Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Appologetic For The Surly Mechanic

I found the following on Bicycle Retailer and Industry News site today:

JANUARY 31, 2007 -- "It's no secret to anyone who has ever endured an encounter with a grease-stained, eye-rolling, heavily sighing bicycle shop employee that customer service in this industry has historically ranged from sullen to supercilious to overtly hateful. (It's one of the few retail industries where a condition for employment seems to be utter contempt for the customer, says one industry executive)."-New York Times, Nov.6, 2006

I find this to be an overly simplistic picture of reality here. On the surface, and from one side, this might be percieved as truth, but then that is a shallow perception.

Up front I will say that I have been a professional bicycle mechanic for 8 years, a car mechanic for 5 and a half years, and in some form of retail customer service for 26 years. Here's my take.

First of all, the condition of your everyday bicycle shop mechanic is one of a passionate person. Believe me when I say that bicycle mechanics aren't cleaning up on the labor they put out. I don't work for the money part of it, because if I did, you wouldn't be able to afford me! Car mechanics get three times the money a bicycle mechanic does, ( a sign of what we deem as "necessary" versus "a toy") , so if I wanted the money, I'd still be twirling a wrench on a car.

And as to the "toy" comment, that plays into the consumers mind. It seems as though many customers "know" as much or more about a bicycle as I do. Rendering my knowledge as "worth less", and their opinion as the "gospel". (Usually resulting in the grimy one rolling his eyes)

Customer service is a two way street, and the maxim often held by the customer: "The customer is always right", is .........well, wrong!

On the other hand: I will say that certain of the bicycle mechanic and sales help are woefully under informed, self righteous, and downright unfriendly. I have been in several bike shops that have suffered this mentality. It's as if, "Well, if you don't know the code words and the secret handshake, then buzz off pal!" So, I can see where stuff like the quoted text above can also be legitimate.

So, it's alot more complex than one might think. A good shop will have a knowledgeable mechanic that is most likely under payed, and expected to cover customer service, sales, teaching, managing, purchasing, researching, and student skills all in the same day. A lot of us are stressed, sure. I'm not saying, "Oh! Pity the poor, poor shop mechanic!" However; it ain't easy street either!

And to those "holier than thou" shop rats out there. Straighten up before the "Pedal Wrench of Karma" smacks you 'tween the eyes!

That's my take!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Trans Iowa Update: Cue Sheet/ Mileage Info

as posted on the Endurance Forum on Also, check the Trans Iowa website.

New Info!

Well guys, after a long and arduous process, I have some figures for ya all ta chew on during your winter training. You all needed something to think about this winter, right?

I have compiled all the info from the separate recons and formulated the cue sheet info. It has been handed off to Jeff to format into it's final form. That should be done in a few days or so.The overall mileage for the big loop is 320.1 miles, give or take a few tenths. There are 9 miles of route that need to be rechecked to get a final hard number, but what's nine miles amongst friends?

There will be a "half way point", as in years past that will serve as the spot to get your second set of cue sheets, and for us to get a handle on who is in or out by then. Once again, there will be a time limit to get there, or you won't be able to secure your second set of sheets to continue. Same as always. Any questions so far?

As it worked out, the distance and time for the first "half" worked out as it has for the first two editions of the event. Distance to the "check in" is 127.9 miles, ( almost exactly the same distance it was to Algona!) So, it will be a 6 o'clock cut off time, just like in years past. The actual location of the "halfway" point is not going to be revealed, as it won't matter at all to anyone but the folks in the event, and you are on your own, self supported, no drop bags, no nuttin'! Yes, there is a convenience store "near" the check in, and that's all I'll say.

192.2 will be the remaining mileage to Decorah. Through the night, and until 3pm the following day is all you'll have to finish the event in. Crunch the numbers any way you'd like, but this is a hard and fast parameter. Convenience stores will be sprinkled through out the route. Some closely spaced, and depending on one cities convenience store opening time on Sunday, there could be as long as an 80 plus mile slog between stops. Prepare for the worst!

We will have the special race preems figured out later, but let me say this. Whoever gets them will have to earn them! Okay, pretty standard T.I. stuff, but you newbies may have some questions. Fire away!

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Rigid Fork Rides Again

The resurgence of the rigid front fork in recent years is quite interesting. I can recall from my past mountain biking experience the fall from grace that the rigid fork took in the early 90's. Now it would seem that the rigid fork is back, and it's not going away any time real soon.

The early 90's were a time of mass change in the mountain biking world. If somebody asked you, "What's new in mountain bikes this year?", it was a question you couldn't answer in an hour of yakking. One of the major upheavals was the battle between suspended forks and rigid forks. It didn't take long before you weren't cool if you weren't sporting some sort of "front boinger". Frame geometry changed to accomodate these new forks, and even things like head sets, and tires were affected in one way or another. Soon, even the manufacturers quit offering nice rigid forks. Only the entry level models had any sort of rigid fork by the end of the decade.

Now you see several rigid forks for both 26 and 29 inch wheels available. Nice forks with True Temper, Reynolds, and even carbon fiber fork blades. So, what's the deal? Why the return to the rigid fork? I think it has to do with several things.

Tires: Back in the day, rigid forks roamed freely on the face of the earth. A symbiotic relationship between the rigid fork and really fat tires was in effect that caused a benefit to trail riders. Big tires were "suspension", and rigid forks were compliant, yet laterally stiff. Then when suspension came and caused the rigid fork to become extinct, there was no real need for big, wide rubber. Or so we thought. It took more speed and longer travel suspension to point out the need for bigger, meatier tires to handle the performance needs of the "free ride" crowd. Oddly enough, someone remembered that the fat tires worked well on rigid forks, and the market for nice rigid forks became alive again.

Single Speeders: Ah yes! The simple life embodied by the purety of the single speed experience! No need for a "high maintenance" item like a front suspension fork! Single speeders mindset and culture also pointed to a potential for the revival of the rigid fork.

29"ers: The big wheel that smoothed out the trail was much like the fatty front tire for 26"ers. Single speeders took to 29"ers like white on rice because of the momentum holding qualities plus the aforementioned trail smoothing attributes. Finally, suspension for 29"ers didn't exist for most of the world at first! You pretty much had to ride rigid! This in itself showed alot of folks that perhaps they didn't need or want a front suspension fork. It also prompted alot of custom builders to start producing long legged steel forks to accomodate the new wheel format. Alot cheaper and easier than making your own front suspender!

Now you can find rigid forked mtb bikes popping up in shops again. While the rigid fork will never be as popular as it was in days gone by, I believe it's back, and it's here to stay.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Down Time

Here in snowy, cold Iowa, with a recovery from a month long cold still in progress, I have found alot of "down time". Time to do other things, to catch up, and to focus in on my family. I'd rather be riding, but I really shouldn't if I want to get better quickly.

On the other side of the world, there is a soldier. He e-mails me about 29"er questions and he sent me the photo here to show me what he does with his down time. I'm sure he'd rather be home, focusing in on his family, catching up on things, and riding on some primo single track.

Down time: You'd rather be doing something else, but you make the best out of what you have, and you're happy you still can ride.......................and you are alive!

I don't think I have much to complain about.

Thanks to all who are fulfilling their duty to their country, both here and abroad. My helmet is off to you!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Meet Mary: My New 29"er

Well, after a long and drawn out build process, I finally got the Mary XC put together yesterday. I still haven't ridden it outdoors yet, (due to my cold still hanging on) but that should get remedied soon.

The backround on this is a bit interesting, so forgive me if you already knew, but I'm going to recount here how this came together.

Back in May of last year I was contacted by a guy from Haro Bicycles. He told me that they were interested in having me write some catalog copy for their upcoming line of 29"ers. I agreed and sent them two different versions in the length that they asked for.

It turned out that they liked both of the versions and said that they were going to use them both. I was floored! Not only did they use both paragraphs, they put them together on the same page.

They decided to "pay" me by sending out this frameset. I got it back in November, and I then began the long, slow build up process. Some of the parts were new, like the Salsa 17 degree handle bar, seat post, and Cro Moto stem. The Avid BB-7 disc brakes- 185mm front/160mm rear, the XT disc hubs, Wheelsmith spokes and nipples, and Alex TD-17 rims. The front derailluer was from Mr. 24's personal stash- a SRAM X-Gen, and the bottom bracket was a new one but "old skool" as it is a UN-73 square taper cartridge BB.

Then there is the "parts bin" stuff, like the Sun Tour XC Pro Micro Drive crankset, the XT rear derailluer (circa 1995) and it's cartridge bearing jockey wheels in gold ano. The cable running to the rear derailluer goes through a first generation Avid Roll-a-ma-jig in ano blue. The cassette is an old XT 8 speed one that I had that was barely used from 1997 and is shifted by old 8 speed XTR brake lever/Rapid Fire combo's. I'm going to include the grips in this category, since they were heavily used by Mr. 24 himself and passed down to me to try out. They are the Ergon Team Green GR-2 magnesium bar ended grips. The saddle is an original WTB SST titanium unit from 1996. No pedals in the picture, but I'm going to mount on my gold Ritchey clipless peds from 1995.

Anyway, that's the latest 29"er in the stable. Look for a ride impression soon!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday News and Views

RAGBRAI Comes To Town: Well, they did it. Cedar Falls got the nod as one of the overnight stops on RAGBRAI. It's been about six or seven years since the event last appeared on our door step. This time around, I expect a lot more watered down atmousphere, what with all the cracking down that the new administrators of the event are employing. A lot of that will depend upon the plans of Sir Lance, as he is expected to ride the event from tip to tail this year. Funny how it all worked out. Back in '02 and '03 when I worked as a wrench on RAGBRAI you had a hard time finding anybody who knew or cared about him. Strange..........

And Now....For A REAL Ride... Dave Nice, a Trans Iowa veteran and the guy who got his rig poached on the GDR last year, is putting on a gravel grinder, backroad type of event called the Colorado Gonzo Ride. It's slated to happen in October, so you've got plenty of time to figure out your logistics! It's another "Curiak Rules" event, so it's not for the faint of heart. Don't look for any Kum and Go stores on that route!

Tire News And Rumors: Looks like the first tiny batch of Kenda Smallblock 8 29"er tires have been snatched up already. Still waiting to see a posting on actual weights on these. With most of the nation under crummy conditions for riding, I don't expect any good feedback on performance for awhile. Continental is rumored to have two different 29"er tires in developement now. One is to be a 2.1" and the other a 2.4" width, which in reality will be an actual 1.9" and a 2.2" since Conti tires are notoriously undersized for their size designations. Conti would also do well to put "29er" on the hot patch instead of "28 inch", which pretty much insures nobody will find your tires when doing a search on the internet. How many of you know that Conti already does a 29"er Vapor? See what I mean? I'm also hearing that a true, tough casing DH worthy 29"er tire is moving from the developement stage into pre-production. Western "huckers" will rejoice and shod their Behemoths with these new shoes with joy upon their arrival, I'm sure.

Mary Makes Her Debut: Look for a few pictures of my Haro Mary to show up here and there this weekend. I should be able to put the finishing touches on it today sometime. Wahoo!

Have a great weekend and stay warm! If you can it!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thursday News and Views

Haro Mary Update: This project is finally starting to come together. I just recieved a big piece of the puzzle needed to finish it yesterday when the disc brakes showed up at the shop. (Thanks Mom for the birthday present, by the way!) Now the thing should come together rather quickly. I'll post some pictures up as soon as this weekend, if all goes well. It's quite the parts bin build. Old school drivetrain and new school wheels and brakes!

Day 28: .......and counting since I've had some form of a cold, sinusitus, or whatever. Right now it's runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and head aches. Mr 24 says "It's all training". I guess it's misery training! I'll laugh at poor conditions and body aches after this, right? Ha! I hope so! Mrs. G-Ted, a Registered Nurse, says I am the lucky recipient of at least two different viruses back to back. Gee................thanks! I guess.........

Big, Fat Tires: A little message came in that said I would be seeing some WTB Weir Wolf LT's soon. 2.55" of 29"er fat rubber. I've heard these are good on snow, so it's perfect timing. You can get a sneek peek at what they look like here, if you haven't seen them up close yet.

Trans Iowa Update: Cold and snow have frozen the gravel roads into a state of limbo indefinitely. Until we get above freezing for a long spell, the roads will be stable. However; all that moisture is in there just lurking, waiting to wreak havoc as soon as the thaw comes. The timing of that thaw period will be critical to what the roads end up being like for T.I.V3.

I got alot of things off my plate this week, so the next big thing is to finish off the cue sheet directions and make the handoff to Mr. 24 so he can format all of it. That should happen this weekend. New sponsor on board in Walz Caps. Check out their selection of cycling caps. They are pretty cool! Thanks to the Walz Caps crew for throwing in with this crazy event!

Vanished!: The comment link on the blog, that is. I'll get into the template and see what happened later. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Where Does It Go From Here?

About a year or so ago I wrote on this blog about how 29"ers were about to go mainstream. I thought that the format would take it's place alongside 26 inch wheeled offerings in bike shops across the nation, that component manufacturers would be jumping on board, and that tire choices would be on the increase.

Alot of these prognostications have seen the light of day, or are about to. Several new tires, bike models, and components are now available or will be this spring. I'm not quite ready to say that the 29"er has taken it's place alongside of the 26"er, though. There's a way to go before that can be said. I still here about places that have yet to see a 29"er, so that's a sign that there is ground to be made up for the 29"er.

I still think that will happen, but there are a few things yet missing that need to be available before the 29"er can truly be said to offer an alternative to all things 26 inch. Look at long travel, "all mountain" type bikes as an example. Actually, there are some really good available frames in the 29"er format that would work, but there really isn't a fork yet and still, the tires are not quite beefy enough for all that this type of riding involves. Down hill is practically a ghost town for 29"ers, although there is one company forging ahead with a 29"er DH platform. Obviously, 29"ers have alot to overcome in terms of true DH performance, and it's true that the wheel size might never be suitable for that discipline. I think that the progress being made in the "all mountain" category for 29"ers will ultimately point out whether or not 29"er DH will ever be feasible to pursue. That will take some time.

We still need more quality, reasonably priced front suspension. The Reba is probably solely responsible for getting several manufacturers into the 29"er segment and by default, several new riders onto the wheelsize. However; the Reba, as good as it is, needs some good ol' competition, and there isn't really any out there in it's price range. Good for SRAM/Rock Shox, not so good for the rest of us that feel the Reba isn't quite what we need or want. That said, whatever is coming down the pipeline, ( and there are forks in the pipeline) had better be darn good, because the Reba is pretty nice!

I think that 29"ers, as a category of bikes, are overpriced for what you get. Look at 26"ers and it's obvious. I can think of one example in the shop where I work where the equivilent 26"er bike is a full $600.00 less than it's 29"er sibling! That's a bit of an extreme example, but typically a 29"er hardtail is at least 100-200 bucks more expensive than an equally spec'ed out 26"er. That's probably a bit due to the economy of scale- not as many 29"ers made- but much of the parts spec is the same as a 26"er, so I'm not buying that! (No pun intended) I also feel that a $600-$700 price point hardtail 29"er with maybe an 8 speed drivetrain is missing from the choices out there. I don't see any reason why that choice shouldn't be available. Even a $500.00 linear pull brake model should be out there.

So, there is a ways to go for 29"ers.. I think it's just a matter of time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Internal Headsets: Why?

Beware! Rant mode- ON!

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say for the record that internal headsets are stupid!

Yep! I think this is one of the single most unnecessary "developements" in recent bicycle technology. (They've been done before on steel road bikes from the 30's) I have yet to read one reason why they are better than a conventional threadless headset with pressed in bearing cups. Other than "looking cool", I can't for the life of me see what reason anyone would want one.

As if headsets needed another standard to deal with. And then, there are several internal types, making it even more difficult to service and find replacement parts for. Let's see now, I have a bad headset and I need a new one. My bike shop has several nice ones in the case, but hey! Mine's an internal headset! Guess I'll have to order the one and only choice that'll fit my bike. Or better yet, I'll have to find a bearing supply store that has the correct cartridge bearings on hand, and hope they aren't more expensive than a Cane Creek S-3 headset that can be had for around $50.00 from most any bike shop.

Internal headset = less choices, and more hassle to service.

Then you have the whole machined head tube thing, which really baffles me. Why on earth would you place the bearings directly on the frame tubing, risking future damage to the area, and ruining a complete frame. (Which I have already seen several examples of, by the way.) Sure, maybe you have an internal headset mountain bike and have absolutely no problems with it, but why have that risk? It's not necessary, and the internal headset doesn't work any better than a conventional one. It's not like conventional headset frames are failing from their headsets, unless they get really loose, far beyond the point it would take an internal headset to deform a head tubes machined seat for the bearings. And once that bearing seat is deformed, than it's bye-bye frame set!

Internal headset = risk of frame failure and doesn't perform any better.

You could argue that the bearing seat area is reinforced to prevent deformation. Fine. But I could do without the extra frame weight, thank you! You could argue that the increased diameter usually associated with internal headsets gives a more stable downtube/top tube/headtube junction for welders to work with. I say, it's not necessary, and even if it was necessary to have this more perfect union of tubes, then you could do it without using an internal headset. Sounds like a justification for the existence of the internal headset, and not a happy by product of it. You could argue that there are internal headsets with pressed in bearing cups. I say "Wha...? Why not use a conventional pressed cup headset and save all the trouble?"

Internal headsets = Justifications that make no sense.

Finally, for a 29"er, I think internal headsets are even worse. With the inherently shorter headtubes, the leverage forces being greater due to the longer fork legs, and the fact that these are mountain bikes, I think the chances that you will ruin a frame set due to a deformed bearing seat are even higher. Why? A conventional pressed in head set cup headset alleiviates this potential problem.

Internal headsets= bad for 29"ers!

Sure, you can ruin a frame with a regular headset installed. Yes, that can happen. However; the rate for conventional headset/frame failures to internal headset/frame failures in my experience points to a larger number of internal headset frame failures by a large margin, and the internal headset hasn't been around yet a quarter of the time that I have been working on bikes. It just doesn't need to be that way.

Again, other than looking cool, why have an internal headset?

I tell you, they are just plain stupid!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cross Training

sub title: What Choice Do I Have?

With the recent snows, about all a guy can do is to give up and go do winter sporting activities. So, that's what I did. I XC skied Sunday and went sledding with my son Saturday.

Here's what some of my local trails look like now. Not too conducive to trail riding! (I don't own a Pugsley, but I wish I did!)

Here you can see the tracks on the left and the nearly frozen over Black Hawk Creek on your right. Just two weeks ago it was in the 50's out here, no snow, and it still looked like Fall.

The snow was a bit sticky, which added more resistance. Good for the workout!

An old school set of boards and wax would of killed it out there!

Temps were hovering around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was pretty comfortable out in the woods.

It's funny now that we don't really have much for winters here in Iowa. This snow might last a couple of weeks, if we're lucky. Maybe it'll surprise us and last longer than that, but recent years say otherwise. So, I had to laugh when I saw a squadron of snowmobiles scrambling to action on Sunday, even though there is barely enough snow on the ground to merit such activity. The folks all know, it's probably now or never for snow related fun.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sloping Top Tube Madness: Revisited

Okay, sometime ago I went on a rant that got some folks over the pond up in arms and created a bit of a dust up here in the States as well. Just recently I recieved the following in an e-mail from a friend that remembered the controversy and offered this as something he thought I'd find humourous. Well, I did and thought I'd share.

This is from an unknown author that posted to an unknown thread, (unknown to me) on Mountain Bike Review. Maybe somebody reading this can credit the author, but it is one fine piece of sarcasm. I will forewarn you that it is a bit off color, so be aware. Without further adieu........

from my friend...("Here’s a little ditty that a friend of mine sent last night. It’s a post off MTBR. I think you and your 400mm seatposts will enjoy reading it.")

original statement on mtbr in regards to a cruiser type mtb..."[That bike looks like a real nut cracker. Don’t get me wrong, cool bike, but not worth the risk of testicular damage.]

Is this really a problem? It has been mentioned a LOT lately anytime a cruiser-type bike pops up. In 23 years of mountain biking I can't recall one single instance of hitting the top tube. What are people doing that would instill this fear? No-footers off of 10-foot drops? Riding with no saddle a la Cindy Whitehead?

Wait, now that I think about it . . . Back in the "old days" we rode frames that were too big for us with level top tubes. Guys were nutting themselves all the time. At the races, the trails were littered with riders curled up in the fetal position holding their bloody nads. It was horrible. I lost my right testicle at the Rockhopper in '86. I never found it. RIP, little buddy.

Across the nation, the new fad of mountain biking was claiming victim after victim. Emergency rooms could barely handle the flow of casualties. The birth rate plummeted. The government stepped in and banned mountain biking on many trails in an effort so slow the damage, but it was too late; we were all sterile by that point.Thankfully someone coined the phrase "standover," and saved this generation of mountain bikers from the gruesome catastrophe we lived through in the '80s.

Now, this evil has once again reared its ugly head. The cruiser is back, and something must be done. These defenseless little fun balls need your help. Please, join me and Sally Struthers in our fight against cruiser frames. For just 10 cents a day, you can help provide Jeff Jones frames with low standover to those in need. The nuts you save might just be your own.Take it from someone who knows. I'd give my left (and only) nut to have my right one back."

Ha! I thought that was a hoot! I think the point is, we all get worried about alot of things these days. Wheel size, top tube length, standover, brakes, and the list goes on. All we really need to do is ride. Those mtb pioneers rode their bikes and did exploits and had fun doing it on machines that alot of us would turn our nose up at and say, "I'd rather not ride than ride that!"

I think we need to check the attitude and enjoy what we've got a bit more. Top tube clearance issues included!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Slow Saturday

Taking a look around, it would seem that not much is going on around the internet/ biking world. Well, not much if you are a mountain biker. Road cycling continues in it's morass of accusations, goofy statements, and pointing of fingers. If there is a Tour de France, it'll be the most watered down laughingstock of a race ever. I doubt I'll even pay any attention to it, quite honestly.

So, I took the boy out to sled today. Must have walked up that slippery dike about a dozen times or more. Good work out as my legs were feeling it later in the day. Now I'm hearing that we'll get even more snow tonight. Great! More leg workouts are in my future.

Cross country skiing should factor in there too. I haven't been out yet this year, but a couple of good weeks of skiing should gain me back alot of the fitness I lost during my sickness. Which, by the way, didn't seem to be alot, judging from my last couple of commutes. They have been necessarily longer and slower due to the recent snow. Works out just fine.

Got the Velocity Blunt wheelset hooked up on the Raleigh. Mrs. G-Ted said it makes it look like a racer. Too bad they don't make me look like a racer! Ha! Dropped close to half a pound off of the bike. Now to get about half a ton off of the rider! Then we'll have something to work with!

So, that's about it here in cold and snowy Iowa. Hope you are having a great weekend!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Velocity "Blunt" Rims For 29"ers!

Here are the new Velocity "Blunt" rims built up onto XT disc hubs and laced with DT Swiss spokes that I was sent by Velocity to test and review for Twenty Nine Inches.

Pretty "racey" looking wheelset!

The rims were laced by Velocity. They do sell some complete wheel builds for several different road or mountain bike applications. Each build is signed and numbered by the builder.

Outer rim dimension is listed as 28". I'd say that's pretty close to right on there!

The inner cavity measurement. That's wider than the Velocity Deep V outer measurement!

I'm not much of a tubeless maven, but that rim cavity doesn't look too tubeless friendly too me.

I'll be mounting these up and test riding them soon. Look for an update soon!

Friday News and Veiws

I just recieved another cool wheel set for testing............but I can't say anything yet! Part of the way things will be this year. I have to wait for the company to send me a couple product details and then I can post the story on Twenty Nine Inches first. That site is going to take priority on the 29 inch news more and more this year. I'll still be posting 29 inch stuff here, but not until after I post it there. That's a paying gig............this one isn't!

Anyway, look for more on the wheels very soon on this site. Probably later today or tomorrow.

Ergon grips have been written about on this site before, but I will be sending in a story for Blue Collar Mountain Bike real soon, so look for that. It's on the magnesium bar ended grips. Let me just say this here: I love them! Even better than the original ones I tried, which I mated to a set of standard bar ends to mimic what these newer ones do. Also......the Ergon backpack. I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is going to revolutionize hydration packs. You won't believe you used to use the "old" style pack after you try one of these Ergon back packs. Yes.........they are all that and a bag of chips! Now if I could only get my mitts on one........................

I'm happy to announce that I'm back to riding again! The effects of the illness still linger a bit: stuffy nose/head, and gravelly voice; but I'm riding, and I actually feel better on the bike than off it. Seems like the deeper breathing helps clear out the cobwebs a bit. Last weekend was the worst, so to be on the bike today is awesome! Funny how you miss riding so much when you can't do it. It almost makes you unbearable to live with. Just ask Mrs. G-Ted!

Hearing that the Titec H-Bar is finally available. 25.4mm clamp diameter too. Wahoo! I thought they were only going to be that 31.8mm clamp diameter, which I dislike. Hopefully these will be showing up here for me to check out soon. I'm not flush enough for the Jeff Jones titanium real deal ones, so hopefully I'll like the Titec model.

That's it for today, have a great weekend and ride your bikes!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

29"er News: New Bikes Spotted!

Here's something I hadn't been aware of until last night. A company called Vassago Cycles that is making 29"er frames and forks. They have a model,( The Jabberwocky pictured here) that is a singlespeed/geared frame set. Sort of another version of the Karate Monkey/Inbred type of 29"er. The Jabberwocky has track ends and a built in screw type chain tensioner on each dropout. It claims to have a no fuss rear wheel removal with a disc brake set up. The canti bosses are removeable, ala On One's Inbred. The color, as you can see, is an almost de riguer for 29"ers shade of green, but several powder coat options exist for an upgraded price. Speaking of the price, Vassago sells these direct for $379.99 for the frame only. A rigid fork is also listed on their web site. Another model that is geared only, The Bandersnatch, is also offered. The geometry appears to be a bit more towards the "MC/Western" side of things, but it's hard to tell since they didn't list fork info on the site.

Another long awaited bike, the Fisher Ferrous, appears to be available now as examples are popping up on's 29"er forum now. Details include a "fish skeleton" motif head badge and seat tube gusset. Of course, the Ferrous is another one of the "do-it-all" steel hardtails out there with an EBB to make it into a single speed, if you want it that way. I like the low key graphics and that blue color is pretty cool too. I just wish it was available as a frameset, with no cable guides for gears. (I like my single speeds pure ever since I saw the XXIX) But, it's still an awesome looking rig built out of True Temper OX Platinum steel, so it should ride quite nicely.

More cool 29"er stuff should be showing up real soon! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wheels and Trans Iowa News

More On Wheels: In addition to yesterdays post on my new "Chocolate Chip" wheels, (I hope they don't become "potatoe chip" wheels anytime soon!) I have some other things happening in the 29"er wheel department to look forward to. One is a new wheelset featuring a newly released 29"er specific, disc only rim from Velocity, another wheelset that's coming down the pike is a proprietary spoke and hub arrangement in a cool ano color, and finally a wheelset that will help revolutionize the 29"er as we know it in a "legitimate" fashion. Sorry about all the hints, but I'll have the news posted on Twenty Nine Inches as soon as they hit my hands and some pics will show up here and there.

Update on the XXIX+G: I have posted my first ride impressions on the Raleigh XXIX+G over at Twenty Nine Inches. Be sure to check that out. The bike will be a test sled for alot of incoming product over the next few months. I suspect that way I'll get a really good feel for the frame and be able to put the core parts of the bike through the wringer. Look for alot of pics of this black beauty to be showing up over the course of '07.

Trans Iowa Update: Those of you out there that are in this event or are just following along will be interested to know that the cue sheet process is under way. The course has been finalized and it's a doozy! By far the most scenic and challenging one yet. And that's without the weather factor thrown into the mix!

The gravel in Iowa is all frozen solid now and under a bit of snow pack here and there. This will assure us of gooey, messy glop whenever it decides to unfreeze. The ground moisture was at a saturation point when things finally got cold, so that moisture will be just waiting to turn the roads into peanut butter come thaw time. Obviously that should be well before the event, so why bother? Well, it would seem to me that this would require a bit more early season maintenance than before, which might see the course covered in more fresh gravel than in previous years. We'll see.

Jeff and I will probably put out a call about a month prior to the event to see who's in and who's out so we can guage the number of cue sheets we'll need to print off. We don't want a repeat of last year, when I took home over twenty sets of unused cue sheets. That's a lot of wasted work for us that we'd like to avoid if possible. Please, do us a favor if something comes up, or you just decide to not do T.I.V3. Let us know. It's appreciated and would save alot of effort. An e-mail would be great! The link is on the right side bar or on the Trans Iowa website.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chocolate Chips!

Here they are! My Surly "Jim Brown" annodized hubs laced to a set of Velocity "Deep V" rims powdercoated in Chocolate Brown. The spokes are double butted front, driveside rear and ovalized 15 guage non driveside rear. I used the weird non-drive rear spokes because that's all we had at the shop that would work, and well, why not? Deep V rims are pretty burly, so you can get away with a lighter spoke anyway. Nipples are all alloy by the way.

Now I have a top secrect 29"er project in the works for these. Just into the very beginning phases of it, so no other details can be released as yet. Stay tuned!

You might remember the aside I made a couple days ago about another secret I couldn't really talk about. Again, it's not a 29"er. I saw a photo or two of the project, and let me say that it's awesome, mind blowing, and surreal! When this gets out, it's gonna be crazy! I can't wait to share it with you all.......................but I have to!

For now my Chocolate Chip wheels will have to do.

Hot chocolate, anyone?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday News and Tidbits

I got my hands on some of this lube that I have read about on the endurance forums on before. Seems that it is pretty highly recommended, so I thought that I'd give it the once over on a few of my bikes.
It's called Dumonde Tech and they have some pretty interesting claims about their lube. They say it "plates" the metal of the chain and "bonds" itself to it, providing a lubricant that won't wash off. The components of the bike stay cleaner, last longer, and run quieter, or so says the literature. We'll be finding out as I will use these lubes on a couple of the different rigs here at Guitar Ted Labratories. The way I figure, if it works out during a long, wet gravel grinder, then it will have passed the ultimate test.
Another very interesting opportunity has presented itself over the weekend and hopefully, I'll have some news by mid-week over at Twenty Nine Inches. The item in question is a fork that is claiming to have some pretty incredible attributes. Stay tuned!
In health news it looks like I've finally turned the corner. The nasty cold/sinusitus has been subsiding over the past 24 hours and looks to be on the way out. Hooray! Looks like bicycle riding and running will commence sometime again this week. Of course, it snowed four inches last night, so I missed all of the primo weather the first week and a half of '07, but then again.....Snow is pretty fun to ride on, if you take the right precautions and attitude with you.
Lastly I have some rather difficult news.......for me anyway! I had been planning on doing the Dirty Kanza 200 in May, but it looks to be off my calendar now. A friend is getting married that weekend and not only that, the couple wants Mrs. G-Ted and I to weild axes at the ceremony and sing. So while my friends are suffering in the Flint Hills, I'll be pickin' my git-box at a wedding! ah.........crap! Couldn't say no, so that's the way it goes sometimes. Gotta stick by your friends in their important times in life, ya know? I'll just have to find another event to do!
Well.........enough about me!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blue Collar Mountain Bike's Bombproof Bike Project

Since I contribute to Twenty Nine Inches I got to go to Las Vegas to cover Interbike with Crooked Cog founder, Tim Grahl. Tim also heads up Blue Collar Mountain Bike. One of the highlights of our trip was meeting and chatting with Gary Fisher.

One of the more interesting topics of discussion that day was the fact that today's nine speed mountain bike components do not last as long as the older 7 speed components did. Nor are they as durable in alot of cases. The thinking that day was, "What if there was a quality 7 speed gruppo that the "average" guy could buy. A gruppo that would last, be durable, and reasonably lightweight."

Well, to that end Tim and I have put together a tentative package that we are calling the "Bombproof Bike". We are spec'ing the thing with parts that are readily available and are deemed by us to be durable first and foremost. Secondly, they had to be of good design. Proven technology. Thirdly, (and almost by default by the nature of them) they had to be cheap to obtain by anybody. In other words, I dearly would have loved to spec the bike with my parts bin Sachs 7 speed twist shifter, but you can not buy one today!

The frame and fork are going to be the Surly Instigator, which I think is a perfect example of "bombproof" in cycling terms. (Yes, I know it's not a 29"er! I suggested a Karate Monkey, but that didn't fly in the end)

So, what do you think? We probably will see this become reality before too long and will be out mashing it into the ground to see how it holds up. Stay tuned! For now, here is a tentative spec list..........

Crankset: Shimano FC-MC20 with 104/64 BCD rings, square taper BB compatible or Sugino XD-300 square taper BB compatible with 110/74 BCD rings.

Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN-53 118mm spindle or SKF equivilent

Shifters: SRAM MRX-Comp grip shift type 7spd

Hubs: Shimano Deore front and rear

Cassette: Shimano 13-34T 7spd.

Chain: SRAM PC-48 with Power Link

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore

Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore

Brakes: Tektro linear pull

Levers: Tektro linear pull compatible

Cables/Housings: Jagwire or equivilent

Seat Post: Kalloy (cheap, does the job)

Handle Bar: Dimension or equivilent (See seat post for why)

Stem: Ditto above

Saddle: Personal preferance (WTB has a commuter saddle in it’s line up)

Grips: Personal preferance (Suggest we get some from Ergon)

Pedals: Personal preferance

Rims: Laced to a Sun Rhynolite, Salsa Gordo, or equivelent rim

Be sure to check out updates on this project at Blue Collar Mountain Bike

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saturday Tidbits

Here's a couple of tid bits that have been brewing around the 29"er world of late. Enjoy!

Willits Brand rigid forks: For those of you that don't know, Wes Willits was one of the primary instigators of the 29"er movement. Back in "the day", Wes was building "28"ers" and was really waiting for somebody to make a true wide fatty tire for 700c rims. Well, he and a few others managed to get WTB's Mark Slate interested and the next thing ya know, Wham! There's "The Tire". The Nanoraptor was born. Well, now a days Wes is located in Austin, Texas and is pumping out steel and titanium artistry for all things 29"er. Now comes the announcement that his innovative rigid forks will be available to anyone that wants one. Check it out!

Kenda Smallblock 8 coming soon! A new 29"er tire that I think will be an excellent choice for our area's hard pack summertime conditions is going to be available in super limited numbers very soon from powerhouse distributor QBP. If your local bike shop deals with them, here is the part number you can have them put on "item watch" to be able to have a chance at the first batch. #TR5325 Good Luck! You will know if you are a lucky recipient of new fangled rubber in about two weeks!

What is brown and silver and can not be stopped! Nooooo! Not what you are probably thinking! It's my new Surly "Jim Brown" annodized single speed disc hubs that are getting laced to a set of Velocity Deep V rims in powdercoated "Chocolate" color. It's for a special project that I hope to bring to light sometime in '07. Stay tuned! Pics of the completed wheelset will be posted soon.

More from the "Deep, Dark Secrets Vault": I just hate it when I hear juicy news that isn't ready for public consumption yet. This is going to be super cool though, and I can not wait to see this come to the light of day. All I can say now is that it isn't a 29"er and I still think it's super cool! Stay tuned for more sometime later this winter!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Revisiting Trail and Head Angle For 29"ers

One of the issues that comes up most often in my discussions with folks about 29 inch wheeled bicycles is front end geometry and how it affects handling off road.

It seems that alot of you are confused by a certain aspect of all of this called "trail". That is the term that describes the distance measured on the ground from your tire contact point to where an imaginary line would intersect the ground in front of it that describes your steering axis, or head tube angle. The measured distance, called fork trail, affects how your bike steers and handles.

You can change the fork trail by adjusting the head angle, changing the fork offset, changing wheel/tire size, or with any combination of these three things.

Fork trail has the effect of making your bicycle a rideable, controllable machine. The simplest way to understand it is to think of a shopping cart wheel. The axle of the wheel "trails" behind it's pivot point when you push it. If you try to go in a reverse direction from the way you were going, the wheel quickly pivots around until theaxle is behind the pivot point again. Think of the pivot point as your steering axis, or head tube angle. The axle of the cart wheel is "offset" from the "pivot point" and the distance from where the cart wheel touches the ground to a point where the "pivot point" of the cart wheel would intersect the ground is the "trail measurement" Think, "How far does my wheel contact patch sit behind my steering axis?" and you've got it.

Typically, fork rake on a 26 inch wheeled bike is right at 38mm-40mm. This has been arrived at by much experimentation that was done back in the 80's. Now, with the advent of the 29"er mountain bike, the mere increase in the diameter of the wheel increases the trail figure. More trail typically translates to slower handling. In an effort to "get back" to "typical" XC type handling, there are two ways that designers have addressed this concerning 29 inch wheeled bikes.

One way, and the most prevalent way used now, is to increase the head angle a bit. This school of thought has examples ranging anywhere from 72 degrees all the way through to 73 degrees using a "standard" 38mm offset. (This is done to stay in compliance with currently used suspension fork offsets, which are typically 38mm) This reduces the trail figure back into "quick" handling territory, but also tucks the wheel a little closer to the bottom bracket, which can lead to some toe overlap problems, especially in smaller sizes.

The other school of thought is to increase fork offset, which reduces the trail figure, and quickens up the handling. It does make the front wheel sit a bit further away from the bottom bracket, which can be good, or it can be seen as bad, if it increases wheel base to much. Also, keep in mind that most currently available suspension forks for 29"ers have 38mm crowns, so it doesn't work so well with current popular fork choices all the time. (Although this aspect of the 29"ers bike geometry is about to be addressed.) This solution is most often seen with rigid fork models.

Hope that helps clear up any questions on front end geometry for you. If you want some advanced fiddling around, check out this fork trail calculator.

I wouldn't worry too much about all of this though. I'd just suggest ya'all go ride your bikes, if you can this weekend. That sounds like alot more fun!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Good Timing or Bad?

This isn't the way I expected to start out the year. Sick! Yup...........that New Years Day ride made the cold I had then deepen, so Mrs. G-Ted, being a Registered Nurse and all, put me on notice that there would be no bike riding until I recovered! It's generally best that you listen to that sort of advice, so I took it reluctantly.

And here I am, eleven days into the New Year and I have ridden my bike once. Once! I am not happy, oh no! The thing is, I still haven't gotten over the whatever-it-is that I have. I keep getting congestion and my voice! I sound like a bad imitation of Reggie White. (Green Bay Packer referance, ya'all)

Do not pity me. No, I am getting better. Just veeeeerrry slowly. Plus I will have way more days riding the bike coming up. is winter and all, albeit a mild winter in which I could be riding. I hear that will all be taken care of here in a day or so when we get some cold Arctic air our way.

Just in time for my complete recovery, I'm sure!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Haro Mary Update and Tidbits

Here it is so far! The Haro Mary frame and fork that I got for writing some catalog copy. Thanks go out to Salsa Cycles for making some rockin' parts that I am using on this bike. The 410 mm Shaft seat post is super easy to adjust. I like the CroMoto stems too. Lip Lock stem face plates are a smart idea. Then my favorite part so far on the bike, the new 17 degree bend handle bar. Mr. 24 says that it throws stem length and top tube measurements out the window, but hey! He doesn't have to ride it now, does he?

Speaking of Mr. 24, he passsed on some super Ergon Team Green bar end/grips that'll be seeing duty here, since they almost match, and I want to see if they might work out on such a swept back bar.

Other bits include a SRAM X-Gen front derailluer, a circa 1996 XT rear derailluer with cartridge bearing jockey wheels in anno gold, a circa 1996 WTB SST titanium railed saddle, XT disc hubs with six bolt interface laced to Alex TD-17 rims with Wheelsmith double butted spokes, Bontrager XR 1.8" tires, and a Cane Creek S-1 headset mounted to the stock frame and cro-mo fork.

I have a UN-73 bottom bracket coming that'll help me mount up my circa 1992 Sun Tour Micro Drive crank with the 44-32-20 tooth combination. I have a couple older cassettes but I may just spring for a new 8spd cassette that'll work with my vintage XTR 8spd Rapid Fire Plus shifter/brake lever units. (Circa 1997)

Brakes will be Avid mechanical BB-7's as soon as I feel like I can spring for those. So, it's a mix of old and new stuff that'll be making this Haro Mary a unique rig. Plus, I get to use up some stuff I have bouncing around in parts bins that should be on a bike.

Stay tuned for future updates!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's A Drag, Man!

I recently got thrown into this centuries mountain bike technologies by default. I had bikes that were complete builds sent to me for testing or obtained by me that I didn't spec. I thought at first that I must be missing out on some things, so I didn't make any fuss about it. I mean, everyone is using stuff like this these days, right? It couldn't be bad.

Well, I was wrong, wrong, wrong! Especially about one component idea: the outboard bottom bracket. This idea is not bad. No, it's the execution of it that I despise.

Why? Bearing drag, that's why. I know, I know! You are going to say, "It'll break in, give it time."! I shouldn't have to. Here is why. I have ridden bottom brackets in bikes that spun like butter from day one. And stayed that way for a loooong time. They are called square taper spindle bottom brackets. You know, those bottom brackets that are supposed to be flexy, old skool, and have bad crank arm interfaces? Yeah.......those bottom brackets!

I could care less if the bottom bracket spindle flexed a bit if it means that I don't have to pedal a bike whose crank arms only spin around four or five times when given a twirl with no chain engaged on it! We used to measure the worth of a bottom bracket by how many seconds it spun, and one that spun for a minute with the cranks attached was considered stellar. A crank that spins only four or five times with no chain? Can you say "bearing seal drag?"

I work hard enough getting around on my long rides, I don't need to work harder because this new technology is stiffer than the old technology. Who cares about stiffness of their bottom bracket at hour number five anyhow? Not I. I know one thing though, I could be pedalling something that isn't sapping my strength, and that's a square taper cartridge bottom bracket. It's exactly what my two single speeds have, and it's what my Haro Mary is going to get.

Don't even start with this special Phil Wood that, or ceramic ball bearings this, I don't have that kind of money anyway. Square taper cartridge BB's are cheap and still available in the higher quality versions. Guess I should thank "new technology" for making the older, better stuff cheap and unwanted.

Bearings that feel like you are pedaling through mud? pfffffftttt! You can have 'em! They're a drag, man!

Monday, January 08, 2007

What Is A Review Anyway?

Recently I have been involved in several product reviews. You know, the deals that you read about products that some guy or another is using. Well, I not only have been on the reading end of a review, the writing end of a review, but I have also been on the "inside" of a review. What's that you say? The inside? Yeah..........the inside of a review. Let me explain.

Several folks out there are looking for products, and need a hand in choosing from a selection that is at times bewildering. So, naturally they look for guidance. Some have knowledgeable friends, some have a good bike shop they can rely on, and alot of you just click over to the internet and check out on-line reviews.

The funny thing is, alot of folks think reviews are total B.S. I see comments like "companies pay for that", "it's nothing but a shill", or "this guy is on the take". I've heard them all. I've even accused other reviewers of that myself. But that was before I was on the inside of a review.

Now I can say that, yes: some of those accusations could certainly be true. I can see, (and have heard about) how being in this posistion of responsibility could be tempting to someone. If you have not been around product reviewers, you may not realize this, but there is a very high degree of integrity and responsibility involved in being entrusted to review products. You either "get it" or you don't. The ones who do not "get it" do not last long in the reviewing game, believe me.

Now it may sound like I'm trying to toot my own horn here, but I'm just passing on what it's like to be on the "inside" of this process. It's not all fun and games, getting all kinds of cool stuff, and being caught up in the whole thing. Like I'm somebody super-cool because I got to ride the Dorothy proto, as a for instance. No, it's not like that at all, not if you take reviewing stuff seriously. Not if you really want to serve the readership and be around awhile. Service. Now there's a concept lost on a lot of folks..........but that's a whole 'nuther post!

So, what is a review anyway? Are they for real? Well, you'll have to judge for yourself. Alot of it comes down to trust. Alot of it comes down to folks holding reviewers accountable. I hope ya'all out there will do that for me too. Tell me if I'm getting too "big for my britches", as my Grandpa used to say.

All I know is that I'm taking this whole thing seriously. No matter what people might think!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Recon Photo Blog

As promised, I had a few photographs for your approval. As most of these recon missions go. I have to be up and at 'em before dawn.

At least I didn't have to drive 5 hours to get to the starting point!

Birthplace of Iowa's State Rock: Gravel!

(actually no, it's the geode, but I thought I'd throw that one at ya!)

This pile of chunky goodness is over 100ft tall. Just waiting to get spread all over Iowa's backroads!

........and especially for Dallas! More iron bridges!

The cool thing is that most of these come after a long descent and right before a big climb. Kinda funny how that works out, isn't it?

Another one. Interesting off camber entrance and exit facias on this one.

Nice 90 degree entrance and exit to this one, as well.

Okay, the road maintenance crews are already busy patching up the deteriorating gravel roads. As you can see in the foreground, there is basically no gravel! It's all just fine, hardened limestone goo. Pretty cool if it's dry, and fast, fast, fast! But cars, trucks, and tractors don't get along too well if it gets rained or snowed on. Big gooey mess! So, if you look closely at what might appear to be a shadow up the road, you can see the new gravel patch on the downhill side of the road. These "patches" are temporary fixes. They were about an inch to two inches of marbley, chunky, grayish gravel. Some roads had been fully maintenanced with all new gravel. Some downhills, like the really big, steep, fast ones, had patches on them that'll make even mountain bike tires slide out. Scary stuff!

Trans Iowa V3 Recon: Oh So Close!

Well, today I knocked out a huge chunk of Trans Iowa recon for the course that will be the most scenic, brutal, and awesome one by far. I have everything but about 5-6 miles verified, and that for reasons you might not expect! Oh so close to being done!

Folks, the first thing I have to say is that you better have some lights on your bike! Not those EL-500's we used to recommend, but some real lights! Why? Well, at 4:30am you might find yourself screaming down a gravel road descent at 35+ mph and because of all the twists and turns in the road, you won't be able to see things fast enough with a piddly commuter light, that's why. Well, I suppose you could crawl and pick your way down, but that'd take time and you'd get in everyones least for a few seconds!

There are at least two decents that will take place under the cover of darkness that are going to be hairy, sketchy, freefalls. Dangeroso for sure! More of the same will punctuate the first third of the route. Of course, I don't think it's any secret that the flip side will be a prevalent feature, as well. Longest continous climb I encountered today was 1.6 miles. Doesn't sound like much, until you add in the literally hundreds of steeps before it and after it, and factor in that the roads follow the lay of the land, so the gradients are stupid! Yes folks, you will climb hills in Iowa. That's one thing you will figure out in a hurry!

This course is outstanding as far as scenery is concerned. I was feeling bad that alot of it will be under the canopy of nightime, but hopefully a near full moon will illuminate things well enough for ya'all to take some peeks. I was spotting bald eagles all over the place and other wild and domesticated animals will make for interesting things to see.

I'll have a breakdown of where the "halfway" point will be, where you will pick up the second set of cue sheets, and what time you'll need to get there by later.

It's gonna be super cool! I can't wait!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday News and Veiws

Here's a helping of the latest on several of the happenings here at Guitar Ted Productions and Twenty Nine Inches:

Trans Iowa V3 Recon: The course recon continues tomorrow with what I hope is the final major trip before I can release some more details to all of you out there interested in such madness. Look for a report on road conditions and maybe a picture or two at the very least.

Bike Updates: I should have two bike review updates very soon on Twenty Nine Inches. One on the Dos Niner and one on the Raleigh XXIX+G. Both bikes have been getting some good rides in and that in itself is pretty amazing news, considering it's January in Iowa. Heck......the ground isn't even frozen! Maybe Iowa is turning into Missouri!

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo: Wow! This event is going to be really cool! We've got some major players in the 29"er market promising to show up with lots of demo bikes to ride. We've got a raffle for a new 29"er lined up, and possibly some other goofiness to pass on if it comes together. Of course, we have the awesome trails in Decorah, Iowa to roll on, so whatever happens, we'll at least all have fun riding bikes! I won't spill any more beans about the event, but suffice it to say that you will want to mark down the last full weekend in June as a time to be coming to Decorah to see this and ride with alot of like minded cyclists.

Frost Bike: Coming just around the corner is the dealer only show, Frost Bike, that is put on by distribution powerhouse Quality Bicycle Products. This is a really good show from the standpoint of getting to see and hear about upcoming new products of interest. I suspect that there will be several vendors there to show the wares, as in years past. Look for a report on that in late February.

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: And last but probably even least......... GTDRI! This nutty long ride will again be taking place in July. I have already acertained a course that will have over twice the climbing the first edition had and be shorter in distance.'s not in North East Iowa! Nope! We're going to explore a different part of Iowa this time. More details to come after I recon that course later in the spring.

Allrighty then! Ya'all have a great weekend and ride your bikes in this balmy January weather! Who knows when the hammer will fall! Me? I'm recovering from the nasty, nasty head cold that has left me barely able to speak and weak since the New Years Day ride. Being sick = no fun for G-Ted! Late!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

No Thanks! No.........Really!

(Note: My camera takes poor close ups, so sue me!)

Okay, can you make this out? It's a trigger shifter that's ten speed! Aaaacccch! Noooo!

Can this mean the mountain bike group is coming that is ten speed? Where can I sign up for the revolt?

Here's what it looks like from the other side. Nicely done, I must admit. In reality, it's a flat bar road bike Rapid Fire shifter. It's got a XTR-ish finish on it. Much of the construction is forged aluminum, and I'm betting from the buttery smooth action that it's got some stellar bushings, or possibly bearings on the shifter internals.

This is the thing that drives me insane! I can just see it coming. Ten speed mountain bike gruppos. Acch-hissss! It's enough to make me go Gollum-like and crawl into a deeply burrowed cave under a mountain somewhere. Clutching the last known 8 speed thumbshifter, I'll whisper, "My precious!", as I click off it's glorious indexed shift points. Well.............maybe that's a bit far fetched!

But the truth is, road bikes ridden by ordinary folks don't need ten speeds. It just makes people more upset with the cycling industry in the end. Check it out: Customer: You mean I just bought this bike last spring and now you're telling me that my chain, cassette, and middle chainring are worn out after six months? Why you litlle theiving shop rat! I oughta.......

Yeah, and just try to guess how much that repair job will cost consumers. Think I'm joking? It's already happening with 9 speed road components!, no, no! Don't even think about making a ten speed mountain gruppo. There will be hell to pay if it it happens, and I might be at the front of that battle line!

Either that or far under a dark preciousssss!!!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

You See, I Have These Hubs and.........

Wheels are a big, big deal to us cyclist, (duh! Mr. Obvious here!), but to me they are not only important, but fascinating. One of my favorite things to do is build a wheel from component parts. You take a bunch of stainless steel wires, an aluminum hoop, and a hub assembly which are all pretty useless on their own, and combine them into a marvel of engineering that can be ridden thousands of miles. How cool is that! Maybe I'm wired a bit different than most folks, but I get excited about that kind of stuff.

Of course, it takes skill and patience to do it correctly and have a wheel that can literally go thousands of miles. That and quality components. That's a key too. You have to put some initial thought into it, or you could end up with a pile of crap again! I guess I like that part of it too. The thought and choices that you make previous to the build. The whole process, really.

So it is that I find myself looking into several things concerning wheels right at the moment. One of the projects is going to be the building up of the special Surly "Jim Brown" annodized hubs that I did, in fact, get after all. I have a dilemma though. New hubs, special color, no current bike that matches. Oh crap! Now I "have to" get another single speed 29"er! I mean, what else can I do to have the hubs work out? (We cyclists are sick-sick-sick!)

So, I have had this little idea for a frame for a long time. Maybe I might have to look into that? Maybe I'll look into a brown Karate Monkey........hmmm.......choices. Brakes, cranks, handlebars, stems, and seat posts. Uh-oh! Here we go again!

Maybe it's the pursuit of "The Build" that's so enticing. Maybe it's "aquisition syndrome" at it's worst. Maybe it's a need to create something from a pile of parts, I don't know what it is. I know what Mrs. G-Ted would say. She would say, "NO!" Hrumph!......... I guess I might have to agree with that sentiment.

But I have these hubs and.....................

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Getting Back On Track and Gravel Worries

One more short work week and we're back on track. No more goofy extra curricular activities and no special holidays on the radar. (Well, for most of you,.....not for me yet. Today is my and Mrs. G-Ted's anniversary) So, back to the normal schedules and hopefully back to more news on 29"ers and such. Certainly there will be a bit more Trans Iowa V3 news coming up. I will be trying to finish off the recon of the course this weekend.

One thing is for sure, the weather doesn't look like it'll be a worry, in fact: it might be too good! With the temps in the daytime hours getting well above freezing, the sketchy gravel and "B" level maintenance roads might not be passable. I may have to bring along a bike with a computer mounted to accomodate such instances. The gravel was pretty soft and saturated with moisture from recent rains. Now with night time temperatures dipping below freezing every night, it'll take forever to dry out the roads. This means that the condition of alot of the course is expected to continue to deteriorate over the next couple of weeks. Our weather pattern is expected to remain in place for at least the next ten days.

This is highly unusual because in a normal year, the gravel roads would have been frozen solid well over a month ago now. This prevents them from getting damaged over the winter. This year, the roads have suffered a constant freeze-refreeze cycle every night. That tears up the roads something fierce. Add in a bunch of rain for the cold night time air to work with and you can see that it spells trouble.

The next couple of months will be critical for the course. We will either have an unprecedented muddy, soft, and wet course or we'll pull out of this and have somewhat "normal" conditions by late April.

This turned out to be a Trans Iowa post! Ha! That's okay I guess. After yesterday, I suppose I have gravel on the brain yet!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Gravel Goo II: The Report

The day was great! I first want to appologize for not having any riding pictures. I am not licensed yet to handle expensive digital cameras in one hand while riding a bike with the other. Fortunately, Mr 24 is. Check out his report for that side of things. I didn't bust out my camera until the halfway point at Parkersburg. Here's Super Saul and Buchanandale getting ready to raid the shelves inside.

Here's the steed I rode. The Raleigh XXIX+G. (A bit modified, I might add) All 30lbs of her! It rode really well, but I've got a nasty klunk in the bottom bracket already. Grrrr! Outboard bearing technology isn't winning me over!

Other 29"ers were ridden too. The Dos Niner by Casey and the F-29 Cannondale by Mr. 24.

Casey letting us know that his Mom always told him to wash his hands after using the potty. Good on ya, mate!

Mr. 24 is a cheater! Ya gotta be quick to catch him though. Here I am using Buchanandale as a screen to catch Mr. 24 as he attempts to shotgun a Miller High Life tallboy! So, that's his secret carbohydrate replacement fluid, ehh?

After the ride, I had this monster raging inside of my gut! It wanted food.......NOW! I was bonking as we came back into town, so a nice big home cooked meal was in order. Mrs. G-Ted was happy to oblige and now I have this monster under control once again.

The ride was fun, but having a head cold and going out for a five hour ride was probably not the greatest thing to do. Especially since the last five plus hour ride I did was back...........way back in..........uhh, I forgot! It was a long time ago!

As it turned out, I am doing just fine now, as I said, after eating. So that's not an issue. Hopefully I didn't put off my getting over this cold a little longer! The pace was easy, the resistance was pretty high with the crunchy snow/ice early and the soft gravel later. My legs got a heck of a work out!

It was a great day for a ride and it was a fun way to start the year!

Ride Your Bike In 2007...Whatever It Is!

Yeah, yeah! Happy New Year, yada, yada...... I'm sure we're all getting pretty tired of that by this point. The whole Holiday season pretty much gets swept up and thrown into the trash after today, so what do we have to look forward to?

Well, for cyclists, it's time to really buckle down and start thinking training with no distractions, prepping the equipment, going over the event calendars, and looking forwards to that first warm sunny day of riding in 2007.

For me all of those things apply plus the other events I'm involved in directly or covering for Twenty Nine Inches. I'm looking at the stories that might develope over the course of the year and keeping my ears and eyes open as ever. And of course, there is my opinions on things, which seems to still be ruffling feathers out there in the world wide web-land.

I find it almost amusing....almost, that some folks get all worked into a lather when I espouse my opinions on certain cycling related things. Of course the most inflammatory, (it would seem by the reactions I get) opinion I have is that of these mountain bikes with 26 inch rear wheels and 29 inch front wheels that nobody can seem to agree on a name for. I won't get into that here, but suffice it to say that I think the concept is goofy. This is all some folks seem to need as a provocation to fire up their "digital Howitzer" and start blazing away. Amazing!

The thing is, we're talking about bicycles. That's the number one thing that I hope we can keep in focus during 2007. Ride your bike. Simple. Whatever bike you choose, a 29"er, a traditional mountain bike, roadie, fixie, singled out, or recumbent. Riding bicycles is what really matters. To be expending energy spitting bullets over my, (or anybody elses) opinion on your favorite bike style is probably giving to much time and energy to something that really doesn't matter that much. That's my opinion.

So, does anything I have to say really matter that much? Well, to the end that my posts might make someones cycling experience better, then yes. My feedback would indicate that this is happening from time to time.

That said, whatever you choose to ride in the world of bicycles, it's good. Ride it, then ride it some more. Pile on the miles in 2007. Get healthier. Save energy. Have fun.

See you out on the trail somewhere...............