Thursday, May 31, 2007

Breaking Stuff

I think I forgot to mention that in my crash Monday I also broke my SRAM shifter. Broke the upper lever on the right shifter clean off at the pod. That in addition to my helmet made for a pretty expensive ride.

It's part of the mountain biking experience though. If you ride hard for very long you will be experiencing the broken part blues. Hopefully it's not something that causes you to crash that breaks, but something that breaks because of a crash. Either way, it can get kind of pricey these days to have things break.

My SRAM shifter pod won't cost an arm and a leg, but it isn't going to come for free either! Some other bits I've seen broken in crashes lately include hydraulic brake lines, hydro master cylinders, brake levers, and wheels tweaked beyond repair. I've broken brake calipers, handle bars, and even a suspension linkage before on mountain bikes. All stuff that costs money, and sometimes lots of it.

Even "minor things" like tires, saddles, and grips add up and are constant casualties of trail abuse. Tubes for tires are another thing that can add up in the long run. I suppose mountain biking is not for the weak of heart or wallet!

Thankfully I am a decent enough rider that I don't biff all the time. The parts are also fairly robust these days too. It used to be that you could brake something by looking wrong at it, seemingly. That was back in the 90's CNC craze. I don't miss those parts at all. Especially that $250.00 CNC American made derailluer I grenaded....................twice! At least you can almost always fix the bike. The rider? Well..........this one's never been right!

Here's to breaking stuff and living to tell the tale!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednesday News And Views

Sun Ringle' Introduces A New Wheelset: In news that's sure to be an indication of where the 29"er market is heading, Sun Ringle' has a new 29"er wheelset on offer for All Mountain use. Called the "High Rider 29er", the wheels feature a wide rim. This rim looks to be wider than anything currently available, sans the excellent Kris Holm unicycle rims. The exact specs are not available, but judging from the published weight of 2400 plus grams for the set, I'd say it's got to be a pretty wide, beefy rim. This wheelset joins the currently available Disco Flea XC wheelset for 29"ers that's a sub 1800 gram set. More as I can track it down.

Mr 24 Gets More Pub!: For those of you in the bicycle industry that get Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, you can check out the newest Ergon ad that features the most excellent "BD" series of backpacks made for cycling. If you check out the strip of athlete pictures that runs through the ad you will see three shots of Mr. 24 in his full Ergon Team kit. A couple of the shots I recognize as being taken at Sea Otter. Anyway, the ad is sure to be run in conventional cycling publications soon, so be on the look out for it. See if you can find Mr. 24! (By the way, congrats on the win at the 12 Hours of Branched Oak recently)

GTDRI Updates: You know it, you love it! The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, or GTDRI for short, is starting to come together slowly. I'll have updates every so often at the site now, so check it out if you are at all interested in a low key, underground type ride over silly amounts of gravel goodness. How much is silly, you ask? Well, we're looking at something in the 120 plus mile range right now, but the course is still in flux, so don't hold me to it. The idea here is to challenge ourselves to a chunk-o-mileage on the gravel in a days time and to have a good time during and afterwards. Check out the site for more details and updates on what exactly this is. Hopefully I'll have a new steed to ride it with by then!

That's it for today. Ride your bike to work! Ride it everywhere!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How A "Little Ride" Turned Epic

After the Leb ride I decided a nice spin through the State Park and up the fire road to Washington Access via Black Hawk Park was in order. A nice quiet flat ride. Yeah right!

First and most alarming was my endo in Geo Wyth State Park. A simple log crossing had me turned into a lawn dart. Really.......we're talking full on crash with all my weight on the head! I heard several popping and crunching noises from my neck. Scary! The good news was that I was all right. Other than a helmet full of mud, I was able to continue, although I'll be shopping for a new lid today! After gathering my self up and dusting off, I went along my way, none the worse for wear. I tell you, it was a miracle I wasn't injured!

The first picture above shows what I found once I hit the fire road just out of Black Hawk Park. That water was cold and hub deep! At least it was over a gravel bottom and not mucky river silt.

The next water crossing wasn't so nice though. I found it just after the Ford Road cut off. It looked as though an intrepid bicyclist had tried riding through the muck and water, but I opted to back track slightly to the Ford Road cut off and try it instead.

This is what I found. While the fire road was getting pretty overgrown and had a few blow downs, this cut off was completely unrideable due to weeds, downed trees, and overgrowth. Here you can see my handle bar height view. Any higher and I wouldn't have made it through because of the vegetation. Oh, and did I mention the 100 yards or so of nettles that I had to walk through? Yeeeooow! That stuff itches for a bit, but leave your hands off your legs, and the sensations subside, but oh! It's tough to endure it! By the time I walked out of there I had overcome it, so I was able to put that behind me.

Once out on Ford Road I enjoyed gravel road goodness and 25 to 30mph winds! I traversed over to just north of Waterloo on Mount Vernon Road and then straight into the teeth of the wind on Burton back into town. Even with the buildings all around me, the wind was still a force to be reckoned with. I guess Mr. 24 is right. The wind is our mountain!

Once into town I came upon this forced work stoppage. I suppose it was a much needed rest stop after grinding against that wind. Once the behemoth had passed I went on home with no further drama. It was a four and a half hour epic that was supposed to be a nice little recovery spin! Uh huh, whatever!

I'm not going to complain about it, and I don't mean it to sound as if I am. The way I figure it, I'm blessed to still be walking!

Much less ride a bicycle!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ride Report: Lebanon Hills

"The Leb" or just plain ol' "Leb", as the locals call it. These are the trails I got to enjoy this weekend up in Apple Valley, Minnesota. (Or as most people 'round here say, "The Twin Cities", referring to the two major cities that make up the urban complex: Minneapolis and St. Paul)

I will back up here and start at the beginning. It's been since,....oh I don't know.........forever, that Brent of Twin Six and Jason of Salsa Cycles have been telling me that I hafta ride Leb! They have been wanting me to come up and finally it all worked out for this weekend to bring up my wife and make a run at it with Jason. Just a quick hitter and back home again, but what a great time! (Eternally thankful to Jason, his very gracious wife, and family!)

All righty then! These are some excellent trails. I have had the fortune of riding some very technical, beautiful, and widely diverse trails so far this year. How could it get any better? Well, Lebanon Hills did up the bar even more, to my amazement and enjoyment.

These trails are very well groomed, but that doesn't mean they are not tough. In fact, they have some really cool things going on there. Log piles are common anywhere you go, but at Leb they have taken it to a new level. About five foot high to be exact! And a couple close to that to boot. You like rocks? How about glaciated erratics that are showing there bald heads just above the dirt? They were anywhere from baby head sized to huge pick up box filling boulders that always appeared right around a blind corner or during a steep climb. Rounded from glacial activity, these rocks would send you off in unintended directions or make your tires pop into slots between rocks if you didn't pick a precise line.

Then there were piney sections full of needles, smooth single track, swoopy downhills, water barred climbs, and plenty of tight turns. It even has lumber skinnies, camel backs, and a teeter totter! We did two laps of it and I was really tired, but having a blast!

Now I did get off and walk a few obstacles, but I'd never been there and I am conservative when it comes to taking risks on new trails. The good news is that I had only one sketchy get off and no crashes. Very little walking too, (only around the obstacles I didn't feel comfortable with) so I feel good about my progress fitness-wise. I still have a long way to go though.

Enough about me! I took the Salsa Dos Niner and it performed very nicely there. As well it should, since Salsa is located near by. Maybe it gets better mojo from being closer to the power source or something! Whatever it is, the bike just plain worked well over the smaller log piles, drops, rocks, and bermed turns. My body was well taken care of by the Relish damper and Reba up front. (Good thing I listened to Brent! He told me to bring this bike. Thanks Buddy!)

Lebanon Hills is located on the northern border of Apple Valley and straddles over towards Eagan. It's not far from the Minnesota Zoo. Check it out if you have the chance, it won't disappoint.

No, I didn't take any pictures! I had two hands full of handlebar and a stupid grin on my face, so sue me! I may have a chance to ride it again in two weeks, so I may get some pics then.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Project Badger Update

Heading into Memorial Day Weekend, I leave you with these pics of the brazing up of the Badger frame I am having built.

Rear dropout being attached to the chainstay.

Fire! heh heh!..........ummmm....yeah! Fire! Fire!

The Head Badgermaster Rob Pennell doing his magic on the head tube.

Rob lays down some of the prettiest, symetrical fillets I have ever seen.

She's outta the jig!

Note the extended head tube length for drop bar usage.

Ready for final braze on work. After that the joints will all be smoothed and inspected. Then she's off to be painted.

I'll be out of town most of the weekend enjoying some dirt riding in the Minneapolis area. I'll have a ride report on Monday.

Enjoy the holiday weekend! Be safe and ride your bikes!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ergon E1 Grips: Update

I have been putting in some more rides on this grip and I wanted to update you on how it's been doing so far.

I have had ongoing concerns that this grip wasn't going to cut it and become part of my gear because of it's "rounder" shape than the other "paddle" shaped Ergon grips like the P-1 or GX series. I was afraid I would suffer the dreaded hand numbness issues that have plagued me with other grips. I think that I have figured out the E-1 though.

While it probably won't be the grip I use for my long, long gravel rides or in a multi hour off road ride, the E-1 absolutely nails technical trail riding better than any other grip out there including the other Ergon offerings.

I have them mounted to an Origin 8 Space Bar, which is a knock off of a Mary bar, (Read: a funky bar with a ton of backsweep) and they are perfect on this sort of handle bar. The metal flared end that serves as the lock on keeps your hands from coming off the end of the grips when yanking back on the bars to loft the front wheel for drops and wheelies. Since the bar is pointing some what backwards, this is an important feature to consider that will keep you in contact with the bars and not flying off the end of the grips. The multi-shaped contours fill the hand nicely and provide a great platform for your hand without getting in the way of making those power moves. Actually, I think it helps spread the impacts of trail irregularities over a greater area so my palms don't feel "beat up" at all after a techy ride.

The grip surface is nice and rubbery. Not sticky, but it gives good friction btween my gloves and the grip surface. The lock on collar makes the grip as one with the handle bar. No worries of spinning the grip here.

My conclusion is that for really technical trail riding, for urban trickery, or for those that don't get on with Ergons more "paddle shaped" fare, the E-1 is a perfect choice for a grip. I plan on using them for my more challenging rides that require secure yet comfortable grip on the bars. The shape doesn't cause me instant numbness, like traditional grips, but for longer endurance rides that cover several hours I think the "paddle shaped" offerings like the GX or P-1 are the way to go for me. Different gripa for different rides! What a concept!

As an aside, Ergon is starting to produce the gloves they designed to compliment these grips. Check out Mr mean Mr 24's post about them here!

Then there is that backpack...............I wants one of those too! Hurry up, Ergon. Ha ha!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bontrager Rhythm Pro Saddle

I received a Bontrager Rhythm Pro saddle as part of my schwag from the Trek Product Introduction out in Santa Cruz in April. I have since had it mounted to my Raleigh XXIX+G test sled and now have had a few longer rides on it.

First, let me give you some lowdown on the saddle itself. This is a new saddle line from Bontrager that is aimed at the "regular joe" trail riders out there that are not wanting the absolute lightest, carbon fiber, blingy, graphics laden bum prop out there. This is a no-nonsense, performance oriented saddle that is designed to take the abuses of normal trail riding. The Rhythm saddle line will incorporate a couple different levels. This one is the "Pro" model which sports hollow CroMoly rails to get a lighter saddle than the Rhythm Elite with it's solid rails. There are no other differences between the two saddles. This one weighed in at 230 grams on my digital scale. Not bad!

The looks of the saddle are rather subdued. A basic black, git-er-duuun! look. It has a generous wrapping of scuff resistant Kevlar type fabric around the back half of the saddle's edges. Nice touch. The remaining covering is a synthetic something or other that feels nice to the touch and is just slippery enough to allow for changes in position without hassle. A little red contrasting stitching and a teeny-tiny Rhythm Pro badge on the seat rail are all you'll find to break up the vast expanse of dimpled black skin on this perch.

The seat rails were a bit of a let down. It seems that the Bontrager designers took an "old skool" approach to saddle rail design and this doesn't allow for much fore/aft adjustment. Especially in light of saddles like fizik and newer WTB products. That said, I was able to dial in a satisfactory adjustment. Just be aware that you won't have a lot to play with there. The rails are graduated on the drive side for easy reference. Another nice touch.

The shape of the Bontrager Rhythm Pro at first seemed somewhat familiar. When I got it home, I dug through the parts bin and found an "old skool" Bontrager Plus 10 saddle from back in the day. Sure enough, the new Rhythm Pro looked like an evolution of that design. Similar shape, rear "kick up", corners lopped off for easier rearward weight transfers, and broad padded nose. Where the new differs from the old is in the overall length, (the Pro is longer by a bit) and in the saddles profile. The Rhythm Pro is flatter, almost bucket like. The old Plus 10 had a decided "crown" to it's profile. I might also add that the newer Pro is decidedly lighter. Progress has it's benefits!

My first impressions of this saddle are good. It installed with no drama. The rails being right at the perfect distance to match up with my Salsa Shaft seat post. The ride was a bit surprising. The base of the Rhythm Pro is very forgiving. A trait I have found to be largely true across the Bontrager saddle line. The edges of the saddle didn't dig in, but rather flexed out of the way. The cover allowed fore and aft movements easily, but didn't feel too slippery. I like the rear "kick up" for pushing against when I climb. The nose is broad and forgiving too, which is nice when "assuming the position" when climbing.

Prices are a penny shy of $85 and $70 for the Pro and Elite models respectively. They should be available from your Trek/Fisher/Lemond dealer now.

I'll be giving this saddle the "multi-hour" test soon, so I'll reserve final judgements until then. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Secret Project #2 Revealed!

Well, I thought it only fair to reveal the Secret Project #2 since I revealed Secret Project #1 last Friday.

This is a design I have had sketched out since about 2003 or so. I mentioned it to Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles and he worked out the design on his Bike Cad program. Once the details had been worked out, Ben thought it was a project worth pursuing. So, it went into production.

The builder Ben used is the same guy that built Ben's 36"er last winter. Mike Pofahl is his name. This frame is right up his alley, I hear, because it's so much like a tandem in certain respects, which is something Mike has done some of in the past.

Anyway, it's fillet brazed out of a standard 29"er tube set with the addition of the long twin laterals that are massaged a bit in the area of the rear tire/seat tube, which you might be able to detect in the first photo.

The idea that I had was to get some vertical compliance at the rear wheel. Not a lot, but something to take the edge off. The twin laterals are there to go with my theme of a "mtb heritage" design. I'm trying to emulate a bit of that early mtb pioneering flair with the addition of modern innovations like 1 1/8th headtube/ threadless steerer, disc brakes, and 29 inch wheels. The twin laterals form a sort of "cruiser-esque" front triangle, which is also echoed in the choice of a single speed drive train.

The frame was shown to a friend of Ben's after it was completed to the point that you see here. This individual was one of the original Marin clunker guys that rode with Fisher, Breeze, Guy, et all. He took one look at this bike and reportedly said, "That there is Breezer 1979!" So, I guess my "heritage" goal was met! Then Ben and this fellow decided that it must have a Bull Moose type handle bar, so I guess that's in the works. I was thinking drop bar, but hey! Bull Moose with a modern twist? Yeah, I can see that.

The hope is that this will be ready for the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, so if you make it up for that, this should be on display.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Drop Bar Mountain Bike Tips

I've seen alot of questions lately on the subject of drop bars for mountain bikes. I think that there are alot of misconceptions out there on just what to do and how to do it, so here's a few tips. These concepts were gathered through reading material on the subject by Charlie Cunningham, an early adopter of drops for off roading, and from an excellent piece done on the subject by Don Person, better known as "Shiggy" on's forums.

1. Probably the biggest misconception out there has to do with the height and reach of drop bar set up. Here is something that will help clear it up for you. Always, always, always ride off road in the drops. Off road drop bars were not meant to be ridden "on the hoods" as so many roadies are doing. The reason for this is control. Off road the bumps and jarring will make riding on the hoods a dangerous proposition. Riding in the drops actually lets you relax your grip, since the bumps force the handle bar into your hands. Plus, the round cross section of the bar is far easier to hang on to than the hoods.

2. Taking #1 into consideration, it becomes clear that your off road drop bars are to be at a height where the drop section would be level with the height where your grips would be on a flat bar set up. This generally requires a high rise stem for your drop bar.

3. Also taking #1 into consuderation for reach, you may run into trouble if you are already running a very short stem, say less than a 90mm reach. Your stem choices will be limited and your reach may be compromised. It might be better to use a slightly shorter top tube on a different frame for a drop bar set up. (Or go custom)

4. Drop bars good for off road include the On One Midge bar, the Origin 8 Gary bar, and the Salsa Bell Lap.

5. Stems that have high rise that work with threadless steer tubes are available from Salsa, Dimension, and a host of custom builders.

6. Drop bars can be used with single speed drivetrains or multi geared. STI shifters work great off road even with flared bars like the Midge and Gary bar. Bar end shifters can also be used, but because of the flared drop ends, they can sometimes be damaged in crashes.

7. Brake lever tips should be easily reached from the drops. This means you will run the levers lower down on the bars than a road set up. Much lower! Mechanical disc brakes can be set up for use with drop bars if you use Avids excellent BB-7 for road levers, and there is a cheaper Tektro road disc brake as well. Currently no hydraulic disc brake set ups are available for off road drop bars.

Okay, that should help, but if there are any qustions, let me know. I'll be glad to answer in the comments section.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No Gravel For Me

Well, this was the weekend of Dirty Kanza. I was supposed to go down, but a request from a friend to play in their wedding made it impossible for me to join in the gravely goodness. Now, I wonder what in the heck went on down there! It's late Sunday and no stories yet! You'd think that somebody would have taken a cue from my audio-blogging last year and given us some sort of updates by now! Sheesh! Do I have to do everything? ( Just kidding, ya'all!)

I did get a ride in on the Willits fork Friday with Mr.24. I have to do some more testing on it, but it does do some vertical flexing. There is definitely something going on there. I had to conjure up the old, rusty steel fork riding skills again after getting dumped once from riding it like a carbon fork.

The trails at the Boy Scout Camp were in a state of uber-roughness. The XC race left several tracks so rutty that you couldn't really choose a line, it was chosen for you! Then there were the roots exposed from washed away soil which weren't there last time I rode. All in all a great test for the fork.

Mr. 24 was running a silly skinny XC rear tire that was getting knocked off line all the time. His front was the same and finally that end made it's unstable presence known by knocking ol' Jeff to the turf right in front of me. I about took him out by almost running right over him! That would have been ironic. Guitar Ted takes out Mr. 24 by rolling him over with his 29"er tires! Uhh..........sorry dude! Thankfully it didn't come to that.

I did my part today by getting the Burley Flat Bed trailer out and hauling my bass and equipment to church to play today. I forgot I even had the thing until the other day when I uncovered it from the pile of bike frames and tires that had collected on it. Now I'll use it more often. Especially in the face of what I'm seeing everyday as I commute past two gas stations on my way to work and back. (It can be done with a bike! It can be done with a bike! It can be done with a bike!.....[repeat as necessary])

Friday, May 18, 2007

Secret Project #1 Revealed!

It's a Badger! Yep, a fillet brazed steel, drop bar 29"er from Rob Pennell is being constructed in Kansas as we speak.

The picture is of the design specs that Rob will use to build by. The dirty adjustable wrench? Hmm...........dunno! Perhaps that's there to give Rob's assistant Josh an occasional attitude adjustment! Heh heh! Just kiddin' there Josh!

I thought it only fitting that I post this today as most of my gravel grinding buds are on their way to the Dirty Kanza 200 to get ready for tomorrow's flinty goodness. (Good luck to all of you, by the way!) Wish I was going too. Oh well!

This bike will kind of be a culmination of my time spent on the Badger Dorothy from last fall. I was so smitten with the way the 19" frame rode that I knew I had to have a bike like that tweaked for drop bars. I felt that a drop bar specific frame with a similar geometry to the Dorothy and using custom butted tubes would be the only way to make that bike better for me.

I plan on riding this bike primarily on long, long rides on gravel and single track. I expect it'll be a rather comfortable, great handling, beautiful frame that will give me years of riding joy. I can't wait to show and tell you more, but that's it for now. I'll post more clues and comments in the days to come.

Secret Project #2? Yeah, it's at the powder coater. I'll post a teaser on that one later Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thursday Yahoo!

Well, if you saw my post from earlier today, I mentioned that something might be showing up today that would make coming back here worth while. Well, here it is!
This is a Willits WOW fork, which is a steel unicrown fork designed to be "vertically compliant" I'll be mounting this up on my Raleigh XXIX+G to test it out. (The Raleigh, by the way, has been re-named "Allie Rose" by my daughter, which I like alot more than "XXIX+G". )
I'll be getting out on a test ride with Mr. 24 at the Boy Scout Camp tomorrow, so check back on Twenty Nine Inches
and here for a ride report later tomorrow, hopefully.

In the meantime, check out yesterday's GTDRI announcement or just go to the site. Have some fun checking that out. (Kerkove has a twisted mind, I tell ya!)

See ya later!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Announcing The New and Improved GTDRI

Well, this is what happens when you give Mr.24 the "keys" to your blog template!

Check it out. The sidebar ideas were Jeff's, so there's a bit of black humor there, just so you know.

Stay tuned for further updates and madness! Thanks to Kerkove Media for the re-do.

It's Official: We're Normal!

If you work in the cycling industry for any length of time these days you have probably heard of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, or "BRAIN" for short. It's the only industry rag that matters, Stateside anyway. Well, we just got our latest issue at the shop and right there on the front page is a headline that says, "29ers Step Up from Niche to Mainstream"

Okay, if your industry rag is declaring it, it must be true, right?

So, what does this mean? (Assuming BRAIN is correct in it's analysis, and I believe that they are) I have a few random thoughts on the matter. Some serious and some not so much. See if you can pick out which are which.

First off, this would mean that we might not be calling these bikes "29"ers" much longer. If the new Specialized and Diamondback hard tail offerings in the $650-$900 dollar range are any indication, we might just see a whole new generation of inexpensive, big wheeled mtb's that will cause new cyclists to accept the wheel size as "normal" and end up calling them "mountain bikes" without reference to wheel size at all.

Of course, it also means that more and more choices relating to the wheel format will surface, like the Rock Shox Dart 29"er forks that will be on the Specialized Rockhopper. (By the way, no mention of this fork was made at all by the SRAM guys at their Sea Otter presentation. Weird.)

Then the obvious will occur, which is that a mass exodus of the early adopters will be taking place. They will adopt some other "fringe" mtb fad, like 650B mountain bikes, 36"ers, or go do something else all together away from cycling. Something like riding recumbents, maybe. Who knows?

Then the 29"er Forum on will just become "the normal cycling forum" (like it hasn't to some degree already!) or the moderators will start putting all the threads into their proper categories and shut down the 29"er forum all together. I mean, they are just a mountain bike with bigger wheels, right?

And it all hits home here with me having to change my header again to just saying "Guitar Ted Productions" with no reference to 29"ers at all, since they have been assimilated. Which also means that my gig at Twenty Nine Inches will disappear due to the sites irrelevance, or that I'll have to start writing about recumbent bicycles, since they always will be weird! (Not gonna happen....the recumbent thing, that is!)

So it is with some sadness that I read the headline in BRAIN the other day. Like American Pie says, "the day the music died", we've started the downward spiral, it would seem. We're just riding "normal" mountain bikes now. We're just normal trail riders. Hooray!

I think I'll go celebrate this new mediocrity by having a Bud Light.

Ha! Just kiddin'!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Musings On Tubeless Tires

In the past, I've been rather skeptical of the whole tubeless tire thing. I realize that some of you swear by the systems out there, that you couldn't ride without it because of flats, etc. I always was hesitant to jump in the tubeless thing though. It just didn't seem worth it for my riding style and terrain.

Now I've tried it for awhile. Here's my take on tubeless now after having run the Bontrager Tubeless Ready system.

The system I ran was using some "stupid light" race tires and wheels. I know that in the setting I was using them last weekend, the system was being pushed over it's limits. That's exactly what I wanted though, to see where I could and couldn't ride this stuff. Now to say tubeless tires as a whole were a bad idea based upon this, well........that's just wrong! However; I can report a few bugs that I experienced that I think cross lines of discipline here.

First of all, the sealant is sketchy. I've seen Stan's work and not work so well, and the Super Juice seems about the same. It's great when it works......when it works! If it doesn't work, then your back in the tubed world anyway, plus you've got slimy goo to deal with. Not fun! Flats already suck bad enough without some Nickleodeon spooge all over the place.

Secondly, the tires fit so tight on Bontragers system that I though I was going to permanently damage my thumbs whilst mounting them. I know it's better that way, but hurt! Granted, when my inevitable puncture came that the sealant couldn't deal with, the tire came off the bead surprisingly easily. Hmm.......that's okay in the field, but did the bead stretch? My guess is that it did. Makes you wonder just a bit.

Then there's that pesky valve thingy that's great when you're running tubeless and a pain to keep track of when you're not. Yes, I lost mine after removing it to install a tube! My fault, but when you run tubes all the time, this isn't an issue, since your valve is tethered to this humongous rubber hoop.

Minor gripes, maybe. But mostly non-issues when running tubes. I suppose I could adapt to this tubeless thing, but I've got some suggestions for improvements for those product designers out there. How about making a tire mounting machine, like automobiles use, so we can save our digits from permanent damage and avoid the temptation to use tire levers and even worse, curse at inanimate objects! Next, that sealant. Couldn't it double up as mosquito repellant, hand cream, or something nutritional to give us energy to catch back up to those that passed us in a race? And finally, that pesky loose valve stem. How about a handy place to snap it into a tire lever, since we're eventually going to have to use one anyway.

Well, maybe I'm a bit of a luddite, but this tubeless thing has a ways to go before you can color me impressed!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Weekend Ride Report

Stayed off the computer for the majority of the weekend, ( mission accomplished!) and got to run up to Decorah, Iowa to meet up with Jeff O'Gara, Rich (Deke) Gosen, and other locals to check on some of the trails we're going to use for The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo in June on the weekend of the 23rd and the 24th.

I met up with the guys at the trail head. They were ready to rock and roll right when I pulled up, so out I jump and grab my stuff to ride as quick as I can. I always feel nervous when folks are waiting on me, since I really don't like waiting on others. So, off I go into a big climb right off the bat after sitting in my car for an hour and a half. Can you say, redline? Yeah, and it was that way pretty much for the next hour and a half straight, before I finally settled down. (More on that in a minute)

The trails up there are all singletrack, all up and down, and 90% off camber. Tough, challenging, and lots of fun. I was shown a "Pines Section East" and later a "Pines Section West", either one of which was twice as long as any other pine section I've ridden in Iowa, that was super flowy and fast. Most of the mileage was done on the classic, newer trails put in since 2004 up there though.

I was getting a groove going, (finally) when I approached a big down/up section. Probably a drop in and right back out of about 15 to 20 feet with a narrow exit between two busted up tree stumps. I thought, "Speed is your friend", dropped in with no brakes and found out the transition from down to up was a little more severe than I had thought. The Dos Niner's suspension launched me, after a full compression, off line to the left which put me off line for the exit. Needless to say, I piled it up spectacularly, taking a rib shot from the handlebar and tearing a little hole in my Bontrager Tubeless Ready tire's sidewall that the sealant couldn't deal with. Later I found other scraped and bloody sections on my body, but right then, all I wanted to do was get the flat fixed and move on. After what seemed like an eternity, and a borrowed tube, (mine had a hole in it, doh!) we moved on.

Now, I am not sure exactly what all was going on, but my mind was really out of it for quite awhile after that biff. Could it be that a combination of only eating two slices of pizza, no real riding since before Trans Iowa, and having to actually climb was taking it's toll on me? Naaaah! Are you kidding me? I probably just sucked, that's all! (Heh heh!)

I've said before that walking has become an integral part of my mountain biking experience, and Decorah was no exception. I was really hurting. Mostly my head, not so much my body, all though my legs were wobbly for a bit after that crash. My head just screamed at me in pain and I couldn't catch my breath at times. Weird. It didn't kill me, so on I trudged/rode.

Anyway, Rich was kind enough to baby sit me through the rest of it so I wouldn't get lost. (Thanks! I owe ya one!) At the end of the ride, oh say for the last half an hour, I came back around. I started feeling a lot better, and the riding started to come around to me again. I could actually climb again, although by this time the Dos was creaking and groaning in agony! (Gonna hafta tear that bike down and check it out!)

We ended the ride on the River Trail and then headed to T-Bock's for refreshments. A great riding day and everyone looked like they had fun. I got into my car, and stopped at a convenience store where I stuffed two of those cheapo cheeseburgers that the Trans Iowa racers were eating not but a couple weeks ago into my mug and got home about sunset.

The equipment I used was as I mentioned, the Dos Niner and I mounted up the Bontrager Tubeless Ready wheels and Dry X tires, tubeless of course. The tires were absolutely scary bad on the off camber trails of Decorah. There rounded profile and lack of real side knob bite had me puckered up several times and actually dumped me a couple more. Next time I'm bringing a "real" trail tire up, like a Rampage, or even an XR, which another of the guys was riding and had more side knob bite than the Dry X did. Conditions were dry, hard packed, with a bit of dusty/dirt loose on top. Suspension wasn't dialed the way I would have preffered, and I think a hardtail would be a better choice from a climbing aspect in Decorah.

I'll be back again to assail these trails again, or most likely, get spanked like yesterday! I say, "Bring it on, sucka!"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday News and Views

If you didn't see my post from last Sunday , you missed what this is all about here. Check that out and also be informed that this is the head set for one of the "Secret Project" bikes that I am having custom built.

This should clue you in to the color scheme at least!

(Thanks Chris! This head set will look great!)

Here we have a picture that was kindly sent to me by David of Planet Bike.

Planet Bike sponsored this pedicab and offered free rides to folks participating in the recently held National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C.

One of the really cool things about the summit is that they are trying to influence lawmakers to adopt a measure that would reimburse commuters that use bicycles through a tax credit. This could be huge for us that already commute by bike and would be a great influence to others considering doing it.

Speaking of commuting to work, next week is "Bike To Work Week", so get yer lazy but outta bed a bit earlier and ride that bike to work next week. I'll be doing it, so will many others. Here's a guy that commutes every day. I wonder if he packs that heat while plying the streets of Charolotte N.C. ? Heh heh!

Check out Mike Curiaks "lunch ride" on the newest all mountain bike from Lenz Sport. Yes......those are the 29 inch wheels that are too weak and too heavy to use as a serious trail bike. I've got to say, Mike says these are moves he hasn't been able to pull off before, but he makes them look awfully easy here. Anyway, somebody out there is eating some crow after seeing these clips!

Wow! Is it Friday already? This week was, almost non-existent! I needed more hours to get to some stuff. Hmm............too late now! I'm going to jump in and say right now that I'm riding this weekend, so no weekend posting! None! I'm staying away from this time sucking machine and so should you! (Well, not My time sucking machine............your time sucking machine!)

My good buddy Jason spoke of a Guitar Ted Ride and Smile get together yesterday in the comments section. How about June 9th or 10th people? In Minny-apple-pus? Sound off if'n ya thinks that is a good idea or not.

Later! Ride yer bike!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Just Want To Ride!

It seems that one of the "negative side effects" of going with a 29"er is having to think about stuff. Things I never would have considered thinking about when I rode a 26"er have suddenly become important, or seem to have, since going to 29"ers.

Take for instance the worst source of confusion, fork trail. I've opined about that one several times in an effort to spread knowledge but it still trips up folks all the time. Of course, back when fork manufacturers locked us into the 38mm-40mm crown offset in the early 90's, all we had to know was head angle, and even then we were talking about a difference of half degrees. Really, you didn't have to think about that stuff. Just go out and ride your bike.

Now a whole can of worms has been opened up with front end geometry being called into question by Fisher on their 26 inch bikes. (That's right kiddies, "G2" isn't a secret government plot to subvert the youth through subliminal messages embedded into downloaded mp3's!) So, now we have all sorts of fork offsets, not only for 29"ers, but for all mountain bikers. Hooray!

Then you have the smaller sources of confusion, like tubes. I never get surprised anymore by the folks that don't "get it" when it comes to tubes and 29"ers. (Or really for any bike. Tubes and tire sizes just trip people out.) By the way, 26 inch mountain bike tubes.........yeah, they work just fine.

The gearing thing, the suspension thing, (front and rear), and handle bar height, toe over lap, and on and on....... Someone coined a term: "paralysis of analysis", that guy should get free beer. Really, that's hitting the nail on the head anymore, it seems to me.

You know, I suppose I enjoy the dissecting of bicycle "this and thats" from time to time as much as the next guy, but lately it seems as though I (and a lot of you out there) am getting sucked into the "black hole" of internet wankery and not riding as much as I should. I see alot of talk, but no walk, as it were.

So, I am vowing to turn off this "black hole of suck" more often this summer and get more riding in. Heck, then I'll have more to post about that won't have anything to do with bicycle geometry, numbers, or trail other than numbers of miles put in, and trail in terms of dirt.

Go ride your bike. The Internet will still be here and as effed up as ever. Trust me!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Evolution Of A Forum

Or; How The 29"er Forum On Went Sour

"I can't stop the music
I could stop it before.
Now I don't wanna hear it.
Don't wanna hear it no more."

Stop This Game by Cheap Trick

Okay, a bit of a rant here. So, grab yer mornings' favorite drink and get settled in!

I read the forum on 29"ers every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Well, using the term "read" is maybe overstating it now. More like skimming the headlines is closer to the point. The thing is, it used to be worth reading. No........really!

When I first discovered computers and the internet in the late 90's I came across It was a pretty happening place for mountain bikers to get connected, and get tons of info that the print mags just couldn't/ wouldn't deal with. One of the things that caught my eye was this thing about 29"ers. Soon there was a forum dedicated to the whole phenomenon.

I remember that there weren't alot of new posts everyday, but what there was, I would read. I mean every one of them. They all had great information back then. I learned alot from reading those posts and it was what eventually influenced me to seriously consider getting a 29"er sight unseen. Can you even imagine that happening in today's 29"er Forum on I can not!

First of all, the pertinent information is in the "sticky thread" for FAQ and isn't easily found any more. Of course, these questions come up on a regular basis on the forum any way. Then there are the things that don't have a thing to do with 29"ers per se that clog up the forum everyday and those things make gleaning out the good info that much harder. The sheer volume of stuff going through that forum now makes it virtually impossible to read all of it.

This isn't so bad, I mean, you still could find decent posts that were worth reading. Posts actually having something to do with 29"ers. That's not what is killing the forum, no. It's the attitude of a lot of the posters now that's killing the place. Take for instance any post on a new 29"er or 29"er part, (tires, wheels, forks) and if it is deemed by someone that the poster might have something to do with a company, or is getting paid some how by a company, or isn't buying the product, then the post is "spam", (an internet term for posting for monetary gain) and the "flame war" ensues. This effectively drives out potential posts that might be interesting because the folks wanting to share will get crucified for being "spammers" or worse.

Then there is the general overall bickering, lack of research, and rudeness that seems to pervade many of the threads that inhabit the forum that just gets tedious to the point of nausea. Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive.

I will be honest and say that a lot of what I write is based on things read on and I am certainly grateful for that. It still is a source of great information........currently. How much longer that lasts is a question worth looking at, and is what the point of this post is. How much longer before the forum is crushed under the weight of it's own angst? I know one thing. It's getting worse and not better!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Some Observations

Today's post is a random selection of takes on some various subjects in the cycling world.

Operation Stupidity: The roadie scene gets even more bizarre by the minute. Now we come to find out that Ivan Basso, the heir apparent to the Tour crown back in 2005, was associated with that infamous doping ring, or accused doping ring, or whatever! At any rate, it's obvious that another road cycling icon has been thrown down from his pedestal. What next? A suspicious use of smelling salts by domestiques? Sprinters caught snorting blow just before the line?

How stupid does this have to get before everybody stops watching and there is no money left in it for the UCI, ASO, WADA, and any other evil acronym of cycling? Maybe then and only then we can get back to watching guys actually race bikes, as opposed to wondering who the next dopers will be, and what series is legit, and so on and so on.............

Trans Iowa: The 2007 Book Is Closed: I went over some final details on Trans Iowa for this year. I am pretty happy about how it all went down. The number one goal was to have a great event where lots of folks could finish. The weather co-operated and the mission was accomplished. 24 finishers out of 64. Then the other goal was to account for all riders. With the great co-operation of the folks involved, that mission was also accomplished. Huzzah! The accolades and thanks were tremendous. Everyone involved, with one notable exception, was extremely thankful and gracious this year. That made all my hard work that much easier to take. Thanks to all of you who took the time out to make an effort to say thanks. I appreciate that more than you know.

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo News: I'm hearing that Jeff O'Gara, (one of the fine Decorah folks working to bring you this event) has gone before the Decorah City Council and got the permission to allow camping on some city owned land about a 100 yards from the trail head we are using for the Ballyhoo. That's a huge piece of the puzzle needed to make this thing work. I also am still planning on getting up there this Sunday, even though it's Mother's Day, to get a ride in on some of the trail we will be using up there. More news as I can gather it will be posted here.

Nice dry weather on the horizon here. Let's hope things dry out quickly! I need some dirt time!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday News And Views

The local scene here was treated to the annual Camp Ingawanis XC race yesterday in rainy, muddy conditions. Things got pretty gooey to the point that they had to cut short the festivities, which is too bad. I had a feeling yesterday as the rain poured down that things wouldn't even get started at all, so I suppose it's cool that at least some riding was put in. Check the 150 plus photos by Mr. 24 for more gooey, muddy views.

As I write, the additional rain from overnight is tapering off. Uggh! It's going to be awhile before anything local is rideable again. Fortunately, Decorah is only about an hour and a half away, and it drains very well up there. It looks as though that I'll be up there next weekend for some exploration for the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo and for some testing. Pictures and a ride report will be posted, as long as it doesn't decide to rain this weekend!

As I posted yesterday, the "69er" article I wrote is posted on Twenty Nine Inches. Check it out and hit the comment link to read those comments. Some more interesting stuff there too.

I think we're going to see the unveiling of a true AM/FR/DH 29"er with some meaty, huge rubber this week sometime. Mike Curiak is hinting at something new that he is tickled to death about and if I know him, that means a big, long travel, fat tired, 29 inch wheeled mountain tamer. Think bigger than a "Behemoth" and you'll be there! Stay tuned here, on Twenty Nine Inches, or at the 29"er forum on for the latest. She'll be comin' down the mountain when she comes.......

Newsy bits all week long! Stay tuned for more.............

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wet Sunday Doldrums's raining! Or should I say Noooooo! It's raining! Ahhhhh! (I think choice #2 is more appropriate to my current mood!

Anyway, this is the kind of thing we don't need on top of already flooded local trails. On a more positive note; last week end was Trans Iowa, and not this weekend. I suppose it helps to stay positive!

So, I have a few tidbits of information and some commentary for you. First up; it's Chris King and the King Cycle Group to the rescue with colored headsets that are available now in any mix and match combination of their current color palette plus purple and turquoise in limited quantities. (Sorry! No complete headsets in purple or turquoise. I know! I was bummed too!) Anyway, you can now get crazy with that new bike build and get a different color for your top or bottom cups, and top cap. Kind of like their famous Dreadset headset, if you are at all familiar with that one.

Also, King Cycle Group has that pink stuff available all year long now. (Bicycle parts and accessories, you nincompoops!) They have a pretty serious take on the thing, so check the linkage. In pink related news, the company is also building complete wheelsets using the pink hubs in five different models. Sadly, they don't do a 29"er wheelset! (I know. I was bummed again!)

I wrote another take on the 69er thing for Twenty Nine Inches. Check it out if you want, but basically I think the new interest in it is going to be from serious racer types and short chainstay fanatics. 29"ers still rule as far as I'm concerned.

There has been some updates at The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo site that you might want to check out. If you are thinking about coming, please check into the RSVP link to give us a heads up. It's a great way to help us out in our fine tuning of this event. Look for more updates and news about The Ballyhoo here soon!

Okay, that's it for today. Check out your favorite cycling vid, spin the trainer, and pray for some dry weather!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Trail Building

Today I put in some four hours worth of "sweat equity" into our Boy Scout Camp mountain bike trails in preparation for the XC race out there tomorrow. Blisters never felt so good!

The race directors have a pretty ambitious plan in having different courses for all classes. That's cool! I got to put time in on the beginners trail. Lots of decisions were made and angles were assessed. I thought it was a great way to give back something that mountain biking has given me. I wish I could be there tomorrow to watch that begginers race, and see how those new sections of trail work out. I've got to be at church playing in the band this weekend, or I would be.

Maybe I'll get a chance to swing over afterwards and ride it post race. They need flags and markers picked up anyway, so hey! What the heck!

I guess those guys up in Minny-apple-puss must be sniffin' too much glue or something because I got invited to be on Team Twin Six. So, what would anybody want from a forty-six year old, surly 29"er freak? Good question! I'll be along side of folks like Mr. 24 , and Team Dicky. All I can say is that I already am sportin' the 6 proudly, that I plan on racin' a time or two this year, and that I will still be a surly 29"er freak. Might I also add that Twin Six is about to unleash their own take on 29"ers soon, so stay tuned for that! As an this guy out and buy his steed!

Finally.........and I do mean "finally"! Badger Cycles has redesigned their website and it looks really nice now. Simple and clean. Check it out.

Okay, that's it for Saturday night. Where was I a week ago? Oh yeah..................gravel!

Ride yer two wheeled contraption, ya'all!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday News and Views

Upcoming Testing: Now that I've got a break from major events for a bit, I am planning on cramming a whole bunch of testing into the month of May. Things like the Bontrager Tubeless Ready Wheels/ tires, the WTB Weir Wolf tires, new Bontrager Rhythm saddle, Trek's digital computer, and more. I have a Tioga Spider saddle being tested now, as we speak and also the three lubes in the Guitar Ted Lube-off. The Titec H-Bar has been passed on to a new owner and I should be able to access his thoughts on it after a while. (So far, he loves it). The Gary bar, (the Midge clone, dirt drop) will also see more testing after the Karate Monkey recieves a long overdue overhaul!

Speaking of "Big" Events.... The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo is taking place on June 23rd-24th. If you plan on coming, please take a minute to fill out the form here. This will help us to better organize and prepare for you to have a great time riding mountain bikes in the beautiful city of Decorah, Iowa. Lots of demo bikes, fun, give aways, and more are planned. The City of Decorah is bending over backwards for this event, so expect a warm welcome and good times.

Secret Project Bikes: I have two custom built frames in process right now and I have dubbed them Secret Project #1 and Secrect Project #2 for right now. The status of both frames is that one is brazed up and awaiting paint/powdercoating and the other is about to be brazed up very soon. As of now, the two rigs should at the very least be framesets ready to show at the Ballyhoo, and it's hoped that one or possibly both will be rideable. That all depends on money! I have to buy all the parts to flesh these two out. It's a good thing they are both single speeds!

The plan is also to let you in on the processes to obtain your own custom bike, the philosophies behind different builds, and what it takes to be a custom bike builder from two very different builders. The paths I chose to accomplish these two projects has been very different as well. Stay tuned for more later this summer!

Okay, it's spring time! Spring into action and get out and ride!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bontrager "Dry X" Tubeless Ready Tires: Fast!

The Bontrager Dry X tires that I recieved at Sea Otter are mounted and have the Super Juice sealant inside them now. As you can see, the casing width is generous for a racing tire.

This is inflated to 35psi by the way

Here is a shot showing the tread width at the widest point across the knobs.

The casing has a very rounded profile. This allows for a smaller part of the tire to contact the ground if you use higher pressures. I wouldn't suggest this though, as the tire rolls quite well as it is.

One impression about the Tubeless Ready System is that it's a tight fit! The tire interface with the rim is the tightest by a long shot in the 29"er world and ranks amongst the tightest fits for any off road tire I have ever worked with.

The second impression is: These tires and wheels are fast! The reduced weight is immediately felt and the rolling resistence of the Dry X is lower than most tires I have tried. Only a well worn XR Bontrager tire rolls any better!

A dirt session is forth coming and afterwards I will post a more thorough report on Twenty Nine Inches. Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Hardtail Is Dead: Long Live The Hardtail!

One of the intriguing things about 29"ers to me is the resurgence of the hardtail frame which had been declared "dead" by a certain magazine back in the late 90's. It would seem that the frame design has had new life breathed in it by the developement of the 29"er over the past eight years.

Is this really true though? Take a look at how the 29"er developed. It was mostly by small custom builders, albeit Fisher was also making them. Smaller builders typically cannot afford the high developement and manufacturing costs of a full suspension design. So, even though a few full suspension designs saw the light of day in 29"er wheels, the vast majority of the earlier bikes were by necessity, hardtails. They were easier and cheaper to make. With the wheel size lending a smoother ride in the first place, a lot of folks thought suspension might be unnecessary. Now however, this seems to have changed a bit.

We are beginning to see the emergence of the longer travel, All Mountain/Free ride/ Down hill 29"er and folks are salivating at the possibilities. Will this be the beginning of the end for hardtails? No way! I don't think that for a minute.

For one thing, hardtails were never dead in the first place. Even in the 26"er world, hardtail XC race bikes still dominated and for simplicity, reliability, and light weight they still are on top of the heap. Sure, you won't be doing major drops, flying off the sides of cliffs, or bombing rock gardens at warp speed, but you won't find much else that a hardtail can't at least traverse without dabbing, albeit at slower speeds than some full suspension bikes.

So, if the hardtail is dead, then nobody got the message, and especially us 29"er freaks!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lost My Groove

Well, all good things eventually must end and so it is with Trans Iowa V3. I am sure that this one will be remembered for a long time, judging from the response I've seen. I am glad it was a success.

However; one should never rest on their laurels, and there are bills to pay, so I have got to get back into the groove of the everday routine again. No more rest time. As if I rested yesterday! Ha! I mowed the burgeoning jungle that was about to overtake the back yard. Then I unpacked The Dirty Blue Box and downloaded all that race stuff. Then............I had a beer! Yep! I figured a little celebrating was in order for all the things that went right this past weekend. (And not all of my doing either.) Then I topped it all off. I did something that was sorely missing for me all weekend.

I rode my bike. I didn't go very far or very hard. I just rode for awhile. I needed that!

In that short ride, I began to sense it coming back. That groove, that thing that had been missing for awhile.

I think I know what I'll be doing to get back on track!