Showing posts with label Frostbike. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frostbike. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Frostbike 2014: The Show

So I got a good night's sleep, awoke at dark-thirty, and joined Ben Witt for the short trip to "Q" Headquarters for Frostbike. I hit the floor at 8:30 am sharp, did not stop, did not pass "Go", eat lunch, drink anything, or use the facilities until well after 5:00pm. Here is what eight and a half hours of yakking and taking images was all about, for the most part.....

The "Spray Tan" Karate Monkey
I stopped first at the Surly booth, because I knew they had that monster fat bike, the Ice Cream Truck, and I figured I'd get that out of the way first. I ran into Tyler Stilwell, the master of marketing disaster at Surly, and he showed me the ropes.

The coolest rig in the booth was the Karate Monkey refresh. No more funky track ends. No more antiquated 1 1/8th straight steerer. And check out that tinted clear over raw finish. Nice.

And while it is a cool upgrade to an old classic, one has to wonder if it is enough to do that only. There are so many great hard tails now that the Karate Monkey seems a bit lost these days in the white noise of everything else around it. Even Surly's own line up boasts more interesting bikes like the Krampus, ECR,  and Instigator. Throw the "everything but the kitchen sink" Ogre into that mix and one has to wonder why this bike, or the long in the tooth 1X1 still hang on in the Surly catalog. I could see this bike being a bit fresher with a geometry tweak, but Surly didn't see fit to do that here.

Finally, the Ice Cream Truck. Hmm.......this should have happened when they did the Moonlander. Other than this, I don't see this as ground breaking, besides the fact that it signals a break with past Surly traditions.

An Instigator with a fat front fork and 26 X 3" Knards. 

Moving on from there, it was all about tires. Tires, tires, and more tires. Of course, I checked into the Dillinger 5 fat bike tire. Yes, it is huge.......

From L-R: Dillinger 5, Dillinger 4, and Husker Du
The funny thing is that yesterday I really could have used a studded fat bike tire. We have sheets of glazed ice everywhere in town lately. Bah!

But here's the deal: $250.00 bucks a pop? (Dillinger 5) Ouch! I'll take my chances for $500.00, Alex. That's too rich for my blood. And you get a tire rated for......tubed usage. Lame.

You know, the Dillinger 5 will sell out, and probably will be a sought after tire, but I can shod my entire fat bike with Vee Rubber tires for the price of one Dillinger 5 studded tire and the Vee Rubber tires are tubeless compatible. Surly has nothing much better either.

I was hoping to see the Q brands up their game in the fat bike tire market, but I was slightly disappointed. It should be interesting to see how Bontrager fat bike tires and anything else Specialized comes up with compares to Surly/45NRTH. This could get interesting this Fall.......

Tubular gravel road tires?
Then I moved on and talked about gravel road tires with a few folks. I found out that not one, but two companies are seriously working on tubulars for gravel road use. Big tubulars.

Now, I get why the tubular seems to be a great solution for mountain biking and gravel road riding. Basically eliminate pinch flats, supple, smooth, comfortable ride, high degree of traction with low rolling resistance, can be ridden flat, etc. However; I noted two things about this idea that still need work. Rims and tire failure in the field. Oddly enough, the solution for both issues may lie in a single specialized product. Special rim tape that is pressure sensitive.

That said, and I know this may make me sound like a "Negative Nancy", but I don't really see how tubulars become a better solution than tubeless tires. Especially if tubeless tires for gravel road riding are a system of rim and tire that are designed to work together. (Stan's Iron Cross/Crest suggestions need not apply here) I'm not talking conversion of a standard tire to tubeless. That's cutting corners. I'm talking a dedicated, real tubeless solution for gravel road riders. Doesn't exist, you say? Well.......

WTB announced the Nano 40 tire just ahead of Frostbike. The Nanoraptor is an awesome tire for 29"ers and is fast, light, and comfortable. (When made in the right factory, but that's another story.....) The Nano 40 will come out late Spring, most likely, but I found out a TCS, (WTB's tubeless ready, UST based system) version will be coming later. WTB already has a disc and rim brake 700c TCS compatible rim brake models available today. There's the beginnings of your gravel road based, tubeless ready, proven system. Oh, and......Hey Surly/45NRTH! Take notes here........ Fat bikers deserve to get the same for the high dollars you ask for your products, don't cha think? I sure do.


Moving on, I saw some promising ideas for gravel road clinchers and tubeless ready tires and rims were talked about as well. So the other companies will be doing some cool things coming in the near future.

This is Anna Schwinn's Light, Strong, and......Pretty drop out.
I love Anna Schwinn. Really. She's a very interesting person to chat with, and she's designed a drop out that solves an issue I have cussed about several times. The track ends with disc brake deal. Drives me nuts. I hates it, I do. We hates it forever! 

But here comes Anna's cool All City drop out to the rescue with an ingenious design that moves the IS brake adapter along with the rear axle when you turn the adjuster screw.  Beautiful, strong, and light, (so says Anna, and I chose to believe her), this makes living with an All City Nature Boy disc model that much easier. Other companies take notes, please! 

Tim Allen's new bike. He's a National Champeen, ya know.
 Foundry Bikes. Oh the brand with the ironic name! All plasticky bikes with a name that screams "metal". (Not as in "Motorhead", but as in the ferrous, 4130 meaning.) I never quite figured out where the heck they were going with that schtick, but could never tell a Foundry from a Chinese direct frame. The "low key branding" thing just didn't work with the all blackness thing going on in carbon fiber. Well, now these rigs are painted.

At least you can easily pick out the ironic name of the bike now! They should change the name of this brand to "Chemical Stew", or "Autoclave". At least it would fit better. Besides that, the bikes are straight up cyclo cross screamers. Don't think about putting anything bigger than a legal sized CX tire in the back, because you won't have any mud clearances. It's tight back there!

A word about Mr. Allen. He won the CX single speed national championship, I guess. You'd never know it by talking with him. A great, down to Earth, humble fellow. He was truly stoked to be getting the bike pictured here and to fly the Foundry flag. It was genuine. The thing about meeting him was that I didn't realize "who he was" until afterward when someone pointed it out to me, so I had no preconceived notions there.

SRAM's 1X road/CX set up appeared at Frostbike
Another good moment or two was had when I was able to present Jeff Kerkove with an "official Trans Iowa v10" shirt. I thought it appropriate that he get the very first one out in the "wild" to wear or use as an oil rag, if he so chooses!

I don't think that he will, of course, and he seemed truly stoked to get it. I think he was genuinely struck  by the fact that this upcoming T.I. is number ten. I know we were pretty amazed that folks wanted to do Trans Iowa a second time after we put on the first one, much less having it last ten editions.

So there were several other conversations with several other folks I don't get to see all too often. Some Trans Iowa veterans and finishers, some others that have been reading this blog or one of my other sites, (thanks, by the way), and then I looked at my watch. Dang it! I missed lunch again this year! Oh well........Onwards through the fog!

A special Trans Iowa tribute in the Salsa booth: Images by Scott Haraldson
I ran across Jason Boucher. He and I got to know each other back when he was the Salsa Cycles brand manager. Now he's moved on up the "Q" ladder. We stood and chatted for a good long while. I really enjoyed that. Then he asked if I'd seen the Trans Iowa tribute in the Salsa booth. I hadn't.

So I walked over to check it out finally after the show was clearing out for the day. I have to say that I thought it was really impressive, well done,  and definitely humbling. You know, I never planned on having all this attention on Trans Iowa, and even now I am still kind of shocked when I see people making a special effort to express something in print, on film, or in the digital realm that concerns the event. I means something to a lot of folks, I get that part. Heck, it hasn't gone unnoticed in my life that it means some things as well to me personally. However; to see it at a trade show expo........ I never woulda thunk it.

Then there were beers, some vittles, some Korean food at Hoban, then nighty-night. The next day I made a brief appearance back at the show, then I had to skee-daddle back to the home base. It was a good Frostbike, but a different one. No Mike's Bikes, less shenanigans, bad weather, epic travel, and lots of great friends and acquaintances.

I'll have a bit more to say about Frostbike elsewhere, but for here that's a wrap. Thanks to the Witt Family, QBP, all the friends and acquaintances, and everyone that made Frostbike possible.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Frostbike 2014: The Trip

A Windy, Snowy Landscape
As I watched the storm develop on Thursday, I could see that heavy rain had pushed up ahead of the cold side of the system and later it turned into snow. Here in town, I listened as all night long the wind rattled the rafters and it sounded really wicked out there. We were to leave Friday about noon to drive up to Frostbike, where I hoped to catch a party at a motel that afternoon for the QPB brands and dealers showing up for Frostbike.

Here in town we received very little snow, but a sheet of ice had formed over the side streets. We packed up the vehicle and headed out of town, and at first, it wasn't bad at all. I was in contact with Ben Witt, my friend from Northfield Minnesota, and he told me that the interstate highway was closed in Minnesota due to snow. I guess that they received far more snow up that way, and that blizzard conditions had prevailed overnight. I decided to cut off that section of Interstate 35 by going up Highway 218 instead, which, if I was right, would bypass the closed section of interstate entirely. As we went further North, things got progressively more icy and snowy.

 Heading up Highway 218, it was getting downright treacherous. The highway was completely covered in snow, and speeds were about 40mph at the top to keep us safe. There were very few cars on the roads! We reached the town of Osage without incident. I was noticing how it appeared that the folks there were just getting around to digging out. Hmmm......not a good sign!

Just North of Osage on HWY 218
 The winds were stiff from the Northwest at 20-25mph with higher gusts. Up north of Osage, the drifts were immense. We met a road grader with a massive "V" shaped plow that was ramming through 10-15ft high drifts to allow for the passage of cars and trucks. At one point, it was a one lane passage through, and the snow was so deep that I feared we would get bogged down and stuck, but the Highlander pulled through it.

Not long after, we hit the remains of what the maintainer left behind after punching through another huge drift, and the car started getting sucked to the right toward the big drift, which at this point was taller than our SUV! I cranked the wheel hard left, let off the gas, and the vehicle traveled more or less straight through, saving us from getting stuck. One more of those and I would have turned back, but that was the worst of it, as far as drifts went.

Onward to the North, we were going 20mph at times due to the wind, blowing snow, and ice-snow covered roadway. Finally we reached Austin Minnesota, and crossed Interstate 90, but immediately we saw a "Road Closed" sign, and a long line of semi-tractor trailer rigs lined up waiting to get through. Check!

A couple of interesting things here. (Click to enlarge)
I told Mrs. Guitar Ted we would try going West on I-90 at that point, so we doubled back and went down the on-ramp. There was no signs that this was a closed road, but in fact, we found out later that it was. I should have guessed, since it was largely a deserted stretch of road, which is highly unusual for any interstate highway in the Mid-West.

The roadway was badly rutted ice, probably made that way by traffic running through slushy snow before all hell broke lose with the wind. Cars and trucks littered the ditches on either side. We saw a sedan on its roof! Caution was the order of the day so far, and now I redoubled my efforts to not take any chances at all. (Well, other than to be out driving at all, which was a huge risk in and of itself at that point!)

We reached I-35, and although I suspected it was closed, as Ben had warned, there were no barriers, no officials to stop me, so I took the right hand on-ramp to I-35 and continued Northward. It was super sketchy until we got much closer to Northfield. Normally, it takes me about 3 hours or slightly less to get from my home to Northfield, but on this blustery day, it took over 5 hours. We checked into the motel we were to stay at for the weekend, and I was so tired and stressed out from the drive that I crashed on the bed for several hours only to be awakened later by Mrs. Guitar Ted to go have Mexican out with the Witts. Afterward, a few beers with Ben and Marty at The Cow, a bar in Northfield. We couldn't do the usual Mike's Bikes gig, since our chaperone was out of town. But that was okay, because I wasn't too up for anything but a couple IPA's and more sleep anyway!

Next: The show goes on.....

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday News And Views

A gravel bike?
Breadwinner Cycles is a frame building concern from Portland, Oregon and was started by two-time Trans Iowa winner and frame builder Ira Ryan and his partner, frame builder Tony Pereira. They debuted their Breadwinner Cycles brand at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, (NAHBS), and they will be back this year again showing a couple of new models. One is dubbed "B-Road".

It'll be interesting to see just how the name is used here. On one hand, this could be a "650B road bike", and on the other hand, it could be a reference to the minimum maintenance roads in Iowa called "B Maintenance Roads", making one think it may be a gravel road bike design. My guess? Both!

Their will be several "new" things popping up on the radar screens of gravel road enthusiasts soon, and perhaps this Breadwinner model is one of those things. I already have been tipped off to another thing that will be announced Saturday and will have a connection to Trans Iowa. (You'll have to wait till Monday to find out here.) UPDATE: See announcement here.

The growth in gravel road related product seems to be continuing unabated, and I suspect it will rankle some feathers, give fodder for the punter's blog postings, and fuel the keyboard jockey's angst out there. The thing is, the growth in the participation in gravel road riding, as I see it from my seat, is still rising. Events are posting bigger attendance figures, and I have been getting new submissions for the Gravel Grinder News calendar on a regular basis for months. On the order of about 3-5 events per week over the past three months, as a matter of fact.

So, people will have some backlash to this stuff, but it doesn't negate the reality of it. Gravel road riding is popular, the events are growing and increasing in number, and the bicycle industry is going to see if they can capitalize on that. Would you expect anything less than that? I wouldn't.

Image by A Andonopoulous.

I have started to fire up the Trans Iowa v10 machine again. There is a little over two months to go, and there is much to get organized yet.

I have the Grinnell Steakhouse lined up again. They provide Trans Iowa with a free venue to hold the Pre-Race Meat-Up and in return I deliver warm bodies that will eat and drink at their establishment. It's been a very beneficial relationship for both parties for the last four years.

My job now will be to contact each racer and get a head count on meals, what the menu choice will be, and to communicate the meeting details via e-mails which should start going out next week. This has also worked to serve the secondary purpose of finding out if folks on the roster are actually going to show up. That helps save costs on my end in both time and money.

I also will be doing Trans Iowa recon with my two cue sheet checkers, Wally & George, in late March. This will make sure of the clarity of the cue sheets and whether or not they are correct, or need to be changed due to road closures. The side benefit here is I get to see how the roads are coming along.

This Weekend: I have the final four posts in the "Trans Iowa Tales" series going up and then the weekend posts will be reserved for the current Trans Iowa coming up. The Frostbike report will go up Monday, and maybe there will be a couple of posts, depending upon the events going down.

UPDATE: 45NRTH announces a fatter Dillinger

Stay tuned, otherwise have a great weekend and ride your bicycles!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Frostbike 2014: Preview

What will pop up on the screen this year?
Frostbike is happening this weekend up in Bloomington, Minnesota. Yes......I will be there. I should be haunting the TC area from about Friday afternoon till sometime Sunday when I will sink back Southward to Iowa where I belong.

This has become something of a yearly tradition for me. I do not keep count of such shenanigans, but I should say I've been to Frostbike almost every year for 10 years or so by now. Anymore I just figure that sometime in mid-February I'll be heading up to the Twin Cities for some geeking out on bike stuff, and more importantly, to see some great people.

Let's see- I've seen the first fat bike I ever saw at Frostbike, I rode my first 36"er at Frostbike, I have almost gone into the ditch going to Frostbike, I got a good friends car impounded at Frostbike, I've seen the holy grail of bike piles while attending Frostbike, I've gotten inebriated several times while attending Frostbike, and I've even injured myself while attending Frostbike. (Note: Not all these things happened while at QBP, so you legal hounds can relax, okay?)

Let's just say that Frostbike has been mostly about people, goofing off, and maybe getting a bit of news here and there along the way. Hey! Whatta ya expect from a guy that has been frozen out of the mountain bike trails, and has been hand shoveling piles of snow for two or three months? A guy has to let off some steam now and again. But this time I think Frostbike just may be a bit heavier on the news side of the equation. Yes.....I do know about a few things, but those things alone would not constitute my feeling that this time I just might be busier tapping out keyboards instead of kegs.

Fat bikes obviously will be something of note, as will the attendant componentry. I think we'll see some non-fat bike stuff on the hardware side and, of course, gravel tidbits. I understand All City has something coming out, (maybe that disc brake edition of the Macho Man), and I'm sure there will be some surprises.

Stay tuned for a full report on all the goings on here Monday.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday News And Views


Just a few odds and ends today about Trans Iowa First up- the t-shirts are just about all printed. Next up will be the hats. I should have a sample to show of the hats soon.

Secondly, I am going to be sending out e-mails soon to the riders and volunteers on my list to (a) confirm you are still planning on showing up, (b) to confirm your shirt and hat size so I can presort the shirts out, and (c), ask for your menu preference for the Pre-Race Meat-Up at the Grinnell Steakhouse.

I am also going to be announcing some news about the barn we are planning on using again for the finish line, and possibly more. It's the "possibly more" that is in the cross hairs. Anyone up for a Saturday night barbecue/gathering at the Barn? Any ideas on what could be going on with this feature are welcomed.

Finally, concerning the Trans Iowa Tales, I have completed these and they are all scheduled to be posted on weekends through the end of this month. After that, weekends will be dedicated to Trans Iowa topics till the event is run in late April.

This is Nebraska
Odin's Revenge:

I sent off my post card today to throw my hat into the ring for Odin's Revenge.  This will be my third event of 2014, (the first was Triple D and the second will be the Renegade Gents Race in April), and I am pretty excited about going back there.

If you read my post from yesterday, this is one of those events that- for me- has that certain something that a big-time, hyped, supported, or "overly engineered" event doesn't have, or cannot possibly have. Sorry.....I cannot quantify what "it" is for you. You can make up yer own mind on such matters, I trust. I will just say that I really appreciate how Odin's Revenge is run, the terrain we get to ride, and all the work that goes into putting on the event in the way it is done.

My goal is to finish the "big course", which seems as though it will be 160 miles this year. Not sure on the exact mileage, but I plan on getting it done. I have no idea what bike I will take for certain yet, but if I take the old Fargo, I would be just fine with that. We'll see. Plans for training have been and will be executed. Stay tuned.......

On a side note to the events I had planned on doing- I was hinting that I wanted to ride in the Almanzo 100, but as it happens, that event is on a day that I had planned something special with my son, and I cannot attend this year. I'm kind of bummed about that on one hand, but hopefully there will be a chance next year.

Imagine one of these with 29+ rubber.
Frostbike 2014:

So, next weekend is Frostbike, the dealer only show at Quality Bicycle Products. While it isn't likely that any 2015 Salsa Cycles stuff will be publicly announced, (they'll wait till Saddledrive in Utah this Summer to do most of that, I bet), I will take this opportunity to announce what I would do!

Ever since I've seen the 29+ concept I've thought about a bikepacking rig with those tires and wide rims. To my mind, backcountry touring/camping would be best on a bike with no suspension, basic components that are reliable and field serviceable, and with versatility in mind. Surly came out with the ECR, which I think is awesome. However; I think Salsa Cycles could do something here that I think would be brilliant.

If it were up to me- and believe me, it is not at all up to me- I would introduce a 29+ Fargo that has pretty much everything the Fargo of 2014 has, but I might eschew any suspension correction at all for it. I know that is risky business, but there is no real, approved option for 29+ front suspension, and the front end on the Fargo is tall enough as it is. But other than that minor detail, I see absolutely no reason not to move the Fargo in this direction. But then again.......I have a twisted mind! 

Okay, that's all for today. It's warming up in our neck of the woods, so maybe you'll be out riding. If not, get outside. Move! Enjoy life.......

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 4

Sunday was the closing day for Frostbike and I awoke at Ben's home to get ready. We then peeled out to his folks place for poached eggs and toast with some fresh coffee on top and then we hit the road northward.

I didn't have a whole lot on the agenda. A few things that I needed to hit up, then I just needed to wait until 2pm for a meeting with a Salsa rep concerning the shop. The pre-order for 2014 was on the agenda. My boss from the shop was supposed to show up for it.

Interestingly, there was a good, long conversation in the Challenge Tire booth with their rep and a person very high up in the chain of command at QBP. The overall feeling I got was that gravel road and fat bike segments were very high in focus and priority with QBP. It doesn't take much to see that is true when you check out some of Q's brands and how they have refocused over the past few years.

Salsa Cycles threw out that Mukluk in late 2010 and when the bike sold out, they brought a three bike line up the following year. 2013 saw the addition of a full on race bike in the Beargrease, and I thought that was pushing the limits. Nope! Now for 2014 we're going to see a high technology, super-fat bike in the Carbon Beargrease. Amazing! Add in those Warbird gravel road racers, the Vaya, and you can see a focus on those categories quite easily.

The new All City Macho Man Disc gravel/cross rig.
Another brand, this one switched up to cover cross and gravel riders, is All City. I remember when that brand was just Jeff Frane and a bunch of fixie-hipster componentry.

All City then branched out to offer urban bashers and fixed gear frame sets. But then one day this single speed cross bike appeared called the Nature Boy. It was touted as a cross rig, which it is, but gravel riders were attracted to it in significant numbers.

Then came the Mr. Pink all-road bike, then the Spacehorse, which really hit the gravel riders as a good rig, and then the geared version of the Nature Boy, the Macho Man appeared. Now when you walk into an All City booth at a show, it's hard to find a fixed gear selection. Sure, they have one hanging on in the line, and a couple of frame sets, but this brand has gone completely in another direction. Gravel and cross. The all new Macho Man Disc will only further that feeling.

So gravel and fat bikes are certainly where the action is at with the Q brands. Foundry, the oddly named carbon bike brand, is all cyclo-cross, for the most part. There is a token 29"er there, but whoop-de-doo. It, (and the other Foundry bikes),  looks like an overpriced refugee from a Chinese manufacturers catalog. Surly? Well certainly they are, (pardon the pun), the odd man out, but with the seminal Cross Check, and two very popular fat bikes, they have their bases covered already. Add in the 29+ Krampus, and you just may have a whole nuther segment created right there. Surly may be "anti-establishment", but they can't be blamed for not being at the front end of most of these niche cycling categories. Cutting edge misfits, those fellers!

Gravel grinding: It's the new black...
Well, I had all those conversations at one point or another during the weekend that I can tell you about. However; there was more. A lot more that I can not speak of......yet. But mark my words here- fat bikes are being fast tracked and what you see now will be prehistoric in terms of tech and performance in three years tops. I know gravel grinding stuff may see the same treatment. Fat bikes will be first though. It's going to be super exciting to see how it all comes down.

After jawing all that time, a guy can work up quite an appetite. Fortunately Jeff Kerkove put a bug in my ear to go to lunch with  him. We caught up on things and had a great time.  For those who haven't been along here for the entire ride, Jeff used to work at the shop with me and was the co-founder of Trans Iowa. Now he's with Ergon, and riding bikes all over the place. We get to see each other very rarely, so it was good to sit down with him.

And that meeting I was supposed to have at 2pm? Well, my boss changed the timing but neglected to inform me of that small detail. So I found out at 2pm that Ben and I could have been gone already, and my wife could have seen all of the Academy Award ceremony, and....... Meh!....... is sort of important. 

So Frostbike came to an end for 2013. It was a whirlwind of a weekend and I had a lot of fun. Seeing many people I don't get to see very often, and meeting new folks too was certainly the highlight of the time spent there. Bikes were the added icing on that cake.

Thanks! I wanted to give special shouts out to: Ben and Meg, the Witt family, Mike's Bikes: Mike, Stuart, and Jon- Salsa Cycles: Mike Riemer, Tim K, John Gaddo, Aaron Stehly- QBP: Jason Boucher, Mary, and all the staff- The Vendors: Jeff Kerkove, Morgan Nicol, Chris Clinton, Donn Kelogg, Matt Ruiter, and all the good folks there to show their wares. Friends old and new, and everyone that made the weekend what it was. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 3

No- You can not buy one like this from Surly.
With Friday behind us, Ben and I woke up early and hit "The Tavern" in downtown Northfield for some eggs and bacon. Then it was on to "Goodbye Blue Mondays" for our cuppa joe to go, and off we went to QBP's massive warehouse for the Frostbike show.

When I got there I headed over to Salsa's booth and saw the prototype tandem 29"er, which was pretty awesome. Then after a bit of chatting with the Salsa folk, I moved onward to check out the other booths. It quickly became apparent that besides fat bike stuff, gravel road talk was high on several folks minds.

I spent a long time talking with Clement's Donn Kellogg. The gravel scene is really drawing manufacturers in, and I also learned from sources at the show that major players are taking notice. It will be interesting to see how the genre' is interpreted by more corporate entities. 

These new bags for the Big Dummy are super-rad.
I talked so much to so many folks on Saturday, in fact, that I missed lunch altogether. The afternoon wore on and it ended up with me hanging around the Salsa area with Ben and Curtis. A small crowd was gathering near by for SRAM's XX-1 giveaway. I noticed Hurl Everstone of One On One Studio and Cars Are Coffins fame talking with Greg Herbold, former downhill champ and current SRAM spokesperson. H-Ball was holding a koozie with a Keystone beer in it. He was telling a great story about a taxi ride with two foreign drivers in the same taxi. (You had to be there.)

Before long H-Ball was getting into "show mode" to give away the XX-1 group. Ben said he was going to run over to see who might win it, while Curtis and I stayed clear and chatted with some other folks.

Suddenly Ben was shouting Curtis' name and I realized Curtis won. Curtis' face was in disbelief as he walked over and received the voucher for a complete XX-1 group. A bit later, he almost traded it to Salsa's Kid Riemer for a Buick, but that didn't quite happen.

Then there was this shindig going on upstairs, but only for certain dealers. I was wearing my media tag. An old friend of mine that works at Q whisked me right in though, and the next thing ya know, I am up in the Salsa Cycles cubicle area quaffing beers and gabbing with the fellas. Here is where I started to figure out that I needed re-fueling. It had been since early morning that I had eaten, and I was getting kind of weird feeling in the head. No wonder! About this time, a bag of cheese curds appeared and saved me from utter collapse.

The deal was that there would be a dinner provided by QBP at 7pm and all I had to do was hang on a bit longer.

Nickle, (facing), and Ben on our way to the Cutter's Ball
Well, finally the word came that it was time, so we all filtered down to the cafeteria and grabbed a plate. Once we got through the line, we found that the room was filled and not many open seats were available. So we had a former QBP employee in the group who knew the building well. He directed us to a nearby conference room where we squatted and ate our meals without further adieu.

Once the grub had been grubbed, we made way to the show floor where there was karaoke and folks milling about. I somehow had gotten separated from Ben and Curtis during this time, so I wandered over to the shadow box displays where the QBP brands each display a bicycle or product. I stopped at the All City booth, where there was a Nature Boy or some model of theirs surrounded by Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. I noticed the pull tabs were still in the cans, but I figured the cans must have been drained. I casually kicked at one nearest to me and it was full! 

With one less can in the display, I walked down back to the crowd and found Ben and Curtis with a few others. We hung around a bit longer before Ben made the announcement that we were leaving for the Cutter's Ball. This is an event that has been taking place for the last four years. I'm not sure it is a benefit, but the event features some facet or entity in the Twin Cities bicycle culture, and this time it was all the way downtown.

Chad Ament, (L) and Tobie Depauw of NC Cyclery @ One On One
Well, this Cutter's Ball was all about Handsome Cycles moving in next door to One On One Bicycle Studio. So we had to ply the busy streets of downtown Minneapolis. Ben was driving, and while he has several amazing talents, being calm in the face of urban driving madness is not one of them. In a bit of frustration, he whipped the car into some random parking garage and parked the car. We had a passenger, Nickle, (yes- his real name), and we went in search of One On One Bicycle Studio.

We wandered in the general direction and eventually found the place after going about 8 blocks or so. Not bad, actually, and the "people watching" opportunities were vast and varied. The area is known for its clubs and younginz all dressed up were walking up and down the streets trying to search for that certain "sumpthin-sumpthin" that younginz often are in search of.

Once inside Ben and Curtis walked off with Nickle into the party. Me? I never got more than 20 feet inside the front door because there were so many folks that wanted to chat with me. Interesting conversations were had, and time was not on my mind. In fact, I have no clear idea what time it was during most of what I am writing about here. I was not at all worried about time. It was rather pleasant, actually.

Urban Adventurers
Well, we had to go home at some point, and once again, it was Ben who made the motion to head out. We picked up three more guys who needed rides back to their hotel. The crew, now six of us, took off in the general direction of the mystery parking garage that, by now, none of us had any clear idea about its specific location or the street it was on for sure. Ben proffered his ticket, taken upon our entrance, and GPS'ed the address and we were on a bead for the location until I misguided us about a block too far South.

Along our route, there were perhaps even more revelers than before when we came the other way. Dance club music filtered out of double doors guarded by twin security men up and down the streets. Lights flickered in the cold, somewhat foggy air. Girls with over the knee boots and mini skirts were everywhere. All this prompted me to declare Minneapolis as the "Las Vegas Of The North".

Eventually we found the ramp, but the door we came out of was locked. We could not see another door nearby to use, so we simply walked up the off ramp cars used to exit the ramp. When we discovered the level we needed to be on was over a barricade, down about ten feet across a gulf leading down another story, we decided to jump over and down. All six of us safely by this obstacle, we walked by three ladies with impossibly long legs and found our car. 

Bright Lights- Twin Cities
Now Ben's car is a mid-90's era Toyota Camry. Not the largest of vehicles, mind you. The car is outfitted with front bucket seats and a rear bench seat. Four adults can shoehorn themselves into this vehicle and be "okay". Now we had two above that number.

I sat in front next to Ben who drove. Age does have its benefits! The other younger men crammed into the back, and I could see one of them was partially on anothers lap. Oh well! Off we went, and it wasn't long before the tired old Camry's springs left us to scrape bottom over the uneven parking garage pavement.

Once out on the road, we found smooth sailing. Ben was chuckling as he could see Tobie from North Central Cyclery snoozing behind me as he was wedged against the right rear door. The others were chatting away and Ben and I were navigating our way out of the downtown area successfully to deposit these fellows at their designated motel just off I-494. Then Ben and I, too tired to chat or do much of anything but drive, made our way back to Northfield under a bright, nearly full moon surrounded by stars and all that above a fresh coat of white on the rural scenery. It was beautiful, peaceful, and in direct contrast to what we had experienced over the last several hours.

Off to bed, then one more short day of Frostbike to go........

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frostbike 2013: Part 2

Mike's Bikes: Home of Real and Fictional characters.
Now it is time to back up and tell the story on the Frostbike adventure from the beginning. Friday normally is kicked off with the Mike's bikes events. But this year it was different.

Mrs. Guitar Ted and I went up during the day Friday to try and get me up to the Salsa Cycles 2014 dealer presentation by 1pm. The issue here was that we had gotten a fresh dump of about 7 inches of snow overnight. I had to clear that away, then we waited on the roads to clear up a bit, as we watched the D.O.T. updates.

We got off to a bit of a late start, after we were assured by direct reports that the roads were good. (The D.O.T. site said they were packed in yet!) Wish we would have gotten the good word earlier, but oh well!

The trip up was uneventful, and due to our late start, I was going to miss the first 45 minutes or so of the 3 hour presentation. No big deal, until we got to the fringes of the Twin Cities' suburban sprawl.This would have been around the Lakeville area. That's when we came up on three lanes of 20mph traffic. It took awhile to figure it out, but then I saw it.

John and his "beaver skinning gloves". Don't ask...
 The reason why was that there was an echelon of snow plows from ditch to ditch ahead of us, and no one could get by. This was really going to mess with my timing!

I waited until we crossed the Minnesota River, then I got off and took city arterials to get to the area where the motel was that had the Salsa presentation. I was really, really late now!

Funny thing was that almost immediately after getting inside I ran across Ben, I got updated, and got in to peer at some really cool machinery. Obviously, I didn't have long to stick around and when it was over, Curtis, Ben, myself, and a few others hit the motel bar. Initially the plan was to go to a Korean restaurant with Ben's wife and Mrs Guitar Ted later, but Ben's wife was a bit under the weather, so we determined that we were on our own. 

Ben coming in hot at the repair area
After a while we determined that we should head back to Northfield and get to Mike's Bikes. We picked up some "adult beverages", set course for Mike's, and got there a bit later than usual, but in fine shape.

There was the usual Greek pizza, beer, and riding shenanigans. I got to talk to Mike for a bit, which is always a highlight of the trip for me. Good stories about the early Marin scene at the birth time of mountain biking as we know it.

But while all that was good, it was all tempered by abit less excitement and a bit less craziness than previous years. Still- it was a good time. We stayed up fairly late, but this may have been the earliest end to a Mike's Bikes party yet. Ben and I headed back to his place, got settled, and hit the hay to rest before a big, long day of Frostbike.

So that was the day of Friday. Stay tuned for Saturday's saga and the rest of the Frostbike story coming tomorrow. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Frostbike 2013 Part 1: Carbon Fat Bike Dream Come True?

Carbon Beargrease: Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Frostbike 2013:

Everyone has probably heard by now, but the show was all about the carbon fiber fat bike, Salsa Cycles 2014 Carbon Beargrease.

The shop where I work is a Salsa Cycles dealer. So, I got to pre-view some of the 2014 line up. I signed a "NDA", so you are not going to hear me say, or read anything about most of what I know, but they did say we could run with one thing they showed, and honestly, it is one of the coolest things they are doing for 2014 anyway, so here ya go......

I saw this pre-production rig up close. I will say that there are things going on with the frame, fork, wheels, and drive train that no one is doing now in fat bikes. These are things that make the idea of a fat bike better. Much better. Never mind that it is a carbon frame and fork. And what a frame and fork!

Cartoonish frame tubes here. Huge, huge fork crown, legs that slant inward  toward the through axle front end. Tapered steer tube, inset head set, and the look is sleek, and every bit as top shelf looking as any high end road bike carbon fiber you can name. Check out that downtube/bottom bracket junction! Whoa! A through axle rear? Are you kidding me? 

Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
 Internally routed cables here, and note the fit of the fork to the head tube. This is a pre-production rig, so I was pretty impressed by this. The graphics aren't right, and there will be a bit of color, as I understand it, here and there. Still, the bike is stunning, both in appearance, and in technological level.

The weight? I've heard 24lbs for the XX-1 spec level. Oh yeah.......there will be an XX-1 spec'ed crank set, cassette, rear derailleur, and chain. The whole XX-1 deal on a fat bike. Awesome.

So, here's the thing: The bike does do a lot of things that I would have hoped a carbon fat bike would do. One is the shapes carbon can be used for were applied here. That aforementioned fork? Yeah- the crown flows out and around the top of the tire for maximum clearance, and that slants back to the axle, as I stated. The down tube is spread out to provide a shape that looks to me to be something that should resist twisting and prevent a lot of torsional twist in the chassis.

And of course, there is the weight. Wow. 24lbs for the pre-production bike, that has tubed tires, and no trickery besides the cool XX-1 drive train. You thought fat bikes were too heavy? Not anymore. This is a year round choice for mountain biking now, with the only caveat that tire prices are pretty dang prohibitive, so if you ride a lot, you may need to cut back on the beer budget a bit to save up for new skins eventually. I don't think you'll mind, if this is as fun of a bike as I imagine it must be.

So, there was that! There will be far more to say about this in the future. Of course, there was a lot more to Frostbike- both at the show and outside of it. Look for all of that later. Tomorrow and throughout the week.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday News And Views

Cielo's new "Overlander"

This weekend marks the NAHBS opening in Denver, Colorado. Likely some fancy-pants, outlandishly priced rig will win the "Best of Show" award, and similar rigs will take home the other traditional prizes at NAHBS, but this Cielo offering would be my pick.

Dubbed the "Overlander", you could easily say this is a high-brow steel Fargo of the Gen I variety. Cielo says" Informed by our love of gravel adventures, back country exploration, bike packing, long road tours, and urban commuting, the Overlander is constructed with the same attention to detail and elegance that is the hallmark of every Chris King product."

It isn't suspension corrected, and the fork was specially constructed for this bike. It accepts mini-top racks, low rider mounts, and even has water bottle braze ons- one on the outside of each fork leg. The bike accepts rear racks, fenders, and has a full compliment of water bottle braze ons as well. 

I like the color combo here!
Finally, Cielo also installed a swinger drop out for single speed and IGH compatibility. See that Salsa Cycles? The Fargo sorely needs this added! 

While Cielo shows it here with Jones bars and some flat bar or another, I would drop bar this bike and if it handled as well or better than my Gen I Fargo? Well, I'd probably let that old Fargo go because the one thing that bike misses is the versatility of a swinging drop out.

And I gotta say, that reddish-orange hue is killer! Love the white tire look too, but in practice, white tires don't tend to be the best quality tires for what I'd be doing.

Anyway, all that to show that adventure/gravel bikes are definitely a theme for NAHBS this year. Glad to see that too. Now- I wonder if Cielo is going to send one of these down Tour Divide? Might be a good marketing move there.

Ardennes Plus
Also getting introduced at NAHBS will be the HED Wheels Ardennes Plus that I reviewed recently here and here on Gravel Grinder News. The wheels will be getting a new set of tires soon, and then I will be doing a longer term update on them at some point this summer.

It will be interesting to see and read about the details on these wheels from other cycling media and fans at NAHBS. I think they are an interesting product and a different take on what gravel grinding wheels should be. But you never know- maybe I have that all wrong, and the fall out from the "official launch" will tell me one way or the other.


While NAHBS might be fun, and it is located closer to me than ever this year, I can't go when Frostbike is going on. This is the dealer only show by bicycle parts supplier giant, Quality Bicycle Products, located in Bloomington, Minnesota. But first-

I  have an appointment to see Salsa Cycles, in regards to the shop  where I work being a dealer, (that I won't be talking about here or anywhere for awhile, I suppose), and then its on to the "annual" shindig at Mike's Bikes in Northfield, Minnesota. It should be a scene. Usually there are three things. Okay.....four! Good friends, beer, Greek pizza, and indoor bicycle riding shenanigans.  It's more fun than a grown man should be allowed to have, however you slice it, and I look forward to it every year.

Alrighty then. I have a canned Trans Iowa post for tomorrow loaded with info, so look for that. Otherwise, get outside, have some fun, and we'll see ya soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frostbike Tidbits

The third post about Frostbike? was a fun weekend! This will be more of a photo-blog- commentary kind of post. Hold on! Here we go....

Mike's Bikes: Ya know, every time I go to this place I uncover some old bit or two that kind of blows me away. Take this New Departure parts box, as an example. It reminds you how long a history cycling has and how far it has come. By the way, New Departure was a hub manufacturer and made some pretty nice coaster brake hubs 50 years ago and more. Some of them are now collector's items.

I think I've actually overhauled one of these old hubs I mention here. I believe it was one with all the little clutch-like plates in it. Pretty cool little piece of design right there, and not all that easy to overhaul, but I got it done.

I'll always be grateful for being in the cycling business and for all the folks and opportunities I have been given along the way. Things like being able to go to Mike's Bikes. Thanks guys!

Here's a really bad picture of Surly's "Ultra New Hub". The newest generation of Surly hubs, which will be offered in many configurations like the old, "New Hubs", have only changed in that now one axle set up takes you from bolt on to quick release. More efficiency! The "Ultra New Hubs" will come with these Allen bolts and large washers to help with wheel retention, but if you'd rather, you can also pull the Allen bolts and slip in a skewer.

Well, I guess they also changed to a non-adjustable sealed bearing. The older adjustable sealed bearings were always tough to get adjusted "just right", so this may be seen as an improvement.......or not. You decide.

These are available now and in black or silver only. I own two sets of Surly hubs and they are solid product. The addition of the Allen bolts is a good change, I think.

I saw these fenders and I just had to sort of shake my head. Every show seems to have what I call "what is and what should never be", partly because Led Zeppelin is awesome, but more so because well, the term just fits things like these fenders. they "are", but they "never should have been".

It is things like this, or the funky bio-mechanical contraptions you see in the halls at Interbike, that make you wince and laugh all at the same time. Someone thought it was a good enough idea to invest a lot of time and money into the idea. How ironic when you see how ludicrous some of these ideas come off to most folks that witness them.

In fact, I instinctively knew something wasn't really right with these, but didn't actually figure it out until I was at home looking at the image closer. Yep! That's not even close to being a truly workable front fender as it sits right there. Weird! Oh well.....I'm sure someone thinks it is awesome and that I don't know anything about clip on fenders.

A geared Nature Boy? Nope- but a "Macho Man"! All City had this unveiled shortly before I arrived on the scene at the booth. It is basically a "geared Nature Boy", but they gave it a new model name. So- same great geometry, same tire clearances, just geared.

This could be a pretty decent gravel grinder if you don't mind the smaller tires. (Well- small is a relative term here) I have heard Nature Boy rigs  are nice, so I suspect this will be also.

If ya gotta have the bigger tires, then the soon-to-become-available Space Horse will fill that bill. (Was there a professional wrestling connection with "Space Horse"? I must have missed that one.) Space Horse bikes are still scheduled to land next month.

Beer. QBP had some specially brewed stuff that you could grab if you talked with "certain vendors" in a kind of beer quest, treasure hunt deal where you had to show that you spoke with these vendors to get one bottle of brew.

I spoke with a lot of vendors, but not knowing if I had spoken with all the "correct ones" I didn't know if I qualified to get a bottle or not. I decided to make an "executive decision" and I grabbed one anyway. This was at the end of Saturday, and I was one of the last folks to get "swept out the door" by security, and they were basically handing these out to anybody and everybody, so don't get yer panties in a bunch here! It was all legit.

Besides, like a moron I took my bottle with me in Curtis' car on the way to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, (which- by the way, was spectacularly great), and when I was obliged to swap out cars, I left it behind with Curtis.

I hope it was good, Curtis! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Three Coolest Things At Frostbike 2012

Okay, you know the drill. You go to a bike show and the inevitable question for everyone that attends that is going to be asked is the following: "So, did you see anything interesting? Did you see anything you thought was cool?"

Al right, okay........that is actually two questions. But they almost always come in tandem, so I am calling it "one question". Sue me! is my answer. since I cannot/will not winnow it down to one thing, I am going with three. I'm sure that will be more interesting anyway, right? Right then.....

10 speed: Get a grip!
Grip Shift returns in 10 speed: I was tipped off to this by our SRAM rep, and it was a cool find at Frostbike. Ten speed compatible Grip Shifters.

When 10 speed XX and XO came around everyone wanted to know if a Grip Shifter would also be offered. (Well, not everyone, but a lot of folks did want this.) At any rate, the shifters were not offered right away, but apparently there was enough pressure from manufacturers and riders to bring back a ten speed version.

The first hint that something was coming was this past summer when Pro XC Champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy, was seen riding a ten speed version of a Grip Shift shifter. Rumors that SRAM was going to offer a ten speed version were hot and heavy, and now here is the proof.

The details are not entirely clear, but here are some solid points I gathered at Frostbike and afterward from SRAM:
  • There will be a XX and XO level 10spd Grip Shift pair offered for now. No lower groups will have this for now. 
  • XX level will have carbon fiber for the outer housing. XO is injection molded plastic. NOT aluminum as some sites are saying. (I asked about this specifically)
  • The internal indexing will be accomplished by ball bearings. I was told that due to the precise requirements necessary for ten speed indexing, a traditional ratchet/spring method was not sufficient for the level of shifting precision SRAM wanted. I was told that the shifter would also feel somewhat smoother due to this different internal design. Apparently, it is not advised to take one apart to look as I was told, "'ll have all kinds of ball bearings on the floor if you do." (take it apart). 
  • Final pricing and availability will be announced at Sea Otter along with more details on the shifters themselves. 
Manitou Marvel 29"er

 Manitou Marvel and Tower 29"er Forks: For about the last three years plus we have been told that Manitou was going to have a tapered steer tube and 15mm through axle fork options for 29'ers. Prototypes were shown to me three years ago at Interbike, but no production models were being proffered since. Well, now, after a long wait, they are about ready to be unleashed.

Along with this comes Manitou's XC 29"er fork line, the Marvel. The Marvel will be 80-120mm forks and Tower forks will be 80-140mm forks. Both lines will have 15mm through axles and tapered steer tube options along with the traditional 1 1/8th and 9mm quick release options.

Marvel and Tower 15mm through axle forks will use the new Hexlock tapered axle technology where instead of threading into the stanchion, the hex shaped end of the axle fits into a corresponding pocket and this holds the Hex while you rotate the QR lever till you can cam it over to lock down the axle. It looks pretty trick and should be easy to use.

The lowers are all new to reflect the move to the through axle and feature a stiffer chassis with the new crown as well. Of course, the tapered steer tube will be welcomed to those who wanted a Manitou that would be compatible with their frame's tapered head tube.  These aren't quite available yet, but they should be later in the spring. I was also told to expect to see these on 2013 models of 29"ers. (Updated 2/21/12: Note: Due to a miscommunication, I have learned I was mistaken about the Marvel. It will not be a 29"er fork. 26"er only for now. Manitou will only offer the Tower and Dorado as 29"er forks for 2012. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)

The prototype "FBFS" (Fat Bike Full Suspension)
Salsa Cycles Prototype Fat Bike: Of course, everyone was buzzing about this rig. Salsa Cycles is officially saying it is ........well, not  on the radar for production. Really, they just don't have enough figured out yet to know if it will even work right.

Admittedly, the front fork just isn't there. The Maverick SC32 forks, (as shown here), are abysmal as far as flexiness and from a tire clearance standpoint. Yes- insiders have known that Lefty fork clamps have been developed for fat bike usage, and one has to assume that a prototype of this bike exists that is sporting one. Obviously, a better take on the bike will be gotten from that fork, but there are other issues.

The suspension damping and compression is going to be affected by such a voluminous air spring, (I'm talking about the tires), and how the suspension reacts to that and trail input  along with a riders pedaling the whole shebang on top of all of that, well..... It's no wonder that Salsa Cycles can not really say much about the project. There are a lot of data points to be gathered, analyzed,  accounted for in redesign, retested, more data points gathered, etc. It's going to be awhile before Salsa will even know what to do with the project.

Big tires + suspension = "Big If".
Another issue being dealt with is how a tire with better traction affects the suspension, frame structure, and surrounding parts, especially brakes. Lots of considerations here to look over carefully.

Salsa folks were "optimistically guarded" when discussing this proto, but it was easy to tell that everyone was extremely excited about the possibilities. Obviously, it would be a big deal for them to have this work out, so you have to think it is on the front burner, as far as projects go.

One more thing- One person mentioned how the mere existence of this bike will push tire and rim design forward. I'd have to strongly agree with that, especially since almost everything fat bike is in house at QBP when it comes to tires and largely so in the rims department. I look for much to come from this, even though it may be radically different than what we are looking at here.

And those are my top three most interesting, cool things I saw at Frostbike 2012. That isn't to say there weren't more cool things, but I'll be mentioning those in the coming days.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Frostbike 2012: Mike's Bikes

Of course, there was mayhem and debauchery at Mike's Bikes on the Friday night of Frostbike weekend. It could only happen on the scale that this tiny gathering is at, so you really can't compare it to the Cutters Ball, because that event, while fun, would cause much trouble if it were allowed to become what this was.

Old Iron
I left for the Northern tier of states late Friday afternoon and rendezvoused with Ben, Curtis, Stu, and a few others at Mike's. Mike was there too, and in better shape than last summer, back when he had busted himself up on his bicycle.

Beer was cracked and I spent a good amount of time speaking with Mike about the folks he knew back in the old klunking days. Mike, as I have reported here before, was one of the original mountain bikers back in Marin County, California. He had his own cruiser turned mountain bike, and had owned several seminal early mountain bike iterations. His "Mountain Bikes" Montare, purchased from Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly, hung in the racks not far from where we were speaking with each other. 

Well, it wasn't long before the traditional Greek pizza, (or three), was ordered. Marty from the Prairie Pedaler came around, and then John showed up as well. More beers were cracked. More conversations were shared. Some folks left. Mike disappeared when it was plain that the events were turning, well......more dangerous.

Stu, well.....he likes guns, so there are a few of those around, and being guys and all, we were looking at those and checking out their details. Ben picked up something nice from Marty, (I won't spoil the surprise for Ben), and that was certainly talked about at length. (No- it was not a gun!)

John plays the downtube flute upon Presidential Request
We played "bicycle based musical instruments". Really. Handle bars work great for this, but on this particular evening, we were graced by the presence of a mid-80's Trek aluminum down tube based "flute" replete with a Pedros bottle opener mounted where the bottle mounts were and the Suntour 7 speed shifters.

Only the truly skilled could make a "musical" sound on this. Others less talented could only make grotesque, gastrointestinal sounding bleats and  blats. There were a lot of these sorts of sounds. Oh, and I should also add that a bottle of Goldschlager somehow appeared around this time. More beers were cracked.......Using the Trek/Pedros/musical instrument to open those beers, of course.

Well, after this became old hat, we had to start warm-ups for the indoor criterium. Yes- riding bicycles indoors.

John on the "Front Stretch"
You see, this is the highlight of the evening. Mike's is sort of an odd place in terms of its layout. The front door opens to a long, narrow-ish floor where the bicycles are displayed. Near the rear of this is a counter, and off to the opposite side is the service area. There is a "ramp" up to a different level, maybe a foot, a foot and a half at best, which takes you into the back room. Here there is a doorway, well.....sort of.  More like an opening, anyway- you go into the hold area where the bicycles waiting for repair, and those in storage, hang from hooks and sit lined up along the walls. There is a couch, computer, desk, and a refrigerator back here.

Then you have to make another tight left hander through a narrow hall way, down a ramp, which makes you pick up speed, and to the end of the "back stretch", which is all "backroom". Because of this, there are various odd things like bikes sitting around, the bathroom door to watch out for, and a railing along the ramp here.But this isn't the most difficult corner. It is a bit slippery though, as the concrete is pretty smooth there.

Ben looking back through the difficult "Repair Area Chicane"
Then it's a short straight, and back up the showroom "front stretch" area where we started.  That pretty much sums up a lap at Mike's Bikes.

The most difficult area is the "Repair Area Chicane". This comes right before the ramp to the back room, and then there is an immediate left. It is tight, and there are a lot of chances for accidents. I have skinned my knuckles on the counter here, crashed into the support pole for the roof, and nicked the repair stand in my days of laps at Mike's. And you know- it isn't like we are being careful kiddies either. Speeds get up into the "Ridiculous Range" very quickly, and laps are done in seconds at speeds over 15mph in places. Indoors. In a bike shop.

So, if you were wondering, yes, it is pretty dangerous to do this at the sort of speeds we do this at. We skid into the corners, slide, and ricochet off things and each other. We are probably pretty intoxicated as well. Actually, I know we are. 

Mayhem: It happened.
So it goes. John misjudged the tight corner going into the back room after the ramp, got a little out of shape, and took out the coat rack, and some stuff on a shelving unit, as he clattered to the floor. He was okay.

It just looked really bad!

We got him untangled from that mess and proceeded to find him a more suitable steed. The Indoor Criterium went on.

Of course, all things come to an end sooner or later. One of those things was Friday. It became Saturday morning, and we never really noticed. That will happen when you are having, fun that is!

Ummm....yeah. Whatever dudes.
Another thing that ended was the beer. Then after trying to destroy what was left of the old Trek frame the "downtube flute" came from, (which Ben did expertly, I might add), we traipsed down to the local watering hole at something past 1:00am. As if we really needed to!

Well, the boyz played darts and I- not being blessed in the arts of bar room gaming, stayed at the table to watch the beer, and munch some salty pop corn. The bar had "entertainment", (only in the most loosely defined sense could you say this), and I tried to find something to appreciate about it. I will say that the duo had some chutzpah and a nice Ric bass. 

Yeah- that's about all I can say about that.

Well, we closed out that bar, and then we had a big problem. Ben's house was a mile and a half away, and none of us were in any shape to drive, nor did we have bicycles. They were all locked up in the shop.
I seriously do not remember taking this one!
 Well, that left us with one option- walking. That we did. It was actually quite nice out and no one was about. We headed up the street and Curtis took leave of us, while Marty, Ben, and I walked on.

Eventually we found ourselves crossing the high school property. I walked in between some tall evergreens and then it happened.

There was some snow piled up in here that had been drifted up, melted, and re-frozen hard as a rock. It was slippery as well. So, my boots, which don't have much for traction, slipped on the hard, icy snow, and down I went. Hard.

I guess I must have smacked my upper left thigh on something pointy, frozen, and unforgiving, because it really bruised my muscle against my thigh bone. I thought I may have broken my leg at first, since the pain was intense and sharp, but I got up and could put weight on it. Nothing I could do but limp the rest of the way back to Ben's place, throw myself on the bed they set aside for me, and sleep it off.

Frostbike. It started out with a bang and a crash. Or two!