wyth State Park had been closed due to flood damage and also from damage incurred when a person drove a car down that part of the trail.

This is on top of the closure of the River Loop Trail in Waterloo for repair of a sewage line that ruptured and is sending raw sewage into the Cedar River.

As if that weren't bad enough, now we are supposed to have possibly severe weather and up to two inches of rain through Sunday. What do you suppose our water logged ground and swollen rivers will do with that? Yeah..... Hopefully it isn't as bad as they say it might be.

Then there is the chances for bad weather as I try to get to Nebraska. I'll have to be on guard for any severe weather and gauge my chances carefully before trying to drive through any potential storms. Saturday looks better down that way than Friday, but I have to get there safely first. If I manage to miss the bad weather, things should be okay, but I imagine the roads will be wet to start out with for the event.

Stay tuned.......

The Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX. The Kingpin rear end is pretty interesting.
Cannondale Introduces The Topstone Carbon With Kingpin Rear "Suspension". 

Secrets..... For about as long as I've been writing this blog I have had some secret or another I have had to keep under my hat. The Topstone Carbon bike is one of those secrets. Yesterday it was finally announced, so now I can talk about it openly.

I've known much about this bike for about a month, and I saw actual images of one a few weeks ago. In fact, MG, who broke the story on RidingGravel.com yesterday, has one. Of course, if you think about it, we all pretty much knew Cannondale would eventually come out with a carbon version of their Topstone aluminum bike, but the Kingpin rear end was not foreseen.

As far as the bike goes, I am sure there is something to it. It makes sense, and I think the idea is sound, but as with anything that moves on a bike, it eventually will become a problem. How this Kingpin deal wears and acts after a couple of thousand miles is what I am interested in.

I'm a little dismayed at the lack of tire clearances, (40mm tops for 700c) , but I feel this is more of a Domane competitor than it is a gravel bike. The whole geometry package is basically a Synapse, so that kind of tells the story there. Cannondale isn't concerned about working on a solution for the front end of the bike to mitigate vibrations because they are hedging their bets against a fall off in the gravel scene. If that happens, well, with Synapse geometry and a slick 32mm road tire this is right in the Domane/Roubaix bike wheelhouse. Not that this is a bad thing, but I think Cannondale isn't really making a gravel bike in the vein of a Warbird, for example, either.

Next thing ya know they will make brake actuation electronic.
 In The "Answers To Questions Unasked" File: 

I know you've been wondering when these brake manufacturers were going to get rid of those unsightly and snaggy brake lines. They are just always in the way, right? (Said no one ever) Well, Magura is your huckleberry as they have just announced a hidden master cylinder/hydraulic hose/handle bar set up which only leaves the lever sticking out now.

This is radical stuff. It's cool that they can do this, but do we really need it? Sometimes I like to turn the reality of new designs on their head and look at it 180° differently. So, in the case of these levers, what if we all had this sort of set up, and had it for years. Then suddenly we get an introduction of a product with exposed brake lines. What would be "better" about that than the internal, hidden brake stuff? Then I like to take the answers for that and compare to what the marketing says about the "new" way. Magura says the new set up is more crash resistant, (real world data? I just don't see this myself), and the design is "cleaner and more integrated". Soooooo.......it's about looks? 

The way we've been doing things allows for quick and easy stem swaps, handle bar changes, and ease of installation. Brake systems can be moved from bike to bike easier, and replaced without much fuss.

You tell me which way is better. If you want to explore this concept more, the Magura page on this "innovation" is here.

That's it for this week. Have a great Solstice and get out and ride if you can. The days get shorter from here!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Country Views: Something Green- Something Strange

This is not a Level B Maintenance road- It's Airline Highway, which is usually gravel.
Heading out into a mostly cloudy, cool-ish day, I found the wind was out of the Northeast. Well, it was hard to say, really. More East than North, I guess. There were puddles of standing water everywhere, and many places were found where the gravel was wet enough that it caked up on tires and plastered the down tube of the bike.

Ruts were everywhere. The roads looked really torn up. It was a handful at times just trying to find the good line. In some places I actually had to slow down and weave my way through the messed up road way. I kept looking at the darkening skies, thinking that a cold, East driven rain could break out at any point.

The above two paragraphs don't sound like anything I should be writing in mid-June, do they? No, they sound more like a Trans Iowa race report, or some blogpost I put up in March. But no- that's actually what it was like Wednesday, June 19th, 2019. It was weird, what with the crops all emerging and things looking like Summer in the fields, but the roads said, "It's still Spring!".

Of course, the rains we have had of late have kept the roads saturated, the late Spring/early Summer planting has conspired along with that to keep roads torn up, and lack of heat and humidity here have kept things loose and sand-like. Now the dirt is working its way through the old limestone and many roads look like minimum maintenance roads, not at all like a gravel road should look like.

These pretty ditch flowers at least made it look like Summer.
The corn is barely canopying here. Most fields are not canopied yet. Growth is way behind normal.
With that aforementioned Northeasterly breeze I decided to head North up Sage Road and while I had grand plans, I figured wearing myself out a few days before I was to ride a century wasn't a good idea. Just a good ride to open up the legs, and so I kept it chill. The softer roads and headwind going out were bad enough as it was.

Barns for Jason
Long stretches of torn up, slightly wet, muddy dirt roads were the replacement for the typical gravel in many spots.
I rode the Noble Bikes GX5 carbon gravel bike with that Force 1X stuff. This was a far better experience than the first go-round with Force 1X. I think this drive train is okay, but it still is slower, has bigger gaps between gears, and that SRAM shifting is for the birds. I'm still not convinced that my set up is sub-par, or that 1X is the way to go. But to each their own. This system hasn't let me down, and it does work okay. So.......there's that. 

Coming back I thought it looked a lot like I might get wet. I didn't. 
 
Schenk Road is a good one for barns and smaller farms.
I headed back via Schenk Road, which is the road I would take a gravel noob on for their first gravel ride. It is relatively flat, has tons of character, and lots of things to look at. The Northern stretch of it was heinous though. Really badly torn up and mostly dirt. Then it metamorphosed into the nicest plain ol' gravel road you could ask for. It was a great respite from the absolute mess of roadways I had been on.

Barns for Jason- Part 2
My last few miles were east and boy! Was that fun. The roads were very surprising as I had been up this way a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't anything like the way it was Wednesday. Then as I rode the last mile into town, I saw it. A grain truck as big as a dump truck. These heavy, dually equipped trucks and semi-tractor trailers are really what is tearing up the roads.

Anyway, it was a great ride leading up to the Solstice 100 Saturday. I'm looking forward to hooking up with MG and getting some Nebraska gravel under my wheels again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Drop Bar Terms Defined

In today's post I want to help to clear up some misconceptions and to help readers understand the bits of flared drop bars that help determine their shape and usefulness. I've touched on all of these things in past posts, but I realized after reviewing the Easton EA70 AX flared drop bar for RidingGravel.com that I hadn't ever put all the definitions into one, easy to digest post. So, hopefully this will be clear and concise enough to help those interested in off road drop bars for MTB and gravel get what they need to clear up any misunderstandings and to learn the lingo of the flared drop bar.

I'll have some images to help with the descriptions, and afterward I will share some bars that, in my opinion, get it right in certain areas and others that got it all wrong. Some of the bars I will not be in favor of are going to be some of your personal favorite bars ever. That's okay. We have choices and that is a good thing, because what I like isn't going to play well in Peoria all the time, if you know what I mean. So, please don't get offended if I don't praise your personal favorite bars. One- because you aren't going to change my mind, and: Two- I won't change your mind about your favorite. Again, it is about choices. You can agree or not, but hopefully, in the end, you will gain some understanding. That's the main goal.

NOTE: Drop Bar Terms I will define will be in ALL CAPS. This is done because they all relate to each other and one is not independent of the others. 

Okay, with that, let's get on with this.
 The term, "FLARE" refers to the outward bend of the DROP section. See the difference in the vertical plane between the arrows.


FLARE: This is the term that lends its name to this type of bar, and as such, is the main element that differentiates a FLARED Drop Bar from a traditional road drop. The term defines the amount by which the bottom of the DROP section is flared outward from the "TOP SECTION". This is usually given in degrees of FLARE. So, a 25° FLARE (as seen above) has more "outward bend" to the DROP than a bar with 12° FLARE, as in a Salsa Cycles Cowbell. A traditional road drop bar would have 0° of FLARE and the EXTENSIONS would be directly under the end of the "TOP SECTION" of that sort of drop bar.

FLARE is important because it allows for clearance of the rider's wrists and forearms when in the DROP sections while negotiating rough terrain.
The arrows on the lower drop bar nearly line up, so very little SWEEP here in comparison to a Woodchipper, above.


SWEEP: This is a different feature of a flared drop bar that is not always present. Some flared drops have it, some do not. What is it? The SWEEP defines how the EXTENSIONS point back at the rider when the rider is in the saddle. A bar with no SWEEP will have extensions that point directly back, parallel to the stem. Bars with SWEEP will look bent outward at the ends, like a Salsa Cycles Woodchipper Bar. Notice in the image above how the Woodchipper, (Top) has EXTENSIONS which point off at a severe angle while the SPANK Flare 25 Drop Bar has almost no SWEEP. Most flared drop bars have some amount of SWEEP, but few are as radically swept as a Woodchipper Bar.

Orange = DROP, Red = RAMPS, Green = REACH, and Purple = EXTENSIONS
Note- for the next several terms, please refer to the image of the Origin 8 Gary Sweep Bar above.

REACH: The REACH of a flared drop bar (GREEN arrows above) is the part of the bar that "reaches" forward of the TOP SECTION of the handle bar. It is usually described in millimeters of REACH measured from the center of the TOP SECTION to the outside of the forward bend of the DROP.

DROP: This is the part of the bar described by the distance the DROP comes down from the TOP SECTION to the EXTENSIONS (Orange Arrows). This is usually measured in millimeters from center of the TOP SECTION to the center of the EXTENSIONS.

RAMPS: This is the part of the DROP that reaches from the TOP SECTION to where the levers mount. (RED arrows) Usually the RAMPS are sloped somewhat, being a part of the radius and REACH of the DROP section. This is a critical part of a flared drop bar as it will determine brake/shift lever placement, hoods position, and ultimately is one of the most important features of any drop bar. Curiously, a RAMPS slope is almost never given in spec charts. When it is, it is usually described in degrees from a level point from the TOP SECTION.

EXTENSIONS: This is the part of the bar extends back toward the rider. (Purple arrows) Extensions are important since they describe how many hand positions there are on the EXTENSIONS and "in the DROPS". The ends of the EXTENSIONS on flared drop bars generally are where one would mount bar end shifters also, if so desired. EXTENTIONS are almost never given a measurement in spec charts.

The SPANK Flare 25 Vibrocore™ Drop Bar has an unusual 31.8mm diameter for the entire TOP SECTION.
TOP SECTION: This is the part of the bar that the stem attaches to and extends outward on each side to where the DROP/RAMPS start. This is usually where the bar gets its width measurement. So, a 42cm bar would describe the TOP SECTION between the centerline of the DROPS. This generally does not include the extra width created by FLARE or SWEEP.

Okay, that's it for terms that describe the parts of a flared drop bar. Now I'm going to give you a run down of bars that I feel are seminal, great flared drop bars and some that I feel are so poorly designed they are abysmal. I will also point out a couple that are near misses, or ones that have a particular feature which is awesome.

They Got It Right: My personal opinion, of course, but the bars which are spot on are few. Probably the two best out there, and two of the most popular of all time, are Salsa Cycles' Cowchipper and Cowbell bars. The Cowbell was the first to really nail a very subtle FLARE to a constantly varying radius to the DROP and give the flared drop bar crowd a bar that could be a road racing bike bar, but better. The Cowchipper is basically a Cowbell, but with "more". More FLARE and more SWEEP than a Cowbell with a really comfy DROP section. Both bars feature really good REACH, DROP, and RAMP sections. Super easy to set up, super comfy, and really, nothing to dislike here.

The only other bars that I think rival the Salsa ones are the Whiskey No. 7 & No. 9, 12 and 24 bars, and the seminal On One Midge Bar. The Midge is an oldy but a goody. The only nit I have is that bar comes in one width and the EXTENSIONS are short. I think it may be one of the only bars offered with a full 31.8mm TOP SECTION as well.

Nearly There: The Ritchey VentureMax is another cool bar with good FLARE, SWEEP, and an ergo bend in the EXTENSIONS which may or may not agree with you. Other bars, too many to list, have decent FLARE, DROP sections, and constantly varying radius to the DROP which make them very similar, one to another. The EASTON EA70 AX bars I reviewed represent the current crop of bars which are like this. Some of the Origin 8 Gary variants are also pretty cool.

They Missed The Boat: The best SWEEP, if you like a LOT of SWEEP, is on the Woodchipper bar from Salsa Cycles, but due to the weird bend in the DROP section, the severe RAMP section, and the odd radius to the DROP, it misses so badly, in my opinion, that it becomes a bar that is very difficult to set up without making some part of the bar nearly, or completely, unusable. I know......there are rabid fans of this bar, but I think it is a clunker. Another bar which really was a head scratcher for me was the SOMA Gator Bar, a bar with such a massive DROP it made the EXTENSIONS nearly unreachable without setting it up so that the TOP SECTION was sky high. Added to that, the radius of the DROP was so shallow that it, as with the Woodchipper, made set up a nightmare. Finally, there was a bar sold under various brand names, but is probably best known as the Velo Orange Daija Cycleworks Far Bar. It's intriguing, but with its severe FLARE and angular DROP section, I found it to be a near miss.

The "Unicorn" of flared drop bars- The out of production Ragely Luxy Bar.


So Brilliantly Weird, It Was Great: And of course, you know I have to say something about that unicorn of flared drop bars, the "Luxy Bar". Out of production for years, this is the bar Salsa Cycles should have made when they made the Woodchipper. (See my comparison between the two bars HERE) The radius to the DROP section is perfect, the sweep is there in spades, the RAMP section was spot on, the REACH was minimal, but not so severely short that it compromised lever set up. Only the extreme flare on the Luxy Bar was a flaw, if there was one. But, again, in my opinion, the Luxy Bar solved all the issues I had with the Woodchipper and did it with the brilliant feature of a full 31.8mm TOP SECTION. Now the SPANK Flare 25 has this feature as well, which is pretty cool.

So, there you have it, Guitar Ted's take on what makes a flared drop bar and some examples of good, bad, and ugly ones. Again- remember- these are MY OPINIONS. Yours are likely quite different. I get it. But like I said, it is a good thing there are so many choices now, so we can even have this difference of opinion. It wasn't so long ago that we had the Midge Bar and that was it. Perspective people......perspective. 

I hope you enjoyed that. Let me know if there are any questions, or things you'd like me to discuss further. As always- thank you for reading!