Thursday, December 31, 2009

Guitar Ted Productions Rearview 2009: Part IV

<===I was rewarded with a primo fall color ride in October. The air was literally golden!
October/November/December: Well, this month started out on a somber note when my father in law had to go in for emergency open heart surgery. Not only that, but due to the circumstances, I had to cancel my participation in the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. First off- Thank you Matt Gersib for taking up the slack there. I let you and everybody down, and I felt like a total chump in the early part of the month. While it was out of my control, there it is. I felt about as low as you can back then. Thankfully I was able to get in some awesome fall color rides that picked up my spirit again. That golden color was awesome and that one ride in particular was like being in another world entirely.
The Ballyhoo itself suffered a freak snow storm but even though attendance was not what we originally had hoped for, good times were had anyway. My feeling, and this is just my personal opinion, is that the Ballyhoo idea is just cursed. At least from my end of things. I've been clubbed over the head twice now. I get the idea. Don't look for me to be involved in promoting that again.
Moving on from that personal low point, I was spending the rest of the month getting things in order to close out some testing for Twenty Nine Inches before the snows came. I also was getting the first recon of the T.I.V6 course readied. That happened and d.p. and I were really excited about the first quarter of the course we got to lay eyes on.
Besides those two huge events, I got a lot of riding in on the Salsa Big Mama, I got the Gun Kote Salsa El Mariachi back and started to build it up, and my long running "Touring Tuesdays" took it's final bow in the beginning of November. I did start up the "Trans Iowa Thoughts" posts though in October which will help keep folks in T.I.V6 up to date with how the event develops.
November kicked off with a big, big surprise from my friend George Wissell from Bike 29. I had been giving him some grief over three NOS purple anodized Chris King headsets he acquired. Well, he saw my El Mariachi, and gifted me one of the treasured purple ano headsets to install on it. (Once again- Thanks!) I was floored!
Then I started out with a new series for the replacement of "Touring Tuesdays" called "Bike Shop Tales" which is going to be my outlet for telling the story about my early shop rat days at Advantage Cyclery. I also posted a retrospective on my year with Salsa Cycles Fargo.
After a week or so into November, there was a big pow-wow in Grinnell about Trans Iowa V6 which got the ball rolling on a lot of details concerning the event. I posted the registration announcement immediately following and the madness of post cards, gifts, and people coming out of the woodwork to get into T.I.V6 began.
In between all of that I got in a great gravel ride with A-Lo, d.p., and for a short bit, mtbidwell. I also raided the Camp for the final times doing last minute Specialized 29"er testing, and did a lot of after work rides for the same reasons. Winter was coming. The fading daylight, the feel in the air, and the Turkey Burn Ride all pointed to snow and soon.
Well, we barely got a week into December and we got not just a little dump, but we got walloped with 15 inches of snow which shut down not just the off road cycling, but just about everything. So, I turned to writing to take my mind off things. I started Gravel Grinder News to chronicle all the gravel racing/culture in the nation these days. I also did a lot of stuff on the sites I write for, getting year end stuff in order.
Finally, it always amazes me, but this time of year is when a lot of gear testing opportunities crop up and I was busy with a lot of that coming right into the end of the year. The snowing, blowing, and cold still persists, and getting to ride is really tough now. Hopefully 2010 won't continue like December has!
That's a wrap on the "Rearview For 2009". I will follow this up with an outlook for 2010 in my next post.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guitar Ted Productions Rearview 2009: Part III

Continuing on with Part III of the Rearview for 2009...........
July/August/September: July started out pretty mellow with the last plans for the GTDRI and figuring out whether T.I. should move its date or not. (It stayed the same by popular vote). The the GTDRI in the middle of the month came on a very cool, (by July standards), weekend and was a brutal, fun, epic event. Topped off by what might be the most intense weekend of cycling at the end of the month with the Second Fargo Adventure Ride/Rock Lake Trail ride weekend. Intense, but totally awesome! By the end of July I was being told I had taken another step up in terms of riding and fitness. Good to hear! All the riding was paying dividends, and so far 2009 was a high point in my cycling life, and it wasn't over yet!
Well, the dog days of August came and things did back off a bit. Much news of 2010 stuff was coming and test riding for Twenty Nine Inches was going along as usual. Behind the scenes I was prepping for Interbike for the first time as the "leader of the band" instead of the "hired gun" that I was just a few years earlier. Different feelings for sure! Also, I got invited to the Fisher Bikes Press Camp in Park City, Utah. I was floored!
The end of August brought up a competitive event in the Good Life Gravel Adventure. I was scheduled to stay in the D Street Hotel, and the next day I was slated to go check out the site of the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo at Potter's Pasture in Nebraska. Big weekend! So big that I only got about three hours of shut eye going into a 140 mile gravel grinder. Well, you know- that caught up to me in a big, big way on the ride. I was falling asleep on my bike!! I had heard of that before from Jeff Kerkove and his experiences at 24 hour events, but I didn't quite believe it really could happen. I'm here to tell ya. YES. It can happen!
Then to top that all off, MG and I, (MG comes up an awful lot in this tale of 2009, did ya notice that? In a good way, mind you.), well we took off for Brady, Nebraska and more specifically, Potter's Pasture that very night after the GLGA. Good thing Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey gifted us that case of Red Bull Cola. Man! Crack cocaine in a can! That stuff roolz! Anyway........we got there, how I can't quite recall!
The Potter's Crew was awesome, the trails were surreal, and the time spent there way, way too short. Then I had to travel all day and into the night to get home. What a wild, great weekend.
So after that it was a short ten days to fly out to Utah and partake of some fine Fisher 29"ers, meet some outstanding racers, company wonks, and media peeps, and suffer in the thin mountain air. Yeah, I got my reality check in terms of fitness when I went there! I was hangin' on to the back for dear life. So much for "taking the next step" in my fitness and riding skills! Oh well! It was fun none the less, if not a wee bit humbling.
Then right back at it to Nevada and Interbike. This time I kept it to three days and out, which worked great from a work standpoint, although socially it was pretty devastating. No nights on the town for me! No free beer at the end of show days. No schwag bags. But staying in Vegas any longer than three days isn't very appealing to me. Not at all! Maybe its just me, but it is a soul-sucking joint as far as I'm concerned. After a bit of a scare with the aircraft coming out of Chi-town, I made it home.
That closed out September and next post I'll detail out the end of a pretty amazing year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bike Shop Tales: Tales Of The Night

Night riding was just getting popular back in the early 90's and Advantage Cycles was on it........

Riding was getting to be a more consistent part of my life now and certainly riding with others was part of that. I wasn't, and still am not, real reliant on having to have other folks to ride with, usually due to my whacked out schedule and lack of local friends that are really into riding over the years. (Although lately this has been changing) But back then, riding with others was new to me, and was a big part of my riding at that time.

The folks at Advantage were way into riding off road, which was my preference, and they wanted to ride all the time. In light of this, they were in to night riding long before I had gotten there. Advantage had several light sets on sale and to help foster sales they set up Tuesday Night rides with Vista Light sets that you could rent for the night, or just use if you knew the right people. This helped sell a lot of Vista light sets, but it also got a lot of people into night riding and riding in general. The fact that we almost always hit Toad's Bar and Grill afterwards probably helped that along!

A side story here: It is interesting that Toad's was the choice when "Mainly Lou's" was right near the shop. Well, I came to find out that Tom and a few of the shop rats were not going into Mainly Lou's because it was a "fern bar". I didn't "get it" at first, but later on I came to understand that they meant it was a place where the local homosexual crowd hung out. Well, having been around plenty of homosexual folks in my jewelry days, I thought they were being just silly. In fact, in later years, Mainly Lou's became the preferred bar to hang out in, but Toad's has, and still does attract the lions share of cyclists. (Of course, Mainly Lou's demise a few years ago helped!)

Anyway, here we were doing weekly night rides with these hideously under-candle powered lead acid battery halogen lights, flying through some really twisty trails in the State Park, which just a year or so before had been ticketing riders for riding there. Now that the State was turning the other way, the riding, and the trail building, was taking off at a fervent pace. The lights, being what they were, helped us get into plenty of crashes. New trails helped with the crashing, since we weren't familiar with all of them yet. We had a ton of laughs, and plenty of good times.

I recall one particular ride where I was leading the group and had a rider in hot pursuit on my tail, forcing me to go harder and harder. I figured I could lose him in the really twisty turns, but he was sticking like glue. I upped the ante again, made a bit of a gap, and then....WHAM!

My front wheel washed out, and I flew off my bike to the outside of the turn trying to save it. When I landed, I hit a small sapling with my sternum, snapping it off near the base of it, and I fell with my full weight on the stump. Needless to say, I was out of breath, and motionless. The guy on my tail saw the incident in his dim lights, and to his eyes it looked like the stump had gone into my chest. He immediately jumped off his bike, leaped over to where I lay, wrapped his arms around my chest from behind and clean and jerked my entire dead body weight up to where I was standing on my feet in two seconds. Adrenaline will do that to you!

Well, I was as surprised as he was, and after I could gasp, and he understood that I wasn't impaled, we were all able to settle down and laugh, but that was a pretty tense moment there. Good times!

Night riding at Geo Wyth was and still is pretty fun, but a little back round on the park is tied into bike shops here. That is some pretty interesting history.

Next Week: Rogue Trails and Rebel Riders

Monday, December 28, 2009

Guitar Ted Productions Rearview 2009: Part II

<===Furry riffing.......
April/May/June: Boy, did things ever get crazy starting about right here in the year! First up we had the ongoing tribulations behind the scenes with what was to become of my web writing career, such as it was. It was not being resolved, and so on one hand I was planning a new website venture with an old Crooked Cog writer and on the other hand I was trying to get the Twenty Nine Inches deal done. Stacked on this was my trip to Sea Otter, planning for Dirty Kanza, and final preparations for Trans Iowa V5. I also had a family vacation to plan and my regular shop job was heating up with the weather. Cyclists were coming in with repair work which I had to stay on top of with four days of work there to do it in.
Sea Otter was bittersweet. It was my last hurrah with the old set up on Twenty Nine Inches. Tim, the former owner, was not along for the trip, and I was out on my own for the first time ever. I did get to meet up with my new contributor/web conspirator Grannygear though, so that was a highlight for sure. The Cyclist was launched with the aforementioned former Crooked Cog writer, but after a few weeks, that writer backed out due to some weirdness, and Grannygear stepped in graciously to assist. By this time I was the sole entity running Twenty Nine Inches which was a shambles on the business side, but was chugging along nicely otherwise.
Then it was Trans Iowa V5 time. That event went off really well. So well in fact that d.p. and I decided on a T.I.V6 at the finish line of T.I.V5 at the end of that event. Again, an epic time was had by all and as always, it was a special, memorable weekend for me. Things were in a bit of a slow down for a week or so now, which was a welcome thing! I got in some awesome training rides for the DK 200. I was really feeling much better about riding the full 200 miles than ever before. Even friends were commenting on my form. Well, as the event approached, I contracted a head cold and well, that about shot me in the foot.
I DNF'ed due to being sick, beating myself up in an ungodly wind, and suffering under a blistering hot sun. But after that day, we split Kansas for a friends place in Nebraska for a week and I had an incredibly good time. I rode some sweet Nebraska single track, and hooked up with my good friend, Matt Gersib for some great times. Then it was back to Iowa.
Then it was Guitar Ted Death Ride recon time, some test riding at the Camp, and general life pacing for the rest of June. The weather was fine, and summer was coming on, but it was strangely cool for this time of year. Well, the weather may have been cool-ish, but the happenings were heating up again! Next post on the Rearview for 2009 will happen on Wednesday. Stay Tuned!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Guitar Ted Productions Rearview 2009

It is time again for the year end review that I've been doing on this blog for several years now. It has been a tremendous, tumultuous, and exciting 2009.
Let's get right to it........
Jan/Feb/March: The year started off in the deep freeze here and cycling was not really happening. Cycling related stuff was though, and the main thing was the announcement that I would be the head writer at Crooked Cog Network. Well, a lot changed with that. (Coming later) Also of note at the beginning of the year was the Touring Tuesdays posts, the first reference to "Gravel Grinder News", which has become its own blog now, and T.I.V5 roster and sponsorship stuff. Going into February the weather broke enough that riding commenced once again. Several muddy attempts at mountain biking, a new Raleigh Rainier, and the bike to-do at Miltown Cycles before Frost Bike happened.
When March came in we experienced several ups and downs in the weather. I got in some interesting rides on sheet ice structure from ice jams, and lots of muddy tire testing. Trans Iowa recon was done that stitched up the last loose end on the loop for T.I.V5. The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was being planned out and lots of news was happening with that in March. A Misfit Psycles diSSent arrives for testing and also I built up a Salsa Cycles Big Mama for testing on Twenty Nine Inches.
Behind the scenes there was much wrangling about the death of the Crooked Cog Network and that was affecting me in a big, big way. It was looking more and more like I would inherit Twenty Nine Inches and the rest of the old network looked to be flotsam and jetsam, left floating in a digital sea for the foreseeable future, or killed off completely. In fact, much of the time it was teetering on the whole thing going up in smoke with no Twenty Nine Inches at all. Weirdness and stressful times for sure.
Also, I had entered, and then had to back out of CIRREM, and I entered the Dirty Kanza 200. Riding was already at an advanced state over 2008. Good stuff, but as we will see, not quite good enough for the DK 200!
Okay, that covers the first quarter of 2008. Stay tuned for the second quarter coming tomorrow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part VIII

<===Featuring Sponsors Trek Bikes, Gary Fisher Bikes and Oakley...

Trans Iowa details are still being shaped yet. We have some good leads on motel rates and some good news being shaped in terms of the pre-race meet-up.
Let's just put it this way- The Grinnell Chamber of Commerce and specifically Sheryl Parmley, are being very, very helpful in getting us situated with some exciting stuff in terms of the pre-race and for your lodging opportunities. If you can remember it, the best way to thank these people is to buy from local merchants as much as possible when you come to town.
As for the pre-race meet up, there is going to be a check in procedure put in place. Details will be announced later, but specifically what this will do is let me know who is, and who isn't at the meet-up. This will speed up the process of the call up and bag handouts. You will be signing the release form at the time of check in, which should also help speed up the process. Finally, we may also require a head count coming into the event for the purposes of our possible pre-race meal provider.
What this means to you guys and gals is that you had better be on time at the pre-race meet-up. No late comers, no morning of the event cue sheet hand outs. Nope! If you don't check in at the pre-race, you won't be racing in T.I.V6. Once I start the meeting, that's it. The roster is going to be locked.
Don't say I didn't warn you.....
Sponsors: This week I want to spotlight a few sponsors. Oakley is going to be the main sponsor of the event this year with help from their esteemed rep- Rob Versteegh. We'll be featuring Oakley with the "Oakley O-down at The Barn", the gravel grinder for volunteers and support folks happening on Saturday the day of the event, and Oakley will be putting up prizing for the main categories that will be customized eye wear, most likely. Stay tuned for more on what Oakley is pulling out for T.I.V6.
Gary Fisher Bikes and Trek Bikes are putting forth some much needed supplies for this event in the form of number plates, course tape, and banners. The number plates are obvious, the course tape will really help us with re-routes, and planned course marking. The banners will help with marking out our check points so they are easily spotted by you riders coming in, plus we'll have some at the finish line as well. Added to this will be some as yet to be determined prizing for the event.
Important!! If there is any reason you may not make it for Trans Iowa V6 and you are aware of it between now and January 31st, It is imperative that I know as soon as possible to get Waiting List folks their chance!

The Waiting List expires on January 31st, so after that point, the roster will be allowed to shrink. The last chance for these folks is coming in just over a month, so please be considerate of that fact. Thanks!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Guitar Ted Productions!
I hope that you all find the "reason for the season" and also that you stay safe, warm, and filled with joy this day.
I'll be back tomorrow with more 29"er non-sense, Trans Iowa thoughts, and whatever else hits my brain of import.
Have a safe and Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Well, I Tried......

<===Soul Cycles Dillinger- That's a big un right there it is!

So I figured it wasn't doing the blizzard thing, or the freezing rain thing, why not try going for a short ride?

Well, I needed something a bit more stable than the WTB Vulpine up front, so first a tire change was in order. It needed to happen anyway, since I was fairly certain that the sealant was all dried up in this wheel's tire. As well it should be! You see, the sealant had been in there for over a year and a half!

Yup! It was the first tubeless conversion I did using MG's "secret formula". Boy does that stuff work too! You know what? When I pulled that old tire off the DT Swiss TK 7.1 Disc rim I found a thin skin of latex that was layered over the entire inner surface of the tire and rim well. Like a latex inner tube! What that tells me is that the solution was evenly distributed throughout the wheel's inner cavity. Pretty cool stuff. And I should mention that about two months ago I could still hear sealant sloshing in that wheel, so it went dry on me only recently.

And yes, I did two wheels and the other one still has sealant sloshing inside of it. Amazing! Be that as it may, I am going to refresh it here soon. But for now, I was going for a ride. Well, after I fixed my boneheaded mistake of putting on the Geax Saguaro backwards and having it all aired up! Yeah.......back to zero, start over again!

Okay then, tire on right, held air, out for a ride. Boy! It was slick already, even with just a fine mist going. Too slick, so I had to throttle back and just plunk around. The wind was wicked! With the misty precip going sideways, it cut right to the bone. It was down right miserable. Figuring that beating myself up after doing all the car snow shoveling yesterday wouldn't be wise, I headed for the shed and parked the rig.

Well, at least I tried!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Late Wednesday Edition

<===Raleigh's upcoming limited edition XXIX 853 Reynold SS bike. (Pay no mind to that "tractor" themed rig in the back round!)

Okay, I admit it. I'm very late in posting today. Sue me! I'm off work for several days and that is going to include regular postings. Everyone needs a break now and then, ya know?
So I have been busy with digging out snow in the street out front in preparation for this big storm we're supposed to get for Christmas. Yes- I'm digging out in the street! The simple answer there is that there is a high demand for parking spots here and the snow removal system we have is.......ah...........there is a system? Yeah. Well, when the snow plow does come by, there are usually several cars parked here and well..... The berm of "car snow" has averaged two to three feet alongside the parking area, which is leaving things in worse shape than if the plows hadn't come at all.

<===Would this be a sweet gravel road rig or what? (pic from
So given the amount of residential effort around here, (read slim and none), we are left with folks fighting for the limited spaces that did happen to get plowed out, and well, the ones I shovel out in front of my place.
So I decided to start shoveling out some spaces in front of the adjacent houses to ease up the situation. Car snow, if you are not aware, is basically snow that has been crushed into fine particles, mixed in with moisture, and added to that, grease, oil, and dirt from the underside of vehicles. The end result is a frozen concoction with a flour-like consistency that is so dense that it weighs at least four times the amount that regular snow weighs for the same volume. It also has the propensity for forming concrete-like slabs which can be next to impossible to remove if left too long in cold conditions.
Now try parking a compact car, or worse yet, a rear wheel drive car in this morass. Not pretty! So this is why I slept in late, why my back aches, and why I am writing this at mid-morning.
<===Siren Bicycles enters the drop bar centric adventure/off road touring rig market with the Sierrita frame.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, I can tell you that tomorrow is Christmas Eve here and I might be getting a bicycle related surprise to share in the morning if the weather holds out. So if it looks like it will, I will be posting later in the morning tomorrow with that. If not, you'll see something right away in the morning, as usual.
Obviously I will be gone on Christmas, and so likely will most of you.
Until tomorrow then? Stay safe where ever you are and don't take any unnecessary risks traveling. It isn't worth the potential loss of life and limb.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Drop Bars For Off Road: The Woodchipper

<===The Woodchipper in 42cm and 46cm sizes.

Well, I was able to actually lay hands on a Woodchipper and these bars are going to be pretty cool, methinks.

Of course, you have to be a drop bar for off road aficionado to appreciate the subtlties here. That said, the Woodchipper is really different.

The Woodchipper features two major points that are departures from the other off road specific drops out there. #1: Most obvious of all is the length of the extensions. They are longer then any other off road drop bar has that is available now. While longer may not be a good thing for everyone, they can be cut back, and we all know you can't make an extension longer on the others. #2: The drop section has no "slope", no "flare". The drop comes straight down from the tops, and the sweep of the extensions are how your wrists gain clearance from the bar tops on this model.

<===Here you can see how the bars have no flare. They look almost like any other road drop from this angle.

Of course there is more to these than just the obvious. The Woodchipper has minimal drop and reach, so getting an appropriate stem is easier. It also comes in two widths, a new feature in off road drop bars. The way Salsa measures these is from the drop section to drop section, so the swept extension actually adds width to the stated measurement here. Salsa will also sell these 25.4mm "Moto Ace" versions with 31.8mm "Pro Moto" versions in the two widths- 42cm and 46cm.

I'll be testing these on Twenty Nine Inches, so look for that coming up soon....

Note: This product was provided to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for reviewing. We are not being paid or bribed for this review. We will give our honest opinion or thoughts through out.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part VII

<====They need to do this with a gravel road in the backround, dontcha think?

Well, in the area of sponsorship, I have some really great news! Salsa Cycles stepped forward, slapped me upside the noggin, and said, "We wanna sponsor T.I.V6". (Actually, this isn't far from the truth!) So, I said yeah! They said "Yeah!" And now we're lookin' at Salsa Cycles throwin' down a frame (yet to be determined) as a prize for Trans Iowa. (Details on what exactly will be going down on this should be coming later. Like closer to the event "later". But it'll be really good!) Disclaimer: I get nuttin' outta this sponsorship other than something cool to pass on to a lucky T.I.V6 participant, so there!

Welcome aboard Salsa Cycles!

In other sponsor news we have secured some number plates, course tape, and banners from our good friends up at Trek Bicycles. There may be some more news here closer to the event, but this supply of necessities is greatly appreciated.

Thank you Trek!!

Also: Ergon has committed to being on board with some prizing, as has Banjo Brothers.

Details on their level of support will be coming closer to the event.

Thanks to Ergon and Banjo Brothers!!

Furthermore, Twin Six is onboard with Trans Iowa with some prizing. Plus Europa Cycle and Ski is also going to help out with logistics.

Thanks to Europa and T-6!!

Disclaimer: Same as the one for Salsa Cycles: It's all good for the folks coming to T.I.V6!!

There are some other sponsorship things bubbling behind the scenes. I can only say that right now we are working on some details on our Oakley sponsorship. Stay tuned for more on that as the event draws closer. But there is more...............stay tuned!

Finally, we are organizing a gravel grinder for support folks, volunteers, and curiousity seekers the Saturday of Trans Iowa. Not much in the way of solid details yet, but look for a century of limestone goodness with shorter options on tap. Perhaps a cloverleaf sort of loop in-loop out of Grinnell so you are never too far out of town. Stay tuned for more on that...........

Ride your bike this weekend or ski, or whatever. Just don't sit inside.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Time To Embrace The Snow

<===So whatta ya call Midnight Blue in the daytime?

So, if you can't ride much of anywhere, and there is snow everywhere, I figure it is time to embrace the snow. Live with it, love it. Yep! So I got out the cross country skis and hit the trails.

Everyone knows that XC skiing is a pretty good exercise. One thing cyclists need to remember is that it uses a few different muscles than maybe you are used to using.......if ever! take it easy the first few times out. I did, and I am sure I'll be glad I did once I get out and about today.

<====Cold, blue........aluminum(?)!!! Yup!

Well, this blue beauty showed up and is going to be built up as a single speed soon for a test on Twenty Nine Inches. I have to score a crank set and bottom bracket, and then I should be good to go.

Twenty Nine Inches did a test on a Soul Cycles Dillinger before in 2008, but this is the Generation III edition, so we are taking another look at this aluminum rig. Look for more on Twenty Nine Inches soon concerning this frame, the Soul Cycles rigid fork, and the build process coming soon!

Gravel Grinder News: I'm getting a great response to this and folks are already getting me new info to put up on the site. Thanks to all who have checked it out. I hope it helps promote and grow gravel/back road type "under the radar" events all across the nation. Remember, if you have anything to share, I want to know and put it on the site. Just go to Gravel Grinder News and you will find an e-mail link in the right margin. Use it!

Speaking of gravel events: I'll have some announcements to share in my next installment of Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts...................

(Special shout out to my daughter Izabel who turns 9 today! Happy Birthday!)

Note: This product was provided to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for reviewing. We are not being paid or bribed for this review. We will give our honest opinion or thoughts through out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Announcing "Gravel Grinder News"

Well, after seeing several requests for someplace that gave a listing of gravel road based events and races and not seeing anything really satisfying out there to recommend, I decided to take on the challenge of being the clearing house of information regarding such events with my latest blog called "Gravel Grinder News"
Check out the link and you'll see a listing on the right margin of everything I have found so far listed in a helter-skelter manner. Yes, it is hard to see anything that resembles order there, but the links all work, and you should go through each one if you visit the blog in the first place. I'm thinking you wouldn't bother going there if you weren't even a little bit interested and seeing as how no one else is doing this, (as far as I can find), you will just have to put up with my randomness!
You will find an e-mail link there to feed me with any news regarding events, questions you may have, or even if you are hosting a training ride for one of the listed events. I want to also be available to point out results, reports, or anything that is related to the said events listed.
So, let me know what you think here, (cause comments are turned off at Gravel Grinder News) and I hope you enjoy the blog and find it useful.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bike Shop Tales: Learning Curve

The stint at Campus Cycles being over, it was time for some "real" training to commence.....

Now that spring was coming it was time for me to learn a thing or three about wrenching on bicycles. Tom spent a lot of time with me going over how to do things. He even taught me some good "tricks of the trade" along with some philosophy on the business side of repair work. A lot of it I picked up on fairly quickly. I had taken auto mechanics in high school and had been selected to take part in a mechanics contest back then. So, I guess I had an aptitude for such things.

I remember in particular though that I was a bit intimidated by working on wheels. Tom eased my mind by telling me in plain terms what was going on with a wheel and then had me doing several exercises in wheel repair, truing, and building wheels that built up my confidence. I thought I was ready for any wheel by the time Tom was done with me. However; there is a bit more to it than just the knowledge and skill. There is a time and place for applying that skill, and I hadn't learned that lesson yet.

One day, while doing a repair job on a low end department store bike, Tom saw me futzing with the wheel, trying to get it to be really straight. He sauntered over and said something to the effect of, "Ya know, that ain't a $3000.00 XTR rig you're working on there. Ya know that, right?" Point taken. I understood that to make a buck, you had to know how far to go with the equipment you were working on. Tom also pointed out how trying to get cheap, poorly made and designed bicycle components tuned up was going to be a matter of knowing what it took to get it functional not necessarily perfect. A fine distinction there and one I appreciate to this day.

Things like that and more were imparted to me over the period of the next month or two before the season really kicked in and we got busy. Tom wanted to make sure I was adept at basic tune ups and building bikes before that happened. Was he successful? Well......I guess so. I'm not the one to ask that of though. All I know is I was happy to be learning new things and being surrounded by bikes was cool.

Next week: The Atmosphere...........

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Life Throws A Snowball At You......

Since we have been inundated with snow, finding anywhere to ride a bike has been pretty tough. 15 inches of fluff doesn't lend itself to be plowed through on two wheels. Even if you have a "fat bike". Snow machines? Bah! Most folks sold theirs off in the ten years of mostly brown winters around here. Not much of that going on round these parts anymore.

So I decided Saturday to make tracks of another kind. My son and I went sledding at the local dike. It's where everyone in this part of the city goes to get their slide on. I even take turns flying down the hill, to the amusement of the kids and the puzzlement of their parents, who mostly are standing on top of the dike trying to stay warm.

My son was up to his thighs walking up the hill, so after about an hour he was struggling to still stand up, but not wanting to go home. I remember feeling that way a few times. Even on some bicycle rides!

Well, that was fun, but it wasn't a bicycle ride either. So I stuck on the wheel set with the Salsa Gordo rims on my El Mariachi and shod it with the WTB Kodiaks front and rear. I ran really low pressure, (probably just over 10psi) and went for an urban ride. It is the only place that is really plowed out, and the sidewalks downtown are very good for staying out of harms way. I found out as it began to grow dark that the primo riding, (for now) is in the alleyways. Nice, grippy, packed snow was fast. There were snow banks to blast through, and sugar snow to plow through, if you could. I ran by some kids sliding down a huge pile of plowed snow. They asked me why I was riding my bike in winter.

I said, "Why not?"

When Life throws you a snowball, make the best of what you got.
On another note- I got a look at XXC Mag's fifth issue and all I can say is "Whoa!" That Jason Mahokey has raised the bar some more with that effort. I "e-paged" through it and the level of professionalism with the over all feel is high, in my opinion, and I've been looking at bicycling oriented media since 1990. The stories are great to boot. You get to see a glimpse of the endurance racer's mindset, especially with the interviews of Eszter Horanyi and Jeremiah Bishop. Even Lincolnite Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey has a write up in there.
XXC used to be a free download, but now there is a nominal charge for it. I would submit that it is well worth it. For the "real-ness" of the reading that is on tap there, you just can not find anything better, especially for endurance freaks. Add to this the excellent contributing photogs and Jason's expert editing and it makes me want to have this in a paper format to look at anywhere/anytime. That's not a knock on Jason or XXC. No- that's a compliment to how good this has gotten in five issues. I have read that Jason is contemplating a move to a "real" paper version someday. I sure hope it gets there.
At any rate- go check it out. Highly recommended reading/viewing there.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Trans Iowa V6 Thoughts: The Winning Bike Of T.I.V5

<====The bike that won Trans Iowa V5
It has been a long time since I felt it was okay to post this picture of the winning bike from Trans Iowa V5. The reason was pretty obvious back on that early May day.
d.p. and I were doing our usual running around, following the leaders of the event, when we made it over to North English and stopped at a convenience store. I remember how bright the sun was and how cool and crisp the air was. It seemed like it was taking an eternity for the riders to show up.
When they did, Joe Meiser was amongst them. Knowing that Joe does a lot of work on Salsa Cycles stuff, I was keen on seeing what it was he would be riding. I had been tipped off beforehand that it might be something special. Well, once he had gone inside the convenience store with the others, d.p. and I figured it out real fast.
Salsa was dabbling in titanium.
We looked in slack jawed wonder at what every bike geek recognizes as the magic grey hue that is titanium and began to speculate, take pictures, and wonder about what was plainly a prototype bike. Of course, that was all forgotten in a snap once the riders came back outside and the chaos of Tim Ek's arrival on the scene drove the bike completely out of our minds.
It wasn't until much later that I came to realize that I probably shouldn't post the pics of the bike. It was a courtesy I figured I ought to observe, especially since the bike ended up being the winning bike. Well, now Salsa has let on that they are doing a titanium El Mariachi, so now that the cat is out of the bag, I thought I'd post about the winning bike from T.I.V5.
It's pretty cool to check out all the different rigs folks use on Trans Iowa events. Everybody has their own take on what is the perfect gravel grinder. Now you never know- you might be looking at a working prototype rig at T.I.V6. It is humbling to think that this little ol' event is worthy of testing future products that cyclists will benefit from later on.
Winter is in full swing now, but that just means I'll have a bit more time to think about T.I.V6. I will be planning, and we'll be out scrounging around on Iowa back roads every chance we get. Stay tuned for more Trans Iowa V6 thoughts in the coming weeks.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Reality Stopped By To Say "Hello"

<====Did I mention that the shop I work at is a Gary Fisher Bike dealer now?
You know, I sit here in the palatial surroundings of Guitar Ted Laboratories and tap out this verbiage on an almost daily basis to an audience of folks that I rarely get feedback from and almost never see face to face. Such is the life of a blogger, I suppose. And to be sure- it isn't the reason I do this anyway- to meet people, or get feedback- although it is much appreciated when it does come. I just don't expect it.
So, I am at work the other day when a couple of fellas come in and start talking to my boss about 29"ers. Now, usually I stay out of those conversations, believe it or not. I let the sales folk do their gig, and I do my wrenching in the repair area. Usually it doesn't get any farther than that, but this particular day one of the fellas had a question about some 'alt bars" for mountain biking. My boss, who is well aware that I am a handle bar freak, called me over to disseminate some handle bar info. Well, as is his usual nature, he gave me a big, ballyhoo of an introduction to the point of embarrassment and mentioned to the guy that I was also known as "Guitar Ted".
Well, by the look on his face it was apparent that he had read something I banged out on the keyboard at some point. What it was, I didn't know, and the rest of the conversation went on normally without further incident until I was able to gracefully exit stage right to the repair area again.
Looking back on it, I really shouldn't be surprised that somebody reads what I write here since I have been spouting off about 29"ers here since what?..........2005? You gotta figure at least one or two folks would have read my stuff and met me at the shop by now.
That said, I never seem to get used to it when I meet folks that recognize "Guitar Ted" and know me from this site or Twenty Nine Inches. Banging out digitized symbols, staring at a flat screen monitor, is easy to get up from here and forget that a million other folks are reading this crazy stuff out there somewhere. And when Reality comes a knockin', I guess I am never really prepared for it, nor do I expect it. It still surprises me, although like I said, it shouldn't.
Well, if you have snow, go out and enjoy that. If you can ride a bicycle, all the better. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oakley Jawbone Eyewear Update

I've been sportin' the Oakley Jawbone eyewear for a few months now and I wanted to get back to my thoughts on this piece of cycling gear that I use on an almost daily basis now. You can check out my initial thoughts on these here.

So, as with anything expensive with a ton of marketing behind it, one might be somewhat skeptical of the product in question. No doubt about that. Especially in these economically troubled days where folks are going to be watching every penny. Doubly so when you obviously don't need to spend this much dough on eyewear. That begs the question up front: So- are these things worth it?

My answer would be, "Yes".

Now, here's why...........

I was spending probably on average of $80.00 to $100.00 a year on a brand of eyewear that is carried at the shop I work at. I was okay with the performance and fit. There were issues with some models in terms of fit, function (changing lenses), and with lens durability, (scratched easily, lost clarity over time). So I figured it was "okay" since these were inexpensive and I was getting my employee discount on them, which made them even more attractive. I was settling for some sub-par performance and issues for the trade off of cheaper eyewear. Or was I?

Now- I will say that I got these Jawbone glasses to try at no charge. I will admit that up front. You might think that would make me say great, glorious things about them. Well- you'd be wrong. (But that's another story for another time) Suffice it to say that I don't feel obligated to say anything at all about these glasses, but I am because they are good. They do what they claim, and yes.........I think they are worth the money.

I am actually considering buying another pair, and certainly I will be getting some more lenses to exchange with the ones I have. Here is my reasoning: I was spending $80.00 - $100.00 a year with a shop discount on eyewear over a period of four years. (Do the math) This would easily pay for Jawbone eyewear that I don't see how I would have to replace in the next four years. They have been easy to use and the performance is as good as the day I first used them, even after daily usage that would have caused me problems with my former brand choice in eyewear. The lenses are easily changed, easily kept clean, stay clear, and the frames are super comfortable for use that spans into hours on my head. Again, my old choice in eyewear didn't hold up to this standard. To wit: I broke or damaged lenses in three pair of my former choice in eyewear earlier this year alone!

My conclusion is this: I can go on "nickle and diming" myself with sub-par eyewear, or I can step up to something better. Sure, the initial outlay of cash hurts a bit, but I would actually spend more the other way I was going, I just wouldn't notice it. I know which way I am going. You can choose your way.

So, you can review the performance traits here, but what I am saying in this post is that Jawbone eyewear is totally worth the price. Your mileage may vary.

Note: In accordance with new FCC rules on blogging and "commercial speech", (whatever!), I must say that I received the Jawbone eyewear at no charge. I was not expected to give a review by Oakley, and I am not being paid or coerced to do so. This is my honest opinion on this subject.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Stranded In Iowa

<====An appeasement gift for good weather on T.I.V6 (Thanks Steve F.!!)

Well, old classic rock afficianadoes will get today's title, but today it really is true. We are stranded!

The snow came down fast and furious last night, then the winds came in behind it and well, everything is pretty much cancelled for today.

So, I will be in "catch up" mode now doing all the things I should have been doing all fall long. Web work, bike maintenance, and that lawn that I haven't mown since.............oh yeah! Fahgedda boudit! Anyway........

Cool news: Salsa Cycles Woodchipper 25.4mm bars are in! Get them whilst you can! Small first batch, I've heard. 31.8mm clamp diameter bars will come in later, by Christamas, I hear. I'll have some soon.

In another newsy bit: Dirty Kanza 200 changed up websites recently. You can get them now at Check it out for the latest DK 200 news.

Okay, I'll be out shoveling, in case you're looking for me!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bike Shop Tales: On Campus

Now that I was established in the shop, I was assigned to Advantage Cycles sister store..........

After Tom had me up to speed on assemblies, I was assigned a new task. One of my c0-workers, Troy, had been heading up the sister store on the UNI "College Hill" area called "Campus Cycles" and he was tired of being "stuck" there. So, during the boring off season time, I got the task of being the baby sitter of Campus Cycles.

Tom had taught me all the ways of assembly very thoroughly. How to use leverage to my advantage, how to adjust bearings properly, and all the details on how to make a bicycle present itself in the best manner on the show floor. He was satisfied that I had "got it" and was willing to turn me loose on my own. Sooooo.......I was all alone assembling bikes on the College Hill location five days a week.

There wasn't much customer activity. Actually, in the couple of months that I was stuck down their, I maybe helped a handful of people. Most of the time was spent assembling bikes until close, then I had to lock up and head back to Advantage with the key. Sometimes a truck would show up and we'd blast those bikes outta that truck as fast as possible, me and the truck driver, piling them up right on the sidewalk out front. There was no loading dock, no way for the trucks to get to the back. So, they had no choice but to block busy College Street which meant we had to bust tail getting the rigs unloaded.

Then, of course, the truck driver would peel outta there leaving me with 60 boxes of bikes to get inside, and into the basement storage area. This would take a fair amount of time and that also meant that I had to handle each box a minimum of three times: Once off the truck, once to get into the door, and once more down to the basement. It was pretty tiring.

At first, I was driving down in the Advantage van, or my own rig, but eventually there were time I was riding a bike to work, and Tom or one of the others would drop me off down on "The Hill". Then I had no means of getting back to the shop downtown. Tom often would claim he'd be down to get me, but I soon figured out that might take hours. Literally hours. So, I usually would build a bike my size last, and ride it back to Advantage Cyclery. Tom or one of the others would take it back the following day.

Soon though the snow started melting and on one of my rides back to the main shop I could feel it. Spring was here. With the turning of the seasons, I was summoned back to the Advantage Mothership and that's where I stayed.

Campus Cycles didn't last much longer. Business wasn't good, and it was decided to scuttle the project later that year. I didn't even notice because we were super busy at Advantage. Too busy to notice the signs that might have tipped me off to what would happen later. Oh well, for the time being, I was having a blast.

Building bikes, becoming a mechanic: Next week on Bike Shop Tales.........

Monday, December 07, 2009

The High End: Does It Make Sense?

<===The Specialized Epic Marathon 29: It doesn't look all that expensive.......

My gig at Twenty Nine Inches has brought me a lot of great opportunities to go places and ride cool bikes and components. One of those opportunities would be riding this Epic Marathon 29 from Specialized. It's probably the most expensive rig that I have tested long term. How expensive?
Really expensive!
It is just one example of many that several bicycle companies are putting on the market of bikes in the $5000-$10,000 category that are amazing technically, ride pretty nicely, and are hard to justify. For several reasons.
<............but the parts on it sure are!
As I have said, this bike is being reviewed and I have spent a lot of time recently on it. rides great. Yeah.......the parts work well. But we're talking incremental improvements over bikes that cost hundreds less, and in some cases thousands less.
Now, I am not going to be hypocritical and say that I don't appreciate this. No- I would, and have in the past, bought bikes like this. Cutting edge technology that is top shelf in mountain biking. The thing is- it used to be that you had to maybe spend a small, but significant percentage more to get this over your average "high end" bike. Now that "percentage" difference is huge. Waaaay huge. I would argue that it is unjustifiably huge.
Take that casssette up there. Ten speeds. Okay? Well, they say it takes something like 9 hours to CNC the steel to make the cassette cogs from a single block of steel, with the exception of the smallest and largest cogs which are separately made. Okay..........that's impressive. Impressive and veeery expensive! That cassette up there? Yeah............over $300.00 to replace! You can get an XT cassette for under a $100.00, easily. So, I would say that although the technical aspects of the SRAM XX casette are impressive, the process to make it seems wasteful and excessive. And that's just the cassette.
Specialized stuck a customized Reba with a carbon crown and tapered steer tube on there. Necessary? Questionable. Expensive? No doubt. Would a "standard" tapered steer tube fork have done the job as well? Absolutely.
It just seems weird to go with such high end stuff that costs a ton, and will cause headaches come maintenance time for little to no percievable performance advantage. I know that some people will pay for the absolute "best". I guess it all depends upon what your definition of "best" is. Mine would include a marked performance advantage over other bikes/components and a replacement cost to the user that makes sense to own the bike for a long term at an original buy in price that isn't two times the next tier of performance in class.
My argument is that the current "high end" bikes and components are not achieving that goal. They seem to be more about being exercises in technical engineering without regard to making a marked difference in performance out on the trail. They seem to be blind to the affects the "innovations" have in terms of ownership for the end user.
So, do high end bikes and components make sense?
I have a hard time saying yes.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Gravel Grinder News

Dirty Kanza 200: Just got an e-mail about this. Here's the skinny!

To all Dirty Kanza 200 Friends... Greetings from Jim and Joel, your Co-Promoters for The Dirty Kanza 200. We have been hard at work on next year's event, and we are confident that 2010 will prove to be a banner year for The Dirty Kanza 200. Numerous "tweaks" and "refinements" are in the works, designed to bring you a truly life-enriching cycling experience. Our Vision... that The Dirty Kanza 200 will become North America's premier annual ultra-endurance gravel road cycling challenge. Exciting things are happening. Keep reading... we share the "Huge News" at the end of this email. Emails and phone calls have been pouring into the illustrious DK office, asking when registration will open. So we thought we would throw together a few details that should help you in your planning for the 2010 running of The Dirty Kanza 200. Here you go... Race Date: Saturday, June 5th, 2010(Sign-In and Packet Pick-Up, Friday, June 4th, 2010.) Registration: Will open Sunday, January 10, 2010, and will once again be conducted online at Field Limit: We will expand our field limit this year to 150 participants.Note... Last year's limit of 100 participants was filled in just four days of registration. Mark you calendars now for January 10th. You won't want to wait too long, if you plan to race in 2010. (We will send you a reminder right after the first of the year.)

Classes: Open MenOpen WomenSingle SpeedMasters Men (50+) This class is new for 2010. "Auxilary Events":We are woking with The Emporia (KS) Convention and Visitors Bureau to create numerous activities for your support crew members and family members to enjoy throughout the weekend. So bring your spouse, significant other, kids, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends. More information on these activities will be coming in the next few weeks and months. Dirty Kanza Blog:Joel and his lovely wife Michelle are hard at work making significant upgrades to our blog site. It is a little "rough" right now. However, in the next week (or so) you should see huge changes. Go ahead and bookmark it now.

( Check it regularly. And please provide your comments and suggestions on how we can continue to improve the site. Dirty Kanza 200 Video:For those of you who have not yet seen the Dirty Kanza 200 video, there is a link on our blog site. The video was produced by the folks at IM Design Group, in Emporia, Kansas. We think they did a fantastic job.

And now for the Huge News... drum roll please...Salsa Cycles has come on board and will be the "Premier Sponsor" for the 2010 running of The Dirty Kanza 200. Joel and I are both absolutely giddy with excitement over this development. When we very first began discussing plans for 2010, one of our primary objectives was to identify a company within the cycling industry with which we could create a long-term partnership. Salsa Cycles was the first company we thought of, and throughout all of our planning discussions remaind at the top of a very short list of candidates. Due to their company philosophy, their fantastic products and their great people, Salsa Cycles is the PERFECT sponsor for The Dirty Kanza 200. Salsa has stepped up to the plate in a major way. The winner of each of our four classes (Open Men, Open Women, Single-Speed and Masters Men) will receive a complete 3-piece "Salsa Upgrade Kit", which will include that rider's choice of a Salsa Stem, Salsa Handlebar and Salsa Skewer Set. In addition, one lucky participant will go home with a brand new Salsa Fargo Frameset. Salsa's support of The Dirty Kanza 200 goes even further, including water bottles, hats and T-Shirts. You can check out all of their great products here... While you are there, drop them an email and let them know how much you appreciate their support of The Dirty Kanza 200. That's it for now. More details will follow soon. Until then, stay safe, train hard... and Get Your Gravel On. We look forward to seeing each of you in Emporia, Kansas the first weekend in June.

Gravel Grovel: Over the recent Thanksgiving weekend a new gravel grinder event in southern Indiana took place called the Gravel Grovel. From the sounds of it, it was a very challenging, fun, and well attended event. You can check out a couple good race reports here and here. It sounds like there will be a Gravel Grovel next year at about the same time, so stay tuned........

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Well, over the past two years we have done camp outs and then we have done the ride. Thing is, we imbibe a bit too much the night before causing much suffering the day after on the ride. This time we vow to get it right. So, on July 16th, 2010 we will gather and we will go to bed early! Then we will get up a bit earlier than usual, ride, and then come back for barbeque, beer, and a camp fire. We will plan to be there overnight again, so traveling home could be done right away, or you could stay, hang out, and go home the next day. (Sunday) These dates would be July 16th, 17th (ride day), and 18th.

The same venue and course will be ridden again. That being Echo Valley Park and the loop from there that included just six feet shy of 10,000 ft elevation gain in 118 miles. (Remember- the first 25 miles after the first five are flat and not hilly) The decision to do the same course was due to the fact that it is so challenging and so cool. The views are tremendous. Flowers should be in full force, and it probably will be hotter than Hades, making this a tortuous test of riders stamina. Plus- I already have cues for it! (See last summers ride report here)

Ragnorok 105: Well, if you didn't get in on this, it's too late. Registration opened and it has filled up already. Go here and scroll down a bit to see who will be toeing the line there. (Pretty stout roster!) Looking forward to reading the reports from the 2010 version of this lil' event.

Almanzo 100: Looks like registration will open for this dirty century on January 1st via post card. (Check out the site) The event itself will be on May 14-16th. (Ride occurs on the 15th) It is part of the "AGRS" which has become a series of these gravel events that includes the aforementioned Ragnorok 105, CIRREM, The Gentleman's Ride, and The Heck Of The North, but may include others at some point. Unique in that it offers points for finishing first through tenth on top of 30 points for anyone that finishes. So, if you finish, you get a minimum of 30 points, but top ten finishes are rewarded higher points per placing over and above the 30. Real cups are apparently going to be handed out to the top male and female riders of the series. Sounds cool.

More Nebraska Goodness?: Cruising the Almanzo site, I came across this which is an event planned to take place just north of Omaha on a planned 100 mile course. The event is called the "North O Rock Road Jackrabbit" and is slated for October 10th, 2010.

Trans Iowa V6: The registration closed and the Waiting List has been established. Remember- if you want to drop off either the Roster list or the Waiting List, please inform me via e-mail. Next big hurdle will be getting the recon done. Expect a lodging announcement soon as well.

That's it for this edition of Gravel Grinder News!

Ride, train, and be well!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Closing One Door- Opening Another

As the seasons change and the year comes to a close, there are several things that I am reflecting on in regards to 2010. The past year has been amazing. However; it's time to start looking ahead at next year and what I need to do now to make some changes.

One of the things I want to start on now is getting a winter ride/training/discipline thing going on so that when it gets nice in the spring I won't be such an out of shape rider. And there are some "carrots" in the form of some rides that might possibly go down that are motivating that. (Notice I didn't say they were races)

Some of the things I have done I won't do anymore, and that to simplify my life. I admit that I have been sticking my fingers in too many things. I will still be involved in some major stuff, like T.I.V6, of course. But there are some things I've done that are big time energy sucking things that are going to get cut loose next year. (And in fact- some have already been cut loose)

Mainly I just want to ride more than I have and do it better. Will there be a race? Maybe. I don't much care if there isn't though. I just want to do this cycling thing better than I have, and certainly- there is room for improvement. I have to be balanced in life as well, with the family, being a husband, and working. It won't be easy.

But nothing good or worth pursuing ever is.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Carbo Loading

Well, I have been testing out the new 2010 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon lately and I have had plenty of thoughts running through my mind about this rig. It isn't a bicycle you normally think of for off roading. You know- big wheels, carbon, and all of that wrapped up in one good lookin' package. For me, the carbon part is what makes my mind go round and round.

I used to have a carbon road rocket a long time ago. Funny thing is that this mountain bike reminds me of that bike quite a bit. It's strange, but putting into words just what a carbon fiber bike feels like is not easy. For instance, they say that carbon fiber damps out vibrations. Well.....yes and no. I can still feel plenty of high frequency buzz, like the tires on pavement, but some other frequencies are deadened.

The Stumpjumper Expert Carbon was designed to have a stiff bottom bracket and torsionally stiff main frame. That it does in spades. It was also designed to have some "vertical compliance". Hmm.........well, I don't know. I mean, it doesn't stab your backside like an old school aluminum rig, but it does have a fair amount of exposed seat post and fat tires, so who really can tell? I can't say that it has compliance in the frame for rider comfort, but I do know it isn't brutal. There. Does that make any sense? I mean, from the materials/cost standpoint.

And that is the bottom line. Does carbon fiber give you what you want in a mountain bike? Yes- fantastically low weight and incredible lateral and torsional stiffness is here. That's good stuff for 29"ers, but for the price of two hydro-formed aluminum hard tail rigs? And make no mistake, aluminum these days isn't the aluminum your mtb fore bearers were riding.

In fact, I would put a couple of aluminum hardtail rigs I have ridden toe-to-toe with tis carbon rig. I bet most riders would be hard pressed to tell any difference, and the aluminum rigs would carve off hundreds- maybe even a thousand bucks- of the price tag.

But then again, you wouldn't have much of a "cool" factor with aluminum. Well, choices are good, and carbon fiber mountain bikes with big wheels are ow one of those choices.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bike Shop Tales: Making An Impression

Last week I got into a little back round with my job situation pre-bike shop days. Now I was going to be working at a real bike shop......

Well, it was time. Tom, the owner of Advantage Cyclery, asked me to come in one evening to meet some of the staff and to learn what it was he wanted me to do. As he took me around the shop, he stopped me short and told me about one of the mechanics there that was working on his mountain bike. It was Duane. He was intently bowing over a polished American mountain bike. (American- that's a brand name, by the way!)

Tom said that Duane was a bit "tense" and that I should be careful. I said, "Oh yeah?", and an idea came into my head as we walked over to meet him. Tom introduced me, and Duane never even looked up.

I reached over and squeezed the brake lever that was connected to the canti he was adjusting and said, "You know, you really should tighten this brake up. It feels pretty mushy." Well, Duane's blood pressure went through the roof, and he sputtered a few half sentences before he shouted, "Do you know that I am a black belt?!! I could kick your ass right now!!" To which I calmly replied, "Well, go ahead. What are you waiting for?"

Duane sputtered, stood aghast, and stormed away. Tom giggled like a school boy. He thought it was brilliant. He couldn't believe I did it, but I think it endeared me to him from that point onward. The rest of the introductions went on and I left after I was told what my duties would be. I went home that night feeling apprehensive and unsure of myself. I suppose that was natural, but it didn't take long for me to get settled in.

The first few days were spent kind of standing around and observing. I helped customers a bit. The shop was an amazing place with all the brands and cool bikes that I got to hang out around everyday. Bianchi, GT, Fisher, and Diamondback, just to name a few. Tom also had quite a selection of road framesets there to buy as well. Then I started out assembling bikes at Advantage and still was helping customers for awhile, but a time period came up where things changed for a little bit. Tom had a satellite store with another guy, and I was going to become part of that operation for a bit.

Next Week: Working On The Campus

Monday, November 30, 2009

Three Things

Thing Number One: Turkey Burn Report: Saturday was the annual Turkey Burn ride at Camp Ingawanis. You just never know what you are going to get for weather on this ride being that it is so late in the season. A few times it has marked the last ride on dirt for the year. So, it is the kind of a ride I don't like to miss out on.

Well, my wife was on call for the weekend, but our close family friend saved the day and came to hang out with my kids for the morning allowing me to get to the Camp. While I was a bit late, at least I got there. The word was that the group would head out for a short lap and then rendezvous with me back at the lot when I arrived. Well, when I got there the place was deserted. Oh sure, the cars were there, but no sign of riders.

So I took my time setting up and when I was ready to ride, there was still no sign of them. I decided to head out on my own. I got a short lap in, came back and still no one. I headed out for another trail, and halfway up the climb, I ran into them finally. So, they were headed back to the cars for a break and I went with them.

Now the frost was super heavy and the ground was frozen hard. So much so that my tires were sliding across frost covered leaves. Bare ground was crunchy. It's always kind of neat to ride on bare frozen ground. However; I knew that once the sun got up, that would change in a hurry.

I found that out on the beginning of the second lap, (well, third time for me), and I went down in a greasy switchback. I got up to walk my bike a few feet to more level ground and my feet slipped out from underneath me and I went down hard again! The rest of that lap was spent riding alone and very gingerly! The grease, now turning to a layer of mud, was treacherous, but if you take it slow and steady, it can be accomplished without further drama. I figured I'd be the first back to the lot, (Not due to speed, but due to getting lost and truncating the loop), and as it turned out, I was last!

We had chili, hung out, talked, Redgie gave us free Cranksgiving t-shirts, (Thanks Redg!) and we had a great time. Thanks to Captain Bob and MTBidwell for the efforts. Oh yeah, and MoJoe even put on a sweet unicycle show by hopping and dropping off a picnic table while we cheered him on.

Thing Number Two: I am a subscriber to Dirt Rag. I've liked that magazine and have been a fairly regular reader since the mid 90's. Obviously The Rag has changed with the times, but recently I noticed something. Something less. I was missing something but couldn't put my finger on it. Well, I have a stash of Dirt Rags going back quite a ways, so I reached down into the stack and yanked out an issue from 2006, as it turned out. Well, I was immediately aware of why I was feeling that empty feeling with the newer version of The Rag. Yup! 30 less pages will do that, I suppose. Kinda funny, but I suppose they have been hit by the hard times just like the rest of us have. Let's hope that changes and Dirt Rag girths up again. (Well, if you are a fan of actually holding something you read in your hands. If not, I suppose Dirt Rag online will do for you.)

Thing Number Three: Trans Iowa V6 registration ends today. It has been pretty amazing. Over 45 people didn't get their cards in on time. Some of them past T.I. participants too. Well, as much as I'd like to let all of them in, I can't. That said, the e-mails will start going out over the next few days with all the names and their places in the line for getting in on T.I.V6 if anyone drops out that is on the roster before 1/31/10. If you are on the Waiting List, your number that I e-mail you will indicate what place in line you are. I will go through the list when needed to find replacements for drop outs by numerical order. If someone passes on an offer to get in on the roster, they are off the Waiting List. Again, this madness will only go on until 1/31/10. After that, no more transfers or replacements will be considered.

Thanks to all who considered T.I.V6 as something worth giving a shot. I am humbled by all the attention that the event gets. While it would be great to get all of you folks here to ride the event, it just isn't logistically possible for our host city, nor am I set up for that sort of riding horde. To be honest, if all 75 folks showed up that are on the roster, it would test the limits of the infrastructure I have in place. (Highly doubtful that all the roster will show up.) But again.......thank you for your efforts to get in on T.I.V6.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Musing On Search Terms

Okay, today is the Turkey Burn out at The Camp. So while you sit there with your morning coffee, or check in whenever this weekend, I will be/or have been out riding. I suggest you do exactly the same thing before this goofy post wastes any more of your time. That's right.....shut down the idiot box. Go on now............

Okay, if you chose to read on- don't say I didn't warn you!

I get webstats and I have always wanted to do a post based upon the search terms folks use to get here. I thought it would be fun, but I am not going to say it will be very interesting!

The Usual: Of course various terms relating to the blog title or me are the top search terms: "g ted", "guitar ted productions", "g ted productions", guitar ted", and "guitar ted blog" are all commonly used ones. Sometimes that is the preface for the real reason they are looking for this web-spot. An example being " g ted drop bar". Which leads me to.......

Drop Bar Madness: I get more hits besides the "guitar ted" stuff from drop bar search terms. Examples are many, but suffice it to say that anything having to do with off road drop bar use searches finds its way over to this blog. Anything from sizing of clamp diameters to specific bars are searched for. Also, I get a fair amount of "alt bar" traffic since I do get into a lot of weird handle bar stuff here. A couple of interesting terms that pop up all the time are "mountain road drop bar" and " guitar ted dirt drop bar". Okay, the first is confusing, and leads me to believe that the folks searching for "mountain road" drop bar info are not exactly sure what the heck is going on either. The second leads me to believe that some folks think I make off road drop bars. Hmm......maybe I should!

Okay, so if you take those two things out of the stats the pickens get slimmer. Here's a few things that regularly pop up in the search terms that I think are pretty weird, funny, or beyond explanation.

Bottom Bracket: I did a post early on in my blogo-sphere ramblings that had to do with certain bicycle component standards. I merely mentioned the BMX "Spanish" bottom bracket size and Pinarello's MOST bottom bracket and now I get searches related to that hitting the blog everyday. Crazy!

Blackburn Quadrant Light: Another early blog entry- I did a review on the blog here on the Blackburn Quadrant LED light and everyday I get hits on that review. Funny thing is, they don't make that light anymore! I suppose the light is getting blown out cheaply by several distributors yet, but know this: The Quadrant wasn't all that great then, and it certainly has been eclipsed by far better technology at comparable prices. Don't bother with one if you find this post and are thinking about a Quadrant. Really!

Name Dropping: If I dropped your name into a blog post here, you can bet that someone is looking for you on the internet. How do I know this? Because your name appears in my stats from time to time. Latest searched name here? Gary Cale. He of the Trans Iowa post card fame. Strange but true!

Weirdest: Of course I get a fair amount of searches related to guitar stuff, what with my handle and all, but the weirdest search term on today's stats was this: "wtb sst gravel" Okay, on one hand you have a saddle name- "wtb sst". On the other hand you have "gravel", which gets a lot of mention here as a surface I ride on a lot. But those two terms together?

Yeah, ya got me!

Okay, again, I warned you to go ride yer bike and not read this. Now you'll never get that time back!'s never too late to ride!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Slippin' And Slidin'!

I got to ride out at the Camp Wednesday on one of the new test rigs I am riding for Twenty Nine Inches. Well, it had rained a bit Tuesday and the leaf strewn trail was treacherous. To make matters worse, the tires on the tester bike were XC, minimal width, minimal tread wonders.
It took all of about 30 yards for me to find a hidden, off camber, wet, slick root that ran at a diagonal to my wheels travel on a steep downward pitch. My front got knocked off line, I wobbled, and that went okay, but when the rear tire hit, it was all over. I went sideways in the back and that pitched the front tire into an angle I couldn't maintain at the pitch I was descending. An over the bars trip was immanent. I hit pretty hard, and the bike slid up onto my legs, entangling me. So, here I was, face downward, with a bicycle all tangled up in my legs.
I was going to be okay, but it took a few minutes to get out from under the bike and investigate the damage. It wasn't too bad. Stem knocked off line, and thankfully the bar spin didn't cause the top tube and controls to clash. The front brake line was crimped over at a pretty severe angle, but after I straightened the bars out, I checked and it functioned well yet. Whew! First ride on this rig and I had already had a big biff on it and to come away unscathed was good. Really good.
So I went on, albeit at a much more measured pace. The slip outs happened numerous times. The tires were just not matched up at all to the conditions at this time. The steeps were more often than not hike-a-bikes due to the lack of grip. Then I had the trail conditions to deal with as well. I had a lot of blow downs to move. Bigger limbs in some cases. At least the loop for the Turkey Burn will be more clear than it would have been otherwise.
And those racer boy tires? Yeah, they came off and got replaced with something more in the knobular, voluminous vein. I also went tubeless with 'em too, which should allow more tire conformity over unseen branches and roots. No more OTB trips for me! Not if I can help it anyway.
Hopefully you are avoiding "Black Friday" like the plague and riding a bicycle instead. And that goes for whatever the heck they named Monday as well. Retailers. They think they can just name a day whatever stupid name they want. I just call it another opportunity to be alive. It's all good! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

This image reminds me of sacrifice. I am very thankful to all that have sacrificed for this country. I am grateful to all who sacrificed to get me where I am today.

Most of all, I am thankful for that Ultimate Sacrifice.

This image reminds me of Life. Even when things look bleak all around us, we have our lives and we have much to be thankful for.
Take a minute to count your blessings today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Fallout

<===Look closer. It isn't the pic you might think it is!

Well, Trans Iowa V6 is on to the next stage now. Registration is over, and now I have some course recon, details, and paperwork/e-mails to take care of. I just wanted to point out that there will appear to be more than 75 folks on the roster for awhile due to a couple of reasons. #1: I forgot to put a guy in that was one of the first to register, and #2: Volunteers from last T.I. are eligible no matter what as long as they let me know by November 30th. (One guy has taken me up on that with a rumored two more folks coming)

<====Carbon goodness.

The Specialized Bicycle Company was kind enough to send out this stellar hardtail, a Stumpjumper HT Expert Carbon 29 model. It's a nice rig, and I'll be writing it up over on Twenty Nine Inches

So far I've only gotten a couple of rides on it, but if the weather holds out, I'll be sportin' it at the Turkey Burn at The Camp come Saturday. Hope to see a few of you locals out there.

<===Got her dirty!

The trails should be okay by then if the rain that we are getting now stops tonight, and it shows every indication of that.

Oh yeah- I'll have another cool rig along with me at The Turkey Burn you won't want to miss. If one of these two rigs fits you, you might even get a demo ride. So, there is a carrot for ya if you were on the fence about coming to the Turkey Burn Saturday morning at Camp Ingawanis.

<====Hey! I know that guy!

Well, I still want to show a few Trans Iowa entries over the next few days. Here's one I got Monday morning. It was waiting for me on my bench when I walked in the door.

It's Troy Krause's entry. He of DK 200 fame and GLGA fame. (Yes- he won GLGA and came in on the podium at DK 200)

But as far as I am concerned Troy is most famous for coming out after winning the GLGA to pick my sorry carcass up on course after I had to pull the plug. A winner picking up DNF-ers? Yep! Class act this guy, as far as I am concerned. Well, for that and this..............

<===Awwww! Ain't that sweet!

........he sent flowers with his entry. Somebody was paying attention and knew I liked flowers. Especially wild ones, and that is what it reminded me of. Thanks Troy!

I'll post more entries in the coming days, but that's all for this post.