Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Breaking News

I have been documenting the developement of Fisher's 29" wheeled Super Caliber Race Day model since I first got word on it last year.

Now it is appearing on the Fisher website. Here is the image, (bottom pic) that they have up there. It's obvious that they have changed a few things since the prototypes were pictured late last summer. Most notable among the visible changes is the reformed top tube, which is oddly straighter than the bent top tube of the proto and of the 292/293's before it. (Note: the proto type is on top) Another change can be seen in the swingarm. The swing arm link is alot cleaner looking and seems to appear to have a different geometry than the proto type. Perhaps the chainstays look shorter? It's hard to tell from that angle. I know that this bike is designed for only three inches of travel, but that rear tire looks pretty close to the seat tube already! Perhaps it's less than two inches?

Lot's of questions! I'll have to look out for more info on this one.

Updates, News, Etc........

Here are some updates and bits of news that I am clearing off my desk here at Guitar Ted Labratories. Enjoy!

1. Carl Buchanan interview: It's coming! I am still in the process of transcribing the recorded interview. I was right in the middle of it when the batteries on the machine died on me! I've got new ones in now, and I didn't lose the audio. Bonus! Look for the interview to get posted up yet this week.

2. Guitar Ted Enters Long Death March!: Yep! You read right. I am entering into the Dirty Kanza 200 on May 20th. It's essentially a Trans Iowa clone race in the Flint Hills Region of Kansas. I won't know if my registration has been officially accepted until next Monday. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a done deal, however. So, look for future training updates and a race report....of course!

3. Guitar Ted Becomes A Contributor To The Biking Hub: I was asked to become a contributor to a web site dedicated to becoming the source of all things pertaining to off road cycling. It's called The Biking Hub, and it has some pretty cool informative articles with a smattering of honest product reviews. I am flattered to become a part of this enterprise, and I hope I can be of value there. I invite you all to surf the site and check it out. You'll be glad you did!

4. Monday's With Mark Starts Again!: For all you local cats, next Monday, March 6th, I start my four week series of classes at the shop . The first one will detail for you how you can get your bike checked over and tweaked for the seasons riding. You'll know what to look for and how to make some minor adjustments. Check it out. The classes are free, and they run every Monday, for the next four Mondays. Start time is 6:30 pm. at the bicycle shop.

There you go! That clears me up to get that Jackal interview posted! It's getting nice and warm here in the Cedar Valley! Hope you all can get out and ride where ever you are!

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Different Take On It: Update

After instigating a new discussion concerning the Dirt Rag article on 50/50's on mtbr.com , I have started to come to the conclusion that even a 50/ 50 bike has issues, just like a 29"er, due to the large front wheel in small sizes. It would appear that in seat tube sizes of 15" or smaller, the front center of the bike would need to be compromised to such a degree that the bike would become a poor fit for most riders. Adjusting the head angle to compromise doesn't help, as the handling would be waaaay off. The smaller rear wheel isn't really necessary, from a fit standpoint. (Nor from a performance standpoint, in my opinion) It would seem that, at least in the smaller sizes, the front wheel should be a 26"!

My conclusion then is that 50/50 bikes would initially seem to make sense for smaller folks, but after examination, they suffer from the same problems as a 29"er for people 5'5" or under. For folks larger than 5'5", the full benefits of 29"ers are always better than 26"ers, so there really is no need for 50/ 50's at all. The argument that the 50/50 affords the benefits of both wheel sizes in one bike is selling snake oil. I don't have a problem with people liking 26"ers, they have attributes that some folks really like, or are just accustomed to. However; by just adding a larger front wheel, you haven't magically entered into the world of 29"ers. Most of the work on a bicycle is done by the rear wheel. The full benefits of 29"ers are only to be found on a bicycle that has two wheels measuring 29 inches, not one. If an individual doesn't like the feeling, doesn't percieve the benefit, can't figure out how to make it work, or- yes, I'm afraid too say- too short, then 29"ers are probably not your cup of tea. That's okay, there are tons of great 26"ers out there for you to ride and have fun on.

Just don't try to tell me that a 50/ 50 bike is somehow the embodiment of all things good from both wheel sizes. I ain't buyin' that crap!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Photo Blog: Sunday Ride

I took a little ride today and decided to do a little headwind training. South of Guitar Ted HQ. there is a bike path that used to be a rail line. This line used to go all the way from Waterloo to Kansas City. Here I am 319 miles from K.C.!

Dang this is a steep hill! (Heh heh! or not!)

Guitar Ted dashboard including from left to right, A cheesy clip on temperature guage that actually works! A mount for a Cat Eye light, and my Cat Eye Enduro 8 computer that is reading a raging 12.7 mph at the moment the picture was snapped! (Not bad for a 37 X 22!)

Well, as you can see, nothing really exciting here, just a short two hour ride to keep the blood pumping. The trails are too wet and muddy to do any off roading yet and I didn't have enough time available for a proper gravel grinder. That'll be next weekends ride.

I saw Mr. 24 crusing on his road rocket this afternoon. I wonder how his ride went?

A Different Take On It

Check out this article posted on Dirt Rag's web page. It's a great take on the "96er" bike by Michael Browne, who is the editor of that magazine. Michael brings up some of the points that I have some contention with, but mainly seems to be pointing to the fact that this sort of set up might be beneficial to riders of smaller stature.

One of the conundrums of the 29"er is that once you go under the 5'5" height, the compromises in design of a full on 29"er become more of a problem. One of the bigger problems is getting a fair amount of standover clearance. What this Dirt Rag piece seems to indicate to me is that by going with a smaller rear wheel, you can regain a bit of that clearance. This seems to me to be about the best idea yet to possibly justify having a 50/50 bike, as Mr. Castellano refers to them as in the interview.

I would like to see some further discussion in reference to how the rear wheel size might be a benefit to a smaller rider. Is that smaller wheel a benefit in providing a better fitting frame? From a power out put point of view, does that rear wheel present less of a challenge to a weaker rider? Since the rear wheel is smaller, and the roll over and traction benefits of a 29 inch wheel are missing, is this still a detriment? Should the pursuit of smaller frame sizes in full on 29"ers be continued or given up in favor of 50/50's?

All good questions that need looking into. I am leaning towards sying that the 50/50 type of solution is for shorter folks, but much shorter than Mr. Castellano thinks. I'm quite certain that the benefits of a 29"er can be had with no geometry compromises down into the 5'5" range, so why not ride a 29"er if you are that or bigger? Hmm..............good questions. This is definitely an area of deep discussion, and it won't get sorted out any time soon.
Taking a look at next week: I have an interview in the can with Carl Buchanan, a local endurance racer. He is a recent "convert", and he has a unique perspective on the endurance community, sponsorships, and what cross country racing means to him. Look for the transcript of our conversation soon. I also will reveal a personal surprise, and introduce a new running feature on this blog in conjunction with that. Look for all the surprises this coming week!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Where Will It End? Maybe Right Here........

One of the questions I get while working in the bicycle shop is when is all this gear madness going to end? Do you really need nine speed cassettes? What's the deal with Dual Control? Well........that's more than one question! I get them all, and now it would seem that the folks at Shimano might finally be listening.

In a recent Tech Report on cyclingnews.com , a link is given at the bottom of an article about Shimano's 2007 product that takes you to a Norwegian site sporting some pictures of XT and LX rear derailluers and trigger shifters! Also noted is the fact that the redesigned rear derailluers are "high-normal", or as the Cycling News fellow calls it "top-normal". This is significant in that Shimano has been trying for years to get the industry, shop mechanics, and consumers to get behind the "rapid-rise" rear derailluer, or low-normal rear mech. This means that instead of the spring tension of the derailluer pulling the derailluer into the faster gears, as normal derailluer would, the low-normal derailluer uses spring tension to pull the derailluer into the lowest gear. The point here is that, this seems to be a retreat from the former direction Shimano had been headed in.

What is going on here, probably, is that bike companies were not keen on speccing Dual Control, and Rapid Rise rear derailluers because that meant that they would have to use the rest of Shimano's proprietary parts to be compatible. This essentially eliminated any way for the product spec people to pick and choose componentry that would make their bicycles competitive on the showroom floor with other companies that were not using the All Shimano- All the time speccing philosophy. So, Shimano seeing sales going to other places, had to introduce components that can be mixed and matched with other companies components, allowing freedom of choice for product spec managers once again.

Sure, this means that it looks as though Shimano is "taking a step backwards" in the eyes of the press, and perhaps some consumers. In reality, it's about regaining market share lost to companies like SRAM, who are taking large bites out of Shimano's market share. With Shimano's bicycle parts division taking a hit last year, and SRAM's road group looming on the horizon, Shimano is going to do whatever it takes to lure the bike companies back into the fold. By default, the consumers will come along with them. Does Shimano really care what you and I, the trail biker, think about trigger shifters vs. Dual Control? Nahhhh........It's about money, big money, to be made or lost in the product spec wars. The thing is, it just might end the madness.

The efforts of Shimano and the demands of the product spec managers just might work out to create an end to the proliferation of cassette cogs and answers to shifting questions that were never asked. Maybe.

..........or maybe I'm just a dreamer!

Friday, February 24, 2006

29" Single Speeds: Like White On Rice?

Is it me, or does the 29" wheel almost always get mentioned in conjunction with single speeds? It wouldn't have to do with the fact that there are so many models available, or soon to be available with 29" wheels that are also single speed compatible, would it? It seems that every new offering has the ability to be built up as a single speed, or is specifically a single speed frame. Take any of the number of new offerings coming down the pipeline. Redline's newest Monocog is a 29 inch wheeled single speed. Kona's Unit 29 is a single speed with capability of going geared. And now I hear that Raliegh is coming out with an affordable single speed! Ahh...........gears, anyone? What's up with that?

Then you have the custom builders and the niche manufacturers with all the single speed specific or single speed compatible frames that they have available for 29 inch wheels. It's like a plague of grasshoppers! Even the single speed guys are wondering if anybody rides a single speed with 26 inch wheels anymore!

I myself ride a single speed 29 inch wheeled bike. I do not answer for any of the manufacturers, or other riders out there, but here is my take on the situation. There are about as many reasons people ride single speed bikes as there are people. I'm not going to delve into that subject. I do it because that's what I grew up on. I never really quite got on with gears, although, for road riding, I've got the hang of it. But that's just me! As for the reasons that there are so many offerings in the single speed, 29 inch wheeled bike, and hardly anything geared specific, I think is a little clearer. Single speed bikers are perhaps seen by the marketers as an independant thinking bunch. I remember when single speeding was gaining traction amongst mountain bikers. It was an idea that was thought to be a passing fancy by many industry people. Then a few companies like Surly and Spot came along. That pretty much sealed the deal! Now, the marketers see this 29" wheel phenomenon as another single speeders thing. It's true that much of the early production of custom bikes were single speed compatible and built up as single speeds with 29 inch wheels. Then Surly does it again with the Karate Monkey in 2003. The manufacturers on a mass level now equate single speed and 29 inch wheels together. The result is all these offerings in single speed compatible/ specific frames.

Then there is the commitment thing. You know....disc or cantilever mounts.......geared or single speed......rigid or squishy. The manufacturers don't know which way to commit, so they cave in and give it all to you. I'm not a big fan of that, and I own a Karate Monkey! ( Hey, it was cheap and easy for me to set up!) I just wish that some of these manufacturers would give up the single speed thing and just produce an inexpensive hardtail 29 inch wheeled bike in hard tail and full suspension. That would be a good selling product launch for no other reason than that no one else does this! Besides, then I could buy one of those bikes and be different again!

Oh, so you ride a 29"er, huh? So, how do you like single speeding? (!!!!)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Experience Trumps Science....So Far!

I have been watching and reading with interest two developing trends lately. One has to do with the question of whether or not 26" wheels are more "efficient" than 29" wheels. The other trend is the "96er", "69er", .........or whatever you call it bike where you have the front wheel a 29"er and the rear wheel a 26"er. Both of these subjects have many people in a dither.

Let's take the efficiancy question on for a moment. I guess what people are trying to find out here is whether or not you expend less/ more energy, are therefore faster/ slower on 26" or 29" wheels. Variables exist in spades. There hasn't been anyone with enough money to afford the science it takes to make a conclusive judgement one way or the other. And what if there were a judgement? How would that account for the variance in humans, and human experience? If science were the determining factor in which bike were fastest and therefore more efficient, then single speeders would never win any races! Why would anyone ever ride a single speed? Perhaps it has nothing to do with science afterall.

Then throw in the..........I disdain the terminology they use for these bikes........"96ers". I call 'em "halfbreed" bikes. Anyway, take them....please! These are another variable in the equation that, again cannot be proven or disproven by science. I think that they are not the answer to the question, "Aren't they the best of "both" worlds?" I think they are a compromise, at best. I have written on these halfbreed bikes before, and I will again. Especially after I get my half breed bike finished, which should be pretty soon. Once the trails dry out, I'll do my own experiential testing, and relate that here on this forum as my opinion. The thing is, then no one can say, "Well, you've never tried one!" Why do people say that? Perhaps they don't trust science? Hmm.................

Science or experience? I am not going to wait for the lab coats to figure it out. I'm going to ride what feels best, performs best, and is the most fun for me. You can agree........or not! Or..........you could wait for the test results! The choice is yours.

I'm going riding today, how about you?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It's Like "Green Eggs And Ham"

Once in a while I'll be talking with someone and I think to ask, "Would you ever ride a 29"er?" The response that I usually get is one that is obviously not well thought out. You can usually tell by the stammering that the person in question has never really given much thought to the question before. That's okay. Now, maybe they will think about it! ( Heh heh! Devious plan, no?)

The folks that get my attention though are the ones that quip, "No way!", or "I just couldn't do that." This always reminds me of the Dr. Suess book titled Green Eggs And Ham, in which the character Sam-I-Am continuously badgers the main character with questions about eating his green eggs and ham which the main character always ends up refusing to do. Finally Sam-I-Am gets him to relent, and he ends up loving green eggs and ham, but only after several cataclysmic events occur that beat down his resistance. Now, you may already know the story, but even if you do not, you are probably thinking that I've gone a little looney here. (Well, I do resemble that remark!) The point is that several folks just flat refuse to try a 29"er. I do not know what, if any, cataclysmic events must occur to get them to try one, I just have a question for these folks. That is, if a bicycle or other piece of equipment allowed you to increase your performance or your enjoyment of the sport of cycling, why wouldn't you try it? Now, read in amazement as I answer this question, right before your very eyes!

The biggest obstacle to overcome for anyone is always that same old monkey named Fear. Once that one is on your back, well you probably are not going to do much of anything. People are afraid of 29"ers? Yes, some are. The next hurdle to overcome is the availability of 29"ers themselves. Assuming for a moment that one has no fear regarding trying out a 29"er, one first has to be able to actually ride a 29"er to decide if it is right for them or not. ("Thanks Mr. Obvious!") Well, actually that is a big hurdle right now! That and the price, which in my previous post, "Cheap And Easy" I demonstrate will soon be much less an obstacle.

In the end, as I stated before, the people that flat out refuse the notion that a 29"er might be a good thing are the ones I feel are suffering from fear. I will agree that a 29"er is not for everyone. However; I believe everyone owes it to themselves to throw a leg over one and give it an open minded try. The ones that do find the advantages of the bigger wheels as a benefit to them will only appreciate cycling more. If you like to ride even more than you did before because a piece of equipment enhances that, then that's a good thing. That's one of the reasons I like 29"ers. So, would you like to try my green eggs and ham?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cheap And Easy

I'm taking a break from "The Future Of Endurance Racing" series for a bit until I can arrange a couple more interviews. I still would like to hear any feedback that you guys might have, so let me know in the comments section.

Today, I was thinking along the lines of 29"er stuff again. It seems that the idea now is to introduce a simple hardtail at a sub-$500.00 price. These kinds of deals are starting to spring up all over the place! The really crazy thing is that in the near future, these deals will be on complete bikes, and not just on single speed bikes either!

Up until recently, you could get any number of framesets for the magical under $500.00 price point, but then you had to kit it out, which even in singlespeed mode, could end up costing you another $500.00 quite easily. This wasn't lost on the folks interested in possibly taking a look at getting a 29"er to try out. The price of entry was just too high for something that they weren't sure about. Now, with the promised entry of several models coming complete at or below $500.00, I think we will see alot more folks giving 29" wheels a go.

This is going to do two things. 1. It's going to increase the market for 29" bikes and specific parts. At the promised price points, alot more people will be willing to justify owning a 29"er. Then, as some of them get bitten by the bug, they may want to upgrade their rigs with better parts, some of which will be 29" specific, like forks. 2. It's going to be a market research project done for free for the big manufacturers. They are watching this 29" segment of the market very closely. If it looks like these small to mid-level manufacturers are getting sell through on their models, then I believe that the bigger companies will jump in. It's just a matter of time before we see that. I think the bigger companies are biding their time in hopes that their introductions will be timed to reap the sales from those riders who have tried the inexpensive route and are now wanting something nicer. That has been the realm of the custom fabricators lately, but if the big boys jump in, then I think alot of these small fabricators will suffer greatly.

Speaking of newer entries into the 29"er market: the mid-level companies are showing big interest in this market now. We have Kona, now KHS has announced a 29"er, and very, very soon their is going to be another well known company doing the same thing. Could the rumors of Specialized and Cannondale coming to market with 29"ers be coming true soon? Maybe.

What I've found quite interesting is how several folks that I have talked to have expressed dis-interest, or even disdain, at the very thought that someone like Cannondale or Specialized would come out with a 29"er. It seems that the prevailing wisdom is that as long as the quality and availability of the present offerings are remaining high, then what do these types of companies have to bring to the table? That's a fair question. I really believe that if Cannondale, Specialized, or Giant come out with a 29"er that it may as well be a version of their most innovative dual suspension XC, or "endurance" type platform that they have. Why come out with a "me too" hardtail now? If they want market attention, then this is where they will find it. A bold move? Sure! I say, put your top athletes on a 29"er, and when they podie, watch the money roll in. Who will have the guts and fortitude to be first? I don't know, but that company will be sucessful in the 29"er marketplace!

The rest? Ho-hum! We are not interested in me-too's! We want innovation and performance. We want value and quality. Oh! and more big tires, too! Yeah, did you hear about Maxxis coming out with two new tires for 29"ers? Uh, huh! Yes, and more and better forks that go squish-squish! Then I'd like a nice bean burrito with green sauce to go with that! Yum, yum!

Time for breakfast! See ya!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Future Of Endurance Racing: The Money $$

It is interesting to note that some of the comments recieved, and also some of the conversations I have had about the future of endurance racing have touched on the topic of the money. That is; if there is money to be made, then the corporate machine will rewrite the book on endurance racing, turning it into something that will kill the current spirit of the sport.

I'm sort of a skeptic when it comes to the intentions of a person or entity that wields large wads of cashola myself, so I think I can relate to this fear. It was something that happened to cross country racing. Although, to be fair, other things were as much to blame for the turn off that XC racing became as the way it was marketed. When it comes to the endurance racing scene, it would appear that there are a few things that alot of you appreciate that could possibly be ruined by the corporate marketing machine.

The whole spirit of the events, the vibe, if you will, for one thing. It can vary from event to event. Let's just say that the posturing and posing is somewhat subdued or absent altogether at most of these events. It's not like the "pack of wolves" pecking order kind of feeling that you might experience at an XC event. "Gee, isn't that last years dual suspension bike?" ........well, you know what I mean!

Then there is the cameraderie between event participants. You can actually walk up and talk to about anybody. Sure, there are looney people everywhere, but for the most part, just about anybody is approachable. I've said it before, but it bears repeating here. You can see the shared experience in the eyes of the people you talk to at an endurance event. It's a bond. It's not about who's better, but it's about who has overcome.

The last thing for today that I'll mention is the value. You get to go to a 24 hour race as a team member, or solo, and it's at least a weekend event, if not a mini-vacation. Sure, some of the entry fees can get up there, but if you get all the riding you can stomach at a cool course, then it's worth it. Add to that the cool people you share the experiences with, and it adds more value. Sometimes the roadie down or back can be worth something, especially if you add in some stops for sight seeing or riding. Now you are talking about an overall experience that has several facets and gives back in memories more than the money spent. Seems like a bit better deal than your typical XC outing. And then there are the ultra-endurance events, which up the ante even more.

Yeah, it's pretty cool the way things are now, but I sure hope that we do not see it all stripped away by some corporate, money making machine that cares only about selling a product and not an experience. Time will tell!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different!

My wife, Phyllis models the hat I got in my swag bag at Frost Bike today.

I didn't think it was my color!

The desk at the office in the palatial Guitar Ted Headquarters is now covered in swag! The QBP people really appreciate their dealers! Thanks guys!

Today I thought my arms were not going to be able to bear the load! I got totally swagged at Frost Bike today! Craaaaaazzzzy! This is what I have to remember when I'm doing the ninety last minute tune ups the day before Ragbrai this July! (If you do not understand what "Ragbrai" is, count yourself lucky!)

Anyway, I had a chance to meet some of the exceptionally cool people that work in this industry today. It's always a pleasure to talk to someone about bikes, and know that when you look them in the eye, that they get it! Nuff said.

Some of these mavens of cool were the guys that work for Salsa Cycles. They put out a call on mtbr.com on the 29"er forum regarding a get together for all attendees into the 29"er kool-aid! Well, much to my surprise, only two of us showed up! What's up widdat! That's not a good representin' there, people. Well, I did benefit from the low turn out. It seems that there was a giveaway planned for anyone showing up to enter into. The "door prize", if you will, was a pair of the brand spankin' new Salsa Delgado Disc 29"er rims! Only the very rims that I wanted for my Inbred build! Now I had a 50- 50 chance at getting them! As it turned out, I did get them! Thanks to everyone at Salsa!

On to the few newsy bits! On tires, I found out that Maxxis is planning on bringing a 29" version of the CrossMark tire to the public. This is a VERY fast rolling tire! Racy! And also, they are getting a supposedly 2.35 tire out in the Advantage tread style. This would be awesome news for those wanting a more aggressive, wide, high volume tire for 29"ers. As for anything else out there, I didn't hear or see much. WTB was showing a 29"er DualDuty rim, but I think that came out at Interbike, so not so new!

I bugged the Schwalbe guy again about 29"er tires, which he took in stride really well, and actually was very receptive. It's ze Jair-mohns that need the convincing, apparently. Oh well, our votes are going in for the Racing Ralph, so keep your fingers crossed!

All in all, a very fun outing! Tomorrow.......back to endurance racing talk! Until then............

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Endurance vs. XC Racing: Two Views

The other day during the interview with Jeff Kerkove I started to think/ remember about things concerning the choice between cross country racing and endurance racing. I thought I'd share those things today.

The first thing that Jeff mentioned and that I agreed with was the price versus value issue. You know........you drive for hours, spend $35.00 to register, line up to rage for maybe an hour- hour and a half, and go home. Wha......? It's over before you get warmed up! Then you get to drive back home, and clean your bike for an hour- hour and a half. Hmm.................that's a problem! I'm not even going to get into the course designs, or other details, because.......well, the other stuff is more than enough to turn me off, and apparently it did that to Jeff as well.

The other thing you may not figure out until you actually do an endurance event. It's the personal satisfaction factor. In the cross country race scene, you are either a winner, or everybody else. In an endurance event, your competition is you! How much pain can you overcome? How can you figure out how to overcome your circumstances? Can you do 18 laps? Can you make it to the next aid station? Can you navigate your way through that forest? The really cool thing is, if you do that thing, whatever it is, you have won! You beat whatever obstacle was thrown your way, you went further than even you thought was possible. You could be dead last in the field of participants, but you still won. You beat the odds, the elements, and yourself.

Then you also have that bond with everyone else that finished, too. That look in the eyes that says, "Yep, I get it. We won!" It's something that I find way more fulfilling than coming in mid-pack in the Sport Class. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

It's just not for me!

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Future Of Endurance Racing: Reactions

The reactions to what has been written here have been very interesting. Thank you for your comments. Some discussion has even been noted on other blogs! I guess I shouldn't be too surprised by that, as endurance racers tend to be a pretty passionate bunch.

As far as governing bodies for endurance racing goes, it would appear that the majority of comments that I have read would indicate a fatalistic viewpoint is widely held. You don't think that it would be good for the sport, but you expect that someday it will happen. This is an interesting and curious philosophy.

Could it be that many of you are remembering what happened in XC racing? Perhaps many of you just cannot believe that something so cool could last without somebody screwing it all up? I don't know for sure what exactly prompts this sort of reaction. I can say this; if there is money to be made, then the focus will come off of the ride and the riders, and it will instead be on the product. In otherwords, marketers will get ahold of this sport, legitimize it in the minds of the elite by imposing a governing body on it, and then tweak it so as to attract as many folks as possible to spend their money on it.

Sound far fetched? Take a look at what is starting to appear and is already here. One of the commenters to this site pointed out that the Granny Gear 24 hour races have their own governing body, which some other races have also subscribed to. The recent announcement of the "g4 Group", which is a company formed by four women formerly heavily involved in the promotion of the domestic road race scene at it's highest levels. They have formed this new promotional service as a way to build the value of the product and bring participants to spend their money on it. "so what?", you say? These gals promote their new venture as a service to the endurance community! There's money in them thar hills, boys, ( gals in this case) and we're gonna git it!

At least some of you out there have also commented that the smaller, grassroots events like Trans Iowa, GDR, Kokopelli Trail race, and the EnduroSnob Epic are events that you expect will survive. Well, as a promoter myself, I can say that it won't last because of the money! Most of these events are fueled by pure passion for the experience. Once that burns itself out, and inevitably it will, either some other passionate folks must pick up the batons, or these events will fade into history. Perhaps they will be replaced by other, more exciting, challenging, and nutty events, I don't know! All I can say is that I don't mean to sound like an alarmist, just a realist.

The endurance racing scene is still growing; however, and not shrinking. The grassroots races are popping up, and six, twelve, and 24 hour racing events are all over the map. There is alot of variety. Choice is good! In a future installment, I am going to explore the veiwpoints of a new endurance race promoter and a new participant in the sport of endurance racing to see what it might be that is motivating this new interest.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Future Of Endurance Racing: Kerkove Interview

"I'll kick your a#* if you turn that thing on!"

Hmmm..................not a very promising start to my interviewing career. Ahh...........what the heck! click! I did it anyway, and here is the result! A ragged, yet candid look at two guys discussing the state of affairs in the endurance world and it's future. It didn't take much for me to score this interview since I work with Jeff. So, don't applaud me for tracking this down!

A quick intro.......... Jeff Kerkove is a member of the Cat Eye Enduro Team. He has been racing endurance events now since 2002. In that time he has participated in some of the endurance worlds premier solo 24 hour events, including the 24 Hours of Moab and the Solo World Championships. He is currently preparing for his 2006 campaign and working at Europa Cycle and Ski . I interviewed Jeff at work, where I met him as his co-worker in 2002.

G-Ted: So, when did you start mountain biking?

Jeff: I have no idea what you're talking about! ......I don't know. I never did.

G-Ted: You never did?

Jeff: I've never ridden a bike in my life. ...........I started squirrel hunting back in '97.............it's code for mountain biking, okay?! I got my first squirrel when I was...... oh, in '96. It had a rigid tail.

G-Ted: So, what do you think about endurance racing having a governing body? Think that'll ever happen?

Jeff: Hmmm........ I don't know.......

G-Ted: Would that be good?

Jeff: If you want to have a true National Championship, or.....or a governing body. I think it's good that they do it the way they do it with the Norba Nationals, but that's the only Norba sanctioned 24 hour race.

G-Ted: But that's the thing....they only do that one....

Jeff: Right.

G-Ted: ....and that's the only one. So, would it make more sense for them to have a series? Because it's kind of weird just having one race, isn't it? Because it's like, well....whoever happened to be good on that day won it, you know?

Jeff: Yeah, if you're going to have a jersey, you'd better at least have a race in every location in the country, not entirely East coast, like they do now with National Championships.....or West Coast, or whatever.

G-Ted: Now Norba just has their 24 hour thing- there's no Worlds......

Jeff: Officially not. There's one off clones, wannabees, local series.........

G-Ted:So what stops us from calling Trans Iowa the "World Gravel Championships"?

Jeff: Nothing! You are on to something there!

G-Ted: You are the World Champion Gravel Racer!.....Gravel Grinder!

Jeff: Here's your flannel jersey!

G-Ted: There you go!

G-Ted: Personally, I don't think it's ( World Championships) a very good idea.

Jeff: I mean, I think how it is now is perfect, it's fine. Because it lets people.....there's no set rules. Every event is unique in it's own way because there's no standards, you know? Anybody can do what they want.

G-Ted: And once you get into standards, then it starts to get weird.

Jeff: I think you should do an event where some guy puts on a 24 hour race. You have to race solo and you cannot have a support crew. It's you and whatever you bring. That would tell who's the best solo racer, I think.

G-Ted: The way they got it now, where you can run by your trailer....and grab another bike....

Jeff: Well, the fact that somebody's already there pre-mixing stuff, you know, cleaning stuff. It would be just like Nationals, just sans pit crew. You still have your pit. You still have your stuff there. You have to do everything your self.

G-Ted: But that kinda goes counter to what they've changed Norba into now, because they allow......

Jeff: Yeah!

G-Ted: .....support at cross country races!

Jeff: Exactly! Which I think is dumb.

G-Ted: Yeah!

Jeff: If you can't change your own freakin' flat tire, then you shouldn't be on a bike!

That's your look inside the mind of endurance racer Jeff Kerkove, and what he's thinking about the current state of the endurance racing scene. I hope that was insightfull, and I thank Jeff for that conversation! More thoughts on the interview in my next post!

Jeff: Sweeeeet!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Future Of Endurance Racing: Part I

Sometimes to really see where it is you are going, it's not a bad idea to take a glance back to see where you have come from. I'll be doing a little bit of that with this look at the Endurance racing scene. Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much information on endurance racing from an organizational standpoint. A cursory search on the internet does not reveal any unabridged sources. It seems that the origins of endurance racing; however, are rooted in running, as far as I can tell. This is especially true when you start to look at the ultra-endurance races and events.

Since athletes were always looking to challenge themselves in new and difficult ways, endurance racing sprang out into many directions. One of these directions was cycling. Brevets and ultra distance riding, such as the early Tour de France stages were every bit as challenging over one hundred years ago as the events are today. In fact, by early Tour standards, today's Tour de France stages are a mere joy ride! Having to rely totally upon their own means, the early tour riders were relegated to only one bike, one gear, and that being a fixed gear! It would appear then that we have actually made a move to return to the roots of endurance racing, rather than moving into the future of it!

Is this true then? Have participants of competitive cycling become disillusioned with the organized racing scene and it's governing bodies? Have we been yearning to see just how far we can go without the encumberance of an overlord? As far as I can tell, this is somewhat a theme amongst some cyclist that I am aware of. That would include myself!

The revolt, if we can call it that, has taken many forms actually. There are those that give up the competitive scene entirely. Then there are those that invent their own types of events. Most of the 24 hour race organizations are results of this phenomenon. Ultra-endurance challenges have sprung up everywhere to fulfill the needs of cyclists to find out, 'can I do this?' Maybe it's not a revolt, so much as it's an exodus. An exodus from the established cross country race scene. A discipline that many cyclists see as being severely flawed and skewed from it's original intent. An exclusive rather than an inclusive style of competition.

Whatever the motivations are, the trend is undeniable. The endurance race scene is growing. It is growing in several different directions. In future posts on this subject, I will attempt to interview some endurance athletes to get their perspectives as to just what is going on here with this endurance racing movement. I also want to explore the effects that a governing body might have on the endurance racer. Stick around for more and remember, your comments are always welcome!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Future Of Endurance Racing

I have seen a few things recently that have made me stop to consider the future of endurance racing. This is a segment, as you might already know, that is swelling with numbers. More people getting involved in more races. More offshoots of the "traditional" format of the 24 hour event. More ultra-endurance events. More grassroots type events.

Then there is the questions concerning recognition of champions, governing bodies and rules for events and series. What will happen when the events get under the control of a larger sanctioning body? Will that kill the events? Will it make them even more popular?

These are the sorts of things I want to probe in the next few posts. I feel that the endurance community is going to see some major changes in the near term concerning sanctioning. Traditional governing bodies versus new ones. Grassroots, underground events versus mainstream, big dollar events. What will shake out? How will it affect the average off road enthusiast? Do athletes want or need national or international recognition? How will that look? Is it even a desirable thing, or is just finishing an event satisfying in and of itself.

Lots of questions on lots of different levels! As always, you the reader of these posts are welcome to give your input. Please post your ideas in the comment section! I look forward to seeing ideas, and discussing them on this forum. The focus is pretty broad right now, but I feel that I will be able to do justice to it. I am a promoter myself of a grassroots, underground type of an event, along with Jeff Kerkove, who is also an event participant in some of the biggest races internationally. I will have to ask him a few questions regarding this subject! I also have Carl Buchanan as a resource who is a newer endurance racer. It might be interesting to get his perspective on things from his viewpoint, as well.

So, hang on for a long and bumpy ride into the endurance racing scene! I hope that this will prove to be an interesting, if not exhausting ride!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cannondale 29"er: Love and Hate!

Some enterprising fellow posted a thread on the 29"er site on mtbr.com pointing folks to a comment section on Cannondale's "Brad Blog" concerning Cannondale's possible entry into the big wheeled market. Well, this fellow got a surprise, I'm sure.

It seems that people love to hate. Here this guy puts it out there that,"... if you would like to see Cannondale make a 29"er, then post here", and then people start bagging on Cannondale. They start posting things like, 'who cares if the big companies come in now', and other such highly intellectual statements. Did they even read the original posters message? It would appear that they did not!

Here we have a community of people all interested in the same thing, (29"ers) and yet we see these sorts of responses that are counter productive to 29"ers as a whole, and certainly to those interested in a Cannondale 29"er. This sort of thoughtless commentary is very detrimental. ( with emphasis on the mental part!)

Well, anyway................I put up the link here so if you have anything intellegent to say, then please........by all means, post away!

If not, well then.................go ride your bike! By the time you are done and out of breath you'll have forgotten the whole thing! (I hope!)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Specialized 29"er in '07?

The comments section for this post on Twenty Nine Inches. com has a very interesting comment about Specialized coming out with a 29"er or a line of 29"ers for '07.

If, indeed, the news came out of Morgan Hill it would make sense as all specs for next years bikes are being wrapped up right now. This means that Specialized already knows what bikes are coming to our shores for the '07 model year.

And.......if this is all REALLY true.............what impact will that have on the other large companies? Cannondale, Giant, and Trek? Obviously, Trek has their bases covered with Fisher, and could feasably rebadge/ repaint a Fisher model to have a 29"er tomorrow, if they wanted to. Cannondale sounds like they are seriously considering the idea of a Lefty equipped hardtail. Giant? Well, they can't even figure out which athletes to sponsor much less get their wheelsize right!

Of course, this also begs the question, "Is this the "Next Big Thing" in the cycling world? It is starting to appear that the "big" boys believe that's so!

Midge On A Monkey

I got a comment about my running the Midge bar on a single speed the other day, ( thanks Adam!) so I thought I'd post some pictures for the curious. Especially since I just did a series on handlebars.

The trick to stting up these off road drop bars is to get the hook portion of the bar right about where your grips would be on a conventional flat bar.

As you can see here, the Midge bars flare out. That puts your hands and wrists in alot more natural posistion

The other trick is to set up your brake levers alot lower on the bend to the drop than you would think. It should end up so that you can reach the tip of the lever by just extending out your index finger while in the drops.

Also, you want the tips of the bar to point more towards your rear axle. Don't set them up horizontally with the ground. The palms of your hands will thank you! I had to tweak on mine, making minute changes, to find the sweet spot. You'll notice that the angle is slightly different in the picture where the grass is green. I ended up with the angle shown where there is snow on the ground.

Finally, your stem choice is going to be critical. You shouldn't have any problem as long as you get a 40 degree rise stem. Dimension branded stems are pretty cheap, light, and available through any shop that carries a QBP account. (Like- about 95% of all shops probably do!) Or, you could go a little more upscale and use a Salsa Moto Ace stem with the Stiff Upper Lip feature, like I did. Salsa has a wide array of stem options available, again through QBP/ your local bike shop!

The actual Midge bar itself is available through WebCyclery, I think. Anyway, it's an awesome set up! I like the varying hand posistions, (on top, hoods, drops, and hooks) and that they have given me more control in rough terrain. The biggest surprise was how much better I can climb out of the saddle while gripping the bar in the drops! Easier transistion from a seated posistion, and great leverage. You can really get that side to side single speed climbing dance going on with these bars!

You can even customize the grips in alot of ways with these, as well. Regular cork tape, foam grips, gel backed tape, Fizik bar gel, or double wrapped......whatever! A great tip to those who have trouble keeping bar tape wrapped on their drops. Contact cement, or rubber cement before taping. Keeps it all in place, but it is messier when changing out tape! WD-40 kind of helps there! Antway, try out a drop bar on the dirt. You may really like it! I do.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A 29"er Nutcase!

I was recently portrayed as a "29"er nutcase" on Buchanandales blog yesterday. Hmm..........perhaps I resemble that remark! At any rate, read through Carlos' post yesterday, and be sure to give your two cents worth in his comments section. Industry people actually read his blog, by the way. (Not sure exactly why they do..........heh heh! Just kiddin' Carl!)

And speaking of 29"ers........ It looks as though Brant from OnOne Cycles has brought to life another idea! This time it's a Scandium hardtail, gear specific, disc specific frame set. So what, you say? Well, believe it or not, but there is currently about zero framesets available in this configuration at a wide level. Sure, you could buy custom, but this will be reletively inexpensive, which is unheard of right now in the world of big wheels. A Scandium hardtail, fairly cheap, gear specific, built they way you want it, or out of your existing parts? Yeah........these will sell out way fast! No word as to when this might become available, but I'd guess later on this year.

Then, speaking of custom options, I submit this for your approval. This Oswald guy is amazing! Check out the link, really, this is that cool! The workmanship is top notch, and he does it all by hand!

That's about it for your Saturday reading pleasure! One final bit..........Who thinks Mr. 24 should be on a 29"er? Grassroots team sponsorship? Sound off! LATE!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Rather "Trans Iowa-like" Isn't It?

Here is some good news for those of you that think Trans Iowa is a good idea. While others are questioning your sanity, you can go test your mettle at two new events. I have mentioned these events before, but now more solid information is available for you to chew on. Who will be the first person to complete all three events? Will they be the the proud bearer of the title of Triple Crown of Lunacy? Or.....will they be endurance heroes forever? Time will tell!

The Dirty Kanza 200

The EnduroSnob Epic

(My feeling is that a certain Canadian enduro freak will be the chosen one!)

In other endurance news: Will somebody please get these guys on some bikes already! Read and be amazed! This baffles me as to why someone wouldn't jump on board to provide a bike sponsorship to these two guys. You couldn't put someone on your payroll that was a better promoter of equipment! Sponsor these guys and reap the rewards, yo!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bar Time: Opinions and Conclusions

This is it for the "Bar Time" series. Thanks to those of you who stopped by to read and to those who left comments. I appreciate it. Now, on to the conclusion of "Bar Time".

I've got to say that in all the years that I've been involved in off road cycling, there has to be more handle bar choices than ever now. I'm sure that will change someday. I'm just glad that there is some experimentation going on now. Not just for my own needs, but so that more people can enjoy this great sport more thoroughly. Here are some different takes on handle bars and some opinions of mine on them.

Arguably one of the most prolific and creative companies making handlebars today is On One Cycles out of England. Not satisfied with the "standard" riser bar, On One has proffered up four really cool alternative designs for mountain biking. I use the Midge Bar, which was inspired by the early off road drop bars modified by Charlie Cunningham. On One is to be applauded for their efforts, and they have many devotees. However; I think that they still are thinking too much inside the box, if you can believe that! I'll explain in a bit, so hang on!

You know when a relatively unknown titanium frame builder in the mountains of Oregon suddenly puts a handlebar on the map that is so different that everyone knows about it, you've got something pretty special. That's exactly what Jeff Jones has done with his ground breaking "H-Bar". It has alot going for it. I have already mentioned it in the previous post, so I won't go into detail here. The design has also been licensed to Titec to be produced in aluminum, and therefore at a much lower price than Jeff's titanium beauty. I don't think the design will transfer over to aluminum very well, as part of the appeal here is the natural ability of titanium to flex and give, which translates into more comfort. Time will tell.

Salsa, Syntace, and Surly all have flat bar derrivatives that are sporting some serious sweep. This is good, and a step in the right direction for alot of riders, but it still is a flat bar with limited hand posistions. At least alot of these options are reasonably priced, strong, light, and look good with barends!

"I'm not happy, Bob, NOT HAPPY!" ....from the movie "The Incredibles!"

While all this handlebar experimentation would appear to make me smile, I really have a couple of gripes here. First and foremost, the handle bar manufacturers are still designing in the neandrathal days! Think about this for a minute. Do we pedal our bikes with bare feet on a round pedal spindle? Of course not! That would hurt! Well, why do we continue to put pressure on our hands for hours at a time on a round cross section tube?!! The roadies are starting to get this concept with the carbon fiber road bars that I've seen coming out lately. Flat tops that support your hand better. Shaped tubing that conforms better to the gripped hand. Mountain bike handle bar designers need to take a closer look at this. Ergon, a German company, has at least addressed this with their lock on grips, which come highly recommended by me.

I suppose you would say, "The controls only fit on round tubing!", and you would be correct there. However, it is entirely possible to design components with split perches, which several brake lever manufacturers are already doing. Heck, Shimano might as well do it as well, they seem to delight in making all things obsolete anyway! Then we could get on with making handlebars more hand friendly. It's either that, or we come up with "shoes" for our feet!

The other thing I would like to see is a "Midge" type bar in titanium. Probably not very possible, due to the bends required, and it would be ultra spendy, but ohhhh!..............I can feel it now! That would be primo! Short of that I guess I'm going to get in line for an H-Bar soon. It seems to be the best option to me. Is it the holy grail of handle bars? Not likely. I'm sure I'll still be searching again someday!

Well, that wraps it up for this dissertation! I'll be posting up some newsier stuff in the next few days until some other subject gets under my skin. Thanks for reading!

Bar Time: Away From MTB For Awhile!

This is a reminder to read the four previous "Bar Time" posts if you haven't already. Now, on to today's post.........

After the shop I first wrenched at went under, I found myself working for the dark side at a local automobile repair shop. The hours didn't leave a whole lot of time to ride, so I found myself riding the road much more. One or two other contributing factors played into this, as well. During this time, I still looked with wonder and interest at what was going on in the mountainbiking world. The biggest change that I just couldn't understand, and still don't, was the change in fashion to using riser bars. As I mentioned in another post, why not use a flat bar with sweep and a higher rise stem? The shortest distance, ( and therefore usually the lightest) between two points is a straight line. Riser bars seem to work against that wisdom. Additionally, if you want alternative hand posistions, be ready for harassment from your mtb'ing peers. Riser bars and bar ends are a sure way to find yourself the target of jeers! (Don't you just love The Fashionistas?)

So, I never really got into the riser bar thing, although I did buy one to see what the fuss was about. I was not impressed! Later on, I would get bitten by the off road bug again. This would lead to the re-birth of handle bar experimentation, as well.

This was also about the time that I got back into wrenching on bikes. I was surfing the internet, and found out about 29"ers. I ended up getting a Karate Monkey, and the first bar I put on it was a steel riser bar, because that's what the shop had available. I was trying to keep the costs down. However; just like before, I never really got on with the riser. One day, a former employee of the shop came in and after discussing different handlebars, he mentioned that he had something for me to try. It was an aluminum mustache bar. I thought that it would be cool, kind of like a flattened out drop bar. I loved it immediately! I really liked how you could change up your hand and body posistioning, much like a road drop bar. I probably would have kept that mustache bar, but it was on loan, and it was one of the rare ones compatible with mtb controls, so I couldn't duplicate it. Oh well!

The next bar that went on the Monkey was an old Titec 118 titanium bar. Narrow, flat, and at only three degrees, you would think that I would have hated that bar. In aluminum I would have. But this was titanium! Hmmm...........there is nothing like a titanium bar for comfort! Very smooth! I eventually found some Ergon grips, which made my hands very happy, and I ran this configuration for awhile until...............Midge came into my life!

I got the Midge bar, which really was the culmination of searching, and of an idea that I had had for years. I overcame the required use of aero roadie brakes, and I have loved that bar alot. It still isn't quite there yet though, and here is what I think would be better. Drop bars still require that more material be used due to the curves in the bar itself and the required high rise stem. I think that there is a better solution, but I have yet to try it. It's name is The H-Bar.

The H-Bar is flat- no extra material. It also is titanium, so it should be comfy. It gives you several hand posistions, and therefore, body posistions. That's good. But..........it still has it's shortcomings too. It can't be utilized with all current mtb controls, notably SRAM twist shifters. So, maybe the search will continue.

Only time will tell!

The next installment will conclude the "Bar Time" series. I will give my opinions on the current crop of alternative bars, and some ideas on what I think might make a better handle bar for off roading. Until then.....................

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bar Time: Three Discoveries

If you have been coming here to keep up with the "Bar Time" posts, you may have noticed that I have been hitting it at least twice a day. This is to bring the discussion up to the modern day, and so that this won't go on for days on end! If you are just checking this out for the first time, please scroll down and read the three previous "Bar Time" posts to get caught up.

This afternoon's post is going to deal with three discoveries that greatly affected my views on what would make the perfect handle bar.

The first big revelation was acquiring my first road bike in about 1995 or so. I was impressed with the several hand posistions that the drop bar provided. I also noticed that it was not only good for my hands and upper body, but that it affected my entire body depending on whether or not I rode in the drops, on the hoods, or on the tops. The effect was that I found that I was able ride far more comfortably than I could on my mountain bike.

The second discovery came from a rather odd source. I was to go on a fully unsupported, over the road tour with a couple of friends, but I didn't have a suitable bike for such an adventure. I was able to find a bike eventually in the used bike section at the shop where I worked at that time. The bike was a 1985 Mongoose All Mountain Pro mountain bike. It had "bull moose" bars on it. I decided to ride it with these bars a few times before I made the drop bar conversion I had planned. The bull moose bars had a split stem that sort of formed a triangle with it's base being the front center portion of the handlebar itself. The sweep of the bar then started at the point where the "corners" of the triangular base was. It had a mighty generous sweep too! I'd say at least over 10 degrees, maybe more. That was one comfortable bar except that it only had one hand posistion on offer.

The final discovery wasn't a handle bar, or even a bike, it was a person's philosophy and design sense. Charlie Cunningham is a genius of design. He developed several prominent features of mountain bikes, but the one that really caught my imagination was the drop bar modified for off road use. In reading about him, I discovered that an off road drop bar gave me several hand posistions and sweep! Cool! What wasn't so cool was that you had to use road levers, which at the time of my discovery, were not so compatible with the new linear pull "V" brakes that had just come out. (1996) You also had to forsake the fashion of the day, and get yourself an ultra rise stem to accomodate the drop bar. That wasn't an easy task either with the new Aheadset system for headsets. Since these obstacles were in the way, I didn't pursue that option.....at least not then!

Next time I'll get into my hiatus from mountain biking, the rebirth of the pursuit of the perfect handle bar, and some recent experiments that I have conducted. Until then............

Bar Time: Flat Bar Purgatory

In the last post I made reference as to what my initial problems were regarding the flat bar and that I got stuck in a pattern of flat bar usage for a number of years. Here's how that pattern developed and I'll touch on some discoveries along the way.

After my first mountain bike was declared D.O.A. by the local bike shop owner, I had to find a replacement. Besides my handlebar woes, my other pet peeve was the traditional headset. You know, the kind that was threaded........with a jam nut that held it's adjustment? ( allegedly!) Well, I was determined to stop that problem from slowing me down again. This led me to Klien mountain bikes, which at that time, ('92) had a cartridge bearing headset that never needed adjustment. That and the fact that Klien had arguably the coolest paint jobs, next to Mountain Goat, on the planet and I was sold! Besides those two things, I should mention that Klien also used a pressed in, cartridge bearing bottom bracket, which again, needed no adjustments. So, even though I again was stuck with a flat, narrowish handlebar, ( which, by the way, was welded to the stem!) I felt that the other issues I had were all addressed with the Klien. One other developement at that time also contributed to the continued usage of flat bars for me. Namely, barends.

Barends were supposedly there to enable you to weight the front tire of your mountain bike during steep climbs. But, come on!..........did anyone ever really use barends for that? Maybe once in awhile, but for the vast majority of us, myself included, we used them for alternative hand posistions. One just needs to take a look at how long and how many different shapes were produced to see that this was the case. For added examples, look to what barends have become today. Simple stubs for climbing leverage, right? Well, back in the day, they served more purpose than that! Then you could throw in what Zoom, Scott and Profile Designs were doing with handlebars, and you could see that there was some searching going on for a better handle bar for mountain bikes. Some of these products were just plain goofy, or were troublesome to use in concert with other products. This was a time of experimentation for the manufacturers, and alot of money was lost in the process.

At any rate, I was okay with using a flat bar with bar ends. It seemed logical at the time, and quite frankly, was the fashion of the day. Yes, sadly I was caught up in it back then! That was another major reason that the flat bar lasted so long with my mountain bikes.

In the next installment, I'll discuss what effects of obtaining my first road bike, my first vintage mountain bike, and discovring Charlie Cunningham had on my thoughts and choices for handlebars. Until then...............

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bar Time: In The Beginning

Probably the very first thing I noticed about my first mountain bike was that the handlebars felt awkward. They were a pedestrian steel flat bar with about a five degree bend. I thought, "Why not have more sweep to the bar". I figured that it would have to be more comfortable. I remember playing around with trying to get my hands and arms to relax so that I could note the angle that was formed by my palms when held out in front of me. I could readily see that some sort of swept back bar would seem to place my arms in a much more relaxed posistion. As it was, I had to hold my elbows out and up to get my wrists lined up with my hands comfortably. If I let my arms down to relax them, then my wrists would get sore, and my grip on the bars was compromised.

Now, let's get a little perspective here, because things were way different back in '89. This was the rigid, steel, quill stem days. Not a whole lot of give there in your front end. Add to this the mid profile cantilever brakes in vogue at the time and the resulting hand fatigue from grasping the levers hard a couple hundred times each ride, and you can begin to see why upper body fatigue could be an issue. I was looking for relief, and that dratted handle bar was my target of disdain!

I asked my motocross friend what he thought about my dilemma. He told me about the type of aluminum bars that he was using that had alot more sweep than mine did and they were a bit wider, as well. Then he told me that these bars had rise to them. He wondered why in the world mountain bikers would ever want a flat 3-5 degree bar that was sub 23 inches in length. He then told me that BMX cruiser class bikes had very similar bars to the motorcycles that he rode. He thought they would work a whole lot better than my then current set up.

Well, I could see the benefit of going wider with more sweep, but that rise thing kind of bugged me. I couldn't see why you couldn't get your rise from a stem, and keep the handle bar flat, adding more width and sweep. That would keep excess material out of the handle bar and be lighter in weight. Well, I let it simmer on the back burner for awhile.

Next installment: I'll explain why I got mired in flat handle bar hell for several years, and tell you about some discovries I made along the way!

Bar Time

When the subject of handle bars for mountain bikes comes up I always take notice. I am always interested in the designs and philosophies behind each design that comes around. Lately, there has been alot to be interested in!

My interest in handlebars for off roading started when I started riding a mountain bike in 1989. I had a co-worker at the time that was a motocross and streetbike nut. Since I figured that some of the handle bar issues I was having were similar to motocross issues, I would often ask him for his ideas on the matter. It was through these initial discussions that the quest for the perfect handle bar was born!

So, have I found it yet? Well, no. I'm getting closer though! This next couple of posts will describe my process, and along the way I'll divulge my opinionated reasons for my choices. Perhaps you will glean a few good ideas for your own personal setup. Until next time...................

Monday, February 06, 2006

Back In The Chaingang

Went back to work today. Went back to winter again! Oh well, it is February after all! It's amazing how fast you get acclimated to warmer weather. I was pretty chilled today at 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Last December, I would have been just fine with that temperature. Riding to work in a stiff Northwest wind, I was reminded how hard it is to breath in the cold, sharp air. Legs didn't function as well, and they got the hurt put on 'em today. Oh well, it'll make riding this summer that much easier, right?

That Trans Iowa trip was long, but fun. I am slightly jealous of the guys and gals signed up for it. It's going to be tough, but really fun.........at least I think so! The funny thing about the course was that comment that Rich Gosen made to me. He was curious as to how we were coming into Decorah. I showed him and said that it looked pretty tough. He said that "if you really want to brutalize the riders, you could do it." He then showed me a route that he said made the hills we were using look tame by comparison. I said that after 300 miles, the hills we were using would be plenty bad! So, just so you T.I. freaks know, I'm lookin' out for you!

Probably time to get back to some 29"er news, and to doing a bit on handlebars that I have been meaning to do since the CPU crashed. Getting back to the bike projects and riding too. I'll have a report on the annual dealer showcase that Quality Bicycle Parts puts on called FrostBike, also. Look for pics and a report soon!

Hope things are on track for you all, and if they are not, I hope they get back to it soon!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Trans Iowa Recon Report- The Wildlife!

Yes, this is one of the pass through towns! No hunting without a current Iowa permit!

Failed genetic experiment remains found course-side! Aeromatic!

Ssssssh! He's sleeping!

Yes, again! Another pass through town gem! You'll be riding right by this one. No climbing allowed!

Trans Iowa Recon Report

Well, it's done! Jeff and I have returned home with a sucessful recon mission in the bag. I'm glad that part is over! Now it will be on to the details and loose ends. We have some plans coming to implement a couple of ideas that came up at our meeting with Ward Budweg and Rich Gosen today up in Decorah. These ideas should be simple to implement and make the event better. Details will follow in an update sent to the racers, via e-mail.

This was Jeff's first look at the course and he liked what he saw. (phew!) I was glad that it was almost all there. Just a couple of things didn't work out as planned, but that's why we have to drive the course. Sometimes the maps are wrong or outdated. Sometimes it's road construction- whatever! We have to physically verify that everything is as planned.

As far as the course and it's condition; the 2006 version of Trans Iowa will be much tougher than last year! Several features will play into this, but let's just say that many folks are going to find out that Iowa is not flat! We could see that the course had been very soft in the last week or so due to our unseasonably warm temperatures. However; those that thought the frost was out of the ground are sadly mistaken! The recent cold snap had the roads frozen solid. We could even drive the "B" sections! The longer it stays below freezing, the deeper that frost will go, especially now that the snow cover is completely gone. What does that mean for Trans Iowa? Probably some messy roads, that's what!

I've got some more pictures to share, but Mr. 24 should be posting something up, so I'll wait to see what he doesn't use, and I'll go from there!

For now, enjoy the pictures in the previous post, and I'll be back after a much needed rest!

Trans Iowa Recon Report- Continued In Photos

Fueling Trans Iowa Recon. Guess which two items are mine, and which two are Mr. 24's!

We couldn't drive every single mile of the route as Mother Nature wasn't completely finished with the preparations yet!

Check out the solidly frozen dirt clods. They caused us to weave, dodge, and curse! They also caused the following...............

...........This reaction from Jeff as the underside of his Mazda got pummeled!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Pivot Point Madness

I got an e-mail question recently that enquired about the Astrix Monk 29"er full suspension bike, and specifically, what I thought about it. Well, I will say upfront that I have not actually ridden an Astrix Monk, but I have ridden several single pivot full suspension bikes. Here is my opinion. Your mileage may vary!

It might serve the reader well to know my perspective here, so I submit this for your approval...........

I started riding different full suspension designs when they first started showing up around these parts in the early nineties. As the original designs hit the streets, it was soon apparent that the suspension designs were quickly falling into two or three different camps. One: the simple single pivot design and it's variants. Second: the "four bar" and Horst link bikes. Thirdly: there were several; shall we say, rather odd designs, some of which persist to this very day! By far and away, the single pivot and Horst link bikes were the most popular designs, even then. It was rather apparent, as well, that each of these had their own peculiar traits, which have never really been changed, in a basic sense.

The biggest nit that anyone had, or still has with full suspension is pedal/ rider induced suspension activation. Usually the "pedal induced" type is the most complained about. To rectify this, several band-aid solutions have been employed over the years, with the biggest and most humorous solution, (well.....it's funny to me, at least!), being the platform dampers available on todays rigs. This all plays out in the ways that the Horst link and single pivot bikes work. The traditional rap with the single pivot bikes is that they suffer from pedal induced kick-back, bobbing in the granny gear, and braking problems. The Horst links were better in the braking and granny ring areas, but you got alot of rider induced suspension activity when out of the saddle, and sprinting was, shall we say....interesting!

Now, I know I'm painting with broad strokes here, but I'm trying to keep this brief! At any rate, the thing that really always bugged me about the single pivot bikes isn't something that is usually mentioned in most reviews. Single pivot bikes usually have their pivots aligned so that climbing is enhanced, which is fine and dandy. I think; however, that the single pivot bikes feel funky in high speed situations, especially in fast," g-out" type corners. The type of corners that you might find in a sweeping downhill run, or in fast singletrack corners. I always can feel the wheelbase grow when the rear end squats down in the corner, and this is disconcerting to me. I never felt comfortable with that feeling, and our local riding enhances that problem, so no single pivots for me!

Of course, this is what the Astrix Monk is: namely, a single pivot bike. As I said, I have not ever ridden one, but I know that the cornering problem is going to be there, for me. Also, the chain growth, pedal induced kick back thing has got to be there, at least a little bit. The geometry doesn't lie! Finally, the swing arm flex must be kept at bay in a classic single pivot design, and I cannot comment on how Astrix has dealt with that. Supposedly, they have a special reinforcement in the rear swingarm to resist twisting and lateral flex.

Now some of you are going to be thinking, "But what about the platform damper? Doesn't that cancell out those beefs of yours?" Well, maybe. I doubt that the negative physical attributes of the design can be cancelled out without also adversely affecting the benifits of the suspension. It's a band-aid solution to an age old problem. Does it help? Probably. I've ridden a single pivot design that had a platform damper, and it made it better- but not that much better! Again, the Monk is part of a species that has certain charateristics in common with each other due to the commonality of design. They all exhibit these characteristics to a certain degree. It's not going to be masked totally by a platform damper, pivot placement, or material choice.

So, what do I think of the Monk, or for that matter, the upcoming Fisher Super Caliber Race Day bike? It's a single pivot bike!...........Nuff said!

Would I ride one?......................Oh, hell yeah! Just because it is a twenty nine inch wheeled bike is enough for me to bite! But really, the bigger wheel option will make the smaller bumps disappear, so that the suspension could be set up stiffer, which should help with my complaints. Maybe someday I'll find out................someday!

Caught Sleeping?

I just got done doing some "catching up" on some 29"er news and saw this on a new 29" hardtail bike coming out from Orbea. The really cool thing is that it is carbon fiber! Yep! It's that bike that Orbea showed in September at the On Dirt Demo in a 26" version called the Alma. I don't care what they call it..................this bike rawks, doode! Light, stiff, and incredibly good looking. This news begs the question, "Is Trek sleeping at the wheel, or what?!"

Trek, as you probably know, owns Gary Fisher Bikes, the company that put 29"ers on the map from a mass marketing standpoint. It is logical then to think that with the onset of 29"ers growing appeal, and the constant sold out status of alot of 29"er Fisher inventory, that Fisher- or at least Trek- would come out with their OCLV mountainbike frame in 29"er flavors. Don't come around here telling me that it's too much of a niche market for Trek to invest into. I submit the TTX as an example of how Trek has previously chased a niche market with high end OCLV!

Is Trek going to let this market segment get divied up into small parts by second tier manufacturers? It would appear that way. At least you would think that they would up the ante for their own race team members. Imagine Cameron Chambers on an OCLV hardtail 29"er. ........or Nat Ross. Crazy, I say. Simply crazy!

It's not just Trek that's sleeping, it's all the "big" companies. Specialized, Cannondale, and Giant are going to be playing catch up pretty soon................if they aren't all ready. Perhaps it's time for some of these bigger players to lay "The Smackdown" and get crackin'. Hmm.........?

In the meantime we'll be waiting to see what this "soul" bike from Orbea is all about, drooling over it, while all the "big companies" seem to be saying, "Wake us up when it's over."

They'll be sleeping a loooong time!

I'm Back! (uuggh!......groan!)

Ha,ha! Yep, I'm back online again. I'm not sure that is a good thing, necessarily. I've got to be honest. This forced vacation from the internet has been rather enlightening!

You just do not realize how much time gets sucked into the digital black hole until you get away from the thing for awhile. Maybe I should mount a timer on my keyboard to limit myself, or something! I found out that not only did I have more time, but that I got alot of things done that had been neglected. I thought about alot of things that were way more important than anything I was doing online. I also was able to actually live without it! (GASP!) Yes,........really!

I did manage to keep up with a few of you other fellow bloggers out there and noticed that at least one of you made a feint to get off the nipple. Good show! I see where you're coming from and applaud it! I think that the surfing will be a bit more in moderation now that I'm back!

That's not to say that I will quit blogging as much, because I truly like to write. It's just that I'm not going to sweat not posting for a day or two, like I did before. I'm not going to get caught up in what my stat counter is doing. I'm going to be free from that crap! (fist in air!)

So, while I'm refreshed and back in balance, I'm still pretty leary of this digital idiot box. I am going to have to keep an eye on it..............or not, as the case may be!

Trans Iowa Recon II: Here's what I can say about the T.I.V2 recon scheduled for this weekend. It's going to be about bananas, Red Bull, and processed beef products. Gravel, hills, and dirty "B" roads. It's going to be about alot of windsheild time, Mr.24, and a home cooked meal on Saturday night. (Right Mr. Kerkove? I bet you can hardly wait!) It's going to be about meeting some like minded people at T-Bock's, Coca-Cola's, and missing the Stupid Bowl. I'll be up early and home late. I'll miss the wife and kids. I'll have a great time, and it'll all be worth it. (I hope!) Pictures will follow!

So, I'm back and I'll be posting up some good stuff for ya'all to chew on soon. Thanks to those who missed me. (I'm flattered) Here's a last bit of news that happened whilst I was off-line. Mr. 24 alluded to it on one of his posts last week.....................................

.....................I'm going to be a Dad again, for the third time! (Yes, I'm pumped about that!)

Hope ya'all are still Ridin' and Smilin'!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Coming Online Soon!

The word is that my cpu is clean now. The "techies" found FOUR viruses in there! (Lesson: Don't let friends access there e-mail accounts from your computer!) Anyway! I should be up and running soon, so look for an avalanche of posts soon!

Just in time for Trans Iowa Recon II !