Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour- Into The Wild West

The "Race Against Death Tour" boys awake after a 119.9 mile day, (not counting Jo's truck ride!) to face Day 6 of the tour in South Dakota.....

Friday, August 11th: We awoke and got to our usual morning routine of breaking camp, boiling water for oatmeal, and suiting up for another day in the saddle. Perhaps a bit of a description is in order for what I mean by "suiting up".

We all had minimal clothing for riding. Three days worth of bibs, t-shirts, and our socks. These we washed however we could along the way, and dried them in the air as we rode. Each morning, you grabbed another pair of riding bibs, a t-shirt, and your socks. We usually took turns getting stuff on in the tent, so you had some semblance of privacy.

Well, this particular morning, I forgot to add the chamois creme when I was in the tent. So, I dipped a three finger full glob of the stuff and walked around the back of the tent to apply without having an immediate audience. As fate would have it, just as I am assuming the position to apply the cold, moist creme in the "affected area", a breeze comes up and blows the unsecured tent across the shelter house floor. As the poles make a scudding noise on the concrete, I am left face to face with Troy and Ryan with what must have been a priceless look on my face. They looked aghast for a moment, then busted out laughing hysterically.

It was pretty funny, even if I was embarrassed!

That made for a very light hearted morning pack up. We took to the road with giggles and a fair amount of verbal abuse hurled my way, (all in good fun, I might add) and we pulled out of Burke with a breeze in our faces and a humid, hazy morning on tap. The plan was to follow Highway 18 until we reached Winner, South Dakota, and then just north of there we were to head due west on Highway 44 for a long, long way.

The first town out was Colome, and we stopped at a convenience store briefly for some additional morning grub, but we were back at it very soon afterwards. The highway was somewhat busy, and we were not able to converse much along the way. Soon we were drawing near to Winner and I noticed the landscape was turning decidedly different. Row crop farming, ordered fields, and regular road crossings was giving way to a more desolate, grassy, ranch land sort of look. This wasn't what I was familiar with at all anymore.

Winner was all hustle and bustle. Lots of folks running around with a higher number of Native Americans than I had seen before in my lifetime. We were a bit put out at one point by the roads and where we were supposed to be at, but this was short lived. We saw a convenience store and hit it before leaving town for some grub, even though it wasn't quite lunch time yet. It was getting quite hot though, and we were working hard against a northly wind that was at times in our faces, and at times a cross wind.

The road out of Winner was kind of a borderline. A crossing from the Mid-West that I grew up in and knew into the wider, wilder, more desolate expanses of the Great Plains. Trees were scarce. Rolling grassy hills were the norm. No gravel road crossings every mile, and no farm houses every so often. It was kind of scary in a way. You felt more exposed, more vulnerable, and yet it was exciting to see what was over the next hill.

Around about three miles after hitting Highway 44 and turning out of the tough northly head wind, we came across a couple guys in the middle of no where. One in a truck, the other standing next to a Harley Davidson parked on the road in the midst of a pool of oil. As we rolled by slowly on our bicycles, I caught the eye of the guy with the motorcycle and said, "How's it goin?". I meant it as a friendly "hello", but as soon as I said it, I realized how stupid that was to say. I put my head down, pedalled harder, and was glad I didn't hear any footsteps running behind me, or worse, a gun shot!

Next week: The "Race Against Death Tour" meets its next "V.I.P." and sees a "bombed out town".

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Nebraska Single Track Primer

Note: This article originally appeared on The Cyclist and is about my trip from the beginning of this month which I blogged about here.

A Nebraska Single Track Primer

By Guitar Ted

Nebraska: Yeah, you know….that “fly over” state. That state that everyone on I-80 wishes was about 399 miles shorter. That “Nebraska” is what most people think of when they are presented with the idea of bicycling there. Well, those who have been there, live there, and more importantly, have ridden there, know a lot better than that. I’ll admit, I’ve had my eyes opened to a new way of thinking about Nebraska as a place to ride off road, that’s for sure.

My education in cycling in Nebraska started in 1995 while doing a tour on paved roads from my home state of Iowa. We traversed the northeastern corner of the state and I found it to be a beautiful country of rolling hills. That would be just a foretaste of what was to come much later though.

Fast forward 14 years: I was invited by a Nebraska resident and friend, Matt Gersib, to try out some off road single track in the eastern part of Nebraska near Bellevue. I was to be staying with some friends and decided to take him up on it. So I took my bicycle with me to Nebraska once again. Only this time I was in search of some dirt.

I wasn’t to meet with Matt until Friday, but on Thursday, I found some free time and looked up a local park to explore. Swanson Park, in Bellevue, turned out to be only about a mile from where I was staying, so I pedaled over to check it out. I was not expecting a whole lot, I mean, it is Nebraska, right? So I figured it would be a good little jaunt through a city park and that would be that.

Boy, did I ever get that wrong!

Swanson Park is a great piece of single track sweetness. I was really surprised by how well it was marked and kept up. I found out that the local trail maintenance group, T.H.O.R.(Trails Have Our Respect), was responsible for that and the upkeep of a few other trail areas in and around the Omaha area. Having a trail well marked, clean, and weed free is a big selling point for folks coming from out of state, and Swanson Park measured up on all fronts there

But you have to have good riding too. That is important as well. Swanson Park isn’t a technically challenging trail by any measure, but what it lacks in technical difficulties, it makes up for with fast, swoopy, roller coaster like trails. Guaranteed smile inducing dirt here. I was also pleasantly surprised by a nice ascent into some open prairie. This wide open section was filled with tall grass punctuated by trees here and there, giving a distinctly different feel to the riding experience than you get in the thick canopy of Swanson Park’s wooded sections. I was told later by Matt that this particular section was a reclaimed dump area. That was just a great example of an eyesore turned into a beautiful green space that can be accessed by bicyclists and hikers alike.

Following the prairie section was a fast down hill around the volunteer fire department training area and back into the roller coaster single track hidden under the vast green roof formed by Swanson Park’s trees. It was such a fun loop, I did it twice!

The following day, I met up with Matt and we searched out another little “gem” of single track in the area. Jewel Park is near the Missouri River, and a great, steep hill marked with several ravines was host to another fun single track here. Up, up, up we went on a switch backed trail on to the top of the hill. The tight, twisty trail that included several steep drops and climbs out of ravines, made for a very challenging experience, quite unlike Swanson Park.

Now after having pegged my heart rate at Jewel Park, Matt had one more stop on our single track adventure planned for the day. Platte River State Park, which is just in between Omaha and Lincoln, was the destination. Here horse riders and bicyclists share the trail in a unique arrangement that allows the equestrians use of the trail in the early part of the afternoon until 4:00pm. Then the mountain bikers have the trails all to themselves for the remainder of the day.

“Platte River”, as the locals refer to it, or simply “Platte”, is an awesome network of trail that winds in and out of hills, ravines, and even some open prairie along the Platte River before it meets the Missouri. Matt guided me and another rider that day on the trails which were technically challenging, fast, swoopy, and most of all, a ton of fun. The single track here I would rate as good as or better than anything I have ridden in the nation. It is that good. Yes……in Nebraska!

My conclusion after the two days of riding? I have to come back! I had a blast on the trails I rode on, and I would highly recommend them to anyone coming into the Omaha/Lincoln area. You will find the trails well kept, marked, and clear of blow downs. The access to these areas is easy, and one could feasibly hit all three areas I did in a single day, if you wanted to. I say that you should stay longer and savor each one. I know I wish I could have!

Nebraska off road riding opportunities exists beyond this area as well. In fact, I will be attending a festival in another area of Nebraska in the fall that offers a great single track experience. It is called the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and you can come too. Check the website out here at www.bigwheeledballyhoo.com

The 411:The best off road trail information is available on the local T.H.O.R. webpage. There you will find directions and trail maps for all three of the trails mentioned here and others in the area. (Yes! There is much, much more.) Most of the single track I rode in Nebraska is all accessible from Bellevue, Nebraska’s oldest city. There are several motels and lodging choices in the area that you can base your operations out of. The Lincoln and Omaha areas are also a great place for restaurants, entertainment, and other recreational opportunities. Omaha and the surrounding area also has an excellent paved trail network as well, if you are wanting a more “civilized” cycling experience. More information on the Metropolitan Area Trails Network can be found here:. http://www.bellevuenebraska.com/Parks-Rec.aspx

More Information on Platte River State Park can be found here: http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/parks/guides/parksearch/showpark.asp?Area_No=224

You can find out more about the great state of Nebraska and the things to do and places to stay at the

official Nebraska Tourism site: http://www.visitnebraska.gov/

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Last Of The Holdouts: Update

<===A Santa Cruz test mule in the back and a production prototype Tall Boy.

Well since my Friday post, a couple of the companies I mentioned have had images leaked of their work on 2010 29"er models. We have the Santa Cruz "Tall Boy" here in respendant orange to show you. It is a carbon fiber frame with just a hair over 4 inches of travel.

Funny name, "Tall Boy". I don't think anyone here in the Mid-West calls the big cans-o-beer tall boys anymore. We would have dubbed this rig the "Orange Silo", if we were thinking along those lines. But be that as it may, this bike will be available this fall, and expect to make a big payment!

<===From Lincoln, NE with love......

Tomac Bikes, which is located in Lincoln, Nebraska, is coming out with a 29"er for 2010 and this apparently is it. The Flint 29 will likely be something along the lines of this aluminum hardtail. The bottom bracket on this prototype appears to be an eccentric compatible one, indicating geared or single speed use. No word on whether this will be production spec or not.

So the leaks keep on coming. One thing is for certain, and that is that 2010 will be a big, big year for big wheelers!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2009

The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2009

What: A long gravel road group ride for fun. Nobody gets left behind.

Who Is It For?: For anyone that loves to ride gravel, loves a challenge, and likes to have fun.

Where's It At?: In and around the North East Iowa communities of West Union, Strawberry Point, Elkader, and Elgin Iowa, with a few smaller burgs thrown in.

When Is It Goin' Down?: Friday, July 17th, 2009- We will be gathering at Echo Vlley State Park to chat, and have an Adult Beverage or two, then....Saturday, July 18th, 2008. We'll probably start sometime early morning, just after sunup till sundown or just after, who knows?!!

The Commentary: The GTDRI is nothing to fear, it's just a fun, yet challenging ride that anybody can come and try. The approximate distance of this years trek will be about 115 miles. Here's a look at the proposed route: http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/ia/west-union/787324184315 You can expect lots of hills! I figured this route on another program that indicates total climbing and it shows around 6,000 plus feet overall. That's only a guesstimate though. The point is, there will be lots and lots of hills. Part of the course will take in sections of the T.I.V4 route, (including the dreaded Dove Road section) and some of it will be totally new course.

Typical modus operandi is as follows: Get up at dark-thirty, gather for a pre-event breakfast, or not. Get riding by first light. Take an easy pace, yet keep moving as much as possible. There will be breaks to keep the group together. Stop somewhere for lunch. Continue onwards until the finish. Maybe a group supper, maybe everyone will go home, and maybe everyone will just want a cold beer! Who knows? Find out and join the fun.

Things to seriously consider: While GTDRI is a group ride that "leaves no one behind", you are still responsible for you! It is a self supported ride, so be aware that none of us are going to bail you out in the boonies. Ya gotta ride out yerself, or have a "Plan B" for getting picked up if you can't make it. Bring plenty of water, energy food, anti-cramp remedies, whiskey, or silver bullets to bite on in case of pain! Bring money, you'll need it! A cell phone wouldn't hurt either. There will be cue sheets, so if you fall off the back, or feel adventurous and racy, you can self navigate it, but most prefer the group mentality and follow the leaders.You had better be in some semblance of riding condition since this course will be brutal. We've been known to slog it through storms, heat, and wind. We've also finished well after dark before too, so think about bringing a light. Oh! Yeah.......there will be B roads too!

So that's it in a nutshell. It is a ride borne out of the times when I worked in an auto repair shop, didn't have time to ride much, and took one weekend off in the middle of summer to put in an all day road ride. I ended up referring to those rides as "death rides" since I usually bonked, got dehydrated, and suffered like a pig. I usually was waaaay out of shape, and I didn't know squat about nutrition on a bike back then. Now I do the ride on gravel and B roads, call it by a big, fancy name, eat and drink a little smarter, and still suffer like a pig! Ha ha!

So, if you have a mind to come, just show up. The more the merrier. I'll have more recon info and a link to cue sheets soon. Stay tuned!

Get out and ride yer bikes and have some fun already!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Handle Bar News And Notes

A whole post dedicated to handle bars? Yep! You wouldn't believe the number of hits I get on this blog that are handle bar related. Some days, it is the highest rated search topic!

Drop Bars For Mountain Biking: Here's the big one. The topic my blog gets hit on more than any other by far. Weird isn't it? Well..........anyway........

-The Midge Bar: This was an On One product that sold really well in off road drop bar circles. (Which are really tiny circles, by the way!) Two things happened here. The Fargo came out and Brant Richards left On One to start up his own design firm and brand. These two events have caused the Midge Bar to disappear from the market place. On One seemingly has ceased to exist on the mtb/mtb accessory side and supplies of the Midge have all but dried up. On the other hand, the Fargo has folks scrambling for bars like the Midge. Obviously Midge Bars are in high demand now with little to no supply.

-The Gary Bar: The Gary Bar is J&B Importers version of a Midge with some important differences. Mainly, the slope of the bar is rather severe, which puts off a lot of folks, and they do not accept bar end shifters. Other than those two things, the Gary Bar is a cheaper, widely available option for off road drop bar users. The thing is, those two issues I mention with the Gary Bar are pretty serious issues for a lot of folks, so the appeal of this offering has been somewhat limited by those quirks.

-The WTB Bar: Here we have a really nice, wide, flared drop bar that is offered in 31.8 and 25.4mm clamp sizes. The WTB bar does have a bit more drop than the Midge or Gary, so if you have to have your bars high, it becomes an issue. Also, the WTB bar has a somewhat of an "ergo" bend to the drop section which some find to be a negative. Personal preference I suppose.

-The Future: Soon we will have two more choices in off road drop bars. They should be available soon. Here's what I know.........

Shed Fire/Ragley: When Brant Richards left On One he took with him some ideas to improve some stuff he had done at On One. One of those ideas, apparently, was to do another off road drop bar design. Seeing as how I had been spouting off about the shortcomings of all the off road drop bar offerings, Brant asked me to give him a solution, instead of grousing! So.....I did. Some of what I told him/showed him is incorporated into the new design, but I assure you, it is a Brant Richards take on drop bars for off road. (Yes, I have seen the computer renderings, and no- I am not going to tell you anything!) These bars are in prototype stages now. I haven't a clue as to when they will be ready, but I assume it would be quite soon.

Salsa Cycles: When the Fargo was announced, certain of us drop bar aficionados were thinking, "Ah ha!- There must be an appropriate bar in the works!" Well, we were right. Many of us drop bar freaks were asked to add some input for the design. I do not know what the final product will look like, and I do not know when it will be done, I just know they are working on this. I would assume that something will surface soon. Trust me.....I'm keeping an eye out for this one. All I can say is that with a bike like the Fargo in Salsa's line, it just doesn't make sense not to have a bar to go with it. I mean, it isn't like Salsa Cycles doesn't do handle bars, ya know?

So, that covers the drop bar arena, but wait! There's more alt bar madness!

-The "J-Bar": The ridiculously ugly Titec H-Bar has now been rendered in a true "Jones" style called the Titec "J-Bar". (Sounds like a western cattle brand name, eh?) Anyway, it is a great rendering of the uber-spendy titanium Jones Bar in aluminum. Available now.

-Space Bar: The J&B Importers Space Bar, a close rendering of On One's Mary Bar, was a hit with me until I noticed a bunch of failures with that bar. I then ceased using it, and J&B Importers started marketing it as not suitable for off road. Then J&B had a beefier version done, which they dubbed the "Space Bar OR". Saying it is now up to the rigors of off road use, the Space Bar OR is now available. I will be trying one soon, so stay tuned....

-Sweep Bar: J&B also noticed that a lot of flat bars were being rendered with more sweep. Anything from 10 to 12 degrees is common now with Salsa Cycles doing a 17 degree sweep. Well, J&B saw that and decided to split the difference and do a 15 degree sweep bar. The "Pro Pulsion Sweep" is coming in 31.8mm clamp size for a 166 gram bar. There is a heavier, less expensive version as well that is offered in 25.4mm or 31.8mm clamp sizes. Look for a Pro Pulsion Sweep review from me in the future.

That wraps up my Handle Bar News and Notes. Go ride yer bike!

Update: Know yer MTB history! This is long, so get a beverage, sit back, and relax while you learn where this sport started from: http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R906241000 Highly recommended listening!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Last Of The Holdouts

<===Giant's "29er-1"

Well, it seems that the days of 29"ers being different, niche, a fad, or even unknown are about to fade into the depths of time. Now the last holdouts are caving in. 29"ers will soon just be another mountain bike.

Of course, I am being just a bit sarcastic, but only just a bit. I really do think 29"ers will become "just a mountain bike" someday, and the new offerings that are being shown here, and others to come, are hastening that day.

First, a comment about what I think of these companies coming on with 29"ers- I think it is great from a product standpoint. More accessories, more aftermarket parts, and more price points will be targeted with 29"er specific designs. It'll be easier to get stuff, and the days of trying to find a Fisher dealer to get tires and tubes will be long gone. (Remember that? And remember trying to find a Fisher dealer that knew anything about 29"ers? )

I don't like a couple things about it. First, the limited selections and limited price points these two specific brands are bringing. Maybe in time, we'll see better stuff from Scott and Giant in these two areas, but both companies are talking $1000 plus for these bikes. Which brings up another point- why do 29"ers cost so much more than similarly spec'ed 26"ers? The only big ticket item that would possibly make a difference here is the fork. And that can't be too different. That's always bothered me about production 29"ers. Maybe companies are losing their hindmost parts on 26"ers or something, but the price disparity raises my eyebrows. (Perhaps somebody can "'splain" that to me some day. I'm all ears!)

<===Scott's Scale series 29"er. (pic courtesy of Carlton Reid: http://www.quickrelease.tv/ )

One might also say that other holdouts are out there yet as well. However; that may not be the case for long. Here's a few rumored 29"er entries and a confirmed one.....

Tomac Bikes
Santa Cruz

That doesn't leave much but free ride/All Mountain/down hill specific brands, and dirt jump brands.

Yep, 29"ers have come a long way since I started lookin' into them. Maybe Chris Sugai of Niner Bikes was right when he said that 29"ers would replace 26"ers as the mountain bike of choice in ten years. By the looks of it today, not many companies won't have at least one 29"er in their 2010 line up, that's for sure!

Then I can change my header, start writing about guitars, and ride more. People won't care about "29"ers", 'cause they will be just another mountain bike. Ha ha! We'll see...............

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour: Day Four- A Ride In Jo's Truck Part II

The three "Race Against Death Tour" riders wait for a convenience store worker to end her shift in Niobrara, Nebraska....

With our plans up in the air, and the day wasting away, we weren't too comfortable with just waiting it out to see what would happen. We fidgeted, we paced, and basically clock watched for 12:00 noon to happen, and have Jo assess whether we were in for some much needed assistance, or chasing smoke.

When noon arrived, we still had about a ten minute wait on our hands since Jo had to close out her register, talk to the next employee on shift, and get out of her work garb. After what seemed like an eternity, she walked out, asked to see our rigs, and we went outside. Well, as it turned out, our fears were all for naught. Jo had a truck! Not just any old pick'em up truck, mind you, but an honest ranchers truck. A three quarter ton Ford 4X4 with a crew cab and a full box. Yeah......our bikes fit fine. It was another thing to lift them six feet into the bed of that rig though!

So with that done, and our minds at ease, we piled into the cab, settled in, and Jo took us on an incredible 20 mile ride through the Niobrara River back country. It was really cool, and Jo filled us with a ton of information about the area, the struggles the ranchers were having with the Feds, and how we were lucky that we met her since this was the only road around the construction. It was lucky! These roads were crushed rock, steep, and finding our way without a detailed map would have been really hard. Jo basically saved us from losing at least a day on this tour. Not to mention the rest our tired bodies got riding in an air conditioned truck!

Well, we finally came to the end of that ride at the highway west of Niobrara. Jo pointed us in the right direction as we unloaded our rigs slowly and carefully. We were super grateful, and a little bit sad to have to part ways. Jo was an incredibly gracious help, and we wouldn't soon forget her and her big truck. But that's the way it goes sometimes. You meet for just a little bit, and life sweeps you down the road again, far away.

So we turned our faces westward. It was hilly, hot, and we had a long way to go before we got anywhere we could find a proper overnight. Troy wanted to get out of Nebraska, and we all did, really. But that would be a big effort on our route. It was time to go to work.

Our maps showed us we weren't far from a town called Verdel, but there wasn't much of anything there, and the next town was much the same. Finally we pulled into a town that had a convenience store that was called Lynch. We sat for a bit, got the tent out to dry in the southwesterly wind, and tried to cool off from the intense heat of the day. We sat for about a half an hour, then we saddled back up and headed westwards again. The road bent northwards a hair, then we joined another highway. About this time, we started seeing riders headed to Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally. Things were getting a bit more interesting after a long afternoon of dreary heat and brutal hills.

We went straight north into Spencer, and the after passing through that town we went directly west again for a spell. South Dakota was nearing, it was within reach. I think we all got a bit of a boost from that thought as the pace began to pick up a bit now. It was late afternoon, and we were rolling together at a really good rate.

Now the highway turned due north again, and we were going through a little town called Butte when just by an old closed up lumberyard, a dog came out and gave chase. It was mean and meant business. Ryan whipped out his pump, and Troy was yelling. I did what I normally do when dogs come out after me. I barked back! Well......that and I rode faster! We were a bit scared and shook up by that, but we were okay. We stopped up the road to regroup, then we forged ahead to the border.

Five more miles and we made it. We didn't stop though, and we didn't really mark the occasion. We forged ahead another mile to the meeting of Highways 12 and U.S.18. There was nothing special about this intersection. It was in the middle of nowhere really. But we needed to figure out a plan for crashing for the night. The maps came out, and our noses went into them! As we were pouring over our options, we saw a few motor bikers stop and don silly plastic helmets. It seemed that it was a way to skirt the helmet law and not wear a "real" helmet. I thought it was weird, but whatever. We were not wearing helmets, and I suppose the bikers were jealous of that, judging by the looks we got.

Troy had a plan. He wanted to see just how far we could push it. We were already at nearly a hundred miles of riding for the day, not including Jo's ride. Bonesteel looked appealing to me, but Troy thought it wasn't far enough out. He was thinking we could swing Burke if we tried real hard. That was about 20 more miles in, and the sun was westering fast. I was rather dubious of the plan, but once again, Ryan was game, so I fell in.

As we went by Bonesteel, I wistfully looked, wishing we would pull over, but Troy was up front and was hammering out an incessant pace, so I knew we were in for more miles before this day would end. The little spot in the road of St. Charles passed by, and then Herrick, just off the road to the south. Still we went on. I noticed lots of dump truck traffic and heavy equipment. I would soon find out why.

We hadn't passed Herrick by when we saw the construction signs. Road Closed. We rolled up where a construction worker told us that if we stayed to the right, we'd be okay. At first, it was. Then the hammers that bust up old pavement had crushed the surface of the road to bits, which made riding slow and difficult. Then we were obliged to walk around the very machine doing the crushing. It was loud and we were not wanted there, that was plain. We quickly moved around the machine, and the deafening din, we got on the left side for a bit, and rode onwards. Soon we had to jump back over, and the blacktop paving machine was busy laying down new blacktop. Dump trucks with full loads of the hot, sticky substance then came roaring by to meet us on their way to refill the paver. As each one went by, a hot shower of mini-meteorites came down upon us. Hot black top stings when it hits you, and sticks to frames and bags alike. This went on all the rest of the way into Burke. A fine welcome to South Dakota! I thought I was in Hell.

Once off the road, we quickly found a shelter in a park that allowed camping. There were showers- that was a welcome site! We each got cleaned up in succession so the bikes wouldn't be left alone. Then we were trying to figure out where to set up the tent. We had it erected under the shelter when Troy said, "Let's just leave it under here!" We all agreed to that, and started making dinner while the sun sank in the west.

Just about the time I got back from cleaning up, a local police officer pulled up. It was the Chief of Police of The City of Burke, South Dakota, no less. He tried sticking us with a $15.00 fee for camping. I politely explained that we were all in one tent, and that the sign, not more than three feet away, indicated that it was $5.00 per tent. Reluctantly, he agreed to the $5.00. I handed it to him, and he slipped it into his shirt pocket. As The Chief pulled away in his squad car, I told the other two, "Well, we just bought his beer for the night!" Troy and Ryan laughed, we crawled into our sleeping bags, and fell asleep without further adieu.

Next: Day Five- Into The Wild West

Monday, June 22, 2009

Maintenance Time

I had a great weekend, but never rode a bicycle! How can that be, you might ask? Well, I took some time for maintenance. It really worked out for the best anyway.

Friday was taken up with work, then a quick meal before heading out to get to a band rehearsal for a wedding I played guitar in. Saturday was almost all wedding and then playing guitar in the church service that evening.

Sunday was Father's day. So, with two little ones that are not going to be little much longer, you know.....ya gotta be there when it's happening. Bicycle rides are great, but my kids are not going to be here forever. Priorities.

So as things were progressing through the day, the kids decided to watch some movies, which was my cue to hit the Lab. I did a bit of re-organizing, then hit some of the rigs with some tweaks that I had to make. Add a link to a chain, straighten a chain line, lube some chains, air up some tires, and started the "HiFi Rebuild Project". Some plans were laid, and I made some progress on cleaning too.

Back out of the Lab to re-join the family for the remainder of the day. It sure was good to just relax and hang out with everyone.

Hope you Father's Day was great too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Racers Begin To Use And Win On 29"ers

When 29"ers were yet seen as a curiosity, a fad, or something far worse, (some folks are still thinking all three things!), the idea of someone racing a 29"er in the upper ranks of mountain biking was not even on the radar, much less a serious thought. Now things have changed dramatically in those regards.

Of course, the Fisher-Subaru Team has raced 29"ers for a couple of seasons now at selected races. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Sam Schultz are regularly using the big wheels now, but that's to be expected. Fisher Bikes is the 29"er company, by any one's measure, so having the team use 29ers isn't taken too seriously outside of their fan base as a rule. Now though, several others are looking at, and using big wheels in racing at the sports top level, and folks are taking notice.

Let's tick off a few highlights just from this season.......

-Todd Wells uses a Specialized carbon 29"er hardtail to put in a spectacular ride. He breaks a chain at the start line. Fixes it, is dead last in a 120 plus man field, and rides in for a top five finish in Fontana, California.

-Niner Bikes sends riders John "Fuzzy" Milne, Deejay Birtch, Rebecca Tomaszewski, and a couple others to Italy where they dominate the Finale 24hr event. Niner takes the 8 man team category- with 6 riders- ......on single speeds against geared riders! Tomaszewski won the solo female category on her geared Niner hardtail. All against top riders in Italy.

-Salsa Cycles first Selma single speed in the U.K. is ridden to the U.K. Single Speed Championship.

-Heather Irminger wins a short track XC event on a Superfly hardtail recently with Todd Wells and JHK coming in one, two on big wheels in the men's event.

Get the picture?

Could it be that now 29"ers will be another "tool in the box" of all top pro racers? Well, maybe if the Europeans start to ride them, and with the recent accomplishments in Italy and the U.K., this may not be far off. But then again, who in their right mind would race a 29"er? It's just silly, right?

It's going to take more wins and top finishes, but I think that it is just silly enough it will happen sooner or later.

That's it for today. Dodge the rain drops this weekend and ride your bikes!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swamp Thing

<===Badger Dorothy at Cedar Bend.

Well, it is muggy and hot, isn't it? This is that time of year when vegetation reaches its zenith, moisture levels are at a peak, and every insect known to man is crawling, creeping, and flying all at the same time out in the woods of Iowa.

The ground is saturated, swollen, and even under water in spots. Cedar Bend, with it's combination of clay and sand, drains this moisture really well. So that's where I went yesterday, since my Dirty Blue Box has a wobble in the rear tire that about shakes the thing to bits at highway speeds. I was going to recon the GTDRI course, but that wheel wouldn't allow that and be safe, so I went as far as I thought I could on back roads to Cedar Bend.

<===A little relief from all the "green-ness"!

I took the Dorothy up to test it out. It rides fantastic. Then quickly I swapped over to the Dos Niner to get some stuff done on that review on the wheels that are on it, and the crank set.

The course was pretty slippery, and the mud was flying at times. It was so hot and muggy that I was drenched within seconds of leaving the car. Everytime I stopped, the swarm of flying insects would swarm my head. Yeah.....this is summer in Iowa all right!

<====Got any 'gators out there?

But you know, a good day of riding is better than about anything, even if it is uncomfortable out. At least, that's what I think!

So I tested the wheels, (they are great, by the way) and the crank set, which is 2X9, worked really well. More detailed reports are coming.

For now though I am glad that it is warm, and it is riding time! Got to get it while you can. Remember, only four more days till we start getting shorter on the daylight! (Better start recharging those night lights now!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This Is Big

<===Your wheels are not big. These wheels are big.
Today we are going to have a lesson in what is big, and what is not big. Too much hype and hysteria is used these days in touting certain things and aspects of our culture as "big", so I thought a reset was in order.
Like this red bicycle here. It has 36 inch wheels. That's one yard folks! The guys running around, bragging on their bling 22 inchers? Yeah......whatever! 29"er bicyclists giving you a hard time about your "kiddie wheels"? Ha! They haven't got a thing on these hoops, which make a 29"er wheel look like a child's plaything. Now that's big, I tell ya!
<===From Russia with love.
And here we have a beer. Yes folks.....two liters of lager! That's big. It comes from Russia. That's a big, big country. You got a micro-brew that you think is "the bomb"? Ha! This beer comes from the country that made us get into a lot of bombs. Now that's big!
Big taste? Whatever dude! Our American lagers "pale" in comparison to the taste of this heady brown beauty. It actually has a taste! Now that's really big. I tell ya what, the Russians could teach us a thing or two about lager. (And drinking, but that might be a lesson better left un-learned!)
Now when you hear all the hype on the inner-webs and the media about something that is "big" or that is "big news", you'll know better. Just bookmark this blog post for future reference so you will always be grounded in what is really big, and what is not.
Editor's Note: Thanks to Craig Severson for the ballistic missile sized beer and Mrs. Guitar Ted for graciously being my hand model.
Oh yeah! Did I mention that Cannondale is doing a carbon 29"er called the "Flash"? No? Well it's a 2010 product. Stay tuned.......(by the way, that's BIG!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Race Against Death Tour: Day Four- A Ride In Jo's Truck

As "The Race Against Death Tour" wakes up in Wynot, Nebraska after a 93 mile day, the riders look forward to knocking another state off the list....

Thursday, August 10th: After a fitful night of sleep that was interrupted by a local softball game and the requisite party afterwards, along with the rumbles of thunder all night long, I awoke and quietly got packed to head out. We quickly ate our morning oatmeal and headed out of Wynot for the main road and a turn westwards.

The road was hilly, there was a fair amount of climbing in this region of Nebraska. It certainly wasn't flat! Along the first miles, we saw a road sign warning of road construction in a town called Niobrara up ahead. We saw the sign pointing cars up the road northwards to Yankton, South Dakota. We stopped there for a moment and debated about what to do, but in the end we opted for the planned route and a first stop in Crofton. It couldn't come soon enough for me, since the climbing had burned up the oatmeal and I was hungry.

Coming into Crofton, we found a gas station that had just opened up and they had some meager pickings, but that would suffice for me, because by now, I would have eaten the bark off a tree, I was so hungry. The fellows at the station seemed a bit put out by our presence. The sideways glances were not well concealed. They told us that on bicycles, we could "probably" make it through. Probably was good enough for us, so we hit the road westwards.

The day was getting hotter, and it was not very windy. What wind there was came from an easterly direction, so we did have a wee bit of an assist. We would get an even bigger one later. At one point during the late morning, we topped out on a high ridge that offered a view for miles. The resulting downhill was one I won't forget for a long time. It was just one of those times that everything gelled on the bike, not just for me, but all three of us. I don't recall how long that descent was, but I do know that it was a long, long way. Maybe three miles. And after that, we had the tailwind with the big ring engaged, laughing, soft pedalling......well, you get the idea. It was one of those moments that you wish you could repeat again. Maybe someday.....

At any rate, after several miles that seemed to drift off into a dreamy haze, we reached the approach to Niobrara. The river here had flooded the road into town earlier in the year, so the State was in the process of raising the roadbed three feet higher. It got kind of rough in spots, almost off-roadish. We dodged big end loaders, dump trucks, and other equipment at times. At one or two spots we were obliged to dismount and walk our rigs, but we did get into town on that ribbon of dry land bordered by water, weeds, and waterfowl.

Once we got into town, we spied a big convenience store. Food! It was about 11:30am, so the time was right for some grub. We parked the bikes and sauntered in to find some good stuff there. What wasn't good was the news we got from the lady at the register. She told us we had no way out on pavement westward, and that the construction was heavy out that way, so bikes wouldn't be allowed. (Yes, there was only one way in and out of Niobrara on pavement!) We took our purchases and with deflated countenances, we mused on what our next move could be. That was when the lady at the register started asking us more questions. She was curious about our trip, what our rigs were like, and where we were headed. We politely answered her, but we were really not here to engage in story telling. We had a big problem in front of us. We needed to figure out a plan.

Well, wouldn't ya know it, but the lady behind the counter mentioned that she just might have a plan. Maybe, if we could fit everything in, she could give us a ride. But she wasn't sure. Don't get our hopes up, and all of that. She was getting off in a half an hour, so if we could wait, she would see what she could do.

Well, that was really the only option that we could consider a possibility then, so we definitely took her up on it.

Next Week: Would our stuff fit? Would we ever get out of Niobrara? Stay tuned.....

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Iowa Jungle Scene

<===Ragin' Vege down at The Camp's south side.

I got out for a bit on the Lynskey Performance titanium single speed Sunday on the Camp's south side. It was a really nice day, but in the woods the plants have definitely taken over. I see where some mowing has been started though, so I suspect that it may not stay overgrown for long!

The nettles are alive though. My stinging legs let me know that much!

<===I think I have it figured out now.

I have got to say that this titanium frame is a hoot to ride. I love hammering out of the saddle on it, and down hills are so fun, even though it is rigid up front.

One thing that has haunted me though is a "pop" that happens when I am hammering uphill. I suspected too much flex, slipping drop outs, and a bad chain, all of which I had eliminated from the equation. Today, the "pop" came back. I looked and looked it over, trying to diagnose the noise.

Well, I guess I overlooked something I thought I checked and eliminated earlier. The chainline is slightly off. Just enough that when I do hammer and flex the frame just so, the chain binds and pops. Well, I guess I know how to fix that, but not in the field, and certainly not with all the mosquitoes that were flying around out there.

So I went out and did some gravel hills and then called it a day. A good outing though. I felt the best I have in over two weeks with the sinus clearing up.....finally!

Tour Divide Leaderboard Update Link: Don't forget to keep up with all the TD action. Check it out here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

GTDRI 09: Recon Report

<===Cool Barn Door

Well, I got out for just a bit to drive some of the northern part of the loop for the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational yesterday.

I had to find a good road to connect with a section over in Clayton County I want to use. I think this will be suitable!

This road runs about 25 miles from Echo Valley State Park over to Elkader. It follows the Turkey River for most of that distance.

<===The Turkey River and the road get mighty cozy in a few spots!

Being a Northeast Iowa river valley, the scenes are pretty to look at. The grade as I drove it, is mostly downhill, although there are a couple of rollers to start things out. I was going to use this as the return route, but I am very tempted to use it as the starting of the ride. We'll see....

This is a county road, so traffic may help in that decision too.

<===Silos that look like they are right in the road.

There are a lot of scenic views of farms, the river, and of the valley itself. It would be cool to see this going either way, so I am not going to fret too much about the way I choose to run it.

Either way, it'll be hilly, not perfectly flat, and very twisty turny.

<===Headed down into the river valley and Elgin, Iowa.

One thing to think about is that after a long day in the saddle it might be nice to have some shade and protection from any potential south winds coming back in my original plan. Coming back the other way? Yeah.....it will be really hilly!

But, we will be coming up from the south if we do that clockwise rotation.

The road not far from Echo Valley.

Well, I still have to do some reconnoitering, but this should come together fairly well. Lots of little towns this year, and hardly any roads "on the grid" at all. Many ups, downs, twists, and turns.

Stay tuned! More will be getting posted in a week or so.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This Makes Me Smile

I don't remember how long ago it was, but perhaps it was at Trek World last August. But anyway, I had a conversation with a Bontrager dude, or maybe it was somebody else with Trek. At any rate, I do remember telling these guys that they needed to tweak out something on their time trial bikes that just didn't ever make any sense to me.

Now you can say this story is B.S., or that I am looking for a pat on the back, or that I made this up, but whatever. I mean, I don't give a rip anyway, and why would it matter to me? I'm about as likely to ride a time trial bike as I am to drive a NASCAR race. So take this for what it's worth. It made me smile, and that's the point.

I told the guys at the Trek Show that they needed to hide the brakes in the fork blades. I thought it was nuts that it hadn't ever been tried before, since aerodynamics were so important, yet the calipers on the fancy TT machines were always kind of just after thoughts. Bolted on however they could to "hide" them from the wind. So I figured, why not really hide them? Put them inside the fork blades and make them hydraulic. Better to get rid of those pesky cables after all.

Well low and behold, lookee here.

Now I ain't sayin' I had anything to do with this. But I got a kick out of it.

It's about time, I say!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tour Divide Starts Today!

Special Bonus Post: Today at 9:00am Mountain Standard Time the Tour Divide kicks off from Banf, Alberta Canada. This race is an outgrowth of the Great Divide Race, which will also be starting soon from the point where the Tour Divide route crosses the Canadien/U.S. border.

This year's Tour Divide includes several notable folks including Iowa's own Steve McGuire and Trans Iowa winner Joe Meiser. Popular Blogger from Alaska, Jill Homer is also entered into the event.

You can catch up with the whereabouts, leaders, and stories that will be coming out of this event at Tour Divide's Spot Leader Board site. There are links for each individual racer on the right margin there, plus a bunch of info on the event, the route, and the racers in this years edition.

Curiously, T.I.V5 winner Joe Meiser isn't listed on that site, but no worries! Since Joe works for Salsa Cycles, he has his own Spot Tracker page and coverage on Salsa Cycle's blog. They have posted a "Where's Joe?" link on the right margin of the Amigo's Blog there.

Have fun, track the progress of the event, and imagine what it might be like riding rough back roads and dodging snow, bears, and mechanical troubles for 20 days or so from the comfort of home. Tour Divide will be going on for the next three weeks plus!

Getting Back Into The Groove

Well it is Friday again. Wahoo! Time to look at what is goin down for the weekend and beyond.....

GTDRI Recon: I got out of a responsibility for Saturday morning/early afternoon, so I think I really need to get some recon of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational out of the way. I know my planned route, and I can't wait to actually ride the thing. It should be awesome. Here's some tasty tid bits of what it will be.....

Echo Valley State Park will be the launching off point. Then we will be following parts of the T.I.V4 and T.I.V3 routes going by the Volga Recreation Area, and then on into Wadena, Ia. From there I plan on going through Volga, Iowa- still on the T.I.V4 route, and then veering off to Strawberry Point. From there I want to go up through Edgewood, Bixby State Preserve, and northwards to Garber. This part of the route will be on roads reconned for T.I.V4 that were not used due to the shortened course that year, or were edited out before the final route was chosen that year. Then I plan on going over some "virgin gravel", heading westward back to Echo Valley State Park and the end of the ride.

So, that's the plan, but plans can change, so stay tuned!

Trying To Find Some Time: Okay, can I say that June will be gone in a flash? Sheesh! I have a lot going on this month, and stuff to get done around the house that has been neglected since who knows when. I have to get riding again on a normal schedule, and doing web work. Nuts I say! Plain craziness.

Vacation was fun. It was needed. But getting back into the groove after that disruption is tough. I hope I can find the rhythm again, 'cause I need to get crackin'!

Well, I hope ya'all have a great weekend, and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Single Speed Sickness

<===Yes. It's true. I like single speed bikes!

Way back when I got my first mountain bike, (An 18 speed!), I had a gal friend that liked to ride bicycles and she always admonished me for not shifting. You know, I would just find a gear that felt right and mash it! She said I wasn't being efficient. I said I just needed to pedal harder.

Hrumpf! It's no wonder we're not together today!
(ha ha!) Well.........anyway....I just was raised on single speed bicycles. Those shifty bits were foreign stuff to my mind of one gear.

Of course, over time I realized that gears were okay. I managed to come to embrace that part of cycling too. But......there's just something about a single speed. I'm not going to try to write what a million other passionate single speeders have tried to write for decades about the "one gear thing". Nope! I just am going to say, I've got the single speed sickness. I just like them, and that's that.

<===Just to prove that I ain't agin it.....

So, I put the Dos Niner back together again. It's been in various states of disassembly for months now, but here it is. A 2 X 9 actually. I put on an Origin 8 crank, a new product, and thought I'd see if the 2 X 9 thing was any good for me.

So far it seems as though it might be a good thing. The lack of the really low granny gear will not be too big of a deal, I don't think. I have a low of 29 X 34 right now, so that should suffice for most climbs around here.

Of course, if I get into that really low gear and find I am starting to grind, I'll just have to go into single speed mode! Ha ha!

Seriously though, unless I'm tapped out, this should work fine around here. It has a 44T big ring too, and that sits in the spot on the crank where the middle ring would be on most mountain crank sets. It allows you to use the full cassette in the rear with decent chain line. Of course, that means the inner 29T ring is in the normal "granny" position, and you start to get some cross chain, derailleur rub issues if you shift into the higher range of the cassette. But.....you probably should be back in the big ring for those gears any way, eh? We'll see once I get this rig out to the Camp.

Anyway, if you run a single speed, geared, or both types of bikes, it is all good. I'm just partial to my single speed 29"ers, that's all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The "Oh-So-Pro" Edition

It isn't often that I get the chance to be part of something slick and polished- "professional" one might say. Something that looks like folks knew what they wanted, knew how to do it, and pull it off in a way that rises above mere mortal accomplishments. I get to experience that on a musical level in the band I play in for my church on occasion. It's a joy that is rare for a greasy mechanic like me.

Well, not long before Trans Iowa V5 I was asked by Jason Mahokey, (He of Soiled Chamois fame), if I would file a post race report on the event that he could publish in his new web-zine called "XXC". I told him yes, and afterwards I filed the report as it appears on the T.I.V5 site and threw in some pics by myself, The Blue Colnago , and Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey. Well, what resulted was nothing short of fantastic. Go download it now here.

Besides the piece I helped with, there is good stuff from lots of other folks that you need to check out. Jason did a fantastic job putting together Issue #2, and the contributors all did top notch work. I am honored to be amongst such heady company in XXC.

So there is is, a jumble of words, a few pics, and it gets assembled into something that is more than a sum of its parts by a brilliant guy running his own web-zine show. Thanks to Jason Mahokey, Paul Buchanan, Corey Godfrey, the riders quoted in the article from T.I.V5, and everyone involved in the event. Thanks to all the contributors in Issue #2 of XXC mag. I am humbled and proud to be a part of this. Thank you all!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Race Against Death Tour: Day Three- Over The Border Part III

The "Race Against Death Tour" stops for the night in Wynot, Nebraska........

When we pulled into the small town of Wynot, we saw a little town square, if it could be called such. It was basically a poor excuse for a park with a central restroom facility, a couple of weathered old picnic tables, and a swing set swaying gently in the breeze. Along the western side of the main street there were a row of low buildings that served as business fronts for the post office and two small bars, along with some other non-descript buildings.

We spied the park as a place to set up tents and hit the hay. Troy went in to ask to see if this was okay at the bar. We followed in behind, but we were redirected down the street to another place to get "official" blessing. On the way down, an old man hailed us, and began to get into a conversation with Troy, but he quickly passed him off to Ryan and I.

Well, this old man was either half crazy, drunk, or both. (I vote for both), and he proceeded to try to talk to us in half sentences, ravings, and unintelligible bursts of sound. Ryan about busted a gut several times, but managed to keep it together. I never really did get the gist of what the old fella was saying, but Ryan seemed to tap into some of his verbiage, as he would oft repeat snippets of it afterwards, much to Troy's and my delight.

 This fellow helped us give rise to the concept of "V.I.P" that we instigated for folks of this sort the rest of the trip. We dubbed these folks "VIP's", but "very important person" wasn't really what we meant. We were to meet several more similar folks along our road.

Now that Troy had the "official" blessing, we could set up camp in the town square. We made quick work of our setting up, having had enough practice now to be really good at it. We discovered that the rest room had a central drain, so we took a big pot that Ryan had brought and used it to fill with water from the faucet and pour over our heads to take make shift showers.

After getting cleaned up, we hit the bar we had walked into earlier. Calling it a "bar" is a bit unfair, I guess. It was basically a restaurant with a bar in the corner. Anyway, they had a board above the back counter with the menu on it. They had about every fried concoction available and known to mankind. Fried cauliflower baskets, fried mushroom baskets, fried cheese curd baskets, you name it, they had it. And........we ordered it! We filled our round table with fried food baskets and looked at it all with wide eyes. We were amazed at the volume of food. But you know what? We ate every last morsel!

After retiring to our patch of grass, we took to a lone picnic table and faced the lowering sun that was lighting up the clouds on the western horizon. It looked like some thunderheads were coming our way. But now everything was peaceful and relaxing. Troy said he wanted to go into the bar to ask to use the phone to make a collect call to his wife. (Amazing that we used to do this!) He was gone long enough that Ryan and I made note of it, thinking, and hoping nothing was seriously wrong. When Troy came out, it was apparent that the news from home was not good.

Thoughts ran across my mind of what it could be, but it wasn't "close to home" bad news. We found out from Troy that his wife had told him the news that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead had died. Troy, being a huge fan, was devastated by this. We all sat on that picnic table for several minutes in silence, staring as the sun went down in a red and orange haze.

After some conversation we finally hit the hay and settled in for the night. I could hear the distant thunder and the flashes of lightning grew closer. I lay unable to sleep as a storm rolled up on Wynot, Nebraska that night, wondering what the following days might bring.

Next week: A Ride In Jo's Big Truck

Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday News And Views

Lots of stuff has been going down since I have been gone vacationing. Here's a recap of some of that and some commentary to boot.

Chris King Does Another Food Gig: From the lovely state of Oregon comes news of Chris King’s plans to host another event involving food. (For those of you that don’t know, Chris King is a food aficionado of the highest order, and a pretty dang good cook to boot!) For the rest of that story hit this link.

Nomination Papers: A while back, I was tabbed by some "wily coyotes" to help craft the skeleton of a nomination submission to induct Mike Curiak into the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame. You can find the text of the article here. Keep in mind, I basically drew up a template and the other fellows added and subtracted stuff at will, so this should be seen as a collaborative effort, even though my name is attached to it. Only MBHOF members can vote, so if you wanna vote, ya gotta join up. There.....that's all I gotta say about that!

Top 50 Cycling Blog: Some nutter in the U.K. decided to compile a "Top 50 Cycling Blogs" post and in a stroke of pure luck, "Guitar Ted Productions" came in 26th amongst some truly worthy blogs/sites that deserved it more than I do for my work. At any rate, it seems that some obvious omissions were made, which I thought was kind of funny in a way.

Discussions About Fun, Beer, and Bicycles: During the ride in Platte River State Park, on more than one occasion we stopped to discuss the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo and what we were going to do to make it a memorable, fun event. We concluded that just getting bikes, folks, and beer together ought to pretty much take care of that. But to that end we are planning demo rides from potentially six different 29"er purveyors, music, games, a hand made brew down/tasting contest, and some killer rides including a Fargo Gravel Adventure Ride which will give a few lucky folks a taste of what it is like to ride a Fargo in the environment it was designed for. The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo should be a great time and will kick off on October 10th near Brady, Nebraska.

One More Time.... I wanted to underscore the experience in Nebraska I had on the great trails that I got to sample out there. Really, these are killer single track trails not to be missed. It seems from their own descriptions of the parks, especially Swanson and Jewel Parks, that the trails are somewhat "lame". Nothing could be further from the truth. These trails, if they were in Iowa, would be lauded as some of the best in the state. Heck, they have races at Swanson, so you know it isn't a pansy course. It is just that Platte River is so much more. When you gauge these Bellvue parks against that backdrop, well.....maybe you can see why the descriptions are what they are. I just do not agree at all with the way they are presented, and I wanted to put the word out- Go to Nebraska and ride these trails! They are waaay worth your time and effort.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Nebraska Report

<===Roller-coaster type single track in Swanson Park, Bellevue, Nebraska.

I spent the greater part of my vacation in Bellevue, Nebraska with friends. On Thursday I was unexpectedly blessed with the chance to hit up nearby Swanson Park. It has a perfect course for single speeding, and the track is a blast to ride. So much so, I did it twice!

<===Tall grass prairie on the Fargo in Swanson Park.

The trail winds its way up on to this reclaimed dump that was turned into tall grass prairie.
It was a cool contrast to the heavily wooded single track elsewhere in the park.

The loop was fairly well marked and was about six miles in length. Nothing too technical, mostly fast, flowy single track. The down hill off the prairie hill is a treat and the back half of the loop is roller coaster trail heaven. Fun!

I was supposed to wait and hit this up with MG, as I posted on Friday, but I couldn't wait, and it actually opened up an opportunity to hit up another local "gem" of single track. So, on Friday, after MG actually found me, (a whole 'nuther story there!), we decided to go look for Jewel Park in Bellevue.

<===Parked part way up a switch backed, tight turned climb in Jewel Park.

After wandering around for an hour and a half, (really!) MG and I decided to stop doing the manly thing and we broke down and called in for directions. Once back on track, we found the park entrance, downed some grub, got dressed and hit the single track........up!

Jewel Park kicks off with a steep, tight, switchback-like climb that puts you up on top of a big hill. Then you are off camber, running in and out of ravines, and negotiating tight corners with short steeps and a plentiful helping of roots. This short, four plus mile loop reminded me a ton of Decorah, Iowa with it's toughness. It really worked me over, and I begged off after one lap knowing we had the main course on tap yet for later in the afternoon.

<===Deep inside the shadowy canopy of Platte River State Park's great trails.

MG had in mind to take me to Platte River State Park about a half an hour south of Bellevue along the sandy Platte River. We arrived shortly before our meet up with Kyle from the parts of Nebraska where the next Big Wheeled Ballyhoo will be held.

He pulled out his beautiful Turner Sultan and we set out to see what Platte River was all about. There was a bit of everything, and a lot more climbing too! It seemed that there was nothing flat out here at all. The trail was well marked, cleared, and tough as nails. Lots of punchy climbs, fast technical descents laced with roots and drop offs. Of course, the rigidness that is a Fargo may not have been the best choice for this, but it did the job, and it was all I had!

<=== MG surveys the thin thread that is set out before us.

The trails were tough, but this single track is a blast to ride. It will call up all the skills you have to make it through. Climbing, descending, picking the correct lines, cornering, and just being "on your game" will all be skills that you will hone if you ride here. I will come back some time, because this trail will definitely make me- or anyone- a better rider. I know I'm better for having been on it.

It was a thick aired, warm, sunny, perfect day to ride. We stopped in some open prairie for a bit to hash over some stuff concerning the Ballyhoo, and we headed out for the final sections of single track that would lead us out to the cars. On the way, there was a tricky ascent that made MG hesitate at just the precise moment I needed him to clear the space he was in. I stopped, tried to catch my balance, and went over to my left, falling about 7 feet into a hidden log right on my left arm. MG and Kyle quickly extricated me from my bike and the underbrush. I had merely bruised myself, but it wouldn't be until the next day that I discovered I tweaked my back a bit in this fall.

I should be okay, it's just real sore! Well, with that accident, we headed out with no other issues and made it back to the cars and some well deserved beverages.

<====The moon comes up over Platte River State Park after a glorious day of riding Nebraska single track.

MG, Kyle, and I had a great time, great conversation, and were totally worked over after a great day of riding. If you think Nebraska is flat and boring, you are totally missing it. The three places I rode are not even the total amount of trails in the area either. There is more, and some day I'm going back to bag some more killer Nebraska single track.

Thanks go out to The Dettmer Family for hosting my family, Matt Gersib, Kyle Vincent, THOR, and anyone else involved in the trail maintenance out there. Last but not least, thanks to Mrs. Guitar Ted for letting me do this on our family vacation.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Single Track Friday

<===Looks like there will be more of this on tap for tomorrow.

I am supposed to meet up with MG tomorrow for some single track goodness done up Nebraska style. Ol' MG told me about a place here in Bellevue, Nebraska called Swanson Park. I remember reading the name in race reports and stories before, so I started thinking.

And you know when I start thinking, I get in trouble!

So i hopped online to set out to see about some directions. Well, whatta ya know! I was about a mile from the Swanson trail head. So I kitted up and went in search of my first Nebraska single track experience. Apologies to MG: I just couldn't resist!

It was great, by the way. The trails were perfect, easy to navigate, and fun. I had about three hours of fun before I could start feeling my back say, take it easy, bro!, so I decided a lap three, it just wasn't a smart ting to do. Especially if I am supposed to hit it again tomorrow with MG.

Hope you all have a great weekend and that you get to riding your bikes out there.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

This Monkey Business Is Costing More Everyday

<===This monkey lives on carbon fiber for free. It doesn't come so cheaply for you and I though!

The new shiny toys for next year keep coming and they are pretty fantastic. Carbon fiber mountain bike frames, whether you think they are a good idea or not, are here, and there are going to be more 29"ers made of the stuff than ever before. What does it all mean?

Well, I don't know the answer to that exactly, but I do have an opinion! Take it for what it is worth.....

So, here we have the next wonder material being shaped, formed, and engi-nerded into stuff they are telling us will be lighter, stiffer, and stronger. Will it be so? Hmmm..........maybe. One thing I do know, it will be astronomically more expensive to buy these bicycles.

Now before I go on, I should mention that having the coolest new mountain bike isn't something I am alien to. Oh no! I have been there on more than one occasion. I bought a super spendy Klein back in the day, amongst several other rigs following that. Getting that fancy new sled is fun, if you can afford it.


That's the thing here, will you be plunking down the greenbacks, plastic, or what ever digital transaction you prefer to the tune of an amount just south of five figures? Just for a carbon fiber mountain bike? That's where it is going with these ultra-techy rigs these days. Now I have friends that would say that in a successful market, this sort of ultra-techy product is just what the market needs, will bear, and will propel it forward. Maybe ten months ago, when these rigs were being sent into production, yes. Now we're playing under entirely different rules. And I would argue that it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Of course, the option remains to not buy this sort of rig. And there is the hope that the new ideas will be rendered in the aluminum flavor. But all this fancy new monkey business on the horizon is priced in the rediculous zone, if you want to know what I think.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

DK 200: Race Report- Part II

<====Looking back on a three mile climb out of a tree lined valley you can't see from here.

<====Check out the fence posts on the left to get an idea of what the steep little climbs were like over really rocky, rough sections, most of the time.

<===Eventual 3rd place finisher Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey. Endurosnob told me his super secret nickname, but I forgot it!

<====Speaking of Endurosnob, there goes his Chattyness. I didn't see him again till much later.

<=====The scene at the start where 85 riders set off into a blistering heat and wind filled day.

The ride in Kansas was awesome until the sickness caught up with me, and it still is with me. I went on a short 3 mile errand with my host in Bellevue, Nebraska today and the same chest tightness and heart rate issues were dogging me, just as they were in Kansas. Guess it may be awhile before I get back to 100%. Anyway, I must admit that those conditions were brutal enough, and my training not good enough that I probably wouldn't have made the grade as it was. Maybe, maybe not. I just know I did what I could do, and I couldn't do anymore than that on that particular day.

So, the bike worked well, the body didn't so much. I just hope I get another shot at it someday. Hopefully next year. I'd sure like to finish one of these things, but everything needs to be working at the same time. Given how well I felt the weekend before, and how hard I was able to work sick on that weekend, I know it could happen. It just wasn't meant to be for me this time.

From this point, I think I'll look for a race or two to do. I have the GTDRI in July. That'll likely be the next big ride for this guy.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Race Against Death Tour: Day Three- Over The Border Part II

The "Race Against Death Tour" moves out from South Sioux City, Nebraska into the countryside....

As we pulled out of the town with our food supplies reinstated, we were at a loss as to how to find the two lane blacktop that was on my maps. We finally gave up and started down a four lane interstate feeder on Troy's suggestion. It was a bit hairy, but fortunately it didn't last all that long, as we were able to get off on a two lane highway that led away westwards. It was in fact Highway 20 but it was a much quieter, gentler Highway 20 than we were used to.

Troy was on point, as usual. Since we had fouled up our exit from the grips of Iowa, Troy felt it necessary to have us drop the hammer and go. Fortunately we all were feeling much the same as he, so off we went at about a 20mph clip on these fully loaded machines. Troy was happy to see us both holding his wheel, and we sped across the river plain until the road started going up and to the right around a bend. We dropped a bit of speed, but Troy turned and with some stern words of encouragement, willed us to hold pace. Fortunately our turn off caused a moment of uncertainty which allowed me to catch my breath.

The afternoon had grown hot and sunny now. We were headed up into rolling hills, but we also had a favorable tail wind, so things were easier than they might have otherwise been. We finally reached a town named Ponca, and more importantly, a convenience store, and rest!

We hit the convenience store mostly for fluids. We did our usual sit down in front of the front door, and kicked back with our purchases much to the amazement of the locals, by the looks on their faces. I remember Troy grinding his empty Gatorade bottle on the concrete driveway until he about had a hole worn through it. Odd, but it was a habit he continued to display throughout the rest of the trip.

Before we left, we started thinking about the end of the day, but spurred on by our massive effort coming into Ponca, Troy wasn't about to let us rest just yet. We stopped in Newcastle to consult the maps. It was getting on into the late afternoon, but we all thought we could at least make it through Maskell and to Obert. Once we got that far, we would stop to reassess the situation.

The effort was not much less, and the energy reserves were being depleted. I was about set to fall off my bike at Obert, but Troy saw that we had a bit more time, and he challenged us to reach further. Up the road was the goal, and its name was Wynot, Nebraska.

We were working pretty dang hard, holding above a 15mph ride average. We had made 93 miles that day, but the heat and the lack of much stopping was taking it's toll. I was a bit disappointed to find that Wynot was a bit off the road we were on. I wanted to just roll in a ditch and go to sleep right there!

Next Week: Fried food, VIP's, and a moment of silence for Jerry.

Monday, June 01, 2009

DK 200: Race Report

First off, I have to thank event organizers and promoters Joel Dyke and Jim Cummings for an awesome, well run, and excellently challenging event. I have a bit of an idea of what it takes to do these things and they do it as well as anybody out there.

Now.....on to the report!

My report must make mention of something that happened Thursday morning. I woke up with a head cold that was going to affect my race. It wasn't the wosrt, but it was bad. Bad enough that on race morning I was coughing up lung cookies and feeling bad. But that will come later......

Friday I loaded up the family and we all made a pretty easy ride to Emporia, Kansas. Traffic in Kansas City was terrible, but otherwise it was no big deal. I took the Fargo as I posted it last week as my bike of choice. I was confident in my equipment, but my body wasn't doing well.

The pre-race was a nice mix of old familiar suspects and new faces. Dirty Kanza started less than the feild limit of 100, but I know they had a bigger field than ever this year. I chatted with Skip Cronin, Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey, Ron "Super" Saul, and Jeremy "Fatty" Fry, Michael Beck, along with Steve Fuller and my partner in T.I., David Pals. Good to see all the folks down in Emporia.

Race morning I awoke at 4:00am and preceded to hack and spew while getting ready to go. I met up with D.P. and we got our breakfast at Burger King. The clerk messed up our order and we got bacon wraps. I though, "Hey, the Lincoln guys have a "Bacon Ride", it can't be all that bad for me. Plus, it's salty!" I wasn't joking about the salt either. Forecast temperatures were to be record highs in the mid 90's.

We lined up the peloton at a little before six, and after some instructions from Jim Cummings we were off down through downtown Emporia at 20 mph. I was up front, because I knew I wouldn't see this part of the field again, and I figured, why not? It was easy drafting and it gave me a feel for what it must be like in a big stage race peloton. Sketchy, but oddly satisfying.

Once the real gravel was had, the event started taking on a different nature. It was still flat. Really flat, but I knew that wouldn't last for long. I let the front end go and drifted back a bit. I didn't see anybody I knew, but a guy on a Jeff Jones came by, and I sort of took it upon myself to suck his wheel for a bit. Feeling a bit guilty, I pulled around and let him draft me for a bit. It was only fair. It lasted for a couple of pulls, and then he disappeared. I'm not sure how that happened, but it was about the time the hills kicked in.

Oh yeah, and the wind was cranking up too. We hit some killer double tracked, rocky, rough gravel and up we went. Around about the time we reached the part of the course that snaked around the interstate, we got the full monty of the wind. It was incredible. 15 miles in and it was decimating the field. Riders were shredded into ones and twos. The road kept climbing higher, and the wind was so strong at some points that I literally could not hear my tires on the flinty gravel.

About this time I came across Jim McGuire, David Pals, and some folks I would end up riding with off and on with for several hours. I would go for awhile with some, and then alone, and then they would catch up again. A fellow from Wichita on a green Salsa Chili Con Crosso, a fellow named Rick, Mark on the green Niner with the purple head set. Anyway, these events are like that. You get in with a few guys and trade back and forth a bit.

So, remember folks, there are no farms, no small towns, nothing out here. Maybe you see a road every once in awhile, but it is remote. It seems as though you are in the middle of nowhere, and the only way out is the next checkpoint. I was good on food and water. My body was working in a muscular sense just fine. I knew the wind was decimating my hydration strategy, but I was doling out the drinks as sparingly as possible. I had five bottles to get me through 61 miles before I had any chance of refills. I seemed okay in that way.

What wasn't okay was my cold, which would have me alternating from being fine, to fits of coughing, shortness of breath, and high heart rate. My head was swimming in pain at times, and then I would feel fantastic for a few miles. This played into a never ending argument in my mind about stopping or going. I would think that I was too ill to continue, then I would feel great and think I might make something out of it all. Anyway, it was a strange sensation. Added to this was that the wind was in our faces for 90% of the first 61 miles, and as I said, it was strong! I could only muster about 7-10 mph into the headwind, but I didn't feel bad, because no one else around me was doing any better. I was okay time-wise to get to the first checkpoint, although at the time, I wouldn't look at the time, because I knew that would play games with me mentally. I just kept pedaling.

The wind and hills, (which were way bigger than anything we have here in Iowa) were really doing a number on my lower back, because there was no let up. You were pushing HARD the whole time on the pedals. It was insane. I could feel my lower back getting really tired, and then the coughing fits would really make it ache!

I rode with David Pals for awhile and then found myself riding ahead and hooking up with Josh Patterson. We rolled for awhile, neither one saying much to the other, as the wind, and now the heat, had made things pretty painful. We two rolled up on a freight train and had to stop. In the meantime, about ten other riders showed up and we all rolled out together from the crossing. I fell off the back here. I just had a hard time cranking it up again. Then I made contact with part of the group about 6-7 miles out from the checkpoint #1. I hit the wall there though. My back just shut down and I had no more climb left in me. I was toast, and I knew I needed rest, or to stop all together. Not only that, but I was out of water too. (Coulda used that sixth bottle mount on the Fargo afterall!)

After limping into Cottonwood Falls, I had to decide whether to rest, and try again, or to pull the plug. My thoughts were that since it was looking as though I was pushing the time cut, (yes, I checked the time here at the Checkpoint.), and that my head cold was not letting me breath properly, it might be a good time to pull the plug. My back was in such pain by this point from spasms after every sharp bump that I figured that in itself was a losing battle. So, I called my wife, and my kids and they showed up in about an hour to collect my sorry self.

After getting cleaned up and having slept a bit, I went down to the finish line at about 7:30pm. No one had yet finished. I saw Fatty and he said that he had to drop out, Super Saul did too. the wind, heat, and the toughness of the course were all too much. It was showing up in the DNF's which were piling up. Race organizers figured on less than 10 folks finishing, in the end, they had 15 amazing folks finish the event. Mike Marchand finally pulled in looking tired but not at all beaten up. Then awhile later, Tony Krause pulled in to take second. Then about an hour later, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey got third. That was just befor 11pm, and I went in to hit the hay.

In the end, my Fargo, the set up, my strategy, they were all pretty much spot on. My health going in was poor. That probably was the thing that did me in, certainly. I figured it wasn't too good of an idea to start, but I love the event, and what the heck- I was there, signed up, and ready to go.

I am still sick, my cold is as bad as ever, but I'd do it all over again and hopefully next year, I'll be able to. Look for a Touring Tuesdays post tomorrow, and a recap on the Fargo and my equipment pluses and minuses on Wednesday.

To all who finished DK 200 '09- Congratulations! You have earned my total respect!