Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Touring Tuesdays: The Beginning

Note: Every Tuesday for the following few months I will be recounting my experiences from my loaded touring adventures. I hope you find this entertaining and helpful. Enjoy!

Picking up from where I left off two weeks ago, I was in the process of putting together my first touring rig from an old mountain bike traded in at the shop I started at in the early 90's. The bicycle was a 1984 Mongoose All Mountain Pro. It was in pretty good shape, all the original parts were there, even the snake belly tires were still on it. Looking back, it probably would have been smarter to keep it as it was, since it was a somewhat collectible machine as it sat, but I didn't see it that way at the time. I saw it as a cheap way to get a tour worthy machine and head out on an adventure with some new friends.

The decision to get it and modify it were largely influenced by my co-worker at the time, Troy. He had been wrenching at the shop for a few years ahead of me while he attended college. His advice was to take the chromed beast and do the following modifications: Change out the wheels, handle bar, stem, shifters, brake levers, and fork. He told me that drop bars were the way to go, and that the bikes "bull moose" stem and bar set up had to go. He also thought the plate crown fork looked too spindly and that I should get a uni-crown fork for it. The wheels looked sketchy, and of course, new tires and tubes would be in order as well.

Sheesh! I suppose I must have gotten the bike for a song, because I was making wholesale changes to the bike. I stayed late after work making changes. It proved to be a frustrating and valuable learning experience.

I found out that the Mongoose had a BMX specific head set, owing to Mongoose's BMX roots. That was a bit of a problem since I had to order in a headset special to fit it. Then the fork needed to be compatible, which severely limited my choices. I ended up finding a chrome fork with a uni-crown in the shop's basement. All good except that it was a high tensile steel fork. Not as strong as a Cromoly fork. I don't think I told Troy that it was "hi-ten" since I figured he would disapprove and I'd have to try and find a CroMo one. I doubted that I could do that, so I kept that to myself.

I used a Mongoose branded steel quill stem, seemed the right thing to do there, and a Nitto drop bar with some Campagnolo friction shifters that the shop had. The aero levers were something I think Troy had. I wired those up to the front cantilever brakes and rear SunTour roller cam. I didn't have a clue how to set up that rear brake and for the most part it really wasn't functional. I pretty much did that fist tour with only a front brake!

I think I stole the wheels from off my Klein for this tour. A hand built set of SunTour Grease Guard hubs on Ritchey Vantage Pro rims. Shod those with Avocet tires. The ones with the inverted tread. Otherwise the bike was stock with the Avocet saddle, SunTour "AR" derailleurs, and serviceable bottom bracket with Sugino cranks sporting a 48-38-28 gearing. I had a eight speed 12-32T SunTour cassette out back. (If indeed I used my Klein wheels, which I think I did)

The bike had a triple strut aluminum rack already on it. I scored a set of rear panniers through the shop, and a front set from another co-worker. A few purchases through Campmor rounded out the set up. Inflatable Therma-rest pad, 40 degree bag, and some other small items. I borrowed a tent and a couple of smaller items from friends.

All of this lead to a name for our little trip that hadn't even begun yet. Since my co-worker and the customer that were going along were around for all of this, we jokingly called it the "Beg Borrow and Bastard Tour". I had my bike cobbled together and it worked fairly well. I had my gear lined up. It was decided that we would leave right after RAGBRAI on the first week of August. All we had to do now was wait.

Next, the decision on our goal and the beginning of the tour.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Beyond Interbike

<====Yes....I have an I-pod Nano now courtesy of Niner Bikes. (photo credit: Richard Masoner)

Moving on now to the last three months of 2008 I have much work to do. Lots of things will be going on here at Guitar Ted Laboratories and here are some of the things on the agenda.

Trans Iowa: There will be a lot going on here with Trans Iowa V5 in the coming months. I have been getting peppered with e-mails already concerning the registration process as well. read on for the latest.

Registration will not happen until around Thanksgiving! Don't even ask about getting in early. I am not ready yet to take any entries, even though your whole life may be revolving around this event and you say you will shrivel up and die if you do not get in. I appreciate all the interest, but there is a proper and orderly way that this works.

Post cards will be the operative way for you to get into the event. There will be information required of you in a very specific manner. Get the post card wrong and your entry will be thrown out. Secondly, Trans Iowa veterans will be allowed first crack at entry. Just like we did last year, we won't take any entries from folks new to the event until after a period of time goes by that will allow the past participants a chance at getting in. Whatever they do not fill up on the roster will be up for grabs afterwards to new blood.

Okay? More specifics will be announced in November on registration. Look for that then.

Other than that, recon will be undertaken of the whole course soon with any adjustments necessary in the weeks following. We should have a total mileage and time limitations set up before registration takes place in November.

Test Sleds: I should be getting a couple of new test bikes in for Twenty Nine Inches soon. So.....lots of riding will be taking place over the next few months, weather permitting. I sure hope we don't kick things off with an ice storm right off the bat like last year!

Typical Homeowner Stuff: And of course the domestic life means that winter preparations will be on the agenda. I've got some important work to do there to help keep the cold air out of the house and the heat bill somewhat under control. (Hopefully!)

Gravel Grinding?: Finally, I hope to throw down at least a couple long gravel rides before the snow flies. Who knows if the time will be there, but I can dream, can't I? Oh yeah.....before anybody hits the comment section: October 11th-12th, when there are at least two big events going on that I know of, maybe three.....well that's the weekend slated for T.I.V5 recon, so don't bother hitting me up on that. Sorry! But I have to get that done and I won't be putting that off for anything except inclement weather.

So that's my fill schedule in a loose sort of way. I'll be busy, but I knew that going in. Hopefully Fall will be peppered with tons of riding. That would be cool!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Everything Is Training

<====The sun setting on my last day in Lost Wages.

I'm back....safe and sound. 36 hours of being awake left me in recovery mode for Saturday night and Sunday. Circumstances being what they were, I chose to be up that long, but hey! Count it up as training for Trans Iowa. It wasn't all that bad!

So, just what were the highlights of the trip? Here's a short list in no particular order.........

Good Plane Rides: Not being a fan of flight, I really appreciated the smooth flights. Hey......that's just me!

Outdoor Demo: Riding bikes is always on top of the list and riding bikes at Bootleg Canyon is really an unusual kind of place to ride for me. One part dust, one part big chunk, and one part gravely rocks, the terrain out there is challenging in a different way than what I am used to riding here. Of course then there are the bikes themselves. Stuff you don't normally get a chance to swing a leg over. As far as I am concerned,Interbike could be five days of Outdoor Demo and nothing else.

Meet The People: Then there are the people. Lots of cool people. Really cool people. More people than you could have great conversations with in a months time. At least I get to catch up a little bit with these folks.

Adventure On The Strip: Riding bikes in a big group down the Strip to the crit races was a lot of fun. Racing home on a 26 inch wheeled Dahon folder single speed was crazy. Dodging traffic was sketchy, but everyone was pretty cool about it at least.

Meeting The "GF": On the first day of the indoor show I caught up with Gary Fisher for a bit. It's interesting to have a conversation with him that doesn't have anything to do with bicycles. For one thing, I found out he is a bass player, which I thought was pretty cool for obvious reasons. Hey! I ain't Guitar Ted fer nuthin' ya know! Then I met another "GF", as in "girl friend". Sonya is "J-Koves" girl friend, (GASP! Yes....I said it!) and she is a most delightful, smart, and attractive young lady. Definitely a highlight of my trip right there.

Expanding The Responsibilities: I am taking on more responsibilities with Crooked Cog now which will demand more of my time. I'll be doing some adjustments to my daily schedule in the future, so I look forward to that. It'll kind of be weird to be the main guy with the network now, but I look forward to the challenges it will bring.

So there are the highlights I can remember off the top of my head right now. I'm sure there are some things that I missed, but chalk that up to a foggy mind still reeling from being awake too many hours in a row. At least I had a little help staying awake all that time. Niner Bikes put there press kit on a i-pod Nano. So, I downloaded a bunch of tunes to pass the time on the jet, which helped a ton. Thanks Niner! That was awesome!

Now back to my regular scheduled programming...................

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday Night Madness!

<===Mr. 24? J-Kove? SuperKove? Ahh....whatever! He's still the same guy I have ever known. And that's pretty good!

Interbike starts to wear at you after awhile, so today I decided to give myself a self imposed break and join up with the Ergon crowd and relax. It was a great time!

The theme was Oktoberfest, so the "booth babes" were all in traditional Barvarian dress, and one of them I got a chance to know just a wee bit. No........not that way! I am a decent guy, no matter how it may appear on the outside.

<===Three guesses as to which person is J-kove's gal friend named Sonya. Your first two guesses don't count!

So besides all of the cool people at the Ergon booth, folks like Dave Weins, Namrita and Eddie O'Dea, and D.J. Birtch, I got to meet Sonya finally. Okay, I could say alot, but I won't, because I'd spoil the pleasant surprise ya'all would get. That's all I'm gonna say here. Let's leave things at this: It was a definite highlight of my day. Mmmmkay?

<====Fixie Tricks!

Then the show closed and I was supposed to ride to the Mandalay Bay Resort on a Dahon folder from the Sands Convention Expo. It was part of Commute By Bike's sponsorship of the SocialRide. So while we waited, an Alley Kat was going to start from the Sands too, and we were entertained by L.A. Brakeless. Those fixie tricks are pretty cool!

<===Check out the super narrow bars these guys prefer.

After that we got out on the Strip and rode about five miles to the Mandalay Bay resort where the crit races were being held. It was pretty funny seeing the peoples faces as we rolled by. Some gave us cheers, and some cars honked in appreciation, but most were flabbergasted that anyone would have the gall to ride down the Strip "en-masse" on bicycles. I'm sure ol' Blue Eyes himself would've sneered through the smoky haze of his heater dangling from his slightly opened lips as we rolled past the Frontier Club.

<====Hey! Anybody see a bike lane here!?

e made it out there okay, enjoyed a bit of the racing, and then Fritz, Tim, and I rode back alone. Okay.......Here's the deal folks. I don't condone this sort of thing, nor do I endorse it, but we had a hoot doing it. We rode like the wind down the Strip without helmets, and without lights. I would tell you that you were an idiot for doing it, so yeah, I know! But it is what it is, and it was an epic night for sure.

So tomorrow is it. The Last Day. Then I pack it in, leave for the airport, and fly home early Saturday morning. I can't wait to get home, but I had an adventure here that I won't soon forget either.

I hope ya'all get out and make your own adventures this weekend! Next time you hear from me, I should be home. It'll be good!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Interbike Madness

<====Bright Lights, Crap City!

Okay it's official. Gary Fisher has declared Las Vegas a crap city. I can't say I would be persuaded to say otherwise, at least within a stones throw of the Strip. Actually, the rest of the city reminds me a whole lot of El Paso, Texas.

So, the "Big Press Conference" has happened where everything was announced that has already been leaked. Isn't that great?!! Well, what you won't probably find out is that Greg Le Mond was in the front row and pretty much made a spectacle of himself. Yeah, as in a horse's behind sort of way. Awesome!

So I caught up with the Twin Six guys and saw the new prototype wool jerseys. HOT! The rest of the line up, yeah.......typical high Twin Six quality there for sure. I can't wait to sport the 6 again next year.

Surly has some awesome stuff. An "Eleventh Anniversary Rat Ride" which is a 1 X 1 with 24" Large Marges shod with these huge-ginormous fatties for urban slaying and a great red paint with black decals. Hurry up kiddies! It's a limited edition rig.

Ergon's shindig is later today. Can't wait to meet the "missus". ( wink-wink!)

Okay, so I gotta get back to chicken pickin' here. Later folks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interbike 2008: Low Blood Sugar

<===Ever wonder what it's like to be me in Vegas? (Photo credit: Richard Masoner)

Typing the screed here in Vegas is getting me nowhere but hungry and cranky. Well, I did meet some pretty cool folks. I met the owner of a factory in Taiwan that said he wasn't afraid of Shimano, (Yeah! Fight the man!), and I met some people that are making some pretty cool new high end bits for bicycles that are behind the scenes in different areas of the bicycling world.

I met the guy who basically is responsible for the term "twenty niner" and the guy responsible for the numerical descriptor, "29"er". Wes Williams is the undisputed "Dude" of the 29"er world. It was pretty much his enthusiasm for the big wheels off road that infected a few important peers and got the 29 inch Nanoraptor into production about ten years ago. Wes was using the "28er" moniker previous to that big tire and when they came along, well....29er was the next logical step in the name game. That eneded up becoming "29"er" when another man, Bob Poor saw that "29er" was a yachting term and wanted to step things away from that. An important thing in the day of the computer.

So, I met those two guys. Big parts of 29"er history.

But yaeh, I was pretty edgy. It's just that I'm so busy, I didn't eat anything between the time the show opened and when it ended. Then I had two slices of pizza and a side of pasta. Ha! Fuel for the show, but that was to be expected.

Well, I suppose I shouldn't have said I was "cranky", just low on blood sugar!

Lance is in town racing a cross bike.Hmm...........what if he doesn't win? Or what if he cracks up on a barrier? Could happen. (Late edit: He's fine. He got whooped by about twenty other dudes.)

Anyway.......I'm thinking strange thoughts. The brain, you know.................not eating right........................no sleep............

See ya tomorrow!

Yes! I Heard About Lance!

Well, the Interbike trade show is in a tizzy over this "Lance" announcement that will happen tomorrow here. The media people here are freaking out,and the Interbike folks are scrambling in preparation for mass chaos when hordes of "media wannabees" come looking for press passes.

Hey, suppose I could sell my press pass for some cool green? Heh heh!

So, yeah........Lance to Team Astana. Was that ever in doubt? Really, the guy is contracted to Trek for life and how many pro teams ride Trek bicycles at the highest level? Yeah........and I suppose he could have started his own "Livestrong" team, but ol' buddy Johan wouldn't have been part of that, soooo............

I guess I wish on one hand that a super star athlete would just go away when they are on top for once, and the other side of me doesn't quite get the whole "Lance" factor. I mean, yeah....from a cycling-centric viewpoint, I get it. However; the media over time has exposed a lot of this man's life that is well,......not so cool.

Anyway, being around this is somewhat amusing. Possibly irritating. Most definitely weird.

More from the "Big Show" later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wow! Another "Real Post" From Interbike

<====My Crooked Cog boss, Tim Grahl, removing an offending terrapin from the trail surface at Bootleg Canyon.

So it is still like brutally hot out here on day two of the Outdoor Demo and we're still having fun riding bikes at Bootleg Canyon.

I took a nasty trip over the bars onto some gnarly lava rock and biffed my elbow up pretty good. It flowed quite a bit of blood, so at least it was showy! The rock escaped unharmed!

Now we're ensconced in the bowels of the Sands Convention Center using the free wifi since the inter-web-sphere at the house pretty much blows. We'll not be using that position for working on the computer anymore!

Okay, so now we're heading to a dinner date with some fellow web-o-sphere nutcases and I'll be headin' fer the shed after that. I guess I'm going to be posted up on a video on the Interbike's blog soon, so when that gets posted, I'll let ya'all know!

Interbike 2008: A Real Post

Well, here I am sitting on a bunch of great information and I can't post a lick of it because nothing is working right here. Yeah.......I'm a bit frustrated!

The house we rented has a cable modem that has to be restarted every time you restart a computer, my camera isn't recognized by my laptop, for some weird reason, and everybody that can help has passed out already.

Poor, poor, pitiful me, right? Ha ha! Well, I'll tell ya this much, it's nothing to worry about. I had a great time today. I rode five great mountain bikes that I will post about sooner or later. I met a lot of old friends and made some new ones. I ate barbecue sandwiches made by Chris King, (Yes.....That Chris King), I drank beers, I got some killer schwag, and I got to hang out with SuperKove and some dude that has won Leadville six times or something crazy like that. How bad could it be, right? I mean, I got set up for two of my demo rides by "Demo Ken" Derrico, and it don't get no better than that! (If you've been to a Trek/Fisher Demo lately, and Ken was there, you know what I mean.) Lessee......The Salsa Crew was there throwin' down the goods. The Niner Bikes guys, including D.J. and Fuzzy were there, which reminds me of a great story, then I gotta go to bed!

At the Chris King BBQ party, Mickey of Spooky Bikes was remarking that it seemed all 29"er freaks had this facial hair thing going on. He said that he didn't think he could roll, since maybe he didn't have enough testosterone to grow a chin wig. Then D.J. calmly looked at him and said, "Well, give a 29"er a try for a while and see what you can grow." Priceless! (It helps if you know that D.J. and Fuzzy would put Civil War re-enactment freaks to shame with their chop mops.)

Okay, I feel much better now.........

At least this post worked!

More later from Lost Wages, Nevada, where it was over a hundred degrees today at Outdoor Demo. Yeeeeeaaah............

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Interbike 2008: Gettin' Ready To Head Out!

Whelp! It is that time of year again. Interbike 2008 starts Monday with the Outdoor Demo at Bootleg Canyon. That runs through Tuesday, and then it is on to Vegas for the rest of the week at the Sands Convention Center. A week from this Saturday I'll return a very weary man.

I know that a lot of you bicycle freaks would kill for the chance to go to Vegas and see what I'm about to see. It is pretty fun! However; I'm working there, which is a big, big difference from what dealers and shop employees experience at Interbike.

Interbike for me is a week long endurance event. No joke! The two days at Bootleg Canyon are the best days out of the week, because you are outdoors, riding bikes, and you can get away from the crawling hordes if you need to. This is fun, yet taxing as well, because I will be putting in 8 to 10 hours of Bootleg Canyon per day with maybe 5-6 hours of riding in the desert mountains. Add in the limited amounts of fluids available, and the near zero chances for food uptake, and you can see why I bonked on day two of the Outdoor Demo last year at noon! I'll be a bit more aware than last year, so hopefully I can keep a little more gas in the tank for day two!

Nightly- especially for the first three days of the week- I'll be posting up stuff at my nearly snails pace, (You would laugh hysterically if you could see me typing right now!), until the wee hours of the night, and then getting up at the crack of dawn to get back to the action. Then add on top of all of that my gig this year as a television show host. Yes, you read that correctly! I am going to be hosting a half hour segment on Cycling T.V. which is broadcast from the Interbike show floor on Friday afternoon. I will need to be finding a couple of guests to interview about 29"er stuff, so if you are reading this, and are going to be at Interbike on Friday, give me a shout if you want to be on with me. Anyway, I found out about this on Wednesday, so not much time to line up guests!

So, not only will I be running back and forth across Interbikes massive show floor covering all things Big Wheeled, I'll be prepping for a show, and typing out screed at an incredibly slow speed! Time to eat? Ha! Time to drink? Maybe...... Interbike does have nutrition companies showing their wares at the show. Little bite sized morsels on platters for everyone to test taste are out there with maybe a Dixie cup full of energy drink to wash it all down with. I've gotten pretty good at grabbing about five bits and a cup on the run as I pass from one end to the other covering the show. But that's not the most devastating thing.

Just about every afternoon at 4pm, someone, somewhere is tapping a keg of some micro-brew and handing it out for free. Sometimes the locations are known to all. Sometimes only to a few. Usually you can tell by the hordes of beer vultures circling around a booth at 3:59pm where the beer will be flowing from. This would be an indication of a widely known keg tappage. The more discreet ones are the ones to hit, if you can find out about them! They usually do not attract the beer vultures, and as such, you can be assured of actually getting a beer! Since I am there as "Working Media", I usually, but not always, get in on the action. Good for me? well................not so much!

I usually have about what? Ten bite sized bits of Cliff Bar, or equivalent, a Dixie cup or two of fluids, and a roll and coffee right off in the Media Center for seven to eight hours of running the show floor, and that's not counting the two hours I'm up in the morning before we get there. Soooooo.............that beer goes straight to the head! Yeah........then it's about what? An hour to an hour and a half before you get any dinner. Then the long night of typing at a snails pace before turning in at some single digit hour the next morning.

So, yeah..........I've about drained the tank by weeks end! Poor, poor me, right? Well, I ain't lookin' for no sympathy from ya'all, just tellin' ya. I'm actually doing some work out there. Really! I am!

And when I get back there just might be an important announcement concerning my future! Stay tuned! Or not.........maybe you should just ride yer bicycles instead!

On that note, I'll bid ya'all adieu until next week when the excruciatingly slowly typed drivel you've become accustomed to reading here will be erratic and posted at random times. You've been warned!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wide Rims and Funky Bars

<===Another Wednesday Outing!

I took the Blackbuck out for a whirl on the new Salsa Gordo/Hope Pro II wheels yesterday. I tell you what, those Gordos will make me a believer in wide rims, that's for certain! The wheels allowed me to run pressures with tubes down to 17psi front and 20psi rear. The tires rolled really well at those pressures and out at the Camp I felt faster because of the increased grip. The rear wheel bottomed out against a few roots and I slammed one tree branch that I didn't see coming due to the sun in my eyes, but no pinch flats at all. I probably will bump up the rear pressure just a tad, maybe something like 22-24 psi for protection against pinching and see how that does. The front, well that was fine, but I may experiment with 20psi to see if that gets faster without losing grip.

The soil at the Camp was pretty damp and again, the tires were packing up just a bit. No matter though, as the Gordos spread out that casing and the low pressures gave me great traction. I did two laps of everything and I was going faster than I had in a long time, so that says a lot to me.

Of course, you have to mention the comfort factor too, since those tires are really suspension at this point. I would love to have had a rigid fork on the Blackbuck yesterday to see how it would have ridden with those tires as spread out as they were and at those low pressures. I bet it would have been a lot less punishing a ride.

<===The Schwalbe Racing Ralph looks ginormous on these rims!

<===That's me on the left, a truck tire track on the right.

So, I think the Gordos are winners so far. They are certainly a stiff rim! I never felt a waggle or any vagueness out of these wheels. Solid!

Finally, I have been using Titec H-Bars on the Blackbuck all summer. While they certainly are one of the most ugly bars I have seen, they are super functional, especially on a single speed bike. I love the way I can climb with them and the hand position works really well. Mind you, these bars are nearly 100 bucks retail now, so they are not cheap. However; I have to laugh at what the "real" Jones H-Bars bring at retail these days. Over $400.00! And now Jeff Jones as some new handlebar designs that are over 5 bills to buy. I don't argue the benefits of his designs, but I tell ya, the price of titanium must be ridiculous, because I just don't see $550.00 worth of work there. I could buy another Blackbuck frame for that kind of scratch, and I know there is a lot more work in my frame than there is in that handlebar. Still, I would love to have one for more "epic" long rides. The way the "Loop" bar is shown with a handlebar bag and lights? Makes total sense.

The H-Bar in aluminum is doing just fine, and for my more "epic" long rides, I think that the Gary Bar, or a Midge Bar will suffice. Actually, they are better in some respects, as the drop bar designs have three "levels" if you will. Lower level, that is in the drops. Upper level, that is on the hoods. Top floor, that is on the bar top, next to the stem. Lots of hand positions, and a handle bar bag works just dandy with those too. I am actually going back to a drop bar set up on my Karate Monkey again soon. I miss that bike with drop bars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trans Iowa V5: On My Mind: Part II

Some quick notes on Trans Iowa V5 today..........

The Site Is Up: Well........kinda! Something went haywire in the format, but the info is all there and ready for you to look at. Check it out here. I probably screwed something up, so it looks weird, but hey! It works to spread the news for now. Deal with it!

The course recon by car will be taking place after Interbike. We will post some pictures after that with a short report. Once again, we don't reveal the course's exact location, or which towns, (if any) you'll be going through. Past T.I. vets get this, but bear with me, there are newbies out there!

Trans Iowa is an event guided by you, the event participant, by reading cue sheets. The first set of sheets are handed out to racers at the pre-race meet up, which will take place on May 1st, 2009. (May day! May day!..........get it?) Anyway........Your first set of cue sheets will guide you about the first 45 miles or so where you will stop at a check point and pick up a second set of cue sheets that will guide you on to the next checkpoint, and so on. Expect there to be about three checkpoints total. The course length will be in the 320-350 mile neighborhood. You will be required to self navigate, and self support your way on Iowa's gravel roads in a time limit of around 34 hours, give or take an hour or two. (Totals will be set at a later date) On top of that, you will have a time limit to reach each checkpoint before the checkpoint closes. If a checkpoint closes before you reach it, your event is over.

Okay, that's the gist of it for you people that haven't looked into Trans Iowa before. There is a bit more to it than that, but those are the salient details.

Registration?: Yes, there is a registration process. We will model it on last years registration, which was opened up to the past participants only for the first week and then to any others afterwards. There will be only 75 available spots. If you miss out on getting in, I will maintain a waiting list until December 31st, 2008, after which the waiting list will not be maintained and the roster will be locked in. Anyone dropping out after that time will not be replaced on the roster. If we end up with 40 folks, we will go with 40. If we end up with 25 folks, then that's great. If we get 75, (won't happen, but just saying) then we'll have a record field for a Trans Iowa event.

Registration will be by post card again, but don't go and send those in just yet! I'll announce an official address and time soon. Look for that around Thanksgiving time.

By then the course should be locked in, our check points figured out, the pre-race details hopefully will be in place, and we'll be ready to settle in for the long winters wait till spring time '09.

Should be a good one!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Touring Tuesdays

Welcome to a new feature on Guitar Ted Productions for the next few months, or however long it takes to tell the story. The story of my loaded, self supported touring adventures. Here's a bit of back round for you all to read up on so you will better understand where this is all coming from.

Inspiration: I would be totally remiss if I did not mention the sole reason I even thought about any of this again in the first place. That reason is the blog started by Jason Boucher who has detailed out his own touring experiences there. The things he spoke of rekindled the memories of my own trips. Let me say, it was hard not to fill his comments section with my own versions of his experiences! Well, here's my opportunity to spout off. Thanks Jason!

Why now?: I feel that there is a new awareness of touring and a thing I like to call "Adventuring". Maybe there will be some things folks can learn from my own trips and experiences, and maybe it'll just be a goofy way to entertain folks. The thing is, I think there just might be something good that will come of this for somebody, and heck.....I like writing stories anyway, so why not?

What to expect: There will be plenty of story telling, and a bit of bicycle tech. My experiences will be gleaned mostly from two major loaded tours I took and several "overnighters" that happened between 1994 and 2003. Some of the stories may seem unbelievable, some maybe a bit mundane, but all will be true, with a bit of foggy remembrance and a dash of embellishment here and there.

So, here's a bit of a brief introduction to where I was at with cycling, life, and the whole idea of touring at the beginning of all of this in 1994.

I was just into my first year of working at a shop after being a bench jeweler/designer/gemologist/salesman for ten years. I really liked bicycles, and I did regular rides, but very short lived mountain bike rides. I didn't race at all. Just rode for the fun of it. My longest ride in one chunk was 35 miles that I did once on gravel in 1991. I thought I had ridden to the moon and back that day!

Now it was three years later, and I was working at the bicycle shop when one of my co-workers and a customer that was hanging out started talking about doing a tour. The talk progressed and suddenly I was invited to tag along. (I think more as an object of curiosity than anything else). Anyway, I hadn't a proper touring bike. The co-worker reminded me of an old mountain bike trade-in the shop had that would turn the trick for me. Well, it was on after that. I was going on my first ever bicycle tour.

Next Tuesday: I'll be at the Interbike Outdoor Demo. I may find some time to embellish this, but if not, look for the next installment in two weeks.

Salsa Cycles Gordo: El Grande Fun!

<====The Salsa Cycles Gordo rims laced up.

I spent the weekend "blog free" but it didn't help with cycling outside much since all the trails were muddy. I did do some wheel building though! I got the Salsa Cycles Gordo rims laced to a set of Hope Pro II's with some Wheelsmith 14/15 double butted spokes and alloy nipples. I used the "Mike Curiak" method of throwing a bunch of different colored nipples in a bowl ( In this case, the colors were green, red, and gold) and blindly fishing them out at random. Whatever color I grabbed I used. It turned out pretty well, I must say! (You can click on the picture to enlarge it. That way you can see the colored nipples easier, if you care to.)

<===The red anodized Hope Pro II's are LOUD!!

The build went really smoothly. The Gordos were straight and I hardly had to make any corrections at all. The tension came up very evenly, especially on the rear wheel. All in all, they were as good if not better than say, a DT Swiss rim, which I have used before. This Gordo and those DT Swiss rims are the best I've ever built with.

The Gordo is decidedly a "trail" rim with its huge width, (35mm) and sturdy weight, (780 grams a rim). That's okay for its intended use. It isn't a cross country, weight weenie rim. I did find that it built up a set that was 100 grams lighter than a WTB rimmed stock wheel set off my Raleigh XXIX+G though! The kicker here is that the inner rim dimension of the Gordo is wider than the outer width of the WTB rim!

You may ask, "Why is the overall rim width such a big deal?". Fair enough. Consider that the wider the rim, the more it supports the tire laterally. It also spreads out the tread surface on the terrain better, offering better grip. These are both good things when traversing demanding off road terrain. Not only that, but wider rims also allow you to run low, low pressures without rolling off the tires, and getting you even more traction.

The tires I mounted onto the Gordos were the tires off those previously mentioned WTB rims. They are a WTB Weir Wolf LT 2.55" tire and a Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4" tire. Each tire measured about 56. 4mm in width on the WTB's. On the Gordos, they each measured 59.7mm in width. Big difference! You can actually see that the tread is "flatter" to the ground as well. This should garner me gobs of traction.

Now, here's the deal on the tubeless situation. Salsa says "no!" They have a sticker right around the valve hole that says, "Do not use with tubeless systems." I used tubes to start with. Let me start out with tire fit here.

The tires I used have been on and in use for almost a year with the Schwalbe, and over a year on the WTB. These tires are stretched out! The fit of them on the Gordos was about what I experience on other tubeless systems with tubeless ready tires. The last four inches of bead that needs mounting is not hard to get over the rims edge, but you have to put a little effort into it. So, nothing unusual, but with a new tire it definitely would have been harder to mount on the Gordo. I'd give the Gordo an above average grade here. Airing up the tire was no problem as the beads sat right up into the "channel" extruded into each side of the inner rim well. Again, if the tires were new, they would have "snapped" in place with an audible sound. The tires I used did do this to a very small extent. Tire mounting: Above average grade here, as well.

In my estimation, judging from how the tires mounted and by the design of the Gordo, I'm going to say that they will probably be an easy and very successful tubeless conversion. In fact, I'm betting you won't even have to do anything but put a Stan's yellow strip in, or maybe go "ghetto" and use some strapping tape. That's it. A tubeless valve stem should seal on this rim with no problems at all. In this regard, I give the Gordo another above average grade. Remember though kiddies: Salsa Cycles says you shouldn't use the Gordo tubeless. So don't go and complain to them if your tire blows off the rim while riding, okay? Okay! That's on you, my friends.

So, I threw these on the OS Bikes Blackbuck for now. Wheel weights were rear: 1160 grams, and front: 1070 grams. That may sound like a lot, but for burly, strong, and wide, you are not going to get lightweight too, unless you go to a carbon fiber rim. (Read: Rob a bank to afford!) The MSRP on the Gordo is $125.00, which again, may open a few eyes up wide, but these rims are top notch quality, technologically designed for 29"ers, (Find another rim that is), are without peer in width, (Unless you count a unicycle rim that's out there) , and are reasonably light. Really, I don't see this as outlandish for the best trail rim made for 29"ers available today.

Stay tuned for further updates on Twenty Nine Inches

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday News And Views

<====Salsa Gordo goodness!

Salsa Cycles Gordo Rims are here!:That's right, a set of the 35mm wide Gordo rims have landed here for testing and review at Twenty Nine Inches. I have some Hope po II hubs in anodized red that are getting laced up to these with a random "Mike Curiak" style colored alloy nipple pattern. These should be finished up by the weekend and I'll have a post up on Twenty Nine Inches soon.

The rims are incredibly detailed, especially in the inner rim well and bead seat area. Salsa Cycles has done their homework and executed what I believe is quite possibly the best 29"er rim yet.

Trans Iowa V5- The New Look: Whelp, "J-kove", (Or the man formerly known as "Mr 24"), has proffered up a new graphic treatment for the T.I.V5 version of the Trans Iowa site. Check it out and see what you think of it. In the meantime, I can say that a tentative course has been completely laid out for the event already. Much of it has already been re conned with only a short section or two to be seen yet. The plan is to get out right after Interbike and drive the entire thing to see how things flow together. It is entirely possible, and most likely probable, that a course re-route will take place then. (d.p. has already re-routed a section) I suspect that by registration time we will have everything dialed for the course. Registration details will be announced in November. Stay tuned!

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo?: This event is going to be radically different in it's layout and philosophy, if it happens in '09. I am currently in the talking stages with a couple of folks whose opinions I regard highly about what the BWB is going to look like in the future. I think many will appreciate the ideas that are being bounced around now, but I can not say anything publicly yet regarding the details. Just be assured that what you knew about the BWB is probably not going to be happening next time there is a BWB. Stay tuned!

Touring Tuesdays: I was talking with Jason B on our ride Wednesday and was telling him how his touring stories from his blog has inspired me to think about writing my own experiences up on this site. He encouraged me to do that, so on Tuesdays look for the old touring stories from my past loaded touring experiences to pop up here. I may even get some old photographs scanned in for this, so stay tuned. (Thanks for the encouragement, Jason!)

All right, it might be a little damp here and there, but get out and ride yer bikes folks! You won't melt. Whatta ya think ya are? Sugar?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In The Center Of The Mayhem!

<===Salsa's 2009 product is waiting in the weeds, waiting to take the cycling world by storm. Much like Jason Boucher is down this ribbon of single track!

My Wednesday test ride session was a bit different yesterday! I drove up to Salsa HQ and had a visit with the Crew and Jason, the brand's head honcho.

Can you say "mayhem"? Well, if you'd have been there yesterday, you would have seen it. Getting ready for Interbike is no small task, and of course, there is a company to run as well. I admire all the hard effort Salsa's people put into their company even more. Amazing!

Of course, I got to see all the new 2009 bikes. You folks are going to be blown away by what is coming! It is fantastic looking, (and riding) product. Salsa Cycles is taking a big step up with it's 2009 effort, make no mistake.

I did get to ride something "very special" at the Murphy-Hanrahan trails yesterday too. While I can't talk about the bike, I can tell you that "Murph" is rippin' good fun! The single track is so flowy, with many a decent climb, downhill, and bermed turns. Oh my! Yes, the bermed turns are super fun!

They are also adding in an elevated skinny section for those free riders out there. They were out building it in yesterday as we were riding. It looks scary to me. I mean six inches of wood six feet off the ground? I coulda been a tightrope walker, I suppose, but I ain't, so I'll leave that stuff for those kind of folks.

So if that wasn't enough, I saw the un-boxing of the first production spec Fargo frame and fork while I was there. The paint is more of a silvery undertone metallic green than what we've seen and the graphics "pop" a little more than what I recall. It looks very classy. The fork drop outs are stainless steel, forward facing, with a little "Salsa" embossed into them. Very cool looking and as Joe Meiser explained to me, they are very securely attached to the fork tips with a "break line" added that acts as a point for painters to mask off the stainless drop out, so it doesn't look sloppy. Attention to detail? Are you kidding me? And that isn't the end of that sort of scrutiny on the Fargo, or on any of their products for that matter.

Take for instance the Gordo rims, which are coming in, by the way, some folks are getting them now. At any rate, the Gordo has details that most will never know. Like the highly scrutinized rim well, which was developed to help mount 29"er tires more securely and, in conjunction with the incredibly detailed bead seat on the Gordo, it should really tighten up your tires interface with the rim. I have a set of Gordo rims to build and test for Twenty Nine Inches, so look for more on those rims there soon.

Yeah, seeing how the run up to Interbike goes, even for just a day, is amazing. The trails at Murph........again, amazing! Salsa's 2009 line up............you guessed it! And the future products? Crazy!

A fun, fun day and my deepest thanks go out to all of the Salsa Crew, Joe Meiser, Jason Boucher, Bobby, Miker, and the Surly dudes. Also I wanted to mention the warm welcome and smiles from almost every single QBP employee I saw in the place. Nice! Think opposite of how Postal employees are, and you'll get the picture. (Ha ha! I'll bet some of the QBP guys feel like "going postal" about now though!)

Okay, back to my little corner of the world here being a bicycle mechanic! Have a great day, ya'all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Random Thoughts

A listing of random thoughts for you today.............

Armstrong Returning To Top Level Racing: Of course, this is the buzz in the cycling world now and is even getting play on national news. My take? Disappointment. Look, I get why he wants it. It's tough for any elite athlete that has spent all of his waking hours for years training for one purpose to give it up and find something else to do. He is wired for what he has spent most of his life doing. The thing is, a lot of these top level athletes do this "retirement/un-retirement schtick and it's always a disappointment in the end. Many times the athlete in question makes a mockery of themselves and is an embarrassment to their sport.

Time will tell if Armstrong falls into the majority or if he is one of the lucky ones in the minority that makes good on their return. I would have preferred he stayed retired, but that's not going to be the case apparently. The odds of his success are greater than his chances of putting together his run of seven Tour wins, I'd say.

Every City Should Do This: I got a link to a video about closing the streets in NYC for Saturdays so that folks could use them for recreating. Cycling was a big part of this, but not the only part. The video is "work friendly" and goes about 7 or so minutes. It's an encouraging video that makes you feel good about being a cyclist. Check it out here.

I don't know why every larger city wouldn't consider this. It seems to be a very positive, low cost, low maintenance way to enrich the lives of citizens.

Drop Bars On Mountain Bikes- A Recipe For Freaking Out: I have web statistics and I know where you live! ha ha! No.....really, I have these web stats that show me what you freaks out there are using as search criteria that eventually lands you on this tiny little digital island called Guitar Ted Productions. One of the most consistently used search words is "drop bar" in conjunction with various other words, but almost all having to do with drop bars for off road usage.

I've written a plenty on this subject here, so I suppose the search engines dredge it up for folks to check out. And of course, the Salsa Cycles new Fargo model is just more fuel for the fire. It'll be interesting to see all the new inquiries into drop bars for off roading. Too bad the originators of the modern concept of this didn't have the inter-web-o-sphere to plunk down their thoughts in 1985. Then their sites could get slammed with search traffic! ha ha!

So anyway, got a question about drop bars on a mountain bike? Shot me a comment or e-mail (on upper right side, there is an e-mail link) I'll do my best to answer you.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Gettin' Cranky: Update

<===170mm crank set on a geared bike....

For most of the summer I have been running 170mm long cranks in an effort to figure out if there was anything to this whole "Crested Butte Philosophy" regarding the use of shorter cranks on 29"ers. (If you want to know more, see this post from earlier in the summer.)

Well, I have spent a ton of time on the single speed and have a few good rides on the geared rig. The two applications do have different results which I found interesting.

The single speed is where i think the major difference is to be found from 170mm to anything longer. I used to exclusively run 177.5mm or longer on my single speeds and going to the 170mm felt really different at first. As I rode it more (and exclusively as my main SS rig this summer) I found the initial strangeness to have disappeared. However; I also have noted an increase in my ability to scale steeps that I normally would have crapped out on. The 170mm crank seems to get around to it's power stroke a little sooner for me, therefore I lose less momentum in my pedaling "dead spot" and I can keep those big wheels rolling easier. Of course, spinning like a whirling dervish is achieved easier as well, so running the super low gear I have, (34 X 22) is easier on me when I'm on the flats. I actually commuted on this gear a few times. Talk about spin fests! This was only possible because the smaller circle allowed a higher cadence without bumping up and down off the saddle, which a 180mm crank set would have had me doing for sure.

In conclusion, I'm really sold on the 170mm for single speeding and I'll try it on another rig soon. The 170mm on the geared rig was a bit different though.

<=== ....and on a single speed.

The geared set up was a far more transparent situation. I never did notice anything different here, but almost all my geared experiences are on 175mm crank sets, so perhaps this is why. The 170mm cranks on the 29"er worked just fine and were so easy to just hop on and ride without anything noticeably different that I forgot they were 170mm cranks for several weeks!

It may have proven more useful to have noted what gearing I was using in different situations as compared to a longer crank set on the same terrain. That is a possibility as I have 175mm and 180mm geared set ups here that I can cross compare. I think through the fall I might try to get that set up once or twice to see where there might be a difference. Certainly there is no discernible difference in terms of feel for myself. The length was indistinguishable from a 175mm crank set in my mind.

So, the results so far are inconclusive on the geared side, but on the single speed side, I do think there is an advantage for me. Not only can I power through hills easier, but I have better pedal clearance on trail obstacles too. That's a bonus! I'll have to set up a test on the geared side that scrutinizes the gear choices a bit more closely to see if the length is affecting my gearing choices, and also if certain gearing choices feel different between crank sets.

Okay, more later. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Under The Shadows of the South Side Woods

<===The Rawland Fork on the El Mariachi

I got a chance to head out to the woods again Sunday late in the afternoon. I decided to give this new Rawland fork a whirl that is on the front of my El Mariachi.

What a difference a day makes out on the trails, by the way. I think about a dozen folks had ridden out ahead of me and the trails were packed down and fast! That made me go out a bit to hard right outta the box, so I had to slow it down a tad during my first lap. It's hard to not go as fast as you can when the trails are this fast and tacky in the corners. Once I calmed down i was much better off. I had one pretty spectacular "near biff", but I managed to pull out of it with only one foot unclipped.

<===This fork is a real surprise. It's not quite what you might think!

So a first lap was completed with both the outer loop and Captain Bob's Berm Trail done. I swung back in for another go 'round when I noticed that it was getting dark. Real dark! It was only 5:00pm, so it shouldn't be this dark, I'm thinking, but it was. So dark that in some places it would have been nice to have a light. I couldn't see the trail very well!

Then I heard the wind come up. Oh oh! Rain! I started pumping the pedals harder and when I came out on the double track, I went back into the Outer Loop instead of taking Captain Bob's so I would get back to the car sooner. The darkness lifted a bit to the point where there was this eerie half light. Kind of a spooky, weird atmosphere in the woods. Deer were skittering around everywhere. A shotgun could be heard being discharged in the distance. Several shots over the period of my loop. Rain came down and made that unmistakable noise on the canopy above my head. Nary a drop hit the trail as far as I could tell though.

I finished out the loop and headed for my car only to find that instead of loading up in the rain, the shower had passed on and the sunlight was filtered through rushing clouds. I decided to go back in and get Captain Bob's Berm Trail in, since I missed it. I found five deer immediately and then they scattered. At different points during my ride deer would be running across my path, distracting me and making me think about a potential collision. The gun shots in the distance probably had them all in a dither too. Whatever it was, it was kaos in the making.

Now you're probably wondering about that fork, huh? Well, it rides really nicely. Not at all flexy, like I thought it might be. Just a great steel fork ride, really. Reminded me a lot of my Willits fork and other "old skool" steel rigid forks I've ridden off road. I wouldn't recommend it for crazy rock infested terrain or for All Mountain or anything like that, but if you ride XC and single track is your deal, this fork is a nice little stylish piece that would suit a steel frame quite well, I think.

I'll have to give it some more trail time to see if I'm still feeling the same way about it later on, but for now, I'm impressed. It's a nice fork for sure.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Fork And Mud Story

<==="R" is for Rawland Cycles.

I just recently recieved this great looking Rawland Cycles fork from Ben up at Milltown Cyclery. It's a new 29"er fork from Rawland that sports a Pacenti "bi-plane" crown and is disc only. (Other versions are available) Ben wants me to "give it a whirl and see what (I) think". So, you know.........I guess I just have to, right?

It is already mounted to a bike and ready to roll. I'll report back later........

<=== Tread packing up! Not good!

I made a stab at running around the Camp's south side Saturday. I waited until noon for the temps to come up and for the ground to dry out from Thursday's rains. Well, it was still pretty wet and sticky, which in all honesty was just what I wanted. I needed to test the mud shedding capabilities of the Ardent tires I'm testing out. It was as I suspected though, the tread packed up right away.

<=== The HiFi in the woods. Always a good combination!

I ended up taking it slow, because the corners were real sketchy with tires packed up as they were.

I ended up just doing one lap and calling it a day. I went up and down the gravel for a cool down/mud shedder and pointed the Dirty Blue Box back home.

Maybe I'll head back out today and see if the conditions are any better. If not, there's about a million house chores that could stand getting to. Winter is a coming!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Salsa Fargo: The Debate Begins!

<===The bike that is turning the 29"er world inside out.

It is a touring bike, a long haul bike for off roading, a commuter, a utility bike, and more. The Salsa Cycles Fargo 29"er has already caused a lot of debate amongst cycling aficionados.

Some are even trying to compare it to things like Jeff Jones bikes and Niner Bikes, even going so far as to suggest that perhaps the design is a direct copy of something from the handmade cycling world.


I guess you could say that any of these things are true, since they are all bicycles with 700c based fat tires. But really, let's be honest. If anyone in their right mind believes Salsa is trying to replicate a Jones bike type handling with racks, or that Niner Bikes hard tails are anything like this bike, well all I got to say is you've got a screw loose.

And as for anything being "lifted" or copied from handmade bikes, well, I suppose anybody could find something to point at in that regard. The thing is, it is a production bike, and if you think that you are going to get the "custom touch" from a production bike, well that is just plain goofy. If you are a custom builder, and this irks you, I don't get that either. No one is doing a 29"er touring/adventuring rig last time I checked. The handmade world is all ga ga over fixies, utility bikes, and 650B bikes, as far as I can tell.

So what is it? I would say that if you aren't already figuring that out, this bike isn't for you. Those that do get it will have already been looking at elements this bike offers and will instantly see the way it will work for their purposes. That said, there are those that will come around in time, but there are also those that will deride and criticize this bike to no end. That's the way it goes when a bike comes around that is a bit different.

I think that the Fargo will be a trend setter, but maybe I'm off my rocker. I do know that it is a bike a lot of folks have been waiting for. Perhaps a bike that will set off a thousand adventures? Time will tell.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Was That The Last Day Of Summer?

<====This has nothing to do with my ride, I just thought it was cool! Seen in my back yard.

Wednesday was as about a perfect day as you could ask for. Sunny, puffy clouds floating by, and cool enough to wear a wool short sleeved jersey. I was off work, and I had tire testing to do for Twenty Nine Inches. Does it get any better than this?

I don't think so.

So, I headed out to The Camp , (Check out the Flat Tire Fest flyer at the site) and unloaded the HiFi Deluxe for some north side exploration.

<====The HiFi says, "Hey! Hurry up already!"

Over the past weekend the Camp's north unit was host to a horse show and trail ride. That meant that most of the trails they used had been "fluffed up". Lots of dust, the consistency of flour, and packed in dirt. Great stuff to ride on, you just had to be able to deftly dodge the road apples along the way!

Another bonus, the horses cleared a huge path through the previously spider web choked trails. Yeah! No web face this time.

So I charged off to make some sort of loop out of the many trail choices out on the North side. I managed to do just that, including the Ridge trail, The Pines, and back past the turn off to the Expert loop and down to the service road out leading back to the swimming pool. But instead of merely riding out on that road, I took a right at the bottom of the hill and did single track out to just behind the Service shed. Perfect! More dirt equals more fun!

<====A steep up on The Ridge trail. The horses and wet weather in the spring have made these climbs far more technical and challenging then they used to be.

I hate to admit it, but the same wild grape vine that shredded my arm a month ago got me again Wednesday! This time I stopped and cleared it out to avoid somebody else getting shredded. Obviously no one else had been back there since I had. Evidence of my tire tracks could still be found from that ride on my El Mariachi. So I knew that it was likely I was right, and no one else had ridden The Pines since then.

<=== Sun dappled single track, woods, and a mountain bike. Priceless!

I finished out another lap, with each taking close to an hour to complete, and packed up to head for home. I had a lot of writing to do, research, and family matters to attend to, but at least I got out to enjoy what most likely was the last day of summer-like weather we'll have this year.

The following day remnants of Hurricane Gustav made it to Iowa. The temperature had dropped by about 15 degrees and today it feels even crisper. Ahh! Fall is in the air, and lots more mountain biking is yet to be had. However, I will soon miss those days like last Wednesday and I am thankful that I have gotten so much riding in over the past three months. It's been a great summer for riding.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wow! Things Are A Happenin'!

<===Eurobike is happenin' and keepin' me busy. Even way over here!

I'm late today again, but this time it is because I'm busy. Eurobike is underway and the news is pouring in, and that means I gotta work it.

Here's Niner Bikes new W.F.O. 5.5" travel 29"er with the new Marzocchi 44 29"er 140mm travel fork. Find out more at Twenty Nine Inches. If you head over there, you'll likely see my post on Salsa Cycles newest 29"er too.

I did get out before the rains hit yesterday and did a little riding at the Camp. It was a great time.

<===Testing! One......Two.......

Here's the HiFi Deluxe with the Bontrager XR Tubeless Ready tires mounted up. These things grew about two millimeters in width after mounting them. Scary!

Anyway, I'm way behind here, so I've gotta cut things short for today. Stay tuned for more madness from Eurobike, my ride report from Wednesday, and more.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Trans Iowa V5: On My Mind

Lately I've gotten a spurt to do some more work on Trans Iowa v5 in the form of finalizing the course choice. I want to make a concerted effort to close out that chapter of prepping for the event by sometime before the end of November.
This edition of T.I. will be the first that I have split the duties of doing the course planning and it is going well. d.p., who came on board last year as co-conspirator, has been enthusiastically reconning and laying out about half of what will become the T.I.V5 course. He's even ridden a bunch of it on his bike! He's beaten me to the punch, so to speak, and I have to get some work done! Actually, it is really working out quite well.
d.p. is finding out, as I have, that actual physical recon is worth gold when doing this sort of an event planning. Maps can only tell you so much, and many times, they can't be trusted. But what isn't possible to convey are the cultural, natural, and mental aspects that a course choice can have.
For instance, T.I. courses in the past have been routed in such a way as to give folks a little cultural flavor. (Not that anyone would notice, after beating themselves silly in late April weather on miles of bumpy gravel roads!) But hey! I always tried to make things interesting, if I could. d.p. and I are continuing that tradition. Then you have the unknowns like dogs. That hasn't been much of an issue in the past, but d.p. is actually re-routing his part of the course at one point to avoid some particularly nasty dogs. Then there are your B level maintenance roads. Some of these are almost ordinary in appearance, while some are downright dangerous, or so primitive that they barely exist as a road at all. These sorts of things one has to actually go see to make any sort of judgement call on.
Finally, the sum of all the parts has to be considered. I know this might seem out of character for me to some of you, but I have actually altered the course on occasion because I felt that the course was too mentally and physically difficult in places. Yes, really! I know that some will find that hard to believe. I do try to throw some crazy stuff at the T.I. folks, but I am not here to make it impossible. It is a hard act to balance. I don't think I've hit it right yet, and of course, the weather has a lot to do with that as well.
Ah yes! The weather factor! That is the final piece of the puzzle to consider. Over time, I (and now d.p. as well) have been getting more and more careful about how we design the course in light of the weather. A big turn was taken after T.I.V2 when I had too many B road sections all packed together. That combined with lots of rain didn't go over too well. Had it been dry, well, that wouldn't have been a lesson learned. Last spring, T.I.V4 was another slap to the face. Low water crossings, areas subject to flooding, and leaving ourselves some bail out possibilities for re-routing were all drilled into our heads as things needing consideration. The weather has taught us some hard lessons!
So, this Trans Iowa thing gets more complex the more we know. I think back to the first one. I just picked out a route on paper, Jeff and I drove it, made a few alterations on the fly, and lived with it. It's amazing that one came off at all on so many levels!
Ignorance is bliss, I guess!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Musings On The Fork Swapping Experiment: Part II

<==== Could this break you out of the "box" you're in?

I'm still doing this nutty fork swapping business that I started back in July. I have posted some thoughts about the process before, but I thought I would update where my mind has been at with this now, as I get closer to drawing this experiment to a close.

First of all, this idea was a brilliant idea to get me to ride more. Really! I needed a motivation to get out and do something that excited me, not unlike some of you that race out there. Since getting to a race is pretty tough for me with my family and schedule, the fork experiment has been a great way to basically do what prepping for a big event has done for some of you.

Not only that, but my bike was a different bike every time out. Kind of like getting to ride something new every ride. This may not appeal to some of you folks that like to limit the variables, but I seem to be a bit different in that regard. Heck, I couldn't ever do the two step either. Why do the same thing over and over again when you could do the pogo and thrash all at the same time? (Yeah.....I know! I don't need to convince some of you out there that I am truly a bit odd!)

Getting back to the fork thing, I wrote this just recently on a thread on mtbr.com : "In the end, most combinations are immanently ride able and most of us would be able to handle the bike with whatever geometry we want to consider. Whether it fits an individuals style and how a bike should handle in their mind is going to vary quite a bit from person to person.

That is what I think is great about today versus five years ago. Back then, you were stuck in a box handling-wise, only being able to vary how a bike rode incrementally with a head angle change. Now you can have it spicy or mild, or anywhere in between. I love it and it opens up a whole different set of perspectives on what a good handling bike really is."

So this is what is really cool about all of this fork offset nonsense; you don't have to be stuck with a twenty nine inch wheeled bicycle that doesn't quite suit your expectations in handling. You just might be able to tweak it to squeeze out a different sort of handling than you thought possible.

Now you won't be able to do that every time, depending upon the bikes original geometry, and whether or not you prefer a suspension fork or not. However; in a lot of cases you could, and the bicycle that you have might not need to be replaced, it just might need to have its handling tuned. It is cheaper to buy a fork in most cases than an entirely new bicycle in terms of 29"ers. Don't be afraid to try it! If you are one of those that is thinking you might "screw something up" by throwing on that 46mm offset fork, don't be! Chances are you will get along with it fine, the bike will be rideable, and nothing bad will happen in your world because of this. It still will be a bicycle, and you just might like it better.

Hey, if you swap your fork out and it gets you to ride more because you really like the change, it's a good thing, no? 29"ers offer their riders that opportunity. Check it out!