Thursday, August 31, 2006

Materials of Choice: Carbon Fiber

Welcome to the fifth and last post on Materials of Choice, which have covered materials commonly used to make bicycle frames and forks. Of all the materials covered, this one: carbon fiber, is the only non-metallic substance that is used in the industry on a wide basis to make bicycles from.

There are all sorts of uses for carbon fiber and it is an amazing material. So, just what exactly is it? Well, carbon fiber is a pretty descriptive clue in and of itself. Basically, something has been carbonized, (burned would be a very crude way to describe it) and the resulting residue, usually in the form of fillaments, ( but not necessarily that) is either woven, wound, or chopped up. That then is introduced to a resin, or in other words, an agent that bonds the fibers together, to be cured under intense pressure and heat. Usually done in some sort of mold, the resulting object is then finished and ready for use. Want to know more? Check out this translated Japanese paper on the definition, and types of carbon fiber. Follow the prompts at the top or bottom of the page to continue reading. It's not bad....only five pages! Come on!

As I have already indicated, carbon fiber has many uses, and it's even used for more things in the industry than bicycle frames forks, and parts. It's even in some of the clothes we wear! Since this is about frames and forks, we'll try to keep it on that. Carbon fiber was toyed around with for use on bicycles and even mountain bikes way back ( I know- everything is relative!) in the 80's with notable off road examples by Kestrel and Trimble. The cautious nature of mountain bikers comes out when you say "carbon fiber", because of some of the early examples that suffered failures at the hands of the rough and tumble terrain that the bikes were subjected to. This has permeated the psyche of riders up to this very day. However; Trek and several other top tier bicycle companies have persevered in bringing more and better examples of carbon fiber frame mountain bikes to the point now where reliability in the feild is as good if not better than it's metallic brethren.

So, what's the dealio with carbon fiber anyway? To weak to handle off roading? Nope, not anymore than any other popular material today. Too spendy? Well, yeah! Believe me, cheap carbon fiber is out there, but that's the stuff you don't want to ride! Hard to produce in different sizes? Uh-huh. But mostly because you have to have a mold to make the parts, and each different frame size has different angles, so you guessed it, it has different molds! That drives up costs. Plus, to do carbon fiber properly and safely, you have to have the correct environment to work in, again more expensive. Is it light? Crazy light! Is it strong? Yep! It's very strong, but it has to be properly designed and manufactured, which adds expense. What if I scratch it, is it toast? Mmm.......tooooaaast! ( sorry! I'm hungry!) Well, unless you compromise the integrity of the fibers, you are okay. Generally carbon fiber is protected by a hard, clear outer layer of resin. This is usually what gets scratched. However; if you see dust, fraying, or fuzz.....STOP USING THE BIKE! It's compromised structurally and may need replacement!

So, is carbon fiber for you? Yes: if you are a weight weenie, like techy stuff, or are financially well endowed. Will it hold up? Yeah, probably. If you race it and use it hard, that's okay if that's what it's designed for, but ya gotta use your noggin' and check out the frame, fork, or carbon bits if you crash! Replace when necessary! Carbon fiber is strong, but it'll break, and when it does, it usually is catastrophic. Be aware! That said, Mr. 24 himself has flogged carbon fiber frames from here to Japan without incident.

Well, that wraps up another Guitar Ted series! I hope you found it informative. I know I sure learned alot! Next up is some opinions on the newest 29"er bits and pieces being shown right now at Eurobike in Germany. There are some pretty tasty tidbits, so tune in tomorrow to get my take on it all. Late!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Materials of Choice: Titanium

If Aluminum is the flavor of the day for bike frames, and steel was the former champion, then titanium has to be the modern "wonder metal" that garners "oohs" and "aahhs" whenever we see a frame made of the silvery-grey stuff. Titanium hasn't been used in bicycle frame construction on a wide scale until recently. In fact, mountain bikes made of the stuff didn't arrive on the scene until steel and aluminum frames were rather common place. There are some rather odd details to the story of titanium, so let's take a closer look.

Pictured: A classic titanium mountain bike frame; the Moots YBB

If you think that I might have some homework for you to read, you're right! Take a look at this short article on titanium and it's alloys. You might be surprised to know that there is more titanium alloys than you thought! As with aluminum and steel, titanium gains desirable qualities if it's alloyed out with the correct materials for bicycle frames. "Commercially Pure" titanium, or "CP" as it's more commonly known, is a little too boingy for most folks taste. So to stiffen things up a bit, and to keep the frame tubing stronger, a little bit of aluminum and vanadium is thrown into the mix. (Read the article for a better explanation) At any rate, most titanium frames that you see today are made from this alloy of titanium: 3 Al- 2.5V, which describes the "recipe" for the alloy.

Titanium hasn't been used for bicycle frames for a few reasons until recently. Number one probably has to be because of it's high demand in the aero-space industry and in particular, the defense industry. The silvery-grey stuff is light and strong so it's a no brainer for applications in that field. Add to it the high resistence to corrosion and you have a highly coveted metal. The crazy thing is, titanium as an element is not rare! It's the ninth most common element on earth. So what's the dealio? Why is titanium so hard to get and so pricey? Well, that's a whole 'nuther story there, mate! To keep this post in check, you should read this. The short answer is, it's dang tough to get it out of it's natural mixed-up-with-other-substances state. You see, there are not any naturally occuring pure titanium deposits. So, it's a tough, expensive, time consuming process to get the titanium extracted. That's why it's been awhile since the metal was considered for anything other than aero-space/ defense use.

Titanium: Spendy, flexy, and not designer friendly. Lasts forever. Rides like nothing else and is lighter than anything. These are the things commonly heard about the wonder metal. True or false? Let's look!

Spendy: Yep! Confirmed. Yet, as the second linked article indicates, it might not always be the case.

Flexy: Uh-huh. Yeah, but it can be made to be somewhat less whippy and flexy with very careful design and use of it's sister alloy 6Al- 4V, which is pretty stout but harder than heck to work with. Regardless: big fellows and mashers take note, if ya likes yer frames stout and stiff, ya might steer clear of this grey matter!

Not designer friendly: No. Period. It's hard to work with, it's expensive to purchase, and their are only straight guage and one butted tube choice for builders to choose from. Tuning the ride is far more difficult to do. Most of the time, it's simply compromised for the cool factor.

Resists corrosion: Yep! Rides like nothing else: Yep again, but that's not always a good thing! Light: Yes again, but not the lightest. Care must be taken with Ti to keep the stiffness, so making it light, while entirely possible, is usually counter productive. You end up with a light bike, but it's a flexy P.O.S. !

So, is titanium for you? Maybe. If you ride smoothly, are medium to small in stature, have a healthy bank account, and don't mind a bit of flex in your steed, then go right ahead. Maybe you have fallen under the siren song of the mysterious grey metal. Whatever it is, titanium seems to have a strong following and always gets the stares. Modern technology may prove to be a boon to titanium in the recovery of the ore and also in it's use in bicycles. Carbon fiber, when mated to this wonder metal, can be used to tune the ride. Some interesting work is being done by Titus and others in this vein.

Next: Carbon Fiber

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Materials of Choice: Steel

Just as aluminum is now the material du jour of the average bicycle in America, steel was in the past. Really, it wasn't that long ago either. Steel was the only real choice for practical bicycles for decades. Most every design that you have ever seen executed for use on your off road bicycle was first done on a steel framed bicycle and often in steel itself. The modern bicycle owes everything to this noble material and the multitude of ways that it can be used. Of course, most of Western Culture was built on the back of steel, so it should come as no surprise that bicycles flourished because of it. ( pictured is a Salsa "El Mariachi" 29"er frameset made from True Temper OX Platinum steel alloy tubing)

Again, there is alot more going on here than meets the eye. It's an understatement to say that we take steel for granted. I found out alot of stuff about steel from an article posted originally on Pirate . If you thought that the link on the Aluminum post was total pocket protector, geek material, than you ain't seen nuttin' yet! ( appologies to B.T.O.) This steel and iron stuff is amazing! Once again, we aren't really understanding what we're talking about as bike geeks when we say "CroMo" or "4130". Read the info, and you will see what I mean! I'll forewarn you though. You're going to need a pot of black goodness to get ya through it all!

Now that you've been pointed in the right direction, and have hopefully read and understood the pertinent info, we can move on. Let's see about today's current state of affairs in the world of steel bicycles.

It certainly isn't easy to walk into just any bike shop and see a nicely executed steel frame and fork these days, unless it's an oldie in the repair department. Most steel frame and forks that are of higher quality are coming out of small custom builders shops. That isn't to say that you can't get a decent frame and fork from your local shop. (The "El Mariachi" above being a perfect example) , it's just not a common thing these days. Sure, there are some companies that have held onto their steel roots, but not many. Why is this the case? Well, some of it has to do with fashion, and alot of it has to do with money. It's just plain easier for a big Far East company to churn out hundreds of "cookie cutter" aluminum frames than it is to make steel ones and besides, aluminum frames just look more "burly" and are percieved to be "lighter" by the general public. Steel lost it's cache' with the average cyclist due to hype and marketing. Steel wasn't cool anymore!

To be sure, military research and developement was focused more on aluminum products than it was steel, so the influx of technology into the bicycle business in the late 80's and early 90's at the end of the Cold War favored aluminum and it's alloys. Soon, just about every kid had heard about "M2" and other "metal matrix" aluminum alloys and steel was just well..........boring! It hasn't been until recently that steel alloys have appeared that rival the weights of aluminum frames and the steel "feel" has been missed by alot of riders. Ya know, steel is real, and all of that!

Steel is heavy, it rusts too easily, and it's just old skool hype. That's what the naysayers talk about. Let's take a look at that!

Heavy? Not anymore, at least not at the highest levels. New steel alloys are being introduced that rival titanium weights, (S-3 True Temper) and have strength of frames weighing more. But by and large you are going to find that, yes steel typically adds weight over other frame material choices. Why use it? Because it has that certain feel, that forgiving nature, that...........okay, I'm going to cut the crap! Steel flexes! Yep! Get over it you stiffness freaks, steel doesn't beat you up and it "works with you" if it's designed correctly. You can ride it all day long and get up the next day for more. Flex is good, if it's used properly and steel can give you that. Okay, I just covered the "old skool hype" comment here too. It's not hype, it's reality, thus the "steel is real" credo that you hear all the time. That's what they are talking about.

Now on to the rusting issue. Steel in it's rawest form can rust, but it resists rusting when alloyed out in other metals. CrMo, ( see the link to find out what that really is) is one of those rust resistant alloys. While it's true that it will eventually rust through if neglected, typically a painted steel bicycle frame can last a lifetime if properly cared for. And that doesn't take a whole lot of effort to do.

Steel is also one of the most thoroughly understood materials that bicycles are made from. It is a highly formable material, so all sorts of butted profiles exist in steel tubing that allows for almost infinite ride tuning by a custom builder. Steel is relatively inexpensive when compared to other materials and is usually the predominately used material for custom frame builders. You can find frame builders using steel all over the place, so getting a fine, high quality steel framest shouldn't be an issue. Picking your builder will be an issue though! Steel also lends itself to fancy joinery methods that other materials are not typically joined with or cannot be joined with. Lugs and fillet ( say "fill-it") brazing are a couple of the most notable methods that come to mind here.

Steel is also a budget bikes best friend when it comes to reasonable light weight and ride quality. Take the Karate Monkey steel 29"er from Surly as an example. I own one, and while it's not splendiferously exciting in ride quality, it's decent and it doesn't beat you up. Not bad for a $470.00 or so frame set. Plus, it's tough as nails, so I don't have to worry if I happen to park it poorly and it falls over. No sweat! Can it break? Sure! But I'd be more worried about my well being if I did break it, or not- steel usually survives bad crashes with a possibility of bending or denting. When it does fail, it's usually not catastrophic, so that's not a worry.

Is steel for you? It could be if you appreciate the springy flex and classic good looks that steel can offer you. It's also high tech enough to run with the big dogs, if you get the right design. It's available from budget all the way up to stratospheric ranges in price and can be custom tuned to ride and perform almost anyway you can imagine. Steel for bicycles has been around a long time now, and I'm willing to bet it'll be around for a long time to come!
A fine example of fillet brazed joinery courtesy of Rob Pennell at Badger Cycles

Next: Titanium

Monday, August 28, 2006

Materials of Choice: Aluminum

Todays subject on materials for bicycle frames is aluminum. It's probably one of the most widely used materials for frame building by mass manufacturers of bicycles. Step into your local "mart" store and check out the......ahem!, "bicycles" there or walk into most any independant bike shop and you will see a predominantly aluminum landscape. This wasn't always the case, and actually, it's quite a recent developement considering the history of the "safety" style of bicycle that we ride today.

Before I get any further into this, let's just clear up a few misconceptions out there. First, it's not just aluminum that's in that thar bicycle frame. It's an alloy of aluminum and other metals that make the combination something more than just plain, straight up aluminum. You may have seen or heard about certain four digit numbers that are bandied about by knaves and peasants in the bike shops or internet forums. Such numbers as 6061 T-6, 7000 series, or 2014 series. This one is that and such and such. You know...........poindexter stuff! It'd take a week of posts just to wade through it all, but if you've got the time, read this. I did, and it made alot of sense to me. Aluminum fabrication, welding, and processing is rather complex. It's easy to see why the bicycle industry didn't adopt the material for widespread use until recently. It's also readily apparent why the industry did adopt aluminum, as well. Read the paper in the link, and you'll understand more.

Now, let's get to the bicycle stuff! As I stated in my previous post, any frame material can be used poorly or brilliantly. Aluminum has become the meal ticket for most of your low end and entry level performance bicycle frames. These are the frames that are not anything to write home about, and in some cases, they may not get you home! Although that is, thankfully, becoming more and more rare. Suffice it to say that these frames are heavy, overbuilt, and display the worst traits in as far as riding quality is concerned. I'm not going to speak much on these types of frames, since they are not really indicative of what a good aluminum frame can be.

Getting to the good qualities that aluminum has to offer, we see light weight, stiffness, ( depending on the alloy used) and corrosion resistance, (again- dependant upon the alloy used). Usually, a highly manipulated, well thought out aluminum frame structure can rival the lightest of bike frames and ride rather well. Aluminum frame tubing can be butted, and formed into complex shapes. The typical rap on aluminum is that it rides too stiff, or in an unforgiving nature, that it's "dead" feeling, and that it "fails with out warning".

As with any "conventional wisdom" there are grains of truth and chaff of falsehood in each of the above statements. Let's take a look at each of the "raps against", shall we?

Rides too stiff: Well, again....not to sound like a broken record, but this is all dependant upon the specific alloy of aluminum chosen and the design that's used to build the frame. You can build an ungodly stiff, brutal machine, (Klein Attitude, circa 1992) or a really sweet handling, all day in the saddle kind of bike. (Cannondale Synapse in the aluminum flavor) You can even build an aluminum bike that is whippy and too compliant! Since aluminum can be tuned in several ways by shaping and butting, you can acheive most any desired ride qualities. Usually, folks that are talking this way, ( too stiff) are referring to the early 90's aluminum bicycles that rode like hay racks. To make this statement today about high end aluminum is just not fair or smart. Sometimes stiff is a good thing though, and aluminum is a great candidate for full suspension designs for this reason.

It rides "dead": Again, usually in referance to early examples of mass produced road bikes or mountain bikes in aluminum. Not necesarily the case today. One thing that has helped in this area is the use of front shocks on mountain bikes and carbon forks on road bikes. Road feel or trail feel is definitely different on aluminum, but not bad, and not extremely bad, as it was years ago. Does it ride like steel or titanium? No, but that doesn't mean it's worse......just different.

Aluminum "fails without warning": While aluminum can and does fail in a catastrophic manner, the instances of this occuring have been less and less over the years. Better understanding of the specific stresses imposed by bicycles on the design and construction of aluminum frame structures has helped manage the material better. As an example, do you remember when everybody was in an uproar over off road aluminum handle bars and how we should change them every three years? Well, while we probably should still do that, who really does? Have you heard that about handle bars recently? I remember when you couldn't open up a magazine without reading an article on that! It seems that aluminum technology for bicycles has come a long way since the early 90's.

This is not to say that aluminum is without it's faults, but usually that's dependant more on the design, how it's used, or misused, and other outside influences- not the material itself. Aluminum is generally regarded as a safe material, and it works quite well in the bicycle world. Is it for you? Possibly. If you are buying mass produced or small manufacturers bikes, you can't go wrong with aluminum. If it's a specific, custom design, it may prove a bit more problematic. While there are full on custom design aluminum bicycle frame builders out there, they are fewer in number than, say steel or titanium frame builders. So getting what you want might be a bit more of a hassle, but still do-able.

Finally, let me comment on a recent "fad" most commonly seen in road bikes, but also in off road machines. That being carbon fiber rear seat stays or complete rear triangles made out of the stuff and bonded to an aluminum front end. While I'm not ready to expound on the carbon fiber part of the equation, I just want to say that alot of designs utilizing this fashionable trend are nothing but, well........fashionable! It plays upon the consumers pre-conceptions that "aluminum is harsh- carbon fiber is good". Beware of poser designs! Nuff said!

Tomorrow: Steel

Materials of Choice

I was thinking this weekend about frame materials for bicycles and what the common perceptions/ misperceptions of each are. It's pretty funny when reading the internet forums sometimes. People have some pretty wonky ideas out there about what frame materials are best, how they ride, and what makes them fail. I figured that I have some wonky ideas of my own on the subject, so why not share them with you? This is what this weeks posts will be about.

I figured that each frame material will get it's own post and I'll spout off what I know about each one and then give my personal opinions on each. I've owned and ridden them all but for titanium, to which I will defer to an "expert" for an opinion on. (You'll have to wait to see who that is) Well, I did ride a titanium stem once! So I guess I've used a little Ti on a bike.

I will say this about anything you can make a bicycle frame out of. First of all; any frame material can be used poorly or brilliantly. Anything can be broken. Any frame material common to bicycle building in this day and age can be made into a lightweight bicycle. A really light weight bicycle. So, there is no best material out there based upon these attributes.

The key to making the best bicycle is to match all of the frame materials best attributes to the riding style and purpose of the rider in the best way possible within budget constraints. Now it might be that the frame material chosen might not be the wisest for the riding style, purpose, and money available, but I bet a pretty decent bike could still be made, within reason. Of course, you can totally screw up everything by poor design, execution, lack of proper funding, or by mis-using the end product.

So, if we are all aware that the above stated things are true, then we can talk about the nuances that might make a difference in the world of bicycle riding in terms of different frame materials.
The materials I would like to discuss are Aluminum, steel, titanium, and carbon fiber. There are other frame materials, (magnesium, and even bamboo!) but I'm going to focus on these four materials since they are the most commonly used and available materials for bicycle frames today. I'll throw in some 29"er commentary on each as well!

Tomorrow: Aluminum

Sunday, August 27, 2006

It's Knocking On The Door: Fall!

Riding around the area here I've noticed that the signs of the Fall season are upon us. Soon I'll be bustin' out the jackets and gloves to ride to work in. Cool, crisp air is on the way. Bright blue skies freed from moisture and dust. I can't wait! Fall is my favorite time of year to ride off road.

Somewhat akin to my penchant for going on a long summer "Death Ride" every year, Fall brings out the single track epic for me during the year. Usually I'll wait until the colors are primo in the woods and I'll string together all the local singletrack into one big ride. Sometimes I don't hit the right weekend, ( you never know until you are out there) so I have to do it all over again the next weekend! Poor, poor pitiful me!

This year may bring about a different scenario. Certain circumstances have arisen that may cause a change in plans, so stay tuned! I'll probably still get in the traditional , long single track ride, but there is definitely going to be some extra curricular activities. Some of those activities will have to do with this, but not all. Look to this web page for more updates and hints later on this fall!

So, I'm excited and looking forwards to some great rides. I also, as I have written before, am really looking forward to Interbike! I'll say it again: "Interbike- The Year of the 29"er"! This years show will be chock full of 29"er goodness and I am really excited about all the new bikes and gear news coming our way. Of course, I'll be spouting forth all the news and views from my chair here in the Guitar Ted Labratories for your enjoyment. Yep! I'll be stuck here, barring a miracle, since whatever money I can make at the shop will be needed going into winter time and fewer hours at the shop. Hard reality, but the heat doesn't stay turned on because I flew to Vegas, ya know what I mean?

Okay, nuff said 'bout that! I'm patiently awaiting the news from Afton that should be posted later today. Hopefully, it's good stuff.......................

Have a great weekend and ride yer bicycle!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Book Report

I spent some time reading the Trek propaganda on the Fisher and Bontrager parts available for '07. Here are a few of the salient features that I found by ferreting through the info.

Slack Angle: The seat tube angle listed for the Super Caliber Race Day 29"er and the Caliber Race Day 29"er is a bit on the slack side at 72 degrees. Not a super surprise on a full suspension bike, but did you know that the Ferrous 29"er has the same 72 degree seat tube angle? That's a bit surprising, but of course, the info I read could be wrong. Anyway, I think that it's a bit interesting and rather old skool for the Ferrous to have that seat tube angle. Reminds me of my '92 Park Pre Team 925 that had parallel 72 degree head and seat tube angles.

Rig Available As A Frameset: Fisher doesn't really advertise this, but you could really upgrade that Monocog or other el-cheapo 29"er single speed with a Rig frameset. The frameset comes with a cool Bontrager SwitchBlade rigid fork too!

Tubeless Ready: Bontrager is finally advertising it's much rumored Tubeless Ready tire technology as being available for 29"ers. Here's the dealio: Bontrager ACX, XR, and a new tread pattern, the Dry X are all "Tubeless Ready". That means the bead of these folding tires has been designed to lock into the hook on Bontrager Tubless Ready rims in a more positive manner. That means that if you choose not to use a tube, you can rely on the tire and rim not to let you down by blowing off. The next step to getting the Tubeless Ready system up and going is to use the Super Juice sealant which causes the inner casing to "seal" up and retain air better. Plus, it's a sealant for punctures too. Once the Super Juice has a chance to cover the inside of the tire, the system is ready for tubeless duty on your favorite 29"er. Bontrager claims a significant weight savings over standard tubeless tires because they do not have to add extra butyl rubber to the casing to seal up the tire from air leakage. That's the Super Juice's job in Bontragers system. It's lighter, and there's how you save weight.

Availability Issues: The Fisher 29"er availability was pretty sketchy for '06. Trek says that this was due to a larger than expected demand and parts availability snafus. Trek claims that they are building more frames than in '06 to cover the forecasted demands and that the parts availability issues are solved. Look for better representation of Fisher's 29"ers on your shop's floors for '07.

Sizes Run Large! Looking at the geometry charts, I noticed that the effective top tube lengths and minimum/ maximum cockpit lengths on the Fisher 29"ers were putting me on medium sized frames! That's pretty surprising, since I've been large or bigger in most sizing scales since,...........well, since Junoir High School! Better check the sizing on a Fisher carefully before you purchase!

Friday, August 25, 2006

My Prediction: 29"ers Are Going Down!

There has been some serious rumor milling going down about some new 29"er hardware that will soon erase the barriers of down hilling and free ride that have kept 29"ers off certain trails. I'm seeing several new developements already, including BCD Racings DH 29"er , Niner's R.I.P. 9, and several new rumblings of frames with D.W. Links and other hoo ha.

What does it all mean? Well, it looks as though the nay-sayers are going to be proven wrong once again. Remember how some folks would say that 29"ers wheels would never hold up? That they weren't tough enough? Well, with the correct equipment, forks , and tires on the way, I think we're going to start seeing a revolution out on the trails. It's going to have big wheels, and they will hold up.

Inter Bike should be an impressive and hopeful time for those of you out there waiting for longer travel, better forks, and meatier tires to go do your all mountain or free riding with. I can't wait to see it too, even though I have about as much use for a five inch travel trail bike as I do another hole in my head! We accomplish much here with little to no suspension on our bikes, but I know that's not the case every where.

Anyway, look for 29"ers to be flying downhill at a trail near you........soon!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Trek's "69er": A Case of What If

Ever since Travis Brown rolled out a pink proto type of this bike about a year ago, folks have been buzzing about the possibilities that Trek might be finally coming out with (a) a single speed bike, and (b) a 29"er. Well Trek answered the questions with (a) and half of (b). This leaves us with a strange bike with really cool details.

Let's forget about the fact that this bike hasn't got the wheel size thing sorted out for a minute and look at these details. Probably the most obvious of the details is the modified Maverick fork, painted to match the rest of the bike. (I can imagine that this was done partly to discourage folks from parting out the "69er" and selling the fork on it's own) We also see some machined chain retention devices on the rear cog and and crankset. This is about as close to a "signature" bike as you could imagine. I'm not sure why Trek didn't drop the rediculous "69er" moniker in favor of something more appropriate, like "The Brownie".

The rear sliding drop out/ chain tensioner is a heavy duty looking piece of machine work and looks to be a reliable way to keep the rear wheel in check, even though it looks a bit out of place on the elegantly curving, hydro formed frame. This frame, by the way, looks suspiciously like a Trek 8000 series frame. I wonder if the actual head and seat tube angles on the "69er" were at all tweaked to reflect the use of the 29"er front wheel. Hmm.............

Now on to the "What if" portion of my take on this bike. Even with all the "Travis Brown-esque" coolness of this bike, it still is a conundrum of a bike that will no doubt leave many a single speeder scratching their heads. The obvious "why" of the front and rear wheel sizes alone will be enough to put this bike in danger of being a "hangar queen" at the bike shops. (Although Trek insists that orders for this bike are "brisk")

The bikes "bling" nature will obviously appeal to some single speeders, but it certainly goes against the grain of your "typical" single speeder mindset. Not to mention the fact that it's an aluminum frame, which again isn't really a single speeders typical first choice in frame materials.

What if Trek had instead come out with a steel single speed? Certainly Trek has a long lineage in steel hard tail mountain bikes. A "Single Track Single" would have been way cooler than this and most likely far cheaper than the $1650.00 price tag of the "69er". Now what if the bike had not only been steel, but designed by Keith Bontrager, and stickered as such? ( Drooling yet?........I thought so!) My guess is that Trek would have had more than "brisk" orders coming in for that single speed!

Okay, let's say Trek and Mr. Brown still get their way, but allow for the "69er" to fit a 29"er wheel in back. More takers that way? I'm thinking, yes. Let's say that Trek not only did that, but served up a replacement right side drop out to allow for gears. More takers? You betcha!

So, is Trek stupid, or what? It's like they are saying no to more sales. I hope that their little foray into odd ball single speed blingleness is somewhat successful, and not a flop, but it's really apparent that there are better ways to serve up a single speed than this. Come on guys! I'm just a simple Iowa boy and I'm certainly not a marketing guru, but this bike isn't making alot of sense to me. Especially considering all the what ifs.

............and that's not even getting into the "69er" thing, which is another story!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Trek World and Some Thoughts

Well, after perusing the info from Trek World, probably the most interesting thing from a complete bike standpoint was the Fisher Ferrous. A True Temper OX Platinum tubed bike with gears and an eccentric bottom bracket.

There are a few things here that are interesting. When was the last time that a major manufacturer introduced a steel hardtail, much less a 29"er steel hardtail. At least a high end one. I can only think of Jamis and Marin as companies that have held on to a steel hardtail in their lineup over the years, but no one introducing one! The other thing that's causing consternation amongst the purists is the eccentric bottom bracket/ geared combo.

Well, just like most other companies out there, Fisher probably is thinking that they are covering their bases with single speeder steel lovers and the steel gearie crowd with this bike. Makes sense from the manufacturers viewpoint. It raises an interesting question; however, since this tactic is being used by Fisher.

My thought has been that other companies are doing things like this to get a better foothold in the overall 29"er market. Fisher doesn't have that issue to deal with. They almost single handedly created the market for 29"ers. So why throw the "do-it-all" frameset at us? I would have rather had Fisher do a geared only frame and then maybe replace the Rig with a steel SS. But that would have taken away the most wildly popular 29"er Fisher has yet produced. Yes, but I think the Rigs popularity is due for a bit of a slide and that by introducing a steel single speed "rig", the fire would have been rekindled. Or what the heck! Have both! Niner does it, and seems to have no problem selling both aluminum and steel single speeds. Anyway.........

The Ferrous, yeah............ Nice bike. Reba Race Air fork, SRAM X-9 rear derailluer and shifters, and Bontrager Race Disc 29"er wheelset. Bonty controls in the handle bar and stem. Seat and seat post, yep! Bontrager. Crankset.......Bontrager. I know, I know........the crankset is really TruVativ and the wheels are decent and all but I long for the days when bikes were spec'ed out with some quality name branded parts, even if they aren't any better than, well........Bontrager! Sorry, but Bontrager, Icon, and System One, Two, and Three are all pretty interchangeable vanilla flavor parts in my mind. Must be just me, 'cause lots of folks still go for that Bontrager stuff. And yes, there are some pretty nice carbon cranks and other bits out there. Yeah......I know that!

Hey, here's an idea! Quit B.S-ing us with this "Bontrager" crap and call it what it is for a change. We appreciate honesty out here. Be real!

The Fisher Ferrous is still a pretty cool bike despite the EBB and Bonty bits, but you have to be willing to overlook the quirks to get to the steel, gearie goodness. That's my take. What do you think?

Full view of the Ferrous 29"er in a cool "Devo Blue" color and subdued graphics.

Detail shot of the uniquely curvaceous seat stays.

Looks like a replaceable drop out. I wonder if Fisher will provide a SS only module? Hmmm..?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Trek World and Some Tidbits

Many of you may know about Trek World, the dealer only bicycle showcase that Trek puts on this time of year in lieu of going to Inter Bike. The show was this past weekend, and my imbedded mole was there taking it all in. I have yet to digest all the materials and photos from the show yet, so I won't make any full on analysis until tomorrow. Until then, here are a couple of things that stood out to me so far.

1. Tubeless ready wheelset and two tubeless tires fo 29"ers to be available soon. One tire is a currently used design, the other is to be a previously unreleased design that is described as a race treaded tire. Also, the XR's are said to be "tubeless compatible" right now! I have seen reports of guys running the XR's tubeless, so this isn't necessarily news other than it now seems that the company says it's okay to do it.

2. The Fisher Ferrous: We saw a 26" proto type last year and were wishing that we could have had it in a 29"er then. Well, we got it. Sky blue glory, with a EBB and derailluer hangar. They sell it geared, by the way, but I suspect alot of these will get SS'ed in a heartbeat.

3. A Manitou 29"er Fork? Well......yeah, sort of........ Probably not until '08. (sigh!)

4. More Fork News: Many of you might know about Genesis 2, Fishers newest incarnation of his Genesis theories on bicycle geometry that has resulted in a new offset/ trail figure for his 26"er forks. So far, Manitou is the only manufacturer on board, but my mole tells me that he learned that Rock Shox and Fox are currently testing proto types to enter in this new offset/ trail standard. First of all: If this is true, then Fisher commands alot of respect in the mtb world. Enough to change the fork status quo that has held reign for over ten years now. Amazing! Even more pertinent to this reporter is the fact that this offset is perfect for 29"er forks. I suspect we will see this used on future 29'er suspension forks and soon.

More on Trek World tomorrow!

In other news: White Brothers is releasing a rigid fork for both 26 and 29 inch wheels! More details at Inter Bike time.

I posted up a little verbosity and a few of Jeremy Bidwells excellent pics on the GTDRI blog, if yer interested................

Formulating the fall plans now. Looking to get alot of Trans Iowa V3 work done. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, August 21, 2006

More on G.T.D.R.I.

Photo Credit: Matt wills/ Folks From Lincoln blog. Thanks for these pics Matt!

This is somewhere earlier in the ride at a point where we decided to regroup. Actually, it was a nature break, if ya know what I mean! South of Waterloo on Ainsborough Avenue. Everything was wet and clammy at this point.

Here is Cory Heintz and myself at the convenience store in Steamboat Rock. We had ridden most of the day in coudy, overcast conditions, but the sun came out not long before we got here. Yes! That is a bottle of beer! Matt and I shared it while we refueled. It was also here that we discovered that my tire was going flat. We had about 45 miles to go from here, so Jeremy Bidwell had logged his first century by this point. Great ride Jeremy! This guy is ready for some long distance racing action. He rode super strongly all day. In fact, so did Cory, pictured here, who rocked it single speed.

Sorry that I don't have any good pictures! My camera went retarded on the ride with the lense jammed open and not functioning at all. I just threw it in my pack, only to take it out miles later to find out that it was still on, and getting hot! I got it to turn off, and just let it be. Not much time to fiddle with rebellious technology on this trip!

Some meaningless stats for ya! Out of six Death Riders, five were single speeders. Out of the four finishers, one was geared. 151.7 miles in about 14 and a half hours total time for the last two in, just shy of 14 hours for the other two guys. We guessed about an hour and a half to two hours were rest stop times.

Some meaningless observations: Technology is not conducive to my riding style. Beer might just be the perfect carb replacement fluid, taken in extreme moderation. Beer might also be the reason I wanted to crawl in the ditch and go to sleep just northeast of Steamboat Rock! ( Hmmm....that patch of foxtails looks comfy!) Suffering was overcome, which was the best feeling of all for me on the trip. Having a riding buddy helps a ton! (Thanks Matt! I'm glad I got to know you. Thanks for the time you rode along with me.) Crop duster overspray sucks, take it from me! Cory complained about a "cottony feeling" in his throat. I've had that too. Must be the dust. Dirty Kanza had a similar effect.

Okay then! That's it from me on the G.T.D.R.I. ! Thanks again, ya'all for doing what you did for it. (You know who you are) I can say that most all thought it was a success, so that's what I'm calling it. Will it ever happen again? Well, let me just say that as long as I can ride a bike, there will always be a "Death Ride" every summer. It might not be as "promoted" as this was, but I won't stop riding long rides on gravel as long as I can do it. Keep yer eyes out though, next summer is a long ways off!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

151.7 Miles: GTDRI Report

First of all, I'd like to appologize to those of you that were looking for an audio-blog here. I just didn't have time to put one up due to the fact that if we weren't riding, we were eating, and that's all we left time for.

Now on to the report: GTDRI started off in the pre-dawn haze of Saturday morning with the riders getting organized in the parking lot of Pfieffer Park in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Attending were the following riders: David and Mark Pals, Jeremy Bidwell, Cory Heintz, Matt Wills, and myself. We had an escort of four other cyclists for the ride out of town that included Jeff Kerkove, John Adamson, Chris Congdon, and Rob ( sorry, his last name slips me right now!)

After Cory made it into the parking lot and got ready, we were off at about 6:20am. The pace was a bit quick on the bike paths out of town and on the initial portions of gravel, but after our escorts peeled off, we settled down to a nice pace. GTDRI isn't a race, so we all stuck together for the most part through the early sections of the course. It was very hazy/ foggy in the early hours, giving a ghostly quality to the ride. There was absolutely no wind.

To Traer: The ride was mostly rollers and a few small hills coming into Tama County. I made a slight navigational error, ( I ended up being the navigator on the ride) which didn't affect the mileage or get us lost. Too busy yakking! After about two and a half hours, we were in Traer. This was much faster than I had anticipated, as I though that if we got there by ten o'clock, that we would have "been on schedule".

On To Gladbrook: The riders quickly fueled and watered at the convenience store in Traer and we were off again. We were pretty excited that we were ahead of schedule. Leaving Traer going south, we encountered our first "B" level road. After three days of rain, I didn't know if we were going to be in trouble or not. As it turned out, it was rideable, but the mud would build up on the tires and fling off in large chunks making the sky around us look like it was filled with flak. It wasn't long after this that we started to fracture into pairs. The Pals brothers, Matt and myself, and Cory and Jeremy, who were constantly off the front. We would regroup from time to time, but inevitably we would end up in these pairings for the rest of the ride.

By the way, I should mention that we were all on singlespeeds with the exception of Jeremy who was riding a sweet old Killer V hardtail. The weather was overcast, and by the time we reached a northward section of the course, we were getting a stiff headwind. I also missed a turn that cut three miles off of the course, but went across a much hillier section, so really, it was no advantage. We finally rolled into Gladbrook about 12:20 or so, and were met by David and Marks father who was there to check us out. We chowed and drank and bugged out after about a half an hour or so. The course continued northwards and the wind made things pretty tough.

On to Steamboat Rock: We encountered our next "B" road section, and much like the first, the soil balled up on our tires and flung up into the air around us. A little more north and then we had a brief respite from the wind with a westward section. We noticed that David and Mark were way off the pace. David had mentioned that he had a cold and was having trouble pushing very hard. When he and his brother reached us, David said to not wait up for them anymore, because he didn't want them to be slowing us down like that. That was the last we saw of them. Later, David e-mailed me to say that they continued on to the next "B" road section and bailed off course to a nearby town and had their Dad pick them up. They made it halfway. Good riding fellows! Hopefully you get to feeling better soon, David!

The next "B" road section was more like a farmers access road to his fields. It was basically a cutting through two corn fields. "B" roads never cease to amaze me. Anyway, we had a long slog through a westward portion of the course. We were entertained breifly by a crop duster. We were south of the feilds he was spraying and we got into an overspray in the wind which was noted by a weird chemical smell in the air. Nice! I'm sure it didn't help any!

We had about eight miles north to go to get into Steamboat Rock. I was getting pretty tired by this time. I'd been up for twelve hours and was actually having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Matt and I weren't having much conversation at all by this point. I suspect he was a bit tired too. He left Lincoln at 12 midnight, drove straight through to Cedar Falls and got right on his bike!

Onwards to the finish: We got into Steamboat Rock a bit after 4pm., which I knew would put us into night riding eventually. We stopped to eat and drink, with Matt and I sharing a 40 ouncer of Budweiser. (Why not? It's carbs, right?) Matt noticed that my rear tire was pretty soft, so we changed out my tube and then we got back to riding a little before 5pm. But not until we feilded a few questions from the locals which included the inevitable, "Do you guys ride on RAGBRAI?". Bah!

Well, with Jeremy and Cory pointed in the right direction, they took off at their own high pace to the east. Matt and I were left to ourselves after the crossing of the Iowa river just west of Steamboat Rock. I thought I was not going to make it, I was so sleepy! But I had bought two cans of Monster energy drink at the last convenience store, ( No Red Bull! Grrr!) and I slammed one of them along with an anti-fatigue pill. I got my eyes opened up and felt much better. In fact I felt alot better. The ride back across Grundy and Black Hawk county was really fun, and Matt and I enjoted great conversation along the way. We finally got back to Pfieffer Park after riding about 45 minutes in the dark at about 9:05 pm. Cory and Jeremy were there, and they had arrived at about 8:20pm. We enjoyed some post ride brews, and then took our leave of each other, satisfied in the fact that we had all ridden over 150 miles in one shot.

I want to thank everyone involved in GTDRI for making it a success. We had fun and we suffered, but it was all worth it. It's always great to get together with like minded folks and enjoy a long bike ride together. Cheers!

GTDRI pics can be accessed from here for now, more to come!

Friday, August 18, 2006

G.T.D.R.I. Set To Go!

Well it's been a long time coming, but it's finally time to go on that long "death ride" that I've been planning all summer long. Just an outgrowth of two things really. One being the desire every summer to go on a long, long, all day bicycle ride. In the past these attempts at cycling overload would result in hours of zombie-like behaviour afterwards due to dehydration and a total lack of an understanding of nutritional needs. ( What?! You can't ride for hours and hours fueled only by a bag of Doritos at the halfway point?) The other factor leading to the incarnation of this ride was the experiences that I have had at both Trans Iowa events and at the Dirty Kanza 200 this past May.

That's pretty much the whole reasoning behind the initializing of "The Death Ride". Now I also have a small test model for what is going to be Trans Iowa V3. It'll be not only fun to throw myself into an all day cycling frenzy, but it will be all for the cause of research!

Speaking of research: I have been doing almost all of my training/ recon rides for GTDRI on my Midge barred Karate Monkey single speed. Hand problems are always one of the issues with long rides and the Midge bar is good, but I wondered if I could maybe make it better. I have been playing with gel pad strips and gel tape which has yeilded a set up that is going to see it's first big test tomorrow. I also am pretty scared off of wearing cycling gloves due to the fact that most of the models I've tried tend to be so compressive that my fingers go numb in a matter of minutes. Also, the openings around the fingers tend to pinch off the blood flow and are just plain uncomfortable for me. Well, I got a tip from a seasoned veteran of endurance and it's pretty low tech/ retro. I'll be testing that out this weekend too. Results might be revealed later!

So the weather might be a bit sketchy. We'll see. The few "B" level roads that are on route could prove to be interesting though. Especially with the constant nature of the rain over the past few days. Only about three to three and a half miles to traverse over the entire course though. The B roads won't kill us, but if they are mucky, they'll sure slow us down! Tell you what: I'd rather that it be cool, partly cloudy, or even that we get rained on sometime during the ride than have it be sunny, humid, and 90 degrees all afternoon. Talk about death!

I'll be posting audio blogs tomorrow from the pass through towns of Traer, Gladbrook, and Steamboat Rock. Look for those later in the morning tomorrow to start popping up. Until then, have a great day and ride your bikes!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cycling News Revamps 29"er vs 26"er Test

Awhile back you might remember revealing that they had two Seven Cycles hardtails set up as identically as possible with the "only" difference being the wheel size. One had 29 inch wheels and the other had 26 inch wheels. A hue and cry went up immediately from the 29"er camp, ( including myself) that the 29"er was designed incorrectly and was limited by gearing issues in comparison to the 26"er that they had set up.

Well, to their credit, has stepped up to the plate with a totally revamped 29"er to compensate for the differences. They started by having a frame made with more "proper" 29"er geometry including a steeper head angle which brought the trail figure in line with the 26"er. (Interestingly, the bike developes a bit of toe overlap, thus pointing out what 29"er afficiandos have said all along: we need a different 29"er specific fork offset!) Also, they shortened up the chainstays just a bit to get the wheelbase in check. These changes have resulted in a noticeable difference in handling according to their tester, James Huang, who was also quick to point out that the "wheels are still awfully big and substantially heavier".

One of the interesting notes was the "appologetic" on the first iteration of the test 29"er:

"While it is true that our 29er does require a smidge more conviction to snake through twisty terrain, I didn't necessarily find the handling characteristics to be particularly objectionable and I have yet to blow a corner as result."

And that was with 18 inch plus chainstays and a "slack" 71 degree head angle! Maybe 29"ers aren't all that and a bag of chips, but this would indicate that even a poorly concieved example can ride quite well, thank you!

So, it would appear that the new 29"er being tested has narrowed the gap on handling substantially, normalized the test example to better reflect current 29"er frame design, and should result in a more reasonable test than the first bike would have provided us. However; the cyclingnews crew wasn't done yet. They added power meters to both bikes! Kudos!

Now the last hurdle will be the most troublesome and subjective of all: Handling the quirks and characteristics of 29"ers. That's going to be on Mr. Huang's shoulders and whether or not he can manage to learn the nuances of 29"er handling in a reasonably short period of time to allow this story to be completed on schedule remains to be seen. Quite frankly; we may never know the "true" outcome of that question. I assume that he is a quite talented rider, but the 29"er is going to require that he "un-learn" some habits from his 26"er days to get a "fully objective" look at the 29"er, and then we'll all know what works best...........for him!

While I applaud cyclingnews for going above and beyond the call of duty here. While I admit and declare that this might possibly be the very best test of 29"er vs. 26"er to date: There is only one thing we will know without a doubt afterwards. That is what bike James Huang works best on. You see, we humans are all different. (sorry about the "Mr. Obvious" stuff here, but it doesn't appear that this is obvious!) A 29"er won't work for everybody. A 29"er doesn't do "everything" better than a 26"er. Horses for courses. Some folks power output will be maximised on a 29"er at certain courses and on others it might be a 26"er. To make it painfully obvious: You wouldn't attack a DH course on a fully rigid cyclo cross bike, right? Of course not. There is a correct tool for that job.

That is what we hope to find out from this testing. Not which wheel size is "best" as in "overall best", but where 29"ers shine better than 26"ers and vice versa. Perhaps this will begin to show that there is a place for each wheel size in your "quiver" to accomplish different tasks. Personally, I feel better on 29"ers. I like them much better for almost all of my riding. You might disagree, or have different needs. That's okay too.

I'll be watching this test with interest. How about you?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Look, News and Views

What the...............: Yeah, this is Guitar Ted Productions. You haven't lost your mind! I was just as surprised as you probably were when I checked things out here from work on a break. I had thought a bit about an update, and had talked a bit about it with the mad scientist behind Kerkove Media. The next thing I know, it's done! Thanks for the refresh Jeff, and I think the site looks great. What do you think?

Giro From Head To Toe: You are probably familiar with Giro as a helmet company, but did you know that they are launching a line of cycling footwear too? Looks as though it's going to happen according to a news bit on the Bicycling Retailer and Industry News site. Should be interesting to see what they come up with. That's a pretty competitive marketplace, so I hope for their sake that they come up with some cool stuff.

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: The days are passing quickly and soon we'll be out grinding 150 miles of limestone. If you are coming and you have not e-mailed me that you are, please do that now! ( ) There are two other points of interest here. 1. The event will be audio-blogged to this site on Saturday the 19th. For those of you who are interested, I'll try to make it interesting to listen to! 2. Sunrise was the start time, which is after 6am, but I'm thinking we should get started at no later than 6am. If you are one of the guys that has e-mailed me that you are coming, I'll be e-mailing this to you as a bulletin.

Trek World: The Trek World show for dealers only is also this weekend. Guitar Ted Labratories has a special secret camera dude that will be at the event. Look for a detailed report coming up next week. Until then, let's all hope that my camera dude can outwit the crafty and cunning Trek Factory Gnome!

In The Still Waiting Department: "It" still hasn't arrived yet. Maybe "it" won't for awhile due to the filling in of pre-orders for other folks. Hmm................I'm wondering now if "it" might not show up for awhile. Okay for now though. There will be plenty of time that way to get the hardware aquisition machine up and running!

Oh yeah! One More Thing!: This guy rocks! If you ever thought that cycling prowess peaked in your thirties and went downhill from there, then you need to check this guy out. He didn't get that message. And neither should you! Rock on hard man!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ergon Grip Review Update

Note: All links will take you to Ergon's site which is in German. To see the products, click on the pdf download links. The new "Joystick" grips can be seen along with the rest of the catalog. I appologize for any inconvenience this might cause but they are a German company after all!

Awhile back I did a review on Ergon grips. This post is an update of that review. (Note: I use the full length Ergon grip as pictured in the overhead shot of my Inbred 29"er. The grip is also available for Grip Shift applications as shown in the picture to the left)

As I stated in the original review, the Ergon grip is very posistion sensitive. You really need to play with the tilt of the grip to achieve the optimum set up for your bike and your hands. In the overhead shot, you can hardly tell that the grip has a "tail section" due to the upward tilt of that tail. I made several micro adjustments to find "the right" tilt to the "tail" or flatter section of the grip. It was mostly pointed upwards and towards me as I sat on the bike.

Not long ago, a well respected endurance rider that tried these grips stated that they were wonderful up to about three hours of riding, but that they then became unbearable. Actually, he said that they felt as if they had "bruised" his hands! I thought that was rather odd, until it happened to me!

I used these grips at the Dirty Kanza 200 in May. I only made it about 90 miles or so before I had to drop out due to dizziness. I felt that the grips were a bit troublesome during the event, but it wasn't until afterwards that I experienced the worst part. I felt as though I had smacked my hands on cement for about a week afterwards. The butt ends of my palms were pretty tender, as if I had bruised them. The sensation went away after a week or so, and now I am fine.

Not wanting to give up on the grips, I tried readjusting them just after the Dirty Kanza while my hands were still hurting. I found that a downward tilt, away from my head and pointing the tail section of the grip down from horizontal felt better. This was a radical change from what I had been doing with the Ergons and nothing like my friends run theirs. However; after a couple of months of riding them this way, I must say that I won't be going back to the previous upwards tilt again. The true test is a multi hour ride, but in rides of slightly over three hours upwards to four hours, I have not experienced the "bruising" feeling again. I will say that the grips are slightly tougher to hold on to in rough stuff in this posistion, so beware and use a grippy glove if necessary.

Speaking of rougher riding. Ergon is going to introduce a "rounder" cross section grip ( called the "Joystick") for rough terrain, or for riders that require a better grip for bike manouevering. Look for it to come out soon!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Intense Cycles To Manufacture 29"er Tires?

I had time to peruse my Bicycle Retailer and Industry News this weekend and came across this bit in the August 15th issue on page 10 in an article about Intense's revamped management and manufacturing moves:
According to Steber, Intense is currently releasing the first production of its 29-inch Spider model. The company also is releasing a line of FRO limited-edition models including Spider FRO and Socum FRO. "You will also see a complete BMX race bike and some 29-inch tires," he said. No mention of what might become available, but I have seen Intense's 26" offerings in tires and they are pretty interesting.

In Other Goings On: It looks as though Jamis has decided to join the 29"er fray with one steel framed single speed, ( yes, another single speed 29"er!) and an aluminum geared hardtail, (Yes!). The bikes look pretty sharp.

The Guitar Ted Death Ride group is shaping up to be a nice little posse. Weather is looking as though it might co-operate too. Have you decided to come? Get your map at the GTDRI blogsite!

Will "It" Come Today? Part One: I've been waiting a whole week. It's supposedly in the mail. Maybe it'll be here after I get back from doing onsite installments of autoshifting bikes on trainers in Grundy Center today. ( No! I didn't just make that last part up!) You guys and gals will know when it arrives! Just wait...............

End of the season yet? Are you going to do another race or two? Psyhco-crossing it this fall? What are you going to do? Fall is could dare to do this!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday Morning Edition

With all the Trans Iowa talk going on, I was reminded of this bike that was in at the shop recently. The guy gravel ground it till it wouldn't function anymore! He had worn out EVERYTHING! No.......really! He did!

I saw a bumper sticker while commuting home the other day: "I poke Badgers with spoons" Awesome!

Actually, there is a rumor that the ultimate gravel grinder and a Badger may have something in common......stay tuned!

Remember that I posted a few days ago about the published text I wrte in the Haro catalog? Well, here it is! Thanks go out to Mike Varley of Haro Bikes for the opportunity to do this and for helping to get this to print! Thanks!

If ya can't read it, I'm sorry! It's the best pic I could get of it. Here's an idea........go to your nearest Haro dealer and getcher own catalog!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Saturday Bits

Update on Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: We're one week away folks! Here's an update. Check it out!

Update on Trans Iowa V-III: Check the new header that Mr. 24 came up with! The "poll" that I started on has brought some good feedback to Mr. 24 and I. Once again, T.I. would be in late April, and this time it would be a loop course. Got ideas? Send them our way.

Summer is about over. College and community schools are coming into session. Days are getting shorter. Looks like racing days will be coming down to an end in the next few months for alot of us. But wait! Something is lurking on the horizon.........a last hurrah! A final "epic" slog through backroads in the middle of no where. Put it all on number 13 and let it ride!

Have a great weekend and get yer ride on!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Can There Ever Be Too Much? Part Two

I just wanted to make this post reflect the reason for yesterdays post by showing you what is currently available and what is being introduced in the single speed 29"er hardtail mountain bike world. To keep it simple, I am limiting this to complete bikes available at or through most bike shops nation wide, (U.S.) and any major bike manufacturer offerings. ( manufacturers bikes that are distributed across the U.S.)

Already available: Aluminum: Niner- One Nine, Fisher- Rig, S&M- BM Flyer.

Steel: Surly: Karate Monkey, Raleigh- XXIX, Redline- Monocog, Niner- Sir 9, Salsa- El Mariachi, Kona- Unit 29, VooDoo- Dambala.

Being introduced this year: Aluminum: Bianchi- Rita

Steel: Haro- Mary, GT- Peace, Jamis Dakota 29(?)

These are bikes that I could think of off the top of my head, with no research. Might be, ( and probably are) others that I missed.

I also puposely left off the "sub-marketed" One One Inbred and a host of "boutique" builders like Ventana, Curtlo, Badger, Walt Works, Wily, Independant Fabrications, Retro Tec/ Inglis, Moots, and a host of other builders that have been filling the void of mass produced single speeds all along.

The market place is getting crowded and more introductions may follow that I am unaware of right now. I haven't said anything about geared hardtail 29"ers, but they are getting some action, as well. Fisher is coming out with a Ferrous 29"er(steel- a first for Fisher), Haro has a Mary XC, Raleigh is going to have one, and Cannondale's Caffeine 29"er is due out in September.

It's going to be a busy trade show season, that's for sure!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Can There Ever Be Too Much?

During an on-line forum posting frenzy I came across the idea that perhaps there are too many steel, 29 inch wheeled, hardtail, single speed bikes either available or becoming available soon. I think that I am in agreement with that thought, but not for the reasons that you might think.

First of all, why is there so many of this type of bike? A single speed 26 inch wheeled bike isn't as well supported by the major or second tier manufacturers as a 29 inch wheeled single speed is. What gives? I think there are two major reasons for this phenomena.

The single speed drivetrain and 29 inch wheels are a marriage made in heaven....or so it would seem! Momentum is highly prized by single speeders. 29 inch wheels conserve momentum, not losing it as quickly as 26 inch wheels do. Need I go on?

The next thing that makes the 29 inch wheeled single speed a popular option for manufacturers to try is that it's cheaper to test the waters of the 29"er marketplace with this sort of platform. No drivetrain is simpler. Less parts equals less invested in the project. Have you noticed that most of these 29"ers are sub-$1000 rigs? That's a definite play to you out there to see if you will bite on the 29"er thing. Manufacturers feel that if there really is a market for 29 inch wheels, it'll be easier to snag on that action if the price is low. That and the fact that 29"ers and single speeding is like white on rice. Manufacturers see the numbers of custom 29"ers out there, a large portion of which are single speeds. Now does it make more sense as to why there are so many 29"er steel hardtail single speeds available?

Getting to my point: that there are too many of this type of bike, I say that it's a bad thing in the long run. Some would argue that more choice is better, and they would have my hearty agreement.......for the short term. However; the manufacturers are about to oversaturate the market place with these specialized rigs. This will result in poor sales for alot of these manufacturers that are testing the market. They are also going to be bitten by poor representation on the dealer floors due to a skittish attitude about 29"ers. Also, the ones that do bring them in for sale will probably have a poorly trained staff in the area of the nuances of 29"ers which will result in lackluster sales of these single speed 29"ers. (see early Fisher dealers for an example of the failure of bike shops to understand 29"ers) The end result will be a pull back on the part of the manufacturer from the 29 inch wheeled segment, claiming that there is no market support for the bikes. I give alot of these companies a year or two at best.

The companies that persevere in this segment and go beyond the single speed to geared hardtails and (gasp!) full suspension 29"ers will see better results. ( again: see Fisher for your proto type) In the end, I expect to see less manufacturers on the 29"er bandwagon. The ones that do stay will have better success and offer better choices. Is it a bad thing?

Only time will tell!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Guitar Ted In Print!

Maybe this is not a big deal anymore since the age of digital media is upon us, but something that I wrote actually made it to print! As in old fashioned paper print.'s a bicycle catalog, but it's printed none the less!

I was contacted earlier in the summer by a person that works for Haro Bicycles to write some catalog copy for their upcoming Haro Mary 29"er single speed and XC geared hardtails. The copy was to be a paragraph about 29"ers in general, or about the Mary 29"ers. I wrote one paragraph for each idea and sent them in. Later, I found out that they were going to "use it" in the upcoming '07 catalog. "Great!", I think to myself, "I wonder which one they'll use?" Well, I was shown a Haro '07 catalog yesterday and they used both paragraphs! I was quite surprised and flattered. So, you can get your Guitar Ted penned ode to Haro Mary 29"ers at your local Haro dealers soon. It's on the page with the Mary SS model. I'm not mentioned as the author, ( it is catalog copy, afterall) but trust me, I wrote that.

Just a word or two about the Haro hardtail 29"ers: These are some sweet steel rigs that have been rider tested and are already getting some really positive feedback from independant test riders. They are both specced out pretty nicely. The SS version has On One Mary bars on board! The frames themselves are pretty well thought out. The seat post size is larger to fight flex, which is especially welcomed for seated climbing. The frames seat and chainstays are already big enough for the upcoming larger tires from Panaracer and WTB. The drop outs are a replaceable, modular piece, much like the Raleigh XXIX. My favorite part of the frame has to be the highly manipulated shaped chain stays. Really cool stuff. Anyway, check these out, they are a pretty sweet rig!

Now, as you know, I am often "published on the web". Here's my latest blurb on The Biking Hub
It's about Inter Bike, which is coming up real soon. We should be seeing a veritable avalanche of 29"er goodies coming up this fall. It's going to be the subtitle to this years Inter Bike, mark my words. Inter Bike '06: The Year Of The 29"er! (You could probably catch the Haro Mary 29"er and a host of other 29"ers at the On Dirt Demo and on the Inter Bike showroom floor soon!) Me? I'll be at home this year, unless something miraculous happens and my airfare gets "taken care of". Just can not afford that expense! I've got 29"ers to build up and think about, you know!

Okay folks! Enough "tooting my own horn" here, as they say. I just wanted to share that with ya'all. It's not everyday that something you write gets printed and distributed on a nationwide level. Even if it is only a bicycle catalog!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Summer Days Fading Away.....

I noticed it when I put my two children to bed the other night. Yep......the days are getting shorter. That means an end to the hazy, crazy days of summer are coming fast. Not to worry, though. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to mountain bike here in the mid west.

Another thing to look forward to is the Inter Bike show in Lost Wages, Nevada. ( did I just write Lost Wages?) Anyway, I'm a gear head and Inter Bike is my favorite gear frenzied event. I sure am glad that the event gets so much photo coverage, because I usually can not make it out there to see it in person. I almost had everything sewn up to go this year, but certain circumstances are going to keep me home bound again this year. Oh well, maybe some other time!

At the shop, I have already noticed an increase in calls from college students, so the influx of younginz is starting already, too. That ususally means lots of lower end mtb, and used bike sales. Lots of repair work on rusty Mart bikes, too.

Update on Gas prices: I wrote yesterday that I expected the prices at the pump to increase as I rode by on my way to work. Well..........they actually decreased by eight cents! So much for that theory! I expect it'll change here in the very near future to being higher.

Update on Trans Iowa V3 (?): Well, all the Trans Iowa veterans have chimed in, how about the rest of you? Make your views known! We want your opinions on the loop course idea, or any other niggles and props you might have concerning T.I. Speak!

Update on GTDRI: I'm going to try and get a finalized, printable map of the route done and available by the end of the week. Remember, you must print out and bring with you the route map if you are planning on coming to GTDRI on August 19th. I'll post a reminder when the map is available.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Oil Prices To Drive Up Bike Sales?

I got up this morning to the news that 8% of the U.S. oil supply was shut off overnight due to the leakage of a pipeline in the Alaskan oil feilds. I suppose that as I ride by the local gas mart on my way to work this morning that I might find some bigger numbers up on their sign for gas prices.

It's been hovering at $2.99 a gallon lately, so this will surely push it over the $3.00 a gallon line. Last time we saw this was last year during the Katrina disaster. That drove gas prices, and subsequently hundreds of people, into bike shops all across the nation. While it was only temporary and small in nature, this "mini rush" might be duplicated again by this latest developement.

Maybe there will be more folks like me. Riding a bike by the gas station everyday on their way to work while getting strange looks from folks filling their tanks with gas. Sometimes I wonder what they are thinking. Hmm..............

The other thing that I wonder about is how this affects the racing scene. I mean, it's already expensive enough to go and race for a weekend. Now, if gas prices stay up or go even higher, it's got to weigh on decisions to race or not. I know Mr. 24 has thought more along these lines lately.

How about you? Are you going to start commuting? Are you going to race closer to home or skip a few because of gas prices?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Garage Bike Classics

I haven't had a "Garage Bike Classics" post for awhile now. I had to sneak this one in though. It's a late 80's DeRosa Columbus SLX tubed, Mavic equipped machine. When I say Mavic, I mean the entire gruppo! The stem, bottom bracket, hubs, shifters, derailluers, and headset. Even the seatpost is Mavic! Interestingly, the brake levers are branded Mavic, but when you look closer, you can see "Modolo" molded into the side of the levers.

Here's a close up of the rear derailluer. You can see the pinstriped cage. Pretty fancy stuff, huh?

A couple of other notable parts were the Campy Record pedals and Campy tubular rims. The bike was in remarkable condition, with the exception of a bit of internal rusting that I found after removing the bottom bracket.

Trans Iowa Discussion: Don't forget to join the T.I. discussion going on. We need your feed back!

29"er sizing article: Trying on a 29"er for size in the near future? Check this out.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

What If.........

What if you could get a 29"er frame and fork............

That came in six different sizes from 13" to 23" with top tubes from 22.5" to 26" in length.

That had a disc only set up with a 80mm suspension corrected steel fork

That had a panel paint job with a clear coat in a choice of two colors

That had a Jen Greene headbadge

That was fillet brazed........

All for about $1200.00?

What if..........................

stay tuned!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Trans Iowa V3 (?) Feedback

Great...........I put up a post about disc vs. linear pull brakes with a blurb about T.I. at the end and all you freaks want to talk about is T.I. ! So, I relent and here is another post on the subject for you all! Enjoy!

Okay, first of all, thank you for your considered opinions so far. We are listening! Here is some more for you to chew on...........

The Name: Should it still be "Trans Iowa" if we don't actually cross the state and do a loop course instead? ( We are doing a loop course, if this happens again, by the way!) Mr. 24 has been spouting off goofy new names for the event like a monkey on crack since yesterday. Help us out here!

The Course: As stated above, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that if we do this again, it will be a loop course. Your outcries, my experience at Dirty Kanza, and a way to make running the event easier for us were the deciding factors. We hate to leave out Hawarden or Algona from the route, because of the excellent people and the help that they gave us in the past, but make no mistake: I'm not going to miss the multiple trips across the state and back to re-con the course and run the event. I'm sure you guys won't mind not having to figure out your rides back from the finish to the start to pick up vehicles or to figure out your support team travel. It was a great burden for everyone and Dirty Kanza showed me how much more logical and fun a loop course could make an event like Trans Iowa. Besides...........there are more and bigger hills over in this part of the state!

The Big If: We would love to say, "Yes, we are doing T.I.V3" right now, but there are extenuating circumstances that may affect whether or not Jeff and I will be able to put this on again. Nothing to do with you guys and gals, just "life issues". You know........maybe Jeff and I won't be working together or even live in the same area,( yes...that is "code for something") maybe we won't want to put up with this again after all, who knows? We are both excited about the event taking a new turn and we are invigorated about it again, but until things are a bit clearer on a few fronts, we won't say that it will happen. Not just yet anyway. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, let's just keep the ideas coming. Jeff and I are getting more excited about this again and your comments are helping. Thanks again!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Rim Brakes or Disc?

I build wheels for folks sometimes and I was recently struck by the thought while building a set of rim brake wheels, "Why not stick with linear pull brakes?" I've got a friend that's building up a sweet Badger Cycles frame and he is also going with rim brakes. Interesting. I've been into disc brakes for most of my recent bike builds and I do recognize that for alot of situations, disc brakes are certainly superior. However; there are also situations where linear pull brakes are all you need. Maybe they are even a better choice than discs in certain situations.

Take my example: I'm contemplating on what might be the ultimate gravel grinder bike. Now riding gravel roads is a bit like mountain biking and a whole lot like road biking. Throw in some "B" level roads and it gets even more goofy. I'm looking at a bike that's probably more of an all-rounder with a bent for off roading from time to time. Disc brakes are overkill for such a bike. Yeah.......tire clearance, I hear you. I think that it's not an issue, really. I'm not planning on riding many Trans Iowa V2 type rides! I'm thinking linear pull brakes might be an option for simplicity, lighter weight, and better compatibility with road brake levers. (this bike will be a single speed with drop bars)

Are there other places where linear pull brakes are a better option? Yeah, I think so. I'm not about to ditch off my disc brakes, though! No way! I've got to have them puppies for my commuter bike, at the least! Of course, full on hard core off roading is a bit more fun with them too.

Trans Iowa V3?: Yep! I'm puttin' out the feelers for any ideas here. It's gettin' about time to see if Jeff and I are going to do this thing again. All ideas are welcome. Changes to the course design are a possibility. The format itself is not going to change. Self supported, yer on your own, and looooong mileage. Okay, any ideas? Spout off here or e-mail me @ with your thoughts and concerns. This doesn't mean we are definitely doing a V3, just getting some input so we can decide. If we get inspired, then we will probably do it. We'll see! We all know that you nut bags want us to do it again, so don't bother saying that. We want your input on ideas for the course, or concerns you had over past T.I. events. Okay?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On Landis, Drug Tests, and High Hopes

Okay, I know that it's being beaten to death by every news reporter, blogger, and cyclists on the planet right now, but I'm going to spout off anyway. I just wanted to wait to get a feel for the "landscape" on this subject. Here's my take.........

Landis: Okay, I think things do not add up here. Look, the guy got tested all throughout the Tour and passes all the tests except one. The substance that he fails for is widely believed to be not an effective source for performance enhancement unless it is taken daily for a long period of time previous to the athletes targeted event. All right then. Does anybody see a problem here? Namely, if your testing is so good, then why didn't you catch this previous to stage 17 of the Tour? If Landis did take the needle, than why on earth would it work when everyone says it wouldn't make that much difference when taken only once? Why didn't Landis fail subsequent tests- post stage 17? If the levels of this banned substance were as high as they say they were in Landis, then how can they disappear overnight? Was this something that was being used to cover up another performance enhancing drug? Was this all just goofy? I'm beggining to think so.

Drug Tests: Let's see now, how many times have I heard about people getting tested at medical facilities and finding out the results were wrong, interpreted wrong, or were found to be negative when tested again at another facility? How many times do our experts get it wrong? Plenty of times. We've all heard about it, or know someone it happens to. The point is, no drug test is fool proof. The system is flawed and yet we demand 100% accuracy! Ain't gonna happen, my friends. In the meantime, athletes lives are at risk of being destroyed not only by performance enhancing drugs, but by the very tests used to reveal them! One leak to the press, one screwed up result, one anomaly of human nature and you have a ruined life. I do not advocate drugs for any reason other than medical treatment, but to think that your testing methods are totally accurate, free from error, or can detect human anomalies is rather a dangerous assumption.

High Hopes: People are let down by this doping affair in cycling. Folks are even angry. I say you are wasting your time and may actually be feeding the frenzy. Look, some folks say, "Take away the money and the problem will solve itself." I say, Oh really! I got two words for you. Olympic Athletes. Not paid to win by the sport. Doping exists there too. Even amongst the true amatuers. That doesn't make sense anyway. Oh! Let's take away any rewards for success and the doping problem will be solved! So..........what would the point be then? I say that it's a problem of greater magnitude. I say the problem is rooted on a spiritual level......and I'll leave it at that. Point is, taking away the money won't work. Heck, kids cheat at common school yard games and there isn't any money passing hands there. Right?

So, what do you do then? Well, I think that if you are a cyclist, you just put the emphasis on what always led you to want to ride a bike in the first place. Not on Floyd Landis' positive A sample. Not on the hopes of having a "clean" Tour. Nope. Ride for the basic reasons you started to ride for and you'll always get that same joy. That same benefit. Just don't let any of this other stuff that doesn't really matter get you down and discourage you.

Just keep pedaling!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Day Is It Anyway?

I've been super busy at work lately due to the goofy scheduling there which leaves me all by myself handling walk ins, regular customers, and repair work during different times throughout the day. Mr. 24 usually works with me in the mornings at least a couple times a week which helps clear out a bunch of repair work, but that's come to an end seemingly and now I'm just treading water. All of this and having lot's of outside of work responsibilities has made the days go by in a fog lately. Hopefully things get straightened out soon so I can regain some sanity!

Lot's of 24 @ 9 mile stories floating around out there. It sounds as though there needed to be a better policy for inclement weather. The end of the event sounded rather chaotic. Hey! I know just how that can be. Just remember last April and Trans Iowa! We were making snap decisions all morning and afternoon long that day. Imagine having a slew of support staff to inform and re-inform while racing is going on. Yeah.......that's some crazy stuff! It's no wonder things went goofy when you stop to think about it.

Heat is breaking up here, so regular posting should commence again. Plus........I get to sleep in my own bed without interuptions. Should be nice. The cold front made a little advance appearance today with clouds which kept the temps down. Then the rain came, of course, it was just about the time I had to ride home, so I broke out the rain gear. Something about rain gear and humid weather really doesn't make much sense. Know what I mean?

I saw a picture today of what looked like a 29 inch compatible Manitou front fork. Hmmm........makes some sense. Especially if it's got that offset that goes along with the new "Genesis 2" geometry from Fisher 26 inch bikes. I can not believe the 29"ers won't get that too. I'll be looking for more on that in the future. Another new developement is a promised new tire from Specialized for 29"ers. Ha! Sorry, I still think that the whole Specialized "cart before the horse" thing is just too funny! Anyway, hopefully the tire sees the light of day. I think that if Bontrager gets that tubeless system out for 29"ers and it works, Specialized and a whole bunch of other companies are going to be left scrambling. Maybe later this month reports from Trek Show will reveal more. Alas, I'm not going. I've got other plans.

Okay, that's it for the rambling mind! I'm going to chill out and hopefully get some better posts out in the near future. Later!