Saturday, February 28, 2009

Raleigh Rainier Gets Ridden!

<===In the sun.
Just thought I'd let everyone know I finally got this Raleigh Rainier out for a ride. It's a pretty smooth ride too, what with the carbon fork and my fat-as-I-can-fit tires. Which brings me to a teensy problem.
There isn't enough room for that IRC 42mm back there. Oh, it spins through the frame okay. It's just that there is no room for error! If I got any mud back there, or had a slightly out of true wheel, well forget about the paint job! It would be gone. So I got a cheapo Bontrager 35mm tire down at the shop and slapped it on there. Bingo! Lots of room now. At least I'll be able to gravel grind and commute now on this. Which brings me to my next point......
Gravel and paint on the down tube don't seem to mix, at least if history is any indicator. So I will be getting some frame saver tape at a motorcycle shop, or somewhere, to line the lower quarter of the down tube and the bottom bracket shell. That way I won't have an ugly, pitted, or chipped up frame from gravel projectiles. Which leads me to my final point..............
The gravel is pretty soft yet, so this won't be the weapon of choice until things dry up. All I can say about cyclo cross is "No wonder you guys are blowing up yer heart rates!" These cyclo cross tires, (and I was running 42mm, mind you) just knife right into the earth! Makes you work waaaay too hard. So I will be riding some good ol' fatty 2 inchers until the roads firm up and then we'll bust out the skinnier tires. Maybe I'll have to commute to work on it. Tuesday maybe, so Captain Bob can roll in to check it out.

It's Not Easy Street

<===If he gets anymore excited, he'll knock that tent down!
I was cruising the web for North American Handmade Bicycle Show pics when I ran across J-Kove's mug here as he was setting up shop for the Indianapolis event.
I thought the expression on his face was priceless. Yeah, he gets to go to Germany. Majorca, and warm environs while we freeze our arses off here in the winter, but he also works. Don't be fooled folks!
It ain't all a bed of roses!
Jeff, if ya see this, I hope it got better before you packed up and went back to the Rockies. Doing shows is not a whole lot of fun. Especially indoors shows. I know......I've been there!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa: We have another sponsor to announce. The WEMs races in Wisconsin have supplied T.I.V5 with 9 entries to a WEMs race of your choice. All you have to do to get one ofthe nine freebies is beat Allen Brunner at T.I.V5! Allen is in the event and arranged the sponsorship. See the site for the details.

Also, Trans Iowa V4 has been added to the Historical Archives. Check it out along with all the other T.I. historical stuff. Future improvements will include a listing of results, a page including all the past participants, and more. Remember, the site is arranged in "pages", so look for the links to each in the right margin on the site.

Singular Cycles: If you haven't seen Singular Cycles stuff, you should check it out. Classy looking frame sets from the U.K. there. And that was the problem- they were U.K./Europe only, until now! The Prairie Pedaler in nearby Prairie DuChein, Wisconsin has signed on to be the sole U.S. distributor of these fine looking frames. For more on the story see this.

Giant 29"ers?: Yep! That's the word. It sounds as if Giant is finally throwing their hat into the ring for 2010. I am hearing that they will have a hard tail and perhaps a FS rig based on the Maestro platform with a tapered steer tube Marzocchi fork on the front end. No "official" word will be presented by Giant until their 2010 product introductions in August, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a few leaks before that time.

Tire Goodness: I have a Hutchinson Toro Tubeless Ready 29"er tire on hand here for testing for Twenty Nine Inches. Right now I will say that it seems undersized for the intentions that Hutchinson has for it. The Toro's casing is a paltry 50.1mm wide, while the Python is 51.2mm wide. (Toro mounted tubeless at 40psi for 24 hours- Python tubeless, 35psi, mounted and ridden some previously) The Toro is listed as a "marathon/XC tire and isn't even as wide in the casing as an XC race oriented tire? Huh? Kind of weird really, and when you look at the weight, which is just south of 700 grams it seems way off base. However; this is one of the few 29"er tires with an actual sidewall strengthening construction. Called "Hardskin" by Hutchinson, it's supposed to resist tearing and gashing. Good qualities to have, but that comes at a price. One tire expert told me that if their tires were to feature a sidewall treatment like Hardskin, the 2.4 incher they make would weigh just shy of 1000 grams, and that they thought 29"er freaks wouldn't go for that.

Continental is said to be shipping Race King 29"ers any day now and that a Rubber Queen 29"er tire is on the drawing boards. Also, Hutchinson is said to be readying a 29"er version of their Cobra, which is a hard pack, go-fast tire that may be a great racing/endurance tire. Finally, Geax is going to be hitting the lightweight button for 29"ers with the (anyday now) Barro Race. (Scroll down the page to find the Barro Race) The Barro Race is said to weigh oly 450 grams in the folding bead version! We're also told that a Geax Gato 2.35"er will be coming in a 29"er size. Keep in mind that when Geax says they are doing one new model, it's actually three tires. A tubeless ready, or TNT version, a folding bead version, and a UST version. Oh yeah.......and I saw a picture of a Saguaro tubular 29"er tire too!

Ten Speed MTB: It is confirmed now that SRAM will be introducing a 2 X 10 drive train, (most likely at Sea Otter) aimed at the XC racing crowd. Right now their are no firm details as to what that will entail for technology, but one has to wonder if the road and mountain stuff will be cross compatible at that point. It would be hard to imagine that it wouldn't be. I have also heard a pretty solid rumor that SRAM is working on a hydraulic drop bar/road brake/shifter mechanism. If all of this is true and comes to be, then a truly race worthy drop bar 29"er would be a viable option.

Anodized Baby!: Ano is coming back in a big way. I saw more anodized stuff at Interbike than you could shake a stick at. Now Race Face is telling us that they will be offering cranks in various models in gold, blue, red, purple, and orange hues besides the basic silver and black offerings. Yahoo! (See the italics for which color I'm pumped about)

Okay, enough talking about it, go ride!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Winter Still Hangs On

<====The Misfit In The Snow

I did a little recon of a couple local (to me) riding spots. First I went out to check on Cedar Bend Park, but the gate was up out at the blacktop and the sign said that the park wouldn't open until May 1st. Fair enough. I didn't want to incur the wrath of any locals or authority figures, so I moved on.

I made my way through Waverly and then on out to Camp Ingawanis. The gravel was pretty soft in spots, but the roads are all clear now.

<====Winter still holds court in the woods.

The South Side was my aim and when I got there it looked like the trail was at least partially clear. It was 50 degrees and the sun was out, so minimal clothing was on for this attempt at riding. It felt great not to have to layer up so much. Probably the least amount of clothing I've worn since The Fargo Ride in Minneapolis last November.

<====The service road was the best bet for riding.

The trail soon disappeared under a blanket of snow. I followed along, and then when I saw it was going to be fruitless to follow the singletrack, I looked for the service road.

The service road loops through the South Side to the creek. I followed along till I reached that area, and then bearing right on foot, followed the stream for a bit until I saw a good place to scale the ridge above the creek and look for the service road back out from the Cope Course.

<===Bobcat tracks going straight up the ridge.

The Camp is home to a wide variety of wildlife. I saw the tracks of many woodland creatures as I traversed the ridge heading eastwards. Turkey, rabbit, bobcat, and the ever present deer were all tracks I saw. At one point, I detected some movement and thinking it was a deer, I swung around to my left to see two Bald Eagles flying swiftly up the line of the creek. I was up high enough that the eagles were right at my eye level. Cool!

I finally reached the service road out and went rolling down the hill towards the car. A great time out in the woods, even though the riding was minimal and slow. It'll be awhile before the trails are rideable.

Even though the snow in my yard is about gone, I'd say there was a good six inches blanketing the floor of the woods yet. That will take awhile to melt away too, as it is dense and packed in. I could walk right up over it for the most part with no post holing at all.

Even if the snow did disappear, the logging that took place last fall has made a mess out of certain places out there and I'm sure a lot of trail work will be necessary before we can rage some South Side single track anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Frostbike 2009 Part III

<===Raging a KOS Cruiser through Mike's Bikes

Well, one beer led to another last Friday night and the next thing ya know, we're riding bikes around the shop. It was pretty sketchy, as you might imagine. Not only were we well on our way to three sheets in the wind, (does anybody get one or two sheets in the wind? Hmm......), but it was dark on the back half of "the course". There was a ramp at one point over a step and lots of tight spots with stuff that could cause serious damage. In fact, I ran into a bike in the work stand not once, but twice, ramming my left hand into an empty rear drop out. Ouch! And drew blood!

Well, after we had gotten our ya-ya's out riding around in circles at an ever increasing speed, and the beer was gone, we decided to vacate the premises for a local bar.

<===Ben rockin' the "MooseGoose".

Northfield has two private colleges in its city and the bar we went to was indeed a college bar. We commandeered a table and got some pitchers of Guinness. Good conversations were had. I am quite sure of it. At least I do not recall any raised voices or furrowed brows. I'm sure I'd remember that!

Anyway, we ended the night and walked back to Mike's to get into Ben's car so he could drop me back off at the motel. It was a snowy night and rather pleasant, actually. Oh yeah........and rather late! I was bound to get very little sleep, as I wanted to get to Frostbike by the 8:30am start time.

The next morning came way too soon and I crawled out of the sack to munch some of the free vittles at the motel before bugging out to Bloomington just 30 miles up the road.

It was super slickery/messy. Every dang semi tractor trailer rig was spraying up a storm of mag-chloride and water everywhere to the point that it was almost blinding. I made it though, just not at 65mph!

<===Squid-jerky anyone?

Once in the show, I made my rounds and stopped to talk with some old friends and acquaintances. Over at the Surly booth, they had several products that their Japanese distributor dropped off the night before. One of theses was "squid jerky", although I am quite certain that is not the proper name for it. I actually ate some. It smelled like a nasty beach, but tasted okay. The main thing was that it was just about akin to chewing shoe leather soaked in salt. Yeah.......don't try it if you've had dental work!

The rest of the show was spent in much the same way. I got to sit down a bit with J-Kove, I got to run out for some pizza with Gnat, and closed out the show having a can of Fat Tire with the Salsa Crew. (Yes.........New Belgium comes in cans now!)

The drive home started out great, and then icy patches slowed me down to 45mph at times. It was even snowing in Clear Lake! A couple of Amp energy drinks later and I was home, exhausted, but happy to be back.

If you are interested in the bicycle news I gathered, that can be found here. That's all for Frostbike 2009 folks! Now it's back to your regularly scheduled blog posts!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Touring Tuesdays Day Six: Big Miles, Big Lake- Part I

We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it embarks from Gillett, Wisconsin to begin Day Six.......

As Troy, Steve, and I got our things packed we looked at the maps and decided that we would need to get East in as straight a direction as possible. That meant hopping on to the State highway that ran straight east after leaving town on the northern end. We got geared up and set off in a thickening fog on a cool morning.

After setting off down the road from Gillett, it was obvious that our choice was a rather sketchy one. Even though we had our "blinkies" on, the fog was so thick that we didn't see cars coming from the other direction until they were nearly on top of us. We all knew what that meant, even though we hadn't communicated about it. We were nearly invisible to cars!

Well, we hadn't gone down the road far, in pretty constant traffic, when we heard the unmistakable sound of an air horn being applied from behind us. The driver didn't just toot it either. He was laying on it, and it was getting louder and louder from behind us. First Troy bailed off the road, then Steve shortly after. I contemplated holding my ground, but with the deafening noise of the air horn seemingly right in my ear, I thought better of it and steered for the ditch. Good thing too. A huge dump truck went by in a blur right down the white line where we were riding just moments before.

Well, that had us pretty shook up. We gathered ourselves up, and pulled out the map to find some sort of way out of the death trap we had found ourselves in. There was a little discussion and then it was decided to go to a county road leading northwards off the highway not more than a half a mile up the road. It wasn't to Troy's liking, since we didn't take the time to figure out where to go after the turn, but Steve and I were insistent that we get off the busy highway as soon as possible, then we could talk. Troy wanted a plan laid out so we wouldn't have to stop, but our desires won out.

Once we found the northward road, the moods changed dramatically, and the quietness of the back road was a welcome reprieve from the mayhem of the highway. We found a straight road east not far from us, so we headed out in search of it and the next town up the road. Once we got rolling we found the fog lifting, but it was very calm and cool this morning. Eventually we rolled up to an intersection and a town just across from it.

It was a little town called Lena and as we rolled through we caught a waft of fresh pastries. That was a siren call to stop. Even Troy fell to its power and thought getting something to eat would be a great idea. We all were very pleased with our purchases and devoured them accordingly. It wasn't long before we were back in the saddle again heading eastwards for a turn northwards towards Peshtigo, where we hoped to be before noon.

After anxiously looking for what we thought was our turn, we stopped right in the middle of the road and consulted the map. I don't think we had encountered a car since leaving the highway out of Gillett, so we all felt confident in stopping right there in the road. We were all confused, because we felt that our mileage was enough to have carried us eastward to the turn off, and very near Lake Superior, but we couldn't see anything. The fog was to blame partly, as it wasn't right on the ground anymore, but caused enough haziness as to make sighting anything around us very difficult. Suddenly, as if the veil had been lifted from our eyes, what we thought was a field of grass in the distance in front of us was finally seen for what it was- Lake Superior!

We now knew where we were. The turn was found, and we headed northwards to a highway and our final run in to Peshtigo. It was about 11:30 am and we were looking for a bite to eat. We found a small cafe, where there was a waitress that struck me as being sad, with far away eyes, but I really had no other reason to mark her out. Something about that look in her eyes. Anyway.......

We got on our way after much delay. Troy was very anxious to put in some miles towards our Canadian destination. Time was running out, with only one more day to go for the tour. Troy wasn't going to let this slip away without a fight. I thought I knew what that meant, but I was in for a surprise or two!

Next: The afternoon hammer session!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Frostbike 2009- Part II

<===Greek style pizza, beer, and an Ultegra seat post. Looks good to me!

Carrying on now from the last post, we finally decided what to order from one of the five pizza joints in Northfield. Seems that years ago a Greek family started a pizza joint. One broke away and started another pizza joint, and so on until now there are five Greek styled pizza joints in Northfield. Who'da thunk it?

I will say it was a mighty tasty pie! So was the Summit Torpedo IPA! That was some mighty fine brew. Well, they all tasted pretty dang good after the fourth or fifth one, but I digress.......

<===Marty Larson in quiet repose under the hallowed bulletin board.

So it wasn't long after the pizza arrived that Marty Larson of the Prairie Pedaler and a friend of his joined us for the festivities. We repaired to the back room and "The Couch" for beers and conversation at the insistence of Ben, who had the wisdom to tell us to sit down.

We all started to trade stories and I went off wandering around a bit after I got a phone call from home. (Had to talk to my kids a bit)

The other guys chatted and looked over the vintage flyers from modern mountain bikings pioneer days.

<=== Here's a rare one from the Appetite Seminar, which I gathered was a Thanksgiving Day ride out there in Marin.

<===One of several Repack flyers that Mike collected over the years.

<===A look at some more of the flyers. There were some that were three and four deep on the bulletin board!

Next time (Wednesday) I'll post up Part III f our Friday night hijinx...........

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Frostbike 2009- Part I

<===Remodeling progress at Milltown Cycles.

I had a pretty uneventful drive to Northfield, Minnesota on Friday where I procured lodging and hooked up with Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles. He drove me back to Faribault to check in on his remodeling progress. He just finished sanding off the hardwood maple flooring. The flooring is absolutely amazing. Most of it is bird's eye maple and there is even some flame maple happening in that floor. I told Ben there were a hundred guitar necks in there!

<=== Ben showing me Mike's bike, a Mt. Tam veteran.

After that we hauled up to Northfield again to visit the shop where Ben got his start, Mike's Bikes. It is a amazing joint. If you are bicycle lover, and a mountain bike freak. You'd love this place. Check out the green bike. It is a first generation Fisher/Kelly Mountainbikes Montare'. One of the very first Japanese made ones. It has a full Deore XT Deer head gruppo and fillet brazed Bull Moose bars. Awesome! Mike said he put thousands of miles on it before retiring it. Looks like you could sling a leg over it and ride it today!

<===Late 40's/early 50's Schwinn basket case and a rod braked Gazelle 3 speed.

This is just one corner of the back room. I'm telling you, there are bikes with stories in every nook and cranny of this shop. You could literally spend hours in one little area.

I saw tons of cruisers, track bikes, (including a 70's Raleigh Professional 531 tubed trackie) , Mongoose Kos cruisers, (yes....more than one!), and old mountain bikes, like a Schwinn KOM with original gear still bolted on, and odd, one off prototype frames and bikes. Travis Brown raced prototype Fisher Rig anyone? How about a prototype 29"er Reba? Mike's Bikes has it all.

<===Another amazing bike filled corner.

So, Ben showed me around and we eyeballed all sorts of cool rigs. It was a lot of fun for me, that's for sure. Then we hung out for a bit in the mechanics area and tried to decide what to do for eats and beverages for the evening. While we let that percolate for a bit, Mike and Ben took me back to one of the most amazing things I saw all weekend. The back desk where Mike has a bulletin board. But not just any bulletin board, oh no! This one has some pretty cool things tacked to it. Well........if you are into mountain biking and its roots at all!

<===This bulletin board has some amazing race flyers attached!

Here was a bunch of original Repack race flyers and "Appetite Seminar" flyers. See, Mike used to ride with Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly, and the rest of the Marin crew back in the day. He kept all the race flyers and here they were. Just push pinned into this bulletin board!

I got some individual shots of some of them that I will share in my next post, plus all the other of the evening's hijinx. Stay tuned for Frostbike 2009- Part II on Monday!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

For Trans Iowa History Buffs Only!

Hey, I'm up at Frostbike, but that doesn't mean the posts stop coming! Here's something only a true Trans Iowa freak would ever get into. It has been slow in the making, but I have enough content, (I think) to warrant pointing this out now. So if you are interested, here ya go!

A word or two about why I wrote the content and presented the information that I did is necessary, I think. I could have used a ton of links to sites where race reports were filed and linked hundreds of photos, but that would have been a monumental task, and it isn't my stuff to include anyway in the end. So, I decided to give it my own spin, my take from behind the scenes. Some of the information presented has never been published before. Some of it will anger, surprise, and amuse. However that is for you, it is purely my take on the Trans Iowas past.

I think I have been fair in reporting what I have written, but in anything worth pursuing, there are passions involved that may cause some emotions that are not necessarily my emotions or passions. It's all good, just keep in mind that I am relating the "history" from where I sat. Your point of view may have been different from where you were sitting. Okay?

That said, I have plans for relating some things that go on in between the events, and not just things that revolve around the events themselves. Things like recon, which you read that I do, but you may not know how that worked. Things like the sponsorships, how that all came about, and through whom. Things like the volunteers, and how that all happened. That will all be down the road.

For now, I am concentrating on each event, what changes happened, and some experiences from the seat of Guitar Ted. I have it up through V3 now, with V4 left to write up, and of course, V5 will be entered in as soon as we get by that one.

I hope you all enjoy it, that is, if anyone cares to look.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Frostbike Weekend

This is the weekend that Quality Bicycle Products holds "Frostbike". That is its annual dealer only show in Bloomington, Minnesota. You can check out my previous Frostbike hijinx here, here, here, and here. It's a weekend of meeting old friends and making new ones that I look forward to every year I get to go up.

I'm not sure the newsy bits will be as flowing on the big wheeled side as in years past, but whatever there is to tell, or that they will let me tell, I will. Look for a recap on Monday.

Till then, I leave you with this story from the 90's when Minneapolis played host to two distributor trade shows on the same day!

Back in the mid 90's, there were two bicycle parts distributors of note out of Minneapolis/Bloomington. They were Quality Bicycle Parts and Island Cycles. They used to hold their dealer shows on the same weekend. Quality was at a much smaller warehouse then than they have today. Still, by that days standards they were cutting edge. I remember the tour guide was particularly proud of the moving aisles, or carousel. It featured a station at the end where an employee would enter a part number and the entire aisle would rotate like a huge conveyor belt till the part bin the number called up was in front of the employee. He/she picked the part, entered the next number, and so on. Pretty cool! Well, then afterwards you could wander around anywhere you wanted. It was called an "Open House" back then, and it wasn't at all like the mini-trade show they put on today.

Well, we were wandering around, running our fingers through bins of Ringle' hubs in various candy colors and "ooing" and "ahhhing" over the latest CNC'ed bits that QBP had on offer. Pretty cool stuff for an avid mountain biker such as myself back in the day.

Well, Island Cycles was a completely different affair. Island was housed in an ancient (for the Mid-West) warehouse building in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. An eight story behemoth of a brick building with creaky wooden floors. You could go absolutely anywhere in the place, totally unsupervised on Open House weekend. I learned pretty quickly that the two best places to hang were at the extremes- the attic and the basement.

The basement of Island Cycles was freaking amazing. I can not begin to paint the picture of this joint. There were tires......I mean tires people! Tires that were waaaay old. Wheels hanging from the ceiling that were brand new. NOS stuff from the late 70's for 26 inch cruisers. BMX vintage stuff, and old tubular road wheels by the dozens. It went on and on like that down there. But that was just the basement.

The attic, and what an attic!- was so flippin cool. You would first notice that it was indeed a place rarely visited. Dust and cobwebs all over. But once you got beyond that, there were odd cycling treasures hidden all over the place up there. Old, old stuff from the 20's and 30's you would never have imagined, all new, all crated up, or in cardboard boxes. And the view from the huge windows looking out over the warehouse district was super cool.

Then when you were finished with that, you hit Islands micro-tiny customer area and drank some Grain Belt Premiums, had an egg salad sandwich, and bugged out for home. Those were some mighty different days from what goes on now. Island is no more, bought out by J&B Importers and the company moved to a more modern warehouse. QBP has moved twice since those days, and they are vastly different with a "mini-trade show" deal instead of an open house.

Anyway, I thought it might be cool to relate a bit of the past in contrast to today's Frostbike adventures. It's all been pretty fun, and I'm sure this year will be no different!

Have a great weekend! Ride a bike!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday News And Views

<===I call it "Vitamin R"

The single speed Rainier cyclo crosser is complete, (minus pedals). I got my Salsa Cycles Crossing Guard Wednesday and finished up the build. Those are 42mm IRC tires on there! I'll probably run something lighter and less wide when it comes time to throw down next fall. But for now, this will do.

The build consists of the following: Raleigh Rainier SS frame, size 59cm, Easton EC-90 carbon fiber fork, Sante' crank on a UN-54 square taper bottom bracket, ACS Claws 17T freewheel, 38T Origin 8 chain ring, SRAM PC-830 chain, (to be changed out for a different chain soon), Origin 8 single speed flip flop hub with a 16T cog and lock ring, KORE white cantilever brakes, de-badged Weinman DP-18 rims in "lager gold", Wheelsmith spokes and alloy nipples, IRC Mythos 42mm tires, Bontrager saddle, seat post, and stem, Midge Bars, Sante' levers, Bontrager tape in red, and a Salsa Cycles Crossing Guard chain ring guard.

First ride after I get me some pedals!

<===What happens when you are nice to people.

I had an old Sony turntable given to me. Turntable? of those thingies folks used to play "records" on so they could hear music. Well I had big plans to start playing the 500 LP's I have laying in a box somewhere, but of course, never got around to it and the record player sat under my bench at work for over a year.

Well, apparently vinyl records are making a comeback, and Brian, a co-worker I know at work knew about this turntable, so he asked me if I would sell it to him. I figured that since I didn't pay anything for it, why should he? Well, Brian gifted me this beer in return. I love it when everybody is happy!

<===I'm baaack! I'm back for more! (Hair band reference)

So I click on Salsa Cycles website yesterday and what do I see? Wool! Right on!

The old red and black Salsa "Classico" jersey had been discontinued for a few year, so this came as a complete surprise. Nice, and in short or long sleeves. Yeah, the price is big time, but this is made by EWR and they are top notch jersey makers. Nice ribbed collars, nice weight Merino wool fabric, and all tailored very well. I have lusted for an EWR jersey for a long time, but now that there is this Salsa Cycles version, I will definitely be getting one. Nice job Salsa Crew!

I did do some riding yesterday. It wasn't too bad in the morning. Not much wind and the temperatures above freezing. It sure was muddy though! I rode the Misfit Dissent back to back with the steel Milwaukee Bicycle Company 29"er. Definitely a difference between the two bikes. The Dissent, being aluminum is nice, not super stiff. The fork, also aluminum, is amazing. Very smooth! The bike is agile, playful almost. I do know it has a shorter wheel base than the MBC 29"er. Then I rode the steel rig next. Wow! Steel be good when it is made out of the pipes that the MBC is. Smooooth! Of course, this rig has a Cadillac ride and a '75 Eldorado wheelbase to go with it. She's a long legged gal, but sweet and super forgiving. I like the ride and it is a mellow, laid back feeling rig compared to the Dissent.

Man! Bicycles are just too much fun!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When Is It A Bicycle Or A Motorcycle?

<===They say it is an electric assist bicycle, I say it is a motorcycle.
There is a big problem coming down the road, around the curve on the bike path, and up your sidewalk. It's called by various names, and it comes in the guise of something good, green, and environmentally friendly. It is the electric assisted bicycle. Well........that's one of the things "they" call it!
Here's the deal: I'm going to give you the current reasons why this is said to be good, and then I'll debunk each myth afterwards. (Yes......I am not a fan! So beware!)
They say: One of the biggest reasons given for this electric motor equipped cycle as being good is that it will "get people that normally wouldn't ride a "bike" to ride and will turn more folks on to bicycling."
I say: Not in a million years! This is the biggest farce of the whole deal, (next to the fact that "they" deny these are motorcycles, but that will come in a minute...) there is no way that these will turn folks into cyclists. Why? That's easy. Number one- People are lazy. Really.......I'm sorry to bust your bubble. But it is true. Folks will run off the current available then whine when it runs out because they had to pedal the last mile home. And they will really whine when they are pedaling a 40-50lb beast that was never intended to be an efficient pedalling device in the first place. (Take a look at my random pic above if you need an example) What it will do is this: Turn folks into scooter riders, and possibly into motorcyclists. (The internal combustion type motorcyclists, that is) If you don't have to work, why would you? That's where these "non-traditional" cyclists are going to come from anyway, from cars. They will have a car mentality, not a cycling one, and therefore they will not become cyclists based upon their riding a motorcycle. Period.
They say: "They" call these "electric bikes", "electric assist bikes", "Light Electric Vehicles", or "Electric Motorized Bicycles". (Based upon a Google search of "electric assisted bicycles")
I say: Hmm.........let's see here. Electric motor + Bicycle = motorcycle. Period. It has been this way since the early 20th century folks. Where do you think motorcycles came from in the first place? From bicycles, that's where. Folks bolted an engine/motor to a bicycle because it was faster, easier, and more convenient than a bicycle. Especially when you considered longer distance travel. Again, people are inherently lazy, will take the easiest way out, and love gadgets. It's been that way for a long time, and these so called "electric assist bicycles" are nothing more than a modern re-hash of what took place over a hundred years ago. Folks will convince themselves that they are not "motorcycles" since they are not "internal combustion" powered, but I am sorry- It doesn't matter what type of motor it is, it is still a motor! Don't get sucked into thinking these are anything but motorcycles.
You might say that these rigs have pedals, and can be used as a bicycle. Uh huh.......riiiight! Can you say "moped"? We've been here already folks, and the result will be exactly the same.
They say: You will be able to use these right alongside of traditional bicycles. Municipalities will will welcome these with rights given to the electric assist cycles to ride bike paths and in bike lanes.
I say: "Impending disaster". If, (and that is a mighty big "if") these rigs are allowed onto bicycle paths and bike lanes we will see a huge increase in the accident rates with the resultant injuries these accidents will produce. Why? Because of speed, that's why. I demoed an electric assist bicycle a few years ago that had a top speed of 35mph. Now for comparison, there are not too many folks that can ride a sustained 35mph on a bicycle, and most of those that can are racing professionally. In other words, it's really rare. These electric assist bicycles will bring these speeds to bike paths and bike lanes on a regular basis that don't normally see this sort of speed with their normal user group- bicyclist. In fact, we as bicyclist ride bike paths and bike lanes to get away from speeding traffic. It's dangerous, and letting electric assisted bicycles- ie: motorcycles- on these safe havens of cycling will ruin all that we have achieved for safe cycling in the past 30 years.
And if you do not think that the riders of these electric devils on two wheels won't go at max speed, you are smoking crack. I already am hearing conversations amongst tinkerers about how they can make these rigs go even faster.
Okay, so what if we designate these to the streets? Okay, fine. What did you think the last time you saw a moped out on a busy city street? Uh huh............that's the same thing that will happen with these under powered motorcycles. Think about it..........
They say: This is "green" transportation. No gas burning. No oil usage. Friendly to the environment.
I say: Okay, to an extent, this is true. However; have you taken a look at what powers these things? Batteries, that's what. And batteries have their own dirty little secrets. Like chemicals to make the batteries and charging consumption to keep them full of energy. There's no free lunch. That energy comes at a big cost, although it is hidden well. And I won't even get into the disposal issues with batteries. Green indeed! A luminous, glowing chemical green!
So, when you hear about how great these "electric assist bicycles" are, and how they will revolutionize the way people see cycling, and how good it will be for the environment, I hope you will see through the "snake oil" and remember that nothing beats a good ol' bicycle.
Ride On!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: Day Five: Backroads and Cow Barns Part IV

The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" has rolled into Gillett, Wisconsin for an overnight stay.........

Just before coming out from the convenience store, Steve and Troy had made an inquiry of the cashier about potential camping spots. We weren't in too much of a hurry to find a spot, since there was enough daylight for the time being. What we didn't know was that the cashier had called the police in regards to us looking for a place to stay. So when the squad car pulled up right in front of us, and the window went down, and when the officer addressed us, well.........we thought we were in big trouble.

It turned out that the officer was merely looking out for us. He suggested we stay in the county fair grounds, which had plentiful lawn space, but not too close to the road, so as not to draw attention to ourselves. The fair grounds were right in town too, no long trip to get there. Bonus!

Well once we peeled ourselves up off the pavement and got over to take a look, we saw something much more appealing than the grassy lawn. A cattle barn, where show cows and livestock were bedded down during fair time, was all cleaned up with a nice smooth cement floor. Why set up tents when we could simply sleep in the cow barn? Troy and I laid out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags right on the concrete floor. Steve had a hammock and strung it up between two stalls across the aisle. We parked our bikes beside us, ate our meal for the evening, and settled in for a good nights sleep, just as the sun went down.

I suppose it was about 2:30-3:00am in the morning when I was suddenly aroused by Steve's sudden yelp in the dark. Troy and I sat up suddenly, gripped in fear. We were surrounded by dark figures in the night! Somebody turned on a flashlight, which blinded our eyes.

Just then a sheepish voice could be heard. It was a young boy, about 10-13 years of age. I slowly focused on him and saw that he had several friends standing with him. Apparently he had seen us at the convenience store, and knew about the plans to stay in the fairgrounds. His friends didn't believe his story, so he was simply setting the record straight by showing his friends the evidence, and scaring us half to death in the process. He was very apologetic, and his friends were obviously scared, so we chatted with them to calm them down, and sent them on their way.

In a way, it reminded me of the wandering about town I used to do as a kid with my friends in the middle of the night in my small hometown. We never meant any harm, and everything took on an air of adventure at about 2:00am in the morning. I am quite sure these kids never forgot this little adventure they had back in 1994!

We went back to sleep, although cautiously,and slept till dawn with no further incidents. Once awake, we set to packing up, and discussing our strangers in the night. Outside it was cool, and it looked like it might be foggy. The plan was to get on out of Wisconsin and in to the U.P. of Michigan. Just what lay ahead, we had no idea.

Next time: Day Six: Big Miles, Big Lake.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Great Gearing Debate

<===Shimano is set to introduce this 12-36T 9 speed cassette soon. (Courtesy of

Recently it was revealed on a thread on that Shimano will introduce a cassette with a 36T low gear. There have been calls in the 29"er ranks for lower gearing, and this would seem to be a n answer to that call. However; there has been more bickering about deficiencies in weight, and of rider strength, than praise for at least an acknowledgement of the call for this lower gearing. Ah.......the wonder of the forum shows itself again!

I suppose it is too easy to say, "just don't buy it then.", since that takes away all the fun, but having said that, let's take a look at the reasons for and against such a component.

<===Shimano will also introduce a hub to go with the cassette that will feature a stronger free hub. (Courtesy of

First off, the weight thing. Shimano could have made it an XT level cassette, which all the weight weenies would have loved, but think about a few things here. One: Shimano needs to sell these things to folks and an XT version would have been quite expensive compared to this HG/Deore level cassette. Secondly: The XT level cassette isn't necessarily built for high torque loads, the very kind of loads that a 36T cog is going to generate. Shimano isn't going to spend the money on this (probably) low sales numbers cassette to re-engineer it to withstand those loads and be at an XT level. Not when a Deore level cassette can do he job with little to no extra cost to manufacture. The very notion that a special free hub body/hub had to be developed to accommodate the expected torque loads should be enough evidence to support my theory here.

Need. That word that some say in support of this product and some say that there is none of. Well, as I wrote on the thread referenced above, "I was as big a naysayer as anyone on this thread, but again: Sit down and talk with someone that rides these crazy climbs and high altitude stuff. Have an open mind, and you'll get it"

And to those who just don't get it, I say this, "Just don't worry about it. It isn't for you then. That's fine." I think a lot of folks will use it, and not just for 29"ers, and not just for mountain bikes. The low 36T gear will most certainly make it to touring bikes and tandems. Lower gears there will mean less shifting at the font derailleur, which most users will find a nice thing. Probably other unforeseen uses will come about for this cassette as well.

Crank sets: Some will argue that the 20/30/40 T crank set will eliminate the need for this 36T cassette. I would counter with the fact that those gearing choices are a much more expensive route to take to the solution than the cassette is. Especially now with the Middleburn and Surly solutions out there. Then you might just want both the cassette and the crank set, which a lot of the critics of the cassette seem to miss in this debate.

Of course, the cassette may not play well with every derailleur set up, and if you put it on a hub that isn't up to snuff in terms of torque load handling, you may end up walking anyway, but I think the 12-36T cassette is a great step in solving the gearing complaints that some have had against 29"ers since the beginning.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The (Un) Reality Of It All

<===The scene outside my front window this morning.

So I came home the other day to find this camping trailer and a humongous 4 X 4 parked on my street. "Oh great! There goes the parking!", I say. I get out of my car and a neighbor down the street, the one that knows if you picked your nose or if someone kicked their dog, you know..........that neighbor! Well, she says to me that my next door neighbors are on "Wife Swap". (Apparently, a reality T.V. show)

You know, I have heard of these shows. "Survivor" comes to mind, but I have never seen one and I have no idea if "Wife Swap" is really a reality T.V. show or not, but my co-workers claim they've seen bits of it aired, so I suppose..........

At any rate, here they are today outside, staging shots in 15 degree weather, the crew smoking heaters and looking uncomfortable, and my neighbors parading around in his Halloween get ups. (He runs a "haunted house" deal on the side replete with motorized monsters, ghouls, and ghosts.)

I'm not going to pass judgement on all of this, but I will say this: It's about as unreal as it gets.

I always figured those shows were staged.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Friday-ness

<===The ice jam on the Blackhawk before it washed out on Thursday.

Well, even though the temperatures have decreased a bunch here, the after effects of the melt over the past weekend are still being felt. The Black Hawk and the Cedar were way up and flooding low lying areas around the area.

At least the moat in front of my house has moved on downstream! I don't have to wade out to the car anymore when I need to drive it.

<===Misfit Dissent out getting dirty.

I was able to find a few places where I could get in some testing on the Dissent. Not really single track mind you, but dirt and climbing were found. I just had to be creative!

The dikes on the Black Hawk make for great climbing hills, and some double track inspection road alongside the dike, along with some dirt roads in the cemetary worked to get rubber on dirt.

<===Trans Iowa will never be the same.

Garmin stepped up to support Trans iowa with the donation of this Garmin 605 unit. It's bicycle compatible, and they even sent some mapping software with it so we can plot the course and get accurate turns and most importantly mileage.

Besides this, they are also supporting he event with two more GPS units as prizing. Awesome! Now to get out there and see if I can get the whole course mapped and locked in. Should be some fun times ahead.

I hope ya'all can get some riding in this weekend. Spring is just around the corner!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Tease Me", He Says.....Rainier Pics

Somebody wanted some teaser pics of the Raleigh Rainier. So...........I'm obliging them.
It's not done yet, but it's getting close. I've got a couple more parts to get yet. A Salsa Crossing Guard for one thing.

The parts are a mix of new and old, with some Bontrager (gasp!) parts mixed in with ..........

...........modern carbon wizardry, and a dash of..................

...................old school Shimano Sante'.

Once I get my last few pieces of the puzzle, I'll post it all in it's single speed glory.
But for now, that's all yer gettin'!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ice Jams And Mud

<===This was the ice jam on the Black Hawk Creek on the morning of February 10th, 2009.

I've been around rivers all my life, but I don't think I've ever seen an ice jam. Well, I got to see one yesterday in the morning on my commute to work. It was pretty amazing with the big, busted up sheets of ice being tossed around and broken by the strength of the river's current.

The large open water area to the right is where all the water was flowing around and over the sheet ice of the creek. You can see where the ice cracked under the weight of the overflowing water and was bent down to the creek bottom. When I came back by in the afternoon, it still looked much the same.

The route was pretty soft where I cross on dirt and grass. Of course, just two days ago most of what I was riding was under about a foot of snow, so it's no wonder I was sinking in mire in places. Good thing Planet Bike makes fenders for 29"ers, that's all I can say.

The wind was fierce coming into work. Going home it was at my back, but had subsided to a great degree. Speaking of degrees, can you say "60"? That was about what it got up to yesterday. A nice taste of what spring will be like, and a far cry from the negative temperatures of just a week ago. Crazy weather for sure! Today it won't be anywhere near that warm, but hey! 40 ain't bad!

Note: If you need to ship a bike out before you come to T.I.V5, check out the site for The Latest News and read all about it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: Day Five: Backroads and Cow Barns Part III

The members of the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" now stop in for a late lunch in the small Wisconsin town of Gresham......

Now Steve finally ate something and looked to be coming around to his old self again. As we munched our food under the shade of some nice hardwood trees in front of the grocery store, a kid was seen circling us on his 20 incher. Pretty soon, the expected visit came, and the regular questions were asked. Once again, kids saw in us an adventure that was exciting, adults saw us as vagrants that were scary. Oh well!

After a nice, leisurely stop, we felt the urgency to move. We mounted up, heading north through the town on the blacktop road. There was a wee bit of confusion as to where we were going, but once we got a bead on the next turn eastwards, we were good to go. The road was the typical weathered blacktop, not bad, but not really smooth. The weather had turned fine and hot by now. We were all down to our shorts and t-shirts by this point. (Cycling jerseys on tour were considered "too serious" before we left.)

Suddenly we became aware that our eastward road had turned incredibly smooth and was lined on either side by towering white pines. The cool shade was refreshing. In fact, we decided to stop for a moment to enjoy the area. Troy was in an especially playful mood here, which was unusual for him. However; after a bit we all knew it was time to motor on down this arrow straight, flat, and brand new stretch of black top.

The conversation turned to the road, as a matter of fact. Why would there be such a fine blacktop in a seemingly out of the way place? This road didn't look to be going anywhere too important, at least by the look of the maps we had. Well, after several miles, we soon found out why it was so. The intersection we were dumped out on was directing us onto a road vastly different than the one we had been on. Busy with traffic, and every tenth car or so seemed to be a law enforcement vehicle. Strange. Where were all these folks going and coming from? It was as busy as any city of larger size we had been through, maybe even more so.

I noticed a license plate: "Menominee Nation" was emblazoned across the top portion of it. In fact, every license plate I saw had that on it. Suddenly we were aware that we were in a Native American reservation. They run their territories as independent nations, (to a degree) and so the weirdness was accounted for, at least for the time being. We didn't have much time for discussion as we were busy keeping pace and watching out for ourselves on this stressful stretch of road. We went from totally peaceful relaxed riding to this frying pan in less than a block. It wasn't much fun, and we had several miles of it to endure.

Once we crossed the boundary of the Menominee Nation, we were back to a quieter, more peaceful rural Wisconsin experience. It was shocking, and almost as if we had just been in some weird time warp. However it was, it was getting late in the afternoon now, and we were putting our heads down, trying to gain as many miles as we could before packing it in for the afternoon. The next town up the road was Underhill, and I was hopeful it would be our stopping point for the day.

Well, Troy would have none of this stopping, not just yet. He had a mind to make it to the next city beyond Underhill, much to my disappointment. That city was called Gillett, and it might as well have been a hundred miles away, as far as I was concerned at the time. Those final miles into Gillett seemed like an eternity, and with Troy setting a furious pace, I was getting toasted. I don't know if Steve was going to pop or not, but I sure was about to!

Finally, we rolled off a hill in the late afternoon into Gillett and up to the nearest convenience store we could find. I was relieved and we all were pretty exhausted, by the looks of it. Right now though, all we could think about was getting some refreshments and sitting down to rest.

Next week: Strangers in the night!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Roller Racing Gets Its Day In The Sun

The latest issue of BRAIN, otherwise known as Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, just sent out its latest issue recently with a feature article on roller racing. If you have not ever seen such a thing, or heard of it, here is a brief description of what it is.

Several cyclists pit themselves against the clock and each other by riding timed "two mile" time trials on Kreitler rollers. The rollers are timed and the distance is recorded by a special computer program set up for the job. typically you have two sets of rollers set next to each other "drag racing" style, but this isn't always the set up at all roller races.

On one hand, it is cool that roller racing is getting its due, but I also had to laugh. I mean, this has been going on in the winter time in Iowa for at least 25 years or more. Anyway, It's cool that somebody noticed it.......finally!

I did this once. Once! Way back when I was seriously racing on this team, I gave it a go. I guess I did okay for a big guy that was really a mountain biker. At any rate, the year before I did the event in the shop I worked at, we held the event there when I wasn't so silly to think I could actually be one of these roadie dudes. I was basically the only employee on duty that cold winter day playing host to about 40-50 sweaty cyclists raging on rollers all around the shop.

Well, in the midst of all this madness a fellow comes in to "check things out". He didn't look much like a cyclist. More like an old skool farmer than anything. He was about my height, balding, bearded, and had a round pot belly stuffed into faded blue overalls. Not only that, but he had a tiny furball of a dog stuffed into the front of his bibs like some humanoid marsupial carrying around an alien spawn with brown beady eyes.

I spoke with him for a bit. He seemed all curious about the roller races, asking about the turn out, and some particular cyclists. Hmm......okay, he seemed to have some knowledge of the event and folks here, so I allowed him to stroll around the back, figuring the cyclists would get a kick out of this rustic dude and his strange way of carrying around his pet. He didn't stay long. He claimed he had a long drive ahead of him, and that he just happened to be passing through. Hrumpf! Whatever! I said goodbye and off he and his dog went.

Not long afterwards the shop owner popped in to see how things were going. When someone tipped him off that the stranger had been in, he excitedly came over and asked, "So, you got to meet Al? What'd he say?"

"Al who?!!", I exclaimed with a bewildered look.

"Al Kreitler! You know......Kreitler Rollers?!!!"

Oh! ...........yeah, ummm.........

Well, needless to say, I felt pretty dumb as my boss explained to me the whole Kreitler story and that the little "rat" dog was his famous "Killer" that was featured in all the promotional materials for the company.

I got a chance to redeem myself a couple of years later when I met Al again, recounting the story to him. He chuckled with a sparkle in his eye, and a note of sadness. Seems that "Killer" had died and he had another dog, still stuffed into the front of his overalls, named "Killer II", but he really missed the first one. We shared a few anecdotes, and then I went my way.

That was 13 years ago now, and now Al is gone too. I bet he would've chuckled at the BRAIN story too, had he seen it.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Glorious Sun

<===The sun is really doing a number on the snow here.

Today was an awesome day to be out. I do not know what the temperature ended up being, but I went gloveless and wore just a thin wool pant beneath my knickers today. Awesome to be able to shed some layers. I actually got sort of hot going with the wind.

<===The east/west roads were pretty soft.

I did about two hours at a measured pace today. The wind going west was tough. But, as ol' Jeff used to say, "The wind is our mountains." So be it. I pedalled along through it all just fine.

It was just an awesome ride anyway you slice it, especially after the winter harshness we have endured here.

<===The sun felt great today.

So I toodled along in my 36T X 20T gear set up, not caring to go fast at all just yet. The fenders came in mighty handy today. I had to go through water running down the streets on my way out and back in. The water running in the ditches and drainages is amazing. It's good that it will go below freezing at night for a time, because the runoff is going to cause flooding if it doesn't get slowed up a tad.

<===Giant drifts populate the roadsides out in the country.

I saw lots of snowless field exposed, which means that the temps can get higher easier now. The drifts? Well, that's another story. Those giants will be around awhile. I saw some far bigger than I have pictured here, which was just an "average" sized pile.

<====The Monkey is needing some tweakage.

I need to somehow get that bottom bracket out of the Monkey. Last time I tried, it didn't show any signs of wanting to budge, and now the bottom bracket bearings are making some racket. It's time to pull it down, somehow! I'll wait for a bit till "fender" weather blows by, or..........put the fenders on the Fargo! But wait...........nah! I have another project that the Fargo needs to be involved in, which means I'll just have to live with the crunchy BB for a bit. It isn't terrible yet, just on its way out, that's all. I have a little time yet. Not much, but a little.

Okay, I sure hope the locals got out, and I'm sure they did. I saw at least one lonely set of tracks on Ansborough today. So, someone was out before me! Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 06, 2009

So, I Am Wondering....

The big news around here is that the temperature is going to soar above freezing for the next few days before returning to more February-like normals. This has me thinking. I think about the weather a lot in the early months of the year anymore it seems.

It's all due to Trans Iowa. Last year was especially bothersome since we hadn't been able to recon the entire course at all up until early March. Then the wet weather, of course, which turned parts of Iowa into the Land of the Lakes. So I was fretting about weather for months last year.

This year is different, of course. With 90% of the course recon in the bag, we don't have such a heavy burden going into the final months before the event. Yet there is still that last bit of course hanging out there waiting to be looked at. So, it has me wondering- Can I drive it this weekend, or even ride my bike on parts of it.

Some of you are wondering, "What's he worried about? It is on gravel roads, and they are fine. " Well, you'd be mostly correct, but for the sections of B maintenance roads that are in this last section. As you gravel road folks know, B roads can be most anything, from benign barely maintained gravel, to outright primitive scars of clay cut through the Iowa landscape. It is the latter that has me worried. That and the zero maintenance that B roads suffer throughout the winter months. It could be an epic slog through drifts, mud, and slime, or it could be just fine.

So I am going to take a bike down and see if I can make it through on two wheels if necessary. Of course, if the snow is deep and things are blocked up, I won't even get through at all. We'll see, but I feel it necessary to take the chance now while the weather has turned. My instincts tell me there is more winter to come yet.

Stay tuned for a report on the outcome soon.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Thursday News And Views

Raleigh CX SS Update: The Rainier is getting worked on now again that I have most of my parts gathered. I started building up the wheels late yesterday, the bottom bracket and cranks are on the frame, the seat post, stem, and front chain ring is in and ready to be installed. I gt some brakes, some levers, and a handle bar. Still have to decide on tires and bar wrap along with some minor details. I hope to have this up and running by the weekend.
The Misfit : The Misfit Psycles Dissent is done and that will get ridden now that our temps are getting live able again. I know that there have been "windows" of warmer (If you can call slightly above zero "warmer) weather and some folks are riding gravels, but my timing for getting out at those particular times has been off. It looks as though it will all come together Saturday morning though, so that is my aim for now.
Public Service Announcement: If you haven't noticed, there was an individual that decided to pump up my comment count to an all time high yesterday. My advice is to not leave any comments here until I can get that cleared up. I also wouldn't bother looking at the comment section for yesterday or probably today. (There won't be anything worth reading there) I won't be checking the comments until I have regained control of the function. (Lesson: Write down your passwords for little used computer functions) After that is cleared up, I'll give the high sign here that comments will be moderated. Too bad that it has to be that way, but there it is........
Sorry for the inconvenience.
Have a great Thursday folks and ride a bike if you can. (Of whatever wheel size!)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The New Camera= A Big Step!

<===The New Tool In The Shed, or A New Toy To Play With?

Okay, things are getting serious around here! This here is not your average image capture device. No sirree! This is getting down to business now and I've got a lot of learning to do.

Here we have the Panasonic DMC-LX3. (Go ahead and click the link if you are a shutterbug freak) I will say that in terms of my buddies Gnat and Captain Bob , I am a total n00b. Those guys sort of led me down this path, so hey. I can blame them, right?

Well, actually, I also have been smitten a bit by the photo bug, and truth be told, my gig on Twenty Nine Inches demanded that I do something differently. I will say that since I started with the online scribing, my photos have gotten a wee bit better. At least no one is posting and complaining that my shots suck anymore. So, I feel justified in saying I've taken at least some baby steps in the right direction.

Now, if I ever figure out how to use this device, I'll be well on my way! Until then, I've got some practicing to do, and I'll most likely never catch up with my two shutterbug friends, who have more photog talent in their pinky fingers than I do in my whole body. Well, at least I aim to have some fun regardless, so hopefully some good shots will find their way on here and the Crooked Cog Network will look respectable. Maybe........I can dream, can't I??

Rider Down! If you clicked the linky for Captain Bob, you already know he's broken his arm and will be off the bike for awhile. I feel awful for him and wish him a speedy recovery. You can go to his blog and leave him some encouragement here. I know he's feelin' down and could use some good words and vibes. Get well soon, Brother! We'll miss ya until you can rejoin us out there on the trails.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: Day Five: Backroads and Cow Barns Part II

In the last entry, Steve had rejoined the tour in a very hung over state and the three tourists rode away from Stevens Point into the Wisconsin countryside........

As we rolled along a quiet county blacktop headed more or less northwards, I noticed a crop duster plane swooping up and down over a field not far off the road we were on. As Troy, Steve, and I marveled at its graceful swoops over the corn field, we suddenly realized it had disappeared. It was flying so low, we could no longer see it. Then we all stopped, sensing something wrong. Just then, the radial engines roar could be heard and there was the plane. It was headed straight for us! We all hit the deck as the plane flew right over our heads. I'm not so sure the pilot didn't fly underneath the power lines, but one thing was for certain: We were buzzed on purpose!

Once we were able to regain our composure, we remounted and sped away. We weren't going to wait around for a second helping of that! The thrill of that moment was soon forgotten; however, as we navigated our way through the rolling countryside, ever mindful of a possible encounter with a resident of Tigerton.

Soon after, we came upon a crossroads where a long, low set of brick buildings were lined up alongside the road. There was a bar sign high up on a rusty, white painted pole outside the building right on the corner. There were a few old cars parked outside, but otherwise there were no other signs of life here. Troy wanted to consult the maps and called Steve over to take a look, so we stopped right at the corner.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the front door of the bar opening and three men shuffled out of the place. Odd, it was still before 9am, but there they were. The third of the three men caught my eye. He was elderly, but spry and thin. The main thing I noticed was that he had a long, curly snow white beard from his chin that reached down to his waist. It fluttered gently in the morning breeze. I marveled at its perfectly formed corkscrew appearance. The man noticed my stare. I politely and sheepishly said hello, and he responded in kind. Then he climbed into an old Ford LTD and the trio rumbled off down the road. Troy and Steve missed the whole thing with their noses stuck in the maps. Oh well!

Now we forged on ahead, straight north, giving Tigerton and its reportedly surly residents a wide berth to our right hand. We were on a highway now, but it wasn't a busy one. We were hopeful of finding a convenience store in the next little town called Elderon, but when we got there it wasn't much of anything but a place to get some water. I dug out some tights from my bag to put on. It seemed to be getting colder. Tights in early August! I thought I'd break them out once we reached Canada, but not this soon!

Now we had determined that we had gone far enough north to get safely around Tigerton. So we took a right hand turn eastward onto a busy two lane highway headed to Wittenburg, Wisconsin. I was hoping to stop, since Wittenburg was a bigger town, but Troy sped on through it. I think Troy was more concerned about putting the hurt on Steve than he was about eating just then, although he later claimed it was because the traffic in Wittenburg was too bad for him to stop there. True, the traffic was bad, which would have made stopping difficult, since everything was across the oncoming lane. At any rate, we ended up going through town and a couple miles eastwards before we bailed off the busy road on a quiet county blacktop going northwards. Troy wasn't pleased about going north much more, so the first eastbound blacktop we found, we turned onto.

It was in this stretch that I had remembered that I had brought all sorts of nutritional supplements, and since we had apparently skipped lunch to crush Steve to bits, I delved into my supply. I had planned on doing "research" into which bars and gels did the best for me, so I could recommend things back at the shop once the tour was over. Every time I sampled something, I gained a super human ability to drop Troy and Steve like a bad habit, only to drift back to them as the effects wore off. Troy and Steve caught on to my ruse and gave me grief about it the rest of the day.

Now it was getting on in to the middle of the afternoon. We still hadn't taken a break for lunch. Troy had laid down a consistent pace all day trying to break Steve, but that stubborn little guy kept plugging along, only drinking water with nothing to eat. I think finally Troy found that he was going to have to give in and stop for grub soon, or he was going to bonk. So, in a little town called Gresham we found a supermarket with a deli where we all bought some lunch to eat. Finally!

Next week- The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" goes into another nation.....but it's not Canada!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Bike Building......And Riding!

Well, it has been a pretty productive weekend at Guitar Ted Laboratories. I even got to ride my bicycle! Woo Hoo! With temperatures over the freezing mark, finally.....I actually rode outside for a bit. I did take it pretty easy though, since I haven't ridden in a few weeks and I needed to start out with a slow, steady pace to get back into putting some base miles in.

I rode the Milwaukee Bicycle Company single speeder yesterday. I just cruised around town this time. It was a perfect rig for the day and great for this sort of weather. Long, lowish, and stable is good for icy, wet, slushy streets. I still got off to walk a few places though. Just too sketchy to trust.

In bike building I nearly finished off the Dissent. It just needs a new chain. I'll get one at work today and probably get that installed tonight. Then it's time to ride it! It's looking pretty cool, so I'll have to throw up some pics of it when I finish it.

The next project hit the stand tonight. The Raleigh Rainier single speed cross bike got its BB prepared,a cartridge installed, (square taper) and I mocked up the rear brake. The brakes are these really cool KORE cantilevers in powder coat white. I've got some other white bits to install too like the old Sante' cranks, brake levers, a Bontrager stem, and white Jagwire housing for the brakes. I got some gold ano Weinman DP-18 rims that look like Pilsner, so that befits a bike named "Rainier" I think. They'll get laced up to some flip flop fixed/free Origin 8 hubs.

I'll have both a fixed cog and free wheel on it for some stupid fixed gear antics. I figure I may as well use this rig for training and commuting this summer. Get used to it before I try to cross race it somewhere this coming fall. Sounds like a plan, eh?

So, that's my weekend. I've got some things to do yet, but I made a lot of progress I think. Hopefully we'll have some more good weather coming up, because I kind of liked that riding a bike thing I did yesterday. I think I'd like to do that some more!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Trans Iowa Roster Update

Just a short note on the T.I.V5 roster. As most of you know, the roster "Waiting List" expired last night. With a few additions and late subtractions, some coming in this morning, here is where we stand.

71 riders on board so far...........

I suspect we'll see some attrition over the next couple of months, as we always do. Again, please let me know as soon as possible if you are not showing up by e-mailing me. We sure do want you to show up, but if you won't be, we need to know to save on paper, money, and effort. Thanks!

No shows are not cool people! Don't be "that guy/gal".

Okay, Happy Training and we hope to see as many as possible take the start line at Williamsburg on May 2nd.