Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Reactions Part 1

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Yesterday was a busy day on social media for those interested in gravel events. The announcement that the DK 200 had aligned itself with Life Time, an events promotions company that owns the Leadville 100/Trail races, the Chequamegon 40 event, among others, provoked a lot of reactions.

There were very negative reactions and some so-so all the way to "Meh!", and everything in between. I would say most folks are either okay with it or are taking a wait-and-see approach to this news. I know that these sorts of changes really challenge our beliefs and foundations when it comes to things we are passionate about. You just have to take things at face value and see where your values line up with what you actually know. Because, well.......assumptions abound. As I stated here yesterday, Jim Cummins says to expect the same sort of Dirty Kanza we have come to know. I am willing to bet that will be the case this coming year, at least.

What I wanted to discuss today was what this announcement provoked as far as gravel events in general. What makes gravel events fun, challenging, and what attracts us to them. Several things cropped up yesterday that were very interesting.

The reaction to the DK200 announcement from the Almanzo 100 (Chris Skogen)
Somehow or another, since 2010 the DK200 has been accused of "selling out". That's something that started being heard 8 years ago, so it begs the question, "How can it be so? Once you've sold out, you' know, sold out!" You cannot really do that every year. The fact of the matter is that this accusation of "selling out" is nothing but a cover for someone's negativity. The DK 200 never "sold out" though. Not in the terms people accuse them of that with. The reality is that the riders have spoken with their attendance and their dollars to make the DK 200 what it is today. What is has become would be a very successful event which is loved, literally, by thousands of people.

Reactions like the one posted by Almanzo 100's social media page just insult those people who pay for the DK 200, (and other gravel events), because they want to do so. They aren't being coerced to spend their bucks on the DK 200, they willingly do it because they like it. Conversely, folks go to the Almanzo because they like it. It just so happens that it is a free event. It is a different experience. Probably, most likely, people would not pay to do Almanzo if it were a DK200 clone. It's good to have different events. That's what's great about gravel grinding.

Conversations yesterday were being sparked and included ideas being discussed about creating new events. More diversity! More new ways and new places to do a gravel/back road events is what is going to keep the whole genre' alive and kicking into the 2020's and beyond. Once events become codified, generic, and a large dose of "sameness" happens, the whole scene will begin to contract. I don't want more Almanzos just as much as I don't want more DK 200's. We have both, and they both are great. Let's just keep being creative and keep having fun. Whether or not you decide to charge an entry fee or not.

One such idea was something I thought might be brilliant, and if someone could find an effective way to organize such a beast, I'd be all about going. The idea was to do a multi-day, multi course/distance gravel event. Not Tour Divide, not necessarily "bikepacking" either. I know a few folks have bandied about the idea of going to the old Odin's Revenge stomping grounds and to do a multi-day ride there.

Casual riding, socializing at night. Sounds good to me! But however you slice it, gravel grinding has become what it has become because people are inclusive, creative with event production, and provide experiences both challenging and socially exciting around riding bicycles on gravel. Whether or not you "sell gravel" is not the point at all. So, the future looks good, right? We have a diversity of events and lots of those events all across the country at all times of the year. What's the problem?

Well, tomorrow I will delve into my "crystal ball" and give my take on what might be the future of gravel riding and back road wanderings based upon observations I am making today. In other words, a bunch of foolish speculation will be engaged in tomorrow. Stay tuned for part two.......

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gravel Grinder News Flash: DK Promotions Announces Alignment With Lifetime Fitness

News this morning has been released concerning the Dirty Kanza 200. An e-mail was sent out by Executive Director, Jim Cummins detailing news that an alignment with Life Time, an events promotion company most notably associated with the Leadville 100 and Chequamegon 40 events.

Reactions so far are mixed, but many comments are being made to the effect that this will be, eventually, a negative effect upon prices to enter the event, as noted by what happened to other events associated with Life Time. Most pointing at Leadville as the example here.

Others have pointed out, as does Executive Director of the Dirty Kanza 200, JIm Cummins, that Life Time will bring resources that will enhance the experience of the riders. Cummins was quoted in the e-mail sent out Tuesday morning as saying, "Ultimately, the added resources Life Time brings will allow us to continue all that is great about Dirty Kanza for our athletes and the broader Emporia, Kansas community."

Of course, change brings a bit of challenge and pain, so how this plays out within the DK Promotions production of this event is yet to be seen. Some will say that any vestige of "grassroots gravel" has been lost with this announcement, while others will welcome any future refinements to the Dirty Kanza events with excitement. The official word now is that nothing will really change as far as how things are done, again from Jim Cummins, "Most importantly, I want to be clear that Dirty Kanza won’t change. This is important to all of us at Dirty Kanza Promotions, and to Life Time. I will continue to be front and center at the event, Dirty Kanza will continue to be the world’s premier gravel cycling challenge, and you will still be served by the same great team."

Stay tuned..........

News Season: Salsa Bikes For 2019

The new, very pink, Journeyman Apex 650B
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Well, you've probably heard and have seen all the news blasts concerning the new Salsa Cycles stuff for 2019. I posted a big article on about it as well. It's a big deal in the gravel/all-road category now, and as you all know, "gravel" is the latest thing in cycling. Everyone is doing something in the category, or so it seems. I guess we can say it has "jumped the shark" when I start seeing department store gravel bikes. (Maybe there already are some!)

I know a lot of people may not like Salsa Cycles, or QBP, their parent company, but look....... Salsa is no "johnny-come-lately" to gravel travel. In fact, they were doing gravel before it was a cool thing to do for most riders, not to mention bicycle companies. Salsa was doing research into what would make for a great gravel bike as early as 2008, and probably before that, I just don't know about it. That's years before any other company was paying attention to this niche. By 2009 I was fully aware that Salsa was testing prototype gravel bicycles, because I saw them and they were at my event, Trans Iowa. So, there is no denying that Salsa Cycles was, and still is, at the forefront of the gravel/all-road scene. 2019 product shows this.

The latest gravel gizmos from Bloomington are pretty noteworthy too. The newest model to be introduced by Salsa last Spring is a bike that fits the gravel scene well. An "everyman's bike" being sold at a price point that will, and already has, expanded the rider base for gravel-all-road cycling. The kind of cycling I think best fits what most people will be attracted to in the near future. Heck, they even called this new model by a name which reflects this- Journeyman.

The latest news in that model line is the addition of a higher spec. The Journeyman Apex 1 available in 650B wheels or 700c. is 1X. That doesn't move me, but hey! Maybe it's your deal and you love it. Good for you! I like the pink, but then again, I would! The move to 650B mtb XC tires on these, (and other company's bikes), still perplexes me. Is it a mountain bike? No? Then why not put something on that actually is an "all-roads" tire, like the WTB Byway? Or......maybe that Terrene Elwood, but then again, that would be working with the "enemy", so probably not. I guess, when you get down to it, the lack of good OE tire choices is why these XC mtb tires are on there.

This Vaya is a great looking bike.

 The other thing about this Journeyman Apex, and the Journeyman in general, is that it takes the same space in use/price point as the current Vaya. Even the 2019 Vaya is only a tic more money than the Journeyman Apex 1. That Salsa took away the second spec level of the Vaya is also telling. In fact, we were betting at the shop early in the year that the Vaya would actually be cut from the line. However; it hasn't been cut, just reduced in choice to one model with two color choices.

That said, it is a nice bike set up with 105 and the new fork the Warbird gets dubbed the Waxwing. This makes the Vaya, in my opinion, the steel gravel bike Salsa Cycles should have had all along. It's got really awesome tire clearances, and now it has all the versatility that many gravel riders want. The thing is, with only one spec level available now, many might overlook this machine. That's too bad, because I know Vayas handle spectacularly well, and, of course, they are steel, so they have all the toughness and ride feel that steel is known for. Plus, you can get a purple one! 

The least expensive Warbird, the Warbird Tiagra.
 The Warbird has been redesigned, and we knew all about that months ago, but we didn't know exactly what the bikes would look like, or how they would be spec'ed. There are five levels of spec now, with two SRAM 1X choices, an Ultegra Di2, a 105, and a Tiagra level spec in Shimano 2X set ups.

A couple......well a few.....comments here- First of all they finally got the Warbird right. Versatile, able to handle all the water bottles, fenders, racks, and bigger tires you might want, yet it is light and spritely. Versatility and "racy" are not mutually exclusive traits. Then they went and tweaked the geometry for more stability, and what they did was to shorten the rear center and lengthen the front. I totally agree with this, by the way. I could get all into that, but I'll save it for another rant......

They offer a wide range of spec choices, which I appreciate. Not everyone likes Shimano and not everyone likes SRAM 1X. Neither of those suit you? They sell a black frame set. Go nuts with it. In fact, I probably would take that option myself. That is, if I could justify the price, which is $400.00 cheaper than a complete set up with Tiagra. If I didn't have a bike to strip parts from, and a bunch of spares, I probably would just buy the Warbird Tiagra. I doubt you could spec your own for less than $400.00 including labor. The frame sets are 2G, by the way.

They screwed up their take on the prototype paint job here.
I've been highly critical of the Warbird in the past. Salsa Cycles didn't like it when the bike was first introduced and I bagged on it. But, they missed the mark until v4. This one finally nails it, albeit, carbon. Not a huge fan here, and that's because carbon has a proclivity for wearing away in abrasive mud, and I will sometimes be found in those situations. Just check out any of my steel bikes. I don't think any of them, save for the newest one, the "Bubblegum Princess", have any paint in the chain stays where the tire passes through. Had any of those bikes been carbon, well....... I bet I would have roached at least a couple by now. See where I am going here?

But that said, this is the first Warbird model I would be willing to take a chance with carbon on and the first Warbird of any kind I would consider buying. Salsa got it right and I really like the design. Had they chosen to mimic the prototype's paint job with some other, cool, bright scheme, I would have been all over that. However; they decided to make it look like battleship camo and it just looks wrong. Uggh! It could have been so cool too. Another reason I'd likely just get the black frame set and go nuts with something like a flashy set of Industry 9 wheels or anodized bits where I could.

Finally, in a somewhat ironic twist, I found out late yesterday that Salsa posted a "Story of the Warbird" in which Trans Iowa and myself are mentioned. What they had to say about myself and Trans Iowa is pretty humbling and I am honored and thankful to think that I and the event made some small contribution toward the Warbird and, more importantly, toward changing some folks lives there. That's an honor I do not take lightly. But that said, it doesn't sway what I have written here. In fact, I had most of this post done before I became aware of that Warbird story.

But I have to say a big "Thank You" to Mike "Kid" Riemer, Jason Boucher, Joe Meiser, Sean Mailen, Paul Errington, Tim Ek, Matt Gersib, Andrea Cohen, and any other Salsa sponsored rider, QBP photographer, and Salsa Crew member that had anything to do with, or any part to play in, attending Trans Iowa, promoting it in their marketing, supporting it with their thoughts and efforts, and for just being great people. They had a great impact not only upon Trans Iowa, but on myself as well. Thanks all of you!

Monday, September 17, 2018

History Rediscovered

(L-R) Ryan, myself, and Troy from the end of the "Race Against Death Tour"
This weekend I was digging around for some images I thought I might have tucked away some where. Okay......I need to explain. These weren't digital images, they are images on Kodak paper. You know........photographs? So, they were in a desk I haven't looked in for a while, so I didn't know exactly where they would be found.

Digging around I found a few other things. Maps I used to set up some early Guitar Ted Death Rides, some cues I drew up for solo gravel rides, and some early Trans Iowa cue sheet sets.

Those T.I. cues were from V2 and V3. I had forgotten how big those things were! They were a full 5.5" X 6" in size! That's crazy when the last set I produced were 4" X 5". The set for V2 is kind of a strange one because the second half was never seen by anyone but Jeff Kerkove and myself. I looked those old cues over and you know what? I can see much of it in my mind to this day, thirteen years later. Weird, huh?

I know a few folks would love to see what the second half of T.I.v2 was going to be like, but......nah! I've kept that off the radar this long, why stop now? Besides, there is a big chunk of T.I.v2 that was used for the Trans Iowa Masters Program. So, it isn't like I haven't let some of the cat outta the bag.

Ginormous cue sheets!
Well, eventually I came across the few images I have from my tour that I did in 1995. If you haven't noticed, I am recounting that tour in blog form every Sunday here. It's called the "Touring Series". Check it out.

The big thing that keeps striking me about looking back is that the entire way that we did things back then would nearly be impossible to recreate today. No cell phones is probably the single biggest thing that factors into this. I think about how many things are connected to that little device and how not having those things changes everything about a ride today.

No images, no social media, no connection to the world wide web, no information about weather, nothing! Try taking your next ride and leaving your phone at home and your GPS computer at home. See if you don't get anxious about that. Well, we never even had that choice back then.

So, just trying to do a big, long, self-supported tour with zero connection to anything would be deemed, well.......maybe it would be called "stupid" by your relatives and friends. They probably would be pretty offended if you tried that stunt today. Back then, no one thought twice about letting you do that. Yeah.....they thought you were crazy, but they weren't going to tell you not to do it because they couldn't keep track of you. That situation was everyday normalcy back then! 

Then there is the whole distracted driver thing now. That wasn't even an issue back then, and I suppose you could partially blame cell phones for that as well. Cell phones are the devil! Ha! But seriously, we never ever had any fear of being pasted by an inattentive driver back then. Someone trying to scare you or just downright being mean? Yeah......we got that, but rarely did that situation ever arise. Things were totally different out on the open roads back in the 90's.

So, I was reminiscing over the weekend as I looked at those old cues and especially at those old images. You can look forward to seeing a few of those in the coming weeks on the "Touring Series" which, again, posts every Sunday for the next several weeks. I am excited to post those images. The story of the one above will be told at the end of the tale. I won't give away what that is just yet. It does show the three main characters in the story though. Ryan, Troy, and myself. I am easy to spot since I was the biggest guy by far! Ha!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Touring Series: Superheated

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

The "Race Against Death Tour" leaves the small town of Nemeha, Iowa headed westward on a hot August day........

As we left in the early afternoon, the heat started to really kick in. The temperatures were heading into triple digit territory and in a big hurry. As we went further west, conversation ceased and all three of us plodded along at a decent clip, but certainly no where near our fastest cruising speed. The road headed dead straight now. No turns, and not much to look at.

As I was rolling along it became very apparent that there were super heated pockets of air that you would run into coming up off of the now melting black top road. Suddenly running into these would raise the temperature 10 to 15 degrees from where they already were. We are talking dangerous heat. And it finally did me in. About 16 miles after leaving Nemeha, and just north of Galva, Iowa, I called out that I was stopping. I ghost rode my bike into the ditch and collapsed into darkness.

The next thing I recall is Troy yelling out my name from far away. Then he became clearer. Then I came to. I realized then he was standing right over me, and I was surrounded by tall grass. I sat up as Troy returned to his shaded seat next to Ryan and they were quietly discussing something. What to do about me, no doubt. I was severely dizzy and my head ached, really hurt! All through that though, I was intensely embarrassed about the situation. I resolved to get on the bike again, but I was very wobbly and really slow.

Later I learned that I was completely out for 20 minutes. Troy and Ryan were beside themselves wondering if they should call for emergency help and leave me behind. Troy yelling at me was a last ditch attempt to get me going before they called in for help, but I didn't know any of that then. I just hurt. Bad.
Map showing Correctionville and Little Sioux Park where we overnighted

We limped into Galva, and then just west of there into Holstein. There was a pizza joint we stopped at that Troy and Ryan ate at. I had zero appetite. I was just glad to be in some A/C and not move. We passed a bank with a thermometer sign that read 101 the shade.

Troy wanted to make the border, but as we went along, it became apparent I couldn't do much more than 10 mph and almost had to crawl up the long, grinding grades that were the outliers of the Loess Hills. There was a stop in Correctionville late in the afternoon. We sat a long time outside a convenience store as Troy and Ryan did some asking around about a place to stay. I finally got some food and drink down in me here as we waited. The sun was westering, and we needed a place to stay.

Much to Troy's chagrin the only good option was off route a couple miles in a county park. We rolled in, and I ate another meal, finally starting to feel better, much to the other guys relief. We sat around and conversed for awhile, told some stories, and generally joked around. Things seemed okay, but inside I was feeling terrible about letting the guys down and being a nuisance. At any rate, I learned that my front panniers were no longer my concern, as Troy took one and Ryan the other. They insisted I was going to make it. I thought of it as a demotion at the time, but in reality, I should have seen it as a positive sign. Ah.....the way time changes your perspective on things!

All I knew then was that I felt terrible, physically, but far worse mentally. I hit the hay hoping the next day would be much better.

Yeah, the "Race Against Death Tour" almost lost. That was a bad, bad deal. Of course, back in 1995, you had no options for immediate, quick advice or help. This is important to understand today. There was no cell phone to whip out and look up what to do in case of heat exhaustion. Then Troy and Ryan were left to their own wits, wisdom, or no. Making decisions back then, like they had to in an emergency situation, was not easy. I am very sorry to this day that I put them in such a situation.

My memories of that day are foggy, of course. I do remember clearly thinking I had to stop, and then Troy yelling at me. I remember sitting on a street side bench, in the pizza parlor, and seeing that bank sign. I remember having zero power in some hilly terrain and Troy's annoyed reactions to my lack of speed. Still, we made 83 miles that day. Amazing despite all the odds against us.

The campground was another world. I was so much better by that point, but I also remember we sat in Correctionville for at least an hour, maybe longer. I also believe I ate something there. That would explain a lot. At any rate, that was a touch and go situation, and the tour nearly was derailed at that point. I've no idea, but I imagine that talk between Troy and Ryan was whether they should stop the entire tour, leave me and continue, or wait it out. In the end, they waited it out, and I am forever grateful that they did.

Next Week: Over The Border

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Minus Ten Review -37

Jason Boucher shooting an image of me while I was shooting an image of him. Murphy-Hanrahan trails.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was prepping to go to Interbike in Las Vegas, Nevada. It would have been my third trip in a row to the show and my last as a "Crooked Cog Network" member. Later in '08 the network basically imploded at the hands of its leader, Tim Grahl, and the wreckage that ensued sent my life into a new direction. But ten years ago this week I had no clue what was in store for me.

I did notice that the blog lost a ton of images due to Grahl's mismanagement of a photo sharing service which cost me a lot of imagery here. Oh well........

Ten years ago I also summed up my season long experiment with 170mm cranks on 29"ers. You see, it was an unwritten rule for early pioneers of 29"ers in Crested Butte, Colorado to use 170mm cranks on 29"ers. There was "something to it" that was never really explained or written down, as far as I have ever been able to find. So, I did my own research into the matter.

I set up my '07 El Mariachi with 170mm triple cranks, (triple cranks?!! Yes!), and my Blackbuck single speed also received the 170mm treatment. I rode them from Spring all through Summer and into Fall. My assessment was that on the geared bike I really didn't notice anything substantially different from using 175mm cranks. However; on the single speed I was convinced there was a marked difference. Here is a quote from my post in September:

"I also have noted an increase in my ability to scale steeps that I normally would have crapped out on. The 170mm crank seems to get around to it's power stroke a little sooner for me, therefore I lose less momentum in my pedaling "dead spot" and I can keep those big wheels rolling easier."

In fact, I was so impressed I have never gone back to longer cranks on my single speed Blackbuck. I have used 170mm on various other single speed bikes as well, but typically my other single speeds are set up with 175mm arms. I've no real desire to go longer unless it is for a gravel bike, which then I prefer 180mm cranks. Longer, less severe elevation gains on gravel tend to lend themselves to those longer arms, I think. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday News And Views

Bow Tie Strap Adapters-  Sorry! This widget remains under wraps for now!
Problem Solvers Introduces New Widgets:

More "News Season" stuff today and this time it is a couple of items from the QBP brand Problem Solvers. This new little gizmo is called a "Bow Tie Strap Adapter".

Editor's Note: Sorry folks! The info on that widget has been redacted at the request of Problem Solvers who didn't say it was embargoed. Hmm...... Communication and all.... Anyway...

The next bit they allowed, as they are in stock now, so carry on, and again- Thanks for reading "Guitar Ted Productions" 

Problem Solvers is also reviving an idea which gained some popularity in the 90's. Back then some folks complained that their fingers would slip off brake levers so some companies made these neoprene brake lever covers to give you better grip. A couple were actually stick-on type grip enhancers. Well, Problem Solvers has something like this for drop bar and flat bar applications called "Lever Grippies".

Available now, just in time for cyclo cross season. These might also be nice for fat bikes or anyone running a bike in cold conditions as it would provide another barrier between you and cold metal.

Surly 1X1 hauler.
No Rack? No Worries!

 I have been really liking the Surly 1X1 "Mechanic's Bike" since I've gotten the Velocity Cliffhanger/Velo Orange wheel set on there with the Extraterrestrial tires. I set it up fixed/free but have been running it fixed all year so far this year. I have really enjoyed riding fixed gear on this bike a lot.

But there was one thing that bugged me about this bike, and that was that it was built at a time when "purpose" and "commitment" to single speed meant that you ran a stripped down frame and fork. The fact that you can even mount fenders on this is somewhat amazing, given the philosophy of Surly circa 1999 when this was made.

Making a mountain bike purpose built to be a single speed derby bike into a versatile urban/commuter rig is asking a LOT. Probably not a good idea there. But I was so enamored of how this bike made me feel when I rode it that I searched for ways I could easily make it into the bike I wanted. Sure, I could have just pitched this and gotten a Troll. That would probably make more sense, but when did making sense come into the equation here? 

Anyway, I had some spare bikepacking bags lying about so I stuck them on there with my rain gear tucked into a seat bag. The perfect urban commuter ready for anything! But I had no where to stuff groceries, or tires I bought,! My old Schwinn townie had a rack and my old panniers on it, which could carry a week's worth of groceries if I wanted it to, but the 1X1 is way more fun to ride. Finally, I got my wits about me and solved the problem.

I have a Banjo Brothers Water Proof Saddle Trunk in size Ginormous. Really. The thing is so big it is ridiculous. Anyway, I needed a gallon of milk. I had the empty container in the recycling bin, so I filled it with water to see if the big ol' Banjo Brothers sack would hold it. It passed the test, so off to the convenience store and a gallon of moo juice was procured for the family. The pic here shows the Saddle Trunk with the milk jug inside.

So, I should have figured that out a long time ago! This saddle trunk will now live on the Surly after I do some tweaking to the set up. I now have the bike I wanted. A single speed, fixed gear, fat tired grocery getter/commuter.

Thanks for reading this week! Have a great weekend and if you are out on the East Coast, be safe!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

News Season: Pre-Interbike Intros

Hayduke Lives: Esker Cycles Hayduke steel hardtail
Note: A bonus post detailing some interesting bits that are coming out around the time of the Interbike trade show, which happens this coming week in Reno, Nevada. I won't be there, but anything I find interesting, I'll post here if I think it warrants it. Thanks!

Hard tail mountain bikes were, arguably, brought back from the dead by the 29 inch wheel in the early 00's. Steel hard tails led the way back then, and with the advent of adventure cycling and "bikepacking", steel hard tails have reserved a special place in the hearts and minds of many off road cyclists, this one included. All my current off-road bikes are steel. Even a couple I don't even have up and running!

Salsa Cycles axed its venerable and long running El Mariachi model a few years ago now, and since then the crown for the best steel, mass produced hard tail 29"er has been passed around to a few companies. Niner Bikes came out with a revised SIR 9 a while back that most closely approximated what I felt was an "evolution" of the El Mariachi. Another contender for that was the Advocate Cycles Hayduke model. But then the company, and its bikes, sort of faded away. However; recently the folks behind Advocate have revised their business model, canned Advocate, and re-branded and launched a new company called "Esker Cycles". They brought the Hayduke over, albeit a new Hayduke with some new frame tubing and minor geometry tweaks.

Since this has the closest relationship, via one of the company's principals, to the old El Mar, I would say that the successor to the El Mar has to the Hayduke, a fully modern steel hard tail. A choice of two swappable rear drop out plates,  multi-wheel size and drive train capabilities, and a price for the frame, rear through axle, Wolf Tooth head set, and seat collar at $675.00 make this look pretty attractive. Completes will be offered starting at 2G. Pretty cool. Plus, it is supposed to be lighter and more responsive than the original Hayduke. See Esker's site linked above for more.

The new 45NRTH Ragnorok Boot
45NRTH Introduces Third Generation Transition Season Boot:

45NRTH is kind of a funny company when it comes to its naming conventions. Their tires are often named after obscure black metal bands or old Minneapolis area punk bands. Their boots get renamed every time they offer an evolution on the old design., think of this as the latest version of the Fasterkatt, only with several design changes and upgrades. The last model, which supplanted the Fasterkatt, was the Japanther. This, the Ragnorok, would be version three, if I am counting correctly.

Anyway...... The Ragnorok features a move to the BOA closure system and a rubberized, neoprene upper "sock"which has been redesigned as well. The silver edition, shown here at left, is fully reflective and will retail at $235.00. A non-reflective, black upper model is offered as well at $195.00. The soles, by the way, look like a dead ringer for my first edition Fasterkatt's, so apparently no changes were made there.

The shop where I work received a full size run of these boots and they look like a great boot. I still rock the original Fasterkatt boots and they have been rock solid for me as a way to ride in conditions which are wet and cold down to about 25 F, but much below that and my feet get chilled. These Ragnorok's are rated similarly, and I've no doubt they are actually better made and function better than my Fasterkatts do. Available at 45NRTH dealers now......

SKS Bluemels 65mm Fenders
SKS Offers New Blumels 65mm Fender Set:

SKS is a German based company best known for inflation devices and fenders. They make a full line of fenders which are well known in certain cycling circles.

Being introduced at Interbike this year, and available at dealers in November, is this new Bluemels 65mm fender suitable for 29"ers. SKS claims the front fender is 680mm long and the rear is 920mm long. MSRP is set at $74.99.

The only image I got was of what looks like a rear fender. You can make out some wide clearanced stays and what appears to be a rubber edge on the end of the fender itself. If this is indeed a rear fender, I would judge from the image that coverage is not all the way down the back, so perhaps this is meant more for mountain bike/off-road use.

But that said, it might be a handy design for bikes like Fargos and the lot which are used across a wide range of terrains and in varying conditions. I could see this being very useful for early season "sloppy" gravel rides or for those commutes where run-off from daytime melting is a concern during Winter.

SKS is also introducing a foot pump. I see another inflation device selling company is also doing a foot operated bicycle pump. Maybe this is a new thing for the near future. Ditch that old floor pump with a handle and tall profile that is so tippy! Use your feet instead! Ha! Well, to be fair, when I was a younginz, these types of foot operated pumps were still around. They were a relic even back then, but apparently the idea is being revived for 2019.

Stay tuned for more as I get things in...........

Too Early

End of the line for the single track here.....
The Cedar Valley just experienced some major flooding. The crest was over the weekend and the flood warning went away after Tuesday. Wednesday I decided I needed to get something other than gravel riding in. A steady diet of gravel, when I could ride, was all I had done since "fat bike season" ended last Spring.

So, I grabbed my single speed Sawyer and decided to go see if the single track in the Green Belt was still under water or what. Originally I had no intentions or thoughts that I even could ride in the Green Belt. I figured I would end up on top of the dike, at best, and just do some viewing of the carnage.

I saw that the flood gate, which is used to close down the road when the water is high in the Green Belt, was open. I figured I'd go take a look. The grass was dried out, so I went down in and found that it wasn't bad. I got sucked in and tried the wide "single track" which runs out to Ansborough and the parking lot there. Actually, it wasn't bad for the first half.

Well, then it got slimy, the wheels packed up, and I was sliding like I was on ice. Not sinking in, but slipping. The mud was firm, just really greasy. I had to walk it, but then I came upon the end of the line. (See the image at left here) The flooding changed things and the old way was gone. It was time to figure out how to go forward, because, you know......going back wasn't an option! I mean, c'mon! 

So, I looked around for a way forward and eventually I did find a way. It involved a bit of wading, some bushwhacking, and trudging along with a bike that probably weighed 50lbs with all the wet mud stuck on it. 

The way through was found here. Yes- it was a mess.
I managed to get to drier ground, scraped off a bit of mud, and then tried riding, which didn't last long. I was off again pretty quickly, and this time I just gave up and walked out to the parking lot area. There I grabbed a stick and scraped a bunch of mud off and then headed up onto the dike on the North side of the Black Hawk Creek. I ended up riding a while hoping that the dry grass would clear off the mud, but this mud was so wet and sticky it wasn't coming off. So, I stopped and grabbed my tire lever and went to work.

Finally cleaned up.....well, kinda!
Okay, so the Green Belt isn't quite ready yet. My bad. Too soon! But it was fun to do a different form of riding and break it up a bit. Hopefully things bounce back soon around here because Fall is so great for riding the Green Belt. I gotta get my fat bikes going too. Meanwhile I have a very messy Sawyer to clean up! That's the price you pay for playing in the mud.