Monday, March 31, 2008

The Aftermath and the Planning

The comment I made in my previous post about the T.I.V4 course being hard to drive was only part of the story. Yesterday I felt the results of 300 plus miles of bad gravel road pounding on my body. My back muscles were screwy!

The funny thing is, in the literally thousands of gravel road recon miles I have done, this has never happened before. Was it the vehicle? Nope...........couldn't have been. Just a weekend prior to this I put in 1250 miles of travel in the same vehicle. I used it for part of last years recon too. No, it was the severity of the roads. Put that into your thinkerer as you contemplate Trans Iowa this year.

A little ibuprofen did the trick for me though I still feel it this morning. I thought I was going to be able to catch up with Captain Bob for a spin yesterday but I thought better of it due to the back issue. I went down to the Lab for a while instead to start the process of bike set up and choices for Dirty Kanza.

I have more than one choice for a bike for this gig. (A great blessing and luxury, I admit). I am primarily concerned with comfort, ability to carry water, and comfort. Did I mention the bike needs to be comfortable? Uhh.........okay, why so much emphasis on comfort? Well, let me tell you; Dirty Kanza is rife with some of the roughest gravel around. Iowa gravel shudders in fear when Kansas gravel is mentioned. Really, it is pretty dang rough down there. So I am considering what 200 miles of pounding will potentially do and I am thinking comfort, okay?

This leads me to four rigs in the stable: The Blackbuck, the Pofahl, the Badger, and the venerable Dos Niner. Problem #1: I signed up for the single speed class. The Dos and the Badger are geared specific bikes, so a single speed conversion and chain tensioner would be necessary. Not the most preferred set up, that's for sure. The Dos is interesting for the soft tail aspect and the Badger is interesting for its uber comfy drop bar style.

The Pofahl may be a great choice, but I'm still dialing in the cockpit on that one. I may not have time to get that right and train on top of it. The Blackbuck is a possibility with it's superior water carrying capability and it has a pretty nice steel frame for comfort. I am currently playing with set up on it though, as well, so it may be nixed unless a suitable set up is hit upon.

So, the bike is still up in the air yet and what will shake out should be pretty interesting. I have parts coming to experiment with and some parts already here. The coming weeks should prove interesting with results and more fiddling. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Trans Iowa V4 Recon In Photos

<===One of several downhills

Let's see: 431 miles and fourteen hours on the road today to get this course dialed. How many downhills did we drive? Lots!

But as you all know, for every downhill there is an accompanying uphill section.

<===One of several uphill slogs.

So, how many uphills did we drive today?


Get ready for Trans Iowa V4 folks. The toughest one yet!

<===Some roads were just barely passable.

Road conditions varied all over the place from absolutely perfecto gravel- faster and smoother than last year- to absolutely horrendous. And everything inbetween.

Let's say about half the course is suffering from the effects of snow yet, and this less than a month away from the start!

<===Tunnel vision on March 29th? Yep, you betcha!

Much of the course is lined with snow taller than my SUV that we drove today. This snow is keeping the roads saturated by melting everyday a bit and re-freezing at night.

Will it all be gone by April 26th? Probably, but the effects may still be lingering. Consider that farm equpment has yet to hit the fields and you can see why some of these roads will have no time to recover from the ravages of this past winter. Some of the roads we traveled looked as if they had been bombed for all the potholes in them. We're talking miles of this sort of thing.

<===We saw Wisconsin, Minnesota, and a whole lot of Iowa today. What will you see on T.I.V4?

I thought I'd be nice and give you all a parting shot of what you will likely miss because it will be dark out when you pass through here.

Such a shame! We saw some beautiful vistas today!

What you will see: About 75% of the course is what I would consider hilly or worse. You won't see a lot of open convenience stores. You will see "B" roads. You will see places cars can not go. You will see evidence of wheeled vehicles not powered by "typical" means. (You might even see these vehicles in action) You will see two track and gravel roads four lanes wide. You will see cool bridges. You will see lots of cemeteries. If you finish, you will have seen the longest T.I. course ever.

I often said to d.p. today that I have never seen the course roads in worse condition previous to a Trans Iowa. I also noted how hard it was to drive a lot of this course. You could put on a seriously cool rally on these roads, they are that challenging to drive.

Anyway, we'll have some details on mileage and course checkpoints, time cut offs and supply notes soon. Stay Tuned!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday News And Views

Star Studded Feild At Dirty Kanza 200: I just made my hotel reservations for the Dirty Kanza 200 coming up in May. For those of you that don't know, DK 200 is a gravel grinder event based on Trans Iowa. It is held in the Flint Hills region of Kansas which is a barren, brutal, and beautiful area. The event is 200 miles long and is almost all on unimproved roads or gravel.

Anyway, I see where Cameron Chambers, Travis Brown, and Keith Bontrager are all scheduled to line up there on May 31st. As I said on, you better get your "hellos" in at the start line, 'cause these guys will be smokin'. Should be a fun time though.

Banned From Public School!: I work with a guy at the bike shop that is also a teacher at one of the public high schools in our fair city. He tells me that he is a regular readed of this blog. He informed me the other day that the school has blocked this site on the computers at school. Hmmm..............must be my rebelious nature, or my subversive message.....whatever. Maybe they are afraid he's wasting time or something, I don't know. Anyway, a dubious honor, I'm sure. Bicycles are kind of scary and dangerous. I would be afraid.......very afraid!

Sea Otter, Here I Come!: I got my itenerary for Sea Otter yesterday. I'll be flying out of Dead Moyne this time. WooHoo! This event is pretty fun. I recommend it to anyone that is into cycling of any discipline. Where else can you go to that has a huge expo, demo bikes, pro road and mountain bike events going on at the same time, and about a gazillion cycling freaks walking/riding everywhere you look? Yeah, it is a circus and the weather can suck, but there is nothing else like it. Bad thing: It happens the week before Trans Iowa. Yeah.......I'll be bushed at the end of April!

Have a great weekend and ride yer bikes!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gloves On The Cheap and Other News

<===Dickies makes some nice budget work clothes..........and these gloves.

Just before I left to go to Texas I went shopping for a pair of Mechanix gloves or an equivilant since my hands don't like typical cycling gloves.

I saw these and got them for about $16.00 or so. As a work glove they stink! I mean, how fast do you think that terry cloth thumb area will fill up with grease and dirt? About what.........three seconds? But as a cycling mit it is pure genius. I bet Dickies never dreamed of these as a mountain biking glove.

I searched and found out that the actual company making these for Dickies is some outfit called Fortress. Mmm-kay, whatever. They are cheap and they work...........for me. I don't like cut off finger gloves- make my hands go numb. I don't like a lot of palm padding either, so these fit the bill for me.

Heck, they even do a color
Mr 24 would be proud of!

Trans Iowa really! Seriously! Yes, it has been said before but T.I.V4 recon is upon us for real this time. It has to be! There is only a month to go till this beast gets going and we have to get our ducks in a! (Now watch...........we'll have some freak winter blizzard this weekend because I wrote this!) If and when this happens, (it will) I will post a report and maybe a pic or two. Stay tuned. I am not going to promise anything at this point!

No More Waiting: I posted this on the T.I.V4 site already, but I'll post here as well. The "waiting list" is being shut down. With only a month to go I am finding more people have moved on to focus on other events and the impending work load of T.I.V4 is weighing heavily on my decison to shut it down. I just won't have time to dedicate to taking care of that list anymore. If you were on the list, thanks for your patience and I hope you try again next time.

The Dirt Be Shapin' Up: It's looking as though offroad is going to be happening sooner than later. Winds and fairly dry weather are conspiring to make the dirt shape up pretty fast. I was thinking it would take a long time for this winter to shake off but it appears that we are well on our way to riding dirt sooner than I would have thought possible. I'll be doing some exploratory poking around in town here and others are going to be peeking here and there in the woods to see how things are coming along. It won't be long though, I'll bet, and we'll be out riding the trails again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ergon BD 2 Update

<===The BD 2 after about eight months of constant use

I have had this very early production version of the Ergon BD 2 back pack since last summer and I have been thrashing it ever since. It's seen daily commuting use, mountain biking, long rides, and it's been in Nevada and Texas deserts. Rain, snow, and wind have not been strangers either. Here's an update on how it has been performing so far.

The BD 2 is the larger of Ergon's bicycle oriented back packs. It can hold a 100 oz. bladder with ease and a bunch of your gear as well. I have had it loaded down with upwards of 30lbs of stuff before and it rides great with even that much weight on board.

Generally though, it's just a full load of water, some nutrition, a few tools, spare tube, CO2 inflater, hand pump, shock pump, and maybe a few other sundry items. I always have room to spare. I'm quite confident that given the right equipment and a bit more organization, I could find room for some outerwear and more stuff necessary for multi-day epics. I have on a couple occaisions carried the full 100 oz of water with three extra water bottles! Anyway, the point is, you can carry a whole lotta stuff in a BD 2 if you need/want to.

<====My solution to a small problem

I have had great experiences with the BD 2 so far, but I have also experienced a couple noteworthy exceptions. One is the chest strap. It attaches on either side of each shoulder strap in front by a means of a plastic clip that is crimped on the edges of the shoulder straps. One of these popped loose at Interbike's Outdoor Demo last fall. While I was able to have it quickly and expertly repaired at Ergon's booth at the demo, an in the field failure would necessitate some other solution. Well, that's exactly what ended up happening to me later that fall. I simply looped around the shoulder straps webbing with the loose end of the chest strap. Voila'! No more worries since then.

<===It hasn't been a problem.........yet!

Another glitch with some early iterations of the BD series packs was a Flink bolt that backs out and separates the pack from the framework that straps to your upper body. See that shiny bolt head in the pic at the left? That's the guy! I have a replacement bolt that cures the problem, but I haven't installed mine yet. (I know, I know......bad boy!) However; I haven't needed to. I have it in the backpack waiting on the day when I finally break down, ( or the back pack breaks down!) and install the thing. I suppose I ought to do it, but I have only had to tighten the bolt twice and I am aware that it backs out, so I check it regularly. Anyway, the point is that if you already have an Ergon BD series pack and it was an early version, you can get a free replacement bolt from Ergon by contacting them.

Overall my impression is that the Ergon BD 2 is a great back pack/hydration system (You have to supply your own bladder) that can carry almost anything reasonably needed for serious rides to epic adventures. It is reasonably durable, well thought out, and beyond some quirky pockets and the chest strap issue, it has been flawless for me. I would highly recommend it based solely on how it rides with a load on it. The fact that it performs well above and beyond that fact is a bonus. If you don't need all that room, the BD 1 is also basically the same pack with a smaller carrying volume.

For those of you looking for something even more extreme/waterproof, the new BC 3 is coming soon. I've seen early versions of this pack and it looks killer! Commuters or serious multi-day riders need to check this baby out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tubeless Update: All's Well So Far.....

Hey, I thought I'd give a little report here on my tubeless experiences from my Texas trip. If you haven't read or don't remember, I took a set of Stan's Flow/King wheels set up tubeless with Conti Mountain King 2.4"ers sealed with Stan's and another wheel set set up with Slime Tubeless sealant that featured Bontrager Dry X Tubeless Ready tires on Bontrager Tubeless Ready Race X Lite wheels.

Well, the wheels both exhibited similar air holding capabilities. It seemed that everytime I checked throughout the week that both sets would lose about the same amount of air, or not. Sometimes it seemed that they would stabilize. Weird. Anyway, it was obvious that there was no real distinction there and that both sets were holding air rather well.

Performance was really good with both wheel sets. I never experienced any burping or any negative sensations while on the bike. Both sets did not flat during the trip, which was my main goal. If I had flatted, or if I ever do, it is going to be a big mess because I've got plenty of sealant in each tire. Well, that might be if they were to flat in the near future. Later on the sealant may dry up, I don't know, but I've heard of this. I plan on doing a little maintenance check on these in a month, maybe two.

So, as of now everything is great. I can't say as I feel any sort of rolling resistance advantages. I have a test planned though that might help me to see if there is anything to this. I'm thinking it is a negligible, if any difference from a tubed set up, but we'll see. Air pressure can be lowered, true, but I can and have run rediculously low pressures with tubed set ups, so I don't see the big deal here either. The interesting thing I found was that rolling resistance increased on par with tubed set ups when I lowered the pressure on one of my tubeless set ups. They felt no different to me than a low pressure tubed set up, so again, I just don't see any advantage there. Maybe a pinch flat could be avoided, and that's the only thing I can think of.

In the end I can only say that the systems I'm using will hopefully prevent any punctures from becoming flat tires. Other than that I am not convinced there is any sort of advantage to tubeless mountain bike tires right now. I'll keep riding and testing though to see if I'm missing something here, so stay tuned. So far, so good.................

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back In The Saddle

<===Surrealistic view: The Flint Hills at dawn Easter Sunday.

Back home and back to the routine again. Reflecting back on what just happened is a bit tough yet. My brain being addled from 24 hours of travel over two days time. Yep, 1239.3 miles to be exact.

The two bikes I took down both did fantastic jobs with the severe terrain I rode them on. Of course, as I have said, the Siren Song may have been a crazy choice as a single speed bike, but it was still a load of fun. I would highly recommend it as a platform for a single speed endurance machine. Oh so smoooooth! The Hi Fi was equally as satisfying. I was really glad I had full suspension bikes at my disposal for this trip. It is really what you need to have on the technical trails of Franklin Mountain State Park. While I love my rigid front/hardtail rear 29"ers, I wouldn't want to have to ride one down there. It's waaay too rough and rocky. At least for my ol' body it is!

So, I am back in Iowa and while it may not be very warm, at least almost all the snow is gone and it looks as though trail conditions will be improving. Right now I'm sure everything is a bit soggy, but with time it should start to come around. That's good because I have to get started riding again for several reasons, not least of which is the upcoming Dirty Kanza 200 which will be held where today's photograph was taken. It may not look like much there, but the camera only captures the tops of the hills. There is a lot more going on out there than the eye can see from I-35, I'll tell you that much! You might be very, very surprised!

While it's good to be back, I'll just be getting busier, so no more time to reflect. It's onwards and upwards from here!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Last Day In The Desert

Well, this trip is done. The last two days I have spent doing fun things with the family and relaxing. I am ready to come back home though. The trip was a blast, the riding was great, and spending time with family and loved ones is above all a precious thing. I won't be forgetting this trip anytime soon.

But now it is time to buckle down and get to driving back towards home. The "big chunk" will be tomorrow- 700 plus miles in one day with two kids. Then Sunday it'll be the home stretch with around 500 miles on tap. That is if all goes well. Let's hope it does.

Today we went to an amusement park where the rides, for the most part, were the same as they were 40 years ago. It was weird watching my kids ride stuff I rode when I was a little guy. Kind of a time warp thing. Anyway, it was hot and sunny, I was getting tired, and I forgot that I was in charge of Mrs. Guitar Ted's purse and walked away from a picnic table it was under. About 50 paces away it dawned on me that I left it there. Sure enough, it was gone!

Well, we found out where the office was and asked a young lady if they had seen it. To our amazement and relief, it was there. Apparently a sharp eyed employee saw it and took it to the main office immediately. We were only without the purse for fifteen minutes max, but that was some stress I didn't need! Last year I forgot Mrs. Guitar Ted's suitcase with her and the kids clothes, this year I lost her purse. Not a very good track record!

Well, if that is all the drama we incur on this trip, that'll be enough for me.

See ya all back in Iowa soon!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Desert Photo Dump

As always, you can click each photo to make it ginormous!

<====A loose rocky ascent around some unfriendly vege!

<===A view down hill at some more rocky goodness.

<===The trail winds away into the distance. The Fisher Hi Fi Deluxe is there waiting to gobble it up.

<===A trail runs through it: This is one of those areas where it looks like you are riding through the rubble of a building!

<===Warm weather, sunshine, and mountains. G-Ted says, "Me likey!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flying Rocks

First off- no visuals today! A computer snafu has prevented me from getting things downloaded to Blogger, so I'll try again tomorrow. Sorry about your lack of "stimulation", but there ya go!

Anyway, it was back after it on the Fisher HiFi Deluxe today on Franklin Mountain. The timing was right so I went for it. I did the same loop for testing purposes that I had done on Monday. The funny thing was, this time I had gears and man! Did it ever make a difference! I smoked the loop in half the time it took on the single speed. Of course, some of that was trail familiarity, but a lot of it was being able to get into a low gear and grind over stuff I was walking up on the single speed.

I'll be honest, the single speed thing here was a killer! I really got beat down from working myself so hard. The climbs are steep, but compounded by loose rocks, step ups, and cactus avoidance. I ended up walking a fair bit. That was where it took a longer time on the SS for sure.

Today was different. Right off the bat I was carrying far more speed and climbing much more of what I had walked just two days ago. Still, there were some sections that would necessitate my having some more practice time to clean. I am confident I could make the whole loop with more riding time. The thing is, I was being cautious because I was riding in some dangerous terrain alone. One small mistake could have ended up being a very bad situation.

Well, the Fisher Hi Fi was a blast! I was cruising along at a clip that was almost too fast for a newbie to these parts. I had to reel it back in a few times. The last section of trail I rode was called Cory's Quarry. Man, did the name ever fit! Wait until you see the pics I got. Anyway, the rocks were big, loose, and everywhere. I had fist sized rocks flying up and hitting the bike and one nailed me in the shin. No harm done, but that isn't what I like to see in my peripheral vision- rocks that ought not to be airborne flying up in close proximity to my tender bits!

So, I really enjoyed today's ride and it was a great way to cap off the riding part of my vacation. I am dedicating the rest of the time here to family, so no more rides till I'm back in Iowa. Too bad! It's absolutely beautiful and epic riding here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day Of Ease

<===Visited some local bike shops incognito!

Well, after yesterdays sufferfest, I took today off for some recovery and to await the forecasted warmer temperatures for Wednesday. (70's for high temps) Less wind too, not that it is a problem, but hopefully less dust will be in the air. I inhaled my fair share on Monday, that's for sure!

Anyway, we all got out and just hit up some shops and took in some of the local scenery.

<===A view from a scenic overlook about two thirds of the way down from the pass on Trans Mountain Highway.

We didn't really do a whole lot but hang out with each other and it was great not to have any schedules or places we had to go. I played outside with the kids for awhile and now they are seeing a kids movie with Mrs. Guitar Ted whilst I type at my snail like pace on here and elsewhere.

<===What you are likely to see in yards here for "weeds".

That about does it for today. Tomorrow will be something else. Maybe a ride, maybe some other tom-foolery. Who knows and who cares. It's vacation, right?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Some Dusty Trail Photos

<===The Siren Song in quiet desert repose.

Well, the desert southwest is warm and sunny at a balmy 64 degrees today. Wind kept me in tights and a long sleeved jersey over a short sleeved one though. This mountain biking scene here may not be totally hopping, but it is awesome riding and pretty dang technical.

<=== Looking back down the trail you can see the weathered and broken exposed bedrock off camber section. One small misstep and yeeouch!

The trail was as tough as I remembered from last year, loose and rocky with plenty of ascending and descending on narrow single track. Cactus was on the trail in the form of broken off bits with spiky needles still intact. I had to dodge the ones I saw, but the Stan's sealant did it's job and I went three hours without incident.

<===More climbing on exposed bedrock.

There was quite a bit of this broken up exposed bedrock on the trail I rode. It was great until you hit a crack or seam and a gaping hole running crossway on the trail would be waiting to nab your front wheel and throw you down. I missed any crashing today. Believe me, I surely didn't want to biff on this trail! Broken bones, ripped flesh, and cactus punture wounds are not high on my list of "fun pain". What was on that list was lung busting climbs, burning thighs, and raw windpipe from all of the dust I breathed in today.
I'll get to sneak out one more time while I'm here, but I'm not sure when. I'll be sportin' four X four inches and 27 gears the next time I'm out though!

More later!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sand Storm!

Well, I have arrived in one piece in El Paso Texas with my family and two bicycles. The trade off for snow was sand blowing so hard it filled the skies, was blowing across the roads, and was even drifting in spots over the edges of the highway. Nothing a tried and true Iowan can't deal with, especially after this winter! At least the temperature was better- 81 degrees! I think I got a little sunburn from playing outside with the kids when we got here. Hey, I had to. I haven't been able to play outside in shirt sleeves for a long time!

So, I am planning to get a big helping of Franklin Mountain sometime while I'm down here on board the two bikes I brought down. When exactly that will be is yet to be determined, but plans are being co-ordinated now and it will happen. Hopefully the sand storm is over or it will have to wait until it is. Winds blow pretty strong and steady down here when they blow.

That's it for tonight. Stay tuned for irregular updates throughout the week.

Halfway There

Just a quickie note from the road. We made it to our "traditional" halfway stop at Liberal, Kansas last night without much drama. The weather has been great, a little windy, but great. 14 hours on the road yesterday with a planned 12 more today and then we should be in El Paso.

New Mexico may be a treat as the winds are forecast to gust in excess of 50 mph on the way. Mountains + wind + long drive = not much fun! We'll see.

I have some pics to post but that'll come later when I get to El Paso, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Players

Well, here are the bikes that are going on the trip to Texas, (that is if the car is done today like they said it would be!) Anywho......The Siren Song single speed is set to roll. Race Face crank, 33T ring, 22T Surly cog, Chris King hubs, Stan's Flow rims with Continental Mountain King 2.4" tires mounted tubeless with Stan's. Magura Louise disc brakes, Thomson post WTB saddle, Syntace bar and stem. Cane Creek AD 5 shock, Reba fork. Ergon grips for the mits.

And the other bike- The Fisher Hi Fi Deluxe with mostly SRAM drivetrain gear with the exception of the LX Hollow Tech two piece crank. I swapped the wheels over to the Bontrager Race X Lite Tubeless Ready set, (Not shown) and mounted Dry X tires tubeless with Slime sealant for tubeless tires. The only other change from stock was to mount Ergon Grips to the bars for my mits comfort and control.

So, all is a go as long as the body shop holds it's end of the deal up. I sure hope so, because if we have to wait until Monday to leave, we are not going. It takes two days with the kids to get to El Paso, and leaving Monday to turn around and come back Saturday is not an option. So, at this late hour I'm still left in the dark as to whether or not I am going to actually get to Texas. I've had run ins with body shops all through out my life. Just another reason why cars and trucks suck. But that's another post.........

Stay tuned.......if I actually get out of town, I'll post a on the road report late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Otherwise, I'll post right away again tomorrow with the bad news. So if you don't see a new post here tomorrow, you'll know we're outta here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Tubeless Success Story

In my ongoing battle with trying to set up tubeless mountain bike tires I have been thwarted at almost every turn. Only the Bontrager TLR and Mavic/Hutchinson tubeless ready set ups were anything resembling success. The one set up that had continuously eluded me was the Stan's conversion.

I even had the proper Stan's rims and yellow tape installed, courtesy of Bike 29. So I knew I hadn't ran a foul of some ghetto tubeless rim strip or the wrong rim. Still, something wasn't right.

When I went to Decorah, I inquired of several of the locals about their tubeless set ups, as I knew that they ran them up there to great success. (Notice: the word "success" is coming up a lot here!) I even bought some Stan's milky magic from Deke figuring I would benefit from positive mojo if I did so. I did more research on the inner-web-o-sphere and visited Stan's site trying to put together all the missing pieces.

Well, last night was the night it all came together. The little secret applied here, the homemade applicator I made from a Coke bottle, and the satisfying "pop" of beads setting up all lead to my very own Stan's tubeless conversion success story.


So, does that mean that Guitar Ted will now become assimilated into the masses of devout tubeless believers? Hmm..........well, only if it actually works! That's what this Texas trip is going to prove out to me. If tubeless doesn't leave me stranded, leave me walking miles from my car, and doesn't make me mess with gooey-glop in the dirt while I switch back to a tube trail side then maybe.........just maybe, me love you long time. We'll see about that though.

Until then, I'll test ride the set up from last night and hope we get our car back today, like the body shop promised us. We're still not cleared for take off just yet. Even the best laid plans can go astray. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2008: DHPT Report

Last evening I made the trek up to Decorah Iowa to talk to the DHPT Decorah Human Powered Trails) at their monthly meeting. I was pretty much the only thing on their agenda for the evening. (Most likely why there was such a low turn out! ) Anyway.....the ideas for this years Ballyhoo were discussed and lots of cool ideas were pitched. We will be having a pretty good time this year, that's for sure!

I won't give away any details right now as there are things that need to be worked out, but here is an overview of what we are envisioning the weekend to look like this year.

Friday Night: We are looking into having a get together at a local establishment with musical entertainment. There also is talk of having a night ride up in the trail network.

Saturday: Along with some changes we are making, like having onsite registration, there will be the vendors and demo rides. Guided trail rides, the demo loop, and self guided trail rides will all be options. There will also be skill riding challenges available onsite for entertainment and fun throughout the day Saturday and Sunday as well.

Saturday Night: The Ballyhoo Blowout. (Hmmm.........that just rolled outta my head, not bad!) Anyway, yeah............much like last year we are going to have a big party with a band and dancing on Saturday Night. It should be pretty fun.

Sunday: The demo rides, guided trail rides, skill games, and such will all continue. We will also be having a drawing for prizes from all the names we had registered for the event on Sunday. (Must be present to win) and that will pretty much wrap things up for the weekends festivities.

Sound like fun? Go to the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo site for future updates and pre-registration with a chance to win a prize, which should be coming soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Tubeless Tires, Custom Builders, and More

The Goop Goes In Here: I decided I needed to have tubeless tires for my trip to Texas so down in the Lab I went to have another go at setting something up. I didn't go into this blindly, oh no! Long time readers all know of my past struggles with tubeless technology and that I am not fully convinced that it is a great choice.

Well, I recieved some assistance in the form of a "secret recipe" and technique from a certain Lincolnite. The thing was though, his main ingredient isn't available locally here. Bummer! So, with time winding down on me, I had to use something else that I could get my hands on for now. (Not saying what, but it's commercially available. Wait till after I'm back, I'll let ya all know if it worked then)

Anyway, I used the Bontrager Dry X tires on my Bontrager Race X Lite wheels which is a fool proof tubeless set up. I'm tellin' ya, if they ever get those tubeless rim strips for the Rhythm wheels out there I won't even consider using anybody elses system. The Bontrager TLR tires fit super snugly on the plastic rim strip to the point that your thumbs get a work out putting on the tire for the first time. That's like unheard of in the 29"er tire world. Then when you do get the tire on there, you can already hear that the beads are nearly seated due to the hissing of air when you squeeze the tire. Needless to say, setting the beads up is a no-brainer. Just pump up to about 50psi and everything snaps up into place. Add sealant and you are done. Easy!

I got two tires done.......ready to ride thirty minutes. And I found a wrench that fits the flats on the removeable core presta valves in my tool box. Bonus! One wheel set ready to do battle with the Texas cactus.

Stay tuned for the next wheel set I am going to attempt to set up tubeless. Hope it goes as well as the first!

Handbuilt Bicycle Blues: If you haven't noticed, there is a big dust up on over certain small custom builders and some pretty disturbing claims of poor business practices on their parts. I have been pretty close to one of the accused. It saddens me on several levels that the issues have arisen and are being dealt with on public forums in some very juvenile and pathetic ways.

I just wanted to air out some of my personal feelings on the matter. In general, my belief is that the products in question, the actual frames themselves, are very well thought out, fine quality pieces. No question about it. I have ridden or closely inspected two of these accused frame builders work, and it is above reproach in regards to quality. The issue that is at hand is how the business side was handled in each of the cases I am aware of. So, taking the product out of the picture, or the fact that they are one man operations, what we have here are simply just failed businesses for whatever reason. Businesses fail all the time. Even big bicycle companies "bite it" from time to time. What is different here is that the businesses in question were higher profile small builders and the problems that were had were immediately posted on the internet forums and Kangaroo court was in session from the get go.

I've no doubt that people are angry, used and abused, and deserve some sort of justice, but that's what our legal system is for. This internet "mob mentality" I see is rather disturbing. Sure, you could say, "Well- You got your frames, you don't get it." And that justifies poor behaviour and slander? Please explain that. Besides, folks have no idea what problems I had or didn't have because I kept it out of the forums and dealt with it privately. Perhaps we could do with more of that.

Finally, I just want to add my opinion that I believe in the small, hand built bicycle industry. I think it's fantastic and most builders have a passion and care for what they do and how they handle their businesses that is very admirable. These spectacularly publicized failures not withstanding, I think the hand made bicycle is a valid choice for anyones next rig.

Nuff said.........

Funny thing happened at "mail call" yesterday: We get the mail in at the shop I work at around noon each day. The coming of the mail "man" (Ours is actually a woman) is greeted with calls of "Hello" and sometimes a bit of chit chat. It's a time that is a "marker" for our day at work. So when the mail showed up yesterday, I said "hello", of course, while another co-worker grabbed the stack of posts to take back to the office. Suddenly I hear, "Hey! Here's a Trans Iowa post card!" Wha............a T.I.V4 post card? Yep! Post marked in mid November, we finally got Dave Nice's post card on March 10th! Fortunately for Mr. Nice, he very wisely sent out more than one card and did get on the roster. Just goes to show you, late mail still happens in 2008!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bicycle Commuting: Is Now The Time?

The weekend news reports were filled with the headlines about record gas prices at the pumps with an expectation that prices would go even higher this summer. With the prospect of $4.00/gallon gas, are we ready to start bicycle commuting yet? Hmmm?

I'm betting that just about anybody that is a "bicycle enthusiast" will at least give it a go, but you would expect that of them. It is the much larger body of people out there that don't ride bicycles that is important here. To see any significant change in gas prices downward or to see any kind of a boost for the cycling industry, it is these non-cycling people that will have to come in and make a difference.

My gut feeling is that it won't happen. Not even with $4.00 per gallon gas or higher. Here's why:

This weekend I rode my bike to church and back. I play in the church band and since we have two services on Sunday and a rehearsal before hand I have to get there pretty early in the morning. I don't know what the temperature was, maybe around 20 degrees, but I got some comments from some of the band about how "hardcore" I was for riding that morning. However; it was another comment made by a young man that really got my attention. He is of college age, strong, fit and healthy. He said to me, "I'll never get into riding a bike, because I'll admit it, I'm just to lazy to sit there and turn the pedals around. That's too much work for me." Wow!

So, I guess that whatever the price, it's "easier" to drive an internal combustion vehicle. To my mind, this guy wouldn't ride a bike unless the other option- driving a car- was taken away. I don't think high priced gasoline is going to do that.

Since that is the case with this fellow, I would bet that the majority of folks out there that are non-cyclists would tend to fall into that camp. That means that while I expect a boost in commuting this summer, it won't be as big as it should be. Not this time.

Cars are kind of like cigarettes in one regard. The price of cigarettes is mostly tax, yet the folks addicted to them just keep on paying the price. Have you seen what a carton of cigs sells for? It's rediculous! High gas prices making more bicycle commuters? Nope, it will just get more rediculous, just like cigarette prices and the folks addicted to that product. Until the option to drive is limited or taken away in some respect bicycles will never become a major form of transportation in the U.S.A., and that is really too bad.

Oh well, I'll be riding to work today on my bicycle. I hope you will consider doing that too.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Answer To The Riddle

<=== The Siren "Song" as it appeared at the expo area at the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo recently.

You might recall my lame-o attempt at a riddle here recently. Well here's the answer. The new Siren soft tail model dubbed the "Song".

The Song is an interesting bike. With an inch and a half of rear wheel travel on tap, it should really take the edge off the trail in El Paso. It also doesn't have a pivot in the traditional sense. It has a flex plate made of titanium bolted onto the bottom bracket and chainstays. Low maintenance and durability are some of the design goals with the Song. This one happens to be a single speed 29"er, but it can be had in a mixed wheel format called the "fifty-five" or as a geared bike in either full on 29"er or fifty-five options.

I got word yesterday that this particular Song is "in the mail", so I'll be looking for it to show up here soon. I'll be riding it pretty much as pictured here with the exception of my using an I-9 wheel set I have with those new Continental tires.

I'll have some pics of the bike once I get it set up to go later next week.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Don't Come Around Here No More

Yesterday at the shop, a guy wheeled in a Trek 4300 he wanted us to "fix" his rear wheel on. Well, the thing was, the wheel was modified for use with a motor of some sort. Yeah.........that's pretty much the magic word that means I won't work on it. There are a lot of things inherently wrong mechanically and philosophically with the whole concept of modifying an existing bicycle to accept a motor. I won't get into the several reasons for that here. The thing I was surprised to hear about was that I must not be the only bike wrench to feel this way. A co-worker of mine sent me the following from a FAQ on a small engine site:

Would a bicycle shop be a good place to take my Eagle for installation?
No, many bicycle shops have a negative attitude, when it comes to motorizing a bike, they feel everyone should be in Lance's physical condition. If you don't have the time (or the inclination) to do the installation yourself, take the unit to your neighborhood lawn and garden repair - these folks are familiar with engines And which end of the screwdriver to use!

So, What's Lance got to do, got to do with it? ( appologies to Tina Turner)

This is so funny and pathetic on many levels. Obviously, the touch point for most folks outside of cycling is Lance Armstrong. Now that is interesting. Given that the image they probably have of him is of a man in tip-top physical condition, a condition most of us are unlikely to reach in our lifetimes, and you can see why this is what "they" think cycling is. Then the observation makes more sense. It also points to what I've been saying for years, that lionizing people like Lance Armstrong isn't going to do cycling any favors with the general public, but that's a whole 'nuther story.

It's interesting also to me that they recommend taking your ill-concieved motorcycle to a lawn and garden shop. Hmm..........makes me wonder if they've allready been laughed out of the local motorcycle shop. Because, well........usually you take a motorcycle to a motorcycle shop, right? It seems to me that this "motorized bicycle community" has an identity crisis.

Well, one thing is for sure, if you put a motor on a bicycle it becomes a motorcycle. That's pretty obvious I think. Next, don't be bringing your motorcycle to a bicycle shop. Wrong place to get service on anything motorized, ya know?

Finally, perhaps we all could do a better job of being nice to these freak machine wielding folks when they come into our shops. Apparently they don't understand who they are, so how can you blame them.

Friday, March 07, 2008

So, What Else Is New?

Well, funny you should ask.....

I just got a couple Continental Mountain King 2.4" tires in to test/review. (Check out the specs and my initial take here.) These will be going on my Industry 9 single speed wheels which in turn should be going on one of the two bikes going to Texas with me.

I can't say yet what that bike is, but here is a riddle to help you guess.

It has something in common with a six pack of beer. It has something in common with the coming season of the year. It has a name on the top tube which is beautiful to hear. What am I?

Let the guessing begin!

I'll be doing some testing on that rig with those Conti tires. The other bike will be the Hi Fi Deluxe which should be an excellent rig for the rocky, loose conditions of the trail I am going to tackle down there. I want to run some sealant in the tires and I have a plan on that front in the works. Should prove to be fool proof.

So, now it's time to tune up the Hi Fi, and wait for the other rig to show up here next week right before I leave. Hopefully the car, the bike, and myself all converge on readiness at the same time. That would be really cool!

Other than that, not much else new going on 'round here!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Okay! That's It! I'm Leaving!

Yep...................I've had it! Can't take anymore of it. I looked at the temperature this morning and it's 4 freakin' degrees! (Did anybody notice it is March? Hello!) So, yeah............I'm makin' plans to get outta here!

In about a week I'll be pulling out of this deep freeze to go to the sunny desert in West Texas. Down in the West Texas town of El Paso, to be exact. (Old country music freaks .....or haters......will now have a song stuck in their heads the rest of today. You can thank me later.)

Yep! My trip of freedom from ice and snow. I can't wait. Of course, you do know what this means, right? It means that the weather will finally straighten up while I'm gone. That's right! When I get back all that will be left will be the remnants of big snow piles. Just wait and see.

I'll be riding my bikes a couple of the days while I'm down there, but I also will be going to Sea World in San Antonio too. Gotta take the kids there. That's a trip within a trip right there. See, for you Texas uninitiated, this "little trip" over from El Paso to San Antonio will take 12 hours. Yep! 12 hours at 75mph on freeway all the way there. And you are still in the middle of the state! Oh, did I mention that the 12 hours is only one way? Yeah.........24 hour round trip baby! That doesn't include the time spent in San Antone. But hey.........the kids will love it, I'm sure. It's closer to go to Tucson, Arizona than to go to San Antonio..........that's how big Texas is!

Anywho, I have a lot of things to do to get ready. I'll be dragging two bikes along with me, that is if our car gets outta the body shop on time! It is scheduled to be done just days before we leave. Talk about cutting it close! And if it doesn't get done, then the whole trip gets cancelled and we have snow forever!

So, it is imperative that the vehicle get done before our scheduled departure or the Mid-West will be plunged directly into the next ice age. Really.........that wouldn't be so bad, would it? I mean, we're used to it by now anyway, right?

I could always get that Pugsley, or "fat front" one of my 29"ers. And Mike Curiak wouldn't have to go so far to do this as he has been. Right?


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wednesday News and Views

Drop Outs: The roster for Trans Iowa has always been a thing in flux since the first Trans Iowa we did back in 2005. This year the drop out rate has been about one per week for the last two months. It's getting to the point though that this will increase now, so if you are still waiting to get in, do not give up hope just yet. I'm sure the winter we are having here in the Mid-West has some effect on this too. It will be interesting to see what happens when the weather breaks.

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo: It is getting time to be talking about this event again. It is scheduled to happen on June 21st-22nd in Decorah, Iowa. We are getting together some great bikes, activities, and prizes to be given away. Look for more at the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo site soon. The Theme this year is "A Weekend Of Big Wheeled Bliss". Look for stuff outside of the 29 inch wheeled format, by the way. ( wink - wink!) It should be a great time. I'll post more on the event here as the time gets closer, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.

Just A Word On The Roadie Weirdness: Not that I pay a whole lot of attention to the roadie scene, but when it gets as bizarre as it has gotten lately, how can you not notice? You've got one side saying they will ban, santion, or slap your wrists for entering another organizations events, while the one side says they don't recognize the other side and the riders don't know what to do. Then you have the organiazation behind the big Daddy of 'em all tour saying to some teams that they are not invited because of drug related scandals while other teams are invited that suffer from drug related scandals. .....wha? Is this a cycling soap opera or what? Then add to that Rock Racing. (Turn up the sound if you click on this) If it wasn't a road racing team I'd a thunk that Mr. 24 invented this organization. The only thing missing from the web page is a soundtrack of some angry, screaming metal frontman. Anyway, this road cycling scene............weird!

My Plan To Stop Winter From Coming................Again: So, after getting all of this snow, I'm thinking, "Why didn't I get a Pugsley?" I could have ridden it about three straight months this year in the conditions it was designed for. Rats! I'm sure that if I do spring for one now, we'll never see snow again. Hmm..............maybe I could take one for the team! Ha! It's as good a reason to own one as any, I figure!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Getting Ready For The Next Wave

Last Sunday as I rode up that drifted over bike path and caught up with two cyclists I couldn't help but think two things. One: "Man! Those guys are having a slow go of it on those smaller wheels." But more importantly: "Those are some pretty old bikes they have there." Why is the second thought more important in my mind?

Well, I was thinking that sooner than later these two fellas are going to be looking into some new mountain bikes. They obviously had a sense of adventure, (Besides myself, they were most certainly the only other guys in town cycling that weekend), and they asked me some questions about my bike and 29 inch wheels in particular.

I have often said that a sub-grand 29"er would start bringing on more 29"er freaks and this scenario last weekend is the perfect seed for that to sprout from. Both guys were on hardtails that were verging on ten years old, if not older. In my time working at the bike shops around here, that's about the time folks start looking at a new bike. These guys were ripe. If they get into a shop that knows their stuff and has access to the sub-grand 29"er, I see one if not both of them getting on 29"ers. The thing is, it's a big "if" concerning the shop and the 29"er actually being there.

Many shops don't believe in 29"ers, or have staff that even knows much about them. Strange as that may sound, it is true. If there is one thing that is keeping 29"ers down, it is that. I am confident that once most folks ride one, it is a sold bike. Hands down, a 29"er will improve upon the average cyclists mountain biking experience over a 26"er any day. That alone should convince shop owners to carry them, that is if they care about their customers off road cycling experiences.

Sound like a harsh statement? Well, again- I believe most average mountain bikers would see an immediate benefit from riding a 29"er. They are more stable, less endo prone, and have better traction than their 26 inch counter parts. What's not to love for a recreational mountain biker about that? The trouble is, there are not many places that are versed in 29"ers. There are more that are all the time, but there are also lots of shops that are not.

So, if shops want to benefit from the next wave of mountain bike purchasers and turn them into enthusiastic off roaders, then a 29"er is a no-brainer. Get ready, or get left behind.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Drift Bustin' and Ice Chopping

<===I busted through some drifts, but none this big!

I took Saturday off from riding as I was feeling really beat. In fact I took a rare mid-day nap I was so tired. Sunday was better, so I hit the trail with the KMFDM to see what it was like out there.

The temps were in the 40's and the snow was melting like crazy. I found the bike path leading out of town southwards and followed it. I noticed I wasn't the only one that had the idea to ride as I soon discovered two other sets of tracks in the melting ice. Soon I discovered that the snow had drifted across the path in various places. Sometimes a bit more than a couple feet deep. I could see that the two guys ahead of me, (I could see them by now) had been busting through most of them and I was having no problems with them myself. I just did it like we used to back in the day. Go really fast, hit that drift, come out the other side going much slower, but still going. (Only we did it in cars back then!) 29 inch wheels were cruising through those drifts with no problems.

I finally started to reel the two guys in front of me in. They saw me coming at Shaulis road and waited for me to roll up. I hadn't met these two fellas before, but the were locals and we chatted for a bit before they turned back and I went on across the highway on Shaulis. I turned onto the old chunk of 63 shortly before hitting a gravel due south. I wanted to check the conditions of the rural roads.

<===If it wasn't covered in melting sheets of ice, it was saturated with water.

I found the going extremely tough. Where the snow and ice was gone the gravel was saturated. I am talking Trans Iowa V2 saturated. I was pushing into the surface about three quarters of an inch deep with 2.1" wide tires on. The ice covered sections were actually much faster.

It's going to be awhile before the gravel shapes up too because we just got more rain, then snow on top of it and it all has re-frozen since it's 21 degrees as I type this. Yeah, it's still a mess.

I turned back into town northward and once I got into the city I found rivers of water running over slush over ice. Great! Slow going as I picked my way through some of Waterloo's southern neighborhoods. I saw lots and lots of folks chipping ice out of driveways and sidewalks, just like Carlos details on his blog.

We saw a glimpse of spring yesterday, but today it's the same ol' same ol' wintery crapola again. Two hour delay for schools so I'll be late getting to work. Seems like Mondays have been this way for awhile now.

Anyway, it was great to at least get in a ride yesterday, but I have to say that two hours of not coasting is pretty brutal on the ol' hind end. I'm thinking a Brooks B-17 is in my future for the KMFDM.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Breaking Weather News

"Breaking" as in spring is showing signs of springing. Since my last post the nature of the weather has taken a turn for the better with warmer temps and melting of ice. We've still got a long way to go, but this is starting to look promising. You gotta figure it would happen any day now because after all, it is March right?

This means that a lot of us Mid Westerners have to start packing on a lot of miles in a short period of time. Training for races will be intense. I am going to have to start laying down some long gravel rides myself to get ready for Dirty Kanza and the rest of the year.

That doesn't cover it all for me though. I'll be doing some gravel road recon too. It's getting to be crunch time as far as Trans Iowa is concerned and the course still hasn't been verified yet. Add in my vacation to Texas in the middle of March and that cuts into time even further. Then right before T.I. I have a trip to Sea Otter. It's going to go from zero to sixty pretty quickly around here!

So these last wintry days are passing quickly by and it's time to get into the starting blocks. Ready, steady, go.....................