Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: Thoughts And Musings On The "B,B,& B" Tour

The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" was over. Here are some extra bits, thoughts, and a look to the future of Touring Tuesdays on Guitar Ted Productions.

I suppose looking back on the tour, I can see that it was a watershed, a paradigm shift in my cycling life. I had laid down a few centuries, ridden in some awful weather, and survived some tough days in the saddle. I learned how to draft, how to conserve energy, and I began to unravel many of the nuances of riding that I had no idea about before the trip. From a cycling standpoint the trip was a huge success. The social/friendship part was different. Even though we were all on good terms in the end, we all would never again share friendship as a trio. Funny how things work out.

I had a total mileage at one time for this trip, but I lost it. I think it was a little over 600 miles in seven days. We didn't have any mechanicals, and if we had, I brought enough tools and extra parts to build another bike, practically. That is one thing I decided to cut back on for any future tours.

If I ever heard Steve Miller's "Abra-Cadabra" again after that tour, it would be too soon! I think it played on Steve's bike radio every fifteen minutes!

The experience was a great one and even though we didn't get to Canada, it didn't really seem to matter to me. It was a fantastic adventure that I will never forget. I never regretted making that decision to go after we got back home, even though there were several times on the tour that I thought I might have made a big mistake by committing to come.

So, from here where do we go? Well, there will be another big tour detailed out for you. It was undertaken a year after the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" ended. However, there were some really big changes in my life that bear mentioning that play into this tour that I will touch on in an "Interim Post" coming next week.

Thanks for reading the story of "The Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour"!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The New Standard In Full Suspension 29"ers

<===The Big Mama is one of the New Breed of 29"er FS designs.

Used to be that if you liked full suspension and big wheels you were going to have to compromise on stiffness. Noodly front triangles or swing arms were just something you were going to have to accept. Well, not anymore!

The idea that a full suspension 29"er could be rigid, precise, and predictable was thought to be not attainable by the critics, but that idea is not only attainable, it is here. Check out the Salsa Cycles Big Mama shown here. It is representative of the new standard of 29"er chassis stiffness and handling. It wasn't the first 29"er to have these attributes, and it isn't the only one, but what I'm saying is this: If you are going to design and build a full suspension 29"er, it better be at least as good as the Big mama is!

Going back a few years, the LenzSport bikes were really the first full suspension designs with big wheels to address the issues with frame stiffness. That was a good thing, but it takes more than that to get the job done. Unfortunately, at that time the forks and wheels hadn't caught up to the frame design.

Now with the advent of Salsa Cycles Gordo, Halo's Freedom Disc rims, and the like, the wheel situation is much better. Added to this is the proliferation of longer travel through axle forks, and now one can have all that is necessary to get 26"er-like stiffness in a 29"er package.

Companies like Niner, Pivot, and Salsa have also stepped up to the plate with far more rigid and stiff frames for full suspension than we have ever had before, which now raise the bar for companies following in their footsteps.

So, at what cost has all this rigidity come? Well, you can't get strong and rigid in a 29"er full suspension bike without a little weight gain. That said, it hasn't been much of a weight gain. Full suspension 29"ers with four inches of travel that meet the higher standards are still being built up in the sub-28lb category. Some even lower than that. Bigger travel bikes like the LenzSport Behemoth five inch bikes are routinely built up at sub-30lb weights.

Some say that a full suspension design in big wheels has "too many compromises". I'm 6'1" and I have a hard time seeing where these compromises are when I ride Lenz, Salsa, Niner, or Pivot's latest FS 29"er designs. Heck, Lenz is even putting much shorter folks on their designs, and are getting rave reviews.

The pundits can point and laugh all they want to. I'm going out for a ride on a full suspension 29"er and havin a ball doing it. These newer designs are the reason why.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fisher Superfly SS To Be A 2010 Product?

Last year it was leaked that at Trek World, the dealer only show, something special was going to be offered to Trek/Fisher employees. Something that was not going to be offered for sale to the public- a single speed version of the Superfly carbon 29"er hard tail.

Okay, so it was instantly the hottest 29"er product and lots of people got wind of the proposed offer before it happened. It was obvious that those who had "connections" were going to get these despite not working for Trek/Fisher. (This happened- alot!) It was also apparent to me as time went by that Fisher would be foolish not to offer this in their line up as a product anyone could buy. In fact, I was almost certain that this, "you can't buy it" product would end up being sold by a dealer or dealers somewhere.

And now that has happened.

A well known Minnesota dealer and another in Pennsylvania are offering 2009 Fisher Superfly single speed specific frames and Fox forks for sale. It was just a matter of time.

So, you have to figure that it is coming. A 2010 Fisher Superfly single speed hard tail with a geared option. Not only that, but I'm betting a rigid carbon Bontrager "Superfly" fork with the G2 offset is coming as an option for it. Will I be right? Well, we only have to wait for about four more months before we find out. All I have to say is this..............

Is Fisher going to say "no" to making money?

I don't think so!

Get out and ride this weekend!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fargo In The Wind

<===Bleak, windy, and cold!

I went out for a gravel grinder Wednesday and while getting out of town, I had some ambitious thoughts of getting to Traer and back. Once I hit the country, however, it became apparent that I was in for something altogether different.

The wind was out of the West-Southwest and blowing at a constant velocity. Probably in the neighborhood of 25-30mph. It never really gusted much. Just a constant loud roar in my right ear as I headed southbound on Ainsborough. The temperatures were in the mid-30's for the entire ride, so yes.....windchill was a factor!

<===Okay, how about some abandoned and derelict windmill action?

Eventually I arrived at the forgone conclusion that my high and lofty goal would have to be modified somewhat, seeing as how I was burning through energy like it was going out of style. Besides that, my feet were not liking this windchill effect at all. No, not one little bit!

So I turned into the wind for a mile. Yeah, that was like putting the brakes on. I felt like a tractor. A tractor pulling a four bottom plow set at 8 inches! I made a pit stop for a Cliff bar at this old windmill skeleton. I heard that in days of yore, Waterloo teens would drive down to this very windmill, climb it, and smoke that weed. Maybe that's a tall tale. (<====Ha !) Whatever, it makes for something to think about instead of listening to the wind howl through rusted metal trusses.

<===This skunk looked like it was sleeping, or dead, or.....I didn't get any closer to find out!

Then I slogged to the next corner, turned it back northwards, and started to fly. Before I had gone three miles I was in the big ring to stay. All the way back to the house At one point I was obliged to go a mile East. I maybe pedaled two tenths of that whole mile section and never went slower than 20mph. The wind is our mountains indeed!

Got back to the house in exactly two hours. Ten frozen toes. Crazy wind fun. Bleak, brown, and sullen pre-spring time Iowa. No wonder the early prairie settlers went insane. With the wind we have had, I totally get that!

I had the water bottles on the fork blades today. Didn't make the handling weird at all. If anything, it acted as a damper to vibrations. It's great to have that extra water on the bike instead of on me. This will be my Dirty Kanza set up, or close to it. I'll probably make a few tweaks, knowing me!

More later as the bike evolves!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bombs Away!

<===A big slug of H2O

Captain Bob fixed me up with this large water bottle for a special little project I had in mind. It had been bouncing around in his trunk for a few weeks. He didn't know why he kept it around, until he talked to me!

I have one other like it, but it is from the mid 90's and I thought I should just have a fresh one. Funny how this plastic doesn't decay..........think about that! All the plastic water bottles we consume are still kickin' out there somewhere and probably will be for years to come, in a landfill. Blech!

Anywho.........here's where my big bottle went!

<====The WTB designed Blackburn "Bomber Cage".

Yep! This puppy has seen a lot of miles and is still kicking. The Bomber Cage is a mid 90's era product that never really caught on, since about the same time hydration packs became popular and frames became less "bottle friendly".

This cage went on a Blackbuck which has bottle bosses designed to work with the Bomber Cage. The three bosses on the down tube match up perfectly, or if you would rather, they allow for two different positions for a standard cage. Just not at the same time!

So, that's 56 ounces of water in one bottle. I mounted a standard cage off the seat post, so now I can travel for hours on the ol' single speed and stay well hydrated.

They really should quit making those water bottles out of clear plastic, but I'm glad I have two for my Bomber Cage now!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: In A Blazer Of Glory

The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" was over, but the travelers still had to get home.........

I was awoken out of a deep sleep by the sound of the tent zipper going up. It was my wife's head that I saw poking into the door. Wow! It was still dark out and they were here already! Steve's girlfriend and my wife drove up all through the night to get us. Now it was time to start packing up the goods and cramming five people into a late
80's era Blazer.

<===Cedar River, the place we thought was a town but wasn't, on the Upper Penensula. The pickens were slim inside this joint, but we made the best of it. This was on Day Six going to Escanaba.

We were all ready to go as the gray light of dawn had just started peeking over the horizon. I thought the bikes looked naked and forlorn up on the roof rack stripped of their panniers. That was my last memory of Michigan. I climbed into the Blazer and was in a half asleep stupor for several hours afterward.

I kind of perked up as we went through the Green Bay area. I started joining in the chit-chat now and the miles went by on into the afternoon. Soon we were approaching Iowa again. I was really anxious to get back to Waterloo and get out of the sardine can like conditions I had suffered since leaving Michigan. As we got closer to Dubuque, we noticed that the Blazer smelled hot and it wasn't running so well. Steve thought we should stop and check the oil. So, after a quart of oil and some concerned looks, we were off. Steve's girlfriend, Brenda announced that we would be taking it slower, and the Blazer didn't have the power to climb the steep hills of Southwestern Wisconsin anymore at top speed. I was worried and a bit disappointed. This meant I'd get home even later than I had wished.

Well, for those of you familiar with Highway 20 coming out of Dubuque to the west, you know that there is a long, long climb to the top of a hill where there is a gas station perched at the crest. It was here that the ol' Blazer gave up the ghost. Blew the motor! It was a crazy, funny, sad, and depressing thing all together in one moment. Steve pronounced the rig dead by going in and buying a six pack and sitting it on top of the smoldering motor's air cleaner.

Now we had no ride home and 90 miles to go. Brenda got a hold of her parents, who were gracious enough to come out and fetch Troy, my wife, and I and take us home. It seemed like an interminably long time for them to get there, but they finally did. Steve and Brenda stayed behind with the Blazer. I had no idea what they were going to do, and at that point, I was so tired and mentally fried, I didn't care. The westering sun was on my face, I was in a big Buick, and we were going home. That was all I cared about right then and there.

That was it. The end of the adventure. I eventually got home and went back to my routine at the bike shop. Troy did as well. Brenda and Steve came back with the Blazer that Monday and my stuff along with it. The old Mongoose mountain bike did well, but the saddle on it, an old Avocet touring model, had given me no end of grief on the last days of the ride. Troy said I should ceremonially burn it. I thought that was a cool idea, but I didn't do it.

Next Week: Some final thoughts on The Beg Borrow, and Bastard Tour and a look ahead at what is in store for Touring Tuesdays.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Big Mama: Puttin' The "Big" In Ride And Smile!

<===There she is, in all her "bigness"!

The Salsa Cycles frame that came in for testing on Twenty Nine Inches is finished and rideable. Let me explain a little something here before I get into this particular build.....

The Salsa Sol Sessions last June was the official unveiling of this model. You can read what I said about it here. The main thing that impressed me was how "hard tail-like" it rode in terms of climbing and acceleration. It felt very "XC-able", although Jason Boucher, head honcho at Salsa, told me it really wasn't that kind of bike. I thought it was! It felt fast and fun. Very single track friendly, and it is. But that is only one facet of this rig, and I just found that out.

See, I only got to ride the Big Mama prototype, and it was set up with a 100mm travel Fox. That makes the bike ride a "certain way", shall we say? Well, my build is quite different.

The fork I am using is the Reba Team set at 120mm, with a Maxle, and with the burly Gordo rims it is not your typical XC/Trail set up. I have a short KORE stem , Salsa riser bars, a bit shorter reach to the bars, and Ergon Team GE-1 grips. My set up gives the Big Mama a static BB height of 14 3/8ths inches. (Center of BB to ground) So it's not yer typical 29"er!

I know that one little test ride isn't going to give me a verdict on this bike, but I have a strong indication of where this is leading! It is going to be a lot of fun. I already have cleaned a set of railroad tie stairs that didn't even faze this rig going uphill! Yeah.......can you say "rock crawler" I think I put the wrong crank on this rig. Maybe I should switch out my LX crank for a SLX with a bash ring!

There is a lot more going on with the Big Mama than just this though, and I'll get around to all of that, but for now I know that this bike puts "big" in the Big Mama. And I'm going to like that a whole lot.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

El Grande Madre

<=====Salsa Cycles Big Mama frame.
Twenty Nine Inches is going to be testing this frame out that showed up Friday. Yee Haw! I've ridden the prototype to this last summer and it was really a nice rig. Lots of fun and pedaled nothing like you would think a 4 inch travel rig would.
Well, I'll expound on that more, but first, I need to add some components to the mix here!
<====What you should be doing instead of reading this!
I'll be swapping over some parts from three other bikes to build this up just as I think it deserves to be. That means lots of wrenching this weekend, and that means this post is over!
I hope everyone has a great weekend and gets some riding in

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa V5: Here's a reminder of what Trans Iowa is.........We are informing you all that are in the event that if you don't agree that you are on your own, that you are responsible for yourself, and that this is being undertaken of your own volition, then don't take the start.

Read that and consider it carefully.

Healthy Development: 29"ers seem to be popping out and developments seem to be occurring despite the sour economy. I can not divulge all that I know, but suffice it to say that there are things happening out there just as much as they were last year, or the year before. Frankly, I am surprised by that, but there you go. Look forward to new announcements soon.

Local Trails Opening Up? I will be doing some recon on some local trails again in the coming week. I am expecting to find much improved conditions since the last foray I made into the woods. I think that trails will be rideable in spots, but if I see a longish section, or even a loop that is rideable, I'll be surprised. But, it has been real dry and windy of late, so who knows?

Welcome Spring! That's right folks, today is the first day of spring! I keep hearing folks say we're in for one more snow, but I'm not buying that. I think we're done. My weather prediction, for what that is worth, is that we'll have a dry, windy spring. We'll see how that pans out, but don't expect me to take a position as a weatherman anytime soon!

That's it. Have a great weekend and ride on!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

T.I.V5: Some Course Recon Pics

<==Don't end up like this critter! Pay attention out there folks!

There has been a small chunk of the T.I.V5 course dangling out there to be reconned since last fall. d.p. and I busted our buns trying to figure out a way through this section without getting (a) too urban and (b) too much pavement. Fortunately the urban was totally eliminated and the pavement was kept to a bare minimum. It wasn't easy. the day we did recon last fall we tried three different routes through the area with none of them either working out at all or leaving us wanting to do something different.

<==And do not be lured in by Iowa's fine roadside amenities. You may find yourself getting too comfortable, and get bit by the time limits!

So I spent some time staring at a map of the area most of the winter and figured out a route. It would be a much better choice if it panned out in reality. But if there is one thing I've learned over the course of the years that I've done this it's to never trust a map!

<==Don't sweat the small stuff! Cross those bridges when you get to them.

Well, just as I suspected, things were not as they seemed once I got out there yesterday to drive the proposed new course for this section. I re-routed and found a "B" maintenance road where I didn't expect it and a "C" maintenance road where a "normal" road was listed. Yes........I wrote "C maintenance road"!

<==The County Maintenance crews are putting out the "red carpet" treatment for ya'all this year!

Yep, yer basic "C" road is one that is usually gated and controlled by the local landowners. Nothing more than a glorified farm access road that you might find through any field or pasture. We first ran across the existence of "C" roads during the recon for T.I.V2. Since then I've run across several "C" roads in different parts of the state, but not one that wasn't gated, until yesterday.

I have to admit, I stopped and thought really hard about puttin the course across that grassy tract, but in the end, I thought better of it. This was really nothing more than an overgrown road bed. There wasn't even two track across here! I think it would have been too confusing without some course tape, and I wasn't about to commit to that! Been there, done that!

<==You'll pass many "Holstein Hotels" along the route.

The new route was to have added some "B" road mileage to the route, but when I saw the proposed course, I eliminated the "B" sections and routed around them. The balance of "B" roads to regular course and just where those sections fall is critical. I have to be very careful not to overload any one section at the risk of putting time cut offs out of reach. So with that in mind, I had to axe those miles.

<==And get a taste of what Iowa's black dirt can do for you.

But I did find another section of "B" road not listed on my map that fell in line with my course. Yes, a surprise, but those are not unexpected anymore. Not after reconning five different Trans Iowa courses and three Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals.

So, I took a good hard look and included it into the course. The net total of "B" roads was a -1.5 miles. So I felt better for reducing that mileage a bit, and I now feel that Checkpoint #3 will be easier to make than it would have been before.

Yes, three checkpoints this year! It'll be pretty interesting to see who makes the final checkpoint, because I have a feeling that if you do, you will finish. I also have a feeling that very, very few folks will ever see Checkpoint #3, but I could be wrong about that. You just never know with the weather being a factor and all.

Road conditions were primo. No damage from winter to be seen. The County crews were out and dumping copious amounts of fresh gravel with precise grading across the entire roadway. Never fear though! There is a whole month and a half for that to get traffic on and it should be really good by May 2nd-3rd, assuming we have a normal spring this year.

The course is finished. Now it is time for cue sheets to be compiled and printed. Volunteers will be briefed and readied. Sponsors will be shipping in the goodies. It won't be long folks! It won't be long...............

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Way It Was- What's In My Work Stand!

Mike over at Black Mountain Cycles gets his fair share of cool vintage rides in his shop, but he is at the epicenter of modern day mountain biking, so that makes sense. But out here in the "hinterlands", a cool vintage mtb isn't as common. When you see one roll through the shop, it's cause for a pause! Take this gem of a Giant Cadex that I had the pleasure of working on yesterday.

That's first generation XTR stuff there my friends! Still one of the prettiest cranks ever made,in my opinion. And those are the original clipless pedal for mountain biking there too. The Shimano M-737, I believe. Note the blue alloy chain ring bolts and Ringle' bottle cages, which were good looking, but didn't work all that well. But hey! They were good looking!

XTR continues here with the brakes. Notice the "eyeball" straddle cable mount. The seat binder is a Ringle' piece, and you can see the carbon fiber/aluminum construction of the Cadex frame here. Glued wonder bike! By the way, these frames were not all that light. Rather heavy actually.
Okay, here's the most amazing thing, in my mind, about the whole bike. These are original Tioga Psycho John Tomac signature "butterscotch" skin wall tires. I don't think I've ever seen these before, and to see them in this outstanding condition is unheard of. These tires generally succumbed to dry rot at an alarming rate. Those are Marwi titanium spokes that are "rainbow" anodized with blue alloy nipples
A rare cream colored Rock Shox mag 21 SL fork graces the front along with another "eyeball" hangar on the brake cable. XTR head set too. Note that the pads up front were changed out to Ritchey pads. Another amazing thing about the bike is that all the cable housings are XTR branded! You can see the hint of blue Ringle' skewers here, as well.
First generation XTR hubs.......mmmmmmmmm.......can you say smooooooth!?
Muy Caliente'! A Selle San Marco HP saddle with Salsa "Pepperman" embroidery. In primo condition no less! All a top another XTR piece. That's right, a beautiful XTR seat post graced this rig too.
And the rear derailleur, shifters, and front derailleur were all XTR along with the bottom bracket. The only odd thing about this whole bike, which was detailed out to include blue alloy presta valve caps, was that the stem and handlebar were a rather pedestrian Zoom branded ensemble. I would have expected something on the order of a Ringle' stem and Answer Hyperlite bar, but the bar ends were Tioga "Power Studs" in a matching ano blue with no scratches!
This bike is a great "period piece" and reflects the gear of the day circa 1995. A top notch rig, albeit with the Zoom stuff, and a great representation of the "lug and glue" school of frame construction which reached a zenith about this time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: Day Seven: A Saturday In The Park: Part II

We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it shelters at a fast food joint from the rain.........

It wasn't too long before noon, and the rain was steadily falling. Each passing minute was a moment slipping away that was painfully palpable. The whole point of the tour had been to reach Canada, but now, so tantalizingly close and yet so far away, we all were increasingly aware that it was over. We were going to have to throw in the towel, and it wasn't any one's fault. Not Steve's for Steven's Point, not for having stopped so many times, not for lack of effort. It was what it was.

We sat there and waited, and even when it did clear up, we all knew it was pointless to go on. Steve called his girlfriend, Troy made a phone call. We sat around waiting to find out where and when we would be picked up. I got something to eat and munched it quietly outside. Steve suddenly perked up and pointed out a bumper sticker on a pick up truck. "Shoot 'em all! Let God sort 'em out" it proclaimed. It was a bit of comic relief that somehow fit the moment and lightened the mood.

Troy came out and between he and Steve they figured out that there was a State Park just a bit back west out of Manistique up a black top road. We finally talked it over and decided to cash it in and spend the night there. As we rolled up the road, down a darkened tunnel through tall pine trees, I could sense the release of tension. Troy and Steve were joking and carrying on. It was a relief not to have a deadline anymore. We passed a rustic country store about a half mile from the park entrance that was selling beer. We made a mental note of that for later!

As we pulled in to Indian Lake State Park, we were dismayed to see that it was packed. We rolled up behind a couple of cars waiting to check in at the Ranger's Station and we thought about a possible Plan B in case we were turned away. As we reached the drive up window, (Ride up window?) we were met with wide eyes by a female park official. She stated the obvious by saying the Park was full, but then she said, "...but we will have to find you a place. Let's see what I can do." I said, "What?...." She replied, "Oh yeah, it's Michigan State law that if a hiker or cyclist asks for a camping spot in any State Park, we have to find them room." So, she looked and found that a spot had been unclaimed that was reserved. It was now ours. It happened to be directly across from the shower house!

We secured our spot. It was windy, with hurrying clouds from the north right off the lake. We set up our tents and bugged out back to that country store. Troy put two and a half cases of canned beer on the rack of his Voyager. I'm sure that exceeded his racks capacity! It was funny how Troy could wiggle the front half of his bike but the back half wouldn't move due to all the weight of the beer.

Once back at the campgrounds we drank lots of beer, laughed, played Frisbee, and kicked back for a bit. It was a lot of fun, and honestly, we should have done more of that maybe. Whatever......... The wind was wicked off the lake, and Steve's tent got zapped, so he moved his stuff in with me for the last night. We sat around and talked into the darkness, but all good things come to an end, and somewhere in an alcoholic haze I zipped my self into my sack and passed out breathing in the cold night air laced with the scent of pine trees.

That was it for the tour. But we still had to get home. The ride back would be an all day slog in Steve's girlfriends Blazer. Shouldn't be a big deal, and I was anxious to finally get back home.

Next week: In A Blazer Of Glory

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Forecast Calls For Pain...

Sunday I decided to hit the Fargo up for a ride with my fresh set of Geax Barro Race tires on. Since there is a perfect mud storm going on down by the creek, I decided to hit that first to gauge the mud performance of the Barro Race tires. Well, Im here to say that they failed miserably! But then, so do most tires with our sticky, leafy mess.
After swinging back by the house, I headed out for a little ride. I figured that I needed to get some training miles in on the gravel roads. Heading north out of town I hit Wagner Road, but in the spirit of ol' Mr. 24 I stayed on the shoulder all the way out to Mt. Vernon Road before turning East.
On the way out I was thinking, "These tires are rolling great on this shoulder." Well, I finally figured out that they were rolling too good. Yep! I rode out with a tailwind. I was actually too hot too. I had a regular jersey, a wool short sleeve jersey, and a pair of tights on, but I was pretty toasty. At least with the wind I was.
Then Mt. Vernon Road kicked in with some rollers. In a cross wind, they hurt a bit. I stopped once to take a pic of an old dilapidated barn for Gnat (Sorry! No good graffiti yet!) Then I didn't stop for the rest of the ride. (With the exceptions of crossing Hwy 63 and some busy city intersections.)
I turned full on into the headwind when I made a right on to Moline Road. Boy! Was there some steep rollers out there. Surprising, and with the wind, painfull. Then I saw a couple sitting by the side of the road several yards from their car. The guy gave me that look that said "keep movin' on", but to be honest, unless they had waved me down I wasn't about to give up the groove I had going up the hill. Whatever was going on, she didn't look like she was very happy.
I suppose they didn't sit there a whole lot longer since I came up on a car headed their way shortly after and was passed by another after that. Whatever, I was deep in the pain cave now and was just wanting the hills and headwind to end.
I decided to roll it all the way up East 4th street on the way home. You'd have to know a bit about Waterloo's history, but suffice it to say that there is a lot of misconceptions and bad feelings out there. I don't bother with that, and I just ride right down the busiest street there. I get lots of strange looks, but lots of folks are nice too. No worse or better than any other part of town, but my cycling acquaintances here think I'm nutso. (But that is besides the point now, isn't it?)
Anyway, I made it home in one piece. Tired, hungry, hurting, but immensely satisfied.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What's Up With The Big Wheels Anyway?

<======Niner has made some changes to their forks

Sometimes I get asked, "So what's the deal with those big wheels anyway?" I guess I can take that a few ways

Like, what's new with the big wheels? Well, Niner has some things going on with forks that are kind of interesting. They changed their axle to crown and offset figures across the board.

No longer (<====Ha !) will they produce 490mm ale to crown forks, they have gone to a 470mm length with a bit longer offset now of 44, (0r is that 45mm offset? Confusion here..), and they are also dong their new carbon fork with the same geometry.

<========Carbon fiber in a new design fo 29"ers.

Niner is introducing this radical new carbon fork design with some thinking borrowed from the road fork designs out there.

Niner wanted to eliminate the fore and aft flex with a new carbon fork. Their analysis was that the carbon legged/aluminum crown design employed by most off road forks was concentrating the stresses at the fork crown. Niner developed this fork to better distribute the forces from trail impacts along the entire length of the structure. Not only that, but the unique shape of the crown allows for continuous, unbroken carbon fiber construction from the dropouts to the all carbon steer tube. Eliminating sharp bends allows for this. Also, losing the aluminum crown lightens the structure and with the continuous carbon construction, it is stronger than a more traditional carbon/aluminum fork construction.

The fork has a 240lb rider weight limit and a restriction to 160mm rotors. The fork is available on pre-order from your local Niner dealer or online at www.ninerbikes.com . MSRP is $375.00 and to pre-order there is a $100.00 deposit required by March 31st.

<=======Geax has cool new hangar cards!

Also, Geax has some super cool new hangar cards for their tires. Marked with a ruler that allows you to easily eye up your fatty 29"er's tire width in a snap. Bonus feature: It comes with Geax's new Barro Race 29"er tire attached. Look for a detailed report on Twenty Nine Inches soon!

And Finally....... While some may have wanted the latest lowdown on what's going on with the big wheeled world, some just want to know, "What's up with those 29"ers anyway?" Meaning, they don't understand the larger diameter, I could explain it, but I'll point you to my big wheeled friend instead. He 'splains it way better than I do, without all the "wordiness". Check it out here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Economic Stimulus, Bicycle Style

So are you looking for some good news in the economy? Look no further than the bicycle business. Step right this way! There are many signs that the bicycle industry is doing very well, thank you. And it looks to be continuing.

There are lots of reports popping up now about last year and how the cycling industry fared. The term, "record year" keeps popping up, all without the drastic falling off in the latter part of the year that the rest of the economy suffered. I know the bike shop I work for did really well last year too. But that was last year, what of the future, what about now?

Well, I think that the signs I'm seeing point to a healthy year. Maybe not better than last year, but certainly on par with it. For one thing, the shop I work for has been busy. We experienced upticks for every month so far this year over last, and this month is going really well too. In fact our road bike selection, which was busting at the seams just a month ago, is decimated and we had to re-order to fill in inventory already. Repairs have been steadily increasing too.

So, that's just one shop, right? Of course, there are several areas that are not doing as well on the retail level, and I've heard about that too. Certainly there will be some shops that struggle and some will close their doors for good. So why all the optimism?

Well, the company reps I have talked to all seem cautiously optimistic. The over riding attitude seems to be one of "it looks okay, but we aren't sure yet". I think that a collective sigh of relief is going to be the next thing I hear in the industry. Again, maybe not a growth year, but certainly a steady one.

Then there may be more instances of companies caught being cautious, like the one I heard about last night. I received an e-mail in regards to some questions I had about an upcoming product, but I found the other news I received to be rather intriguing. The e-mail stated that the company in question was so busy that every shipment of product received in was already pre-sold and there was little to no inventory left in their warehouse to ship to orders coming in. The comment was something to the effect that they couldn't believe their sales performance in the face of this recession. "Slammed" was how the e-mail described their business now.

While I'm no economic expert, I can stick my head out the window and see what the weather is like with the best of them. I think it is looking pretty fair out there, with peeks of sunshine breaking through. I suspect the cycling industry is in for some fair weather sailing in 2009.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Odd Wednesday

I had an odd day on Wednesday. Woke up way too early when my son developed some fever and was fidgeting in my bed with Mrs. Guitar Ted and I keeping us awake. Of course, he couldn't go to school that way, so I was sitting with him all day.

Not that it mattered. It was sub-zero wind chill all day today. Given that last week we were in the 60's, this was a lot harder to take. You lose your ability to deal with that cold weather so fast. Today I felt like my feet were frozen all day long. No bike riding, even if I hadn't had a sick son around. (He's better, by the way)

So, I have hatched this little plan with the mud tire test and I started working on that plan on Tuesday evening. I'll have several tires in the test, and hopefully the muddiness will hang on for a bit so I can get through them all. They are saying we'll warm up to the 40's by the weekend, but the rivers have been so high, that I'm not sure I'll find anything ride able right away. We'll see....

Maybe it'll be a weekend to check out some T.I.V5 stuff. That would be sweet to get that out of the way. There will be lots of activity on that front very soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Like 29"ers, Bicycles, And Guitars!

<===Siren Bikes make some cool 29"ers!

Siren Bikes, led by Brendan Collier, is a custom bicycle company that I have had the pleasure of working with in the past. Brendan is a cool guy and super passionate about bicycles and mountain biking, no matter what the wheel size. I've had the pleasure of talking with Brendan and I admire his hard working attitude and attention to detail. You can check out more on his views in a recent post up now on Twenty Nine Inches. Also, I want to congratulate Brendan on landing Dave Harris and Lynda Wallenfels as part of his World Bicycle relief/Siren Bikes Endurance Team.

<===Is this my heaven? (Click to enlarge)

A fellow bike freak sent me this the other day thinking I'd get a kick out of it. It is a bike shop somewhere out west by the name of "Bikes and Guitars". Oh yeah.........that's right up my alley there!

<===Interesting chainstay/bottom bracket interface.

For those that are not familiar, Brant Richards used to design bike paraphernalia for On One, a U.K. based bike purveyor. Now he's doing his own thang called, (for the time being) Shedfire.
He's got this crazy idea to start up his own brand of bicycles and the first fruits of this are seen here.

<===Manufactured by Lynskey Performance Designs.

Brant's titanium prototype shown here is a 26"er and looks pretty interesting. He says a 29"er is in the works too. Should be a pretty innovative rig, by the looks of this so far.

<====Look interesting? You could ride here!

I was forwarded a map of the Potter's Pasture area out near Brady, Nebraska which will be the site of the next Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. This will happen October 10-11th.

For those of you who think Nebraska is flat, well........this should help dispel that myth!

I hope to get out there sometime soon to do a recon/planning mission. I'll be sure to get some photos and descriptions up once I come back, but so far this is looking pretty rad! Details are being hammered out now, s look for more info soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: Day Seven: A Saturday In The Park: Part I

We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" on its seventh day out from the start in Escanaba, Michigan.........

We awoke the next morning chilly and refreshed. Much discussion was had just before going to sleep the night before and now again in the morning about just how we were going to get to Canada from here and still get home in time for work on Monday morning. Various theories were put forth, but the two main thoughts were (A) we weren't going to make it, so let's just see where we end up, and (B) we were going as far as we could today, which would leave a short jaunt into Sault Ste. Marie where we would have Steve's girlfriend pick us up. I wasn't quite sure just what would happen, but "B" sounded feasible, and I had never been to Canada, so I was game for it. Steve was of the mind that we should just throttle back and cruise to wherever that day, and then have his gal pick us up in the morning. In the end, Troy's will would carry the day, as far as the decision on what to do for our ride.

Well, that meant one thing: Go like the wind with minimal stops. So the morning out of Escanaba was all a hurry, going out to hook up with a big four lane highway heading northwards around an inlet on the north shore. Then it was straight east for a piece. The weather was sunny, with a bit of a head wind and hurrying cumulus clouds overhead. The terrain became that of rolling hills with long, gradual approaches and long gradual descents. Coming out of town, I found myself chasing down Troy in second wheel with Steve lagging behind.

We had to regroup at the turn off onto the big highway. It was a great road in that the shoulder was about another lane wide. We could all ride abreast of each other and still not come close to being in traffic. Steve got caught up with us and with some encouragement from Troy, we all got going again. The mood was jovial now, even though it was pressing on us to get going. On each gradual climb, I found myself sticking to Troy's rear wheel and Steve would fall behind. Strange.....Steve was riding like I had been! Troy congratulated me on my riding and went drifting back to pull Steve back on. I just kept up the pace until finally Troy would get Steve drafted back on to our wheels.

This lasted until we got back in contact with the lake again just past the turn off to Isabella, which Troy reminded us was the name of a Hendrix tune. Hmm........okay! At any rate, we had to stop for a bit. It was around this point in the day that we all took note of how every R.V. had bicycles haphazardly attached to them. It was as if they were using Velcro to just slap the bicycles on the vehicle any which way they could. After a while Troy was getting anxious about the stop, so we took off again. Troy was also losing his patience with Steve's seemingly lackadaisical riding. Troy was pushing the pace as hard as he could, trying to make as many miles as we could get to reach the goal. We didn't get a whole lot further up the road before Steve mutinied. He had been pushed too far, too hard, and announced he was stopping to rest, whether we did or not, at the turnoff into a little resort we were approaching.

Steve pedalled up ahead with a burst of speed, launched his Schwinn into a ghost ride that took it into a grassy lawn, and belly flopped himself into the grass. Troy was dumbfounded. Wrought with anger and amazement at Steve's sudden rebellion, he just sat there on his bike with his mouth hanging open looking at me. I could only shrug my shoulders for the time being and wondered what would become of our plans to reach Canada now.

Well, Troy went into diplomatic mode. It was a prudent thing to do, seeing as how he needed to get Steve back on the bike to have a shot at making the goal he had set for us. With some agreement that we would throttle back the pace, Steve got back onto his bike and we rolled back onto the highway. It was a tense situation, and reminded me of Steven's Point, only without all the alchohol.

We turned slghtly northward now and the clouds were gathering in a hurry as we went. Troy looked up with dismay and cursed. Rain! It started out cold and wind driven, which caught us off guard, as we had enjoyed pleasant sunshine up to that point. Now we were rounding a corner on the outskirts of Manistique. Troy convinced us to keep on it till we got into town and then we could stop to find some shelter.

We got to a Hardees and pulled in. We were wet, and none of us were too keen on pushing hard in a cold, driving rain. It looked like it might only be a quick shower though, so hope was yet held out that we might get back on the road quickly, but precious time was slipping away!

Next week, Part Two of "A Saturday In The Park"

Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday News And Views

Mud Bogging: Okay, so last year I came up with this nutty idea to do an experiment with different forks on the same 29"er frame. This year I am doing something goofy like that again, only the idea will be about tires. Tires that are good in the mud, or not!

I've got a fair mount of tires to try out, so what the heck? I figured our sticky black river bottom mud will be perfect as a testing ground and I certainly won't be hurting anything down there in the Green Belt where the trail is scoured, deposited on, and changed about every six months or less.

You see, this is what happens when I can't ride and I have time to sit and think. Not good! Oh well.....it'll be fun playing in the dirt again.

Meet The Framebuilders: No, it isn't a cheesy Hollywood movie, it is a series of reports being created by "Grannygear" on The Bike Lab and on Twenty Nine Inches that is dealing with two specialists in each of three materials. The steel builders article is up, and an article on the aluminum builders is on deck with the titanium builders article to follow. Check it out. I am having a great time reading the results of Grannygear's work because the responses of the frame builders has been excellent.

The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo: I will be announcing an update to the old website soon that will include a schedule of events for the October 10th - 11th running of The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo at Potter's Pasture in Nebraska. Potter's Pasture is nearest to Brady, Nebraska whic is approximately 200 miles west of Lincoln, Nebraska and about 285 miles east of Denver, both by interstate highway. Folks may think of that as being another flat place on the earth, but I'm telling you- click the link to the Potter's Pasture site. You will see that it isn't at all what you might have thought it was like.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Doing Some Thinking.........

I just finished updating myself on Mike Curiak's adventure in Alaska. (Read it here) It's a great read, and I highly recommend it for anybody thinking about adventures and cycling. While it may seem that there are no comparisons to be drawn to our own meager attempts at adventure and life when reading about Mike's "off the charts" challenges, I think that there is.

Mike Curiak, for all the words written about him, all the myths surrounding him, and for all the misconceptions about him, is just a guy that really likes to push himself and see if "it" can be done. (You put your own challenge in place of "it" and you are much the same.) The difference in scale and complexity, well.....yeah. But really, we all are challenged and like Mike, I think we can all relate to this quote of his from his blog:

"How will I respond to this looming challenge?

Frankly, I wish I knew."

And there is only one way to find out..................you go try!

So we do our things that push us, challenge us. In the end, it may all seem like a crazy undertaking to those outside the sphere of challenges that to them seem unnecessary, dangerous, or perhaps suicidal. They "don't get it", and really, I'm not sure I or anyone else could 'splain it in a way that would make much sense. I do get a sense from reading Mike's blog entries that there is a something, a similarity to others I have met at Trans Iowa, and in the cycling industry. Something either odd or intriguing.......or both at the same time. I'm not sure what it is, but I find it inspiring, and I enjoy being around it. I imagine myself being in Mike's place, however futile that thought may be, and think about the "looming challenge". I suppose I do some of the "crazy" things I do because of this.

At any rate, I look forward to the next big ride, or getting over that next big hill to go flying down the other side, and I know a lot of you folks out there "get that" too.

Ride On!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday News And Views

<===T-shirt of the month.

Get yer "T-shirt Of The Month" from Twin Six starting today. This deal, the "T of the M", has been going on for awhile now, but this one is the best of the lot so far. (My opinion) It's got a snake, a crank, a four leaf clover, and it's on black. What else could you ask for?

Get it while it's hot, 'cause they don't do many of the T of the M's and you know you really need this shirt!

<====Did ya guess right?

In my "guess what this is" pic from yesterday, we got close, but no cigar. Here's what you are looking at: It's an extreme close up of a section of river ice about a foot thick,and several square feet in size, this being the top of the ice. The beige colored stuff to the right is embedded dirt, the stuff that looks like gravel and oily smears is actually where water has sweat up through the dirt encrusted ice, causing little puddles of frozen dirt to accumulate. The grayish back round is the surface of the ice itself. The snow that had been on top of this huge piece of ice was scoured off once the ice floe had run aground of the shore in the flood and the water ran over the top of it.

Yeah, so you never would have guessed it, well I know! But it is cool, at any rate.

So, no CIRREM for me this weekend. I'm recovering yet and I'm not going to push the issue. However, if you are headed down to ride the metric century, good luck. The weather should make the course interesting, and I'm sure it will be a fun time.

Speaking of gravel, I may see some this Sunday afternoon. We'll see, but if I do, I'm not saying where it will be! It might have something to do with this, or not. Stay tuned!

Have a great weekend and ride that bicycle!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Winter Still Hangs On: Part II

<===Good ol' El Mariachi!

Wednesday was fantastic on many levels. It got warmer, for one thing. Secondly, it was sunny and although a stiff breeze was blowing, I didn't mind. Thirdly, I was out riding some killer bicycles. Fourthly: (Is that a word?) I saw tons of great wildlife. Fifthly, there were so many photo opportunities I thought I wouldn't get my biking done! (This is all your fault Gnat and Captain Bob!)

<===The color contrasts were so stunning that I spent about 10 minutes just staring.

I decided to head out on the El Mariachi, (nic-named Briar Rose by my daughter) to the Green Belt. I figured I needed to recon that trail anyway. Well, it was going okay at first. Some impacted ice from the skiers on the center of the trail, but the edges were ridable, and the ground was still frozen....when I started! Later on things got greasy, then downright muddy. But before that, I hit a section of solid snow that was totally rideable. Just way bumpy! I jounced around a corner then saw what you see in the second pic of the day. Stunning!

<====A cantilevered sheet of ice that was dislodged and washed into this position by the floods of a couple weeks ago.

Riding was slow going. I was hunting and pecking for the best lines through stuff. The trail was either washed and scoured by the flood, or covered in frozen sand which was like riding on lava rock. Bumpy and uneven! A strange day indeed! I stopped for a moment and saw a Bald Eagle flying downstream. Two off road rides- three Bald Eagles. What are the chances of that? Well, maybe the chances are better now that the eagles are nesting here, I suppose, but I remember when seeing a Bald Eagle in Iowa was cause for top billing on the six o'clock news!

<===Went home and got the Badger out to play!

I rode all the way out to Ranchero Road, picking my way through water, ice, mud, and snow with the occasional traverse of a huge slab of river ice. Then I headed back home via the bike path, grabbed some grub, and went back out again. This time on the Badger, and closer to home on the Green Belt. The temperature had warmed up quite nicely by now, I suppose to around 50. The mud was everywhere! I didn't ride the trail too long before I looked for other fun places to ride today. And I found some!

<====My favorite image of the day. Can you guess what it is? Look at that texture!

I ended up with three solid hours of riding, but it was so much fun, I didn't notice the time! I am so grateful to be able to ride my bike, and to have a great stable of rigs for riding in the woods and over the trails and roads we have. Folks just don't know what adventures they are missing out on.

I could have stayed home and worked, but then I would have missed the cool ice chunks, the wildlife, the sights, and falling through the ice halfway up my shins in water. It was a ton of fun, and a day that won't have conditions like that again in my lifetime, most likely. I am glad I got to ride it.

Speaking of rides, I have a couple of things to pass along today. First, my buddy Gnat is selling a sweet 18 inch, S&S coupled, El Mariachi custom. Check it out here. The other thing I ran across was this new web-zine coming out that is focused on endurance racing. It looks pretty dang cool, so check that out here.

Okay, if you aren't thinking about riding till you are insane now, you must be dead. It's going to be well above 50 degrees today, and I'll be working. I hope you'll be riding.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wednesday News And Views

A Couple More Thoughts On NAHBS: The handmade bike world is sort of an odd thing for the common cyclist. I think it is much like the custom hot rod world, or the custom motorcycle world. You either get that, or you scratch your head and wonder why. At any rate, some interesting reactions to a post about the "Peoples Choice Award" winner can be found on my post about it on Twenty Nine Inches.

The other thing I thought was notable was the presence of the 650B mountain bike at NAHBS. There were the "usual suspects" showing rigs with the wheel size, and that was to be expected, but I could only discover one "new" player that showed a "B wheeler" and that was Shamrock Bicycles, which I heard got second place in the Peoples Choice voting for their 650B entry. Again I will say that it seems the shine is off the wheel size and if this 650B thing takes off at all, it will be a long, slow climb up from relative obscurity. The showing for the B wheelers was definitely telling in that regard.

Finally, an interesting development has occurred with several frame builders aligning themselves with each other, not unlike a "guild" from the Renaissance era. The Framebuilders' Collective is a coming together of some of that worlds most revered names to form a group that hopes to promote "ethical professional frame builder practices" amongst other ideals such as mentoring new frame builders, and acting as a resource of information on the craft.

An interesting development for sure when seen against the backdrop of several online flame outs of some custom frame builders.

New Floors: It seems that the off season is the time to re-model. My buddy Ben is getting his shop ship shape with a refurbished floor and some redecorating going on. The shop where I work is also getting a make over with a new flooring treatment going on now. It should really change the look of the joint and I am looking forward to seeing both places after the jobs are done. I can only speak for the place I work at now though when I say it is a chaotic situation to work around. But it should result in a nicer looking environment to work in, so I'm good with it.

Riding Weather: The "march" to spring (<===Ha!) is continuing and I am really stoked about the weather getting better. Hopefully the trails catch up soon! It is still a bit too muddy to really expect much yet in the way of off roading, but it won't be long now. I'll be taking it easy for a bit, as I got some sort of bug that I'm trying to kick. It just doesn't seem to want to let go though. In that regard, I am limiting my riding a bit till I can fully recover. Looks like for now, CIRREM is out for me. To those heading down there this weekend, good luck! I was looking to do this event, but I feel it isn't in my best interest with regards to my health at this point, so I'll stick close to home and do some shorter rides instead.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

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

We rejoin the three touring cyclists as they leave Peshtigo, Wisconsin and head for the U.P. of Michigan........

After lunch, we headed out again on our final bit of riding in Wisconsin. Now we were in an urban area and traffic was loud and the roads were busy. Totally unlike our morning ride, shrouded in mists and ultra peaceful. The highway we found ourselves on was the straightest way into Marinette, but it was not a lot of fun!

Troy was on a mission to put in miles, so stops were limited to direction finding through the city. The city had some pretty cool historical sites and buildings, but we didn't linger around long enough to find out anything about them. Flying over a bridge, we left Wisconsin and entered Menominee, Michigan. Now going through the city at a high pace, I turned to see Steve lagging behind a bit. No way to get Troy's attention here. It was too loud and too busy. I just turned back around, shifted up a gear, and pedalled away. Hoping Steve would hang on, I didn't look back. Troy was up the road, and I didn't want to lose contact with him.

We were hard along the lake now. Green Bay was huge and it seemed as if I was looking out on the ocean. Not a lot of time could be spent gawking though. The road turned away from the lake for a bit as it curved around the last bit of town and then we were on a two lane road headed along the northern shoreline. Troy had mercifully stopped for a brief moment to gather us all up again.

Now we had been going at a fairly steady pace all week, but I figured we had not gone over 12 miles at a crack in one sitting without stopping. That was about to change. Troy pointed to the map where it said Cedar River. "See that? We're not stopping until we get there!", Troy declared with some authority. Some amazed protest from Steve was not heard by Troy, as he was already clipped in and starting up the road before Steve finished his sentence. I shrugged and started off in pursuit. I assumed Steve did likewise.

The road was busy with traffic, so we were obliged to ride in single file along the narrow paved shoulder. It was okay, because we were out of harms way on the shoulder, that is until it got narrower, busted up, and then disappeared all together. Now I was a bit nervous, and you know, fear is a great motivator! I was flying now right on Troy's rear tire. This stretch of road seemed to take forever, and soon I just became aware of my breathing. The rhythm of it. The hum of the tires on the pavement was mesmerizing. The monotony was only broken up by the occasional driveway scattered with gravel that we would swerve out to avoid, if traffic wasn't an obstruction to that.

I don't know how I did t, but I maintained the furious pace set by Troy all the way into Cedar River, which turned out to be just a spot in the road for a restaurant and resort. We parked our bikes to rest up and refresh ourselves a bit. The sun was out, but it wasn't all that hot. It was hazy, sort of dreamlike. We took turns running in to use the bathroom and to grab some grub. I looked at Steve and asked how far that stretch was. He replied that it was about 25 miles. Wow! We just cracked off 25 miles in one shot. I was amazed. But we weren't finished yet. Troy wouldn't be happy until we reached Escanaba. I suppose I agreed, because there really wasn't anything else between Cedar River and Escanaba anyway!

Back to the grind! We were soon running at the same fast pace, cranking out miles underneath us. Racing to beat the setting sun. We crossed over into the Eastern time zone, which was a first for me. No time to celebrate though. Head back down and hammer! The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I just wanted it to end. Would we get to Escanaba before sun set? I wasn't so sure we would.

Finally we gained the outskirts of the city. We spied a sidewalk opposite of us as the road went to four lanes and traffic picked up tremendously. The sidewalk was smooth, almost new, if it wasn't new. It was like riding on glass compared to the rough road into the city we had ridden all afternoon. We hadn't stopped coming from Cedar City but once, so we were famished from our hard efforts. The first order of business- Food! Troy and I spied a Taco Bell several blocks ahead of us. The decision was made! I think I ordered everything on the menu, and scarfed it down gladly!

While we ate our grub, I noticed that it was cool, windy, but most of all, the twilight seemed to last forever here. The sun didn't seem to want to set. I figured out later I was just seeing the effects of being further north than I was used to. Anyway, it seemed weird up there that way.

Finally we were rolling again wondering where we would be spending our night. Suddenly we realized we were going by some enormous fairgrounds. We saw a sign that declared the U.P. State Fair was going to be opening in about a week. Hmm......... Could we poach a spot here to sleep? We pulled in and soon came across some folks in an R.V. sitting in lawn chairs. We talked to them and learned that the folks in the U.P. do not think they belong to Michigan or Wisconsin, so they have their own "State Fair". They figured we would be okay to tent it overnight, but waved us off in another direction. We took no notice of that, and went around the corner of a large building that had an opening to the east. We went in to see that it was a big show barn for judging livestock. It had just been spread with about four inches of fresh wood chips Nice and comfy. Steve then spied some folks coming out of a smaller building with towels. A shower house? We figured it was open for help that was there setting things up for the fair.

Well, we squatted right there, found the showers and took a nice long hot one, and repaired back to the cool blackness of the interior of the show barn. It was now getting dark outside. No one had come around to check on us, so we pulled our bikes in as far as we could from the door, laid out our sleeping bags on the wood chips, and fell asleep for the night.

I was beat. We did well over a hundred miles that day. I was amazed later that we had hammered away all afternoon like we did, putting in well over half the mileage of the day in two big stretches. Amazing!

Stay tuned for Day Seven: A Saturday In The Park

Monday, March 02, 2009

Thoughts On Handmade Bicycles

The recently completed North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Indianapolis was, by most accounts, another smashing success for the promoters, and (it would be assumed) for many of the small builders in attendance, a big boost to their bottom lines in a trying economy. We will see alot of commentary on how this all bodes well for the health of cycling and the business climate in the industry. I have to wonder though, is it all just a little too inbred?

First of all, I will say that I love bicycles and the associated bits and pieces as much as anybody visiting this blog, but does the success of NAHBS say anything more than "we're a bunch of geeks geeking out"? Does it really extend the passion, health benefits, and economical utility of cycling beyond "the choir"?

I would be willing to bet that the local Indianapolis television and newspapers covered the story. However; outside of the immediate local media, would anyone other than a dyed in the wool cyclist ever know anything about NAHBS? Should they?

Interestingly, one of the biggest categories at this and previous NAHBS has been the "utility bike". A bike that is sorely needed and should be exposed to as many folks as possible. NAHBS, with the equivalent of a Lincoln pickup truck, has these overdressed utility bikes in abundance and although they are brilliantly conceived, are well outside the realm of practicality for most budding utility bike users. In this sense, NAHBS is sort of a "Paris fashion show" of the bicycling world. Who would actually wear/ride that?

I will say that NAHBS has had a definite influence on the mainstream cycling companies, and that this influence is actually utilitarian, practical, and real. Three years ago you would have been hard pressed to find a commuter, utility, urban, or a cargo bike in any middle to large bicycle companies line up. NAHBS has definitely helped to change that landscape, albeit in an indirect way.

So, since "corporate bicycle-dom" has basically "taken it to the streets" and is cashing in on the ideas first seen in abundance at NAHBS from small builders, I suppose the show rewarding the builders with increased exposure and (hopefully) more orders for bikes is only right. I'm just thinking that perhaps there is a little bit of "self importance" and maybe not enough of an outward focus.

Maybe ......maybe not. But it would be sad to see NAHBS become a bloated, self-indulgent pageant of garage queen customs and marketing chutzpah.