Thursday, July 31, 2008

In Search Of Captain Bob's Berm

Wednesday found me in ride/testing mode again, so I headed out to the Camp's south side for a couple loops. One of the highlights of the south side trail is the bermed turn Captain Bob labored on. Thus, I have dubbed it Captain Bob's Berm. I was looking forward to railing it during my planned two laps.

The test rig, my OS Bikes Blackbuck, was now fitted with a Bontrager Race X Lite Switchblade fork. This is now the third fork on the Blackbuck for my test on Twenty Nine Inches. I got it installed right before I left for the ride. It looks pretty good on the rig, I must say.

I also sported my new Team Dicky sleeveless jersey. It's pretty cool looking and the hope was that the lack of sleeves would help keep me going in the ultra humid conditions out at the Camp. A little Viking/single speed mojo never hurt either!

Well, I got out there and made my way into the drippy, dank woods. It seemed wetter than last weekend there, perhaps they got rain we didn't get, I don't know. The ground was nigh unto muddy- super tacky, lets call it. Good thing there is a fair amount of sand in the soil there as it kept my tires from "balling up" in black mud.

One loop almost completed and still no berm. Hmmm...... I got dumped out on the road going up into the woods from the main road, about a 100 yards from the car. I decided I must have missed the berm somehow. How I didn't know. Well, it was time for a break anyway and I had a squeaky front rotor to deal with. After adjusting the caliper and pads a bit, I went off again, backwards this time, to find Captain Bob's Berm.

After traversing the whole circuit again, I still hadn't found the berm, nor had I eliminated the squeak from my rotor. So, another pit stop was in order. I finally got that caliper/pad adjustment squared away. This time, instead of trying to do it in semi-lighted conditions, I went out to the gravel road where there was bright sunshine. It sure helps if you can see things!

I've got to say that by this time I was a sweaty mess. It was sooo humid out there, I was completely soaked and dripping with sweat. I knew that two water bottles wasn't going to cut it if I was to go much more, but the berm called me, and I had to find it! So, away I went with a plan in mind. Sure enough, I did finally find it. Not before I had almost completed a third lap though. I railed the very wet, slimy turn with a snap of the rear end at the apex. There! Mission accomplished, now it is time to get outta here!

Well, I made a wrong turn, half dazed from the heat and by now, very hungry! I ended up doing another complete lap before getting back to the service road and out of the woods. I was zapped by the heat and super hungry. But it was good times. The Camp trails are not marked yet, and there are a couple of connectors that I didn't know about. Also remembering that I have only ridden these trails twice before, two years apart, and it's no wonder it took me awhile to get my bearings. Not like some places that have signs and maps to go by. Hey, getting a little lost makes it more of an adventure, I say!

I'll be back again, and I'll have pictures next time. Oh! Didn't I tell you? I accidentally erased all my images on my camera once I got home. Too bad too. I looked pretty dang good in that sleeveless jersey!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Great Fork-Off!

<=== From this to.......

<====This! What's next? Stay tuned.......

I've started the big "fork-off" on the OS Bikes Blackbuck. I'll be swapping out to another different carbon fork soon to gauge how a bike handles differently with each in an experiment for Twenty Nine Inches.

Each fork requires me to set up the bike again. Changes to bottom bracket height, top tube effective length, and whatnot make for some interesting stem and saddle positioning quandaries. I'm trying to keep my seated position relative to the bottom bracket the same on each swap, so this is why the challenges have become more than just popping another fork on. Besides that, I'm also keeping my saddle to handlebar relationship constant.

Nothing you do on one part of your bike is independent of other parts. Especially in the geometrical sense. Makes my head spin, it does.

I must be crazy for taking this on, but what the heck?! This is Guitar Ted Productions after all. What else would you expect?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trek Top Fuel 9.9: Evidence of Things To Come?

<=== Team XR Tire, first shown at Trek World last August. Will we see a 29"er version?

Trek is trickling out some big teasers lately in the run up to its dealer only Trek World show that will happen in about two weeks. Today in a piece on cyclingnews, it is being reported that Trek is showing a completely revamped Top Fuel 9.9 race bike. This bike has several technologies that I have said would transfer over to mountain biking and 29"ers in particular.

When Trek introduced the next generation of the Madone road bike, there were several things about it which raised my eyebrows a bit. Most notably was the tapered steer tube idea, or as Trek calls it E2. This idea made a lot of sense for 29"ers, and sure enough, you will see more 29"er models using the tapered steer tube idea soon. Not just from Fisher either, which I assume will adopt this technology in a new long travel trail bike in 29"er guise.

E2 wasn't the only radical thing on the Madone though. This new Trek Top Fuel model adopts all the bells and whistles from that companies top roadie offering. A carbon fiber frame molded with bearing pockets is one thing that the Top Fuel gets along with a narrower stance bottom bracket spindle and special FSA 2 X 9 crank. The longer seat tube/mast idea is a take off on the Madone's unique set up. I'm not necessarily a fan of either of these two ideas and I do not see them coming over to 29"ers.......yet. The seat mast idea is a particularly daft idea for 29"ers. I hope we never see that cross over, but I'm afeared it probably will in some form.

The other thing I see here on the Top Fuel are the components that foreshadows what I think we will see on the next Superfly or on some other race oriented 29"er from Fisher. Carbon clincher wheels for 29"ers- (the Race XXX Lite), have already been leaked out. The tires on the Top Fuel, the Team XR's, are the next thing I think will be available from Bontrager in 29"er guise. I held a prototype sample last year, (pic above) and these tires are light! Given the already low rolling resistance of the standard XR and its volume, I'd say these Team XRs are going to be a very popular choice amongst racers of 29"ers. Tubeless Ready of course.

I'm sure there will be a few more surprises at Trek World, (and at least one that will frustrate consumers to no end), so stay tuned!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Attention: Your Summer Is Almost Over!!

<=== I've been busy testing different forks on my OS Bikes Blackbuck.
Hey! Take a look at your calendar. Yep! It's almost time to start looking for your wool and long fingered gloves folks. Like it or not.
At least you've got a little time for one more shot at summer time fun before you head off to school, put your kids back into school, or before you have to start tuning up your snow blower!
One more chance at doing that "insert rides name here" while you still can wear a short sleeve jersey and have days long enough to pack it in there. Of course, some of you are just itching to get your lights out and start night riding, so I know not everyone is dreading the shorter days ahead.
Me? I'm looking at two possibilities for events in August. I'm still not sure if either will happen. One has a better possibility than another, but I can't say today that I'll be doing either of them. Family details may prevent that. However that goes, I'm okay with it, since September will be Interbike, and I'll be gone for a whole week. Having a quiet month might be just what I need on the bike side of things. We'll see.
I'll still be doing my "fork testing". That will be mostly done on my Wednesdays and weekends. A few other things test-wise will be going on too. However; I'll have to start fitting in some preparations for winter concerning the house. I know it'll be getting cooler sooner than later.
Finally there is this other thing I have in mind. I haven't made an "official" announcement yet, but let's just say that there are things going on concerning this that if the day comes that I do announce "it" I'll be plenty busy. I don't want to have to be sitting around all winter not being able to do things in advance. (Not that we would have another winter like last years, but you never know) So, if things happen that I would press the go button one more time, I'll be a busy bee for awhile before winter sets in!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday South Side Camp Ride

<=== Early birds get the single track!

I finally got out to the Camp this year! Only it was on the much un-used south side. I last rode this on a wintry November day with the Salsa Crew. That was a couple years back!

This day was much better. Nice temperatures, and freshly cleared single track, thanks to the hard work of the Ingawanis Mountain Bike Association boys.

<=== The Captain and Super Saul coming up the hill.

We ran into Super Saul by chance as he was soloing out to the Camp on his Super Caliber. He joined us for a lap, watching as we swapped bikes and adjusted saddles between Capt. Bob, MTBidwell, and myself.

<=== MTBidwell waiting up for us aboard the Soul Cycles Dillinger. This guy is fast, fast, fast!

We dropped off Super Saul at the entrance after lap one and went back out after I swapped out for another rig. The single track is very, very promising. It needs a lot of tires to travel over it to "burn it in", but it's very fun and will be fast!

<=== Captain Bob is diggin' it!

All of us had a sweet time out there. I got pretty worked over since my legs are still not 100% after the Death Ride and being sick mid-week. It still was well worth all my effort to go two laps though. I had one "auger in", where my front tire gave way in a sandy corner, but otherwise we were all good.

I must mention that the kiosk at the north end is where you need to sign in. You can now pay a daily fee, or go all out for a yearly pass. The kiosk is in a bit different place than before and it's super nice. Again, the Ingawanis Mountain Bike boys did good. It's really nice. We signed in and drove back to the south side since the Camp's north end is busy with Scout activities for now.

Bikes ridden: Soul Cycles Dillinger, Salsa Mamasita, Salsa Dos Niner, OS Bikes Blackbuck. My favorite? The Blackbuck with the Dillinger a close second, but all these bikes are killer rigs. (To be fair, my set up on the Dos was waaay off for the Camp!) The Dillinger and the Blackbuck are entirely different rigs too. Even though both were single speeds, they rode vastly different.

I'll tell ya something though, the best bike for the Camp's south side would be a Big Mama! Too bad I didn't have that rig out there! Maybe someday.......

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday News And Views

Video Killed The Radio Star: In another story on how technology affects our lives, it seems that our instant messaging, always connected lives has affected RAGBRAI of all things. We had several folks in the shop where I work yesterday that had stopped riding RAGBRAI on Wednesday. Why? Because they had access to the latest forecasts by way of their techno-gizmos and saw that there was a high probability of thunderstorms on the route Thursday. So, they bailed.

Now back ten years ago, this never would have happened. All of these folks would have gotten up on Thursday and ridden like lemmings right into the deluge. RAGBRAI would have kept its numbers up for the entire week regardless. Now the weather is affecting the event even more than in years past because of technology. Maybe RAGBRAI will ban personal electronic devices in the future and make them ride old skool. ha ha!

Camp Ingawanis News: Okay......I still have not ridden out there in 2008! I can't believe this, but it is what it is. Anyway, this isn't about me. The Camp has always been a divided land mass with the creek running through it. The plan was to have it connected by some sort of bridgework, which hasn't come to fruition......yet. So, I have only ridden the south side once. That may change very soon as word comes that the south side has been expertly cleared and groomed for mountain bikes. I'll be checking it out real soon and I will report after I do.

Another Sign: I got a comment on my carbon fiber post from the other day that stated essentially that the mere fact that investments into carbon fiber 29"er frames are being seen tells us that the industry believes in the concept and that 29"ers are doing well. Well enough to spend the big bucks on tooling and manufacturing costs. Another sign that 29"ers are no longer a "fad", niche, or going away anytime soon. Not that I needed anymore signs. I just find it interesting that about three years ago, this wasn't the case at all.

And if that isn't enough.... Wait until Interbike, a mere two months away, and you will see even more solid signs that 29"ers are being heavily invested in. Not just "carpet fibre" either, but in many other ways. Some of them may surprise you! Sorry, I can't say more right now, but hold on......

Okay, that's all I am going to let on to today, so have a great weekend and ride your bikes!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

WTB SST: It's Back!

It is being reported on Bicycle Retailer and Industry News site today that WTB is going to re-introduce the long gone but highly cherished SST saddle. Why should the introduction of a saddle that has been out of production for years be such a big deal?

Well, there are many folks out there that could tell you a million reasons why this saddle is soooo good. I will just tell you what I think. The WTB SST saddle was so spot on for mountain biking, and here's why..........

First off, if you ever saw one, you'd know it by it's nose. Much like the former film and comedy star Jimmy Durante. In fact, they could call the WTB SST "The Durante", and it would totally befit that saddles unique nose. The dropped and padded nose was a stroke of genius for mountain bikers. Especially those who had long grunts for climbs.

Then you had the nice "bucket" in the middle. The slight depression that allowed you to settle into a comfortable position at the rear of that area and not smash your bits, so to speak. The slight kick up at the rear was a great place to push against when using seated power strokes and still allowed you to slip off the back with ease for descending.

WTB promises some "modern updates" to this saddle, but hopefully the nice amount of padding and the original shape are preserved. I suspect that many of these will fly out of retailers stores once they are released. I know I'll be one of those looking to get one for sure.

I got one of the first ones back in 1996. I still have it and won't use it much for fear of trashing it and losing one of the best mountain bike saddles ever made. Now I can get a new one, (soon I hope) and see if it compares well to the old classic and maybe get it out and finally use it up. We'll see!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Carbon Fiber Everything

It was bound to happen, and mountain bikers have resisted until now, but carbon fiber is taking over the mountain bike world. Yep! And I mean in every way!

The latest component to fall to fall under the spell of the black composite cloud is wheels. I have been aware of 29"er wheels in carbon fiber before this, but with Edge Composites and Bontrager Wheel Works coming out with 29"er hoops in carbon, you know it is getting to be serious.

Frames? Well, Orbea has had the Alma in 29"er size for nearly three years now and, of course you have the Fisher Superfly. I expect even more to show up real soon. Even full suspension trail bikes have gone carbon fiber. I had the chance to ride the Hi Fi Pro 26"er last year at a Trek/Fisher product launch and had a gret time riding the bike. Five inches of travel at just over 23lbs? Yeah, it was amazing!

Besides frames and wheels, of course you have the various forks in rigid form and now even in suspended form. Most notably DT Swiss and Magura. Cranks, stems, handle bars, parts of derailleurs, and even saddles can be had in the black material. It's almost a metal free possibility!

While all this is going on though, you still have the steel and titanium bikes flourishing as well. It seems that not everyone is up for the exotic, man made materials on their rigs. Various reasons for that, I suppose. The thing is though, this carbon fiber stuff isn't going away and it is making what was once impossible for mountain bikes possible, and available. Pretty crazy stuff that is fun to check out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GTDRI 2008: The Photo Blog: Part III

<=== Matt Wills rollin' his beautiful Soulcraft with Michael Beck, rockin' the BKB kit, coming in behind.

<=== The Tiger Lillies were out in full force all along the course this year.

<=== The ever smiling David Pals shows his grit and determination aboard his single speed Casseroll.

<=== Cresting the last section of muddy B road.

As we rolled towards Garwin, and a planned rest stop at the Pronto convenience store, my previous nights beer and lack of sleep kicked in and I was starting to hurt. The hamstrings were getting twitchy, so I had to back off the pace and spin more. They never locked up on me, but if you've had those "on the edge of cramping" twitches, you know what that does to your mental game. I dealt with that the rest of the ride.

Then there was Garwin. Ahhh.......the humanity! Seven cyclists roll into town like a circus sideshow and mix that up with some.....ah, shall we say.....veeeery interesting locals, and you get some high entertainment factors. I don't have the time or space to go into details, but I'll leave you with this image: An elderly lady- probably 70 plus- in a Guns n Roses t shirt. Wow!

Moving on from there we hit up our last B Road which was pretty muddy. Then it was on back towards the north to Ridge Road and the brutal climb to the water tower. I recorded a temperature of 100 degrees there on my computer. Accurate? Meh.......probably not, but it was very hot here. This necessitated a regrouping and rest for a bit at the top. For me, it caused more problems down the road.

Traer saw another round of convenience store weirdness, (a lady talking to her car for one) and then we went on for the finish. Just a few miles west of hickory Hills I got the chills. I mean I felt like I was freezing. Not good! I stopped and immediately poured water on my head and down my back and front inside my jersey. I got my temperature under control and just waited for my breathing to come back to normal. David Pals was stopped just about a tenth of a mile behind me here too. Finally, he rolled up and then Matt Wills came back looking for us. Good on Matt! He got us rolling again and we finally caught up with the rest of the group a few miles up the road where they were waiting.

It was decided that we were going to cut back to Hickory Hills on V-37 to save time. This would still get us our 100 miles and would get Jason back to meet his family who was at the campsite already waiting for him. MG and Jason shot off into the wind at breakneck speed. The rest of us got in a pace line and set off. I was in second wheel behind Matt Wills and we started off at about 18 miles an hour into the wind. the ol' drafting skills came right back and I felt comfortable, almost back to normal here for the final push. I took a pull on the downhill side of the road, and then Jeff got out and pulled some. I looked behind and we had shed off Michael and David. It was just us three and we rolled into the campsite right at six o'clock.

We sat around, drank a beer, said our goodbyes, tore down our tents, packed up, and then it started to get ugly. Rain and lightning were getting intense as we pulled out of Hickory Hills. I went to La Porte with MG, Wills, and Bonsall for pizza. Then we all went our separate ways. Another Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational in the books.

Thanks to each one of you that attended and helped make this the best GTDRI ever, in my mind. I hope you all had as much fun as I did.

Fun that hurts, that is! I still am not recovered from that ride!

Monday, July 21, 2008

GTDRI 2008: The Photo Blog: Part II

<==== Was it foggy, or was it me? A little of both to be sure. Just a bit humid in the AM, I'd say!

<=== Matt Wills gives me the high sign after coming off the first B Maintenance section. Jeff Bonsall is to the right here with Michael Beck following.

<=== Shoot out at the O.K. Corral?

<=== The roads got increasingly hillier as the day wore on.

<=== On a flat section going into Traer for the first time. A familiar sight for the rest of us that ate Jason and MG's dust all day! Those guys are animals!

The day dawned foggy and humid. We slowly got things together, enjoyed some bits to eat, and got dressed to go. I slid on over to the park gate to see if anyone had been there to join us. Nope! Nobody there, so I rolled back and started hinting that we should go soon. About then, Michael Beck rolled up all ready to go on a fantastic green Interloc Racing cross bike. He was over here in Iowa to visit relatives and drove over from Marshalltown for the fun. Plus one made seven and we were off by about 7:45am.

The pace was perhaps a bit quick right out of the gate, but excitement, nervousness, and the prospects of a long, fun day on a bicycle might be to blame for that. Anyway, we were rolling along real well and then we met our first B Maintenance road about ten miles in.

David, Mike, and Jeff were rolling skinnies. However; David had the only caliper brake bike, a Salsa Casseroll, and the mud didn't take to his bike too well. He had to hoof it a piece. The rest of us waited for him at the end of the B road. This is where Jason got his shot of a deer leg. It's also where the "It's all about death" thing got started, but there's more to that later.

Well, we all got back on track and rolled the hills down into Traer for our bit of detour. I hadn't planned on stopping at Traer, but since we all felt we needed caffeine, or eats, it was decided to pull off route for stop. Here we heard the first of 64,000 "Are you guys getting ready for RAGBRAI?" questions. That would be a common theme at all of our public stops. When we would say that we were on our own ride of a 100 miles of gravel, folks would usually become dumbfounded. Pretty awesome stuff!

As we left Traer, we went south a fair number of miles feeling alternate cool and hot patches of air. It was almost as if we were going in and out of an air conditioned building. Weird! The hills got hillier, and the day got hotter as we pressed on into south western Tama County. We saw the Mesquakie Reservations water towers and turned north towards Garwin.

Stay tuned for the next installment on the ride tomorrow.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

GTDRI 2008: The Photo Blog

<=== The pre-ride, night before festivities were attended by Matt Wills, Matt Gersib, Jason Boucher, Jeff Bonsall, David Pals, and myself. I think it's safe to say we all enjoyed ourselves............maybe a bit too much!

<==== The skies cleared and we were treated to a beautiful sunset and comfortable temperatures.

<=== Fire courtesy of Jason Boucher and Matt Gersib. they worked really hard to get this wet wood to light up. Thanks guys!

<=== A few empties here. Some of us had vision about as blurry as this pic before we all turned in a little after midnight.

<=== Nature's own night light was on full power.

Six campers joined together for some great conversations and good times on Friday night down Hickory Hills way. It all started out a little bit on the down side though for me.

I was a bit harried after work, trying to get my stuff loaded into the "Dirty Blue Box" and I was running a bit late as well. This isn't a good combination for me, as I tend to get a bit tense about things, but I managed to keep it together. I finally rolled out about 6:15pm to make a last minute stop at the gas station for some petrol.

I decided while I was at it to grab a couple slices of pizza, since I wasn't planning on eating at the campsite. Well, the ol' car decided to be a bit ornery and not start. So, here I am, sweating the fact that I may have folks wondering where I was, and that my car may not even make it there. Good thing I had some pizza to munch on in the meantime. "Hey! How's it goin'? car won't start, you'll have to pull around me. Sorry!" Not a very flattering position to find one's self in!

Well, it finally fired up, and I got to the campground thinking I was late to find........nobody there!
I guess all that worry was for naught! I got signed in,paid my fee, and was setting up camp when David Pals rolled in. We broke out some beers and started talking just when Matt and Jeff pulled in from Lincoln. They said MG was wandering around looking for us in his Scooby Doo wagon, but couldn't find us. Well, it wasn't long before a cell phone conversation fixed that. (Did I mention my cell phone died the instant I got down there? No?)

Not long after I saw Jason roll up on, ..........('scuse me. I'm not allowed to say what he rolled up on other than it was a bicycle)...... and he set up his tent and joined in on the conversation. We talked.......and talked........and talked till the wee hours when someone motioned that we adjourn the meeting and retire to the respective sleeping chambers.

Well, I know MG and I maybe slept a few hours, but it wasn't much. The others I can't vouch for, but we all rolled out of the sack about 6:30am to prep for the days riding. And what a ride it was.

Stay tuned for more pics and stories soon.

"It's All About Death"

Today's title? An oft quoted phrase from the ride, I'll explain later.

The good news: No crank arm failures! Seven riders and all finished the 100 miles. No rain. No mechanicals.

The bad news? You have to wait for the pics and stories until later!

I've got a little birthday celebration to attend to today for my son first!

Stay tuned...............

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Time Is Nigh.....

<==== Will this scene from last year's GTDRI play itself out again?

It's no secret, this has been a very wet year. We got pounded by another round of soaking thunderstorms again last night. I can honestly say that I don't ever care to hear thunder again this summer. We've had quite enough of that, thank you!

So, we may have a wet ride at some point. It's forecast that we will see an occasional thunderstorm this weekend. Humidity will be quite high as well. Ahh!! Another steamy day on a bike in Iowa! It should be interesting, to say the least!

As I will be "out of the office" after this until Sunday night, this will be the final post for the weekend. Look for a re-cap of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational next week. I'll have plenty of pictures and surely a story or two to tell. Stay tuned............

Until then, have a great weekend and have fun riding your bike!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday News And Views

<=== It's all about skulls and cross bones, ya know?

Hickory Hills ride: I went down and did some Twenty Nine Inches test ride work yesterday at Hickory Hills. Doubled that up with some recon of the camping area and general exploration of Hickory Hills. You know, it's quite a resource. I think it's way better than Geo. Wyth State Park by a long shot. It's just not parked next door to 90,000 people. Too bad, cause this place is pretty cool. I guess that just means I get it all to myself every time I go down there.

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2008: The ride is cued and we're ready to drop the needle on this Long Play piece for 2008. I posted some bits on the start time and camping on the site that you need to check out if you are coming. Pop up thunderstorm possibilities may make this another epic ride, much like last years.

I decided that I'm riding the Badger, crank arms be damned! (I'll have an 8mm Allen key and a small something-or-other for leverage just in case!) I'll ride this to work today and tomorrow. If it holds, then I'm going with it. The bike was purchased with this sort of thing in mind, so it seems a waste if I don't use it this weekend.
If it fails on me again before Friday night, I'll pull out the Dos Niner. Gotta keep things orange and geared this year. I just don't seem to have my single speed gravel grindin' legs yet.
And Now For Some Manufacturer News: According to an article posted on the Bicycling Retail and Industry News site, Marin Bikes is adding two new 29"er models to its line for 2009. The Nail Trail, which will retail for $1965.00 and the Palisades, which will retail for $1395.00. This will bring the total of 29"ers in their line up to four models. If you include the urban models in the line that can handle 29"er rubber, they actually have six 29"ers in the line.
I'll be looking forward to checking out these at Interbike in the fall. Speaking of which, you can expect an Interbike chock full of 29"er goodness. The things I already know about are huge and in and of themselves would make this years show a standout. I'm sure there are things I don't already know that will surprise me and really blow the show up big. I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Making A Last Minute Call

<===Will the Badger make the cut, or will it be.......???

Today is decision day. I have to make a call on which rig I'm riding for this weekends Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. It's a dilemma that is kind of half a pain and half "a nice problem to have" sort of deal.

The thing is, I have done the "repair" on the Badger, but I haven't had time to throw down a multi-hour ride on it. Well, until today, that is. There is the looming specter of a crank arm that has failed once that may come off again. I don't like that thought and being several miles from Guitar Ted Laboratories with no bail out plan isn't a thought I like to entertain today. The options?

I could take a swing at the ride this weekend on my Pofahl. Honestly, it wouldn't be a bad idea. It's set up for this specific purpose- gravel grinding- it has , count ', two, three, four, FIVE water bottle cages on it, meaning I wouldn't have to carry a back pack. The thing is, it's got four more water bottle cages than gears. This is an extremely hilly ride, and last time I tried the Pofahl, I about died on a less hilly route. Of course, that's what the ride is all about now, isn't it?

I had thoughts of riding my sweet El Mariachi, but it too ran aground with a crank arm issue. I fixed that, but again......same deal as the Badger. So, that option has fallen out of favor too. I do have last years veteran of the GTDRI on hand to ride. No issues with that rig. There is a strong possibility that this one might be the bike, but I'll defer to the Badger if things go well today. If they don't, or I just can't mentally shake the thoughts of crank arms falling off in the Tama County hills, I'll be riding this other rig. We'll see.

Like I said, nice problem to have, eh?

<=== The last bit of road the Badger saw in Tama County before the parts started to fly!

Whichever bike I choose, I think this ride will be pretty fun. I've been looking forward to this for awhile now and I will say that it comes at perfect time. I could stand a little vacation from the routine. Especially from the shop side of things, what with that other big ride about to start. That ride always bottlenecks the shop up at this time of the year.

Stay tuned! I'll have some sort of ride report for ya'all tomorrow concerning the choice of bike for this crazy ride of mine. Maybe even a picture or two.

Update: More info has been posted on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational this afternoon. Click the link to see the latest!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gettin' Cranky and Other News

Wow! Another Truvativ manufactured ISIS spindled crank came loose on me yesterday. That's two in ten days! This time t was the drive side on my El Mariachi. Started off as a creak, a little one, and it got worse as I was going along. I stopped because it sounded like a chain ring bolt had come loose, but no. It was the drive arm. Crazy!

At least I only had to walk a mile to the house this time!

Suffice it to say that I am not very impressed with anything that has replaced the square tapered bottom bracket and crank arm interface. ISIS stuff? Wears out prematurely due to undersized bearings in the bottom bracket and now these crank arms coming off. Outboard bearings? Too much bearing drag, bearing contamination, and in the case of Truvativ.....the arms still come off! I've had two myself and heard (and seen- at the shop) of others doing the same.

That said, a company called the hive has some cool ideas, one of which is an interface for a crank arm/bottom bracket that was developed for use in tanks in World War II. It also has been used in bicycles previously by a company called Grove Innovations in their soon to be re-released "HotRod" crank set. Looks promising and the data I have seen so far supports the idea that this could be superior to anything yet seen on the market for connecting a crank to a bottom bracket. The idea is based on a three lobed polygon. I'll post more as I get the story.

In other news, Gary Fisher Bikes is set to introduce a new entry level 29"er for 2009. The model is to be priced under that of the current entry level 29"er from Fisher, the Cobia. Fisher Bies says that dealers have been requesting this for some time. I agree. More 29"ers in the sub-$1000.00 category would be a good thing to help grow the 29"er segment.

Finally, I spoke with Niner Bikes Steve Domahidy the other day, and I can not say exactly what they are up to, but I can say it is super cool! Steve downloaded the whole enchilada to me and I can say that this project will blow folks away. Interbike is the time set for this to be unleashed on the world. Stay tuned! For a hint, see the post at Twenty Nine Inches that I posted yesterday.

No! Not Finally! Check this out! Tipped off by Dicky's blog, (he's soo up on all things cool) I found this gem. Be feared by fellow cyclists everywhere! Twin Six rules again!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Alternative Wheel Sizes: Where Is It Going?

There are these things called web trackers that let me know all sorts of cool stuff about the folks that visit here. Nothing personal, mind you, just stuff like how they got here, search engines used, what the searches were about, etc. Lately there has been a lot of activity concerning alternative wheel sizes.

I thought I'd take a look at what is going on with these choices. I'll focus on each individually here.

Half and Halfs, 50/50's, 69ers, 96ers, etc..... First of all, the names for these are about as confusing and mixed up as the genre'. What it usually means is a 29"er front and some smaller wheel size out back, most often a 26"er. Although any mix of bigger front smaller rear falls into this category.

Okay, I have not been impressed (from a 29"er standpoint) as to the effectiveness of these platforms. I will say that in my research the devotees of these bikes almost all agree that a 29 inch rear wheel is too hard for them to pedal, too hard to gear correctly, or doesn't have the correct tire selection yet to satisfy there expectations.

Wow! This is far cry from the propaganda used to introduce the 69er/96er/whatever bikes to the world. Had this sort of discussion been put forth at the beginning of this, the idea would certainly have been looked at differently by myself, and I am sure others. Of the three most prominently found objections to the 29"er found on the forums dedicated to these 50/50 bikes, two of them are being addressed at this very moment in time. That leaves one reason that I have found that makes sense and as I have said, 29"ers are not for everyone.

Where are these sort of bikes headed? I don't think we'll see much more than we already have in terms of manufacturers and choices. There just won't be that many folks into these sort of bikes and manufacturers need market share. They are not going to offer something like Trek's 69er line up just to pander to an ultra-niche market. Trek's 69er offerings are not long for this world either, I am thinking. It wouldn't surprise me to see these cut back to the single speed "Travis Brown Signature" model real soon.

650B: Here we have a real conundrum of a wheel size. Dubbed as something "halfway" between 26 and 29 inch wheels, the reality of 650B is that it is far more like a 26 inch wheeled bike than most devotees of the size would have you believe. I have ridden a few of these rigs and my take is that they are quite nice bikes, but they sure are not anything like a 29"er. Not even close. Are they better than a 26"er? Incrementally at best. At worst, you can't tell the difference, and on a long travel bike, (the very thing that proponents say 650B will shine at), you just can not tell at all that they are anything bigger than a 26 inch wheel.

650B spins up fast and loses momentum just as quickly. It's tire contact patch is incrementally bigger than a 26"ers and at that, a big 26 inch tire will equal that contact patch easily. In fact, a big 26 inch tire has the same outer diameter as a 650B NeoMoto, (currently the only game in town for "real" off roading in multi-condition terrain in 650B size) For my money, it makes more sense to stick with 26"ers for choice of equipment, compatibility of fork/frames, and performance.

Where is it going? I think we're at the zenith for what 650B will have to offer in terms of choices. I expect this to start to fade away in the coming years and eventually become a foot note in off road history. Touring/road/randoneering will continue onwards unabated in 650B. Off road? Not so much. 650B just doesn't separate itself from 26 inch to enough of a degree to justify it as another choice in off roading. Besides that, the retail side abhors the idea of stocking another wheel size. Ultra-niche is where this will stay.

36"ers: Well, if 69ers are "ultra-niche, and 650B is "ultra-niche", then 36"ers are barely a spec on the radar. There is some activity on the development of this wheel size for off roading, but in reality I see this as the ultimate pavement bike for big people. Commuting especially. Will it ever take root, to a point that we see with the other wheel sizes? Probably not, but who knows? Obviously it has a huge novelty factor, but 36"ers are serious bikes too, just like 650B and 69ers are. In reality though, I just do not see 36"ers ever becoming more than an "ultra-niche" thing, if ever it gets that big.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2008: Update II

Hey! Here's the latest on the ride, also showing on the GTDRI site.

Camping: It appears that a fair number of us are going to be at Hickory Hills camping Friday night. Just an FYI more than anything else. However; since this is the case, and one of us at least is actually riding to Hickory Hills, I thought I'd start and finish he ride there perhaps. There isn't a good breakfast spot in La Porte City anyway, so this is just as well. Unless I hear otherwise in the next few days, I'm modifying the route slightly to reflect that the start and finish will be at the camping area.

This means that you should come prepared to go from the start, as the first convenience store won't come online for over 50 miles!

Car parking: There is available parking for cars down below the camping area near the lake.

Start Time: To be determined. I have to ascertain what the Park hours are, (which I couldn't find on the website) Once I determine when it's okay for folks to arrive, I can determine when we'll start, and where. Stay tuned!

In regards to the start, I always figure on using the most light possible to avoid having to use lights. We are good till well after 8pm with sunlight, so not starting until 8am is entirely possible. Again, I'll have a time for the start in the next day or so.

Hope your weekend is going well.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2008: Update

It's about a week away now. The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. Here's the latest skinny on what to expect and what is going down for this years edition.

Camping: First off, we are camping at Hickory Hills County Park. You can check out fees and camping registration rules here. I don't think we'll have any problems with getting a camping space since most folks don't tent camp here. There are showers available here, so you have an opportunity to get cleaned up afterwards. I'll plan on camping there on Friday night, so will a couple of other guys that I'm aware of.

Navigation: I'll be using cue sheets, and I'll print off a few extras, but since we're all sticking together, I don't see the need to print off a set for everyone. This will save resources too. I want at least two or three of us to have them though, in case we do get separated. Cue sheet sets will be with me at the start.

Ride Intent: I sometimes wish I hadn't chosen the name I did for this ride. It has been a source of confusion and misunderstanding from the outset. Some of you got it right away though, so I know that not everyone falls into this category. Here's the two things most commonly misconstrued concerning GTDRI.

#1 It's not a race, it's not a "group ride" (using that term to describe the competitive nature generally found on such rides), and it's not a training ride. Nope! It's not any of those things at all. It's something else altogether. So, if your expectations are that we are racing, competitive, or even going to go at it at a training pace, you are barking up the wrong tree.

#2: It's open to anyone not interested in racing or training. (In the strictest sense of those terms) It's open to anyone that just wants to go on a long ride that happens to be tough. You don't necessarily need an "invite", even though I've used the term in the name. It was done tongue in cheek. It's kind of a joke, okay. So please, if you are cool with long rides more for fun than anything else, check us out.

That said, you will get some good long, slow distance training out of this. It is just part of the game here. But know this: We will not leave anybody behind and therefore will be stopping at different intervals to allow folks to catch back on. This ride is more about fun. If that isn't your agenda, then maybe this ride isn't for you. Nuff said.

Okay, if you have any questions about the ride, feel free to hit my e-mail here. I hope to see some of you next weekend.

In the meantime, ride your bike and stay hydrated! It's hot out there!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday's Ride Report

<=== Tiger Lillies and a Blackbuck

The regular Wednesday ride took me back up to Cedar Bend Park this week to ride my Blackbuck single speed. There isn't much for single track up there, but there is a climb here and there. In fact, some of them are pretty dang steep and tough on the 34 X 22 gear that I am running on the Blackbuck.

Cedar Bend also hasn't got more than 3 feet of flat that is ride able right now, so you are always going up or down, which is a great thing on a 29"er that is running a single cog out back. I think it is a fun little park to ride.

<=== They got a lot of rain up this way

The recent round of thunderstorms has put the Cedar River back up again. Since Cedar Bend has a lot of riverside trail, much of it was underwater yesterday. I even found a bridge on the trail, (which somehow I missed last time I was there) that has sort of "caved in" on one side, leaving the whole structure listing at a 45 degree angle or so. I didn't try crossing there for obvious reasons.

<=== Beginning of a steep, grunt climb.

Here is what you'll typically see out there, a grassy double track that leads into a steep climb straight up the river bank. The climbs typically are either sandy or are filled with broken up bits of limestone. Sometimes it is loose on top too, making the climbing that much harder.

The climbing is fun and gets you worked over, but really, the trail layout here is not good. Going straight up fall lines is a recipe for disaster, trail speaking, and it shows in different spots here as erosion on the trail surface. The trails could be really stellar out here with some re-routing, ala what MORC has done at Lebanon Hills in Apple Valley, Minnesota. I'd wager that Cedar Bend and Leb are about the same area in size, yet Leb has three times the amount of trail distance because of the smarter use of space there. Anyway, it would be cool to see what could be done here to increase the sustainability of the trails and get more out of what is there.

A couple of notes on equipment: I am really liking the Blackbuck as a single speed. What a hoot to ride, and it fits me rather well. Climbing is great, and descending is pretty smooth for a hard tail. It does have that steel feel for sure. The H-Bar, (Titec version here) wasn't my favorite bar when I used it on my Raleigh XXIX+G and it didn't work out at all for me with gears. As a bar on a single speed it is fantastic. Climbing is enhanced, descending isn't compromised at all. (Some folks say descending on an H-Bar isn't good, I say "What?") By the way; Ergon grips are fantastic with the H-Bar. Try it! I am spinning 170mm cranks on this single speed, which is counter to what all the SS pundits would think you should do, but I am really liking it. I had no problems with leverage going up climbs and spinning like a whirling dervish was accomplished much more easily. Racing Ralph front tire: It's pretty good. Corners well. Braking traction is right there with the best. Rolling resistance is low. Floating over sand- a no brainer. Traction in loose over hard pack.....meh! Not so great. At least when the "loose" part is anything gravely.

Okay, that's it for today. I'll have another ride report up from the weekend, hopefully. And also, I'll be switching out forks on the Blackbuck......stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Few Interesting Weblinks

Today I have a few interesting weblinks for ya'all

to peruse. First up, I got some sneak peeks at Raleigh's 2009 29"er line up and you can check out the whole deal on my post at Twenty Nine Inches. What I didn't get, but found out about was that there will also be a high end spec Raleigh 29"er dubbed the "XXIX Deluxe". It will feature Reynolds 853 tubing and a spec sheet that will include things like Mavic Cr29max wheels, X-0 componentry, and other like bits in a limited edition run.

I'll post more info if and when I get it. For now, I'm really liking that greenish-gray on the XXIX single speed!

Next up I have an interesting bit forwarded to me by those super cool cats from Twin Six. It's a bit from trek's website, a commercial, if you will. Here's the fun part: See if you can find the Twin Six t-shirt in the commercial. Check it out here:

No prizes for you guys who find it, but it is kind of fun to check it out. And how about that scruffy looking narrator, eh?

And finally, for the Le Tour freaks out there: I got this link forwarded to me that allows you to check out the Tour routes from street level, as if you were really riding the route. Kind of scary to think that you can do things like this, I mean, it's like you can almost "drive" up to a window and look in!

Anyway, yeah........from a Tour perspective, this is pretty cool stuff. Check it out here:

That's a tutorial link that gives you a run through to see how the map works. Have fun touring France............on your virtual bicycle!

Then you'd better get out and ride for real!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Few Things All 29"ers Should Have

Recent developments in technology are making certain things about 29"ers that were negatives less so, or eliminating the problem all together. These are a few of the technological applications that I think need to become widespread in the 29"er world.

Through axle hubs: With Rock Shox's excellent Maxle and now, the Maxle light, there isn't any reason to not have 20mm through axle front hubs and put them on all front suspended 29"ers. The effects of having a rock solid connection between the fork legs and wheel are immediately felt and make a 29"ers front end more predictable and fun to ride. I would even suggest that many rigid fork options have 20mm through axles. Especially lightweight carbon ones.

Full suspension bikes could really benefit with the addition of a through axle on the rear of the bike. In fact, Salsa Cycles is currently working on through axle rear drop outs for it's upcoming Big Mama full suspension 29"er. That should tell you something right there.

Tubeless Ready Tires: There is no question that 29"ers benefit from ditching the archaic tube and going sans bladder. To do this though, you have to either "buy into" a current system such as Stan's, Bontrager's Tubeless Ready System, or Mavic/Hutchinson's set up. You could go to the "ghetto" tubeless set ups, but sometimes certain tires are not so friendly, shall we say?

Anyway, my suggestion is to have all future tire introductions be of the tubeless ready type. Why not? If your tires, (as Continental's already are) are rated for use with sealant, have a tight tolerance, consistent bead that is strong, why wouldn't you do this? The tires could be used with tubes or run tubeless. A "win-win" for tire manufacturers and riders alike. This should be done ASAP.

Along with this, rim manufacturers should also be doing things to get their products ready for tubeless use. Bead locks, consistent, tight tolerances, and specific rim strips could go along way in making products more attractive to riders who are obviously looking for solutions to tubeless set ups.

Tapered Steer Tube Technology: My take on the front ends of 29"ers is that they could stand to be stiffer and stronger. A great solution to this problem is the tapered steer tube. The 1 1/2" to 1 1/8" taper on the steer tube provides more strength with a minimal weight gain, and with upper end forks and headsets, it could be the same weight as a traditional head set in 1 1/8th inch size. The bigger diameter on the bottom of the head tube means a bigger weld interface for down tubes and allows for larger diameter down tubes in the first place. Both would make the front ends of 29"ers stiffer, stronger, and steer more precisely.

Those are a few things I think should be widely implemented into new 29"er models. All three would enhance the performance and lessen the negatives of any 29"er.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Psycho-Crossers To Go Tubeless?

<=== Stan's NoTubes "The Raven" cyclo-cross tire.

It appears that tubeless tire technology is going to take aim at the cross racing set this fall. Makes sense, at least to me. Bashing a skinny tire rig through rough grass and what ever else those promoters of pain throw at you, I would think tubeless would be an advantage.

Better grip, less rolling resistance, and no high priced tubular stuff to mess with. I can see where some racers may jump on this. Although, it probably isn't as light a system as a nice tubular cyclo-cross wheel set. I think it should be very interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe it will be a good thing for cyclo-cross.

I see Stan's is coming out with the tire pictured above and that Hutchinson has one too. (the Bulldog cyclo-cross tubeless ready concept) For me, it's interesting from the gravel road riding aspects, not so much for me hacking my lungs out jumping over barriers on somebodies lawn somewhere, but that's just me. I'd rather hack my lungs out on some mile and a half climb in Tama County, thank you very much!

At any rate, this tubeless stuff looks to take over the bicycling world. Or will it? I know one thing, when it works, it works well, and less flats with less rolling resistance is a good thing for cyclists. How many vehicles out their with pneumatic tires are still running tubed? Not many but the bicycle.

I'll be keeping my eyes on this cyclo-cross tubeless thing. It looks interesting to me. I won't be grabbing my bike and practicing mounts and dismounts anytime soon though!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

GTDRI: The Course Recon

<===Hard, smooth, and fast. Better than gravel!

I got out Friday for my recon ride of my proposed Guitar Ted Death Ride course. It was a great morning, slight winds, and 77 degrees. I started out from the parking lot of the Pronto station in La Porte City. Heading out on a bit of pavement, I then turned south on gravel.

The good news is that the County road crews have maintained the roads. The bad news is that the County road crews have maintained the roads! Chunky roads ruled the day. Lots of vibrations from all the rough gravel was a constant reminder of all the recent work done. This would play itself out in a couple important ways in the coming hours.

<=== Another roller coaster fast B road

The first two B roads were the smoothest sections I rode. Fast and fun, these were a welcome respite from all the rattling gravel. On the second stretch I saw a strange sight. Purplish looking "smoke" floating above the road surface. I looked for the source of this "smoke" and then I ran into a cloud of "it" and found out what was really going on. Gnats! No really..........a cloud of gnats! Or I should say, many clouds of them. It was hard to see as they plastered my glasses, me, and the bike. Fortunately, I wasn't all sweaty yet, and most of the gnats blew off me as fast as they had been plastered on. The rest of the first 25 miles or so were uneventful otherwise. Nice rolling hills, more chunk gravel, and beautiful weather.

<=== South of Traer the big hills get going.

I stopped for a breather about 25 miles in just south of Traer. The hills start in just south of there and are pretty relentless for the next 35-40 miles. Still dealing with chunkier gravel with no real clear runs where the car tires usually clear off the gravel meant weaving back and forth looking for the best lines. It kept me busy at least!

I noticed the temperature jumped up to 88 degrees and the winds had picked up a bit. (Eventually it got up to 96 degrees later on) I was due to start traversing west, so it didn't really affect my progress. The hills were pretty big and I caught my high speed for the day going down one of these westward bound hills.

<====The Badger and I take a break from the hills.

I kept slogging up the steep hills and it was taking a toll on me. Rest stops were becoming a bit more frequent. One, two, and then three in the space of about 15 miles. My guts were, ah....shall we say, gassy? Emissions were becoming frequent. Anyway, besides that my head wasn't feeling just right, and then just about 7 miles from Garwin, I ran out of water!

I was hoping for a convenience store to be in Garwin, but what I hadn't thought of was that it was the 4th of July. Yeah, little towns and Sunday's, special days, and holidays meant that any convenience store or business was likely to be closed. Small towns are still like that. Used to be every town and city in Iowa did that, but those were the "old days". Would Garwin be one of those towns? I was sure hoping they wouldn't be.

<==== Lucky for me the lights were on!

I got into Garwin and found the oasis of Pronto open for business. Yes! Refueled here and hit the road to the strains of "How Great Thou Art" being performed at the towns 4th of July celebrations. Heading out again north and west. Garwin is just over the halfway point of the ride, so now I was on the "backside" of the circuit and was heading back towards Traer and La Porte.

The course gets tamer after Garwin. Almost downright flat in places. A very welcome relief from the crazy steep hills that came before. Interestingly, the last B road on the course is just north of Garwin. I took it and as I was tooling along, I heard a strange noise coming up from behind me. A pickup truck! How many B roads have I been on and I've never had a vehicle meet me or overtake me. Well, i pulled over to the side, rolling slowly and let the truck pass by. It was full of young hooligans that were making some sort of "call me" gestures out the window at me. Hrummph! Whatever........

I continued onward to cross Highway 63 for the second time. A mile east and then back north a bout four miles to cross that highway again for the second to last time. The final crossing being in Traer. A few monster climbs in between me and Traer, but also a sweet ridge road descent of about five miles. That would take me to Traer.

Suddenly I heard a "knock.......knock......knock" that was timed with every pedal stroke. Crap! The bottom bracket? I looked down and it was still screwed into the frame all the way. I tried wiggling the crank arms back and forth. Yep! Loose crank arm! I couldn't believe it. In fact, I was in denial for about another mile before I decided to stop and see if by chance I had an 8mm allen wrench. Well, I didn't have one and ended up calling in for a ride. I was about 65 miles in and had to walk/coast another 4.5 miles to catch my ride from Mrs Guitar Ted and my kids.

I didn't get to finish out the ride, but the rest of the course is well known to me and I have ridden parts of it already this year. We should be good. No crazy frost heaves, no washed out bridges, and the roads are intact. One thing you will need though, and that's to double check your rigs. All this rough gravel will shake loose parts that are not secured perfectly before hand.

We should have stops with convenience stores at Garwin at just over the halfway point, Traer at just over 70 miles in, and then it's back to La Porte City. The crazy big hills are all concentrated in the first half of the course with the exception of a few monsters just before Traer. If it rains, the B roads will be a mess, but hopefully it will be dry. I'll have cue sheet info coming soon.

As for the Badger, I'll have to see if I stopped soon enough to prevent damage to the splined interface, but I'm guessing it is roached. Usually once they come loose, they're done. So, I'll be looking for a square taper replacement here. Stay tuned..........

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independance Day!

Have a safe and great 4th of July today! I'll be scouting out the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational course today, What will you be doing to celebrate your freedom? Can't think of a much better way than to ride your bicycle, but then again, I am a cycling freak!

Have a good one and look for my report tomorrow on GTDRI.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mud And 'Skeeters!

<=== I rode my OS Bikes Blackbuck at a new-to-me place yesterday. Click on the pic to see the mud up close!

Captain Bob has always suggested to me that I go on up just north of Waverly to Cedar Bend Park and check out the trails up there. I have had that thought in my mind, but never acted on it until yesterday when I thought I'd give it a go and see what this place had to offer.

So, I loaded up the Dirty Blue Box with the OS Bikes Blackbuck and an extra pair of wheels for testing. I pointed the car north and drove for about half an hour to the trail head.

The trails here are all "double track wide", or in real terms, "ATV width" as that seems to be the vehicle of choice for county park maintenance. That's okay, because it didn't detract from the fun that these trails have on offer. I started out not having a clue as to where I was going other than a vague memory of Captain Bob's descriptions. (Getting lost, or kind of lost, is fun I think!) Anyway, I found myself on a trail going mostly down hill to the rivers backwaters. Of course, this was all underwater not two weeks ago!

Well, there is a mighty muddy section of the finest black silt you can imagine right there. It was sticky beyond belief and I ended up with tires twice the size they should have been. I walked out of there and got up on some higher ground within about 20 yards. I scraped off a whole bunch of black goo with my gloved hands and continued onward.

The trails are shortish sections and spurs for the most part. They are all pretty fun and you can string a bunch of this together for a longer run if you want to. I was still in exploration mode though, so I didn't get around to doing that, but I could see how one could do that. Many short to medium length climbs with roots and some embedded rocks are to be found here. In fact, not much of this is flat at all, which is a refreshing change from most riverside trails in Iowa. Stairs that are cut into the hill sides for hikers and capped off by wood edges are all over the place. You can ride down these, but there are several of the stairs that have a smooth dirt path alongside too.

All in all it is an enjoyable place to visit for a couple of laps or three. That might take you an hour and you will have ridden everything here three times going pretty fast. You would get quite a workout too. The climbs in some spots are deceptively tough.

<=== The Blackbuck features a split shell type eccentric bottom bracket shell.

I went back to the Dirty Blue Box after explorations were complete to switch out wheel sets and run my Vulpines. The cog on the Industry 9 wheels was one tooth smaller than I had on before, so I had to adjust the chain tension. With the Blackbuck it is an easy chore. The split shell eccentric bottom bracket is super easy to operate. Why more companies don't use it is beyond me. Within minutes I was set up and ready to go again.

Of course, the 'skeeters were having a hey day out there. Hardly any wind, high humidity, and overcast skies were perfect weather for those devils to be out. They pestered me to no end, but I escaped with no bites, again! Better bring some repellent where ever you go in Iowa this year as the standing water is providing more breeding ground than ever for those blood suckers!

<=== One short run and I went back home, but I'll be back!

The bummer was that I found out the Industry 9/Avid BB-7/On One Carbon Superlight fork combination doesn't get along with each other. My rotor was positioned in such a way with this combo that I couldn't adjust the caliper over far enough to keep the caliper from scraping the rotor. I made one shortish pass to get a feel for what the tires were doing and packed it up and went back home. Intermittent rain showers helped hasten the decision to go too. The sound of gentle rain on the tree canopy is really cool though, I will say that. It's weird to hear it and not feel a drop.

So I came back home and showered off the mud with the thought of going back again real soon. It isn't a long trail system, but it is unique and according to Captain Bob, ride able when most other trails are not. I'll be back again and I'll most likely bring the single speed too. It makes the trail that much more fun.

As for the Blackbuck, I couldn't be happier with it. It rides so smoothly and fits me really well. The bike has that "steel feel" in spades and handles the trails smoothly. Climbing is great, descending is controlled. The chain tensioning is a no brainer and it can handle a two tooth change without breaking the chain easily. I'm well pleased with this bike.

This weekend is the 4th of July weekend so happy trails to all of you who will be vacationing or traveling places. Ride on!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Higher Price Of The Rubber You Roll

I have known about this for well over six months now and actually, I am surprised it took so long to hit us. What is it? The price of the rubber you roll on is going up.........waaay up!

You probably know all about the oil thing, well it is used to make tires. Yeah, now it's starting to make sense, isn't it. Those tires you have on now will be costing you an estimated 15%-25% more when you replace them. That's a big hike in price!

It isn't a prediction, it has already happened at the wholesale level. WTB just upped their prices yesterday, and most tire companies will have raised their wholesale prices by October, most sooner than that. That means your local bike shop, and the online retailers will be starting to show prices that will make you do a double take when you are checking out some new shoes for your ride. Oh yeah.........did I mention tubes are going up too? Sure are, they are made of rubber too. (Might be a good time to go tubeless?) You also have to assume that some grip prices will bump up as well.

Funny thing about tires, you can't ride without them. We have been selling the heck out of 27 inch tires and replacement tires for all sorts of bikes this year. Folks are dragging out bikes to get them up and ready to ride. Gas prices are forcing folks into considering new ways to get around. Now the price of their car tires will be going up as well, but this bicycle tire price hike might be a bitter pill for some of them to swallow. I figure a set of tires, tubes, and labor for a typical 27 incher rig will be about just shy of $100.00 with tax included. Ouch!

Oh well, maybe if you ride enough for utilitarian purposes, it'll pay off. I suspect a lot of people are starting to figure this out and more will be real soon.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Big Time XC Racers To Go 29"er?

The day was coming and it finally happened. A 29"er has won a major elite men's XC race. You can check out the report here. This won't be the last time this happens either.

The thing about 29"ers and elite XC racers is really all down to one little objection: Wheel weight. You will notice that the majority of elite racers that do use 29"ers, (admittedly, most are Subaru/Gary Fisher riders) use sub 2 inch wide rubber to help keep the rotational weight to a minimum. Of course, the wheels themselves are also very light weight works of art in them selves. Ryan Trebon's race winning set weighed 1350 grams complete with tubeless tape and valves.

This is just the beginning, as I said, though. There are newer developments on the cusp of being used in racing that will transform the 29"er from the odd ball choice in elite XC to a commonly seen sight underneath the fastest pros. Some of these new developments are radical.

Things like tubular mountain bike tires and wheels will become much more common place, and are being used now. For 29"ers, this will help relieve the rim from some of its weight. Another development that will change both 26"er and 29"er racing is the carbon fiber rim. It's been coming, and even I have laced up a couple examples in the past. The new versions will be very light, but extremely strong and will overtake the ranks of pro XC racing in a hurry once they become available. Especially when the carbon fiber tubular mountain bike rims I saw become available.

All of these things will affect choices made by the pros. No longer will wheel weight become the deciding factor against using a 29"er in competition. Courses will dictate what gets used and every pro will start to demand that their sponsors have a race level 29"er in the stable for their use. Not right away, mind you. This is an Olympic year, and many riders will be loathe to switch up components or wheel sizes before such an important event. However: that said, it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see one of the pros pull a 29"er out and use it come race day at the Olympics. After the Olympics is when I expect we'll really notice some equipment choice changes.