Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday News And Views

Image courtesy of Shimano Social Media.
 Mavic Out- Shimano In:

Tuesday it was revealed that Mavic would not be supplying neutral support cars in the Amaury Sports Organization, (conductor of the Tour de France, other major cycling, golf, and motorsports events), races going forward. Mavic had been supplying the nuetral support via their now famous "Yellow Car" since 1973. Mavic, who fell upon hard financial times in recent years, went into receivership, came out with new owners, but no longer has the means to carry on with the traditional support. 

Shimano, a robust company which is has obvious ties to cycling, has stepped in with the "Blue Car" of Shimano Neutral Support and will now serve in that capacity for all Amaury Sports Organization cycling races. 

Comments: Many reactions to this I've seen have been characterized by dismay and a question of whether or not Shimano can be a truly 'neutral' support option for ASO events. So, here's what I have to say in response to those points.....

The traditionalism which is the backbone of Pro Road Racing is not helping the sport to grow. The reaction to the exit of Mavic from its iconic position as a nuetral support in Le Tour is just a symptom of the cancer that lies underneath Pro road racing and should indicate that changes are needed. However; the infrastructure surrounding the monolith which is Pro Road Racing will be tough to move. I mean, the fight to remove the spectacle of 'podium girls' was characterized by far too much resistance by fans of the sport than a modern reading of the room in the 21st Century might indicate. Imagine what those fans would be reacting like if more pressing issues of race relations, gender equity in terms of racing, and fairness were brought to the fore. So, to see the moans of fans when Mavic goes away is to be expected, I suppose. 

And support cars? You all know what I think about that! Now, I wouldn't advocate for an immediate suspension of support cars in the Tour, but why replace Mavic at all? I mean, every team already has a team car. The whole idea of Mavic neutral support came about when in 1972 a team car went down and the principal person at Mavic then decided to loan out a Mavic car to help out. The next year, Mavic neutral support was born. But again, can't we wean these teams off that altogether? I would argue having less cars and motorcycles on route should be the goal, until you have just the Amaury Sports Organization's vehicles out there to facilitate the event. But again- you know where I am coming from with those thoughts. 

Cargo ship image courtesy of Maersk
Evidence That 2020 Might Be A Bit Tight On Parts:

I've been banging on about this for weeks now, but that doesn't mean I am done yet talking about how hard it is going to be to get parts (and complete bikes) in 2021. The shortages are real, and they will affect all aspects of cycling throughout the year. Lately I've noted several things. Specifics are kept out to protect the folks involved....

  • Big brands are allocating bikes where the bigger dealers are and/or where the money is waiting. That means that you probably will not get many, or maybe no chances, at test rides or choices to bargain against. There will be limited stock, so you may have to defer on color choices, or equipment spec. You may have to just take what is there at the time you look, because if you do not, someone else will. And no- there will be no sales. No discounts. And from what I've already had a peek at, prices are up significantly over last season. 
  • More Smaller Brands Are Going Consumer Direct:  With bikes at a premium, and bigger brands shutting out small brands on dealer floors, look for more consumer direct marketing. There is a network of delivery being set up now that will deliver bikes 100% assembled and I expect many smaller brands to start using this service. It is a nationwide service and should ease folk's fears about consumer direct sales. With this happening on the horizon I fully expect that these smaller brands will start preselling models for delivery at later dates. Prices will reflect that there will no longer be any 'middleman' or bike shop sales. 
  • Parts Are Being Rationed To Bike Shops: I've seen this already. Shops will not be able to order bits and pieces at your whim for delivery tomorrow anymore than Amazon will be able to. All across the board parts will be rationed due to severe shortages. Some niche parts, like fat bike hubs, are being found in short supply, or completely unavailable, as manufacturers concentrate on mainstream parts for common usages. So, chains, tires, cassettes, brake pads- All will be harder to get in 2021. Plan ahead! Far ahead! 
  • 2021 Models Will Have shorter Runs And Fewer Variants: With short supply of parts, brands will have to take what they can get for 2021, and in some cases I already know that choices are limited to one spec on a model which may have had three to four spec choices in the past. Again- if you see the bike in the right size- you may have to just buy it. Even if you hate the color and don't like the spec, unless you can wait until 2022. 
Here's another chunk of evidence. This from the Niner Bikes folks. Read their take on things here.

The Emporia GA Pro Silver Edition wheel.
HED Offers Polished Silver Wheels:

In a land of black anodized components, HED offering a silver edition of their Emporia GA Pro wheels is 'news'. back in 1990, that news would have been met with a solid chorus of 'So what?!!" Why? Because back then, it was black, not silver, which was the oddball anodization color for components. In fact, when Shimano got into the high end road bike market, it made a splash when it debuted with black anodized Dura Ace parts. Weirdos! Didn't they know that road bike parts are always silver? (Yes- actually that was the predominant thinking back then)

Well, that may help you understand why it is that in 2021 when silver anodized anything is seen as weird. In a sea of black anodized bits and baubles, the way to make your limited edition wheels stand out is to make them silver. And not just silver, but polished silver, for that gleaming, sparkly look. 

Actually, Velocity USA has offered polished silver as an option for years. I happen to have a nice set of A23 wheels in polished silver. But that doesn't make silver common, not by a long shot, and when you see all the modernistic design put into today's components, you most often see black, or worse, flat black. Gah! That's the worst of all. I wish more classic design and silver anodization would come back. That would be a refreshing change from the post-modern style of plastiky looking, boring black stuff that is put out there now. 

Maybe one reason we see so much black and not the silver, smooth, glowing anodization we used to see is that there has to be a lot of polishing done to the surface to gain that smooth, chrome-like look. If you are a fan of Velocity stuff, you may know they charge a not insignificant fee for the polished look. Similarly, these HED wheels cost more due to the silver polished appearance. So, from that standpoint, I get why black is all we see, but I am willing to bet that many people would be willing to pay the price if the latest stuff was offered in silver- and if it looked classy- not like some art project gone wrong. 

Public Service Announcement: 
It was brought to my attention this past week via social media that some people missed that I am no longer producing, putting on, or devising events for people to come ride. 
I decided to retire from those endeavors since I was put into a spot during 2020 where the pandemic kind of took all of those old habits of producing events off my plate. I had no choice, really. I couldn't in good conscious put on any sort of an event. 
This in turn led to many miles of riding alone, contemplating my life, amongst other things. After some time went by, I came to realize that I was enjoying riding my bicycles a lot more. I wasn't thinking about events or what they demanded from me to put on. I didn't have deadlines to meet. I didn't have loose ends to tie up. I could just ride my bicycles. turns out I had a lot more fun doing that than I had been having recently with regard to events production. 
I realized I had been doing this- putting together routes and events- for 15+ years. That's a long time to have a lot on your mind. I figured I had done my best to give a lot of folks an experience. Experiences that I hope made a difference in their lives. But I had to call an end to it once I realized that it was just time to turn the page on that part of my life. I was an event director, a 'race director', if you will. I've done that. I don't need to keep pushing into that as I've accomplished a lot of goals for myself, learned loads, and pretty much have mined that vein out. Now I will be turning to other challenges. 
So, if you missed coming to one of my events over the years, but always wanted to 'someday', well, let this be a lesson. There is no "Someday". That is a myth constructed to make you miss out on growing and doing. (See yesterday's post!) There is only "Today", and if the opportunities of Today are there, there is no guarantee that they will be in the future. Best to grab that bull by the horns and go do it. Everyone is different in this respect, so I cannot say anything specific for you. Just don't put "it" off, whatever that "it" is for you.

That's it for this week. Have a safe and active weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

You Don't Know What You Got- 'Till You Look!

Faded to a light pewter, these Dura Ace hubs are old!
 There are those things which you have laying about that, you know, when you see them you say.....'you'll get to that someday' to yourself and then you don't. Get to them, that is. Well, I aimed to knock one of those items off the "I'll get to it someday" list the other day. That item would be the rebuilding of some old Dura Ace hubs from their old place in a 27" wheel set to a brand new set of rims and spokes. 

Originally the plan was to utilize some old 650B rims I had hanging in the Lab for years, They weren't tubeless ready, nor were they of any special import. Just pedestrian, old, 650B clincher rims in silver. I figured to build them onto these Dura Ace hubs and then try to convert my 1977 Trek to 650B wheels. Maybe even going single speed. 

Well, the first order of business was to retrieve the old wheels with the Dura Ace hubs from out in the garage. Once that had been done I cut out the front hub, then I cleaned that hub up a bit since it was covered in dust. I found that the black anodization had faded to a silvery pewter color. Nice! The grease is dried up, of course, but with a little TLC these hubs will work quite nicely. 

Okay, a break from that now, time to look at these forlorn 650B rims. They were on a hook but pushed back since I had tires hanging there which I hadn't used in years. Huh! Looky there! The pair of Challenge Gravel Grinder tires I had been running in 2014. There were a pair of Panaracer Pasela 38mm tires too, which I had reviewed for my old 'Gravel Grinder News' site. That had to have been in 2013. So, those rims had been there way before those tires got hung up. Been a while, right? Yes........

You can see how much the ano has faded by looking next to the grease zert cover.
So, I get to the rims. They have never been laced, judging by the shrink wrap still on the outer circumference of the hoops. I gently removed them from the hook, looked at the label, and then my jaw dropped. These weren't what I thought they were at all! Nope! I had completely forgotten all about having these hoops. These must have been a trade or I purchased them from a co-worker back at the old shop- or I bought them new(?), not sure. They had the old shop's stickers on them. Edit: I think I remember now! I had an old LeJuene road racer for a bit that I was going to re-lace the wheels on, but I traded the bike back to my old boss before I got that far. Here's an old post from 2013 explaining it all. So, I would have purchased these rims as new.

Oh! You are wondering what they are, no doubt. Well, they are NOS Salsa Delgado Cross rims. 36 hole drillings, just like the hubs. Not 650B at all! I don't know what happened to the old 650B rim set. Must have gifted them to someone else. Anyway...

The Delgado Cross is a rim brake design, so perfect for the old Trek. I can lace these things up and have a perfect single speed set of rim brake wheels for that bike now. Cool! Even the old school 126mm spacing will be perfect as it is a match between the hubs and frame. 

I have had wider tires on this frame before, so I know that will work out. I will strip off all the original geared stuff and just keep the brakes, which also cleared the bigger tires. The old Panaracer Pasela tires will likely go on this, as they have tan wall side walls and should look good against the green frame. Which brings me to that......the color. It isn't that I don't like the green it is painted in. No, it is just that the paint is flaking off and in bad shape. This bike could use a good powder coating. 

If I do that, I think I'd opt for a nice turquoise blue, or sky blue hue. I've always wanted a bike in that shade of blue, but going the powder coat route adds costs. We'll see..... First things first! Build the wheels! 

Stay tuned......

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Mid-South Decides Not To Hold In-Person Racing For 2021

 Mid-South To Hold "Incredibly Socially Distanced Mid-South" In Lieu Of Actual Event:

In a not very surprising move, the Mid-South became one of the bigger events to post-pone, or cancel actual in-person racing for 2021. While vaccines are being rolled out, experts estimate that nearly 60% of the population will have to be vaccinated before the virus can be stopped.* That's a lot of people when you consider that we have 330 million plus folks. That's going to take some time to get through.

Obviously, even the most optimistic guesses are that we will not be at the 60% figure until- at best- late Summer.* So, it was inevitable that Mid-South, which occurs around Mid-March, was not going to benefit from the vaccination programs in time. 

However; Mid-South RD, Bobby Wintle, insists that this is NOT a virtual event now. He is dubbing it the "Incredibly Socially Distanced Mid-South". Mid-South has partnered with 8 regional bike shops to provide other 100 mile courses that locals can ride the weekend of the Mid-South's March date. Other routes can be uploaded and used as well, but it is not 100% clear (to me any way) as to how those will be handled in as far as prizing and "official or not" status is concerned. More details can be found here

Comments: While Mr. Wintle may not see things this way, the Mid-South is a 'virtual event' in that there will be people doing 'virtual Mid-South distances' in remote locations. It should also be noted that other events have done similar things, just not as organized as what the Mid-South is trying to pull off here. That said, the insistence that this is 'the event' for 2021 has led to the Mid-South deciding not to offer deferrals, full refunds, (apparently a partial refund is possible) or to consider a postponed date later in 2021. This is the 'event' you are getting from them this go-round. I've got my opinion about what this is, you've probably got yours, and Mr. Wintle has his. Guess which opinion matters. 

Well, whatever you want to make of that, it is probably, most assuredly, the correct decision not to be bringing in people from all over with this COVID crap going around yet. So, from that perspective this is a smart decision.

N.Y. Roll and I noted that there was no "Iowa Option" for a course, so I submitted (with N.Y. Roll's approval) this course. That's right, I submitted a course I came up with. It is what would would have been the 2020 C.O.G. 100 course. You're welcome..... This is a super rare occasion, so don't pass it up. 

*Note: The stated figures and opinions about the pandemic are drawn from my several hours worth of doing research and basing my statements on reasoned, scientific data. You're welcome to think otherwise, but I feel I've done due diligence and am presenting reasoned opinions based upon the latest knowledge.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

WW4M: HandUp Gloves

 This is another "WW4M" post. That means "What Works For Me" and it may not work for you. So, take that with the following words into consideration.....

HandUp Gloves "Sunrise Fade" ColdER model gloves.
Today I'm going to review a pair of Winter gloves from Handup. Now, as with anything winter related, you really need to understand who is giving the advice/review because we all are very different people with very different expectations, needs, and limitations. I hesitate to even write this stuff down because someone will inevitably say that they plunked down their cash on these gloves and 'they suck', so 'don't listen to Guitar Ted'. 

So, "Spoiler Alert"- These gloves will absolutely suck, be worthless, and really will not be any good at all for one or more of you reading this. Okay? 

Now for the rest of you, I shall continue.....

First off, the main attraction to any HandUp glove is that they are available in short runs in wild to mild graphics and each one has a fun term or saying which can be seen when you put you hands together. I get it, that's cute and all, but if the glove doesn't function, well, then.........who cares about The Cute? I certainly don't. I'll tell you what I think about how these worked in a moment, but first, "The Disclaimer"

I decided to purchase these from Andy's Bike Shop since I needed a good cold weather glove and Andy's carries HandUp Gloves, plus I work there, so I get a discount. Okay, with that out of the way, I will note that in a HandUp Glove I wear an "XL" for size. Sometimes I find that a Large works in other brand's sizing, so I am guessing I am on the borderline with Large/XL gloves from most companies, if that helps you out with sizing at all. I would advise to go a size larger than you think if you are on the fence with sizing like I am. Better to have that 'dead-air' space than to have a glove be too tight in Winter. 

HandUp makes no claims as to the use of any fancy, oddly named, acronym-ed fabrics or any high-tech amaze-a-matic functionality. You get an 'extra fleece layer' and that's it. At least, that's all you're going to find on their webpage for these. So, I had no real big expectations here, since there weren't any expectations set. But I did find a few things to be true as I wore these. By the way, I've used these on rides from the mid-30's to down around the teens Fahrenheit. (From around 0°C - well below freezing Centigrade) 

"Chill" is spelled out when you put your palms together.
First, they don't totally block wind, but they do a really great job there. These are not GORE-Tex-like, in that regard, but these are half the price of a GORE-Tex Winter glove too. HandUp did get the critical 'nose wiper section'down correctly. A Winter glove without a 'nose-wiper section' is a worthless Winter glove, in my opinion. palm padding. I like that. But if you think you gotta have that, these are not for you. Also- no touch-screen sensitivity. So, if you have to do the 'swipey-swipe' thing during rides, these also may not work for you. 

Something to note: I follow a guy on Instagram who is a cyclist and he was complaining about having ice-cold hands when his new Pearl Izumi gloves got sweat-soaked. Okay, so here is some basic knowledge, in case you don't understand how cold weather riding works. It comes down to a few basic rules. 

  1. Sweat-out your gear = Freezing body parts.
  2. Vapor barrier use is key
  3. Layers are key (Natural fabrics are best)

So, if you have sweaty hands, (and many of us do), you are going to freeze your paws off once you sweat out in these gloves, most likely. So- what to do? Well, you can do a natural fiber layer, like a thin wool liner glove, or you could do a silicone glove, then put on the HandUp glove (vapor barrier), or you could use a pogie, like Bike Iowa Pogie-Lites, or a BarMitt pogie. (Basically layers again) Oh, and let's not forget that carbon handle bars are WAY warmer than metal ones in Winter, and anything metal, (even brake levers), will suck heat right out of your hands. (Yes- this works for pedals as well)

Your personal 'temperature range' will also dictate your set up. That's why I posted the stuff above about folks saying I don't know what I am talking about, because they are generally not thinking through the process you have to go through to find what works and what doesn't. The "Easy Button" approach is a highway to failures, and then negative comments. So, HandUp Gloves may not be "The Answer" for you, but they could be part of the answer for you. I - nor anyone else- can tell you that. You need to do you. 

And Finally: I like these gloves. They work for me, and they do okay at keeping wind at bay. This keeps my hands warmer. I will sometimes use a pogie with these for really cold weather, but keep in mind that I have been known to end up riding with no gloves at all, even without pogies, in Winter. My hands stay pretty warm once the blood starts flowing. By the way, these HandUp Gloves have stayed together well, the stitching is robust, and they go through the wash well, as long as you don't use a dryer and let them hang-dry. So, these should work well enough for me for several seasons of use. 

Note: I purchased the HandUp Sunrise Fade gloves with my own damn money and was not paid, nor bribed for this review.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Signed Up

Spent Friday morning shoveling this super fluffy snow.
I was rather proud of myself on Saturday. I actually remembered not only to awaken before 8:00am but I remembered to register for Gravel Worlds in August coming up. Let's see now.......this will be my eighth time, assuming we can go. THAT is a rather big assumption at this point. But I will hold off on that opinion a minute here......

Of course, my eighth Gravel Worlds would have been last year, but you all know what happened to that. I'm pretty sure, besides events I put on, I haven't been to another event eight times. So, let that sink in. That's what I think about Gravel Worlds. 

I suppose you could add in the last Good Life Gravel Adventure, the event which Gravel Worlds grew out of. I went to that the year before Gravel Worlds started. The GLGA was pretty much exactly like Gravel Worlds, only with a lot less people. While it may not be an 'officially recognized' attendance of Gravel Worlds, I'm counting it in there. So, this would be my ninth trip to Lincoln for this event. 

Now for my opinion on this and the pandemic..... I am not signing up for anything else at this point. I'm just going to start out this season like last year- by doing a lot of solo rides out in the country. As far as I am concerned, 2021 is '2020 Part 2' until further evidence that things are going to be more like 2019 crop up. THAT has not happened yet, nor will it happen soon. 

So, no use signing up for anything else, even if "other stuff" does happen. I'm going to wait for the hard evidence. Others may try to pretend things are getting better based on.......whatever. Not me. That all just means that the plan will be to do regularly scheduled long rides. Hopefully there will be a few century rides in there. That would help tremendously. Changes I made to diet and exercise last year resulted in some positive gains. I plan on ramping that up more for the remainder of 2021. Signing up for Gravel Worlds is a motivation, for sure, but I'd do this regardless.  

And so, if Gravel Worlds is forced to be a virtual event again for 2021, I will be ready for that too. My registration will be a donated fee, just like last year's was, and if we can go, well all the better. I'm in for either way it goes, as long as we can all be safe and healthy. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories; A Prank Entry And Registration Madness - Part 2

The very first post cards for Trans Iowa entry are shown here for v3.
  "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy! 

Last week I detailed the background on how the Trans Iowa registration process evolved up to T.I.v11. In this post I will detail how registration impacted the shop where I worked.

One of the unspoken tenets of running the Trans Iowa events was that "Permission was not necessary. Just do it." This wasn't how we started, mind you, but it is what we learned after asking permission to do just about everything we were trying that first time. No one seemed to care, from city governments, to county sheriffs, to the residents- No one seemed to give us any reactions or feedback when we sent notices and stuffed mailboxes with notices regarding our intentions. In fact, it would be fun if anyone happened to save one of those sheets Jeff and I were leaving along the route that first year. I'd love to see that again, but I doubt that chance exists anymore.

So, when it came to doing certain things, we assumed no one was going to want to be bothered with it. Besides, Trans Iowa was a transient event in that it appeared and just as quickly disappeared again. Some things we did, like run registration out of the shop, we just did with no permission as well. Right under the nose of our owner/boss too. He was, ah.......shall we say, not really interested in anyone else getting attention. If it didn't have anything to do with him, it was basically non-existent. Once registration was shown to bring attention to his business, and therefore him, he warmed right up to it and sucked in as much of that as he could. This was how we were able to get away with doing registration through the shop. 

The first time we went the post card route for registration was for version 3 when we were going to have a lottery draw. This meant that many would-be Trans Iowa riders felt that by sending in a sheer volume of entries, there would be a much better chance of getting in. When I say 'volume', I mean 100 to 300 cards per person! It was beyond ridiculous! In the end we whittled every entry down to one card, and then Jeff capitulated and said everyone would get in. Thus we averted a lottery drawing until v12.

The very first T.I. t-shirt from T.I.v4 rider Gary Cale
But initially the lottery idea caused a huge ruckus. When the post cards started rolling in for v3 our mailman was asking questions about the sudden increase in our volume. Sometimes he would have a bag that was holding only Trans Iowa entries because there were so many of them. Once I informed him that we were putting on an event, and what that event was about, he was enthusiastic and supportive. In fact, after that he looked forward to us doing the registration every year. 

As time went on, the cards and the gifts became a sort of an attraction as well, especially the floral arrangements I would be sent. Once I made folks aware that I liked these the number of those types of gifts increased, much to the delight of my boss, coworkers, and our customers. Since this was something that benefited the shop, and brought the owner more attention, it was welcomed and was another reason when things got crazier the owner didn't mind. In fact, he looked forward to it.

Once the window of registration for Trans Iowa would open, whomever was working would look for the mailman and wait to see what was coming in for postcards and gifts. Postcards were often customized, or completely handmade, so the mailman and coworkers would often look at them all before I could file them away and tabulate names and what not for the registration. It was sort of like a Twelve Days of Christmas deal for all at the shop back in those days. 

When folks started dropping off stuff in person that generated even more interest amongst the staff and the owner. This all ended up becoming a highlight of an otherwise dead and dreary time of year in the shop. November was, previous to Trans Iowa, an extremely boring, slow, and low business month. We would be fortunate to see anyone walk through the door. Some days the mailman was the only person we would see through the front door all day in November. So, since I often ran Trans Iowa registration in November, it garnered a lot of attention, probably more so than if I had run the registration in September, or another month when we were busier. 

Some examples of flower and plant gifts sent in for Trans Iowa v8 registration.

Deliveries of overnight letters raised excitement at the shop as well. These were for T.I.v8.

When things went nuts for Trans Iowa v11 registration the coworkers and the owner were astounded by the hustle and bustle created by Trans Iowa's energy. However; as we will learn later, things were way out of hand and the way things had been done for eight years had to come to an end. It was a sad thing for my coworkers and a loss of attention paid to the owner so no one liked what I did, but sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the better of most folks. That's how I saw it in the end. 

Next: An example of some of the crazy stuff received for Trans Iowa registration and a look at some of my favorite post cards that I received will follow the week afterward.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Where Once There Were None

Curve Cycles' Walmer Bar- Just an example of our drop bar rich times.
 As I researched my blog to make updates to the 'Archived Drop Bar Articles' page, I realized that in the last ten years the choices in drop bars for off-pavement riding have become so numerous it would be impossible to name all of them. What a big change from when I first started using off-road drop bars! 

Back when I started riding off-road, it was shortly after the 'drop bar craze' in MTB in the mid to late 80's. There were a few well known choices then. You could get maybe three, maybe four different bars, all based around the customized Cinnelli bars that Charlie Cunningham was making for his own custom bike line. Eventually, WTB, the comapny Charlie helped found, made a version of his bars, Specialized used something Nitto made, I believe, and there may be something I'm not remembering, but the off-road drop bar was a rare bar even then. 

WTB continued to produce their off-road drop bar well into the 1990's. I recall putting a few on one particular guy's bike back then. He got a new WTB Dirt Drop every year. Had I known then what I know now I would have hoarded all his take-offs! It wasn't maybe five years later, after WTB ceased production of the Dirt Drop, that the prices for used ones were around $150.00! This, in turn, prompted On One of the U.K. to collaborate with a few riders to develop the On One Midge Bar, a design with its roots in the WTB Dirt Drop and those older, 1980's dirt drop designs. 

Now by this time I had gotten on the internet and read up on all the old mountain bike stuff I could find. I was aware of the old dirt drop craze as I was heavily into mountain biking magazines back then. So, I sought out more information on folks like Charlie Cunningham, John Tomac, the Specialized Dirt Drop, Ibis, Salsa Cycles, and any other brands involved in the off-road drop bar craze. What I found and read up on changed my mind about using drop bars for off-roading. 

My Karate Monkey, circa 2006, with On One Midge Bars

I then took my Karate Monkey 29"er, which had flat bars originally, and I set it up with an On One Midge Bar. This would have been around 2005 or so. I was hooked, and with Trans Iowa sparking a love for gravel riding, the idea stuck with me as I found myself doing more gravel riding  every year. My love of the off-road drop bar deepened then, and I was trying every new flared drop bar I could. There weren't many either. 

There was the original Gary Bar from Origin 8, a fairly close rendition of the Midge, but with even more flare! There were maybe a couple of other odd-ball ones early on in the late 00's, but there wasn't a lot of traction behind the idea until late in the decade. This all started with a very influential bike model introduction.

Around 2006-2007, some in the gravel/MTB community were asking for something with big volume tires and a flared drop bar. Now, I was getting a ton of questions about my Karate Monkey set up with drop bars. I decided that I needed a 'real off-road drop bar bike', so in 2007, I decided to have not one- but two custom bikes made! Each would address issues I had with drop bars on a MTB-able bike. Well, as it turns out, I wasn't the only one thinking along these lines. 

You may have guessed it, but when Salsa Cycles came out with the Fargo, it was this bike that forced Salsa to design their own take on the flared off-road drop bar. At first, they had the old cyclo cross design called the Bell Lap Bar on the Fargo, but within two years the Woodchipper debuted and the race to develop bars with flare and sweep was on. Shortly thereafter, the Ragely Luxy Bar, the Origin 8 Gary II Bar, and the Salsa Cycles Cowbell appeared. Gravel cyclists gravitated to these bars and subsequently, any bike claiming to be a 'gravel bike' had to have a flared drop bar. It was one of the identifying characteristics of a gravel bike. 

The scene, and the bikes to support it, blossomed wildly in the late teens until we reached a point several years ago that there were so many new flared drop bars at every price point that it became bewildering. You can get cheapo, heavy aluminum dirt drops all the way up to high-zoot, ultra-light carbon flared drops. Widths between 40mm and 60mm are out there too. heck when I started out with these flared drop bars there was one width and we liked it! (HA!)

Oh! And those two custom bikes? One was my Badger and the other is my Pofahl, both of which I still own. Both have Luxy Bars too, which is pretty oddball. But anyway, I find it amazing that in 2021 we have all these choices. It truly is the golden age of flared drop bars.