Friday, October 31, 2008

Drop Bar For Mountain Biking: Part V

<===The conversion back to drop bars is complete!

It has taken me awhile to get back to finishing this up, but here is the final post in the Drop Bar For Mountain Biking series.

This picture shows that a standard mountain bike frame can be turned into a successful drop bar rig. Yes, the stem will be a goofy, high rise affair, but it works and that is the point here. To be able to gain the benefits of using drop bars, ( better hand,wrist, forearm alignment, better breathing, better control in rough trail, less fatigue), regardless of looks. But if you ask me, I really like the looks! (Check out the previous post for my custom off road drop bar rig for comparison)

Rant Mode: On- However; not all is well with drop bars today. I happen to know one of the principal designers/influencers of the Midge bar design, (and so by default, the Gary Bar, since it is a Midge clone), and he specified short drop extensions which I feel was a mistake. This affords you one, to maybe one and a half decent hand positions, depending upon your hands size. If yer paws are huge, you are stuck with one place to ride off road. So the Midge/Gary is a bit lacking, in my mind, due to that choice in design. The Wilderness Trail Bike's drop is great in that regard, but the drop is way too deep. This means you have to run a riser stem even on a bike designed for drops.

What I would like to see is something that takes the best of both designs and melds them into one. Then add in a choice of widths. So we could have a drop bar designed for off roading with a shallow drop, (90mm or less), that had a classically designed drop extension that afforded two hand positions,(no "ergo" bend, and room to go "into the drop" or set out at the ends), and a bit more flare to the drop section than either the Midge or Gary provide. (Maybe 5 degrees) My take is that a shallow drop would help with stem choices, a longer drop section gives you more grip options, or you could cut it back to get your "Midge" type length if desired. A little more flare I think would match up with our natural wrist/hand alignment better. Oh! And it has to be bar end shifter compatible too!

Then we have stems. The bane of an off road drop bar fanatics existence. Make us some riser stems already! I mean more than 40 degree rise, like maybe a 50-55 degree rise with reaches from 30mm to 100mm. Make them out of steel, or at least forged aluminum with a removable face plate, (of course) and in 25.4mm and 31.8mm clamp sizes. This will allow folks the chance to check out a drop bar on their current mtb rig. No changing frame sizes, no "shorter top tube". Just use the rig you already have.

Finally, we need an off road drop bar hydraulic brake lever! This one component would blow the doors wide open for drop bar use off road. Make it with a split clamp perch, a carbon fiber blade that is easily replaceable with aluminum ones or with shorter reach blades for smaller hands. Obviously, it would help in crash repairs as well. Then make it so it can have a bar end shifter mounted inside of the lever, sort of like SRAM's new time trial levers. (Those levers are designed so that they always return to the same position whether you shift up or down) Okay, now we'd be talkin' off road drop bars!

Rant Mode: Off- So, that's my take on off road drop bars for you. I hope you enjoyed that series and I apologize for putting off this final installment until now. Here is where you can find Parts one through IV: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Thanks for reading!

Get out and ride those bikes folks! This will likely be your last decent weather weekend in a long while! Go for it!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

First Ride, Long Drive, Freak Out Wednesday!

These wheels, separated at birth, were re-united with each other in time for a woodsie ride.

Wednesday the plan was to hook up with d.p. and do a little B road scouting and some Trans Iowa business. So, after getting my two little ones off to school, I loaded up the Dirty Blue Box with the Badger outfitted with the Edge Composite wheels for the hour and fifteen minute drive. At least that is what I thought! After I got to d.p.'s abode, I found out a bit differently.

After discussing the current situation with Trans Iowa lodging and sponsorship, I went to grab my rig and get set to ride. Problem was, I had no front wheel! Left the dang thing sitting alongside the car when I took off from Guitar Ted Laboratories! Ruh-row! I was freaking! This was an expensive wheel set, probably worth more than The Dirty Blue Box itself. No other choice but to high tail it back to see if by some act of God it would still be there.

To say that there was much cursing, freaking out, and praying for grace would be an understatement. I made it back in an hour and ten minutes, pulled up in front of the lab and whattaya know? There was an Edge Composites rimmed front wheel laying curbside in the street! Lucky for me the crack heads in my neighborhood don't know cycling! That wheel had been laying there for two and a half hours!

So, after I got my sanity back, I decided I may as well go for a woodsie ride in the Green Belt. The recent winds have made a mess out of that area with tons of sticks down and even some very large branches that required frequent dismounts to get over. (Hey! cyclo-cross practice anyone?) It was a good thing to get my head cleared out. Although, I missed out on riding with d.p. and felt like an idiot for not being there to scout with him. (Sorry about that, d.p.!) The results of his scouting B roads can be seen here.

The errant front wheel suffered no permanent injuries due to its separation!
The wheels were fantastic! I will have much more to write about them later, but for now I can say that they were very nice to ride, as they should for a wheel set that should retail at around $2600.00! (Yes.......they are very spendy hoops!) I am just happy that my bone headed maneuver didn't ruin the chance I had to ride and evaluate them. d.p. tells me "everyone has done that at least once". Well, they would probably have to do it about 12 times to catch up with the value of the one mistake I made! Ha ha! At least it all turned out just fine in the end.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trans Iowa Business and More...

Just a quick note or two this morning...

Bikepacking: There is this guy in Arizona that is a huge back country cycling nutcase and happens to know more about computers and software than maybe is good for a soul, but anyway..... His name is Scott Morris and he's been known to track the GDR once in a while with Topofusion mapping and what not, so you may have run across this before. Anyway, he started this site about all of us adventure freaks called You have access to routes and there even is a forum there with information being traded about set ups, hardware, software, and the like. There is even a special page about Trans Iowa there to check out. If you have any GPS data from a past Trans Iowa, Scott wants to hear from you, by the way, so go to the link, 'splore around a bit, and let him know you've got something of interest for him.

Trans Iowa Recon: I will be doing a bit more recon today. Just some fine tuning really, and meeting with some folks in Williamsburg. It's not all business though, as I get to ride my bicycle too! I'll be taking the Edge Composites XC rimmed wheel set on its maiden voyage today. So that ought to be some fun. I'll have some photos to share, hopefully, tomorrow.

The Drop Bar Thing: I haven't forgotten about the drop bar pieces and I will try to get that all tied up yet this week in a final post. Stay tuned!

The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo Thing: This is something else I want to get going on. The date should be set any day now. Stay tuned for that big announcement.

Okay, I think this should have been entitled "Loose Ends Wednesday" or something! My mom used to serve left-overs on Wednesday.......Hmmmm............ I wonder if I am falling into that tradition!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Touring Tuesdays: We're Off On A Hundy!

Here's the next installment from the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". Today we get a chance to see my first century unfold. We also see that I learn a few things about cycling on the road as well.

We pick things up where the ride had just started from Dewar Tap and left north on a quiet county blacktop.....

By the time we had gotten to the Wapsi Valley High School, about 10 to 15 miles in, I had an intense feeling come over me. Hunger! I was famished! So, I called for a stop and I ate most of Troy's dried fruit mix. Next trip I will have to remember to bring some "road food". As we quenched our hunger pangs, we looked around and noticed that it was very peaceful and quiet on this morning. There was nary a car on the roads, and the birds and animals must have still been sleeping. A dreary mist hung in the hollows of the fields. It promised to be a humid summer day, with a good stiff southerly wind. This was good! We were going north with the wind and the road was our own.

As we made our way across Highways 3 and 92, I thought about the hills to come. The gently rolling countryside had proven to be an easy challenge. I knew that greater hills lie before us and I wondered if I would be up to the task. Then my thoughts would be broken by a comment or a joyous whoop made by one of my companions. We could all ride side by side and converse. This made the miles slip away under our wheels.

We reached Lawler Iowa at mid-morning. There we stopped at a convenience store and had some refreshments and filled our water bottles. We would make many stops like this during the week. Generally we might find a bite to eat at one of these stops. Most often though we just had soda pop and Gatorade. We would hang out in the front of these stores, just sitting right on the ground in the parking lot.

This, of course, attracted a lot of attention. People generally would look askance and not give us so much as a "hello". Only children, as a rule, would be curious enough to talk to us. We obliged them and were amused by their curiosity. Sometimes they would even be enthusiastically supportive of what we were doing. There were no children at Lawler this morning; however, just disdainful looks and a bathroom to use. Steve bought some fake chewing tobacco that he cursed for its nasty taste, but he chewed it for the rest of the trip!

We got a little turned around here since we couldn't find the northward black top we were looking for. We finally figured out we had to go east out of town to find that road. Once we were on our way again, it became like before, quiet, an occasional car, but only now it was bright and sunny. It was getting hotter. I had ridden 40 miles now and I felt the miles coming harder. By the time we reached Protovin Corner, I was starving again. More munchies; Pop Tarts and water. We had gone over 50 miles and it was approaching the noon hour.

The next stretch between Protivin and Cresco is a county blacktop that receives as much or more traffic as a State Highway. This was my first experience with "true" highway riding. It also was more hilly. I did not know about drafting techniques. My climbing abilities were not developed yet either. So, I fell off the back often. I would grit it out and catch back up though. This ended up really draining me. After another convenience store stop in Cresco, we had another 12 miles to go to get to Lime Springs. Then another two miles downhill to the park. It was hot, very windy, and 12 o'clock noon when we left. Most of the last leg was in a crosswind, as we were obliged to go west. It was here that Troy broke the wind for me and began to teach me how to draft.

Those twelve miles took forever! I wasn't sure I could make it. Add in some major hills and I thought I was done for. I was in pain and I was cursing myself for being so dumb to think I could go on with this for a week! I thought these hills would be nothing compared to what lie ahead, so therefore I was toast. I was going to have to die because I was stupid enough to think I could do this. Perhaps it is hard to understand, but sometimes, just have to do what you have to do. I did, and somehow I made it.

Next week we see the Lime Springs stop and the end of Day One of "The Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". Stay tuned!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Trans Iowa V5 Recon In Pics!: Part II

<====At first glance, this may appear to be the same hill I put up in the last post. It isn't. There are a lot of hills like this though. Sorry about the ghost image of my map on d.p.'s windshield!

<=== Great scenery abounds. d.p. almost went off the road in a couple spots where the view was too good to miss!

<=== I said that there were "mind numbing flats" on T.I.V5. I meant it! It ain't all hills out there.

<=== The B Maintenance factor will play heavily into how T.I.V5 plays out. No one will escape! This section is in the first 40 miles. If things get too wet and crazy, we have alternate routes for almost all of these.

<=== Some folks didn't get to experience the cemetery hill top finish at T.I.V3, so we thought, "Let's start at a cemetery." Brilliant! Now you all will get to experience it. (Well, all that get in and then show up, that is.)

Okay, here are some more images from the T.I.V5 course for you to ponder. I've got a few more, but I think I will not post them. Not now.

d.p. and I are pretty pumped up about the event though. I will have some more news later on mileages, some sponsorship news, and other tidbits. Stay tuned!

Plus......a registration announcement will be made by the end of this week!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Trans Iowa V5 Recon In Pics!

<==There will be hills and lots of them!

<===This B Maintenance road dissappears into a tunnel of trees!

<===All the B roads were too wet to travel by car. We'll have to re-check those later!

<===There were more than a few B roads that left no option but to walk, or ride in the road bed. No Ditch Riding Here!

<===It was a long, long day in a car. But we accomplished much!

Today I met d.p. in Marengo at 6am at Doose's Cafe for breakfast before we took off on our T.I.V5 recon mission. We did the tail end of the event first, and trashed about 75% of my proposed route before we even hit the gravel!
Then we made it to the first checkpoint town where I saw a rather "earth mother-ish" type standing on the edge of the curb smoking and drinking a cup of java. We were looking for a coffee joint, and low and behold, she beckons to us and we stop to find out she runs the coffee shop in the building behind her. Wow! A "siren" call, eh? Anyway, we go in and the place is like a freaking art museum. It is awesome! So we talked to her about our little event, and she was totally down with it, and wants to open early for us to sample the fine coffee and other caffeinated treats she has 'round the joint. Sweet!
Rolling on, we encounter B roads, mud, re-routes, mud, hawks, hills, more hills, mud, and then our first real checkmate in the route finding.
Our choice was truncated. So we came up with an alternate plan, no biggie. It's looking really good, then.......BAM! Gated, signed "No Tresspassing" Great! So we reconnoiter another route.....truncated! Then I finally find something that worked, even though it involved some pavement. Oh well! It was either that or re-do a major portion of the event, which basically would have put us behind, well......who knows?!! Weeks? Months? We wanted this done today, so we went with the paved option. No biggie! Only about five miles of pave' in all that re-route.
That ate up a bunch of time, but in the end, we had enough time to do the re-route at the end to see how the run in back to Williamsburg would look. So far, so good! The B roads were un-driveable, so those will need to be verified later, but that shouldn't be too big a deal. I think we're good to go, but since the re-routes were pretty extensive in a couple of places, we don't have any hard figures as of yet on mileage, time for cut offs, or an over all time for the event. We should be able to get a good idea on this really soon though. So, stay tuned!
I just got home at the fall of dark. A long, long day, but a productive one. I don't think I've gotten so much sewn up by this time doing a Trans Iowa, so it feels really good.
Now to figure out timing to do registration!

Raliegh "Rainier" Single Speed Cross Bike?

<===Will this frame and fork be mine?
Taking a wild swing at possibly getting this as a skinny tired option in the fleet. Problem is that only 65 are being made and they are all spoken for already. There is a slight possibility that I could score one, so I am taking the chance.
Yeah, limited edition and all that. Funny thing was, they weren't even going to make any, it was just a one off show rig.
Time will tell. If it comes, it might be a really cool, super light option for gravel grindage, and who knows? Maybe I'll hop a barrier someday! I figure that if this guy is doing it and having fun, why can't I?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday News And Views

<===Easton XC-1 Single Speed racing wheels.

The fall is a busy time at Twenty Nine Inches with things to test and newsy bits flowing yet. Here we have some killer Easton wheels that will be tested for the site. Look for a post to show up later at Twenty Nine Inches. These hoops are definitely race oriented. They have narrow rims, lighter gauge spokes, and only 24 of them in each wheel with a 2 cross pattern. We'll see if they are stiff enough for a race day situation!

<=== Specialized tires in the "wagon wheel" size! (photo courtesy of Grannygear)

Twenty Nine Inches also has a new contributor in California. "Grannygear" has just received some Specialized treads and is going to rage them on some SoCal trail here this weekend. Look for an initial report on Twenty Nine Inches today with a followup to come soon. Some of these Specialized treads will also make their way to the Mid-West for evaluation, so stay tuned for that report as well.

Fixie Nation: Well, unless you have been hiding under a pillow, and if you are a cyclist, you have to be aware that there s a fixed gear phenomenon going on all over the nation. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News posted a story today on a new site dedicated to the phenom called "Guys Who Cut Their Own Hair" . They obviously have been up late at night downloading all sorts of content including videos of riding that includes some crazy trick stuff.

Is it me, or does a lot of this stuff not smack of grown ups doing their BMX thing on grown up bikes? Even the graphics and culture seem "borrowed" from that scene. Hmm.....whatever. And ya know, I just did a profile on a local cycling veteran that is up at sixfiftyB His fixie antics pre-date all these yahoos by at least 15 to 20 years. I also happen to know that a fixed gear group existed in Cedar Falls/Waterloo then that used to congregate on top of the Union, doing tricks, riding, and just generally hanging out. Just goes to show ya, it ain't new, it's all about marketing and promotion.

Yeah.....the site I mention above was started by Swobo. So there ya go........

Trans Iowa News: Wow! What a week for Trans Iowa! The event got a huge shot in the arm from a few sources. First up we have Vassago Cycles who stepped up to provide a super cool Fisticuff frame and fork as prizing. Then we have AdventureCorps who in conjunction with the Rough Riders are sending out water bottles and some cool little key chains/lanyards to be given to all of the race entrants. The AdventureCorps and Rough Riders share some similar ideals to Trans Iowa and our own "gravel grindin'" culture here in Iowa and the Mid-West in general. I am super stoked to have these new sponsors and I know d.p. is as well.

Look for a course recon to be happening this weekend. I'll be going out with d.p. and scouting our choices. Pictures and a report to follow, of course. Oh! And don't let me forget the traditional Trans Iowa recon diet of Red Bull and processed beef products! Gotta have fuel, baby!

Busy, busy..... So yeah! It is crazy around here at Guitar Ted Laboratories of late. I haven't even mentioned my Edge Composites wheel build that will be getting started sometime this weekend, my new rain jacket, and my up coming trip with Captain Bob to Minneapolis to ride some Salsa Fargos. Stay tuned for more late fall madness........

And ride your bikes, fools! Even if you are doing the fixie thing, riding a recumbent, or whatever. Just don't stop riding!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Touring Tuesdays: On A Thursday!

The "Beg, Borrow, And Bastard Tour" Gets Its Name:

So yeah, I forgot on Tuesday......... Here's the previous entry.

There is still the explanation of the name of this tour. A little of this can be guessed at, on my part, it is obvious. However; Troy and Steve had some panhandling to do as well. Troy, whose brother's bike he was originally going to use, had to abandon that plan a week before the tour. The bags on the rear struck his heels and there was no way to make it work. So, Troy had to beg and borrow a friends deceased father's bike. Then Steve, he borrowed money for the food for all of us on his girl friend's credit card. (Admittedly, that was a beg and borrow for all of us.) Troy and I also had to borrow sleeping mats and tents.

In a hurried frenzy to ready our bikes, Troy and I spent two nights late at the shop working on them. I had a check at the point where the stem for my drop bars wouldn't work on the bike's original fork. This required a fork change. After three forks we found that the headset needed to be changed as well. Then we discovered after two hours and three headsets that I needed a BMX specific headset! Then it was the tires. I couldn't get any tires to fit on my new wheels! I made my thumbs into burning blister pods trying to force tires too small onto my rims. Not even the efforts of a very drunk and funny Steve could avail me. I was led to cursing and I called out, "This bastard bike!" Well, "bastard" became a pet word of the tour and the title of our tour had been fulfilled.

Troy and I finished our bikes in the nick of time. Saturday came and went, and then I packed my bags and made ready to depart from Dewar Tap at 5:30am Sunday morning. I was a little nervous, very excited, and anxious to go.

On Sunday, August 7th, 1994, I awoke to my alarm clock at 4:30am, walked out into the kitchen and.....AARRRRGH! Glass in my heel! After a little first aid treatment, I got my wife up and we picked up Troy at 5:05am. The sun was just coming up. It was cool, but it looked like it could be a great day. Steve and Brenda, (his girlfriend) were waiting at the Dewar Tap when we got there at about 5:35am.

After fooling around nervously for about 15 to 20 minutes we said our goodbyes. We left northward from Dewar on a county blacktop on our trip. I waved goodbye to my wife and turned away. Goodbyes suck, so I didn't look back.

I really didn't know what to expect. The longest single bike ride I'd ever done was maybe when I rode about 30 miles on the Raccoon River Trail. I don't know what these guys decided to do for mileage when the day started. Although; the plan was to go to my family's reunion in Lime Springs, Iowa some 75 miles away. Maybe it was the motivation of having my relatives see us on our way. Maybe it was the tail wind we had all the way up there. I don't know, but I felt sure I could do it.

Stay tuned next Tuesday when I get into the first day of riding.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Woke Up Late....

So today I woke up late......

I usually am up pretty early, like really early, to do my morning ritual. However; last night was a late one due to a meeting. So, today you are getting a late post.

Today I would normally be testing product for Twenty Nine Inches too.'s going to rain for the third Wednesday in a row! Well, I can't complain. I'll still find plenty to do with Crooked Cog stuff, and ya know, I had a run of awesome weather on Wednesdays for the whole summer. I am bound to get a few stinkers in there at some point for weather on a Wednesday. So it goes.....

Here's what I do have for you, some news about The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. As I posted a few days back, it is going to happen. Here is what I can say now that is definite. First of all, the event is moving, as I said, and it will be in an unlikely but really cool place. That place is in Nebraska and is called Potter's Pasture. Hit the link and check out the latest post on the Potter's Pasture MTB blog to get a glimpse of what to expect. Then check out the other posts so far to get a glimpse of what the trails are all about there. Potter's is out in Western Nebraska and is only a short jaunt off I-80. Easy to get to.

You might say, "Western Nebraska? But who will show up?" Well, that is a great question. Here's the buzz so far on Potter's. Lincoln/Omaha folks are pretty aware of this place and many of the 29"er freaks from there have been to Potter's. They promise me that a fair contingent of that areas 29"er freaks will make the trip over. Plus, Potter's is only 5-6 hours from the Front Range area of the Rockies. I hear that a fair number of Front Range 29"er freaks will also make the trip.

I think it's a great idea, the place is awesome from a riding standpoint, tons of trails in a very unusual setting. The people will show, we have almost a whole year to get the word out. Finally, it will be a perfect joint for laid back camping, hanging out, and just having a simple good time.

And speaking about the timing of the event, it will come at the time when a lot of riders will be looking for a good time. That being the end of the season. We are working out a specific date, but it looks like the second weekend in October 2009 for now. More details will be coming, but for now, that is what we have to put out there now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different!

I am a bit tired of doing all the "serious" posts of late. So, I decided I needed a bit of relief from all of that. Today I am going to download some pics that I would not normally use, but I felt were a good foil for all the "seriousness" of late around here.

<====Arleigh "Arsbars" Jenkins: "What is that word I'm looking for?!! Can'! Arrrgh!"

By the way, this was taken in the dining area of the house Crooked Cog rented in Vegas. Totally locked into the 1960's as far as interior design. I think the walls were really a different color to begin with, but everything looked like it had a fine film of "nicotine stain yellow" to it. Thankfully, the place didn't smell of it!

<==== Fall color landscape.

Ahhh! The fall of 2008 has been a pretty sedate and decent one around these parts. Just what a fall season should be so far. Plenty of warm sunny days, cool nights, and just enough rain to keep things real. And the colors have been pretty decent if not spectacular at times. Hopefully the end of fall is extended a bit before we have to put on so many layers of clothing that cycling becomes like putting mummies on two wheels in the woods! And as for that white stuff? Bleccch! Keep that away for as long as possible too. Ahhh........yeah, I suppose a little of it is fun to ride in for awhile, but I still haven't quite gotten over last winter yet, I suppose.

<==== I was Commuter before Commuter was cool.

I know that none of my readers ever listened to Country Music.........ever! But there used to be a song, I think it was Barbara Mandrel, was called "I Was Country Before Country Was Cool" (Yes....I could Google that......but I ain't gonna!) So, yeah......this bike reminds me of that song. It is my co-worker Joel's bike. A Raleigh Professional that he has had in fixie mode and on 650B wheels for at least 10 years or longer. Waaay before all this "urban hipster", commuter cool crap came around. We're talkin' the gen-u-wine issue here folks! I mean, take a look at this picture. Those rust spots? Yeah.........he earned 'em baby. The hard way!

<===You wanna piece of this? C'mon! Bring it on!

Captain Bob and MTBidwell at the Flat Tire Fest. These guys are part of a very small crew that does everything for mountain biking at Camp Ingawanis. I mean everything! There are only about three other guys that really pitch in, and that isn't too cool for as good as the biking is out there. So, if you want to have something that is arguably three times as good as any dirt around here, and at least on par with anything in the state, why don't you get on board with the IMBA, (That's Ingawanis Mountain Bike Association) for next year and pitch in. (I'm talkin' to the locals here) Price for entry is ridiculously low, and a few hours of your time would do wonders on a trail day. Besides, you get to ride your bike out there on those days. So really, why wouldn't you do it?

All right......maybe that was serious! (It was)

<=== I'll take mine medium rare there Chris! Okay, thanks bud! You're fantastic, really!

Yes, there really is a guy named Chris King, and that be him bar-b-cuing up some fine slabs-o-beef there at Interbike's Outdoor Demo. Those big hunks were sliced up and made into some awesome sandwiches which I ate up rather greedily. You see, I was pretty hungry after working like crazy riding bikes all day in the heat and dust. Did I mention that I scored a free Dale's Pale Ale too? No? Well, thanks to Chris King, "The Other Chris At Chris King" ( That's Chris De Stefano, by the way) and everybody involved there for some fantastic grub and good times. (I wonder who polishes all the smoke residue off the display items afterwards? Hmmm.....) Anyway...It's not everyday you can get a Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame member to cook up yer grub for ya!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Drop Bar For Mountain Biking: Part IV

One of the most common things I see wrong on most drop bar set ups for off roading, (besides seeing the bars too low) are brake levers set too high on the curve of the drop section.

<=== Notice how low on the bend of the Gary Bar's drop I have this old Shimano SLR aero lever set. The clamp is set just above the center of the drops curve which puts the end of the lever far below the drops extension when that extension is parallel to the ground. The thing is though, you normally tilt the extension so that the extensions point downwards toward the rear axle. In this position, the lever tip should be even on an imaginary line drawn from the lever tip to the tip of the extension parallel to the ground.

<=== With the lever in this position on the bar, when you are riding in the primary position (In the drop) your hand will be in close proximity to the lever for ease of braking in an off road situation. I will also add that I probably should have had another person take the picture! I had to do quite the contortion to get these shots!

<==== Okay, back to the matter at hand! Speaking of "hand", the one in your off road drop set up should be capable of reaching out with the index finger and wrapping the end of that finger around the tip of the lever. From there you can pull it back and wrap a second finger around the lever if you choose to. However; I find that I normally do not need to do that as the leverage is high enough that I can generate enough power with one finger to do all but the most demanding sort of braking you might require off road. You wouldn't be able to do this from the drops if your levers are set too high. One tip: It is a wise thing to leave the tape off your newly set up drop bar bike and go for a casual ride around the block to determine whhether or not your lever position is correct from the drop. If it isn't, a quick wrench weilding session is all it takes to adjust it, and you don't have to wrap and re-wrap your bars.

<=== So....maybe you were wondering how I get SLR aero levers to work with BB-7 mountain disc brakes? Well, take a look here. I have the lever pulled much, much further back than one could on a traditional road bike drop bar. This allows me to pull more cable, which is just what the mountain BB-7 requires. (And I don't even have the lever pulled back all the way to the bar in this picture.) Having the lever higher up on the drop would prevent me from doing this, by the way.

True, this set up is definitely not recommended. It is not supposed to work. Be that as it may, this will be the third time I have used this combination, so I am, still alive to write about it!

Here's another look at the set up from the front of the bike. Notice how much "slope" the Gary Bar has which makes the tops a bit narrower than the otherwise similar Midge Bar from On One.

The benefit of having those "sloping" drops is that it opens up a place for your arms and wrists to move around, especially laterally. This is most handy while rocking the bike side to side up a steep climb. Also notice the shallow drop which makes finding a workable stem a bit easier.

Okay, next up will be a final look at my drop bar set up on this Karate Monkey, and a "wrap up" on all of this drop bar madness for off roading.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday News And Views

I am taking a break from the Drop Bars For Mountain Bikes series here until Monday. Look for a continuation of the Karate Monkey drop bar installation then.

Let's Get This Out Of The Way Up Front!: I was interviewed by Rich Kelly of the Interbike Times blog while I attended the Interbike Outdoor Demo. You can check out the frightening results here. (Does anybody like the way they look on camera? And your own voice......we won't even go there!) Oh yeah....and there is a link to another video/interview with Rich from Sea Otter too. Loverly! Just great..............

Okay, now that I have that outta the way..........

Trans Iowa Update: I posted a bit of an update on the T.I.V5 site recently. Nothing earth shattering, just that mainly we are getting set to do the big recon drive on the 25th-26th of this month, weather permitting. The next big date to get concerned about will come in late November when registration will open. Obviously there will be an announcement previous to that. Plus, we may have some pics to frighten and discourage you from the recon if all goes well. (Kidding, only kidding!)

Big Wheeled Ballyhoo? Yep! It is on the move and probably will happen again. This time it will make an appearance in a different local "by request". Plans are being laid and this will be a totally different deal than before. It will be more low key, no big deal, laid back, and fun. I expect that it will be much more like the original idea that the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was inspired by, Bike 29's "Meat-Up" Cookin' and ridin' being the main attractions for this gig. Where and when? I will only say this: In a more unlikely but possibly even cooler place than before and at the "other end of summer". Stay Tuned!

Wear Orange- It's That Time Of Year Again: Deer hunting season is in full swing once again and wearing orange on your woodsie rides is no joke! Also for the locals: The Camp's South Side trails are now closed until January 10th due to bow hunting season being in session. The Camp's North Unit trails are open on weekends. There will be a few expertly skilled bow hunters in that area too, but they dig the fact that we ride through and basically "run" the deer for them, most often right by their stands. I was out there one Saturday last year when three were taken and I would not have even known it but for the Camp Ranger telling me so and then running into a small pool of blood on one of the trails on my way out that day. Think what you may about killing deer, I will only say that there are waaay too many deer per square mile in Iowa and that isn't a good thing for deer.

Okay, it may be nippy out here, but the riding in fall is primo now and it won't last. Get some while you can folks!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Drop Bar For Mountain Biking: Part III

The Conversion: Let's get to the nitty gritty here. I've given you all the necessary back round information, now let's see what it normally takes to retro-fit some drop bars to a standard mountain bike frame. I am using this Karate Monkey of mine as an example. This will be its second conversion to drop bars!

<===Here is where my stem and bars were to start with. It was a fairly upright, relaxed position for sketchy weather riding fixed. Nothing I would normally use for off road, but I am going with it as an example here. Many folks think that you need to compromise and go a size smaller or with some frame that happens to have a shorter top tube to retro-fit off road drops to it. I say "hogwash!" You can use the very frame that actually fits you now. The way a drop bar is properly fitted to a standard mountain bike is all a function of the stem. Let's say I really like the handle bar/grip position shown above. How would I get my drop bars to work and not mess that up?

<===Take a look here. I have zip tied the drop bar just below the grip section of the original bar. The drop section just under my ergo grip there is where I should have my hands the majority of the time I ride off road. If you draw an imaginary line from the red cap on top of the steer tube to just above the center of the drop bar, you will have the rise and reach of the proper stem to get your hands in about the same place in orientation to your saddle and front axle as you had with the flat bar or riser bar you are currently using. No changes needed in your frame. You can ride the same rig you love, just with a change in the stem and handle bar. Sure, you may need a custom stem to get the job done, but that's a lot cheaper than a custom drop bar frame and will still fit you like it should since you are using the same frame. Again, some will balk at this because of the "goofy" stem necessary to pull this off, but it isn't about looks! It is about function: Better feel, better climbing, better comfort. If that trade off is appealing, then drop bars will make sense regardless of looks. As it should be.

In my example, you may recall that I said the bars were not really where I would have them for off roading. I actually would get them about two inches lower, which accommodates a Salsa Moto Ace 40 degree rise X 90mm stem that I purchased for the job. In a follow up, I will present the way I accomplished my drop bar conversion using that stem, some Gary Bars, some old Shimano SLR aero levers, and some Avid BB-7 mtb brakes. (Yes....I know you are not supposed to use those levers with those brakes, works!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drop Bar For Mountain Biking: Part II

Today I want to "drop" some reading resources on you for your further exploration of drop bars for off roading. I by no means am the only person that rides off road with drops and there are definitely more experienced folks out there doing it. In fact, some of them write about those experiences. These are the folks I'm going to point you towards today.

Mike Varley: Mike has been around mountain biking longer than I have and was there for the first big drop bar craze of the late 80's. He wrote this excellent article for a publication that is a great example of what drop bar mountain biking was and looked like in circa 1990. I really like the picture of the original WTB drop bar he has in that piece. There are no bars for off roading quite like those. Too bad they don't make them like that anymore!

You can get more of Mike's excellent wit and wisdom about all sorts of bicycle related topics at his shop blog, Black Mountain Cycles.

Don Person aka "Shiggy": I know Don and he has been a devoted drop bar user off road for 20 years or more. If it can be done on a drop bar mtb, Shiggy has probably done it, and done it first. From full suspension bikes to single speeders and everything in between. Shiggy has a ton of drop bar experience. Check out his scribe on drop bars here. Shiggy has some excellent photography there as well. Pay particular attention to his brake lever placement, bar height, stem choices, and the animation showing all the usable hand positions is awesome.

Then when you are finished, take some time to look around at Shiggy does a lot of tire testing and reviews. He has a great resource there for tire info.

Matt Chester: Matt is a frame builder with a somewhat chequered past, but be that as it may, he is an authority on drop bar use, especially from a historical perspective. So I will point you to a great review he did on On One Midge bars here. Matt also did another review on Midge bars for here. Pay attention to the details in set up and bits of history sprinkled into these scribes. You can catch Matt Chester at his blog occasionally when he isn't fabbing or becoming a dyed in the wool roadie in Ontario, Canada.

If you can't figure out drop bars for off roading after all of that, isn't for you then, my friend!

Look for my screed on available drop bars, stems, and brakes for drop bar mtb's coming soon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Touring Tuesdays: The Beginning Part II

Last Tuesday we were introduced to Troy and Steve, two of the guys that went on the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This week we will be introduced to Tom, the bike shop owner and a bit of a twist in the plot:

Tom, the owner of Advantage Cyclery, was another RAGBRAI nut. He really, really liked RAGBRAI alot. When he found out about Troy and Steve's plan to have a little tour from Cedar Falls to Canada, he promptly invited himself along for the ride. He said it sounded like fun. Well, being taken aback by his announcement, all Steve and Troy could say was, "All right then...." And that is how Tom got on the roster.

Plans were then laid, and preparations started. The crew would leave one week after RAGBRAI's completion to allow for full recovery from RAGBRAI's drunken breath. Then on August 7th, it was off to Canada!

During RAGBRAI Troy and I toiled away at Advantage Cyclery. Troy was preparing his bike at this time for the upcoming trip and I was wistfully looking on. Troy was almost desperately looking forward to this trip because of all the hours we were putting in at work. I wanted to go along, but what was I thinking of? I had no bike suitable for such a tour, no bags, no tent, nothing. I had no road riding experience, and although I was in better physical condition than I had been in years, I had not spent much time on the bike in recent weeks. No bike, no gear, and no base miles equals no business going on a tour. I knew that, so I quit dreaming and kept working.

It was on Sunday, the day after RAGBRAI, as I was at work that Tom came in. He'd just returned from RAGBRAI and he announced that RAGBRAI '94 was a rousing excess. As an aside, he mentioned that he wouldn't be going on the Canadian trip. "What!", I said, "Not going? Why?" Well, apparently his RAGBRAI tour bus had broken down, the repair costs looked to be steep, and that would keep him off the tour.

A new chance leaped into my brain. A crazy idea. I could take his place on the tour! Insanity! I want to do it.

So, Monday I broke the news about Tom to Troy. He reacted calmly, as if savouring the taste of it before he responded. Tom then came back in an told him as well. Later that day while working alongside of Troy I mentioned the oddness of Tom's decision to drop out. Troy told me of his fear that the Canadian tour would turn into a "quest for the bars". He thought that was less likely now that Tom was not going. Then in what must have been a fit of utter insanity, he calmly added, "Why don't you go along?" My heart flamed with desire to say "Yes!" and loudly. All I said was, "Maybe. I'll have to think about it." Ha! Thinking stages had been passed long before. But only I knew that then.

In a short time, however, all resistance was washed away. Tom said he could let me off work. Duane and Toby, (co-workers at the shop) lent me their bags. The bike was a used Mongoose mountain bike I had been eyeing in the basement. Troy loaned me his brothers tires to put on some wheels I had just laced up. But there was a small matter of money that needed to be dealt with.

I told Troy that by Wednesday I would know if I could come up with the minimum of $150.00 to do the trip. That was the agreed upon figure each of us needed to bring. I managed to cover my obligations and scratch up $200.00! Still, there were two things I wanted to be assured of before I would say yes to this and go.

One thing I definitely did not want was to be a hindrance to the other two guys. I was assured that I could make it with some great pain and effort. "Just come along!", they said. Secondly, I wanted to be assured that I had not "invited myself", as Tom had been perceived as doing. They assured me that wasn't the case, so I said I would come, to which they reacted with enthusiastic "thumbs up".

That is how I got on the roster and how Tom got off. Although I still am baffled as to Tom's sudden reversal. At any rate, I was going.

Next Tuesday we'll learn why the tour ended up being called the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". We'll also get a glimpse of some harried last minute preparations before the send off.

Look for more Drop Bar stuff on Wednesday.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Drop Bar For Mountain Biking: Part I

Today I want to address the subject of the drop bar for mountain bike use. It seems to be a ridiculous suggestion to some mountain bikers to even consider a drop bar off road, but in reality, drop bar usage off road pre-dated flat bar use off road, even in the beginning of the "modern era" of mountain biking, which I put at about 1977 or so. (Basically when Joe Breeze conjured up and made his first purpose built off road bike)

Guys were using "drop" bars off road and they worked great. When the whole "mountain bike" thing got going; however, there was a movement that rejected anything "roadie" oriented. Drop bars were most commonly associated with road racing rigs, so the whole idea of even thinking about using a drop bar off road was a totally "anti-mountain bike" thing for many folks. Some folks didn't get that message though and were thinking in a whole different manner.

Folks like Tom Ritchey, who used his road bike off road more than a mountain bike. But chief amongst the drop bar for off road aficionados was Charlie Cunningham. Amongst other innovations, it was primarily his influences that made the late 80's drop bar boom in mountain bikes a reality. I took many of my cues from Charlie's writings on the subject, so I credit him here as the reason I got into the whole idea as well.

So, using my custom built for drops Badger, I will endeavor to illustrate why and how drop bars for mountain biking work. If you think it makes sense, well then maybe it will be something that will change the way you mountain bike, or maybe it is just a curiosity. Whatever the case, here is the information that I hope will help you decipher what is going on with this whole idea.

First off, here is the bike. I must say up front that there are a couple of key things happening with this rig that you should take note of. First, the frame angles and fork were "modified" to accommodate the use of a drop bar with a "normal stem". The other way to get drop bars to work with mountain bikes not designed for drop bars is to use a stem that accommodates the proper position of your bars. (More on that in a minute) Either way, the ideal position for your drops is to have the drop section be where your flat bar grip height would normally be. This means that the drop bar needs to be higher than a road bike bar to achieve this ideal. (Remember also: Drop bars work best off road if you stay in the drops) So, with that in mind, your frame designed for drop bars offroad will typically have a longer head tube, a severely sloping top tube, and/or an extended fork. Maybe a combination of all three things, maybe just one or two, it depends on the individual rider. Again, a non-drop bar mtb may have a really tall, goofy looking stem to achieve the proper drop bar position. It is just the way it is. You may not approve of the looks, but drop bar folks don't use drop bars because it makes their bikes "look cool". They use drops off road because they work better for the rider in question. Not that a drop bar mtb can not look good. I know of some that are awesome looking.

As you can see here, if I use the drops my hand position is only slightly below my saddle. That's what I wanted and that's where my flat bar grips would be. If the picture was a bit clearer, it would be apparent that my hand position would be just slightly aft of the center line coming out from the stems handle bar clamp area. The hand position mimics an 80mm stem/flat bar set up. I used a Thomson 100mm stem on this bike. Note: A drop bar set up for off roading should not consider using the hoods or bar top as the primary hand position. The drop is where it is at to make the idea work its best.

These are "Gary Bars" by Origin 8. They are very similar to the On One Midge bar. These two bars are currently the most favorable choices for setting up a dirt use drop bar. WTB has a model, but it has more "drop", and therefore is more difficult to get to work right, especially on non-custom applications. The "drop" is the difference between the bar top and the lower extensions. The Gary and Midge have a very shallow drop, which makes getting your set up correct an easier thing to do. Note also the slope of the drops, which is more severe on the Gary bar pictured. This really has no bearing on fit, as you will not be "on the hoods" very much, if at all with a dirt drop set up. Although I will say, it is actually very comfortable to perch the hands there from time to time.

Here is a great view showing the shallow drop of the Gary Bar. (Remember, the Midge has an identical drop) Note also how low the brake levers are lower on the bars. You should be able to reach out from the drops and grab the end of the brake lever with your index finger, at least. This means that the levers will look ridiculously low at first, but trust me, that is where you want the levers. Stopping is good! You might also notice that the drop extensions really do not flare out all that much. These are more akin to road drops than anything else used for mountain biking. The drops align your wrists, elbows, and shoulders in a different way that I find relaxes your upper body more and promotes better breathing. You'll find your elbows closer to your sides, and that you are not using so much energy to hold on to the handlebars. I find it promotes a longer day in the saddle. Finally, your hands can relax a bit, since rocky, rough sections force the handle bar into your grip, and they don't tend to rip out of your hands because of the way your hands are aligned on the bars.

I'll post later with my Karate Monkey to show how you accommodate drop bars to a frame not designed with drops in mind.

Now on to the questions..........
"How do they compare to "regular bars" in technical sections. After 23 years of standard flat bars, (well bull moose at the start), I gave the Mary bars a try and love them, so like many curious about the drops."
"I could see some of the advantages of drop bars for mt. biking, but what about in rocky or technical terrain?"

Well, as stated above, they actually work rather well. Think of how a cyclo cross bike works off road to begin to see how bump forces are dealt with while using drop bars. The climbing off road with drops is really an eye opener. Think of how you pull up on a pail handle to get an idea how a drop bar allows you to use your upper body in a different way to climb. I think its awesome. Actually, if you have ever stood and climbed a steep on a road bike in the drops, you already know how it feels

One of the commenters, "mw", who is an avid drop bar user off road had this to say about riding in technical sections with drops:

"I like the drops even in technical situations. Weighting the bar is natural but different feeling since your hands are in a different orientation. The goal is getting the drop at your normal flat bar height. If not then the front end will feel heavier since your hands are further down and your weight bias is further forward as a result."

Look for another update to this post in the days to come.....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall Riding Stoke

I'm really not much of a photographer, but I thought these were okay.

It's hard to take a bad shot with this early morning light, a blue sky, and fall colors starting to pop.

The trails are primo too!

Sometimes I'd just slam on the brakes and sit slack jawed for several minutes.

I didn't ride long because I'm recovering from a terrible head cold. This was just what the doctor ordered.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday News And Views

On Drop Bars For MTB's: Thanks for the couple of suggestions that I did get for topics on this upcoming post. I will be posting my thoughts on this again Starting Monday, so look for that.

Cross Racing On Live Streaming Internet T.V.: I get press releases all the time about cycling related stuff, most of which is outside of my focus, but this one I thought I'd pass along as I know a lot of you folks are into clodding around on road bikes in the mud. How about some Belgian cyclo-cross madness live on your inner-web-o-sphere idiot box? Check this out:

From Sunday October 12th on, Belgian TV Channel VT4 presents live streaming of the Superprestige Cyclo-cross races. This means everybody can watch the race online on

Thanks to the huge success of last year’s cyclo-cross on VT4, the Belgian (Flemish) TV-channel decided to extend the contract with the organizers of the Superprestige for three more years, with an option for a fourth year. VT4 also retains the two evening stages in Ruddervoorde and Diegem. In Ruddervoorde, the race starts at 5 PM (start broadcasting at 4.30 PM). In Diegem the start will be postponed to 5.30 PM (start broadcasting at 5 PM). All other races start at 3 PM, with start broadcasting at 2.30 PM and ending around 4.20 PM.

Overview of all Superprestige races 2008-2009:

Ruddervoorde (Belgium) Sunday October 12th

Eerde-Veghel (Netherlands) Sunday November 2nd

Hamme-Zogge (Belgium) Sunday November 23rd

Gavere (Belgium) Sunday November 16th

Gieten (Netherlands) Sunday November 30th

Diegem (Belgium) Sunday December 28th

Hoogstraten (Belgium) Sunday February 8th

Vorselaar (Belgium) Sunday February 15th

Okay? So there ya go. Mark your calendars. I have no idea if the times listed are Belgian, but I would assume so seeing as how these events are being broadcast live. In that event, I'd figure on about a 7 hour difference for CST. If that is the case, a lot of you will be missing church on those mornings, eh?

<===More Porn, Just For Sonya!

Edge Composites Hoops Arrive: In gear news, I can announce now that Twenty Nine Inches just received a pair of Edge Composites XC carbon fiber 29"er hoops that will be laced up and tested for the site. Yes.....carpet fibre.....and they are light! I will now need to procure some uber-light type of hub to begin the wheel lacing process with. Stay tuned to Twenty Nine Inches where all the details will be laid out for you.

24 Hours Of Moab This Weekend: The last big 24 hour event of the year kicks off tomorrow in Utah. The 24 Hours of Moab is claiming one of the most stacked fields in its long history. Is this not the defacto Worlds of 24 hour racing now? Well, however that plays out for you, the event promises to be brutal with forecasts calling for high winds, rain, and perhaps even snow! J-kove, (formerly known as Mr. 24) is there with his Ergon goods at the expo area. Check out his blog for the exciting blow by blow. It could be an epic race, and it could just be plain ol' epic!

Cure For The Stock Market Blues: Number One: STOP WATCHING THE NEWS!!! There isn't a thing you can do to change it, and watching/listening will only make you go bonkers, or send you to the deep dark hole of depression. Number Two: Ride yer dang bicycle, fer cryin' out loud! Nothing cleanses the mind and soul like a good hard ride on your favorite pavement or dirt loop. Number Three: Just wait it out, it'll all work itself out given some time. The focus on the "nanosecond" will only make you go blind.

Okay, that's my armchair psychologist advice for ya'all. Probably worth what you are paying for it here, but that's my take. Get out and ride! Quit yer snivelin'! Have some fun already.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Drop Bars, White Parts, And Other Random Musings

<====Quad XC "Dime" brake caliper and rotor

I'm giving you all a sneak peek at my latest project which I suppose should be called "Project White", but could just as easily be called "Project Resurrect Raleigh" . The Raleigh XXIX+G has been languishing in the corners of The Lab for months all torn down to the bare frame after I whacked the derailleur off of it late last winter.

I recently have come up with the idea to build it back up using a Origin 8 Black Ops fork that I got in a shorter axle to crown that should make the Raleigh much like the single speed version of the XXIX. A little steeper in the head angle with a bit more offset than the Reba it came with should result in a snappier handling rig, much like the old XXIX I had only this one fits me! The old XXIX was a size too small as it turned out.

<===The Quad XC Dime brake lever and white crowned version of the Black Ops fork.

I'll also be getting a white handle bar and stem, a carbon fiber seat post, a new X-9 rear derailleur, and a red Salsa LipLock seat collar for it. The build will be featured in both Twenty Nine Inches
and The Bike Lab. I probably won't have this ready yet for awhile since I am footing the bill for the whole she-bang myself on this one. It looks to be ready sometime in November. Yeah.......just in time for winter, I know! Oh well, my timing may be off, but it should be a killer looking rig.

Drop Bars For Mtb: I have those web tracker bots on this blog, (Yeah! I know where you are coming from! Muwahahaha!) And ........anyway, I see something hitting the top of the keyword charts daily lately. That is anything having to do with drop bar mountain bikes, Gary Bars, or Midge bars. It is pretty common to see that pop up some here on the list at any time, and since I have done several posts on that subject, it shouldn't be surprising. However; since the introduction of Salsa Cycles Fargo model, the drop bar searches have gone berserk. From all over the U.S.A to the U.K. and even some in Europe. It's crazy to see how much drop bar interest there really is out there for mtb's.

So, what questions do ya'all have? C'mon! I know you are searching anyway, and I will definitely answer any comments about the subject folks leave today in an upcoming post guessed it! Drop Bars for Mountain Biking. Everything you wanted to know and a bunch o stuff you probably don't. Beware! I have some fairly strong opinions on the matter based upon my delving into history and my own personal experience. Again, if you have a question regarding drop bars for mountain bikes, or the Salsa Fargo in particular, drop the question in today's comments. Even if you folks don't leave a comment, I'm going to do the post, so you might as well leave the question, mmmkay?

So, regarding the Fargo, I see my Crooked Cog colleague Tim Grahl authored a post about the Fargo as a commuter rig on Commute By Bike while we were at Interbike. The comments were.....interesting. Folks were balking at the price, which is set at $650.00 MSRP on the frame and fork. They were saying they would rather use a Surly Long Haul Trucker or a Cross Check since they were cheaper. Well, let's take a look here at some facts, shall we? The MSRP on the Fargo is.....well, a suggested retail. Street prices are likely to be somewhat less, but then again, they may not be much less due to the Fargo's high initial demand. Surly's are selling for a shade over $400.00 for Cross Check frame and forks and as high as $450.00 for a LHT frame and fork. So, lets say the difference is about $200.00 between the Fargo and the Surly rigs.

Okay, $200.00 is a lot of coin, but the bikes really are not even in the same league. The Surly examples are built upon road bike ideals: horizontal top tubes, geometry of road bikes, cantilever brakes, limited tire clearances with fenders, and lighter, road specific forks. The Fargo, on the other hand, is built from a dirt perspective. Tougher frame details and fork design, more stand over clearance, a better position for the drop bar for off road, ( ie: higher), better clearance for fat tires and fenders, disc brakes, and better handling in the rough stuff due to it's off road bred geometry.

It might not add up to $200.00 difference to you, especially if you will never ride your bike on mountain bike type trails, but if you would, the Fargo makes way more sense. Also, a person might consider the Fargo his or her mountain bike and commuter bike, which you can't do with the Surly bikes mentioned. Oh! Yeah, you could ride a LHT off road, or a Cross Check, but the Fargo would smoke either one, given that the terrain was truly mountain bike worthy. At any rate, try taking your $200.00 savings and buy a mountain bike frame and fork half as good as a Fargo. It ain't happening.

So, I found it funny that folks were stuck in the "commuter bike box" when looking at the Fargo. Especially when they had no qualms about a touring bike or a cyclo-cross bike as a commuter. I guess the commenters weren't mountain bikers too, or they may have taken a different tack on the Fargo.

But that bike, the Fargo, defies conventions, and a lot of folks are having a hard time getting their minds wrapped around the concept of it. Then again, a lot of folks are "getting it", and I suspect that the Fargo will be a very popular rig in 2009.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Musings On The Fork Swapping Experiment: Part III

Well this whole experiment is starting to wind down to a close now. I have the Fox F-29 with G2 offset yet to try out and then the ol' Blackbuck will get the Spinner 2Nine fork slapped up front for a longer term. I need to evaluate the Spinner fork and that will not only be the last fork in this experiment, but overlap into a review on the fork itself. Should work out if we have riding into the late Fall!

Anyway, some conclusions are being reached now that I have had the time to stew over my results. The findings are not too surprising, given my original hypothesis, which was that the "numbers" don't tell the whole story. They don't. You can not really fathom how a 29"er might handle just from a geometry table. A result of old thinking that was homogenized by years of 26"er inbred geometry figures and handling traits.

So what is the story? This shouldn't be surprising either, but I was sort of slapped upside the head with this one. Kind of a "whoa" experience where you are too focused on details and not seeing the obvious answer which is staring you right in the face the whole time. It is the wheel itself.

Yes, the nature of the 29"er wheel itself is the answer. It has a greater gyroscopic effect and causes your rig to have more stability. This in turn affects handling.(Duh! you say?) Well, what was not really understood was how much it affects handling. It colors handling in a far greater way than I thought previously. This is why a 29"er with a "ridiculous" head angle of 74 degrees with an "un-ride able" offset of 51mm can work. Not just work, but work pretty dang well.

That is why your bottom bracket height, which on one rig I rode at Interbike was something like 14 inches, doesn't really throw off handling like you might think it should. It is why Fisher's G2 handling doesn't make any sense on paper. It is the wheel folks. It does stuff to a bikes handling that smaller wheels just couldn't do.

And that is just one more reason I like 29"ers better than the smaller wheeled choices. Nothing else quite measures up.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Touring Tuesdays: Backing Up A Bit

Okay folks, I have to back up a hair on this touring story a little. One thing that I knew was my "ace up my sleeve" on this idea was that I had written a rough draft of about half of the trip in story form right after I returned in 1994. Well, after a little digging around, I found it. 27 pages front and back!

So, this is a bit of a treasure trove on this tour's story since I was pretty detailed in my story telling. I read through the first few pages and I'm telling you, I forgot a ton! So, with that in mind, here is the "Legend" for how you can decipher this and future blog posts where I will draw directly from my earlier text. The original story will be in italics. Anytime you see that, it was written in 1994. Anything else is commentary from today- 2008.

So here is a back round to the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard" tour story from 1994 as I wrote it then. The people in the story are myself, Troy, and Steve, who went on the tour. On with the story.......

Late one evening, I do not recall exactly when, Troy was longing for a vacation. A much needed respite from the daily grind of the bike shop at which he and I were employed. This vacation, ironically, must include cycling. This was Troy's only stipulation. A vacation mounted on a two wheeled steel horse off to anywhere. Wind in your face, freedom from daily drudgery.

The easy solution was RAGBRAI. Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, that's what it stands for, you know. A week long extravaganza spanning the state from West to East taking in a great number of small villages and towns along the way. Its reputation is well known nationwide. Drinking and dancing along the way. A veritable bacchanalian bike ride for the behaviourally challenged. This is; however, NOT Troy's idea of a bicycle vacation.

Troy was on RAGBRAI once. Once. He did not relish the experience. Troy hated it then and I know he really hates it now. Not just because the weeks before RAGBRAI are insane at our bike shop. No, he also dislikes the attitude of people associated with it. It reminds me of the day a cyclist came into the bike shop and says," Don't you go on RAGBRAI?" To which Troy flatly replied, "No." Then this man retorts back with, "Well, do you race any other time of the year?"

This boiled Troy's blood. You see, Troy is an accomplished racer by all accounts. Therefore and here after, Troy has dubbed RAGBRAI as the "bike ride from which all cyclists are judged." I suppose that this sarcastic description is what I think as well.

Since RAGBRAI was now out of the question, Troy declared that this vacation must be something epic. A trip that would be understood by even the simplest of cycling fools as a great challenge. No beer sodden ride through Iowa pasture land for Troy! He must make a fully self supported effort. Full bagged and loaded type touring.

A worthy destination was needed. How about Canada? Could Canada be reached within a week? Some muddled late night computations were done in our minds. The answer? Hell yes! But with whom? Troy was not willing to go it alone.

I did not offer up myself as a companion, as I did not have the bike or the base miles to do such a thing. I instead offered up the name of Steve. I knew him as a touring nut and a RAGBRAI trooper. Troy was stoked and when he asked Steve a couple of days later he said "Yes"! The trip was on!

Okay, that's it for today's installment. Check back next week when I reveal a little twist in the plot and lay out some more back round for this tour story.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Economy and Bicycles

If you pay any attention to the news, you are painfully aware of two things: It is an election year, and the economy pretty much is sinking rapidly. I don't get into too much if any of these sorts of things on Guitar Ted Productions, but today I wanted to touch on how this new turn of events may affect bicycles in particular.

Obviously the high gas prices and the economic atmosphere we enjoyed previously to this "fall", (yes.....a double-entendre!), were conducive to selling and fixing tons of bicycles. Now with things taking a slide backwards, how will it affect bicycle sales and repairs?

Well, the gas price pressure has been reduced for those that still have a job, or a house to live in! Right now the price per gallon here hovers just above $3.00 per gallon. ( Your mileage may vary......ha ha! I'm full of it this morning!) Anyway..........gas prices are not really going to help with bicycle sales anymore, or so it would seem.

Then you have winter coming on, which really clouds things since the bicycle industry typically slows way down now anyway. So immediate effects may be difficult if not impossible to gauge. This means it is time for some down and dirty inner-web-o-sphere speculatin'!

In my mind, this is the sign that the economy is finally going to correct itself. We have been riding in a boat full of holes, living in a house of cards, if you will, for far too long. Heck, I thought this would happen years ago. Not that I am any economic genius, but when I observed houses selling for half a million dollars in this area, (The cheapest housing market in the U.S.A. mind you) and the banks taking on 50 year mortgage loans, well......I knew it couldn't last! And I'm just a bicycle mechanic.

So, if the economy really is in a corrective mode, I'm not so sure that bicycle sales will be all that bad come spring. My take is that folks will be still looking for inexpensive ways to get around and to recreate. Bicycles still fit that bill. Folks will still be wanting to fix up those old, neglected, dusty bikes next spring. Maybe 2009 won't be an "up" year, but I'm sure t won't be a really down year either. I think the bicycle industry is actually poised to be one of the few industries that grows in 2009.

Only time will tell. At any rate, I don't plan on stopping my riding, so whatever happens I'll be pedalling on down the road........or what's left of the road.........

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Camp Igawanis Trail Work Day

<===Inlet of the smallish culvert pipe that the Scout Camp got to work with. It ain't much, but it's something!

I went to work at the Scout Camp Saturday and put in some "sweat equity" on the trails I've been using all summer. The project this fine day was to move around some rock and rip-rap to help shore up a new pipe they got to use as part of a crossing on Quarter Section Run.

The spring flooding made the creek a lot wider and imported a whole bunch of sand in. Much of the sand we are using to our advantage for now. We decided to make two runs for the water to go around. One through a pipe shown here, and the other through a makeshift "bridge" of sorts, made from slabs of old concrete paving.

<===Looking downstream. The Cedar River isn't far away from here.

The Camp Ranger, Tim Cook was in charge and was using a nifty John Deere tractor with a bucket or at times a fork attachment which he deftly moved rocks and slabs of concrete with.

The work was also helped along by Jeremy Bidwell's fine jack hammer skills. I tell you what, I wouldn't ever want to run one of those things! Nice job Jeremy. Thanks for doing that job.

<=== Tim Cook doing an expert job on the tractor.

The day almost took an ominous turn when Tim just about tipped the tractor over in the steam. He very alertly put down the bucket which saved him. That's why he was running the tractor, and not me!

I couldn't stay past noon, so I don't know how long they worked or how much got finished, but this will be a nice addition to the Camp. We'll be able to ride right over to the South side from here instead of going around on the gravel roads. It will increase the size of the loop I can do and also will provide the Camp with better race course options in the future.

One important note: The South Side is closed to hikers and bikers until next year now due to bow hunting season. So don't go over there okay? The north side is still open and will stay that way all Fall and into winter as long as we can ride. Bow hunting is happening over on that side as well, but there are only about five guys allowed in and all of these guys are certified, know about and welcome our presence there. We tend to make the deer get up and run, which tends to run them right by their deer stands. last year it worked out really well. Just don't be surprised to see blood on the trail and wear something bright.

I'm looking forward to some fall riding and hopefully fall lasts a good long time this year.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thoughts On Belt Drive Systems For Bicycles

<===Spot Brand made it clear to me that they were not "just a belt drive company".

Today I saw a story about Travis Brown from Trek using a belt driven cyclo-cross bike at CrossVegas last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. This prompted me to make a few observations on belt drive systems for bicycles.

I have ridden the belt drive at Interbike last year and I was not really all that impressed. Belt drive is supposed to be this ultra quiet drive train that is smooth and .........well, I don't really know what else. Cool? Different? Yes, I suppose it is those things. I'll tell you what though, it isn't better than a chain drive for mountain biking.

The belt drive system for bicycles is being developed by the Gates Company which does all sorts of belt technologies for motorized vehicles. They were out at Interbike last year en force to answer any questions and to observe first hand a real world demonstration of the "Carbon Belt Drive System" performance. After a quick briefing by the Gates folks, I got on board a Spot Brand bike and took off on the Demo loop at Bootleg Canyon.

On a steep up, I heard a very loud "pop" and I thought I was going to crash because of a belt failure, but I didn't. I rolled on. At the Spot Brand tent, the Gates folks were telling me I "ratcheted" the belt. This is when you essentially get the belt to slip one tooth over on the cog or more. I did that and that was the loud "pop" I heard. With the belt tensions on the verge of being too tight for the bearings on the hubs already, Gates had to go back to the drawing board for a revision for this year.

What they did was to specify a larger "chain ring" and rear "cog" size with a slightly reduced amount of tension on the belt. The larger "cogs" would increase the number of engagement points and hopefully eliminate the "ratcheting" problems. I'm not sure if this also addressed the many complaints of noise in the system from 2007 Interbike riders, but it may have.

The belt drive was again seen at Interbike, albeit a bit more quietly than in 2007. How did it fare? Well, on Day two of the Demo, a rider was seen coming back out of the test loop with a broken belt. Okay, I'm convinced. Belt drive isn't a great idea for a single speed mountain bike. At least not a "conventional" frame mountain bike.

Travis Brown's cross rig addresses some of these pit falls with a beefier chain stay from a tandem bike and whopping, massive eccentric drop outs that are designed to help eliminate flex in the critical drive train area, which should help out the belt in terms of ratcheting and breakage issues. Hmmm...............hey! I've got an idea! How about using a chain drive!

<===The future home of belt drive systems is "here" today.

So, where will all this effort eventually lead us? I believe there is really only one benefit to a belt drive system that will be marketable in the future. It isn't low noise, ( a well lubed chain is nearly silent), it isn't "smoothness" ( a properly set up single speed can be super smooth). So what is it? It is low maintenance and a "clean" drive train. Where does this make the most sense? On commuter bikes. Commuters don't want to fiddle with chain maintenance or have to deal with that greasy thing getting their pants and legs all dirty. Enter belt drive which needs no lube and can be cleaned by a simple spritzing of water. Low torque loads seen by most commuting cyclists would ease issues of "ratcheting" and breakage. Belt drive dovetails nicely in with internally geared drive trains, already a favorite with commuters. What's not to like here?

Belt drive for commuter bikes is a no brainer. Just keep it the heck away from my mountain bike, okay?

It's Friday, so you know what that means! Get out and enjoy some crisp fall riding while the gettin is good!