Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The Bikes And The People

Crowds gather and ready themselves for Day Two of Outdoor Demo
Editor's Note: This is Part 3 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

 Day Two of Outdoor Demo was usually the day that the roadies did a big loop out of the Demo area to nearby Lake Mead and Hoover Dam and then back again. The ride started early, so sometimes we had the opportunity to beat the crowds and the heat if a demo vendor was going to be there anyway supporting the road riders.

I remember one time we did this in the early years of my Vegas Era when we got to saddle up on some Raleighs, or maybe it was Diamondbacks...... Both the same parent company, so I cannot recall now, but we were there so early on the trails that you couldn't see in the crevices and ravines because the Sun wasn't high enough in the sky yet!

'07 and '08 were probably the busiest Day Two Outdoor Demo experiences that I can recall. The hordes of dealers and shop rats would be there by noon and the trail would literally be like bumper to bumper traffic. I recall trying out the then new Gates Carbon Drive belt on a Spot Brand single speed one of those years and that I had to stop several times due to folks not having the skill, muscle, or both to ride the trail. Meanwhile, the hot shoes were railing by you one after another. It was insanity!

I didn't like Day Two all that much back then and typically I was done after about 1:00pm or so with riding due to the competition to get the bike I wanted and even if you did, the read you got on any bike was colored by having to jockey with all the yahoos out trying to get around the demo loop.

"Demo Ken" Derrico of Trek- He was always a smiling face and a helpful guy at the Outdoor Demo. 
Even though things could be literally out of control at times at the Demo, many of the people manning the stations were the finest folks you could ask for. The Trek tent usually had "Demo Ken" and one of my predecessors at Europa Cycle & Ski, Vance McCaw. Familiar faces in a land far away. But there were others I never knew the names of.

Never got his name, but this guy was super helpful and kind to me at the Outdoor Demo.
I recall a guy that worked the BMC booth who painstakingly set up the dual suspension rig I was going to demo despite the utter chaos of the crowd all around us. His patience was that of a saint and he was so calm. Amazing!

Then there was this guy I have pictured who was at the Specialized trailer. He was another one that was so kind and patient that I felt compelled to take his picture when he wasn't looking so I could remember him!

Brian Fornes was another who never made me feel anything but wanted and important when I visited him at the Raleigh tent. Gary Mendenhall went out of his way at the J&B Importers/Origin 8 tent to be friendly and show me all their latest wares. Of course, Jason Boucher and Kid Reimer of Salsa Cycles, along with their varying crews, were always welcoming and we were often seen hanging around their tent at the Demo. Devin Lenz of Lenz Sport Bikes was another super kind soul at the Demo. Then there was Mike Curiak, who basically sneaked in himself and his bike to the Demo for me to try it out, who cannot be left off this list. There are others I am sure I am missing, but you get the picture. It was like a family in many ways. The people part of going to Interbike was always one of the best, if not the very best parts.

From my ride with Sonya Looney. She took the picture too!
At the last Outdoor Demo I attended, athlete/social media queen/super rep Sonya Looney insisted that we needed to go for a ride at the Demo. I kind of poo-pooed the idea as her being overly kind and making statements to make me feel good, not really intending to ride with a slow, fat old man like me. By this time she was a well known, race winning athlete and spokesperson for several brands. She had better things to do, I was certain of it.

Then on Day Two of the demo she kind of got tweaked at me for not tracking her down the day before and pretty much told me to go find a bike ASAP and meet her for the ride we were to do. Well, it was one of the most gracious gestures ever made to me at Interbike. She clearly was lollygagging along while I was nigh unto exploding into a sweaty mess, but she really, honestly was enjoying my company, nothing more, nothing less. What a great way to leave Outdoor Demo behind, and something I'll never forget.

Biffed on the hard rocks of Bootleg Canyon! Image by Tim Krueger, then of Salsa Cycles.
The bikes I rode at the Demo I mentioned a bit about yesterday, but I recall some others that were significant rides. The Raleigh XXIX Pro which I flatted on one year. It rode soooo nice! I recall that the demo guy at the tent and Brian Fornes were floored when I apologized for being so long with the bike, but I had to repair the flat I suffered. I guess no one did that usually. Most of the time folks just returned the bike with a flat. I could never do that! I always carried a spare tube, pump, and tool kit at the Outdoor Demo.

Not all the bikes I rode were winners either. I recall perhaps the worst dual suspension bike I ever tried at Outdoor Demo, which was early on in my Vegas Era. A GT of some sort. It rode so awful that I never got out of the demo area with it before I realized it was a poorly designed pig of a bike. The rig I rode with Sonya Looney was another weird dually. It felt like it was about to fold in half on every G-out. It was a Devinci, as I recall. I was not impressed too much with that one.

Later years saw the crowds drop off and it became sort of a joke to read Interbike's press releases saying how crowds were big and that there were more vendors, etc. It was painfully obvious that quality vendors, brands like Trek and Specialized, Cannondale, and more, weren't there anymore. The crowds that once caused bumper to bumper trail riding conditions were gone. You could have the trails all to yourself there by 2012. That is, if you could get a bike. Many vendors who stayed on were facing increased pressure for demo bikes at the Demo due to the brands that had left and obviously those bikes that would have been there were no longer available.

I met Krampus at the Outdoor Demo, and it was a good meeting.
Talk about a niche sector of cycling.......
My time at the Outdoor Demo went from 29"ers being the odd duck to those wheels being the dominant choice. 26"ers were everywhere, then they weren't. 650B started in fits and lurches, but by 2012 every new design was a long travel trail bike with B wheels. Were 29"ers on the ropes? Then it was fat bikes, 29+, and when I quit going the beginnings of B+ was happening. What a ride!

Rocks and dust. Heat, and sometimes sitting in a car waiting out a rain shower. Wind! Oh my, that blast furnace wind! How could anyone survive in that environment? I barely made it out whole a few times out there myself, and we had copious amounts of water. I recall those folks from Park Tools handing out water bottles when you rolled up from the Demo area with a dusty test bike. The Gu and Powerbar tents set up near the trail head. Couldn't have survived without those handups.

But survive it we did. Then it was time to dust ourselves off, take a shower, dig out the casual clothes and messenger bags, make sure you had the laptop ready to roll, a camera or three, and your TNI business cards because the Indoor show started the next day. Ooof! Now the real drudgery was looming in the headlights. No more fun riding bikes.

Next: Rushing In

Monday, September 18, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The Furnace

Tim Grahl, then owner of TNI, with a desert tortoise at Bootleg Canyon.
Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

 When I went to Interbike the best part of the whole week, (other than leaving Las Vegas at the end), was riding bicycles at Bootleg Canyon. That was the venue for the Outdoor Demo. It was primarily mountain bike oriented, but no one seemed to mind.

In the early years of my Vegas Era, Bootleg Canyon during Outdoor Demo was far, far busier than it was toward the end of my time at Interbike. That said, Monday was a slow day, in relative terms, for the demo. It seemed that a lot of folks used Monday as a travel day and didn't get out to Bootleg Canyon at all, or showed up well into the afternoon hours. So, we being the news hounds that we were, got the heck out there ASAP and rode as many bikes on Monday as we possibly could get our hands on.

But first you had to get on 'The Bus" to Bootleg Canyon. Standing in that line was something that brought meaning to "hurry up and wait". I recall one year that someone noted that we had media credentials and we were whisked out of the long line of folks waiting to sign waivers and were put at the front of the line. Whoa! I felt odd and embarrassed that we were made to be special right in front of the dealers and shop rats waiting patiently for such a long time. But, it wasn't of my doing, so......

In later years the check in was more discreet for the media folk and we ran out to Bootleg Canyon in Grannygear's rig on our own. Free to do whatever we wanted, instead of riding a bus, we ended up finding a really cool place that became a ritual of sorts for our Bootleg Canyon trips.

Great Buns Bakery: I spent a lot of time staring at the pastries there!
Grannygear got the hankering for some of this swamp water stuff that is in the health aisles of some grocery stores. We went down Tropicana Boulevard looking for a grocery store as it was on the way to the road out of town through Henderson and then to Bootleg Canyon. We found his swamp water and then, I cannot recall how, we found Great Buns Bakery.

This place is the single most redeeming factor I can think of for Las Vegas' existence. If you ever go to Vegas, go there! Grannygear and I were never ever let down by the goodness found on the shelves there. In fact, it was so good we had to share it with others. We would buy a flat of random pastries and take them to the boys out at the Salsa Cycles demo tent.

Anyway, getting to Bootleg Canyon was not tough, but usually it was crazy hot. And windy to boot. That in combination would wilt the average Mid-Westerner. Well, it even roasted Grannygear, who was somewhat used to dry and hot. Bootleg Canyon was a tough, rocky, gritty place to ride anyway. Add in the hot weather and well....... It was nuts.

Sometimes folks stuck doing the demo would have special goings on after Monday's opening round. One such vendor was Chris King. One year they had Chris King himself, the Chris King, barbecuing beef for anyone that stuck around after the Monday demo. We decided to stay, and this was one of the years we rode the bus, to check it out. We had no idea if we'd get back to our hotel room or not, but the prospects of a free barbecued beef brisket meal outweighed being stranded. As we stood in the long line we wondered how late the last bus left the demo area.

Chris King himself tending the grill in the blazing hot Sun over Bootleg Canyon.
We got some crazy tasty brisket and we still made it back to the motel on a bus. That was a pretty memorable evening. There were other times when Grannygear and I would eat at a fast food restaurant in Bootleg Canyon and we almost never left the demo without a trip to the local DQ for a chocolate malt.

I don't recall doing anything spectacular in the early years of my time out there after the Demo. Usually, it was high tail it back to the time share we rented, or the one year we rented a house, and then bang out as many words and images as we could.  Grahl. the original owner/creator of TNI,  was all about flooding the web with as many images as we could. It wasn't unheard of for us to upload 500 images or more in our Interbike Gallery. So, no fun, no partying, just lots and lots of uploading and writing of text.

Of course, riding the bicycles was the highlight. I got to ride so many great sleds and see more that were so cool. I really could not pick out a single bike, but if I had to pick one that most influenced me, it would be the Salsa Cycles Fargo I got to ride at the demo in 2008. But there were several other super rad bikes I got to ride. Mike Curiak's personal rig is one. It was just like being the kid in the candy store, like you would think it would be. So many bikes, so little time!

Next: The Bikes And The People

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The Vegas Era

A view of Vegas from Circus-Circus 2009
The end of an era is happening this week in the cycling industry. It probably will not affect you, and it certainly doesn't matter to most riders, but Interbike is finally leaving Las Vegas, Nevada after this week's show.

I was blessed to have attended nine Interbike shows in Las Vegas and one in Anaheim, California during my stints as a shop rat and media/blogger/wonk. I went there more times than I wanted to, but many of you out there have never been to a cycling industry trade show, so you may think that I am/was the luckiest guy in the world. Or.......you may have pity on me, or you may think I am less than worthy of consideration. (In which case, I doubt that you read this blog) Anyway......

I figured that on the occasion of the last show in Las Vegas for Interbike that I would recount my memories of going there in a way that might bring a bit of the experience to you out there. This will be a series that will last the entire week, so either plan on a different story to appear every day till Saturday about Interbike or just plan on not looking here till this coming Saturday!

I'm going to break it down in to five parts which will reflect each day's experience. This is the intro post, but it is also going to serve as the "Getting There" episode. So, here is a bit of remembrances about getting to Interbike from my perspective........

My first trip to Vegas was the first Vegas Interbike in 1996. It was Schwinn's 100th anniversary, and they had a parade of 100 Elvis impersonators led by Father Guido Sarducci. It was pretty crazy. But first, I had to get there. It was only my second ever trip involving air travel, and I wasn't digging it. This comes from my reminisces about the trip which I wrote down here several years ago. 

"Grand Canyon.....Lake Mead.......30,000 plus feet......Las Vegas!  We're going down real soon real fast!! And just as that thought crossed my mind, the plane nose dived and went careening towards McCarren International Airfield. Yikes! The whole plane suddenly shuddered with a great vibration. I saw out the window that the pilot had applied the air brakes to break his free fall. I about came unglued! And it happened twice more before the pilot slammed the landing gear so hard onto McCarren's runway that I thought the wheels would surely break off. You know, the sheer terror of that flight put me off from flying for several years afterwards". 

The hustle and bustle of The Strip
 My love of air travel didn't get a whole lot better over the years. In fact, I hate it. It was the single worst thing I experienced every year when coming or going to Interbike. To this day, I rue the thought of ever flying anywhere again. But that has nothing to do with Interbike, in particular. I say that just to point out that every year I knew I had to go to Vegas, a dread was on me until the trip was over.

Vegas itself, and more specifically, The Strip, was another dread of mine. "Soul sucking" is what I can best put down as the reason why. It just felt slimy and bad. Again- just me, but it was another downer for me. I didn't need more depressing circumstances, especially in 2009-2011. That era was absolutely awful in regard to "Twenty Nine Inches" and what we had to go through to keep that site going. But anyway, this is why I was not excited to go to Vegas with the exception of the first two years with TNI.

Air travel..... It was crazy post 9-11. The first Vegas trip was nothing, as far as the getting there. (Well, other than the exciting descent and hard landing!) But post 9-11 the security at McCarren was so brazenly bad tempered and mean it was down right despicable. I once saw an airline attendant berating foreigners because they couldn't understand the self check in procedure at the kiosk in front of baggage check in. They were South Americans that didn't speak English. It was just another example of the dehumanizing effects of Vegas and getting there. There was a lot more than that I could tell you....

In the latter years I always looked forward to seeing Grannygear at the airport. He would drive over from the LA area where he lived and meet me there. We had some issues with finding his car in the car garage a couple of times! But usually it went smoothly and we would get checked in, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, and hit the hay to get ready for the big Outdoor Demo ride on Monday.

Next: The Furnace

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 37

A sneak peek of a Rawland for and frame from ten years ago.
Ten years ago on the blog I was yakking about my impending trip to Interbike and all the leaked information ahead of the show. Of course, I was going to attend again and this time as an "official" person with "Twenty Nine Inches". This was still during the Tim Grahl era and I was going to be spending my time in the time share we used the year before for this trip.

The other thing that I also was talking about was the spectacular win by Jesse LaLonde on a single speed 29"er geared 36 X 17 in the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 event. It caused quite a stir, not only due to the nature of his wheels, but because he did it with one gear. Jesse still rocks a single speed most times these days and still crushes out wins and top placings.

I guess one gear is really all you need!

There was one bittersweet bit of news I announced back then as well. It was this week ten years ago when Jeff Kerkove made it official that he was moving to Colorado. Of course, he was basically gone already, but this was a chapter closed with a bit of finality now. He moved permanently, and he wasn't going to come back. He has never left that state since then either.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday News And Views

Nick will be at Interbike signing copies of this book, in case you are there next week.
Book Signing At Interbike:

Next week Interbike starts and it will be the last time it will happen in Las Vegas. (More about that starting Monday)

If you are going, and I know not many of you are, but if you are, Nick Legan will be there signing copies of his new book, "Gravel Cycling".

Again, I have no skin in this game, but I am one of the resources Nick tapped for the book and there is a chapter about Trans Iowa, I understand. So, anyone that is coming here that has an interest in that event might like this book. I know Nick and he is a good writer and he has researched the book well. Check it out in more detail HERE.

I have a book on pre-order so I should have it in hand by the end of the month or the first week of October. Expect a review shortly afterward. Yes......a book review. I've actually written one before. So, this is not unprecedented.

A "psycho-cross" bike
Jingle Cross Is This Weekend:

Okay, I'm going to say it- The whole idea of a "Jingle Cross" before Thanksgiving ruffles my feathers." I just cannot wrap my mind around why this event just doesn't change its name to something more appropos.

But besides that, the pinacle of the "psycho-cross" season at the beginning of the Iowa CX scene instead of at the end, which seemed "appropriate", seems........like a mistake. Previosuly, all the events in Iowa led up to that final crescendo in Iowa city- the famed Jingle Cross! Cold, wet, and sometimes even snowy, Jingle Cross was a fitting cap to the season here. Now?

Now it is like eating dessert first. Why bother with the rest of it? You'll have seen the best and it won't be any better than that. Well.......if you like your CX Summer-like, that is. There won't be any mud, rain, and definitely no snow. The Mt Krumpit and Grnchy Santa will look so out of place it will be silly. But whatever. I don't pretend to get CX at all.

Party on Garth.........

Hoping to go long on this......
Weekend Plans:

Okay, so I am thinking of doing a big, long ride on the Pofahl single speed this weekend. It all depends on how my health is doing. The cold I have is getting better, but I also have ridden nary a lick in two weeks besides commuting and my single track ride on Wednesday.

The idea is to do a century on a single speed. I am not sure if that will happen Saturday or what. We'll see how I feel. I have a route all planned out and the Pofahl is ready and waiting.

It pretty much will be the set up you see here with the addition of the modified cue sheet holder which is a rearranged Bar Yak set up. Water bottles will number four, with one in the Chaff Bag. I had envisioned a different arrangement for water bottles when this bike was built but that detail didn't transfer to reality. I suppose that could be rectified at some point, but that won't happen in time for the single speed century.

Whenever that happens...... Hopefully soon.

Have a great weekend and ride some bicycle while you are at it!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Singletrack Therapy

It was darn near perfect for riding in the woods on Wednesday
On my day off I did something I haven't done in a long, long time. I rode at Ingawanis Woodlands.

It's been more than months, it has been over a year since I last went to the single track trails of Ingawanis and enjoyed the woods. Before that last time, it was nearly a year that I had ridden there. So, what's the deal? Why the hiatus?

Well, when I was writing and running the "Twenty Nine Inches" website, I had to ride up there. All the time. It was the best place within reason to go and test product. Almost no Wednesday went by without me riding the trails up there during riding season. This was probably from about 2007 until the Fall of 2014 when I wound things down with my gig at "Twenty Nine Inches". So, for a solid seven years, I sacrificed doing any other sort of riding but single track, for the most part.

I missed going out on long gravel road explorations. I decided to instigate the 3GR, which happened on Saturday mornings, to scratch that itch, and that helped, but I wanted more. So, when I was finally free from doing TNI stuff, I went whole hog into gravel riding with little else other than that. Now, I always tell my kids, "Too much of any one thing is not good for you.",  and that goes for me too.

Anybody out there remember "Captain Bob's Berm"? This is where it used to be.
So, I loaded up the Singular Buzzard, and despite the lingering effects of a nasty cold, I went up to Ingawanis Woodland to see what is up. The day was beautiful. Nary a breeze, puffy clouds, and upper 70's for temperature. In a word- perfect. 

Now I haven't been up there for a while, as I said, so when I pulled in to the formerly grassy lot, I noticed several things that are not the same anymore. The mostly dirt lot being one. Obviously, the usage factor has multiplied by several times since I used to ride up there. You used to see a whole month's worth of sign in's on the kiosk whiteboard. Now it looks like a green smudged mess! There were new signs up. I noted that the old service road was mown and there was single track running up the center of the former two-track road. Hmm..... I wondered what else had changed around here.......

I've always called this "The Throne Of The Woodland King", but I'm probably the only one that ever has. 
Well, fortunately not a whole lot else has changed. I found that the old service road "trail" was as potentially confusing as the road was back in the day when it split the trails into the Inner and Outer loops. That all changed when Karmen Woelber rerouted and added some bits along either side of that service road. Old timers would know what is original and what isn't. I noticed that the rocks are more prominent than ever. It used to be rare that you saw rocks out there. Can you believe that?

I spotted this deer down on the opposite shore of the Cedar River from my little "outlook" I visit when I ride at Ingawanis.
There were lots of deer around. Young ones. I scared up three right away, then another couple later on. When I didn't clean a steep climb trying to use too tall a gear, I stopped and heard several noises in the woods that indicated the wildlife was busy. Squirrels, deer, birds, and more were afoot in the underbrush and flying above me. I even saw a fox.

I stopped in the part of the trail system they call "The Bottoms". Such a travesty that this section is not named for the guy who tirelessly worked to maintain both sides of the Camp Ingawanis trails and put that section in. At least call it by his name. But no. It's "The Bottoms". Well, I call it "Paul's Loop".

Looking up the Cedar towards the Boy Scout Camp. Those ripples in the water are marking the confluence of the Quarter Section Creek with the Cedar.

Looking downstream on the Cedar River from my little "outlook".
As I came out of Paul's Loop I ran across another confusing bit of trail that ended up just being a cutoff so you wouldn't have to do the steep climb back out. Lame. But not unprecedented. Whenever riders find something too tough or difficult, or even mildly annoying, they cut it off and "sanitize" the trail.

Peek-a-Boo! I see you!
To the right here is the rocky, tough little bit. To The left- easy street. You can see which one gets used most.
To be fair, there is a lot less sanitization than I feared there would be, but it is creeping in. You can see little bits and places where folks are rounding off sharper bends, avoiding the rocks, or lensing out corners.

The service road trail is weird. Why have that? It's confusing when you don't know the trails. And good luck knowing where you are at if you are new here. The sign posts don't help you at all. To me, it doesn't matter. Even though I haven't ridden out there in a long time, I know right where I am at at all times. But I have over a decade of experience running around out there to bank off of. New folks? Not so much.

I'd heard that a straight shot up a hillside had been turned into switchbacks to help maintain the soil and trail. This was excellent. I was stoked on the new bit for sure, and later on that my favorite old switchback turn was still mown and ride-able. However; some new bit going straight from Quarter Section Creek right up the steep hillside has been put in and that seems incongruous with making trails sustainable. You put in one awesome upgrade and took it right back to zero with a stupid fall line section of single track? I'll say it again- Stupid move.

Ingawanis is still awesome and the best place to ride single track around. Don't get me wrong. I love it. But that new bit I found late into my ride made me dismayed. It's things like that which can end up just making a trail system goofy. Especially when it was a totally unnecessary move. That distance could be better traversed using the original trail, but whatever.....

Before anyone here pulls the "Why don't you get involved in trail maintenance" card, let me just say that all previous attempts I have made to lend a hand have been rebuffed but for the one time I showed up unannounced while maintenance was happening one day. In fact, I have been mocked on social media and put down for my views on how these trails could be more user friendly before. So, yeah. It isn't like I haven't tried. I'll just leave it to the powers that be. Nuff said........

So, anyway.... I thoroughly enjoyed my ride Wednesday and the trails were awesome. I'll have to come up a little more often now that my gravel appetite has been satiated for a while.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Off Road Drop Bar Stuff

I reviewed this bar recently, but there are so many out now, I cannot keep up.
I got a lot of hits on my Off Road Drop Bar page, ( temporarily down for maintenance), but now it appears a lot of those old links I used to direct people to for information have been shut down. I just went in there and cleaned things up, but the page is gutted and it needs a refresh.

It used to be that there were only a few real choices in off road drop bars as late as only five or six years ago. But since that time, the "adventure" bike, "all-roads" bike, and obviously, the "gravel bike" niches have blossomed and with it, choices for handle bars with flare and sweep.

So, instead of trying to be the unabridged page of off road drop bars, I decided to instead focus on design and where certain choices work and do not work in drop bars for off roading or gravel riding. When you get down to the brass tacks, certain things work and certain other things not so much. Some design choices are just down right weird. My plan is to shed some light on that and I will also use a few examples of classic bars which will illustrate the point well.

Then I may add in some advice and techniques on how to wrap bars, reduce vibration, and how to do other sundry details on flared drop bars. We'll see where it goes. It needed some updating and cleaning up, so that will hopefully be happening here in the Fall and I want to get that back on the site here soon. Suggestions? Comments? Concerns? Hit me up in the comments section. Thank you!

Stay tuned.......