Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday News And Views

Carbon Fiber Wagon Wheelers: We have seen carbon fiber 29"ers before, but expect to see a lot more of them coming down the pike in 2010. Full suspension, hard tails, and single speeds. Heck, most big brands have introduced several models in 26 inch wheels for 2010, so the material will now become the premier frame material for mountain bikes. Is that a good thing? Well, it remains to be seen. One thing I do know, it will be an expensive thing! I see prices being quoted from $5000.00 to $10,000 for complete bikes. Wait a minute! I thought we were in an economic downturn? Sheesh! You'd never know it by the prices I'm seeing!

<====29"er as DH sled.
Niner Bikes has set one of their models, the W.F.O.9, as a downhill rig with the addition of a travel reduced Manitou Dorado fork. Is this a good idea? Hmm..........I dunno...... Have you ever seen a downhill race these days? (Think rock skipping across the water, but instead it is human/bike skipping down a mountain of rocks, roots, and sheer falls) I guess I would be a bit suspect of whether or not the tires, rims, and wheels are up to the task. I like 29"er bikes and all, but at true downhill speeds on a true down hill course? I don't know about that. Maybe this will surprise me, but I have serious doubts about it.
One thing I do know, it will be an expensive thing! (Hey! Didn't I just say that?) The Dorado fork alone is something like $2,700.00. (Say, aren't a lot of folks out of work these days???)
Camp Ingawanis Race: This weekend is the Camp Ingawanis Mountain Bike event that will have a little time trial on Saturday and a cross country event on Sunday. I'll be there lending a hand to Captain Bob on Sunday doing whatever it is he wants me to do. If you show up, stop me and say hello. I'll be the one chasing my six year old son around! (Ha ha!)
Not Endless Summer: First of all, are we even having a summer? I don't know what to call this, but waking up this morning I'm thinking it is pretty chilly again. Whatever season this is, it is just about over. So if you have not gotten a lot of cycling in yet, you'd better get on it! Fall is headed our way and days are getting shorter. Hmm.......does this mean I'll need to break out the tights and wool jerseys for September???
Ride your bicycle this weekend!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Smashing Success Stories

<===It holds three bikes, gear, and all with room to spare!

Well, this summer has been a pretty successful one so far. The riding has been coming along, and as my good friend MG was telling me, I have made some big steps up recently. I have surprised myself, actually, and I am pleased with certain shows of better fitness and riding skill that pops out now and again.

However; that has also come at the expense of my body. I can't remember when I had so many bang up wrecks. Maybe back in my XC racing days of '95 and '96 when I was breaking bike parts and bikes like twigs, but never really banging myself up like this year.

<===Still tweaking the set up here.....

I first had that nasty cable run in, then out in Nebraska, I went over on my side and tweaked out my back and neck. Then about three weeks ago I smacked dirt again out at Cedar Bend with my saddle karate chopping the back of my right leg and knee. I still have deep purple bruise marks from that one!

Well, courtesy of a poor initial suspension set up, I wango-tangoed my right forearm just below the wrist today. You see, I was catapulted by some extreme rebound off course and stopped dead by my arm as it smashed against a ten inch diameter sapling. The result was a bruise and some torn skin that feels like I burned myself on an oven. Nice! Another purple bruise on my Caspar the Ghost colored body. Great!

<===The "hard tail with privileges" felt super fast out there today.

I am pretty sure I had more bang ups that I am forgetting. Like the splits I did at Murphy Hanrahan that resulted in some knee road rash. I think I bunged up my shoulder in there somewhere too. Crazy stuff!

But like they used to say, if you are not crashing, you are not pushing the limits of fitness and skill.

I figure I am pushing back at those limits pretty hard this year, by the looks of things in the mirror!

<====Project HiFi declared a success!

Well, anyway, I am hoping to maintain my recent gains and to that end I rode pretty hard today. Three hours and I felt pretty good with the exception of that one biff, which came within the first ten minutes of my riding, of course!

The Camp is a place of Jekyl and Hyde type riding conditions these days. The North side is still being logged and of course, is weedy beyond belief. More trees have blown over as well. Lots of work will need to be done at some point to get things back rideable in many places there.

The South side is quite the opposite though. It has been preened for this weekends race, of course, so it is unbelievably fast and wide open. I have never ridden so fast there and it was almost as if the place was a different trail with the speeds you could carry. The corners have an abundance of this super fine sand in them in many places making the turns really sketchy. I am betting that the lower classes will make this into a fine, flour like pile that will make certain corners treacherous at high speeds. I was drifting and breaking loose in spots today and it was still hard packed!

At any rate, my plan is to be there, not to race, but to help out Captain Bob, who has a dire need of volunteers for this gig on Sunday. He had the race directorship dumped on him due to an illness at the last second, and will be really scrambling to get things done. If you are in the area, consider volunteering to help out. Just hit me with an e-mail and I'll put you in touch with him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There Ain't Enough Room On These Roads Fer The Both Of Us!

This is a Special Edition Post

<===If certain Iowans have their way, you won't be able to do this anymore.

Freedom. Freedom to live and pursue your dreams. Freedom to move about the country and assemble in groups. This is a big part of what makes America different. It is what we are and what we do.

To that end we developed transportation routes so that we could pursue our dreams and live the way we chose to within reasonable limits. Now there are several ways to move around, to go from one place to another. It's all good, as they say, but not to certain narrow minded individuals that would have us lose part of what a lot of our fore bearers died to give us.

If you want to know, some nutjobs in Colorado tried to ban cyclists from county roads in that state and now here in Iowa some nutjobs are trying to suggest the same thing. Check out the details and links here.

Essentially the argument here is that "farm to market" roads are being populated by ever increasing numbers of cyclist. Cyclist that are "significantly impacting" the movements of rural residents and commerce. (Check out the verbal jibberish in detail here) Accordingly, "safety" is impacted because of all the "deaths and injuries" incurred by having these cycling pests out there in the way.

You know, I love it when folks suggest limiting freedoms due to "safety" concerns and how "commerce" and the local populace suffers from the "unwanted heathens". Okay you "Citizens For Safety Coalition of Iowa" folks. Let's follow your esteemed logic through to its conclusions, shall we?

Let's assume you are correct about bicyclists. My, wouldn't you agree that in terms of sheer numbers, bicyclists represent the smallest "outside" influence on "farm to market" roads in this fine state? Why, there must be far more motorcyclists inhibiting "commerce" out there. Oh, and how about those city folks going hither and yon across Iowa's county black tops at high rates of speed to avoid the clogged major highways. Shouldn't we be concerned about these yahoos as well? They far outnumber cyclists, by a long shot. Oh yeah, and what about all of those nubile young teens and college agers out for a good time, drinking and carrying on as they do. Surely you notice the beer cans and refuse as clues to their passing on the back roads of Iowa, don't you?

Well, since these folks are also "inhibiting the flow of commerce" and obstructing "rural residents", shouldn't they also be banned from "farm to market roads"? I mean, they are for rural commerce and residents only, right? And while we are at it, let's ban any movement on these roads unless it directly relates to "rural commerce" and the allowance for the passage of its "residents". You know, the folks that actually live out there 12 months out of the year?

Yeah, that's the logic right there folks. If you can't get along, ban them! How droll. I thought maybe we were more civilized than this, but I guess not.

Well, as ridiculous as this proposal is, we as cyclists must take it seriously. I suggest you write your State Representative and give them notice of this and that we as cyclists have a right to use the "farm to market" roads just like any other automobile, truck, motorcycle, tractor, quad, walker, runner, horse rider, and horse drawn wagon have. Because if we don't, then a lot of these other user groups don't either. Think about it. (You can find your legislator through the links on this site)

Freedom. Fight for it now or lose it.

You choose.

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour:High Plains Ghetto

After an unsettling night's sleep, the "Race Against Death Tour" awakes to start day six......

Well, nothing happened overnight, and that was the best news we had. Still, we weren't completely at ease, no- Actually far from it. It was nothing you could point at, nothing tangible, but the feeling we all were getting that this wasn't a good place for us to be at that moment in time. We were not saying much this foggy morning. We all just wanted to get the heck outta there.

But as I said, there was fog. Really thick fog that we didn't feel real comfortable riding in. So we were being pulled one way and another. We really wanted to get out of White River, but we really didn't want to ride into a fog on a lonely state highway and get hit by some crazy person. In the end, we wasted a bunch of time and ended up riding into the fog anyway, the want to get out overcoming the fear of being hit.

In the end, it all didn't matter anyway, for as soon as we crossed the bridge over the White River on the western edge of town we climbed up the steep valley and out of the fog . It was fitting in a way. We were now shrouded from the unseen fears and unpleasantness we experienced with nothing but rolling, empty countryside before us.

The lateness of our start wasn't a concern now. We were full of joy now making up lyrics to popular songs and Ryan was totally cracking us up with his Ren and Stimpy routines with various renditions of our "V.I.P."s thrown in. My favorite was his monologue of Phil Ligget that included "Team Gypsy" on the "Tour de Pain". Too funny! As we were rolling along, we all were aware that it was still foggy and we were keeping one ear tuned to the road behind us, listening for any vehicles that might be passing our way.

When the fog wore off, the clouds could be seen hurrying along the way. There was a head wind for now, but at least this cloud cover kept the temperatures from going through the roof right away that morning. Then I heard it. A car was coming. No sooner than I had yelled "Car back!", it was upon us. A bronze colored Cadillac with a large, male Native American  wearing a ten gallon hat and waving his arm about him as if he were shooing away flies. He was gone in a flash. It was the only car that would pass us all day long.

The long hills, head wind, and building heat were starting to take their early morning toll. We all stopped for a rest and we were alarmed at how were were already depleting the water supplies. We looked at the map which showed a healthy sized "dot" on the road ahead marked with the name "Cedar Butte". Visions of convenience stores and grub filled our minds. We were further encouraged when we came across a big green informational sign that gave the mileage to Cedar Butte. Surely they wouldn't do that for any ol' place on the map. Not out here, or so we thought.

So we soldiered on with high hopes that Cedar Butte would be an oasis in this grassy desert. We were very badly let down in the end. As we approached the site, all we saw was a crude building near the road with two broken down gas pumps outside. A semi-circle of broken down cars filled a lonely, dusty parking lot devoid of pavement. A low ranch style house was behind this. At various intervals, an individual would appear at the side door, open it, and dump out a five gallon bucket of dirt. Judging by the size of the pile, the fellow had been quite busy, no doubt digging a tunnel to escape this gloomy prison called Cedar Butte.

Troy was livid, and Ryan was dumbfounded. Me? I just decided it was too funny. I mean, what could we do? Somehow the others came around and we all decided to have a bit of fun with the situation. We managed to refill our bottles from a pump head, but no extra water was available to carry out of Cedar Butte. So with that we moved on from there, now looking for a likely place to eat lunch.

As we crested a hill we saw a small stream down in the valley below us. It was very sunny and hot now. We were all quietly suffering along in the never ending grassy hills. I saw a tree just off the road and I said, "...we're eating lunch under the shade of that tree." Troy and Ryan looked funny at me, but I was dead serious. I wanted shade. When we got to it we dismounted and walked across a fence into shoulder high brown grass. Dead from the heat and lack of rain, no doubt. It must have been over a 100 degrees that day.

As we sat and ate our PB&J without words, a single fly could be heard buzzing about us loudly. Like a cheesy spaghetti western, only this fly and the occasional breeze that disturbed the dry grass could be heard. Suddenly, Troy deftly shot out his hand and snagged the creature, a large horse fly. Remembering what I had said at the outset of the tour about how you could survive in the wilderness on all sorts of insects and plant life, he thrust the captured fly in front of me and said, "Here ya go Stevenson. See if ya can survive on this. I dare ya!" So without hesitation, I popped it in my mouth and chewed heartily while staring into Troy's wide eyed face. He retorted, "You sick bastard!", got up and walked away. Ryan followed suit, while I laughed quietly. I suppose this means that is the end of lunch, eh?

Next week: Out of water, the "Race Against Death Tour" has found itself begging for water from unfriendly folks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fargo Adventure #2: Cycling Overdose!

Warning! Extremely long post with tons of photo content. This may make you want to ride your bike!!

Another Fargo Adventure is in the books. Jason Boucher, head honch at Salsa Cycles and a good friend of mine organized this get together over the weekend. All things considered, it was a massive success.
Now as for me, well......that's an entirely different story! To briefly put it into perspective, here's the situation. I had not gotten a lot of consistent, good rides in before last weekends Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. The 118 mile ordeal put me way into the hurt locker for the better part of the week leading up to this. I wasn't getting anywhere the amount of sleep I needed, and time was compressed beyond belief on Thursday, making my late night arrival at Lebanon Hills campground unavoidable. Thanks to Captain Bob, I didn't have to set up a tent, since he came earlier with my tent and had it ready, otherwise I would have had even more stress going in. Thanks Captain!
Of course, even though I didn't get there until 11pm, we still had to stay up, have a few "adult beverages", and otherwise hob-nob a bit before crawling into the tent, oh I'd say on the backside of midnight for sure. The morning came waaay too early, of course, since Jason wanted to get out on the trails by 6am. Well, one thing led to another, and we didn't get rolling until 7am, but no one seemed to mind too much.
Out on the Twin Cities trail system, we noticed dark clouds, lightning, and thunder. We figured it might turn out to be a bit more of an adventure than we had planned, but we went onward anyway. We headed over for about six miles to Sibley House in St. Paul. The trail head to the River Bottoms Trail is here and pavement is left behind. Along the wet river trail we went, and for the time being, it seemed the worst of the weather had let us be.
Once we got into the single track section though, it got eerily dark. The wet weeds and underbrush painted us with their water laden leaves as we blasted by. It was so dark in there at one point, it seemed as if we were riding in a dreamworld. Then the clouds dumped their load of rain on us, and many of the riders stopped to don their rain wear.
It finally stopped, but the trail was greasy in spots and care going into corners had to be taken. I had a great, "in the groove" ride going through here. I felt like a million bucks at this point. We popped out at the turn off to QBP and several folks peeled off here to get into work. Jason, Captain Bob, MG, and I were the only riders carrying on from this point.
I'll let the pictures tell the story for awhile here...................

The crew at the start including some of the guys from Quality Bicycle Parts that joined us in the beginning of the Fargo Adventure. Picture by Ben Witt taken at the Lebanon Hills campground.

It takes a lot of calories to fuel a Fargo adventure rider...............and a libation or two!

Captain Bob chats up Mike "Kid" Reimer along the bike path to the River Bottoms trail.

A break to re-group. Captain Bob, Jason, MG, and a couple riders catching back on here. The skies were ominous at this point......
 you can see above Joe Meiser's head. Joe just came off a successful first attempt at the Tour Divide. The Trans Iowa V5 winner is flying now! Still, Joe is very patient with all the questions from us awe struck riders like myself. (Congrats on your successes Joe!)

Captain Bob astride his Fargo contemplates the next intersection on our way to Murphy-Hanrahan trails. The River Bottoms were behind us now and all the wetness and single track prevented me from getting any shots in there. We were down to four riders now: Myself, MG, Jason, and Captain Bob, all on Fargos.

We had stopped at a convenience store to re-fuel in Savage, Minnesota, then we forged on towards Murphy-Hanrahan where sweet, flowy single track awaited us. Here I started to feel the week previous, and my pace slowed dramatically. I was in the hurt locker big time, but I kept pedalling onwards. In the single track, I spent most of the time riding alone, with MG, Jason, and Captain Bob flying up front.

A rare shot of me just behind the Flying Amigos.

What a great day with some awesome brothers! Captain Bob and Jason here with me. MG takes the photo....

Four Fargos at rest. Murphy-Hanrahan is a must do trail for anyone in the vicinity of the Twin Cities. Great stuff there!

Re-fueling stop just before finishing off the ride. Here Jason, Captain Bob, and MG share a laugh in the bright sunshine.

The weather turned fine and hot by the time we finished up with "Murph". We had some big rollers getting back to Lebanon Hills campground. We managed to roll in around three pm with 57 miles under our tires and tons of smiles and fun along the way. I was pretty worked, but the cycling wasn't done yet!
Jason had invited us all to join him at a friends cabin in the Hayward, Wisconsin area for a ride on the Rock Lake Loop in the Chequamegon National Forest the next day. Captain Bob had to get back to Iowa, so our foursome was now a threesome. We slowly got showered and set up to roll out to Jason's house to stage the trip to the northwoods.
Jason graciously borrowed his prototype Big Mama to me for the ride, as my Fargo wasn't going to be suited to the "gnar" in the Rock Lake loop. Jason rode another bike that had to be assembled post haste. He was assisted by Captain Bob and MG. I sat down and chatted up Jason's lovely wife Jen and ate melon slices. (Hey! I get to work on bikes all the time, so....ya know..... I figured I'd let these guys have some fun with that!)
Once everything was tightened up and test ridden, we loaded up the car for the three hour trip to the woods.

We got to the "cabin" ( read: House) when darkness was in full swing and we met up with some of Jason's long time friends and some new faces too. All of us there to enjoy a common bond in cycling. MG and I were remarking on how cycling had brought together such a diverse crew. It was pretty cool and the guys I met were all gracious and accommodating. (Special thanks to Kevin for your immense generosity and hospitality!!) However; once again a late night played into another short sleep session that compounded my situation.
The next morning the flapjacks and bacon flowed and we had more visitors arrive to join in the fun of the day. After a leisurely start, we piled into the vehicles that took us to one of the best single track loops in the nation- The Rock Lake Cluster. I had ridden there last in 1996, but the trails had all been re-done since that time.

<===A view from our host's staircase bench over looking the lake his cabin sits near.
Unfortunately, my week and rides leading up to this Saturday ride were going to undo me. I got about a quarter of the way in and popped. I had nothing left. I basically hike-a-biked and rock crawled my way to the halfway point where a gravel road bisects the loop and headed back to the car. The rest of the group had a hoot of a time and afterwards we all went back to the cabin/house to have a barbecue of brats and burgers. Shared stories and good conversations were had. MG was persuaded to stick around for one more day, so now it was down to Jason and I.
We made the three hour trek home to Minneapolis and then my wife picked me up about midnight and we made our way back to Iowa. We just barely got into the state and pulled off at a rest stop to sleep. I finally made it back home to the house here at 6:30am, wasted tired and full of treasured memories of cycling with friends old and new.
Man! I am so cooked, but it was all well worth the agony and efforts. Thanks can't be given enough for all the help, graciousness, and friendships. You know who you are out there. I'll just say "Thank you", and leave it at that.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great cycling adventure soon!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Fargo Adventure

As you are settling down to read this with your morning cuppa java and whatever tidbits for breakfast, know that I am out there...........somewhere..........riding a Fargo along a quiet river with a bunch of other crazy "Fargo-nauts". (Yes...the leader's name is Jason, as a matter of fact!)

I will be on the bike all day today, then after about 70-75 miles of planned multi-terrain madness, I will board an unknown mode of transport and be taken away to a remote location to ride amongst pine trees and critters on Saturday. After getting the fulfillment of single track goodness that will be my allotment, I will be whisked back towards Iowa where I will attend the event to honor my son's 6th birthday. (Which just so happens to be today!!)

Yeah......six years ago. I was a mechanic on the Europa Cycle and Ski RAGBRAI support crew. I was in Oskaloosa and that particular evening I was invited into the mobile home to sleep. This was posh stuff! I had been sleeping in the back of a moving van, and one night I slept on the cobblestones of Bedford, Iowa.

So it was that at about 5:30am my cell phone rings and I hear my lovely wife say, "Honey, it's time!"

Yeah.......I had to hitch a ride back to Waterloo, Iowa and that ride didn't come right away. I sat in front of a grocery store with a duffle bag full of my belongings for three hours and then my sister came and got me. I made it back in time. Whew!

So, Happy Birthday my little RAGBRAI boy! I'll see ya soon! (Thanks for gettin' me outta work that last three days of that week too. Ha ha!)

Look for a Fargo Adventure Report Monday!! Have a great weekend and ride some bicycles!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bike Shop Horrors: Two Cases Of Wrong

Never mind that perfectly good 6mm Allen bolt under there.......

It used to be that I would rarely post a "Bike Shop Horrors" pic. Wow......I think I've done two this month now, but anyway, here we go again!

This one was a gem. Handle bar was spinning, so the individual took the bull by the horns and did something about it!

<===The best part? The bolt and nut were not even tight!!

You know, I can understand why some one would painstakingly drill through a steel stem and handlebar with care, just to avoid using that "metric" stuff. You of these days, if we let 'em, the whole world will just take over the manufacturing of stuff and we'll have to use metric stuff.

Wha.......??? Wait a minute..................ah fuggedda boud it! Too late.

<===This has "wrong" written all over it.

You know how sometimes something gets started the wrong way, and no matter what good intentions and efforts are directed at it, it just snowballs into a swirling cesspool of steaming poop?


Okay, so here's the deal: Guy retires and company wants to get him a "Good Service Award". Company probably jobs out its awards to a vendor, and said retiree gets this unassembled, in a box!! Man takes prized retirement award and attempts to assemble the bike on his own. Realizing that his efforts are not leading to a "bike shaped object", like the ones he sees the kids riding around his block on, he decides to call in the cavalry.

Yep, that'd be me.

I assemble this thing correctly, but the wheels are out of round, the shifters are so sloppy they won't access the gears available no matter how you adjust them, and the frame isn't even welded correctly, or at all in some places!!

Thank you sir for working so hard at our Company. Here's your retirement gift as a memento and an offering of thanks from us.

Sheesh! I'd rather be kicked in the jimmy and shown the door! Unbelievable!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interesting Days

A few things that are happening lately are things I find rather interesting. Some are rather personal to me, some not so. We'll see what you all think.....

Your 26 inch wheeled hardtail is officially "Old Skool"! In a recent post on Velo News website, Matt Pacocha declares that the 26"er as a race bike is dead by full suspension and 29"ers technological gains and advantages. Well, really........mag writers have been saying this since the mid 90's. Full suspension was supposedly going to dethrone the almighty hardtail back when Henrik Djernis won three cross country titles in a row on full suspension rigs. Anyway, this time the ranks of "26"er killers" are joined by 29"ers in this Velo News piece. Interesting to say the least. Heck, just a couple of years ago they were saying that there was no way 29"ers would ever be seriously raced by top level pros.

Can't believe everything you read these days!

Pssst! Hey Buddy! Wanna buy a bike cheap?? So the scuttlebutt I am hearing now is that certain companies are sitting on huge quantities of stock in Asia and are not having it shipped over to America since bicycle sales have flattened, or declined, since February. It sounds to my ears like the halcyon days of cheap bicycle close outs of the 90's are very near at hand again. Maybe........ Whatever, it doesn't sound pretty. (Unless you like a good deal, that is.)

Bye Bye Dirty Blue Box, Hello Pick'em Up Truck! And finally, due to several failing systems in the Dirty Blue Box, I terminated the flow of money into its maintenance. In its stead, I have procured a truck. A regular cabbed, 2X4, maroon colored, 8 foot boxed pick'em up truck. That will be a good rig for future T.I. recon and bicycle hauling to test stuff and well.....just to go ride places! Maybe I'll post a pic, but really, it isn't anything too remarkable. Just a 2003 Toyota Tundra. It'll do the job I need it to.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour: White River Weirdness

The "Race Against Death Tour" stops at the end of Day Five at White River, South Dakota after a tough 92.14 miles of heat and climbs.

White River was an odd town not only for the dirt street in the main business area, but for its retail environment as well. We had some things we needed to do, and laundry was at the top of the list. So we asked about a laundromat, got pointed in the right direction, and headed over to an old wooden business front. At first, we thought there must have been some misunderstanding. This was a joke....right?

What we found was a building with broken out windows, lined along three sides and down the middle with washing machines and dryers, and filthy beyond imagination. The dirt and litter was actually drifted up in the corners and against the machines, in some places a foot deep! The watch of the bikes fell to Ryan and Troy and I set about finding a clean enough machine to use for washing. We found two that didn't take much to clean out after looking at about twenty absolutely filth ridden machines. We got change at the hair dressers next door and away we went. About this time, Ryan leans his head in through the open window and says, "I need one of you guys to come out here. NOW!" He had an odd tone to his voice. I asked what the deal was, why did I need to come out? Ryan just motioned his head sideways as if to indicate he couldn't speak in the presence of someone and whispered loudly, "NOW!"

I went out through the opening where a door should have been, and here was Ryan with wild, open eyes staring into the face of a Native American who seemed to be pressing him for something. I said, "Hey! What's up?", and the man wheeled around to his surprise to see me standing there. The tone of the conversation on his part suddenly became much more pleasant.

It turned out that he was trying to pan handle us for money, although if I hadn't have come out, he may have just tried taking something from Ryan. He seemed to be drunk, or under the influence of something, and wasn't too coherent. I deftly made the correct answers and statements that directed him on down the street without further confrontation, but not before he managed to hurl an insult at a passing girl, which about made her cry. Nice guy!

Well, not wanting to have Ryan have to face that guy if he came back, I took the duty of being the watcher for the remainder of laundry time. As I sat there, I heard the wailing of a woman from across the street, I discerned some of the words she wailed. Apparently, she was pleading with someone to "not go and do it again." Not many seconds later, a stumbling Native American came out and weaved his way to a bar a couple of doors down. The woman's crying could be heard plainly across the street.

After the laundry had been done, we wandered up the street and I noticed a well dressed man approaching us. He hailed us and asked the usual, "what are you guys up to" questions. We politely told him what our trip was about, and of course, the lions share of the conversation from our part was relegated to me. So, I engaged this man in some conversation about this strange town. He told me he was a Korean War veteran, and had lived there all his life. The street had been torn up three years previous to our visit to fix the underlying infrastructure. The city couldn't afford to get the street repaved, so there it was. Dirt! We took our leave of him and went to get some groceries, but not until he had given us an idea of where we could spend the evening.

After the groceries were purchased, we headed over to the race track/park the man had told us about. We took our spot as far back from the road as we could. Cars were circling through the park on a fairly regular basis, which made us uneasy. While setting up the tent, I decided to check out the bathroom facility there. When I turned the corner in the cinder block building to enter, I stopped short. Glass was busted up everywhere. And to make matters worse, there was excrement smeared all over the walls and floor. Yeah.....great! I ended up squatting along the fence line instead.

The war vet had told us that even as a child the Native Americans and whites were not on the best of terms, but that now it was worse than ever. We went to sleep very uneasily that night. Car lights would make us tense up, and thoughts of violence were on all our minds. Morning, and the escape from White River, couldn't come soon enough for us.

Next Week: High Plains Ghetto

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2009: The Report

<===Flattish start in cool temps.

Warning! Long, picture intensive post. Get yer favorite beverage and sit back....

What the GTDRI was:

Fun, long, hot, cold, hilly, dusty, fast, slow, beautiful, hilly, dangerous, long, and oh yeah........ did I mention it was hilly?

Some of the guys had GPS units and as far as we could tell, there was 9994 ft of climbing in 118 miles. And the first 25 miles were pretty flat! The roads ranged from some rare, perfect fast gravel, to the common marbley fresh gravel, to some B roads with some absolutely mountain-bikish rock gardens thrown in for good measure.

The event kicked off when Steve Fuller and I arrived at the primitive campground site at around 6pm. we set up tents and worked on getting a fire started. Awhile later, David Pals showed up with some real camp fire wood which we immediately put to use. Beers were had and even a taste of whiskey was had. We jabbered until the darkness pressed in around us as we were serenaded by V-8 engines screaming around the local dirt track not two miles away.

When the races ended, Craig Severson, my co-worker, showed up and we had some more beer. Steve and David did the smart thing and hit the hay, but Craig and I didn't get into sleep mode until 1am.

The morning kicked off for me as I was awoken by a pack of yippering coyotes down in the river valley. We all got up, preparing for the day, and getting water and calories in. As this went on, Jeremy Fry and Doug Eilderts showed up to round out our group of six fellows.

We were all chatting, and I had forgotten what time it was, so instead of going off at 6:30am, we didn't leave camp until 7am. Whoops! Well, the first four miles or so were rollers that ended in a monstrous downhill with a dogleg to the left. I was out front and flying with no brakes on. I hit the corner and the Fargo didn't want to turn on the loose gravel at all. I quickly found myself running out of room on the right side. Then the head tube started shaking and the whole bike was basically out of control. I was along for the ride at that point. I could tell the wheels were just skittering across the top of the gravel, and not really biting in. I held on tight as the bike got into a rutty secton, which I pretty much flew over. I yanked the handle bars a bit towards thae left and the Fargo took a different line where I felt comfortable to use the brakes to scrub off some speed. I got it back under control.

That was as close to the edge as I've been on a bike in a long, long time!

Doug Eilderts said the decline was 10% grade! No wonder we were all smoking our brakes! I thought that was pretty steep, but by the end of the day, a 10% grade was ho-hum stuff. We saw that on a regular basis all day long, with plenty of steeper stuff all the way up to an incredible 18% grade at one point. (And we were going up that!)

Other than that, and Jeremy falling over at one point, it was a pretty uneventful day of grinding out climbs, walking up hills, eating, drinking, flying down hills at blistering speeds, and just plain having fun.

Following are a bunch of the 75 photos I took from the day.

The Turkey River was our constant companion from Elgin to Elkader in the morning.

After a stop in Elgin, we were all still smiles as the road started to undulate a bit more. (L to R Doug Eilderts, Craig Severson, and Steve Fuller)

Steve Fuller cresting a hill at the highest point of the course east of Elkader. You could see for miles from up there!

David Pals replenishing his water supply in Garber, Iowa.

A view overlooking the Iowa countryside near Littleport, Iowa.

We saw a half a dozen of these signs and when you did, it wasn't a joke! Speeds in excess of 40mph were commonplace on downhills we came across all day long.

Of course, when you go down, you must go back up! Here we encounter one of the many over 10% grades we faced during the day.

The animals were frisky everywhere we went. Cattle would run alongside fences with us, herds were stampeding, and even the deer were running down the road in front of us at one point.

Strawberry Point is where we found a fellow barbequing hamburgers and hot dogs outside a local grocery store. We took full advantage of that and also rested and resupplied. (Pictured are L-R Craig Severson, Jeremy Fry, David Pals, and Doug Eilderts)

A view near St. Sebald Hill over looking the Volga River valley. I was surprised at the number of hilly areas I had strung together for this ride.

This one's fer you, Blue!! Jeremy Fry doing his "Fatty" imitation in a Wadena, Iowa convenience store.

At mile 100, I had the guys stop and we all did a celebratory pull off the flask of Stranahan's I carried just for the occaision. Here Steve Fuller takes his turn.

13 hours out on course, over 9 hours in the saddle, tons of hills, near misses by cars, and tons of gravel dust. We saw deer, turkey vultures, eagles, wild turkeys, and hawks. We even had an old, haggard looking shepard dog run with us a few miles. This picture is of the last big climb of the day at about mile 114.

My computer mileage for the day. We were all happy to get back to the camp. We had a couple beers, chatted about our experiences, wiped down with some awesome wipes Doug brought, (Thanks Bro!!) and then we all packed up and headed out.

I got home about ten o'clock, showered, and got into my bed. What a day! I think it was the toughest GTDRI yet, and it was most definitely fun. But I won't joke, I hurt today as I type this!

Thanks to : Steve Fuller, who made it possible for me to get there by giving me a ride up and back. Thanks to David Pals, Doug Eilderts, Jeremy Fry, and Craig Severson for coming along. It was a great group of guys and we all worked together perfectly. Thanks to all of you for making some awesome memories for me to cherish.

That's a wrap! Now on to this weekend's Fargo Adventure ride! (Excuse me, I have a very dusty Fargo to attend to now!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday News And Views

<===Another special Raleigh project bike....
Here ya go! Another special rig from the fertile mind of marketing wonk Brian Fornes at Raleigh. What does this remind you of? I live in Waterloo, Iowa, so this was instantaneously evident to me! (That's a rack on the Heron in the insignia, by the way!)
Anybody up for "Team Johnny Popper"?
This rig is a one off built from Reynolds 853 pipes and looks to have a split shell eccentric bottom bracket, which I think is a great way to have a clean looking single speed with a reliable tensioning system. My Blackbuck has this, and I love it. No worries with creaks, out of round shells, or stuck wedge type systems. Hopefully the new 2010 XXIX will have the same EBB type.
GTDRI 09: This Is Gonna Be A Cold One! Looks like record low temps for us campers at GTDRI tonight. I'll be bringing arm warmers, but other than that, I'll have to gut out this cold snap- in the middle of July!! Weird huh?
Anyway, we'll be setting out at 6:30am, and if you come, you better have some water ready, 'cause the campgrounds do not have water. You've been warned! Look for a full report Monday.
Get On, Or Get Out Of The Way: Some time ago now, I think it was 2005, Richard Cunningham of Mountain Bike Action said 29"ers were just a passing fad and to "stick a fork in it" as far as a movement. Now a mere four years later in his "Happy Trails" section and he is praising the wheels as the 26"er hard tail killer and short travel full suspension 26"er bane. What gives? Why the sudden change of heart? Well, I think the answer lies in his latest screed on 29"ers. He states that all the fields in the XC races are littered with riders on 29"ers below the Pro class. (And even that is changing rapidly in the U.S.) Basically, the proletariat of mountain biking has had their say, and they are not to be ignored.
Look, R.C. sells a magazine. Saying things that rankle a niche crowd and rings the masses bells are going to make for good sales and exposure. (See 2005's comments) Now however, it can not be ignored that a large segment of his readership is sporting wagon wheels, and if R.C. is going to weigh in with any sort of credibility in the future, as far as perceptions are concerned, he has to start changing his tune. And what better way to do it than with this latest salvo.
Now a couple of observations here. One- MBA just did a glowing tech piece on Niner Bikes R.I.P. 9 which was written guessed it...Richard Cunningham. Niner's Chris Sugai pulls no punches when he talks of the 29"ers eventual domination of the off road world, once declaring that 29"ers would become "the defacto wheel size for mountain bikes in ten years." R.C. isn't quite ready to go there yet, but obviously he has been convinced by someone and their products that something is going on here.
Interestingly, it isn't just R.C. doing this turn about, but I am seeing this from many other corners of the mtb world. Folks saying things as if it hadn't been said about 29"er bikes before, when in fact it had been being said......way back to 2003..... and before.
But we were all just zealots then. Ah......the good ol' days! Being declared worse than a religious, dogmatic robot spewing the faithfuls big wheeled gospel is something I won't miss. I just sit back and chuckle knowing what I know, and seeing more and more 29"er product coming down the pike. Awesome!
Besides, it is all about the ride anyway. I just happen to like big wheels, they work better for me. Now I have choices beyond measure, and big hit bikes are coming now that I'll likely never need. I think it's great that folks will have a big wheeled choice in every category now.
Will it erase some 26"er choices? I still really doubt that it ever will. There are just too many folks riding that wheel size for it to ever go away. (Think 27 inch wheels. When was the last time you saw a new 27 inch wheeled rig, yet they haunt every nook and cranny in every city yet today.)
Whatever, I just find a lot of this "discovery" and covering of old ground quite amusing. Especially by the traditionalists. It has been an interesting ride so far, and I suspect it will only get better as time goes on.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! Ride yer bikes folks! Summer is about done with. (Really! It is summer, right?)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New 29"er Stuff: Coming Soon!

Well, if you had told me last fall that I would be this busy talking about new 29"er stuff now, I would have said you were nuts! But here we are and we have all sorts of stuff flying out of corners far and wide in regards to new products, rumors, and hints. Take a look at a few things I have rounded up for ya here..........

<===New Phil 135mm front hubs.

From Jeff Jone's "Blog" we have a look at Phil Wood's newest hub, a 135mm front for "wide" fork applications. Note: The Paul "Whub" is in the foreground.

I don't know, but to my eye, it looks like a regular Phil hub with a longer axle. I could be wrong, but I like the design of the Paul hub better. That maybe is just me though....

<===As seen on

Maxxis is having some prototype Aspin 2.1 X 29"er and Ardent 2.4" X 29"er tires tested in the field by test riders across the country. We've seen the Ardent befor and the new one is a wider version. I'm not a big fan of the Ardent, but the Aspin does look interesting.

Unfortunately, Maxxis isn't doing anything with tubeless ready beads, so even though they may work tubeless as is, I think it is a mistake not to engineer some better beads into the tire and just call them tubeless ready.

Looks like a great rear tire to mate up with an Ignitor or CrossMark front. At anyrate- Yay for more choices!

The long awaited W.F.O.9's are about to set sail!

Niner Bikes W.F.O.9, the technology laden long travel 29"er is about to hit the trails after a long delay. What is super cool is that finally a manufacturer has stepped up to back the production of the long hidden away WTB Kodiak 2.5 inch monster tires! Folks around here won't be interested much in these shoes, since they are really made for abusive, gnarly, high speed chunk riders. That and the projected weight is 1400 grams each! Still, they are the answer to a lot of folks prayers that live in technical, rocky mountainous areas.

Word is that the casings on these monsters are 62mm wide and that they are 66mm wide at the knobs. If true, these are now the biggest 29"er tires, taking away that crown from WTB's own WeirWolf LT tires.

Tidbits: I'm hearing Norco has a 29"er in their line up for 2010 that will feature the Gates Carbon Belt Drive System. (Obviously a single speed) and that Banshee Bikes is working on their own 5 inch travel FS rig which should be interesting given that companies gravity driven roots.

Finally, I hope to be getting some new information soon on some other interesting 29 bikes for 2010, so stay tuned here, and of course, on Twenty Nine Inches.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GTDRI 09: Route Info

Okay kiddies! I spent an inordinate amount of time tonight mapping out this dang route for ya'all that may or may not be coming to the GTDRI on Saturday morning. Of course, some of us will be camping out at Echo Valley, so you are all welcomed to join in that fun which will be occurring on Friday afternoon/evening.

Keep in mind- We'll be bugging out for the ride at 6:30-ish. So if you won't be there Friday night, you will have to get crackin' early on Saturday morning at "dark thirty" to make this little gravel party.

Secondly, it is NOT A RACE!! It is a no rider left behind, fun, challenging ride. How challenging you ask? Let me tell you.......

First off, it will be 117 miles and most of that will be gravel roads with a few miles of pavement and B-Maintenance roads thrown in. We'll need the whole day to do the route at the leisurely pace I suspect we'll all be going at. Why so lazy? 'Cause it is NOT A RACE and it will be dang tough. Think Iowa doesn't have any climbing? Well, if you show up fer this one, you will ride two- count em- two!- multi-mile climbs. Yep! I said "multi-mile". I found two climbs that both go over three miles each and one of those is over four miles. Sure, they aren't too steep, but they are long!

Then there are a couple in the mile plus range that are steep! Whoa! This is gonna hurt folks! But then again, it is the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational" afterall!

I lull everyone asleep to start off with on the first 25 miles which are gently rolling hills along the Turkey River for the most part. However, once we get past Elkader, things will start to get roller coasty! In a big, big way too. Then in about the 50 mile mark, the first multi-mile climb will hit ya. After a few more rollers, I give everyone a break on a section of flat stuff that takes us through Strawberry Point where we'll likely be refueling. After turning north, we'll hit one of the most heinous sections of rollers I ever threw at a Trans Iowa for just over a mile. Then at the outskirts of Volga, we start our next multi-mile climb, although this one has a much more palatable gradient! Following a flattish to downhill run in to Wadena, we'll get to enjoy the corkscrew ascent out of the Volga River Valley on Fox Road. Yeah! Steep and twisty!

Then we finish it all off with some big ol' rollers back to Echo Valley, and hopefully some cold brews!

See ya Friday night, and if not then, Saturday bright and early.

p.s.: If the weather is violent, or super crappy, I'll cancel the event. Stay close to your weather and stay tuned to the GTDRI site for updates!

Oh! And Here is the link to the route.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour: Day Five: In To The West Part II

The "Race Against Death Tour" moves on from Wood, South Dakota on an extremely brutal, hot day....

Leaving Wood, we encountered some big rolling hills. The combination of the days heat and miles was taking it's toll on me. Well, that and the fact that there wasn't any water in Wood. I ran out of water somewhere on this last stretch of the day's road. I thought I was really done for. This is where one of the enduring phrases describing myself arose from. Right from this moment on this very day.

I was "Barney-ing".

I am pretty sure it was Ryan that coined the term. He saw my face as I toiled up a climb he and Troy were waiting for me at the top of. Ryan exclaimed, "He looks like Barney Fife when he had that long face, ya know? He's "Barney-ing"!" Troy saw the resemblance, I guess, and laughed. The term was forever cemented in my mind as what I looked like when I was bonking. Barney Fife. I suppose I could look worse.

Troy said something about the fact that we were all about out of water, but that White River was just up the road, and that we probably should cut the day short, wash clothes, re-supply, and hit it hard the next day. We all agreed to that, then just like that, Troy and Ryan were gone, leaving me to toil up the big rollers in the incessant heat.

I reached the turn off to White River and I could see Troy and Ryan up the road. I was angry, and I suppose the adrenaline helped get me the rest of the way into town. I was going to be really glad to get into a town of a reasonable size, the first since we left Winner, and get something to eat and drink. What I didn't know was that I would never forget White River for other reasons, but at this point, I just wanted this day to come to a merciful end.

As we reached the outskirts of the town we pulled off the highway to the business section of town and found that there wasn't a street. Well.......they had a street, it was just torn up. It was as if they had been doing construction, but the cars were just driving through the dirt. There were no "Road Construction" signs, just some orange netting and some sawhorses with blinking lights here and there. It was a bizzarre scene, but that would be just the tip of the iceberg of the strange things that we would find in White River.

Next Week: White River Weirdness

Monday, July 13, 2009

GTDRI 09: Recon Report III

Well, it is almost here! The 2009 version of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational is Saturday, July 18th. I will be camping out, hopefully, Friday night at Echo Valley Park just east of West Union, weather permitting. Here's the fine details on the camping situation:

Directions: To get to the park from West Union, take Highway 18 east into town. When you get to Pine Street, which is a stop light, hang a right/south and follow Pine Street all the way to the southern outskirts of town where it will flow to the left. just keep following this East/Southeasterly blacktop out of town. When you go about a mike and a half, it turns suddenly to gravel. Don't go into the gravel!! At this point there will be a sign that says Echo Valley on your left. turn left here. It looks like you could go left or right on this gravel road, but stay right. You will be going steeply down to a low water crossing. Go across, the road goes left and up. Then you will see a right hander. I will be at the top of this, if the weather is good.

More Info: Now, here's the deal with this place. It is totally primitive. No water, pit toilets, and no bathroom/showers. So be prepared if you come to camp. There is a fire ring, so if you want a fire, bring some wood. We'll be just hanging out, maybe having a drink, and then sleeping until the next morning.

Figure on being set to go around 6:30 at the latest. We will set off from the point where the Echo Valley Road turned to gravel at the entrance to the campground. We will be taking Echo Valley Road eastwards from there. Cue sheets will be available either printable on-line or at the start, but once we leave, we're not coming back until we finish the loop. Distance should be about 110 miles.

Hit me with an e-mail if you want to let me know you'll be there or if you have any questions. I'll post up any last minute changes later if there are any. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 10, 2009

What's In The Stand And A Big Mama

<===The Latest Version.

I am still refining the Big Mama. I've been riding this rig, and even though its been muddy more often than not, (just look at them dirty tires!), it has been an awesome rig. Funny how a "big" bike can claw its way up stuff. That suspension helps in that regard for sure.

So, I have some Quad Dime XC brakes in white here with the new GA-1 white grips from Ergon. I have used the brakes before and for the money, they can't be beat. Better modulation than Avid Juicys and Elixirs for less money. Then the Ergon grips are awesome on this sort of bike. Full grip for power moves and just plain hanging on when things point waaay down! Plus, they are pimpy white! (You can only really see the green end caps here, but trust me, hit the link, you'll see they come in white!)

Next up? Crank refinements. Maybe a new bottom bracket. We'll see.

<====Is it just another Trek Fuel.....

<=====........or not???

Well, you never know, but pros do sell their old rigs some times. Could this have been Travis Brown's rig at one time? Hmmm.......looks a size too big, but......ya never know!

I thought it was funny that it had Specialized tires on it though!

Okay, that's all I got today. Have a great weekend, ride your bikes, and will somebody please stop the rain already!!!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Drop Bars, Pink Stuff, Hall Of Famers and More!

<===New Pink Velocity Blunt rims on the Blackbuck.

Okay, this is a mega-packed post today. Sit back and grab yer coffee!

I rode my Blackbuck at Cedar bend yesterday since it was the only place that was ready to ride after our recent deluge within a reasonable driving distance. Still, it was pretty greasy in spots and sure enough, I had a right hand off camber after a down hill that sent me sprawling.

I came to a halt with my nose about three inches from the critter you see in the pic on the left here. The critter was not amused, and quickly scurried away from me, but not before I captured its image for you all here!

I did some damage to my right hamstring in the wreck, and I cramped, or nearly cramped the rest of the ride. It was painful, but at least I was riding. The single speedness of my Blackbuck surely didn't help, but I wasn't about to turn around and go home just yet!

Mike Curiak Nominated To The Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame: Okay, on behalf of Mr. Curiak, I am making this announcement that he is up for a vote to get in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. I helped craft his nomination write up, which is in the list here for you to look at. Just click on Mike's name to read it.

If you think Mike is worthy, you can vote for him, but it'll cost ya! $20.00 to be exact. That said, that $20.00 helps keep the Hall running and will let you have a chance to vote in Mike. But hurry! As in all good things, this comes to an end on July 15th, so hurry!

Ellsworth Bikes to do a carbon hard tail 29"er: In my poking around on the web, I came across an announcement for Ellsworth Bikes carbon 26"er hard tail rig. So I read it, and sure enough, a 29"er is also in the works. No word on whether it'll be a U.S. made product, like Ellsworth is proud of. I'm betting it won't be.

Shed Fire Does A Off Road Drop Bar: Okay, the cat is out of the bag. Brant Richards, formerly of On One and now running his own outfit called Shed Fire has done up another off road drop bar.

<=====Shows the flare from the front, albeit upside down!

<====That's some sweep there on that drop section folks! 120 degrees from the bar top.

<===A longer drop extension with little reach. You do not like how long it is? Cut it off! It's hard to add to a bar that's too short to begin with here.

<===A look from underneath. The center section is 31.8mm all the way across to each drop section. It'll take road controls, of course.

<====And one from the top. Note that the drops don't slope out a lot, so your brake levers won't be slanted too badly. Should please those who insist on using the hoods while they ride.

Okay, I have to admit that I helped out with this one. Brant had me do a rendering and picked my brain a bit about this, as I am sure he did with several other drop bar aficionados. At any rate, I am hoping he will also make this available in different widths, but at this time the outer width will be 580mm/23 inches or so.
This is the rough prototype, so much can change, but I think Brant is pleased with it so far and this likely will be close to production shape. No word on when it'll be out, or for how much moolah it'll sell for, so don't ask me!
And the name? Brant calls it the Luxy Bar. I like the factories numerical designation- "D62". Kind of reminds me of Allis Chalmers model designations for its orange tractors from back in the day!
Okay, that's it for Thursday!