Friday, June 29, 2007
That activity would be my catching up on the Great Divide Race. This is really epic stuff. The event, which has been going on for two weeks now, is a backroads race down from the Canadian border to the Mexican border along the Great Divide route as set up by Adventure Cycling. The rules are pretty simple. Time trial the route as a self sufficient cyclist. (Well, there is a little more to it, but that's pretty close to the mark)
This year there were more people lining up for this event at the start than in the previous four years combined. They all are required to call in every day to a specific number which records there message which is then transcribed by Tom Purvis and posted to the site linked above. It helps you see the agony, drama, and hard work involved in this trek across the U.S. Pretty interesting stuff, especially in light of the morass that road cycling has fallen into.
The Tour de France used to be my thing to check out, but not anymore. This Great Divide Race has supplanted it. Why? Well, it's more in keeping with the spirit of challenge and overcoming than the Tour is. It's not over hyped, or hyped at all, really. It's still a grassroots, underground, for the spirit of it all event. The tour? Gutted of any of that. Empty and devoid of anything "true and good", if one can say that about cycling. Maybe I'm a romantic luddite, a reto-grouch, and just not seeing what others find in the Tour. Whatever. All I know is that these Great Divide racers have captured my fancy and I love a good cycling tale before bedtime.
So, I'll keep reading!
If you are so inclined, catch up on the story so far and get ready for the first finishers sometime this weekend. It's going to be awesome! I think it'll inspire you to go out on your own long epic ride this weekend. Do it! I'll be riding somewhere too.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I'll be wearin' it with pride!
In other event news, the GTDRI blog has a new update if you are interested.
Also, the planning for the next Ballyhoo is taking place with analysis of the just completed inaugral event. We won't be changing much, just tweaking it out and doing a better job up front.
As far as Trans Iowa goes...........don't ask! There are some definite hurdles to putting on another version of this event that may prove to high to clear. The jury is still out. I'll keep ya'all informed on any updates concerning the status of another Trans Iowa. I'm going to be concentrating on the laid back prep for GTDRI first, then a short break before Interbike. After that I'll make a call on T.I.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Wow! I must be doing a lot of mountain biking lately.
I don't think crashing is a bad thing. Actually, they used to say that if you weren't crashing once in awhile you weren't riding hard enough. I don't know if that's true, maybe it was just a way of explaining away the poor technology of those times. Maybe. I think it's still true though.
Crashes are cool from several standpoints. You've got your buddies, who need to be entertained. I mean, who doesn't want to be the star of the story, right? Then you've got your battle scars to remind you of "that ride" for at least a few weeks, and if you're really lucky, for a lifetime.
For instance, I was showing a guy where my solid axle gouged my inner leg when I was a kid. This guy looks at me with wide eyes and says, "Ya mean like this?!" He shows me a scar just like mine he got in the same way as a kid. Instant brotherhood man. Awesome! It wouldn't have happened if not for the crashing.
So, besides being a weatherman, I can't think of a single thing I could do that seems to reward failure with such a high regard. Crashing is cool.........well, to a degree it is. There are those truly heinous hits.
Let's try to avoid those, shall we?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
It's high time that all 29"er bicycle manufacturers equipped their rigs with 185mm front rotors. Why? Because they work far better than 160mm ones do on a 29"er, that's why. It's safer, more performance oriented, and helps bring out the best in 29"er wheels.
I've got a couple bikes with 160mm rotors up front and all of my brake systems are Avid mechanicals, so I can see a direct comparison. The 160mm rotors just do not cut it for me. Hauling my 240lb carcass to a stop is no easy feat and the 160mm set up just can not stop it like a 185mm rotor can. Plus, think of the better heat dissapation on longer downhills. That's something to consider. I really do not want to look down and see glowing dull red heat waves eminating from the area formerly known as my front hub.
Then you have weight. Sure, some will whine about 185mm rotors weighing more. Well, who cares? I mean, really.......I would rather be able to stop more quickly with better control. What's a few more grams when it comes to that? Sheesh! Cut out the extra beer, ice cream, or heck, leave your water bottle at home if it comes to it. Give me a 185mm rotor up front on every new 29"er. Weight be damned!
I think it's plain silly to spec a 160mm rotor on the front of any 29"er save the most XC race oriented steeds and their are only a few that I would put in that category. (The Orbea Alma 29"er, the Salsa Mamasita, and the upcoming Fisher carbon hardtail) The 29"er, by it's very nature, is going to attract your larger than life mtb'ers anyway, such as myself. And as I said, it's no easy feat for a brake to stop a raging Clydesdale coming down the mountain. Outta my way, I'm large and in charge!
It just is a thing that makes way too much sense not to do. So, if you are a person that works for a company that produces 29"ers, dump the miniscule front brakes! Give us real stopping power and spec 185mm rotors on the front of our shiny new 29"ers.
Okay, okay..............please spec a 185mm rotor up front!
Rant mode off!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Here's the '08 Paragon from Fisher. Let me tell you right now, this is going to put Fisher right at the front in the hard tail 29"er ranks. the Fox fork seemed super easy to figure out, (We didn't have a manual and had no problems setting it up!) and the improvements in tire clearance, and structural integrity are all fixed from the previous models. (Folks looking at a Rig will rejoice. Your new model will be able to clear 2.5" tires!) I'll post more detailed photos on Twenty Nine Inches.
The Saturday evening entertainment was a blast! The upper level of T Bock's bar and grill was transformed into a rock and roll stomp fest courtesy of Baker London and the Fuumes' alternative craziness. We had a packed house and the raffle was enjoyed by all. (Maybe the fact that nearly everyone got something had a little bit to do with that!)
Later on, I veered and weaved my way on the Dos Niner to the campground and perused a million stars with the Salsa Amigos. Great times!
Here's a shot down the vendors row. Lot's of bikes to choose from including Haro, Raleigh, Fisher, Trek, (Madones, yes-the new ones!), Salsa, Slingshot, Titus, and Niner Bikes.
I'll admit we didn't get alot of folks this first time, maybe 100 or so, but I know that demo ride numbers were average to above average for almost all the bikes there and at least three bikes were "sold" on the spot to some of the attendees. I'm sure even more will be seeing duty underneath some of the folks that got the chance to come to this first Ballyhoo.
The hit bike of the Ballyhoo had to be the 36"er designed by Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles. Everybody had to ride it! I like to say it has a smile inducing quality to it. Ben even rode it offroad there and said it clears log piles like no ones business.
Here's Brandon, Ben's wrench, putin' her to the wheelie test!
Some of the other things to come out of the Ballyhoo were that we learned of four new WTB tread designs in various sizes will be coming out later in the year. We even got to see two of them and they look promising. Of course, the aforementioned Fisher Rig frame is going to get the same improvements as all the other hardtails in Gary Fishers line up. We also heard some other unmentionable stuff that should be really cool coming your way soon too.
Well, this was a lot of fun! Personally, it was a bit of a let down that more folks didn't hop on board the fun train we had going, but since we are planning on swinging the bat at this ball again next year, we might get a few more of you out there to reconsider this madness. I will say I had a ball, and I even got to ride a couple times. Most notably with Salsa Amigo Bobby, who got a new handle this weekend. I won't say here what it is, but do check out the Salsa Amigos Blog to find out. (Thanks Bobby for the ride! That was sweet!)
So, that's a wrap on The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo for 2007. Tim G and I are tired, but enthused about what this could be. Of course, there are several folks who deserve huge shout outs for getting behind this and making it happen. The List is as follows in no particular order........
Travis Ott: Gary Fisher Assistant Brand Manager- Big Wheel Pimper, General Cool Guy
Richard "Deke" Gosen: Oneota River Cycles and Generalisimo of Trails for Decorah, Wrench Extrordanaire
Jeff O'Gara: Decorah Parks and Recreation board member: String Puller of Greatest Magnitude- Trail Pimp, and Generally Awesome Guy
Jason Boucher: King of Salsa Amigos and Fun Hog of the Ballyhoo
Mike Bockman: T-Bock's El Presidente' and provider of the Bigwheel Ballyhoo's World Headquarters- Friend of Two Wheeled Freaks Everywhere
Decorah Parks and Recreation/Judy Syverson: Gettin' er duuun! Thanks for the Green Light!
All The Decorah Trail Pimps! You Rock!........no seriously, you ROCK!
and to all the official sponsors:
Gary Fisher Bikes
Until Next year!
I've got pics, but I can't upload them yet. They will be coming! I got to actually ride a bike on the trails myself too. A '08 Paragon. All I will say now is this. Fox fork = NICE! Fisher's redesign = SPOT ON! More on that coming next week.
We had lots of folks gawking at and riding the 36"er. We even got interviewed by the Cedar Rapids Gazzette, so that should be a cool article. All in all it's a pretty good success for the first year.
Last night was the band/party/raffle up in the Ballyhoo World Headquarters provided by T-Bock's. I tell you that you really missed a whale of a good time! The stars in the sky viewed from the campground capped off an excellent day. Now for the finishing touches and I'll write up some more on the aftermath of this event for ya next week.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
We sat down with the Slingshot guys and got the lowdown on those FarmBoy 29"ers first. Crazy looking rigs! Then on down the line to the Salsa Amigos where we parked it for quite awhile and enjoyed some great conversation, brews, and fireflies. Yes! Fireflies! A about a gazillion of them made the open field we were in look as though a million flashbulbs were going off all the time. Like a sparkly fairy tale. Crazy.....but not the craziest!
That came later on when we joined some of the local crew to drink. Their were some crazy loons over there that were blowing grain alcohol into the fire and rasslin' each other and basically creating mayhem at times. One of them broke his bottom bracket shell on the night ride and was riding shirtless to boot. Uh-huh! Craaaaaaazy!
Okay, that's it for now. Tim and I are setting up registration now and getting things wound up for a spectacular summer day. No rain, and very little wind. Good times!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Anyway, the rest, as they say, is history and here we are on the eve of the first Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. The reports are already coming in with Tim G already there in Decorah and a reported sighting of the Titus Cycles factory trailer in the vicinity. So, it looks like this thing is actually taking shape.
Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles dropped of his 36"er so I could get it up to the BWB for folks to see. I'll be having that and some of the raffle prizing dropped off in Decorah early Saturday. Things should be shaping up real well.
Some may have concerns about the weather. Well, it's been unsettled and we have had lots of thunder storms in Iowa, but Decorah hasn't been getting it as bad as some. Plus, I was assured many months ago that rain has a very, very minor effect upon their trails as they drain quickly and are rideable a day after a soaker. Friday is starting out wet here, but again, Decorah is escaping most of this. Tomorrow is forecast to be clear, so let the big wheels roll!
Thursday, June 21, 2007
One side is the side that worries about details, whether or not something is being forgotten, and if anybody will show up. It's the side that saps all your enthusiasm and joy for an event. It's the side of you that says, "I can't wait for this to end!"
Then there is the other side which is the part of you that wants to participate in this cool event, have fun, and see others doing the same. It's the side that says, "Woo hoo! I can't wait for this to begin!"
Unfortunately, the negative side often overwhelms the positive side. I try to keep it all in balance, but I'm tellin' ya! It ain't easy. I won't lie to ya'all: I'll be looking forwards to a month of relative "nothing to do" until GTDRI, which in reality is so low key it's rediculous. A really long ride would be good for my soul about now anyway!
So, with all that said, here's the dealio. I am going to be updating from my Macbook from Decorah all weekend. It'll be at oddball times though, so I appologize to you early morning coffee freaks that will be looking for your daily fix-o-Ted. It might be more like afternoon tea time posting, or most probably a late night, cold brew time posting. So be ready! Ha ha!
See ya at the Ballyhoo if you are coming and if you are not, then look here or on Twenty Nine Inches through out the weekend for what you are missing!
It's crazy, but with the proliferation of cyclists out on our roadways it bears mentioning that we need to be "riding right" on the roads and also talking more about what we do off the bike. People that do not cycle need to know we're out there. Spread the word!
This is from a post dated June 19th on the Iowa Bicycle Coalition blog:
The family of David "Judd" Harris would like bicyclists to attend the funeral. The funeral has been set for 1:30 Friday, June 22 at Roland Funeral Home, 204 E 5th St. Atlantic, Iowa.
Thanks to Mark Wyatt who writes the Iowa Bicycle Coalition blog. I urge any cyclists that can attend this funeral to please do so.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
After running the racy Dry X Tubeless Ready tires up in Decorah, Iowa about a month ago and finding them to be a bit sketchy on their technical trails, I was leery of running them again up there. Especially on the front where I seemed to wash out in switchbacks and off camber corners. Fortunately the good fellows at Gary Fisher and Bontrager have provided the ACX for just such an instance as this.
The ACX is a stalwart of the Bontrager tire line. An all round trail tire with some bite. Just what I needed for the Tubeless Ready wheelset up front. Those blocky treads were looking good to me for keeping me right side up in those off camber trail situations while still being relatively lightweight.
My digital scale read these out to be 650 grams each. Note, these do not have the slightly beefier "AR" sidewall protection, so those tires with that feature would have weighed in just a bit heavier.
The plan is for now to try the ACX up front and retain the Dry X as a low rolling resistance rear tire. Hopefully I'll have a chance to roll these on the same trails as I did the full Dry X set up on earlier for a better comparison. If things get too crazy at the Ballyhoo, then perhaps that'll have to wait. We'll see! I'll post more when I get a few rides in on these.
Special shout out to Poppa Vinny on his lil' bundle o joy and new job promotion this past week! Woot!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Rock Shox rumors are still being heard concerning a longer travel fork for the burgeoning 29"er FR/AM bike market. No real specifics, but Rock Shox has technology in place that could get the job done and do it well. Also there is that longer offset Reba being tested out there somewhere too. I expect to see Rock Shox come out with at least one more new fork by Interbike for 29"ers. (They already quietly slipped in the 29"er Dart fork on us)
Marzocchi hasn't had a new 29"er fork since discontinuing the 29"er Bomber series a couple years ago. I'm hearing that may change soon. Rumors are spreading about the Italian manufacturers re-entry into 29"er forks. If they do, I'm betting on a long travel AM/FR fork and not a XC entry.
Still hearing about various big tire rumors. I know of one for certain and that it's being ridden right now, but as for the width and manufacturer, I am clueless at this point. I may have more on this after the Ballyhoo...........
Another tire rumor: I'm hearing on the heels of Continental's expansion of their 29"er line up that Schwalbe is also going to be offering more 29"er models. This would be a welcomed addition especially if the popular Racing Ralph is introduced as a 29"er tire.
The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo: Well, it's just a few days away now and it looks like the weather will be hot and humid, but not rainy. Last minute details are getting taken care of. Main systems are a go. Now everybody just needs to converge on the same spot and we'll have ourselves the biggest mega-disc party this side of the Pecos River! There will be updates on Twenty Nine Inches right from Decorah, so look for that come Saturday. Until then.........
Monday, June 18, 2007
I lost interest some time ago now. It's just lost any credibility with me and frankly, the sense of a simple man and machine versus time/course/competitors has been lost long ago. If we look back at the Tour's storied past. Way back to the begginings, we see something that I think made LeTour great and carried it for many years. Started as a rediculous publicity stunt for a failing newspaper, The Tour took the imagination of the people by storm with it's excruciatingly long, brutal stages taken on by men that were totally self supported. So self supported that they had to do their own repairs on their bike and had to finish the long route with the same bike as they started with. They fended for themselves for food and water, and in the remoter places of France had to carry with them what they could to survive over brutally rough country backroads and mostly unpaved dirt two track.
Hmmm.........sounds freakishly similar to another event I know of going on right now in 2007! That's right, and it's called the Great Divide Race, or "GDR" for short. It's got everything the first Tours de France had and more. Or should I say less! Less civilization, that's for sure. Bears, moose, deer, and wolves are distinct possibilities. The race isn't shut down for snowy roads, (it's already snowed on much of the main pack in this years edition) Less coverage. You won't find helicopter shots, motos whizzing by competitors, or Phil Ligget's fancy call of the action. In fact, all you can do is get periodic updates direct from the competitors and an occaisonal podcast.
This GDR thing is capturing the fancy of many mtb'ers and enduro nuts and it should be on your radar too. It's about as pure as any "tour" is ever going to get and certainly is heads and shoulders above that debacle that's about to start in Europe about two weeks from now. At least I think so. What's more is there is no money involved, no prizes, no grand parade at the end. Just a guy pulling into a spot on the U.S./New Mexico border near a small outpost town. In other words, the motives are perhaps a bit more pure in regards to the GDR.
At least I'd like to think so!
Friday, June 15, 2007
First of all- I'm not killing this blog! That's not going to happen.
I was just "asking the question", and wondering about the actions of other bloggers. As it turns out, I see many of you fellow bloggers out there are struggling with similar issues as mine. Then there are the two iconic examples that I brought up of blog killing only to find out they both have snuck into the back door again! So much for bold moves!
There was some disscussion about the "web community" that I found interesting. It bears pointing out, ( again, thanks to CHeintz for this) that many of the relationships developed in my life over the past two and a half years would not have happened sans blog. I feel that my life has been enriched and certainly the deleterious rantings that I have posted over the course of time have been felt far and wide. At the very least, this was and is more than worth it, as far as I'm concerned.
So, there you have it. I'm not going away anytime soon, so thoughts of freeing the blogosphere from my pernicious literary attacks are futile! Pffffftttttttt! Ha ha!
Now on to something really worthwhile! The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo starts cranking up in a week from now. Important updates are posted here and here. This is pretty much everything you'll need to know about the event and it's schedule. Check it out!
Get out and ride your bikes!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
For one thing, you might have to try and consider the "bug" that gets into you when you blog. It's not really fair to say it's addictive. Rather say that it's obligatory. If you don't blog one day that you normally would, it's a demon that gnaws at your conscience the rest of the day. Probably not a good thing either. I try to think that I am more of a writer, and that this is my creative outlet. However; there are days when the creativity is on hiatus and I still find myself punching out the keyboard in the morning.
So, I'm intrigued by this undercurrent of rebellion against the shackles of the blogosphere. It seems that there is some sort of siren call there. Is it a call to my ultimate demise or one of freedom, that I can not say right now.
I know one thing, it's tough to get everything squeezed into a 24 hour day. Too much I want to do gets undone. Too much I am supposed to be doing is being neglected. That includes riding a bicycle at times. It's a shame, that's what it is.
The ultimate question is then do I benefit from "killing the blog" or would that just be a meaningless, placebo sort of a gesture for what is really needing to be killed. Hmm.........
Okay, a rather introspective, personal entry today. Here's a bit about 29"ers that fits in though: My Pofahl Custom is sitting half done in the basement while I'm typing this.............now are you getting the picture? Maybe this killing the blog thing that Paddy and Paul have done isn't so much a trend, but it might bear looking at a bit more closely. I wonder if they are getting anymore benefit from it?
Maybe I just need a good, long ride!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
What I want to focus on here is how this all relates to events in civilized parts of the nation that host such events. I'll be honest and say that I have been completely and utterly amazed at the way Trans Iowa has been treated by law enforcement agencies and government officials. That is, they have largely ignored us. There was one incident with a police officer in Hawarden last year that was nothing but a curiosity visit with me. It turned out that the officer lent a watchful eye over us and was rather amused by our little bicycle parade. Other than this, the official entities governing the roads and lands of Iowa have been largely invisible.
That's not to say that it will always be this way. Events like those taking place in the remoter parts of the West might just have a bearing on how events such as Trans Iowa are handled in the Mid West. We do not have "impact" issues like the riders are dealing with out there, but we have other "impact" issues that could be thrown at us. However unlikely that may seem, Jeff and I have actually thought about it, going so far as to send out press releases to the authorities in pass through towns for the first Trans Iowa.
Then there seems to be a limit on group sizes that I find alarming and arbitrary. This is another way to exercise control that governments have used for centuries and is specifically spoken of in our Bill of Rights. While it may seem rediculous to even think that the government would be concerned with a small group of enduro nut jobs on bicycles, that is excactly what is happening out West now.
I'm not quite sure what to make of it all yet, but I smell the distinct odor of male bovine excrement on the winds of the west and it raises my eyebrows just a bit with concern.
I'll be watching this one.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Salsa Cycles: Urinary and Digestive Relief Center (Very Important!), demo bikes, support
Gary Fisher Mountain Bikes: Demo bikes, banners, schwag, support
Niner Bikes: Raffle prize, demo bikes, support
Raleigh Bicycles: Raffle prize, demo bikes, support
Bike 29: Sending the Grand Poo Bah of 29″er “Meat-ups” and support
SRAM/Rock Shox: Raffle prize, support
Chrome Bags: Raffle prizes, support
Cliff Bar: Energy support
We have a Raleigh XXIX+G up for grabs, a Niner EMD frame and messenger bags, a Rock Shox Reba 29"er fork, and Chrome messenger bags to give away, plus more schwaggage that I don't have the space for here.
Check it out, this is going to be a blast and the trails are awesome. Lots of bikes to ride and friendly folks to share it all with. What more could you ask for? Ya want more details? Then check out this link-loaded post on Twenty Nine Inches for all of the information and sites that will be of interest to you.
See ya there!
Monday, June 11, 2007
Well, it's home now. The frame and fork formerly known as Secret Project #2 is now in the workstand in the bowels of the Guitar Ted Labratories awaiting it's adornment with parts.
Note: This photo was snapped pre-downtube decals.
The parts list will go up soon, right after I figure out exactly what is going on it! No worries! I have alot of it figured out, just not completely figured out!
Industry 9 wheel set with orange hubs, silver spokes, and black DT Swiss TK 7.1 disc only rims will be carrying the lone Surly single speed cog with the requsite Surly spacer and lock ring kit. I'm having to tear down my Karate Monkey for a long overdue overhaul, so it's donating the Cooks cranks and Avid BB-7 brakes. I'm hoping the old Shimano bottom bracket cartridge still has some life in it yet and that it's the right size! I'll be having to order a 185mm adapter for the front wheel's caliper though. The I-9 wheel has a brand new set of rotors on it and the front is a 185mm. The head set is a Chris King special color mix. Orange bottom cup, blue top cup, silver bearing cap.
I'm still needing to figure out a seat post, (26.8mm) the steering controls, (Gary Bar? stem?), cables and housings, and wheel skewers. Nothing too major. This was to get a custom stem/handle bar, but the originally chosen constructor is ignoring e-mails and calls from the shop I purchased the frame through, so for now, I'm going to run a drop bar and stem. Not a big deal to me in the grand scheme of things since that was my original plan from the start.
(Just a clarification: The frame maker was awesome and not the same constructor that was to build the bar/stem.)
There still is a chance this will ultimately see the custom Bull Moose, but I'll let that simmer for now! In the meantime, there is a bike to build. It might take awhile, so don't get too excited! Not that you would. More to come..................
Friday, June 08, 2007
One On Testing A New Single Speed 29"er: One One, the U.K. maverick of the cycling world, has introduced a new single speed 29"er that is on test with them in England. Based upon the Scandal model, the new single speed features a bent seat tube to create shorter chainstays, a longer top tube, and relaxed seat and head tube angles from what the original Scandal gearie model featured. There is talk of a steel version as well. See more here on Ridemonkey.
Continental Tire Rumors: The word is "volume", that's what I'm being told about the new offerings to be coming in the near future for 29"er tires from Continental. Apparently, in order to meet the increasing demands in the 29"er marketplace, Conti is said to be "ramping up production" of at least three distinct "families" of 29"er tires to be offered in "several sizes". Check out my more detailed report on Twenty Nine Inches.
Gary Fisher "Superfly" Carbon 29"er Hardtail: The carbon fiber hardtail we saw at Sea Otter has a new name and a new color, (Thankfully!!) . The frame was seen sitting around at the Trek presentation of the new Madone and some of their other mtb offerings. You can check out James Huang's image of it on cyclingnews.com here. Expect more news on this and other Trek and Fisher mountain bike releases for 2008 in a couple of weeks.
The Pofahl Custom Is Coming! The project formerly known as Secret Project #2 is complete as far as the frame is concerned. I am to see it in person this Saturday and I should have some photos posted sometime very soon! It's looking pretty rad, so stay tuned for more on this special project!
That's it for now! Don't forget to read the post below this one, the Tioga Spyder review by Capt. Bob. Then go ride your bikes with a silly, drooling grin all weekend! See ya!
Well, it didn't go down quite like that but, I was intrigued by the appereance of this Tioga Spyder saddle. This is a road only saddle. They call the color "Raw White". A lower end model is black and has "Hollow Composite Alloy" rails. These rails are blue anodized Titanium and (according to the literature that comes with the saddle) are stronger than the black/alloy saddle. The shell of this saddle is made from what Tioga calls, "Carbonite Composite Carbon". Flexy & conforming to your underneaths (is that a word?). To me that's just a fancy name for plastic. I did not see anywhere in the literature where the weight was posted but it is light. I was a little nervous about riding the saddle since the weight limit is 185 lbs & I am hovering around 215 lbs. Friends tell me I carry my weight well. I think they are lying. Okay, back to the review.
At the time all I had for a road bike was my time trial machine. So, I pulled off the air stryke saddle (which looks more like a couch in comparision) and installed the Spyder. Went out for a 15 mile spin in my comfy tuck position. A few miles in I had to pull over and tilt the saddle down a bit. The nose is not as padded as my other saddle. Oh yeah, there is no padding at all. The first thing I noticed was that I can move to any position on this saddle with very little effort. It's because the plastic is slippery. Not too slipery though. Just right, I think. By the time I was done with my ride I had mixed emotions. I noticed that the edges of the saddle were a little sharp. Not like a knife sharp but in a way that kind of digs into your legs a bit. I think with me being over the weight limit that causes the shell to flatten more than it was designed to which causes the edge to not round downward any longer. So, I found me a scrapped cross bike and built up a single speed and slapped on the saddle. Right away I noticed it was more comfortable. But, it bottomed out on the front bolt of my Bontrager seatpost. So, I swapped that out for a single bolt post. Problem solved. I do need to mention that Tioga provided a Q&A with the saddle & this issue was touched on. They said it is not uncommon for bottoming out to happen but it is more noticeable with this saddle since there is no padding to muffle the noise of the bottom out. I ended up getting about 120 miles on this saddle with some gravel rides totalling 30 miles in length. With me being over the weight limit I was still surprised at how comfortable this was. Padded shorts for me was a must though.
Like all products there always has to be something wrong. For me, it's the two little rubber bumpers on the back edge. I am still not sure what they are there for. The only thing they did for me was cause issues getting on & off the bike. They grip your shorts & won't let go until you dismount & try again. So, I grabbed a knife and picked them off. They did come off easily without damaging them or the saddle. So, if you are looking for a lightweight saddle or trying to stand out in a crowd this saddle may be for you. For me.....I like it, but have to give it back. Will I buy one for myself? Not yet. I have to wait for them to make a clydesdale version. I also need to save my money since it comes with a pretty steep price tag. $140 msrp for the alloy railed and $165 msrp for the Ti version tested.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Today in installment four of this series I am going to focus in on the 29"er specific challenges that frame makers face and also give some thoughts on some other things.
Frames that incorporate 29 inch wheels have had an evolutionary effect on mountain bike geometry in the last three to four years. Immediately it was found that front end geometry in particular was going to have to be "29"er specific", as it were. Trail figures were higher- too high, if typical 26 inch bike geometry was used. A geometry package that had been developed and used for over a decade in the mountain bike world. Something had to be done also for the smaller riders. Toe overlap became an issue. Even clearances for rear tires and chain stay lengths gave early designers fits. Much of what had become standard in mountain bike design was now up for re-evaluation now with 29 inch wheels in mind.
The custom designers were the first to tackle the challenges as they were, and still are, able to quickly react to the necessary changes. Manufacturers were somewhat slower, but really the big hang up was the suspension fork, which needed a specific modification to the off set of the fork crown before the manufacturers could really address the challenges effectively. That said, other manufacturers took unique takes on solving the problems. Intense, Salsa, and Surly come to mind.
Even with the fork manufacturers change to longer off sets, many geometry factors are still in flux. Some frame packages hit the nail squarely on the head, while others are a bit quirky and perhaps miss the mark a bit. The devil is in the details, so any frame out there that hasn't been thoroughly thought through will not perform at a high level. Meaning it won't be "26"er like", since most are striving to regain handling characteristics lost in the translation from 26 inch wheels to 29 inch wheels.
The bottom line here is that unless a forward thinking designer was at the helm during the developement stages of any 29"er frame, their probably are deficiencies in regards to handling. And even some of the bolder designers have overshot the mark here and there. The good news is that the geometry is being refined at a fast pace and I suspect that within three years we will see a set of figures for geometry that almost everyone agrees upon.
Now for something completely different! Going back a bit, I found this excellent missive from the keyboard of Walt Wehner that explains what I was trying to aim for in regards to custom designed bicycles far better and with a much more pertinent viewpoint than I could ever have. A must read for this series!
A word on value: One of the things that gets glossed over or completely ignored in all of this is value. It's a term not necessarily tied in with price. It's also not really defineable in concrete terms. What is value, or more appropriately stated: what is valuable to a customer is going to be different from person to person. For some, value equals low price. For others it's highly featured product. For others, it is all about performance. I think most of the time it is a balancing act of all of these things and more. The graet thing is, we are free to choose. It all boils down to this: we are really a bunch of spoiled brats. To have the opportunities we have for choice in 29"er frame designs, much less anything else in our culture, is astounding and taken largely for granted. After all, as I stated in an e-mail to a prominent 29"er designer, "We all could be riding Flying Pigeons". (Not that it would be bad, just that it would be an example of limited choice from a time gone by)
Okay, that about wraps this subject up. If you have any comments, qustions, or concerns, please post a comment.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Today I'll take a look at the other type of frame sets available out there for 29"ers. The "production frames". If you missed the first two posts in this series you may want to scroll down and catch those first. Essentially what I have done is to define and discuss the custom frame choice. Today it's the production bikes turn.
Production frames are those that are designed with a specific goal in mind, but not tailored to a specific rider and their personal needs. As such, there are compromises made in regards to fit, form, and function to varying degrees. What these compromises are exactly and how they impact your particular riding style and body type can vary widely from one production frame to another.
This is what makes production frames a tough call for a person trying to make a choice on a new bike. Well, that is assuming they know or care about subtle differences in the first place. The vast majority of folks are not going to buy a bike based on those types of criteria. It's too mind boggling and it's easier to base your decisions upon recommendations, price, and heck, even color! That's why sites like mtbr.com, Twenty Nine Inches, and even this blog (to some extent) exist, so folks can gather recommendations and views on different bikes. This makes their decision easier, or validates it, and having to go through an arduous process of elimination is avoided.
Are production frames "good enough"? Well, many times the answer is a resounding "Yes!" I have spoken with several custom builders that have told me that the vast majority of their production varies very little in terms of geometry, tubing spec, and details. This tells me that a lot of us are after the same things. If a production frame company taps into that, (which a lot of them are doing), then much of the performance factor will be there. (The part that matters two months after you buy the bike) What little details remain are what differentiates one brand from another. Then there is that whole perception thing, but this is about production frames, so I'll keep it on topic here!
Then there are production frames that are really cheap. How do they stack up? Well, some are "home runs" and some are just "ho-hum". Keep in mind that although price doesn't always reflect the level of value, it is an indicator of what you might expect. A notable exception would be the Karate Monkey, which is still one of the best handling 29"ers out there four years after it's introduction. (Probably has the most copied geometry of any 29"er too!) It's a relatively inexpensive frame, but packed with value. Some other contenders in the production frame world exist now too, but I'll not get too far into that today.
The best thing to do is to examine your riding style, your expectations, and your budget and make a decision based upon those parameters. Chances are there is a production 29"er out there for you now. Although, that wasn't the case just a few years ago!
Tomorrow I want to get into more 29"er specific territory and see how custom and production frames are tackling the specific challenges of making a 29 inch wheeled bicycle.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Today I want to delve into the mystery of custom frames and perhaps show why they might be a choice for your bicycle frame, especially if it's a 29"er. One of the factors that seems to make a custom frame such a mystery to a lot of folks is the price charged for one. How is it that you can buy a complete bicycle, made of steel with 29 inch wheels for under $500.00 and almost all custom frames cost more than that? The gulf of price between the two is bridged by the value each offers the consumer. Once you take a look at the differences, you can begin to see why things are the way they are, and you can better choose what is going to be right for you, the mountain bike rider.
This is especially true, I think, with the 29 inch wheeled bicycle because the geometries are still being experimented with, and up until recently, there were not a lot of choices available at your local bike shop. Custom builders have been inundated with requests to build 29"ers for these reasons and more.
In my view, there are really two different types of frame manufacture. One is production, where a designer comes up with a frame design to satisfy a certain criteria and has it manufactured in numbers of units for sale. Each unit in a particular size being identical to another. The other type is custom, where the design criteria is typically based upon an individual rider and his/her needs. Usually only one frame is produced that reflects this particular design criteria.
As you can see, this more personalized approach to building a frame is going to cost more than a "production frame" just based upon the economy of scale alone. I think most of us can agree on this. However; there is more going on than meets the eye, things like tubing spec, quality of joinery, and geometry that affect the quality of performance. Of course, this is true of any frame, it is just that these details are specifically tailored to the builders ideals and your personal riding style while being tailor made to your size. Things a "production frame", by necessity, has to compromise upon.
So, a custom frame costs more because it's "tailor made" for you, but it also will cost more for other reasons which usually include higher end materials, highly skilled labor, and more attention to details, especially in the finish work. Is a custom "worth it". Well, that is a highly loaded question that requires you to examine your expectations, your riding style, and well.......yourself!
I feel that I am a candidate for a custom based upon a few things. I have a good idea of what I expect out of a bike and what specific purpose I want to use a custom bike for. Secondly, I have a bit of a strange build to my body: long in the leg and shorter in the torso, so I often find that the compromises I must make to fit on a "production frame" are not acceptable all the time. Finally, I just really get weak in the knees for fillet brazing, and there just are not a lot of "production frames" sporting that type of joinery technique. Maybe you fall into one or more of these same reasonings for a custom frame, or maybe you don't. Custom frames are not for everybody and of course, the higher price is going to be a turn off for some based on money alone.
Tomorrow I want to take a closer look at "production frames" and why they may fit the needs of 29"er riders, or not.
Monday, June 04, 2007
A little back round here is appropriate, just so you all know where I'm coming from. First of all, I have been mountain biking since 1989, (on a purpose built mountain bike. I've been off roading longer than that) and I have ridden many, many mountain bikes. Some were custom, some were stock production frames of varying qualities. I have been riding 29"ers since 2003 and I have ridden several different 29"ers extensively.
I have had these views on this subject for quite some time, but it was the dust up about the Twin Six Custom Stock on mtbr.com that prompted me to write this up.
The first "myth" I want to tackle is the perception that a great frame can be had for a little bit of money. The notion that you can buy a $250.00- $350.00 foreign made aluminum frame that is "as good as any race frame out there" is just misguided. Several things are at work here. There is the perception that workers get paid zilch, or next to it, in foreign countries to produce these frames. The thinking goes that because of this, the frames can be of a high quality without costing more. This couldn't be farther from the truth. In reality, their economic structure allows them to live quite well. I won't get into an economic based dissertation here, but these frames are just not made by "starving artists".
Then there is the misguided notion that the frames are somehow as good as the higher end frames that are production pieces, or as good as custom made frames. This is simply off the charts wrong! Think about it. If this were the case, then every race team trying to scratch out the most value for every sponsorship dollar would have their teams riding these pedestrian frame sets. Why wouldn't they? The reality is that the tubing spec, the geometry, the lack of weight, and the ride performance just isn't there. There is no comparison between what you can buy on e-bay for a frame set, and what someone like Salsa is doing with production frames and definitely no where near what folks like Siren Bicycles is doing. And this is just the aluminum side of things.
Interestingly, I noted that a certain well known American based bicycle company just recently has had a couple entry level mountain bikes produced in the Far East. That company said there was no way it would have it's higher end tubing spec welded in the Far East because the factories they talked to can't weld such thin walled aluminum tubing. Hmm.....if this company can not get it's high end aluminum frames made overseas, what do you suppose those $250.00-$350.00 aluminum frames are like from overseas? I'm guessing they are no where near as nice, especially in terms of weight, or lack there of. Of course, there are companies that can and do make super high quality frames in the Far East, but they are not cheap either.
Then there is the geometry, the ride quality, alignment, and other "invisible" features of a frame that you don't notice by just looking at a frame. I'll cover these things in tomorrows post.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Here are a few of the things I want to cover: What is a "custom" frame and why would you want one? How does a "cheap" frame get the job done and where does it fall short? How does "value" differ from the "price" paid for any frame? When does a production frame make sense?
These are some questions I want to bring some light to and hopefully we'll all learn something along the way.
Look for the first salvo coming across your bow tomorrow!
Friday, June 01, 2007
Well, Twin Six has done it again. This company continues to amaze me with it's out of the box thinking. Here is an apparel company, ( and a dang good one at that) that has done a messenger bag, which maybe isn't so weird, but definitely different. And now....a co-designed 29"er!
This is a project that I have known about for a long time now, but was sworn to secrecy about. (Whew! I'm glad I can quit holding my breath about this one now!) Anyway, I even got to check out a raw, unpainted frame back in February. I even was consulted with for the spec on the complete bike. How crazy is that? I am stoked to see the final outcome of this project, and I can tell you that it was undertaken for one reason only. That is, a passion for the bicycle. Brent and Ryan of Twin Six are fellow bike freaks and and this is what happens when you turn two of them loose on the cycling industry. The results are pretty stellar, if you ask me.
Twin Six teamed up with frame builder WaltWorks on this collaboration. Walt Wehner's frames have a solid reputation amongst 29"er freaks and for good reason. Walt is a no nonsense, purpose driven builder that churns out beautiful, tig welded goodness that just plain works. I've seen his bikes up close and they are really well executed. Owners rave about the way they ride. Twin Six waved their magic designer wand over the hand made steel frames and voila'! A totally rockin' 29"er was realized!
I must say, this WaltWorks is the best looking one to date. You could do a whole lot worse than this one folks, and it's a limited edition, super cool looking bike dripping with details to boot. Congrats to Ryan and Brent, Walt Wehner, George Wisell, ( who built the killer wheels for the project and is head cheese at Bike 29), and anybody else that had a hand in gettin' this project done. It's so cool to see how folks in the cycling industry can get along and what they can do if they put their minds and efforts together. Good on ya guys!
Now help these guys out and buy one!
Note: Twin Six is not responsible for the wayward actions and comments of this here feller. Pay no mind to him!
Have a great weekend and ride till yer stupid!