Saturday, March 31, 2007

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo and Trans Iowa Update

Just got back from a great meeting with the folks of Decorah last night. The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo is coming together well. Things are really looking exciting and I know it's going to be a great time for all.

In the next few days, Twenty Nine Inches will be releasing some new details on this event which is scheduled for June 23rd-24th. I'll also post info here as well.

I got the opportunity to check out some of the newer trails and they look really great. I know I must get up there to ride soon!

Trans Iowa will be releasing some more details on the pre race meeting and some other details of the event soon to. Stay tuned!

And now I would like to point out that the inspiration for the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, The Meat Up, is on again for July 21st this year. Check out the announcement here! Thanks to G for being such a good sport about me stealing his idea!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday News and Views

Mamasita in the 'Hood: My friend Captain Bob got his Mamasita from a small first alotment of the bikes. (Shocks........pegs........Lucky!) Anyway, he's building up one sweet machine out of it. I can't wait for his first ride report. Having had the chance to ride a Mamasita preproduction sample last November, I would bet that he'll have a broad, unceasing smile! I'll be sure to pass along any reaction that I hear from him on that sweet, and for now extremely rare rig. Check out his half built rig here.

Gary Bar Is Ready! I have the Gary bar mounted and ready to go on a first ride, but my brake pads won't show up until later today. Perhaps I'll get a short ride in on Saturday to make any final tweaks. I've got some family obligations to attend to Sunday, so my time to ride will be somewhat minimal, but I'll do what I can! I'll say that they remind me a ton of the original WTB drops which were modified Cinelli bars in reality. Stay tuned! More to come on these bars!

Several Stories In "Top Secret Mode": One of the toughest things for me to do is to stay quiet about new bikes in developement or that are about to be released. I have three such things under wraps from three different bike companies/builders that I just can't wait to share.......but I have to! All I'll say now is that they will be eye openers for alot of folks! Stay tuned here and to Twenty Nine Inches because as soon as I can spill the beans, I will!

Speaking of "Secret Projects".... My own secret project bikes are both still in progress. #1 is in the line now for construction. If all goes well, I should see some results by Trans Iowa time, but that's not a guarantee. We'll see. Project #2 is nearly finished being brazed up. The report I got the other day indicated that it's going to be pretty cool, so I'm excited. Once the last couple of tubes and the braze ons are done, it'll be time for powdercoating. Color choices! Talk about something that drives you nuts! I think I have something in mind, but I'm going to wait until I have to choose before choosing! I am still mulling over some of the parts selection too. Since both are to be single speeders, I won't have much to have to choose! That's good. I already have wheels lined up, so no worries there, and brakes will be Avid BB-7's for sure. Brooks saddle on one of them, the other probably something more modern. One of them is getting a Gary or Midge bar for sure, maybe both of them. More fine details to come!

Well, that's about all for today's installment. If you're bored, or weather doesn't permit you to ride your bike, check out this rant on bicycle lubes for kicks. By the way, I'll be updating my lube comparo soon. See you out on the trails! Ride that two wheeled contraption! It's good!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Origin 8 "Gary" Bar: Update

Here's some comparative numbers on the Gary bar vs. the Midge bar. I was able to remove the Midge and mount up the Gary bar on the Karate Monkey, but the switch wasn't made complete before I had a chance to scrutinize both bars side by side.

Weight: Midge bar = 250 grams
Gary bar = 320 grams

Width: (Note: measurement taken outside to outside at the widest point)
Midge bar = 58cm.
Gary bar = 58cm.

Drop: (Note: measurement taken center line of drop extension to centerline of flat upper section)
Midge = 102.5mm
Gary = 92.5mm

Flats Width: (the upper portion of the bar, either side of the stem clamp to where bar starts to curve to drop section)
Midge = 37cm.
Gary = 28cm

Drop extension length: ( The portion of the drop that is flat- from the hook to the tip)
Midge = 8.5cm.
Gary = 9.5cm.

The differences are subtle, but there. The most notable difference being the slope( or flare as some call it) of the Gary bars drop section which limits the width of the top section in comparison to the Midge. This also cants the brake levers more making them appear to be nearly horizontal from the saddle, which is nearly mustache bar territory. Some may not like that, but again: You are supposed to ride in the drops all the time on these bars. If you can't, they aren't high enough, most likely.

Obviously, weight weenies are going with the Midge bar, but at 320 grams, the Gary isn't a pig, especially when considering the fact that it's designed for the rigors of off roading and is half the price of a Midge bar. By the way, the makers mark on the Gary is from the Kalloy company, which makes some decent parts, albeit heavy, for lots of mountain bikes. I checked the Midge bar for it's makers mark. I found some numbers, but no branding. That's not to say anything other than I don't know who made the thing for On One. I do know it was On One's own engineering and design, so it's obviously worth riding off road, just judging from the reputation of their stuff at On One.

So, the riding of the Gary bar will commence soon, ( after my disc brake pads arrive!) and I'll let you know what I think of the subtle and not so subtle differences between the two bars. Stay tuned!
UPDATE: Brant of On One was kind enough to fill me in and tell me that a company called Premetec manufactures these Midge bars and also bars for the likes of WTB, Syncros, Bontrager, and frame tubing for Trek as well. So, as I suspected, it's a fine outfit that can be trusted and has vast experience in producing bars for off roading. Thanks to Brant and appologies for any inconveniences this may have caused!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday News and Views

Basketball and Bicycles: While I am definitely not a fan of NBA basketball, I have to report that Cannondale has sold a minority ownership stake to star forward, LeBron James. It seems that Mr. James uses cycling as a training tool, and that he has excess amounts of cash, so what the heck? To be fair, James' does give bicycles to kids through his self named foundation, which he hopes helps promote healthier lifestyles amongst today's youth. 29"er content: Cannondale made James a custom 29"er with a modified Lefty based on the Caffeine F-29.

Marin Bikes To Introduce 29"ers?: I read on the inner-web that Marin Bikes may be about to announce a line up of 29"ers for '08. Apparently, models in aluminum and steel are slated for production being configured as hardtails. Single speed and geared models are part of the plan here. After being one of the only "second tier" manufacturers to not show any kind of 29"ers at Interbike in '06, it looks like Marin might have seen the ship leaving the dock and decided to leap on board. Stay tuned for any more developements concerning Marin's 29"ers.

Decorah, Iowa Is The Place: I am heading up to Decorah to meet with folks concerning the upcoming Trans Iowa and Big Wheeled Balyhoo events that are to be held in this North East Iowa town. People unfamiliar with the area always give me a hard time about "mountain biking in Iowa", as if there isn't anything but flat, featureless corn and bean fields for miles and miles. Well, those in the know are hip to the fact that Decorah is unlike anywhere else in Iowa and doesn't fit the mold of the common view of the state at all. I say come to the BWB and find out for yourself. The dates are June 23rd and 24th. More fine details are coming. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Origin 8 "Gary" Bar

I recieved these new off road "dirt drop" bars for testing/ review just yesterday. These are from "Origin 8", which is a house brand of J&B Importers, a nationwide distributor of bicycle parts with headquarters in Miami, Florida.

The bars are part of the "Propulsion" series, which also includes a couple of other bars, like a mustache type bar, and a "funky" riser bar for off roading.

You should be able to find these bars at most local bike shops that have a J&B Importers account, or order them through those bike shops. Gary Bars are in stock and ready for delivery now, according to my contact.

The specs on the bar are as follows: 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, 580mm center to center width, 25.4mm handlebar clamp diameter, Shot peened surface finish that is annodized black, laser etched graphics, and weight is claimed at 310 grams. The retail price should be somewhere around $30.00- $40.00 for these, depending upon your retailer. Street price may be even less.

Obviously, the comparisons to On One's Midge bar are inescapable. Since I own a Midge, I checked out the bars shapes against each other.

First, let me say that they are more similar than different. The length of the drop section is identical, as is the curvature of the drop. The reach and drop measurements seem very close to identical.

The differences are really only two things. One: the overall width of the Gary is maybe a centimeter wider than a Midge, and Two: the slope of the Gary bar is flatter. (Check out my picture here of the Gary) The Midge bar has a more vertical cant to the drops. Therefore, the flat, upper section of the Gary is narrower than the Midge bar's upper section.

I want to take the Midge off the Karate Monkey and get some comparison shots and weight comparisons too.

These Gary bars look to be of good make, reasonable weight for off roading, and have a nice feel, as well they should since the "business end" is exactly like a Midge bar. The sloping, flared out drops on the Gary are the most radical of all the off roadable drop bars and is quite reminiscent of early modified Cinelli "dirt drops" from the early 80's.

Look for a first impression after I get them mounted up on the Karate Monkey later this week. I'll put in a long gravel grinder, and maybe get off road with them before I post again on these. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mary In The Woods

After hearing that the Ullrich Park trail cleanup on Saturday went well, I decided to pack up the Mary XC and run over there late Sunday afternoon. It was about the only free time I had all weekend, so I took advantage of it!

The trails were well groomed, but were a bit muddy in a couple spots. The high water did take its toll on the far end of the first section, but everything else was rideable.

The Geax Saguaro tires I have on loan from Twin Six of all places are holding their own in the sticky Iowa mud. They don't shed the goo quite as well as the Michelin XC AT's do, but they aren't total slicks when balled up with mud either. The trail was loamy where it wasn't muddy, and the Geax tires always seemed to dig in and find some traction. Not my first choice for these conditions, but not bad in them either.

Steering provided by Salsa and the new 17 degree bend Moto Ace bar. If you think they look funny and don't try them based upon looks, you will be missing out on one comfy handle bar. I'm willing to bet that if you try an 11 or 17 degree bend Salsa bar your upper body will be thanking you. The ergonomics of these swept bars is noticeable and it improves your ride.

........and speaking of ergonomics. I have to mention that these grips are also incredibly comfortable. Ergon makes these grips and more styles besides which I have posted about several times here. I can't say enough about how they have saved my hands from numbness and worked as advertised. Thanks Ergon, and thanks to Mr. 24 for the Team Green version he let me try out.

So, the Mary is a pretty fun ride. I have some tweaking to do yet, as the handlebar height and steer tube have to be adjusted once I am convinced where everything should be. One thing about the Mary, it's got the lowest head tube height of any 29"er I've tried save the Raleigh XXIX single speed. Lots of headset spacers on there!

The Bontrager Switchblade fork is fun and handles well offroad. The combination of the Mary and this fork are pretty good, making for a quick handling but not overly twitchy bike. I'll hold out on the final judgement of that until I can get on some fast, twisty, flowy singletrack. That might be a bit as wet as things are around here!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Campy Sneaks Into Off Road Market

I read where Campagnolo, the component manufacturer known best for it's road gruppos, has sort of entered into the off road component manufacturing market. Let me explain.

Campy started a new, separate entity a few years back called Fulcrum. Ostensibly to circumnavigate the issues people might have in the Pro peloton with running Campy wheels with Shimano gruppos. With the Fulcrum branding, Campy could sell the wheels, and the Shimano sponsored teams could run them without fear of getting into hot water with their sponsor. Clever and effective move on Campy's part. Fulcrum has it's own engineering and design staff, but shares alot of technology with Campy.

So now we see that Fulcrum is introducing off road wheelsets. This is interesting, and coupled with the introduction of two road cranksets based on Campy's Ultra Torque bottom bracket and Fulcrum branding it raises my eyebrow just a bit. This is interesting since it shows a willingness on Campy/Fulcrums part to inroduce dirt specific products again and a willingness to brand Campy road component technology as Fulcrum. Will this idea be married and will we see dirt specific Fulcrum components in the future?

Campy has in it's line up a linear pull brake, trigger shifters, and flat bar brake levers for road use already. It wouldn't be a huge leap to make to adjust the design of the shifters to work for the dirt and brand them with the Fulcrum moniker. It also would be a bit of a splash for Campy/Fulcrum to introduce the first 10 speed off road group, since Campy is fully 10 speed these days, with the exception of it's entry level road gruppo.

Of course, this is all speculation, and without some sort of disc brake in the group, Campy/Fulcrum would be mad to enter in the off road market with a full gruppo, but it's fun to think of.

Just think, Campy could come out with an off road group again, sponsor Tinker Juarez, and He could ride a lightning motif Cannondale hardtail in a XC race! Viva la 1992!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

An Eye On The Skies

This time of the year here can be a mixed bag for weather. So, we cyclists keep an extra close eye on the skies. Seems that for now, we have a few wet days ahead of us, but at the beginning of the week, we are supposed to have summer-like weather!

But as I said, this is a volatile time of the year and things can change in a hurry. In fact, the ten day forecast has snow in it! Then it looks to be cold and blustery for a bit. Speaking of blustery, we really haven't had the days upon days of windy weather yet either, which normally is a part of this time of year. Is it coming? Who knows?

All of this may keep the trails a bit too wet to do much off roading for the near future. I haven't heard anything about the Boy Scout Camp yet, but I'm itchin' to ride there again. The in town trails are still pretty wet, and there is lots of trash from the recent ice storm.

Then there is the Trans Iowa V3 thing coming up in about, what? 34 days now? Well, I'm already checking the weather for that time! As if it will actually be accurate! The thing is though, the weather has a huge effect upon the event, and I always am anxious to know as much ahead of time as I can.

Speaking of being anxious about the weather, I bet the guys on the S.O.S. Trans Iowa training ride are pretty anxious today about the weather! Check here later for updates about today's long gravel prelude to T.I.V3.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Grassroots Revolution?

With Trans Iowa coming up in just a little more than a month, I thought I would share something that has been developing in regards to the event recently. It seems that this oddball gravel grinder has attracted some "outside" attention.

While the popularity of Trans Iowa with the long distance/endurance/adventure cyclists has been an eye opener for me, I never really expected that the event would reach outside of that sphere and gain the attention of a bigger (potentially) audience. However strange that may seem to me, it appears that it likely is happening.

I have been in contact with a gentleman who purports to have a legitimate contract to write a book dealing with the "grassroots, underground sports movement". He says that he became interested in writing such a tome after becoming disenfranchised with the "mega sports complex" that dominates most of the American sporting landscape these days. Apparently, he heard about Trans iowa from it's first and only, (so far) winner, Ira Ryan.

Ira was and is apparently very supportive of the event to the point that this fellow wants to come out and research the event for his future book. He plans on conducting interviews and tagging along for getting a feel for what this event is all about. Obviously, if he wants to know about a "grassroots/ under the radar" kind of event, I suppose Trans Iowa is as good an event to consider as any. Well, least for now it is!

I'm not saying this whole thing with the book and anything else it could generate will ever happen, (I'm not going to count on anything happening in conjunction with this, let's just say that), but if it does, how "under the radar" is Trans Iowa at that point?

I guess what I'm getting at is, when does it cease being a cool, crazy, underground event and become something not so much that, but begins to have a more mainstream event kind of look and feel? Has it already become that? Hmmm........and more importantly, does it even matter? I suppose this years running will be a good way to guage that.

In the end, Jeff and I run the thing and put it on. It's up to us whether or not it is what it is.......for now. I suppose if it gets away from us for whatever reason, we can always shut it down. Are we part of a revolution? Ahh.....well, maybe. I think history, or maybe this upcoming book, will be the judge of that. All I know is, we want to ride our bikes for crazy long distances self supported, and we think you do to. As long as we have that basic understanding, then we have things like Trans Iowa. If that's a "revolution", then so be it.

I think it's just fun!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Smell of Dirt

Last night I was walking outside and got a sniff of the wind. "Ahh.....dirt!
Yes, it's that time of year when the frost starts coming out and you can smell the earth in the air. I love it! I love it, because it means off roading is just around the corner.

Right now, we have alot of moisture to deal with, some flooding, and the aforementioned frost working it's way out of the ground. The winds of spring and the more direct rays of the sun will be taking care of that in a hurry. Nothing to worry about.

Sometimes I imagine I must look like a dog on the hunt when I stop to sniff that wonderful smell each spring. It certainly sets off a desire to head to the woods with the bike and go rushing through the flotsam and jetsam of the departing winter. To look for signs of green stuff coming back to life after a cold winters sleep. To see signs of life ressurected from a dull brown landscape.

Ahhh.....the smell of dirt!

What more can I say?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Photo Blog From Texas

Some random pictures from my ride in Franklin Mountain State Park near El Paso, Texas for your approval today.

Some notes: I didn't get a picture of the short slick rock section, but it was petty cool. Also, there were parts of the trail that passed through different geological layers, so that some of the trail resembled rubble from a brick building.

There was a four dollar user fee to get a pass into the park, which was a small price to pay, in my mind, for such a cool place to ride. I even saw a Park employee grooming the trails the day I was out and one of the jeep roads had been freshly bulldozed, so things are kept up there for the money you spend to ride.

I'll say it again, if you are ever in the area, do yourself a favor and ride here, but bring a friend and a first aid kit! That thorn above went right through my Sidi and into my little toe! The cactus and desert plants are pretty unforgiving. Plus,you're pretty far away from help there, so be wise if you do go!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Real" Mountain Biking...On A Mountain!

Here's a photo showing where the trail dumps out through a wash. There were several of these sections.

Here's a shot showing the entrance to the loop that I did. It's a jeep trail strewn with fist sized rocks and in places the rock was piled deeply. This made the bike skittish as the rocks shifted and slid around as I rolled over them.

Okay, I've got more, but Blogger is working goofy today, showing my uploads in html instead of the actual images, so I'll post some more pics another time. Suffice it to say that the majority of the trail was like the pictures shown with healthy doses of technical ravine crossings, switchbacks with crazy exposures, and lots of climbing. Of course, I see on the trail map only now that the section I rode was the most technical of the whole system! Doh! I guess I dove in head first.

The bike I used was the Dos Niner and I was sure glad I took that one out there! The added cush in the rear was obviously nice on the rocks, but I also feel that it gained me more traction on the sketchy climbs by keeping the tire in contact with the ground better and keeping the nose of the saddle from getting rammed into my nether regions as I was hovering just above the nose of the saddle, grinding out the steep climbs.

Speaking of traction, the Michelin AT XC tires were grabbing every bit of it. I thought for sure I was going to tear off some knobs, since the tire would slip a bit sometimes, and then grab ahold of the rock. Afterwards, I noticed only one knob that was cracked at it's base. Pretty good durability, I'd say! The one problem was that this tire wasn't wide enough to really help me perform in a more controlled way. I think a Nevegal, or a Rampage would have made for a better experience on this trail. I wish Michelin would consider doing the AT XC 29"er in a 2.3- 2.5" width, like they do in the 26"er line. It would be a fantastic tire in that rocky, loose terrain at Franklin Mountain State Park.

Well, all in all it was a great experience. Even though I hit the worst, most difficult trail section, I learned a lot, and got a great effort in. Plus, I was once again riding a mountain bike on a real mountain. Not that riding other places is bad, or anything. It's just that when you actually are on a mountain with your bike, it seems....."more right", I guess. It's how it was meant to be, in a way. Hmmm......I sure hope I don't offend someone's take on off roading here, that's not my intention. I guess it's just how I see the sport.

It's as if you were running around calling yourself a "mountain climber" while you were working the climbing wall in the gym. As opposed to being out on a "real" mountain doing the same thing. Okay, maybe I'm weird this way, but riding out on a mountain is a validation of what I do. I feel like I can say, "I mountain bike" with some legitimacy, that's all. Your mileage may vary. That's okay with me.

Monday, March 19, 2007

For Better or Worse............

I'm back!

What a trip! I've got some decent photos of the Franklin Mountain State Park ride I was on to share and also my thoughts on the gear I was riding. Right now, I'm in total recovery mode though.

I got sick traveling yesterday and I am still on the mend this morning, but feeling tons better. 27 hours of road time in two days with a family, (One child of which was sick too) will stress you out physically and mentally just a bit. But hey! It's all training, right?

Okay, so I see you guys up here have seen fit to rid the Mid West of ice and snow. Good on ya! That was a great sight to see. However: the temps need a bit of work! I was spoiled rotten by 80's and 90's all week with sunshine everyday. And on a rather odd note: I couldn't buy a sunburn if I wanted it. Even my daughter, who gets beet red at the drop of a hat in the sun was fine all week. Odd!

Look for a few pictures and story on my mountain bike ride tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Switching Systems!

One of the cool things that happened on our trip here is that we got a new notebook computer, only it's not a PC based one. It's a Mac Book. So, yeah, I joined the "other side", so to speak.

The layout and formatting of stuff is a bit alien yet, and I've got alot to learn again, but it shouldn't be too bad. I hope to be able to use this thing to get updates on Twenty Nine Inches and this blog a bit more frequently while on the road at events and shows.

So, if ya'll out there are Mac saavy, maybe you've got some advice for me. Just let me know!

Okay, the first thing is how the heck do I create a link on Blogger with this thing? No icons in the dang toolbar! Hmmm.......

I'll get it one of these days!

p.s. to the Twin Six crew: Can you work on a thorn proof sock? Got a thorn right through the Sidis, the Twin Six wool socks, and into my little toe! Can you say, "hot foot"? Yeeeowww!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rocky Road

A quick note from El Paso, Texas for you all. I am having fun doing lots of family activities and hanging out. I did manage to break away for a ride and it's like stupid rocky down here! Dirt is a rare find, but broken up rock, gravel, boulders, and cacti are in abundance. The arroyos and washes are filled with pithy sand and gravel that's nearly unrideable. Anyway, it's fun to be out riding in 90 plus degree weather without a cloud in the sky for once.

The Dos Niner performed flawlessly, if not at it's limits most of the time. Me? I need some work. Elevation plus heat plus not in good shape yet = OUCH! Good for the soul! I didn't expect anything less.

I'll be back late Sunday and regular postings will commence on Monday. I look forwards to telling all the stories and getting some pics posted.

By the way, El Paso has some really tough riding, if you are ever in the area, stop and try it!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Limited Posting For One Week

Note: Guitar Ted Productions will be basking in the Southwestern sun for several days, so don't expect regular updates. I will post as I can gain access to a computer. Have a great week!Ride your bike! Regular posting will resume March 18th.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Thule 916-T2 2 Bike Hitch Rack: First Impression




The Thule 916-T2 rack went for a test spin and the short story is, it's a great rack! The above three pictures pretty much epitomize the ease of use of the T-2 when you realize that it took me as long to click off the pics as it did to load the bike! That's from the folded posistion to ready to drive away!

The really cool thing, again, is the no touch retention system for the bicycles frame. The finish on your trusty steed will not be damaged if you use this rack correctly. In addition to that, your bike isn't going anywhere either. "Solid" pretty much describes the way your bike is held on the rack and also the way the rack rides in your reciever. The threaded hitch pin keeps the T-2 from swaying in the breeze. That's reassuring when you are carting around thousands of dollars worth of two wheeled goodness.

One feature I didn't mention yet is that by pulling out a pin and pulling back on the rack's release lever, you can lower the bikes down and back just far enough to lift the end gate on most vehicles so you can find that item you left in the cargo area, or load that last bit of gear you forgot. Nice!

Finally, you can get a few nice additions to your T-2 to enhance the rack. Locking cylinders can fit into the ratcheting arms to prevent the bike from being stolen and a locking hitch pin is also available.

Now it's off for the brutal, real test. A 1350mile one way trip to El Paso, Texas. If the T-2 passes that one, I'll come back with it!

Note: Guitar Ted Productions will be basking in the Southwestern sun for 10 days, so don't expect regular updates. I will post as I can gain access to a computer. Have a great week!

Ride your bike!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thule 916-T2 2 Bike Hitch Rack: Out Of The Box

When you have bikes, you need a way to cart them around from place to place. As my need for testing and reviewing products has gone up since becoming editor over at Twenty Nine Inches, I felt the need to get a rack that would allow me to cut down on the time it takes to get to the trail head and also allow for remote location testing. In comes the Thule model 916-T2 two bike reciever hitch rack.

This rack was something that caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First off, it's 29"er friendly, which you can't say of all racks. The wheel tray holds tires up to 3" wide, so fatties are okay with this rack. The big plus to this rack for my needs is that the rack doesn't contact the frame of the bicycle. It holds the bike up by the wheels, leaving the frame finish unscathed. This is important to me in the case that I have a bicycle on review that isn't my property. (You can't imagine how I sweated over having that Badger Dorothy in the cargo area of my SUV!)

The rack comes in an ungainly box that might require you to have a friend come and help you with. Once out of the cardboard, you have three main parts to assemble together. The instructions are not too bad, and you even get tools to assemble it with. Everything you need is there with the exception of a large standard bladed screwdriver.

I had my T2 together in about half an hour, but those that can read faster than me would probably take less time. (I'm an extremely slow reader!) The parts fit together without any hassle and the hitch rack is pretty straight forward to use. I plan on getting it on my vehicle later today and giving it a test whirl by hauling a bike I just sold across town to it's new owner. (Rich, if you read this- today is the day!) I'll report back on my initial impressions tomorrow.

This rack should be a great benefit to me in getting more riding done on my 29"ers in more places with less time spent by trying to ride up and back to the Boy Scout Camp, in particular. Not that there is anything wrong with riding to the trails and back home again. It just eats up too much time to the point that I don't ride because of it. I can't afford not to ride these days! Plus, the rack will keep the bikes looking great and keep them secure The big test of this will be our 2700 mile round trip to El Paso, Texas and back next week! Stay tuned for an update from that marathon drive!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

H-Bar Update and Other Handlebar Musings

I've had the H-Bar on board the Raleigh XXIX+G for awhile now and I have some initial feedback concerning it. Overall, for you impatient ones, I like it quite a bit.

For as ugly as it is, (Mike Curiak called it the "ugliest bar I have seen....ever!"), the H-Bar from Titec makes up for it in performance and comfort. The bar, as you may well know, is a design licensed from Jeff Jones, a frame maker out in the boonies of Oregon. His original version of this design is executed in titanium and looks a smidgen better than the Titec. It also, being titanium, is a bit more comfortable in the rough than my aluminum version is. That said, my bar retails for a whole lot less than Jeff Jones' bar does. Maybe someday I'll pop for "the real thing".

There's a good reason why so many would (and have) payed the full price for a Jones H-Bar. They are a well thought out piece of equipment. I first saw the benefits of the multiple hand posistions and the ways you can alter your upper body posture during long rides in the saddle. It's much like my Midge bar in that way. Also, the sweep of the extensions was a great feel, aligning my wrists and arms in a way that was more relaxed and yet gave me good power for climbing. I've got to get these on a single speed for more testing on the climbing aspect.

The good surprise so far has been the slow speed, technical, pick your way, getting knocked off line situations where the combination of hand/arm posistion and the overall width of the bar allowed me a level of control that I haven't been able to generate from any riser or flat bar before. More than anything else, I think it works for me because of the ergonomics, which allows me to relax yet have control without resorting to wrestling with the bar or muscling the front end around.

There are a few nits. The controls for a geared set up are on in a compromised way, and the options are limited for changing that. I think single speeding it is the ideal situation for these bars. I've got one more idea for the geared set up before I banish these bars to a single speed though.

The other nit has to do with the goofy cross bar section, which serves no other purpose than to make the bars ugly and the cross section useless, or nearly so, for comfortable hand posistioning. Titec supposedly did this cross section from a riser bar to help keep your current stem in usage, but that's not a good enough reason to keep the original flat, straight cross bar from being used in this version of the bar. It's better looking, a bit lighter, and would be more user friendly. Titec needs to change that cross bar!

Finally, this and all other round cross section bars are stupid without something like Ergon grips installed which make a device that looks like something used in the Dark Ages for torture a more useable, comfortable piece of equipment. If you haven't tried Ergon grips or an equivilent type of grip, (WTB is making something along these lines now), you are living in the Dark Ages in terms of hand comfort. Round cross section points of contact on a bike don't have any corresponding concave shaped points of contact with the human body last time I checked. Ever tried riding while sitting on your top tube, or pedaling on a bare pedal spindle before?

Anyway, more H-Bar testing feedback due in a week or so. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Guitar Ted Lube-off: Update.

I have gotten a few rides in on the bikes equipped with the three different lubes I am testing, so it's time for an update. If you missed the introduction post, check that out first.

The conditions ridden in were mainly snow, ice, and run off from both with alot of road grit, and de-icer thanks to the local street departments and state D.O.T. Here's a brief run down of the results so far.

The Dumonde Tech is running real well. It has shown good tenacity in hanging on the chain. The chain looks moderately clean yet. It hasn't rusted or turned any funky colors. It is just a bit darker from residue than it was previously. To the touch, the chain leaves a slightly dry, wax-like feel with barely any residue. No real sand/ dirt build up to speak of. The jockey wheels have a slight build up of gritty, sand like particles, but no "spooge" or sludge. Dumonde recommends running the lube until the chain becomes noisy, which it hasn't yet.

Up next, we have the Pedros Chanj lube on the Haro Mary. It has been running real well, it is the most "wet" of any of the three lubes so far and doesn't seem to wash off even after a couple of good snowy rides. The chain looks like it did when I applied the lube. To the touch, the chain feels wet/oily and leaves a slight black residue on my finger. It doesn't show any dirt build up so far. The jockey wheels have a slight dark residue on them, not a build up. No sludge or goo here.

Finally, the Pro Link lube that is on the Dos Niner is doing well too. Not as wet as the Pedros, but it's not nearly as dry feeling as the Dumonde Tech either. The chain looks good, just as it did when I applied the lube. This lube didn't require a clean chain to start out with, as it said it would self clean the old lube out. It appears to be doing just that as this chain was the dirtiest to the touch of the three. The label says to reapply a few times to thoroughly clean out the old lube, so I will be re-applying this lube to the Dos Niner's chain soon.

All three lubes are doing quite well in wet, snowy conditions. Shifting on all three bikes is graet. The drivetrains all seem to be working quietly, for the most part. No gritchy grinding sounds, although if I have to give an edge, the Chainj lube seems to be on the quietest drivetrain of all.

More real dirt testing will be done soon. Look for another update to come soon!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Riding On H2O

Sunday's ride brought to you by...... H2O: Good in the Twin Six water bottle, good in you, and good to ride on frozen with your Haro Mary XC. So many ways to enjoy H2O! Try some today! Remember, H2O: Life's not the same without it!

Here you can see one of the snowy sections I traversed. (My tracks are at the right of center there) You couldn't ask for better conditions. 30 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny, light winds, and icy crust under the snow. For snow riding on a 29"er, it was the bomb!

Took this bit of the Trolley Car Trail which was packed down so hard it was like riding singletrack dirt! I suppose the XC skiers wouldn't have liked me on this, but I barely left any tracks. Besides, they have only a few days left and this stuff will probably be un-skiable. Temps are forecast to start rising above freezing everyday now.

I noticed this crown-sickle on the Mary while taking the above photo. Had to take a shot!

Also noticed this ice-fender that started to form around my back tire. Weird stuff like that happens on snowy rides.

Well, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the last good snow ride of the season there. The rest of the week will be primarily commuting, and getting ready to peel out of town on Saturday for the big vay-cay. When I get back, the snow will most likely be almost gone, if not totally gone. Another strange thought that I had was that I was riding on snow yesterday and I'll be riding on desert sand in a week if all goes well. That will be really nice.

Keep in mind that due to travel and limited computer access I'll be posting less next week. I'll get in what I can though.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gearing Up To Get Outta Town!

This weekend I'm going over some details on my family vacation to El Paso, Texas. We'll be gone about nine days to visit relatives and friends. I am going to haul a couple of rigs down to do some riding on while I'm there. El Paso has a unique climate and terrain to take advantage of.

The climate is a desert climate that boasts over 300 days out of the year of sunshine. The air is brutally dry, so hydration and electrolytes should be a concern. About this time of the year, it's only in the 70's during the day, so I think I might have to have a light jacket or my wool jersey in the mornings, when I plan to ride. Dang it! That just sucks, because I sooo like to take a half an hour to layer up and geek out over my cold weather gear before I ride. (Just kidding!)

Then you have the terrain, which is sandy, rocky, and gravelly. The Franklin Mountains peirce the city almost in two from the north. On top of the mountain nearest to the city is a state park with several miles of trails to check out. In the vicinity, there are some other trails located on the west side of El Paso that have a few stunts and drops built in. Not sure I'm ready to "fly" yet, but I may give a few of these a try. Making a mistake in the desert could result in an arm and leg full of needles! Which reminds me: I have to get some sealant in my tubes!

The test sleds going down with me are probably going to be the Dos Niner and the Raleigh XXIX+G. I plan on it being a bit more "brutal" terrain than here, so a burly, wide rim and tire combo is going to be in order. The Dos has the Delgado Disc wheel set and the Raleigh has the Velocity "Blunt" wheel set, which are very similar to each other. Tires will be the Weir Wolfs and probably the Michelins. The XC AT Michelin is "only" a 2"er, but it has a tough 60tpi casing and some great knobs for traction. A real opposite from the Weir Wolf. I like contrast, and a big difference in tires might be an advantage to me for matching up better with the terrain.

Anyway, there still are alot of decisions to be made. I'll be updating as the week progresses and hopefully I'll still be blogging from Texas to let you all in on the sites and riding down that way.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday News and Views

North American Handmade Bicycle Show: This is the weekend for custom builders to show their wares at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show out in California. Check out the beautiful rigs. It seems this years theme is one piece stem/bar combinations. More to come, but this will get your appetite whetted.

Michael Browne's "Trek" From Dirt Rag: In a surprise, Michael Browne, the former editor of Dirt Rag, is moving to Wisconsin to dedicate his life to the pursuit of the perfect cheese! (No.....not really!) He is actually taking the reigns of Brand Manager for Trek's mountain bike division. His arrival may or may not have something to do with my next entry, which has to do with a concept that Michael has written in favor of before.........

Trek 69er Fuel? A Reality?: Reading that Trek's Travis Brown indeed was riding a Fuel 69"er at Mas O Menos a few weeks ago in Texas. If indeed Trek decides to make this model a reality, it will fit right in with their new Brand Managers philosophy, but will only add to the model line one more overpriced "experiment" bike. A bike that a curious consumer can assemble easily on their own to try it out for far less of a financial setback. Again, not knocking the concept here, (although, admittedly, I'm no fan of the idea at all) I'm just saying it makes zero sense. None. Especially when the money is on a Trek 29"er, and not the mixed wheel size format. If Trek really wants to set a new standard, then they should build a fleet of.....

650B Mountain Bikes: Yes! The newest, (not really, it's been done before) wheel size that really is the best of "both worlds"! The new 650B bike by Pacenti has some surprising details. Parts like a Cane Creek rim, what appears to be a WTB Nanoraptor, and a promised tread from Panaracer. This seems as though it's a serious attempt at the mass market, as opposed to just a custom show bike whim. It'll be interesting to guage the reactions to this bike. I'll say this: It looks good, it'll be better than a 26"er at most things, and it'll appeal to all those who just gotta be at the "cutting edge" of bicycle design. Which is funny, because I've owned an early 80's Raliegh Tamarack that had the wheel size as standard. Although I will say, no tires like the ones on the Pacenti existed before this, which will truly make this iteration of the 650B bike a legitimate off roader. Take your "69er", or whatever you want to call it, this 650B bike has more potential in my eyes than any mixed wheel format bike ever would. Will it take off? Who knows, but my feeling is it'll certainly add to the confusion over what wheel size to choose for the average trail rider.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Customer Service Story

I recently had an experience with a cycling accessory manufacturer that I thought I would pass along to all of you. It's a rare thing these days when a company- large or small- will cater to you personally. I was amazed, so that's why the story is here:

The company in question is Walz Cycling Caps. I was introduced to them via some entrants into this years Trans Iowa. In fact, Walz came on board with us as a sponsor, which is great in itself! (Thanks Walz!) However that may be, I still would be writing this story, since the sponsorship thing is really totally separate, other than my being made aware of the company.

Well, the caps that Walz sent up for prizing were really nice, but they didn't fit my rather! I expected as much, since I rarely find any hats to fit. When it says one size fits most, I find out I'm in the least category! So, I found the Walz caps to be in the same mold as about every other hat I've tried. No big. I would've loved to be able to have and wear a cycling hat, but I'm reserved to the thought of being a non-cycling hat wearer and have been for a long time.

Enter in a friend of mine who also got turned on to Walz caps at the same time. He purchased one direct and started wearing it. He felt it was a bit too tight and it gave him a headache because of this. Wanting to find out if Walz had any suggestions for stretching it out just a bit, he e-mailed them. Well, to his surprise Walz decides to make him a whole new hat, slightly larger, and send it out at no extra charge! My friend was amazed and was relating this to me. I thought, heck......why not ask them for a larger cap for me? So I e-mailed them a request.

A few e-mails later I had a cap in the works that would fit me. It arrived about ten days later and I'm delighted to say it fits just right! The price was very reasonable and the service was awesome. Basically, it was a custom cap, but Walz is making an adjustment to their cap line to fit a bit larger heads than they had fit before. This is cool! A company that went out of it's way to accommodate my friend and I and at a super price. My cap cost about $15.00 including shipping.

So, yeah....Walz Caps is a sponsor of Trans Iowa, so of course I'm going to be a bit prejudiced in that way, but this new cap for my head is another deal altogether. I highly recommend them if you like cycling caps. They are a great accessory for riding to help keep the sun off your head when worn underneath a helmet. They have a visor that you can flip up when you don't want it. They cover up your "helmet hair" when you go in for your mid ride espresso. They even keep the sweat out of your eyes, all while looking cool. Check out their site, there are lots of different styles and choices.

Thanks to Walz, I'll be sportin' my very own cycling hat this year.

One size!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo

I had a long conversation with Crooked Cog Network founder Tim Grahl last night concerning the upcoming Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. I can't say exactly what is going to happen, at least in a concrete plan sort of way yet, but the things being discussed are really exciting.

We have several big names in 29"ers commited to coming and demoing their rigs. So, there will be lots of cool bikes to ride. There will be guided trail rides, a "fun" enduro type of event, time to ride on your own, and lots of bicycle folks to share it all with. There is talk of local musicians putting on a show of some sort, and even a get together at a local hangout is on the table for discussion.

I'm going up to meet with the fine folks in Decorah this Friday if the weather lets me. Last Friday it didn't! I'll know alot more after that meeting and the details will be alot clearer.

All I can say is plan on having some Big Wheeled Fun on the weekend of June 23rd - 24th!