Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Blows Outta Here!

<===From white to shades of brown. March changed the color of the landscape.

Wow! March went from "slow to go!" in about a weeks time. From not riding much but roads packed with ice and snow to back riding at The Camp already, it has been pretty amazing.

Add in T.I.V6 madness, and things really leaped into hyper-drive for me! Recon started again, and there still is a ways to go with that. In fact, I'll be out doing some of that today.

Warm weather is back already too. 70's and sunshine where three weeks ago we were getting "treated" to our first days with highs in the upper 30's. Things changed in a big hurry, that's for sure.

It seems that this spring is bringing lots of changes all over. I am noticing that anyway. People, things, and events seem to be in a state of flux more so than I can remember in the recent past, or maybe it's just me. I don't know. Anyway............

Seeing as how I get hits about drop bar mountain biking all the time, let's talk about the Gryphon from Singular Cycles a bit, shall we? Singular was developing the Gryphon along about the same time as Salsa Cycles developed the Fargo. So no one copied the other here. The designs were done separately and that's that. Having said this, it is amazing how similar these two bikes are to each other. At least in terms of handling and to a great degree, fit.

I have the luxury of having a Fargo in a size large and a Gryphon in a size large which I have measured side by side. The differences are pretty minimal in terms of geometry. The details are hugely different, of course, but basically, these two bikes could be very complimentary stablemates in either companies line up, or better yet, in your stable! They handle very similarly. They fit very similarly, and in terms of function, they are different enough to warrant having both. Quite frankly, I was surprised by this.

You see, I figured since the Fargo fit me like a glove, and had the versatility of a Swiss Army knife down pat, I figured the Singular couldn't possibly hope to have anything but the novelty of single speed-ness on its side in comparison. Boy! Was I wrong about that. The Singular has the fit, as I said, down to a "T" and does drop bar mtb "right proper-like". It doesn't pretend to be anything other than a drop bar, rigid specific mountain bike that does single speed very well. The Fargo doesn't pretend to be a single speed, and doesn't pidgeon hole itself as "just a trail bike". That's why I say both bikes fit into any drop bar mtb aficianados stable. (Well, as long as you like 29"ers. )

I am doing a proper side by side comparo for Twenty Nine Inches later. So, please wait for that and your specific questions will be answered there, I hope. Suffice it to say that since I really like the Fargo, you'll probably be able to guess what I think of the Gryphon. It's good stuff, that's what it is.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Brands

I'm taking a break from bikes I owned to talk about all the bikes we sold............

I still work in a shop and every once in awhile I will see a bike come in for repair that I either put together out of the box, worked on, or sold. Sometimes all three in the same bike! Last week I saw one that inspired this post.

One of our sales people was walking a rig back to the hold area when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that it was a steel framed mountain bike that was teal in color. Now it is funny when that is all the visual info I need to bring to mind what the bike is and whether or not Advantage Cycles sold it.

I turned my head and looked closer. Yup! 90's era rigid steel in a teal color. Well, by this this time I am 75% sure I am looking at a Scott U.S.A. mountain bike and I knew it had a strong chance of being an Advantage Cycles rig. I leaned over the service counter and said, "That's a Scott, isn't it?" The sales guy looked at the down tube and said, "Uhh........yeah. I guess it is!" I said, "Look and see if it has an Advantage Cycles sticker on it."

He fumbled around looking, but before he found it I saw the familiar black rectangle outlined in silver and said, "Don't bother. It is an Advantage bike." (And I even knew by that sticker it was sold in 1994 or early 1995, because the stickers changed in mid '95 to blue and silver.)

Funny how old bicycles seem like long lost friends, yet I would have zero clues as to who owned it. Probably because I didn't sell most of the bikes I see from Advantage, but I did build a lot of them, and I worked on a lot of them. Sometimes an owner and bike will be ingrained in my memory, but those instances are rare.

Next week, more about Brands.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Trans Iowa Course Recon Report #1

I got out and did a little course recon in an area I've never been to before. That's always fun! I noticed a lot of yellow license plates with red letters down this way. Hmmm.......

Anyway, these shots are from between Checkpoint #2 and #3 mostly. Here's a shot of the road leading into Checkpoint #2. Some of the roads near here were cobby, rough, and the surface was pretty churned up by the recent release of frost. I suspect that'll change before T.I.V6 and especially when the maintainers come out.

There are some big, steep valleys in this section, but most climbs seemed to be longer and less severe than some we had last year.

Note that the road here shows lots of frost "boils'. These will likely be all healed by next month. The road looked fast otherwise, but as I said, the county maintainers may screw that all up with fresh gravel between now and late April.

Who knows?

Oh yeah!  B Maintenance road! This one looks like it is recovering very quickly from the recent snow melt. (There was still snow in the ditches in many spots)

This road was soft, spongy, and had some water here and there, but these roads look like they drain well. Unless we get heavy rain right before T.I.V6 this will likely be a fast section. If it's wet......look out! There are about 6 miles of B Roads in throughout this section of the course.
I wanted to show the next image so you all would know that there are some mind numbingly flat sections in this course too! This is pancake flat for a few miles with gentle rollers here and there.

The gravel in this section was fast and really dry. Oddly enough, some sections had puddles in the road in the valleys earlier on. Shouldn't be too surprising that the flat sections were the driest.

There was a wicked wind out of the Southeast today too, so that helped in the drying process.
But that isn't the end to the hills! Oh no! They kick back in again with a vengeance. Take a look here. This looks like a launch pad to the sky!

All in all I got to see a hair over one sixth of the course today. It looks great with no real issues at all. I have found an excellent spot for Checkpoint #2 and Checkpoint #3. Things are coming together pretty well.

d.p. may have more recon news next week and I will also be out again looking at some uncharted roads for us.

Stay tuned! We'll be back with more recon reports real soon...........

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Trans Iowa Thoughts: The Countdown! 4

All-righty-then! Here is a big post full of news that you'll want to pay close attention to. Lot's to tell today!

The Oakley O-Down At The Barn: This is going to be quite the party for those associated with Trans Iowa V6 . Don't worry about where it is right now, you will get detailed directions at the Pre-Race Meat-Up on Friday, April 23rd at the Grinnell Steakhouse. All you will want to know for now is that you and your support crew/person are invited to this dealio which is set to start out at 7pm Saturday evening at The Barn. (It is a real, honest to goodness barn-yo!) The Barn is going to serve as our finish line, post race awards ceremony site, and informational center, so why wouldn't you want to come? Well, how about some beer and munchies that will be available there? Not enough? How about a campfire and good people to hang out with? me. This is where you will want to come to hang out if you DNF as a rider, or if you have support folks, this is where you want to send them.

The plan is for Oakley super-rep, Rob V to open up The Barn at about 7pm. There will be parking available a short walk from The Barn. Restroom facilities will be at this parking lot. The Barn will be where I and d.p. will be calling in all the updates from our volunteer crew and Rob V will be making announcements and posting all the latest there on a dry-erase board. Rob said that if you have a tent and want to throw it up for a place to nap during the wee hours, feel free to plan on that. The Barn itself is finished on the inside and is a great place to hang out. The Barn will be open all night and throught to the end of the event.

Awards Ceremony: We have not had a "proper" awards ceremony since the make-shift awards ceremony at the Kwik Star for T.I.V4, and really, not since T.I.V3. Well, that will change with the Awards Ceremony At The Barn that will commence immediately upon the cut off for T.I.V6 Sunday afternoon, or whenever we determine no riders are left in the event before that. Of course, we advise that you be there bright and early Sunday morning to welcome in any finishers to The Barn that there may be. The more the merrier! The latest the awards will be going on is until 2pm Sunday since I am almopst 100% sure the latest the cut off will be is 1pm Sunday afternoon.

Of course, our great sponsors will be featured at the awards with Oakley eyewear going to the top finishers that will have "Trans Iowa Winner" engraved on the lenses. Also, Oakley is providing a red colored frame set for some eyewear that will go to the Trans Iowa V6 last place finisher. Traditionally in European racing, the last person to finish each days stage in a stage race is called the "lanterne rouge" and we are calling this prize the T.I.V6 Lanterne Rouge Prize. So even if you are not in contention to win, you can grab something for just finishing, and finishing last!

Salsa Cycles is also stepping up to support you guys or gals that gut it out to finish Trans Iowa by offering one lucky finisher with the "Adventure By Bike Prize" This one will go to the rider we feel had the most arduous, adventure filled ride in T.I.V6. (Last year's ride by Charlie Farrow is an excellent example of what we mean). This lucky rider will get their choice of one of two great choices that represent Salsa Cycles new commitment to adventuring. The Fargo or the all new Vaya will be your choices if you are chosen for the "Adventure By Bike Prize". (The decision of the Race Directors will be final in this category. Only individuals that complete T.I.V6 in the alloted time will be considered for this award. You need not win, just finish!)
  The recipient of the prize will recieve instructions on how to contact Salsa Cycles and choose their very own adventuring rig. Thanks to Salsa Cycles for this outstanding prize for T.I.V6!
We'll also be getting some special prizing from Epic Designs that will only be revealed shortly before the event. These will be awarded amongst random finishers of Trans Iowa as well. Epic Designs products are used by several gravel grinding freaks and are a valuable addition to anyone's arsenal of gear. Check out their site for the lowdown on what Epic Designs is all about.

We'll have other prizing going out during the Pre-Race Meat-Up from Velocity U.S.A, Trek, Banjo Brothers, Ergon U.S.A. Guitar Ted Productions, and others.

Need Something To Do While The Nut Cases Are Racing?: How about bringing your bike and going for a ride with Rob V on "Rob's M-COGG Ride"? We're going to give you the chance to do a wee bit of gravel grinding on some of the same roads that T.I.V6 will be using! After the start at 4am, the riders will head out to the first checkpoint and be long gone, but you can hop on the same starting section and ride with Rob on the M-COGG at 10am on Saturday morning. (M-COGG stands for "Metric Century Of Gravelly Goodness".) Rob will lead a "no rider left behind" type group ride at 10 am from in front of Bikes To You in downtown Grinnell. Right where T.I.V6 took off! You'll ride out on the first loop using the same roads T.I.V6 did, and you'll get to see the tire tracks, the sights, and maybe even some left over parts from racers bikes that fall by the wayside. The ride will loop back closer to Grinnell and then back out again for even more gravel if you want. (You can bail out at any time). The last section will take you over the roads being used in the final miles of T.I.V6 before the riders in the event see them! Expect about 63 miles total if you do the entire route and the ride will last until mid-afternoon depending upon the speed of the group. Make sure your rig is gravel ready, that you can support yerself, 'cause there ain't gonna be no sag, and wear an approved cycling lid ya'all! Need to know more? E-mail me here.

More details to come next week. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday News And Views

Getting Dunked: I decided to ride the Singular Gryphon to work today and then head out after my shift for some exploring to see how the local single track is coming along. Well, the single track needs some time and clean up yet, but it won't be long. With that knowledge gathered, I headed through the old Shirey Way in Lower Hartman reserve. It is basically a B Maintenance road in town. Well, more or less in town!

About a few tenths of a mile from the eastern exit to the reserve, I saw that there was still some water over the road. big deal. I aimed for the middle of the road, cut a little speed to keep the splashing down to a minimum, and proceded to cross the water. About half way through, my front wheel went ka-plooosh! It was a big hole! I suddenly found myself up to my knees in water.

I got out after a quick chuckle, and walked my now dripping body and bike to the exit, where I took the photo here. No real harm done, I figured, since I was only submerged for a few breif seconds. Still, even after several more miles to home, I drained about three ounces of water out of the chain stay drain holes!

More Trans Iowa Goodness: I got another dose of good news concerning Trans Iowa V6 today. It'll have to wait until tomorrow's post to be revealed, but trust me, it is pretty dang cool if you "Adventure By Bike". Basically, T.I.V6 is going to be a pretty spicy good time with all the goings on. Hopefully everybody will consider sticking around to the end, because it's going to be more fun if everyone does.

Talk Turns To Weather: If you know one thing about Trans Iowa, you know that the weather is the "wild card" of the event. Nothing else has such an influence on this event like the weather does. Well, as I speak to different individuals about T.I.V6, the talk inevitably turns to weather. I've heard that the winter was kind to the gravel roads, and they are super fast. I've heard that there is going to be a huge snow storm, predicted by The Farmer's Almanac, for March 30th, and I've been "guaranteed" the weather will be perfect for the event.

Of course, no one knows what will happen, but barring a major calamity, T.I.V6 will happen no matter if it snows, rains, blows, is warm, hot, cold, sunny, cloudy, or partly both. I wouldn't at all be surprised if it did all of that in one weekend!

Testing...Testing! Looks as though some major testing is going to start going down here real quick. I have a slew of things to go through and  write about here. That's a good thing, because I need a lot of riding before May 22nd! That and shortly after that, I have to head south for some gravel grinding. So a lot of saddle time is going to have to happen soon!

It's Over Fixie Freaks!: The fixie-hipster-fashionista fad has finally gone over center. As I was going over some recent Tweets on Twitter, I came across the WalMart Mongoose Fixie for $149.99. In typical WalMart fashion, they don't get it right and call it a "fixed speed" bike. Ha! Well, anyway, you know once the fad is being cashed in on by WalMart your "cool" factor is a bit "lukewarm" these days. Maybe even rotting.

At any rate, it should be interesting to see if any folks get this rig and auto-face plant when they don't remember they can not coast. Concerning that, there is a question tab where you can submit your questions. Here is a good one: (0 answers) "does this bike have a free wheel flywheel like most single speed bikes, also what color is frame and wheels.."

Yeah.......a flywheel! Nice. And check this out: For all three questions posted so far there are no answers. Now that's customer service!

Hopefully ya'all will be getting some miles in, or even racing already this weekend. Take some pics! Have some fun!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Two Wheel Sets Out, One Set In!

Wednesday I moved two wheel sets from the Lab out to happy owners. It was part of the plan to reduce the mountain of stuff piling up down there. Hopefully I can continue to thin things down there in a wise manner.

Then I got a notice that a box had shown up at work. I went down to pick it up and it turned out to be another wheel set for testing on Twenty Nine Inches.  Okay, cool!

They are the new 2010 Sun/Ringle' Charger Pro 29 wheels. These wheels are pretty pimpy. Look for a full breakdown on them coming soon on TNI.

Other exciting news from Wednesday was my invite to a Shimano technical seminar on 2011 MTB product up in Minneapolis. I guess I'll be seeing stuff and not being able to talk about it. How do I know this? Well, I had to sign a two page legal-ese document that says I can't talk about it, that's how I know! More on that...........someday!

Then to top it all off, I had an excellent meeting with Oakley super-rep and all around cool cycling cat, Rob V. We brainstormed up some awesome details on the Oakley "O-Down At The Barn" and for Rob's M- C.O.G.G  Ride that will take place on Saturday of Trans Iowa, April 24th. I'll spill the beans on all of this in my usual Saturday T.I.V6 post, so stay tuned. I am super stoked for the T.I.V6 weekend. Wait till you read the details! I think ya'all will be stoked too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Texas Sized Trip Recap Post!

First off, I wanted to let those folks know that were wondering what I thought about aluminum as a frame material that I will get to that soon.....

Okay, now sit back and grab a beverage. This will be a long one!

Here we have a scene fron western Kansas on the first day out from Iowa. Kansas has some big, wide open spaces and the sunsets here are always spectacular.

This one is from north of Tucumcari, New Mexico. It's a picture of "The Hat". When you see this "hat shaped" mesa, you know you aren't far from Tucumcari. many a Route 66 traveler longed for the site of The Hat at the end of a long westwards drive back in the day.

In fact, "Tucuncari Tonight!" can still be seen on billboards all around the area.

Here's a shot of the Jarilla Mountain Range just north of El Paso, Texas. We were still in New Mexico here. The really cool thing about the trip is all the mountains that we get to see for the last 300 miles or so. I always look forward to this part!

(Sorry about the ghost image here. I took most of these shots through the car window traveling at 75mph!)

I've said it several times: El Paso's Franklin Mountain State Park trails are nothing but rocks! No dirt here folks.

Here the trail traverses an arroyo. Yes, that path of white fist sized and larger stones running into the backround is the trail!

The Lower and Upper Sunset trail loops are super technical, tough, and give you a workout. This is what fried my legs last week.

Okay: here you go from lower right to upper left. That's the trail. You will notice that as the trail steepens the rocks get looser and bigger.

This was pretty typical of how the climbs were there. Loose, big rocks in every climb that wanted to spit out from under your tires, sapping your climbing speed, and in many cases, shutting me down.

An FS rig that excells at seated climbing is the e-ticket for this stuff!
Okay, one last trail shot for ya all. This is a sweeper turn that comes down from the upper center of the photo to the lower left. And no............those rocks are not packed in solid!

It's like cornering on shards of bricks! Even the color of the rocks reminds me of bricks right here.

Amazing trails for sure! I really like the challenge of riding here.

I've been trying to get a shot of this for years! The Cowboy of Conlen Texas!

It's just a metal painted statue of a cowboy drawing his six shooter on the side of the road. What it was put there for, I have no idea, but I am sure it has been there for years.

Just a cool part of Americana that I was lucky to squeeze a shot off of while zooming by at 75mph!

Seen in Stratford, Texas headed north was this "Ergon" tanker. Could it be a secret sauce is contained within that is used to make Ergon grips?

Maybe these top secret squeezin's will find there way into the latest health shake used by Mr. 24 and the rest of the Ergon Team to dominate the upcoming mtb events they enter.

Whatever it is, I was there to grab this photo and start the speculation!

So that's a wrap on the Texas trip of 2010. Now it's time to get down to matters at hand, not the least of which is getting T.I.V6 recon finished!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: The Bike Acquisition Syndrome Part III

This will be the final post on bike aquisition for awhile........

So as I have outlined previously. I came into a few new-to-me bikes after I got hired on at Advantage Cyclery. These were all used rigs or partially used. However; in 1995 I took the big plunge and bought a brand new rig using the "employee discount". That bike was a FSR S-Works rig. Man, was that bike pretty! Red and silver with the gray Umma-Gumma tires. I remember taking my time assembling it because it was such a "big deal" to me at the time.

Well, I took that "big deal" and biffed on my first run in the single track, and the handle bar came around and dented the top tube. not badly, but, know. That wasn't a good thing on the first ride! That bike went through the '95 season, and I raced on it some. Then I moved it along as another new rig came into my life, a 1996 Diamond Back "DBR" V-Link Pro. It was the first bike in Black Hawk County with linear pull or "V" brakes. It was delivered December 15th of '95 and I rode it as soon as I built it, despite the cold and snow!

I never did get rid of the V-Link and then later in '96, despite my better judgement, I got a Bianchi Super G. I needed that like I needed a hole in my head, but I got it just the same. That bike ended up breaking parts about every race and then the suspension actually broke on it up at Chequamegon, necessitating the delivery of the V-Link for the 40. What a mess. But the V-Link worked pretty well and I had a great time.

Funny thing about those two full suspension rigs: I still have both frames!

Of course, there were various other used bikes that came and went to. A Schwinn Voyaguer, a Mongoose All Mountain Pro, a bmx bike, a Schwinn Typhoon, and more.

I guess bikes are pretty cool. I still have waaaay to many. But........I'm tryin' ta cut back! Really!

Next Week: More bike shop tales..........

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts On Materials

So with the blessings of being in the position I am in, one of the things I get to experience is the feel of different materials for bicycles. Not just any ol' bicycles either, but really well executed ones. One thing to keep in mind, a frames material is only as good as the engineering and design behind it.

Steel: I suppose just about everybody has ridden a steel bicycle frame at one point or another, and you can debate until the cows come home about whether or not "steel is real" or even what that means. I will say only that a great quality steel used well, like the 853 Reynolds in this Raleigh XXIX, feels pretty darn nice used in a hard tail application. That said, even steel without a "pedigree" can feel pretty nice if the design is correct. Witness the OS Bikes Blackbuck, or the Salsa Fargo for example. Steel also has that advantage of being better at not failing catastrophically. (Not that it can't) And it can last a lifetime with some very reasonable care and maintenance.

Carbon Fiber: This is the mystery material that has people skittish or all hot and bothered. Again, it takes a great design and great execution of that design to make a great carbon frame. I've had the privilege of piloting a Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon Expert lately and I can say it rides pretty sweetly. It isn't without some faults, (A bit torsionally flexy), but it does a stellar job of smoothing the trail in an odd sort of way that is hard to describe. The big rap against carbon is small failures and catastrophic failure fears. I have been hearing about a lot of "cracked" carbon frames, but cracks that are caught out are much better than having a frame disintegrate underneath you on a ride. Thank goodness I have not experienced either cracks or failures in my carbon fiber experiences. That said, any failure, crack or catastrophic, of any bicycle frame is a bummer, bad, or at worst, injury causing.  It isn't a "carbon fiber thing" exclusively. My experience recently riding the rocky trails of El Paso, Texas show that carbon can be pretty resilient. Rocks were pinging off the frame like crazy! However; the high price of entry for a carbon fiber frame, like the pictured rendering of the upcoming Orbea Alma version 2, makes even the slightest damage a very great concern.

Titanium: This isn't a very inexpensive alternative, but in a way, it has some of the features of both carbon fiber and steel, all wrapped up in a pretty durable package.

The titanium story is one of compliance and trying to reign that in so that the ride isn't too flexy. A tough cookie to crack in a 29"er size. Of course, you could throw a bunch of material at the design, but that defeats the allure of titaniums lighter weight advantage. So, titanium hasn't really been all that successful as far as making a great 29"er until recently. As far as durability, titanium really doesn't have a corrosion issue, it doesn't need paint, and can look as nice in 20 years as it does now. You don't have much to worry about as far as failures go either, as long as the frame was prepped and welded properly. If you have the cash, it's hard not to really like titanium.

Conclusions: As far as "value" goes, nothing can touch a steel frame for a bicycle. It can be reasonably light weight, tough, ride nicely, and last a long time for little cash outlay. Is steel "real", or is it really "king"? Tough to argue against that. Carbon fiber is certainly king of light weight while retaining strength. It can be "tuned", but at a greater expense than even titanium in some cases. Due to varying supply originations, it is hard to say what is good and what isn't at the off-brand, lower price scale with carbon frames. In the end, the jury is still out on durability too. Last we have titanium, which if the latest designs are any indication, is making some solid inroads as a great material for a 29"er. The material is certainly durable, rides sweetly, and can retain some of that lighter weight advantage against steel. It is still a pretty pricey proposition though, and there are not too many really outstanding choices in titanium that are readily available that don't have the name "Lynskey" attached to them somehow. (Not that this is a bad thing, I'm just saying...)

So, I would still hand the crown of "best material for a frame" to steel. It is just hard not to like a material that is so well known, so available, so full of potential for performance, and is /can be a real inexpensive choice. That said, carbon fiber is sexy and titanium is dreamy. There really isn't a "bad" choice out there from well known, established companies. In the end though, you'd likely see me happily dusting it up on some steel frame and never looking back.............well............unless that design came in titanium...................or if that carbon beauty wasn't quite soooo spendy...............or..................

It's a good time to be a 29"er freak, eh? 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Trans Iowa Thoughts: The Countdown: 5!

The Countdown Has Begun!: With five weekends to go, these next "Trans Iowa Thoughts" posts will become a bit more interesting. We're down to it, up against it, and down to the wire. Here we go, Trans Iowa V6 is coming up fast!

We're Approved!: Yep, that's the word I got just the other day from Grinnell Chamber of Commerce member/laison to T.I.V6, Sheryl Parmley. The city council had a meeting recently and dubbed us legit, so we're not so "under the radar" in Grinnell anyway.

Final Logistical Details: I have a meeting Wednesday with our sponsor rep and friend, Rob Versteegh concerning the "O-Down At The Barn" and some other stuff. Hopefully that will all come out in next weeks posting. Besides having all the loose ends tied up, we should be starting recon of the course again and we'll have more details for you concerning that as soon as we can.

Finally, please keep in mind that if T.I.V6 isn't going to pan out for you, please e-mail me ASAP. It makes a huge difference in our plans. Volunteers can expect an e-mail to go out yet this coming week concerning assignments. I'll also send out a mass e-mail to all on the roster to get a census for the Pre-Race Meat-Up.

T.I.V6 will be here before ya know it!

Friday, March 19, 2010


Thursday saw another attempt at the mountain, but this time with a single speed. I'll tell ya what, light weight rigs don't make up for poor gearing choices!

In the mayhem leading up to getting ready to leave on this trip, I thought long and hard about swapping out to a mountain climbing gear for the Lynskey. Then I realized it was a 32T front ring. I had thought it was a 34T, but I hadn't ever checked until before the trip.

The 18T cog in back seemed to me to be an easy gear mated to the 32 front, but oh no! I got to the mountain and it was immediately apparent that between my toasted limbs from Tuesday's ride and the overgeared Lynskey that I wasn't going to be scaling any hardscrabble steeps here. Nope! I should have gone with that 21T. Oh well......So I took a "plan B" attitude and went in search of something less tortuous to my limited fitness and stamina levels.

I remembered that the Franklin Mountain State Park had a beginners loop, so I figured what the heck. I took the left turn downwards from the trail head and went in search of whatever the loop had to offer me. I found out that it was actually a pretty fun loop! It took off downwards, as I said, so the gravitational pull was "fried leg friendly". Besides this, it was the best "flow" trail in the whole park! Swooping turn after swooping turn. Bermed turns, and you could go as fast as you dared. The trail was basically gravel laden, but that didn't deter me too much. I did the loop three times!

I did do a little more exploration and found one of the newer trails heading up to the top of Franklin Mountain, but that would have to wait for another bike, another year, and another crack at these awesome trails in El Paso, Texas.

I'll be headed home soon to Iowa, mud, cooler weather, and familiar sights and sounds. Not a bad thing at all, but I'll be anxious for the next ride down here all the same. It's really good stuff!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where Do You Find It?

You know, I've read some articles and blog posts about what some folks are attracted to in nature. I've heard things like, "I'm a water person", or "I'm a mountain person". I don't know what I am, but I do like the mountains.

Coming down to El Paso for me is always exciting, especially after the boredom of the high plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. About the time you get off of I-40 and head south again on 54, you head up, and up, and up to the snowy mountain peaks of south central New Mexico. I always look forward to that part of the trip and always feel a bit of sadness when that part of the trip is over on the way home.

So, I wouldn't say that I am a mountain man, because I like my woods and rivers too. Lakes are great and I will always relish the days I had on the fishing boats. But I will say that mountains have their allure for me and the especially the thought of riding a mountain bike on and around a mountain is especially appealing.

So, where do you find "it"? Your special place? I won't commit to just one myself!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rocks And......Well, Rocks!

<===Cacti on the left, drop off on the right, shoot through the rocks in the middle. You'll be all right!

I was  able to break away for a test ride on a rig for Twenty Nine Inches on Tuesday. I went to Franklin Mountain State Park and started out on the Lower Sunset trail, like I have in the past. The trail is massively technical for the first few miles. Like rock crawling, crazy technical.

Some of the steeps are littered with rounded "river rock" type stones. Well, to say anything other than these trails were entirely made up of these rounded, fist sized stones on the steeps would be misleading. The difficulty lies in keeping he rear tire from spinning out on these rocks like you are on large marbles. Many a climb was truncated by a spin out of the tires resulting in a walk to the top.

Not all the rocks are rounded here though. OH NO!!! There are rocks of every size and shape, and many times they are busted off shards sticking right up out of the trail like broken teeth. Some look like stumps, some look like the bottom of pottery, some look shiny, some look black, and some are red as bricks.

Well, the plan was to try and run the entire Lower and Upper Sunset Trails which I understand is about 15 miles in length. I knew from a description of the trails that after Safety Sign #8 the trail was supposed to get less technical. I was hoping for a lot less technical, but that wasn't to be.

The trail had these "Safety Markers", which marked important points in the trail. They were not evenly spaced, and they had no correlation to mileage. This was a bit weird for my first crack at the whole loop. Still, with a lot of stopping, checking, and careful management of water, I was able to make the entire loop.

A couple of locals went flying by me, which were the first and only folks I saw on the trail today, or on any other trip here. I guess you can't expect too many folks to be out on a weekday.

These trails are tough. I was super cooked at the end. My legs are fried, but in that weirdly wonderful sort of way. Man! It was good to do some actual mountain biking!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Policies

I'm going to interrupt the Bike Acquisition stories for a bit that I was reminded of recently having to do with shop policies.....

Every shop has certain policies for operating that probably are as numerous as there are bicycle shops. Advantage Cycles was no different. Of course, being that it was a single store operation run by a low key, (normally low key!), guy, there wasn't much for a manual containing these policies and procedures. No- Like so many other small businesses, you learned what you needed to know when you needed to learn it, and no more.

So it was that when the time came that I was asked to allow someone to borrow some tools to work on their own bicycle right outside our doors, I found out what our policy was on that. Tom, the owner, happened to be there at the time and caught wind of the request. He wheeled around and flatly said, "No, we don't do that." Well, the fellow insisted, which was a huge mistake for him, and was a hilarious moment in the end for me.

Tom looked at the young man intently, leaning forward slightly, pointed to his forehead, and said, "Do you see Salvation Army written right here anywhere?"

The young man looked at him dumbfounded and said nothing.

Tom continued, "No, you don't. Now I'm in business to make money. If you want it fixed, we can do it, and it will cost you. If you want to borrow tools, try down at the Salvation Army!"

Needless to say, the young man didn't have us fix the bike and he walked away. A bit less happy than when he came in as well.

Tom had another variation on the theme that went something like this: "Do you see the word free written here?", said also while pointing with conviction at his forehead. Tom did this in a very animated fashion, which was rather humorous once the initial shock of hearing it the first time had worn off. I had a few times where I had to turn away to hide my smile-soon-to-be-busting-out-in-a-laugh look from the customer.

Maybe Tom could have been more diplomatic, but he couldn't have been more to the point or humorous.

Next week: Back to Bike Acquisition Syndrome.........

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seems Like Summer!

Well, I am in weather now that seems like summer. El Paso, Texas is usually sunny, warm, and pretty decent this time of year, although it can get a bit windy. (It was pretty windy coming in today) Anyway, it is 72 degrees and sunny during the days now. Just about primo.

I don't have my pics downloaded yet, but surprisingly, I got some halfway decent shots of a Kansan sunset and some mountains just north of El Paso today. I'll share more later, but right now, I am about cooked from almost 1300 miles of driving in the last two days through rain, fog, and wind.

I'll be sporadically posting throughout the week, so I apologize for those who might find a morning post missing here or there!

Stay tuned............

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XVII

As you all know, Grinnell Iowa is where we are running the event out of this year. I can not stress enough how much better these folks have been to work with than some of our past host cities. Not since the beginning with Hawarden, in western Iowa, have we been helped so much by the members of a community.

Well, it is hard to find ways to thank these people in a tangible way. I mean, can say thank you a lot. That's nice and all, but what can you do that shows your appreciation. Yeah....the racers can spend their ducats in town. That's always a great way to help the local economy. And really, it is probably the best way to do this. However; I found another unique way to say thanks that might just end up helping Grinnell out.

One of the bigger Trans Iowa fans and a past vet of the event, Ari, has something on his blog that I found interesting. It is a news report that tells of a contest that Grinnell is a finalist in. The "Coolest Small Town In America" contest. the link, see the You Tube video, and find out more on how to place a vote.

I (for one) think that Grinnell is pretty darn cool for doing all the leg work for Trans Iowa that they have done. If you are a fan of T.I.V6, maybe you might want to place a vote for Grinnell in the contest too, and if they won, that would be a pretty neat deal to think some guys and gals from Trans Iowa helped them out a bit.

Give it some thought.........

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time For Some Southwest

Spring break is here and that means my first big trip of 2010 is nigh. I will be heading to El Paso, Texas to see relatives and for a brief but glorious part of that time, I should be hitting up Franklin Mountain State Park for a couple of mountain bike rides.

The area is part of the Chihuahuan Desert and isn't like the Sonoran desert area of Arizona. You don't get the majestic Saguaro cactus out here. What you do get are lots of spiny, spindly plant types that are armed with some razor sharp needles punctuated by the tall and easily spotted yuccas which can be seen all over the mountain. Most of the ground cover here is shrub-like though. This lends an air of vast space to where I will be riding. You can see a long ways when you are on top of the ridges.

Another feature of the area that always stands out for me are the rocks. Small rocks, medium sized rocks, and big rocks are everywhere. The trail surface is always covered in rocks. And they "clink" in a unique way due to their volcanic nature. In fact, you'd think you were running over broken pottery at times just by the sound of the rocks. It makes me laugh at times. To me it just seems unreal. Of course, I am accustomed to black earth under my tires, so this place I am going to is pretty unusual in my experience.

The park is fairly high as well. The park is next to the Intermountain Highway, which tops out at 5100ft at the pass and Franklin Mountain itself is just shy of 7200ft. So, here I am, a flatlander coming off a tough winter going to a higher elevation. Yeah..............suck! Wheeze! kaf! kaf!  I can hear it already. But, I have ridden there before, so I kind of know my way around a couple of the trails there. That helps. Still, this place is a tough ride. The rocky jeep road I always end up coming out of the park on is a killer incline. Hike a bike will be part of the days event when I am out there, that's for certain!

Finally, El Paso and the surrounding area is a place of tons of sunshine and no where to hide from it. Coupled with its low humidity levels and you are messing with a recipe for bad dehydration. I'll be packing lots of water in the Ergon BC-3 when I ride out there, you can bet on that! That and some bandages. Yeah, I once was riding out there and got a wee bit off-line. A spiny desert plant reached out and touched me sending a thorn right through my Sidi Dominators and into my pinky toe. Can you say "hot foot"? It was all I could do to stop without causing further calamity!

So, next week may be a week of light posting. I'll try to check in, but it may be at odd times. Hey! I am on vacation after all!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Changing Seasons

Wednesday. My day off. I had much to do in preparation for my trip to Texas this coming weekend. One of the things I needed to do was to run a quickie errand for some milk to get us by for a few more days.

I chose to ride the Raleigh Rainier single speed cyclo-cross rig which I have fitted fenders to. Oddly enough, the Easton fork has eyelets and the rear drop outs on the frame did not! I found some plastic coated clamps hat got the job done though. Now with some 40mm commuter tires I have the perfect "run to the corner store" rig with my messenger bag "man purse" slung over my shuolder. The errand was a peice of cake! The morning was so foggy today that I ended up getting dripping wet from the ultra humid air though.

After getting the DT Swiss wheels set up tubeless on the Stumpjumper Carbon Expert, I decided a shake down cruise was in order. So much snow has melted in the last week that parts of a near by park were clear of snow. I decided to run over there and check out the area by taking a nice, high resistance route through soft mud, grass, and left over snow patches.

While spinning along without really paying attention, I was suddenly aware of a bird hopping along on the edge of my peripheral vision. Not being used to seeing such things of late, I looked up and low and behold! If it wasn't about 30 robins that had just arrived from the south. Well, if that isn't a sign of spring, I don't know what is! I stopped and watched them patroling the grassy field for anything to eat for a bit, and then I spun onward.

Not long afterward, I saw a large bird wheeling around above me in the sky. It was a Bald Eagle! I stopped and came to attention, and almost made myself laugh because it was as if I were in the military and had just seen the General walk by! Ha! At ease rider!

So, it was cool to see all that, the snow melting away in rivulets, and the swelling creek with water filled with chunks of ice flowing away. All signs that point to the change of seasons. Signs that point to more bicycle riding real soon.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bike Shop Horrors: Some Assembly Required!

A bike came in recently that the customer was complaining had a training wheel that wouldn't stay on. The bicycle was brand new, from a department store.

What is that? They should have taken it back to the department store to have it fixed? Well, department stores, or as we call them, "mall warts", have no such thing as a bicycle repair man. (Maybe they have some communist scoundrels, I don't know)

But at any rate, there is always more to the story, as we shall soon see.

As the image above shows, there is nary a half an inch of axle sticking out beyond the drop out. Well, you must put in a retainer brace for the training wheel in the track end, and then the actual training wheel goes over that. By this time, you are left with about three threads showing beyond all that hardware. Not nearly enough to get any purchase with an axle nut. No wonder it stripped off!

The thing is, I could have fixed it.  A longer axle would have done the trick. But that would have cost the customer more than he paid for the entire bicycle. But wait...........there is more!

The customer got the bicycle cheaper because it was in the box. Assembly costs extra. So, being frugal, the customer did the assembly themselves.

This might be an option that makes sense for some folks, but for this poor customer, it was a bit of a mistake. Not that having a stem like this on backwards is that big of a deal...........

...........but take a look at the brakes.

Yeah. This is why no bicycle leaves our shop un-assembled. There was more going on here, but this illustrates my point well, I think.

There is a bunch of good reasons the world has bicycle repairmen.

Finally, I can not fathom why "mall warts" can get away with what they do in selling bicycles to the public. If a bicycle shop did what these places do on a regular basis, just once, that shop would be run out of town and the owner tarred and feathered. That's what gets me about this kind of stuff. That and the poor experiences folks have as a result of this sort of retail model. No wonder people think bicycles are a joke. These big box stores make sure that this perception is well instilled in the populace.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: The Bike Acquisition Syndrome Part II

Working in a bicycle shop, loving to ride bicycles, and not having many "in the stable" can be a recipe for a "feeding frenzy"..............

Last week I went over how I acquired my steel, front suspended hard tail rig. Well, in the same year, I ended up getting my first "real" road bike. Oh sure........I had a "road bike shaped object" at one time. One of those 70's era ten speed things that were horrifically heavy and poorly built. I got that during my first year out of high school from a friend that was going to college. It didn't last long. On my way home from a late night tryst with a local female I found a hole in the ground that swallowed my front wheel, and dumped me right on my head. The walk home was a bit humiliating. Bent front fork and a pretzeled wheel. Yeah.......chicks didn't dig it!

So that put me off road bikes for......well............I still am not really a fan! I figured that skinny tires wouldn't do what I wanted, and to a degree, they still don't, but my reasons are entirely different now for that decision. But I digress............

It isn't like I never had a skinny tired road bike, and as I mentioned, during the first year at Advantage Cyclery, I got my hands on one. Interestingly enough, it has something to do with a very well known mountain bike-centric company that only recently came to offer road bikes...........or did they try it earlier?

Well, I was repairing bikes in the spring and lots of the roadie guys were getting set up for all the criteriums that take place in the Mid-West during the spring and early summer. One of the guys was a young fellow I would later do my long western self supported tour with. His name was Ryan. He came in one day with a rather battered looking frame and fork. He said that I should just take this crappy old steel frame and fork and throw it away. It was too big for him, and he had just gotten a newer road rocket that fit him better. This old thing was just in his way. He figured it was so used up it was worthless.

I had no idea if he was wrong or right, but the Scottish in me rises up when someone wants to throw something away that may still have value. So, I offered to take it. Not only that, I insisted I pay him for it. (Well......maybe that was an un-Scottish-like thing to do!) At any rate, I thought it looked like it might fit me, and heck, I didn't have a road bike. I figured I may as well jump in to see if I'd like it better now than before. $25.00 exchanged hands and I was the proud owner of a completely scratched up and slightly rusty Tommasini.

Well, Tom (my boss) came in later, saw the frame and fork, and his eyes got huge. "Where did you get that!", he said as he pointed with excitement towards the battered white frame. I thought he was going to be angry, but he was actually stoked. It turned out, (as you roadies already know), that I had scored a rather rare frame and fork. Tom insisted that I "do it right" and get it restored. Before I knew it, he had called the Tomassini importer who knew the frame and who had originally bought it. Tom also found out he had original decals for it. He hung up the phone and declared that I had better find somebody to paint it now, because my decals were coming.


So, several days later I was working when Tom came up from his office with a Chesire grin on, which meant he was in posession of some mind blowing knowledge that he was about to lay on me in his tantalizingly slow, teasing style. When it came out finally, he had let me in on a deal of a lifetime. And this is where that mountain bike company I mentioned earlier came in.

You see, Fisher Bikes, who had recently been purchased by Trek, was planning an introduction of road bikes. A complete line up was in the works. This was in the mid-90's mind you! Well, then a certain three time Tour deFrance winner's company was bought out by Trek, and suddenly all the components gathered for the introduction of Fisher road bikes were not going to be used. Complete Campagnolo bike kits were being offered to Fisher and Trek dealers for rediculous prices. Everything but the frame and fork. And I had that!

So it was that a full Campy Veloce' 8 speed Ergo Power road group meant for a Fisher road bike ended up on a restored Tomassini road rocket. My first ever "real" road bike.

Next week...........More Bikes!!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Two Shades Of Antique White

<====1988 Strat Plus. Twin Six shirt! (pic by Jacob Stevenson)

This weekend was all about a color. Call it "creme", "off white", or whatever, my weekend was centered around these two objects that are categorized in that "not quite white" column.

I played this guitar on Saturday and Sunday at my church in the band. (Yes- dressed like this!)

First- the Fender Strat Plus. I always thought it looked "pastel yellow", but the hang tag from the guitar said "Antique White". ......Huh?

Well, to me it has always been "the yellow Strat".  For any guitar buffs that may read this, the Strat was purchased new in April of '88. It has the Wilkinson tremolo and roller nut with the locking tuners. I set the bridge up to "float" so I can get a bit of pitch change sharp and flat. It is pretty fun. It also has the gold label Lace Sensor pickups which sound just fine to my ears. The little dot you see on the upper bout is a sticker from an inspector of some pants I bought back when this guitar was new that was a round white circle with the number 8 on it in red. Since this was the 8th guitar I ever bought, I put it on there and it has survived up to this day.

Weird, I know!

<====Singular Gryphon.

The other thing was this drop bar rig. The Singular Cycles Gryphon is here for testing on Twenty Nine Inches. The frame is creme, off white.......whatever! It looks pretty sharp and the green panel job is sweet. I scored a green Brooks Special B-17 and I dug out this old 34T White Industries ring to match it up along with some green Deda tape. The copper rivets and rails on the Brooks are reflected nicely by the Industry 9 hubs. Those hubs were supposed to be orange, but have always been more of an electrical wire copper color instead. They found a nice home here I think. By the way, you can get one of these frames and forks from here.

The bike got ridden for the first time on Saturday. I won't spoil the write up for TNI, but I will say the set up fits like a glove! Nice too because I didn't need a high rise stem or two inches of spacers to get the Woodchippers where they needed to be. Now I just need some time to get out on the gravels to see how I like that Brooks and to see how the bike rides for a longer gravel grinder.

That may not be for awhile now as I am leaving this weekend for my Texas trip! Warm desert. Ahhh! I can't wait!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Mythical Single Speed Beast

Well, another rig emerges from the depths of Guitar Ted Laboratories. It is another (!!!) single speed bicycle with a U.K. heritage.

You'll have to wait to see the full monty when it hits Twenty Nine Inches later today.

So far, I like it. But it is a bicycle, after all, so how could I not like it?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XVI

<=====Just outside Grinnell on the T.I.V6 course.

Things are slow on the "Official Trans Iowa Thread"  on Things are slow on the chit-chat front via e-mail, and obviously with the severity of the winter, not much has been going on with the course recon. It might seem as though you are the only one training. It might seem like we fell asleep. I assure you that you are dead wrong if you are thinking that!

So, while things have been on the down low in regards to these things, you can rest assured that soon........very soon........things are going to go from zero to crazy  in 1.2 seconds. With 48 days left to go and counting until the horn blows at 4am in the morning, there is a lot to do!

Specifically, d.p. and I will be driving the entire course in the latter part of this month, hopefully. Of course, this is weather dependant, but we will at least be visiting some spots and when we do, you can look for your first course condition reports here and on the T.I.V6 site. We will be finalizing plans, setting up directions for our awesome volunteers, and drawing up cue sheets so you guys and gals can find your way around Iowa on your own.

One thing I wanted to address, which came to my attention via e-mail, is that some of you out there do not know about Iowa, our roads, and specifically about Trans Iowa and how we deal with that aspect of the event.

First of all, unless there is a cataclysmic natural disaster, T.I.V6 will take place. Rain or shine. So don't think for a minute that we are going to postpone, or call it off all together. (Just ask any T.I.V2 or V4 vet about that!) Secondly, there will not be any snow on the roads in the amounts we have now. It might actually snow, (which it did at the start of T.I.V4), but ice and snow on the roads in any accumulated amounts would be highly rare and unprecedented. And of course, even if it did happen like that, we'd still hold the event.

In the event of severe weather we may have to cut things short, and we have a plan that you can check out on the T.I.V6 site that takes this into account. But short of lightning, high winds, and tornadic activity, I would plan on being at the start line.

What I would expect, based upon my experiences, is the following. Wind- Yes, most likely. T.I.V3 had some really light, favorable winds. Last year some folks called what we had a "head wind". I assure you, that was not a head wind! A real head wind hasn't been seen at T.I. since T.I.V4. That was a head wind! It is likely that the wind will blow hard at some point, or possibly all throughout the event.

Rain- We haven't had rain during a Trans Iowa since T.I.V2. The chances of that happening during Trans Iowa V6 are pretty high. Sooner or later, a Trans Iowa will experience rain.  Maybe not this time, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a shower or two. Maybe worse.

Cold- Typically we see a high temperature in the upper 50's to low 60's during a late April weekend. It is possible that it could get hot, like up to 80. It is also entirely possible that it barely gets to 50 degrees, (again, like T.I.V4), so be prepared for varying temps. At night, it still could get below freezing easily.

Road conditions- Typically there is some damage from winter, wet spots, and some mud. The amounts of any and all of this is entirely up to the weather leading up to the event. The last severe winter we had preceding a Trans Iowa was T.I.V4 where during the event we saw huge frost heaves in the roads, soft spots a plenty, and flooding. (Whole parts of the course being re-routed and the event truncated due to flood damage.) Don't count on great T.I.V3-like conditions, or even anything as nice as last year's roads. Be prepared to slog through some mud. Be prepared for soft roads that resist your tires passage. I could be wrong about all of that, but at least you'd be prepared and not caught off guard if I am right.

There are some things to think about. It may help you in what to bring and how you approach Trans Iowa. Think it through. Be wise. Be prepared.

Because remember: you're on your own out there!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Experimenting: The Good And The Bad

One of the things I got done on Wednesday was to get my old 18 tooth Tensile free wheel back together. It went on the Karate Monkey, and today I rode it into work.

The ride in was punctuated by an axle slippage causing a bit of a mechanical session alongside Highway 63. Good thing I had the ol' Jethro Tool in the bag! I forgot to replace the chain tug somewhere along the way. Bad me! Well, I got it going again, and soft pedalled into work.
I found another cheapo chain tug and installed it to give me some insurance there. I also noted that on the way to work that the chain was crunching and munching the winter grit and DOT sand on the side of the road that is as thick as a Sahara dune. I didn't like the sound of that!

Thanks to the good ol' "inner-webs", I found out something worth knowing about the other day. One of those bits that you think is a good idea, makes you go "huh!" and you file away for later. Well, Thursday was that "later". I had seen a bit about this fellow named Geoff Apps. He had fashioned himself an off road rig that featured a "mud guard". Not any ol' mud guard, mind you, but a mud guard for the chain. Protects the chain from the downward dump of crap off yer back tire.

Well, that crunching and munching gave me an idea to pursue that was directly influenced by this fellow. As you can see in my image, I fashioned a bit of a "mud guard" for my chain that connected to the Planet Bike fender, the chain stay, and the seat tube using zip ties and an old Tyvek race plate. I cut away what wasn't necessary and it worked great! Kept all that muddy crap and sand off my chain and it was clean when I got home. Obviously quieter too. Now it's time to pursue a more permanent fixture!

Another thing that was experimented with and failed was that Tensile free wheel.  I can't keep the bearing cover on it, which pre-loads the free wheel bearings. I Loc-tited it, and it still backs out. Good thing I had a fender mount bolt that happened to keep it from coming all the way out and causing a disaster. I won't be riding that rig until that freewheel is disposed of! Oh yeah, this is the same free wheel I mentioned before that froze up on me due to moisture intrusion. I've used it three times with two failures. Not cool.

Now the Woodchippers, well they are stellar. Salsa Cycles did a great job with these. See how the brake levers stay fairly vertical, yet the lower extensions have sweep? This keeps those that love the hoods riding position happy. Believe me, it's the best off road drop bar out there in that regard. The favorite part for me is the extended drop sections with the sweep. Spot on and very comfy for switching up your position with. Thanks Salsa Crew! Mondo control in sketchy conditions while in the drops. Plus, you have that hoods position, and the tops are perfectly spaced and shaped for grinding out climbs on.

You know, you could even hack off some of that lower extension, if you wanted to. That is a great option, and is a heck of a lot easier than trying to make them longer! All in all, it has eclipsed anything out there for off roading, to my mind. I'll have to give the single track action some time, obviously, but I am thinking Salsa has a winner here.

Have a great weekend and ride yer bikes!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Gravel Road Dreamin' And Schemin'

It all started when I got a notification that my Woodchipper bars had come in at the shop. I ran a few errands and stopped by to pick them up. I wrote the check happily, because you know, one can never have too many Woodchipper bars around!

So, later on I went down and strated in to messing around with the drop bar rigs. I finally had my Tensile freewheel together and working again after it had frozen up solid due to a slurry infestation on a ride with MG on gravel almost two years ago now! Well, at any rate, the freewheel is working and it went on the Karate Monkey to help raise the gear inches a notch for some single speedy gravel grunge training rides. You see, the KM has fenders! Now I know the fender thing caused some folks grief at CIRREM, but not to worry. I think I'll be just fine. Can't wait to get that rig out there again. Oh yeah.......I already have Woodchipper bars on that one!

Then I started resurrecting the Badger. I swapped out a few things, found a few "parts bin" parts, and made a couple decisions on where to go with that bike. It will be a dedicated geared gravel road rig with STI 9 speed shifters. I'll have to score a few bits before I can finish it up from my parts bin horde at work, and buy some new brakes, but it should come out nicely. (No- this one isn't getting Woodchippers. It is staying with the Gary Bars I had for it already)

Then I turned my attention to the Singular Gryphon I am building up for testing. Woodchipper? Definitely! I figured out the basic set up with stems I had and now I can move forward with getting the steer tube cut, a star nut installed, and all of that. I need just a few more tiny bits to get this one done, but it will be done quite soon. And of course, it will need to be ridden out on some gravel roads to start with. Yes! Another excuse to ride gravel. Good!

Finally, I was forwarded a link to the Alaska Dispatch by Mr. 24's parents. It mentions Trans Iowa, and the story has some former Trans Iowa vets and one future one in it. Check it out here. It is a great read, and is about another epic event going on now.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Decisions, Decisions......

I'm in a place where I have to make some decisions lately. Not the regular, everyday type either....
<====Do I take a single speed to the mounatins of West Texas?

In particular, I have been presented with a particularly difficult decision that is compounded by the fact that it involves travel in the thousands of miles for a period of stay that would last approximately 36 hours. Top that off by the fact that it would be necessary to make the trip by land, and it gets tougher to justify. You see, something would be coming back with me of the two wheeled nature.

That two wheeled vehicle would be a boon to my website, as it would be an exclusive test, (long term). involves meeting and possibly riding with a women's professional mounatin bike team.

<=====Do I dare run these paper thin sidewalled tires in the rocks of West Texas?

But again, I would be driving as much as I would be there, and on my dime. Now as if that wasn't enough, there's more to it. And this is where it gets real, real difficult! This potential event is sandwiched inbetween two others I have already scheduled for 2010.

I am registered for the inaugral Chequamegon 100 on May 22nd. I've never done a "hundy" off road, and this event is being run in a way that is right up my alley by two awesome guys. I know lots of the folks that are going too. It just would be a killer thing to do.

<=====What would Obama do? Vote for the Rasta hub, or go with the red ano Ukai rims? (No! You can't vote for both! It's a partisan issue, ya know.....)

The event on the other side is the Dirty Kanza 200. A gravel event I need to cross off my list as a completion. Plus, really good friends are going to this event put on by some really good friends! Besides that, it's gravel, and in the Flint Hills.

I can not do all three events.

See, I told you it was a toughie!

p.s.- The event in question is in Texas, but NOT West Texas. That trip is a planned vacation in about a weeks time.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: The Bike Acquisition Syndrome

When you work at a bicycle shop, and you love bicycles, it is hard not to indulge yourself in the acquiring of more bicycles..........

As my first year went along, I became aware that the cutting edge of off road cycling was in suspension front forks, anodized, CNC'ed parts, and narrow rims. My Klein didn't really have any of that. The one thing I really was wishing I had was a suspension "device". 

Yeah.....not a fork, and not a "suspension fork", because calling anything designed to absorb impacts and hold your front wheel on your mountain bike back then was giving it way too much credit! Some of these designs for suspension were weird, didn't really work, or were flat out dangerous to use. No, if you wanted a "real" suspension device- one that worked- you got a Rock Shox Mag 20 or Mag 21. Nothing else was even close back then. Oh sure, you had your Manitous, your Lawhill Leaders, but Rock Shox was the fork you wanted.

Well, that is unless you could get your hands on a Specialized Future Shock. Basically a re-badged Mag 20, the Future Shock was a good deal. And it became an even better deal when Tom, the boss at Advantage, got a bunch of them on close out, or something. Anyway, several race team memebers got them, and when those bikes were done for the season, they were traded in, or sold for next years models. That is how I came upon getting a Park Pre 925 Team model one day.

It was traded in, cheap, steel, had a Future Shock on it, and was........ugly! Neon greeninsh/yellow with a pink squiggle separating a blue rear triangle. Not very sell-able in our market. That was perfect for me though, and it wasn't long before I had myself a steel hardtail with a suspension fork. Trouble was, the fork needed an overhaul. So, in another round of Tom saying, "You can do this", and my being unsure, I ordered the rebuild kit. I came in on a day I didn't have to work and spent the whole day rebuilding this fork very carefully. I laid out the parts one by one, and read the manual to make sure I didn't goof it up. I got oily, I got a bit confused in a couple places, but I got it done. That fork worked again!

Not long afterwards I got some Paul Components brakes for it. The long armed cantilevers with more leverage. I ditched the old DX brakes and slapped those on, (in a blue anodized finish, of course!) and went out back to see how good these really were. Boy Howdy! I about endoed the rig! These brakes were awesome! Or so I thought at the time. In reality, I had better brake pads, which was probably 95% of the gain in performance right there, but back then it was all about getting the new/different rig, and pimping it out. And I didn't stop there either!

Next week: More Bike Acquisition Syndrome!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Back On The Fargo

Nary a cloud in the sky, and with temps soaring into the 20's, meant I had to jump on the Fargo for a bit of a ride Saturday.

There is a wee bit of snow to melt out there!

This was on a northward road northeast of Waterloo.

I was expecting the roads to be a mess in spots, but I only found a few, small areas of  goo which were easily avoided. What snow there was still was tractable and not icy.
I kept up a steady pace for two hours. The wind out of the Northwest, which never varied at all in its intensity, insured that my legs had a nice burn going all the way back into Waterloo.

It was a good ride though. One I've needed for a long, long time. I just felt great when I got back, mentally. It's funny, but being out in that bright sunshine pedaling a bike was just what I needed.

It was also good to get a look at what the snow situation was going into March. Thinking Trans Iowa V6 recon here. It is going to be awhile before we'll get everything in order for the cue sheet print up. That said, if we don't get any more big snows, and can stay outta the path of heavy rains, I think a recon session is coming real soon.  Hope you all had a great weekend!