Friday, February 29, 2008

Of Snow, Fixed Gear, and Beard Ice

<===This is getting to be a regular thing 'round these parts!

I decided to take the KMFDM out for my commute yesterday to get a feel for this fixed gear thing. I was able to start early since my daughter has extended learning on Thursdays which meant that I was out about 45 minutes earlier than usual. I figured it would give me plenty of time to get used to the fixed thing and to walk the sketchy icy sections. Well, there was one thing I didn't figure on. That was a flat tire! About a mile into it I felt the back tire go soft. Ahh.........crap! Then it all dawned on me. You know how your mind works sometimes? Like when the realization that your keys are on the dresser as your front door lock snicks shut? Yeah, it was like that as I realized that I had no 15mm wrench in my bag and I had taken the pump outta there for some reason awhile back too. Brilliant! I rectified both problems later, but for the moment I was left to walk it. Good thing I had an extra 45 mimutes, huh? Yeah, 'cause I used them all and got to work right at the buzzer!

So, not much to say about fixed gear at that point, but I had redemption waiting in the form of the commute home. The thing was, it had started snowing. A hard, icy, wind driven snow. Yes........I was facing the wind most of the way home. Character building commuting is becoming a speciality here, I guess.

At any rate, the KMFMD did great and I had fun on it. To be sure, I didn't go very fast! Well, even with a freewheel I would have gone slower. The ice under the granular snow was a real treat, let me tell ya! The Specialized Fast Traks did all right by me and I was able to keep the rear wheel underneath me for the most part. The hardest thing was having to keep pedaling over the sheer ice sections. Normally I freeze up and coast those. No can do on the KMFDM.

About a mile from the house I got a call from my wife and she agreed to pick up my daughter instead of me. Cool! Long way home time! I got to go up washington Park hill this way which was all snow over ice. I had the rear wheel slipping out and the back end coming around a few times, but I got up it with no problem other than that. Oh yeah! Popped my first fixie wheelie to get up over the curb there too. Hmm.......maybe this isn't as bad as I was thinking it would be.

<===Seriously stiff beard ice going on in there. Trust me on that.

Well, I finally made it home and by the time I got there I was cruising along at a comfortable speed. I figured out the no coasting clause and I was pretty much at peace with the machine by the time I rolled up to the house. Here are some other things of note too........

Space Bar: This thing is cheap, ($25.00), has a great sweep, and for the KMFDM has the perfect rise to get me in a relaxed riding posistion.

Avid BB-7 brake: Again, I don't know what Avid/SRAM did for '08, but they made the mechanical brake line cheaper and quieter in operation. The brake sqealed a bit once on my commute. Older versions of this brake would howl anytime they got wet. This is my third set with '08 brakes, so I don't think it's a fluke.

Ergon grips: I have the basic model on the KMFDM with the Space Bar and they are awesome as ever. I always marvel at how well my hands do with Ergon grips. They fit and perform just peachy on the highly swept Space Bar too. They might even be better on a bar like this than a straighter, more traditional bar in my opinion.

Narrow rims for 29"ers: Well, so far the narrow Deep V Velocity rims are fine. Gotta remember to run slightly higher pressures in the tires with these though. I think that's what caused the flat I had as the base of the valve stem tore due to the narrow rim well and low pressure I had going on earlier yesterday. I beefed up the pressure for the ride home and no worries so far.

Okay, I hope you all have a safe happy weekend. Ride yer bikes!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday News and Views

<===Rental vehicle: The Dodge Nitro Command Module
We are getting the family rig repaired at the local body shop after my disasterous encounter with a 3/4 ton pickup/snow plow rig. We had to get a rental in the mean time and looky at what they brought over. If this thing doesn't look like a military vehicle dressed as a civilian, I don't know what does. It reminds me of some of those old German WWII vehicles in a weird sort of way.
At any rate, it's a good thing it is what it is, because the streets here are horrendous. I've driven on smoother plowed fields.......seriously!
The Iceman Cameth, Now Needeth To Depart!: The streets are so slick and so rough that I believe it is nigh unto impossible to ride a bicycle down them. That said, I'm riding to work today, so I'll report back later. One good thing that I saw was that the city decided to dispatch road graders to try to scrape down the bigger "ice moguls" out there. I checked after one went by the house here and it was somewhat effective, but it still looks pretty bad. The good news is that it is supposed to warm up over the weekend, so this terrible situation with the streets should at least be rectified. Of course, that will only make the potholes worse, but I digress..........
Riding Outside? Well, the whole theory of riding outside actually makes sense. That's great that some of you actually get to do it out there. Even I get to squeeze in a ride now and then out doors. The fortunes of some folks are not so good though. I got a e-mail the other day pointing me to a blog of a newly added T.I.V4 participant. He was joking about getting busy now and training. The picture he posted told the story well: Back door open with bike shoved into a three foot pile of snow immediately outside of said door. Ouch! Yeah.......some places do have it worse than we do here!
Rubbery Goodness: Got word yesterday that Twenty Nine Inches will be getting some Continental Mountain King 2.4" tires to test soon. I have heard mixed reviews from folks on these, but we will give them the thorough going over here and see for ourselves. I'm thinking real dirt riding will commence in about two weeks. So let's hope that I'm right and I can get these tires dirty, not to mention other projects here and on the radar!
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Workin' On Some Night Moves

<=== The Monkey lives again!

I finished off the KMFDM last night and took it outside for a first spin. Very, very carefully I might add! The fixed " fjear" thing is brand new to me and what with the heinous iced up roads, I didn't want to case myself on the first try.

I've read that some fixed gear riders prefer non-coasting rigs in sketchy conditions because they have more control over the rear wheel. Hmm.....maybe that's true, I don't know about that. I do know that it was so slippery that I got the tire to slip when I put a little back pressure on the pedals! I only forgot not to coast once, but since I was going at about walking speed, the pedals gently reminded me that the legs had to keep up. No problems yet that way.

I don't know, because I have not kept track of it, but this must be about the fourth incarnation of the Monkey since I took delivery of the frame and fork in march of '03. It's the everchanging Monkey. Chameleon Monkey! Ha ha!

Nah...........I like KMFDM better. (Karate Monkey Fixie Death Machine) It fits in so many ways.

Well, if anyone cares, here's the rundown on the spec on this beast. Starting out with the obvious 2003 Campstove Green 20" Karate Monkey frame and fork we add the following: Surly "Jim Brown" hubs with nutted axles and a 19T Tomi Cog bolted to the disc mount with a 20T ACS Claws freewheel on the other side. 160mm Avid BB-7 disc brake up front. "El-Cheapo" no name front lever pulling Clarke Clim 8 cable through the Clim 8 stainless steel braided housing. Origin 8 "Space Bar" with Ergon grips. Control Tech stem from the 90's with a Niner YAWYD top cap. Ritchey seat post, WTB Speed V saddle, and Planet Bike Freddy Fender Cascadia fenders. Old Sugino 170mm crank, BCD 110 with a 34T Surly stainless steel ring running a Wipperman BMX chain. That turns the Velocity custom chocolate brown colored Deep V rims shod with Specialized Fast Trak tires. Pedals are some Wellgo flats. Bottom bracket is a square taper Shimano UN-53 73mm X 118mm spindle.

So that's about it really. I'm glad to have this beast done and rideable because when this icy crap and snow decides to melt we will be having some very wet, very messy conditions for a few weeks. Perfect for a fendered fixie fat tire machine like the KMFDM.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thinking Of Andy

<===Plastered with the white stuff.

Well, this storm that we just had was quite a treat, let me tell ya. First off, we got a layer of freezing fog in the morning which made for one of the most treacherous bike commutes I have ever had. It took me 45 minutes to do what normally takes 20 minutes. I had to go that slowly. Then it started to rain while I was at work. I mean it rained hard! Of course, since there was no where for the rain to go because of all the ice and snow, it puddled up into huge lakes and ponds all over the city streets.
The weather then turned the rain into huge wet snow flakes. It almost looked as if clumps of snow were coming down instead of individual snow flakes. This began to accumulate, so since we were so busy at work ( ha ha) I asked to get out of there early so I could get home before things got totally out of control. (The weather folks were calling for around seven inches of snow at the time)

Well the commute home was a dandy. Wet snow was sticking to me and I started to think about that ride that Andy Hampsten put in over the Passo Gavia in the '88 Giro. I couldn't help but think of him with those Oakley Pilots all plastered with snow and the way his rig was leaving tracks in the freshly fallen snow. I rode a section of bike path on the way home that no one had been on all day, ( mostly because anybody in there right mind wouldn't have been riding or walking that day!) and I turned around to see my tire tracks in the wet slushy snow. Yep! Just like Andy's, only wider! (29"er tires, of course) Here's a shot of the walk way up to my house to give you somewhat of an idea of what I saw out there. I wasn't about to stop for photos until I got home due to the super wet snow coming down.

<===She's not a garage queen, lemme tell ya!

The Badger did great over the super rough streets where the rain ate holes into the snow cover. That made the streets rough because the holes and ruts were like four to five inches deep and filled with slushy water, of course. Some intersections had water over six or seven inches deep.

Sure, the Badger is a new bike and it was expensive but it is a bike, ya know? It is supposed to be ridden and I figured why not today. It's got frame saver in the pipes and it is a mountain bike, after all. I found out that it handles the rough stuff well and it was a very stable ride in the icy mornings edition of my commute. Anyway, I'm not saving her for sunny days. That's for sure!

So I made it home safely and the threats of deep snow never materialized. All is good. The ride was fun, and remembering that famous ride of Andy's was a good memory that made it even more fun. Not that I am comparing my little commute with that epic ride, but you was a little inspiration. That's always a good thing when the conditions suck!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday Musings

Badger Ride Report: I finally got a "real" ride in on the Badger over the weekend and can give something of a report on how it rides. The ride was over snowy, wet, and icy roads for the most part. The gravel just being way too slick around here yet to ride on.

The bike is smooth. Very nice ride quality. It definitely is a refined feel over what other steel rides have. The posistioning for the drop bar is spot on. I could ride in the drops very comfortably, long as my out of shape condition would allow me to! This winter has been brutal and riding time has been cut short the past week and a half. It shows! Anyway..............

Yeah, the bike is performing quite well. Those Tektro brake levers are waaaaay impressive! Linear pull compatibility means great braking response and power. I don't know what they did to the latest incarnation of Avid BB-7's, but they are the quietest brakes I own. Even wet they are virtually silent. I only got the front to howl after dousing it in a deep puddle of melted car snow. (Full of grease, oil, chemicals from snow removal, and whatnot) I got it quieted down after dragging the pads a bit on the rotor. I can't wait to get it in the dirt.

So, What Are The Odds: Let's see, I've missed work just about every Monday in February due to snow getting school cancelled. Today they are calling for freezing rain and five inches of snow. Hmmm.............they haven't cancelled school yet. I'm betting they get out early though, so I would have to leave work to pick up my daughter. Odds are I'll be home this afternoon. Whattya think?

Test In The South West Coming: It's not all that far off until my big spring break trip is here. I'm going back to El Paso Texas to see my family down there. I'll be testing a couple of rigs whilst there and also, I'll be trying to complete the 32 mile Franklin Mountain State Park loop. It's a brutal, rocky, cactus infested, and dry route from Franklin Mountain State Park in the North West side of El Paso to the New Mexican border and back. It is pretty remote too, so I'll be toting a fair amount of gear to make it. That's the funny thing about the El Paso area. If you are five miles out into the desert you might as well be a hundred. Nothing around but rocks and cactus sprinkled with a fair amount of yucca plants. Should be a rude awakening after such a long drawn out winter.

Nothing Much: So what else is going on? Not much! With this weather the activities are relegated to work and staying out of the snow and cold. Although the temperatures have now moderated a bit, we're supposed to go back below normal for the rest of the week. The good news is that "normal" is getting to be a higher number all the time, so eventually this will have to end, ya know? Maybe then I can strat getting some riding done, but for now....................

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Can See The Light........

The bitter hand of Winter is starting to weaken.

The bonds of Ice and Snow are cracking

Searing Light reflected off of a countless field of Crystals

Will finally break through.............. reveal the Joy in the mud.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday News And Views

Ask And You Shall Recieve: Yesterday I saw this in my inbox: Ask and you shall recieve. Wow! That didn't take long. (If you are confused, see yesterday's post) Any body out there with any gravel rides, please e-mail the address in the first post at Iowa Gravel and get this site rolling. Thanks!

Now since I got one wish, do I get two more? Hmm.................

Panasonic Introduces A Titanium Electric "Bicycle": And you are sayin, "so what!" Well, it just is amazing to me that these contraptions ride the coat tails of bicycling. As if these vehicles had anything to do with bicycling at all. You and I both know that any two wheeled vehicle with a motor attached and happens to have pedals isn't going to be ridden as a bicycle. Nope! Say it with me now- mo-tor-cy-cle. That's right, motorcycle. Not bicycle. To even think these things are not motorcycles is an exercise in the most deplorable form of denial I know of. At the very best, they are mo-peds and should be treated as such. I just hope I never see one of these on a bicycle path.

It's the weekend.....and it is warmer!: Wow! A weekend where I don't have any big plans and it is supposed to get into the 30's? Hmm.........I'm looking at my short sleeved jersey! (Ha! Not really!) Anyway, a ride will be in the offing. I hope to be able to put in a nice long one too, but we shall see. Just being out pedaling will be a joy that has been suppressed for far too long lately. Gotta be careful though as I am still nursing a bit of a head cold.

Trans Iowa Sponsors: A big shout out to Surly and Princeton Tec for supplying Trans Iowa V4 with prizing and support. I would like to say on behalf of d.p. that we deeply appreciate the way these companies have stepped forward. Surly is a long time sponsor of T.I. and is again offering a frameset of choice to the T.I.V4 winner. Princeton Tec is a new sponsor for T.I. and is offering three of it's EOS lights as a first place prize for each category and also it's Fuel lamps for our volunteers to use during the nightime portions of T.I.V4. Please check out the links for more information and let our sponsors know you saw it here. Thanks!

Stay tuned for more T.I.V4 sponsor news.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

All About Gravel

Todays post is all about gravel and gravel related things. No, it's not a basic materials discussion! This is about that classic activity- gravel grindin'- Mid-Western style!

First up we have an idea. There seems to be a growing number of freaks putting on low key gravely adventures around these parts. My thought is that there might be a need for a clearing house of sorts. A place dedicated to gravel road rides only and a place where rides could be added that others could go to and check out. There could be a FAQ for set ups, cue sheets, and the like. Anybodies ride from 50 miles on up could be posted on a calendar. Links to routes online could be provided.

It all could be in one place instead of scattered all over folks blogs and what not. Just an idea. And I'm not saying I'd run it, mind you! It's not like I need anymore to do. I'm just wondering if it is an idea that makes sense to anyone else.

Celebrity Gravel Grinders: Word on is that Keith Bontrager is coming out from California to do the Dirty Kanza 200 in May. Folks have joked about having Lance Armstrong come and do Trans Iowa before, but this is for real. Organizer Jim Cummings hints that there may be more big names coming. I'm guessing one of them will be Cameron Chambers, who just resigned with Fisher/Subaru, and is a native to the area. In fact Cameron often rides the recon of DK 200, so he is a fan of sorts. Late Edit: Cameron is already in! Must be some other "high profile" folks Jim has in mind.

Test Your Set Up: An issue came up on the Trans Iowa discussion thread on about mounting accesory items to your handle bars. Here's an idea: Test out your set ups! Ride them across rail road tracks multiple times. Heck, ride 'em down some abandoned rails if you can. Just make sure your set up is tight and secure. I hear stories every year about loose or lost items from handlebar mounts that were not tight, or worked themselves loose. Can't say I never warned ya!

Speaking of Trans Iowa: We're supposed to do a bit more recon this weekend, but this crap-tastic weather we've been having will perhaps hinder that thought again. The prospect of busting drifts isn't a good thing and I doubt the roads we are thinking on checking out will be high priorities for maintenance. Looks like we'll be doing all this at the last minute this year!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Parts Aquisition Mode: ON

The parts are rolling in now. It might not be long. Yes..............another rig. This one is just for testing purposes though, so don't get yer panties in a wad just yet. Here's the run down of what I have in house for it so far.

A Navy blue Chris King head set is in the house. I got a 34T Salsa chainring and a 22T Surly cog. (This should give you an idea where I'm going to test this thing) Got an extra 185mm rotor to go on an existing wheel set here. Also got a Surly spacer kit to convert the rear wheel for SS duty. (Same wheels will appear at Dirty Kanza) Got a Space Bar but I'll need to get some Ergon G E 1 grips. (Again, a reflection on where this will be tested)

Hopefully everything will come together quickly for this build. Some of the other stuff is already here. I've got to score some tubeless ready tires and sealant yet though.

Can't say what it is yet and there is always a chance things won't pan out too. Oh well, if that happens at least I'll have a really cool SS build kit just waiting for a frame!

Stay tuned!

p.s. School is cancelled again! Gonna miss work for the umpteenth million time today. This winter must die!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


<===A little hand made death star!
One of the highlights of Frostbike for me was finally getting my Tomi Cog which was hand delivered to me by Arsbars who made the trip up from the South East to see what winter was really supposed to be like!
Anyway, some folks think I'm mad, but this is one of the key pieces towards the completion of my Karate Monkey Fixie Death Machine. (KMFDM for short) It is going to be an off road fixie. Yep! I'm goin' for it, although it will also see plenty of duty as a gravel grinder bike for base training for the upcoming Dirty Kanza 200. I tinkered with the bike a bit last night and it'll be ready soon.
I got another unexpected addition for the build at Frostbike when I scored a Wipperman BMX-1 G 8 chain for the bike. It's a brute of a chain that the Wipperman folks told me would be twice as strong in tensile strength as a regular chain. I suppose that's a good thing for a fixie, which they assured me it was. Well as well as any 6 foot plus German woman could assure me. "Ze chain....yezz it eez veddy stronnngah." Umm.......okay. I believe you......please don't hurt me! Heh heh! So, anyway, yeah........that's a beefy chain all right. Very heavy at least if not veddy stronnngah.
Not that this all matters yet anyway. We got new ice over the weekend and snow on top of it. Now it is -4 Fahrenheit and a bit of a wind plummets the death chill factor to a point where I'm not risking getting any sicker riding out side. Yep! Got a head cold going. Serves me right, I suppose for all the hi-jinx over the weekend. All will be well, I'm sure.
It just means I have time to really dial in the KMFDM before Slop Season hits. Oh yeah, it's got fenders too. I'm ready!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back To Reality

Frostbike is in the history books. I got a chance to see it all from "behind the curtains", so to speak, as I was there to set up and to tear down. It was a long, whirlwind of a weekend that wore me out, and I wasn't even really working all that hard!

The people that set up Frostbike, (The QBP folks) really were pooped. Some of them were not only "getting the house in order" for the show, but had to work the floor during the show as well. I am in awe of all the detail and thought that goes into Frostbike. Sure, somethings went awry, but we are dealing with humans after all. Mainly it went pretty smoothly, as far as I could tell, and looked like a success from where I stood.

Sunday turned out to be a day that saw me chasing down a few details concerning T.I.V4 and generally just finding out some stuff for my own sake concerning the shop job. I also found myself working the Ergon booth for a bit when it got busy while carlos was out wandering around somewhere. Even ol' "dirtram" was seen pitching in. (Locals may know him as Clay). At the end of it all, I helped Carlos tear down and we were on the road by 4pm. However; we wouldn't see our front doors for 4.5 hours. This trip normally takes just a hair over three hours.

The storm we heard about hit with slushy snow that turned a lot of I-35 and HWY 218/27 into an icy mess. Cars and trucks in the ditch were too numerous to count. Much of the trip we were going 30 - 40mph. The good news? We made it with no drama. A little on the edge of our seats, but we made it. Great driving Carlos!

So, today I get an unexpected day off since schools are cancelled here and I'll be with my kids. A big difference from the hectic pace of the weekend!

Thanks for a great weekend to the following: Carl Buchanan, Jason Boucher, George Wissell, All the Salsa Crew, The Surly Boys, Quality Bicycle Products, and the many vendors at the show that I either met or reconnected with. It was great!

Now it's back to my "regularly scheduled programming"!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Much Mellower

Well the second day here was a much less eventful day, thankfully, than Friday was. I spent the entire day wandering around inside Frostbike, meeting people, checking out products, and just generally shooting the breeze, especially later in the day.

I finally met George Wissell of Bike 29 after a couple years of missed opportunities. I had a fantastic time hanging out with him and chatting. Beers were had and stories were told and heard. The evening was still young when I finally cashed it in after a much less embarrassing day. And that's okay with me, ya know? I had fun and made some new connections, so it was all good.

Products on the 29"er side of things were awesome, but...................I can't tell ya yet! So many super cool things are happening that will come out later in the year, so don't think for a minute that 29"ers are "flat lining". Nope, no way. 2008 is going to be a great year for big wheelers everywhere.

I can say that there are more tires coming from Hutchinson, Michelin, Panaracer, and Continental. The new Reba should be really sweet. 80-100-120mm travel, convertible internally, 20mm thru-axle, and stiffer chassis then before. Internals are not known at this time, but I think they have been refined somewhat. It will definitely be a "Top Ten" product for 2008, (if it comes out this year) or '09 for sure.

Today, (Sunday) were hearing news of a snowstorm in Iowa that may inhibit my getting home. We'll see. Carlos has the four wheel drive V-dub, so hopefully we'll make it through.

A long weekends recap for you tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fun, Run, And a Big Whoops!

Frostbike 2008 started out with Carlos picking me up and starting our journey to the Twin Cities by way of Milltown Cycles. Ben Witt got Carlos on a 36"er, which he said later had him grinning from ear to ear after about two pedal strokes. (I told ya so, Carlos!)

Then we hit up a Home Despot, got some supplies, hauled in all the goods at "Q", and set up the booth. I snapped this quick pic of Carlos before I was whisked away by Jason Boucher of Salsa Cycles to tag along with him for the evening.

After a little happy hour gathering, (Approximately 200 folks jammed into a room that should have held about a 100.), we went to some place in Minneapolis called Seven Corners and hit up this micro-brewery/restaurant joint that served up this awesome coffee porter. goodness and beer.......together!

The room was filled with folks and our party consisted of several folks from Surly, Salsa, QBP, and various international dealers from Germany and Japan. Some magazine writers from Japan, Canada, and this lowly scribe were there representing the media. Well, after several beers and hijinx that can't be repeated on this blog, one of the Surly crew got up and gave this poor Salsa engineer a snuggy. Unfazed, he threw down his jeans right there in the restaurant, pulled his grundies from outta you know where, and zippered back up, much to the delight of our female guests.

We then all piled outside to the street where the Japanese journalists were doing a photo shoot with Jason and Mike Reimer of Salsa. The Surly guys were all saddling up to go to One on One, which is a bike shop/coffe shop/gathering place for the Twin Cities cycling cognescenti. It was decided by the Japanese that they should also proceed to ride with Jason and Mike in tow, while shooting photos along the way. That meant that I was in charge of driving Jason's vehicle to On on One. Well, that's when the Big Whoops happened!

Proving that I am just a rustic, podunk Iowegian, I proceeded to park Jason's car in a tow zone. Yep, you guessed it! $226.00 dollars cash later, Jason was able to get his car out of hock while I shamefully skulked about One On One, trying to dodge the sideways glances of those that were chatting about my dumb move. I decided to check out the legendary junk room in the basement where I would go unnoticed while Jason got his rig back. You gotta check this place out if you ever go to the Twin Cities. This pile I have pictured has a Soulcraft 29"er, a Dos Niner, a Karate Monkey, and a 1 x 1 snow bike rig all together in a knot with other bikes. Amazing!
Everything was for sale, unless otherwise marked. It is just a small chunk of what must be thousands of bikes piled up in this basement cavern.

After Jason retrieved his rig, we split for his place. I gotta say, Jason is one fine man and was very decent to me considering the circumstances. I should have been left outside to sleep in the garage, but he was a much bigger man about it than I probably would have been. Thanks Jason for being so kind. I can't ever repay you that!

So, after a quick nights sleep, we got up, flew over to the "Q" and started in on the show. It's afternoon here now, and more is to come. Well, that is if I don't do anything stupid again!

I might have to walk home if I can't reign it in tonight and be smart!

Tune in tomorrow to see how I do!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday! And I'm Off!

Goin' To Minneapolis: Well..........Bloomington, really. I have a bit of a pet peeve, I guess. I remember being in college and asking people where they were from. If they were from small, podunk Iowa town, well they said so. They didn'y say they were from Cedar Rapids, even if there town was only 5 miles away. But ask a person that was really from Oak Park Illinois where they were from and guess what they would say. Yep.....Chicago! I had actually been to Chicago, the South Side, mind you. So, I'd ask, had they ever been to Chicago proper? Lots of them said no. I'm going to Bloomington, okay? Leaving at 8:00am. Frostbike. See ya there if you're going.

Speaking of seeing people there: I got a phone call from George Wissell last night. He's been trying to meet me, and I've been trying to meet him for two years now. Hopefully that will come to an end tomorrow at the latest, but anyway........the phone call! Yeah, so he calls me and asks when I'll be in town. I say tomorrow, (Friday). I politely ask him when he'll be there. .....pauses....."I'm already here!" (As in, "Whattya mean? I'm already here" tone of voice) He said he was "flabbergasted" at the amount of music the Twin Cities had and that he was going out clubbing. I've a strange feeling that if I miss George this time, it'll have something to do with that!

More Titanium news: Ever heard of Everti? Well, I had a few times before, but I'll admit that they are not to well known in this neck of the woods. Check out the latest titanium 29"er to hit the market with a decidedly old skool Canadian flavor.

Road Cycling's Version of Mecca? Well, with the Tour de France totally mucking up its once vaunted posistion as the "cycling mecca" for road bikers, something else is going to have to fill that void. That void might just be "Mellow Johnny's". Yes, I said Mellow Johnny's! If you weren't aware, the name is supposedly the nic-name given to Lance Armstrong while he was "in yellow" by fellow riders of the peloton. This new shop, in the heart of Austin Texas, will focus on commuter bikes and will feature several items of memorabilia related to Armstrong's seven Tour victories.

Since Lance has a lifetime contract with Trek Bicycles, I wonder what brand that shop will carry, hmm..................

So, that's your bits and pieces for today! I hope your weekend includes some riding. Stay warm!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday News and Views

Feeling Better: Woke up this morning feeling much better. Whew! That was a rough one, but I'll spare you all the details. Good thing I'm recovered just in time for this............

Frostbike Madness: Yes, it is that time of year again. Frostbike is the annual "open house" gathering that Quality Bicycle Parts invites all of their customers to every February. It started out small, but has grown tall! Now I would liken it to a mini-trade show of sorts, with several vendors in attendance and the main focus being on product showing and seminars. Still, for as big as the "show" has gotten, "Q" keeps it real by offering a free lunch to attendees and having plenty of smiling, helpful staff around the joint for the entire weekend.

I'll be attending some of the "sattelite" events as well. Carlos, who was tagged by Mr 24 to run the Ergon booth while he played on his bike in the Sonoran sun, is taking me up there Friday morning. We'll be making a stop at the Milltown Cycles shop, famous for the 36"er bike, and talking with owner Ben Witt about his latest project. Hopefully I'll get to actually ride it. Then I'll be setting up the Ergon booth, and after that going to a special shindig for Salsa dealers before retiring for the night. Saturday and Sunday will be all Frostbike with Saturday nights activities still up in the air. Stay tuned for updaes and hi-jinx to be reported on throughout the weekend.

When The Dam Bursts: Hey, if you live in the snow bound areas of the United States, you'll get this. The feeling I'm getting is one of pent up frustration with a winter that has been throwing non-stop punches since the beginning of December. Well, now it is mid February, we're looking at more snow and another Artic blast of air with no end in sight. My prediction: A "feeding frenzy" of cyclists will happen once the snow melts and we get our first warm, sunny day. Yep! The bike shops will get slaughtered with "can you repair my bike today?" and other repair demands, the bike paths will be full of glassy eyed, out of shape riders bent on taking in every drop of sunshine they can, and folks will be waking up the day after that sore and hurting. I predict also that there will be a corresponding spike in ibuprofen and gel saddle sales just afterward. Take that to the bank!

Speaking of Snow.....We're supposed to be getting some more today. Rats! I wanted to ride the Badger today, but my Texas bride doesn't take to driving in the white stuff too well, so she may require my expert snow driving skilz today. I suppose it's all good. It is Valentines Day, after all. Be good to your sweetie today, and lay off the chocolate hearts! Ha ha!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It Got Me!

Appologies to the regular readers of this scribe, but I succumbed to illness last night and have been out of commission for several hours.

Looks like that 24 hour bug, (The sickness, not the endurance racing desire) got me finally! I'm already feeling better, so I hope to resume duties again tomorrow.

Okay, my head is killing me, so I'm leaving it at this for now. See ya tomorrow! Hope you all are healthy and happy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Fixed" My Bike

<===70's era Raleigh Grand Prix. I figured, why not?

Okay, so yesterday I had to sit with my daughter, who had to stay home from school because she was sick. (She's better now) I figured I may as well kick a few things around down in the Lab. So, I finished off the Raleigh fixie project I had started awhile back.

These are the projects I love. An old, unwanted bike in great shape. Transform it into a useful, fun bike that can be used for several things. And all for a very attractive price. I maybe have about $30.00 into this project. I'm not bragging, mind you, I am saying that anybody that pays attention could do the same. These bikes are everywhere if you look in the right places. Granted, you might spend a little more on a project like this, but I think anybody could score a basic platform for this and get it up and running for $75.00 or less anywhere. Really!

This Raleigh I got for free in great shape with all the running gear intact and a leather saddle! (I have used the saddle on my Karate Monkey quite a bit) I ended up sitting the bike in a trainer with the saddle you see pictured, but never rode it, due to my instinctual aversion to indoor riding. So, since I kept looking at it languishing there all the time, I finally decided to either rid myself of it, or transform it into something usefull. First try was an ice bike. I just popped on some 700c wheels and studded tires. Went for a ride back in December and decided that wasn't the right thing to do with it.

Then it came on me. A fixie! I didn't have one and I always was curious. This would be a cheap way to go. Track cog on, a bottom bracket lock ring to hold it, sort of. (I know! That's why there are brakes on it yet!), and strip off everything unecessary. What is kind of nice about the older road frames is that there are no braze ons. So, nothing protruding from the frame to catch your clothes or shoes on. Cool! Clean looking too. I left the original crank on since it is working just fine and it has a nice little chain guard on there. Yeah, there is that big ring just sitting there, but this is a cheap-o set up, okay?

A Specialized forged stem (free) and a Gary Bar (cheap) with a fresh wrap job with some cast off tape (free) and I'm done. It fits a 38mm tire in the back and a 45mm tire in the front. Cushy! Should be a fun townie/gravel bike.

What cheap-o projects can you do? I'll bet some pretty nice ones! Just keep your eyes peeled! You never know when it all might come together for you.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Musings

<===1972 Gretsch, unknown model. The axe of choice for this past weekends church gig.

This blog started out with a promise of some guitar content, but it has been sorely missing. I decided to throw up a pic of the ol' Gretsch for good measure. Don't let it's "jazz box" looks fool you. This lil' devil can rock with the best of 'em. A bit prone to feedback, perhaps, but that's part of the fun for me. I kinda like feedback! Interesting note: It may be a hollow body git-box, but it's the heaviest guitar I own. Any who..................

I didn't venture out into the artic blast this weekend on two wheels as it would have been a futile attempt at staying upright besides the dangerous wind chills. The wind was incredibly strong all day Sunday and most of Saturday afternoon too. I got a few projects around the house done, got the Badger "tubed" so I can actually ride the dang thing, and took in the NAHBS coverage on the innerweb.

Speaking of NAHBS: That show is an exercise in showmanship more than anything else. It's gone too far in my opinion. Look at the rigs. How many of the ones that garnered all the media attention are actually functional? I mean day to day functional. Some of the stuff I saw looked downright scary to ride what with things poking out here and there. It's almost a sculpture exhibition that features pieces that just happen to have two wheels and a set of cranks. Not so much a bicycle show, not like it was three years ago. It will be interesting to see what happens now as the show is to be in Indianapolis next year. Not a cycling mecca like Portland, so perhaps the show will have a very different feel. We'll see.

<===Darth Vader on a bike? No! It's the "Tomes"!

This is the poster on the door leading to Guitar Ted Labratories. This little gem was at the first shop I worked at. That shop got it as part of Bell Sports helmet promotions. They let me have it later.

This is the epitomy of "rock star' in the bike world for me. John Tomac, the quiet, unassuming guy who rather fancies himself as a cowboy these days was at the height of his powers here in the early 90's. I remember when this shot hit the mags. We all thought that down hilling had hit a new high. The bar had been raised. A freakin' skin suit? And that helmet! Nothing had been seen like it before, and nothing has since. Tomac re-invented himself yet again, and this was the most stunning edition of the "Tomes" to ever take the trail.

Today's down hillers can't even begin to approach the aura sent out across the mountain biking world that this image did. It was a fun time to be in the sport, and I will always admire Tomac and his skills as a mountain biker. The guy is still rippin' too. Amazing!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

One Of "Those Rides"

<===The bike that was responsible for all this fun.
Ever had one of those rides where the more you got into it, the more fun you had? A ride where you cleaned an obstacle, then felt like you could do better, and you do?
That pretty much was my commute to and from work on Friday. I dug the Dos Niner (literally) out from the deep recesses of my basement Lab and aired up the tires for the ride in yesterday. Then it was off to see how much of the recent snow I could plow through. The first check comes at a dead end to a seven foot high embankment to a four lane highway crossing. When it is dry, you jump the curb at speed and roll it up to the top. By the time you reach the highway, you've scrubbed enough speed to safely get a look both ways before crossing. When it is snowy? It is a tough little steep, especially with the man-made car snow berm at the top.
Well today I shifted into a lower gear and nearly clawed my way through. That was encouraging. Across the highway the snow was deeper in spots, even though I had a lone snowmobile track to follow. It was unrideable the day before on another bike. This time I cleaned the whole thing, sawing the handlebar back and forth at times, the bike swapping ends at others. It sort of reminded me of things I've seen surfers do.
The rest of the commute was much the same. In another snow field crossing, I was roosting snow and having so much fun I almost let out a "whoop!" You never know how much longer a magic ride like that will last, and I was sorry to finally roll up to work. After work though, I had much the same ride in reverse, so that was a bonus.
Anyway, it was so much fun I couldn't stop thinking about it for hours afterwards. It was just one of "those rides". The kind that make you keep reaching for more and more.
Hopefully one of "those rides" are coming your way soon!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Not A Good Day

Warning: a bit of an anti-tubeless rant here.

I finally got my Stan's rim/ExiWolf combo to make it through a night holding air pressure so I thought I should finally be able to ride the Badger to work yesterday. I pumped up the tires to around 38psi or so, (being carefull not to exceed Stan's recommended limit of 40psi) and went out the door.

Maybe it was the weather, (Temperatures around 20 degrees Farhrenheit) or maybe I'm cursed when it comes to Stan's rims and tubeless, (I've done both Bontrager's and Mavic's systems without nearly as much hassle), but this Thursday morning resulted in a very negative situation.

I got about a mile and a half into the commute and had to stop. The rear tire had lost so much pressure I could no longer ride it. I had a frame pump, but it decided to crap out on me, so I couldn't even air it back up to nurse it into work. Result? Walking back home, (It was closer than work) in up to six inches of snow, pushing my bike along the way. Oh yeah...........I was mad! Cursing mad.

When I got home I immediately went for my floor pump that is equipped with a guage to see how far down it had leaked. 20psi right on the nose. Okay, this brings up a couple of things regarding tubeless that I don't understand.

One of the big "benefits" of riding tubeless is said to be that you can run lower pressure. Hmm........really? I don't think so, unless it is a "true" UST tire, meaning heavier than heck because the sidewalls are beefier to hold air pressure. To wit: My tubeless set up, which ended up at 20psi after I lost a bit of air trying to pump it up with a bad frame pump, and after a 45 minute walk home was unrideable before all of that. I mean that the sidewalls looked wrinkled with every pedal stroke like a Top Fuel dragsters rear slicks at the starting line kind of wrinkled. That means I had more than 20psi when I stopped riding. That's low air pressure? Huh?

I grabbed my Diamondback test rig and rode off to work without checking the tires. A bit later, I noticed that I was getting great traction and the handling was fine. The rear tire was squatting down all the tread onto the road surface, but the sidewalls looked normal. No drama.

Checked the air pressures at work once I got there. 17psi rear/19psi front. Tubed tires on standard WTB rims.

Tubeless: 0 Standard tubes/tires: 1

I'll be keeping score in the future, so stay tuned.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thursday News and Views

Trans Iowa Rule Addition: Remembering the snafus surrounding T.I.V2 and hearing about the lack of a plan for weather related chaos at the 24 Hours of 9 Mile a couple of years back made me think. I figured we had better have a statement on how Trans Iowa would look if that happened again at our event. Hit the site link and check out the Rules section. We have a plan!

Also, we are cooking up an idea for a pre-race meet-up that will include a meal and may have a beverage sponsor. Stay Tuned!

Frost Bike: Speaking of plans...... I was contacted by Carlos, my co-worker last night and we are hooking up for the drive to and from Frostbike. This will mean that I will be getting the insiders view of the whole enchilada from set up to tear down and everything inbetween. I'll bring all of the hijinx to you here and I will be posting on Twenty Nine Inches too. Of course, this means I will also have to be Carlos' free labor for set up and tear down. That's okay, because I know he's a pretty nice guy.

North American Handmade Bicycle Show: Like bikes? I figure you probably do if you are reading this. Well, the most unlikely collection of eye candy is going to be assembled in one place this weekend in Portland, Oregon. I know there will be a lot of coverage so seeing all of the show from the comfort of your home shouldn't be a problem. I've got a question for you out there. How many of the rigs that are going to be shown will ever get "real life usage"? I mean, how much of this eye candy becomes "garage queens" and how much of it gets greasy, dirty, and well......used up? My guess is that a fair amount of these rigs see more time under a polishing rag then under a chamois. Just a hunch.

That's it for today. Topsy-turvy weather all over the nation causing some chaos. Hope you are okay where ever you live. Get out and ride!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How Hard Could It Be?

Speechless: I came into work on Monday and this was on the bench across from mine. Some things are just too weird to explain.
Winter Strikes Again: I was supposed to go to Dcorah and meet with the Decorah Human Powered Trails folks on my ideas for Trans Iowa and The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. Well, the big snow storm has seen to it that I didn't make the meeting. Oh well, I'll be headed up there in March to make up for it.
Tubeless Update: I've kept after the set up on the rear tire of the Badger and last night was the first night it made it through holding air pressure. Let's see, I said sometimes it takes days to set up a tubeless tire? Yeah..........this one took six days to make it overnight holding air! I suspect that now that I have it set up it will be okay until it the middle of nowhere.............
Frostbike: Yeah, this is going to be fun. Frostbike is the mini-trade show/open house put on by the powerhouse distributor "Q". (That's insider lingo for "QBP" or Quality Bicycle Parts) It takes place on February 16th-17th in Bloomington, Minnesota. I'm going up for the whole weekend and take it all in. Should be a good time. New products should turn up and rumors and news should be running rampant. Stay tuned!
Well, there already are some things bubbling underneath the surface of public knowledge that I can't talk about..........yet! It's getting exciting and I can't even ride outside yet, which makes all the news and rumors harder to keep a lid on, but I will. All in good time! As the strange figure in the box I saw at work on Monday says: "How hard could it be?"

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Revisiting The Yes Tubes vs. No Tubes Debate

I have been holding back on writing on this for several days now, but I've had enough, so here goes! If you haven't read my scribin' on the tubeless mountain bike tire deal, then you can catch up here and here.

My question for tubeless fans out there: How long does it take you to set up a pair of tubeless tires, ready to ride, from scratch? I'm talking using a prepared rim, (which in itself can be a whole bunch of time) sealant of choice, and tire. How long does it take you to be out riding? Here's my point: I could be miles up the trail on you using a tubed set up. There is simply no way a tubeless set up can be acheived without a big time investment. If you have not figured it out yet, yes...........this bugs me. A lot! I mean, I can set up a tubed wheel set in minutes, even if I have to install a rim strip. Tubeless? We're talking hours, sometimes days.

Why? Because you have to get the danged tires to seal up and quit leaking air. That takes time. Heck, some tire installations for tubeless advise you use things like soapy water, do a little shaky-shake dance, or go out for a twenty minute test ride to help the tires seal up.

Soap? Test ride? Funky gyrations? I'm sorry, but I've never had to do that, or anything remotely like it using tubes. Never. And that goofy stuff takes time, precious time that as a family guy, I don't have a lot of. One time it took me about an hour to mount a Continental tire on an old Trek Matrix rim. I think that was a record for a tubed set up. I couldn't imagine taking any longer than that to mount a tire. Then came tubeless and my world got turned upside down!

And then there are the "advantages" of running tubeless. Uh-huh..........riiiiiiiiight! I get it. They mean when you get to ride, right? Because I could have ridden a whole lot more miles this past weekend then I did if I had been using tubes instead of trying in vain to get one tire to set up tubeless to a point where I could count on it not losing air in 45 minutes.

Okay, yeah. I'm a little sore about a time investment that hasn't paid off. However; it's just one more reason against tubeless and for tubes, for me at least. I have already mentioned the higher monetary costs, the messy sealant issues, and the fact that eventually you end up using a tube anyway.

I grant that those living in thorn/goathead territories or that have pinch flatting problems may want to invest this time, effort, and money to at least be able to ride. I get that. But for where I'm riding, ( normally flat about 1-2 times a year with tubes), it just seems ludicrous to me to go to all this trouble to run tubeless. Sorry.........I'm just not convinced. This will be my third attempt at tubeless with the third different system for running tubeless. I figure that if this ends in another change to a tube in the field involving slimy goo and removal of another tubeless valve stem, I think I'll be done with the tubeless thing. Three tries with three different systems is enough to figure it out, at least I think so.

Well, this set up is still in the running so far, so we'll see. Heck.......I haven't even gotten one of the tires to quit leaking air yet!

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 04, 2008

First Ride (Sort Of) And Some Pics

<===Drop Bar Specific: Whilst it may look "feckin' 'orrible", as one transplanted Briton has called it, it is eminently functional.

Here is the Badger on its first outing. Stopped short of doing the full on gravel grinder since I still have not gotten the tubeless set up on the rear tire to seal up yet. Therefore the "hot laps" around the neighborhood which allowed "pit stops" back at the house for air refills.

<===A good look at the Gary Bar/Tektro lever set up from the front.

I haven't really gotten any off road on it yet with the exception of some dirt road/grassy field traverse. Everything is frozen up or glazed in ice, so really- it's all like riding on a solid rock. That said, the Badger rides very smoothly. I have a feeling it will really shine off road. The seated posistion is nailed. I may make some small adjustments to the tilt of the bars, but that is all I can tell for right now.

<===Those Tektro levers are linear pull specific.

I really like the bar end shifting. Friction shifting comes pretty natural to me on road, but off road may be a bit different. (Finding the gear, that is) As things stand now, I have gotten consistent shifting with almost no noise. Very stealth like! I do have to adjust the front derailluer slightly to aid in the upshift from the inner ring. One side benefit to running the friction shifters on the Gary Bar is that it extends the drop sections ends about a half an inch. Perfect! I always wanted just a bit more room on the ends of the Midge/Gary designs. The Tektro levers are really working a trick. Off road dirt drop riders using disc brakes need to check these out!

<===The hand posistion is actually just below the nose of the saddle on a horizontal plane.

I did manage to go down.....heavily I might add...on the first outing. A slightly down hill bit of track in the local cemetary was glazed over with ice and both wheels went at once landing me on my lefty side. My hip took quite a blow right at the socket. Smacked my noggin too. Good thing I was wearing the helmet. The bike? Clattered away down the icy slope, but no damage. Too slick and smooth to even cause a scratch! Reminded me of a roadie crash in a strange sort of way. I don't normally fall like that. I am going to be just fine, but that little wreck and the tire problem put me off and I didn't stay out very long. I got home and took a nap. Felt better afterwards for it and I will ride again next weekend. In between I should be commuting, but we are supposed to be getting freezing rain today, (Blecch!) so I may be car bound if my wife doesn't want to drive.

At any rate, there she is! I'll be getting that tire problem sorted soon and will be putting in more miles as time goes on. Reports to follow.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Badger 29"er Drop Bar Bike: Finished!

<===Just a quick photo before running off to bed!

Well I thought I'd never see this day. The day I finished the Badger. Almost hard to believe, really, but there it is.

A bike that began almost a year ago with a phone call from Rob Pennell. (Yes! He called me!) The process of getting the frame wasn't too bad, even when you factor in the troubles that Rob had last year, I still got this in a fairly timely fashion. (As a side note, I know some folks have had trouble, and I truly feel bad about that.) Really though, with having another custom frame/fork build going on simultaneously to this bike, I couldn't afford doing both. The Badger had to wait. The decisions on how to kit it out had to be agonized over. (Shifters were the primary source of head scratching.) I had to resolve to having this be a long, drawn out affair.

Before going any further, I've got to thank a few folks here. These folks made it easier on me than it should have been. First, Rob Pennell, who started this whole thing out by offering me a killer deal on an awesome custom frame. David Pals, who got me hooked up with the Thomson stem, seat post, and some clipless pedals. ( The pedals are on my Pofahl. ) Jeff Kerkove, who got me hooked up with the saddle. Brent Gale, who hooked me up with the cranks and hubs. Finally, George Wissell, who hooked me up with the rest of the wheel components and the actual wheel build. You guys were all too kind, and I couldn't have done this without you. Thanks!

Maiden voyage planned for this weekend. I'll get some better pics, and I'll detail out the whole bike then.

And Now- For Something Completely Different.... Twin Six is having a "Spring- (Sort Of) Sale". Here are the details and some info on a charity you might consider as well:

Men’s and Women’s Jerseys $40-$60Men’s and Women’s T-shirts $10-$15 Socks Starting at $8 All T6 Bottles $5 The T6 Sack $90

The sale starts Thursday 1/31 and ends Sunday 2/3. Get while the gettin’s good.

Jenny's Light: Twin Six recently lost a dear friend, Jennifer Gibbs Bankston, and her son Graham, to postpartum depression. Jennifer was a joyful spirit who was loved by family and friends with the same intensity that she showed in her love for others. We have been friends with her and her family for over 20 years, and we will always remember her for the bright light that she was.

10% of all sales from our T6 Spring Sale will be donated to Jenny's Light, a newly formed nonprofit foundation dedicated to building awareness, detection and treatment for postpartum disorders.

Donations can also be sent to: Jenny's Light

5021 Vernon Avenue

Edina, MN 55436

Time To Ride?: Warmer weather is on the way. (Well.....a lot warmer than it has been!) I'm hittin' the gravel this weekend. Hope you can find some time and a place to ride this weekend too. Take care, and ride that bicycle!