Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Brazing

Coming from a jewelry back round, I had previous experience that came in handy once.....

Several things about working at Advantage Cyclery were a lot of fun. I had quite a diverse group of fellow workers and lots of things would be going on most of the time, so that it usually was never boring there. (With the special exception of November) We had a frame builder that worked there for awhile, we had a few great athletes that came through there while I worked there, and we had more than our fair share of characters.

One of the things I got to do once actually called upon some special experience that I had learned as a jeweler. Brazing and torch work were second nature to me then. Of course, I was using tiny torches and working on some pretty expensive materials. Bicycle torch work called for bigger torches and the materials were not so precious, but the basic techniques were similar.

This all came into play when we had a customer with an older Fisher steel mountain bike that was fitted with an under-the-chain-stay "U" brake. The customer disliked the placement of the brake since they used the bike as a touring rig, and getting underneath there to release the brake in times when a flat tire occurred was a pain. Especially with bags on a rack that were filled with......well, whatever these folks carted around!

Anyway, Tom asked if I could braze some cantilever studs on the seat stays of this bike, and I agreed I could try that. The parts were ordered while I went about removing the old brake, studs, and any trace of them from the chain stays. We re-routed the brake cable along the underside of the top tube. (I can't remember if I brazed on cable stops here, but I think I did!) Then we got a cable stop to work off the back of the seat binder, and finally, I prepared the seat stays and the bosses for brazing. The job went off without a hitch, really, and the frame was off for a repaint of the Team Fade, which has always been a favorite paint scheme of mine for a Fisher mountain bike. 

I guess I could have veered off into a frame building career right there, but it didn't take root. I kind of regret that. I think it would have been a rewarding experience. Well, until I read some of the flak surrounding custom frame building! I guess every job has its pitfalls.

Bike Shop Tales should return next week! Stay tuned!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Well, That Didn't Work!

I went to work tweaking on the Origin 8 set up recently. I took off the 120mm fork and installed a proper 100mm fork. The wide rim/wide tire combo which wasn't working so well were traded in for a narrower rim/tire combo that went into the frame just fine.

I then tried to figure out the brake set up in the rear, which was a bit tedious, then I contemplated the handle bar. Was it too high? Well, I thought, a lot of folks seem to be running bars higher, why not give it a try? 

Out on the south side of The Camp, (because the Horse People have invaded Cedar Bend, leaving their "steaming piles" all about), I went out and found the ground to be really, really dry and hard. Like concrete hard. The rains that had come before, which were very hard, worked up a bunch of fine sand to the surface, which was spread out over the rock hard dirt in many places. Classic loose over hard pack. Well, it got me.

It was an off camber left hand turn, slightly down hill too. Front tire went away and BOOM! I hit the deck hard on my left shoulder and hip. The shoulder was already messed up from something earlier this summer, and this didn't do me any favors, I am sure of that. Oh well.....

Then I noticed a problem in the rear wheel/brake area. The wheel locked up and I could tell from the sound it was a classic rotor/caliper interference issue. Hmmm...........was the brake caliper moving in the slotted mounting holes? I didn't have time to mess around, I just put the rear brake on and jammed the bike rearwards to undo the effects, and it worked. No more rear brake use on the rest of the ride though. Turns out the adjusters had rattled loose allowing the rear axle to slip forward. Hmm......guess I need some jamb nuts now. Oh yeah...........and a lower front handle bar! Gotta weight that front wheel a bit better!

I'll be back......

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bike Shop Horrors! "Holey" Bike

I had a three tube carbon Trek come in for a flat repair and clean up the other day. I noticed some nasty gouges on the non-driveside chain stay. Upon closer inspection, I found it was actually worn through!

This was beyond where the crank arm could have contacted it. Maybe a case of bad heel rub? Who knows, but this frame looks like it came in contact with a grinder to me!

Here is a shot of most of the chain stay to the drop out. It looks like a metallic dog chewed on it some.

Sorry for the out of focus shot, but you can see other things in this image.

Can anybody find "Otto" and its owner? 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thoughts On Belt Drive Systems For Bicycles: Part II

<==Gates Carbon Belt Drive on an mtb. (Image credit: "c_g")
I've been thinking a lot about belt drive mountain bikes again, and after checking into it here, I see I have not posted on the subject in almost two years. (You can read the full rant here)

Interestingly, the case of belt drive systems for mountain biking seems to be a case of "the more things change, the more they stay the same". At least, the reminders from my posting in 2008 would indicate as much. Let's take a closer look........

Back then, I wrote the following: 

The belt drive system for bicycles is being developed by the Gates Company which does all sorts of belt technologies for motorized vehicles. They were out at Interbike last year, (2007),  en force to answer any questions and to observe first hand a real world demonstration of the "Carbon Belt Drive System" performance. After a quick briefing by the Gates folks, I got on board a Spot Brand bike and took off on the Demo loop at Bootleg Canyon.

On a steep up, I heard a very loud "pop" and I thought I was going to crash because of a belt failure, but I didn't. I rolled on. At the Spot Brand tent, the Gates folks were telling me I "ratcheted" the belt. This is when you essentially get the belt to slip one tooth over on the cog or more. I did that and that was the loud "pop" I heard. With the belt tensions on the verge of being too tight for the bearings on the hubs already, Gates had to go back to the drawing board for a revision for this year.(2008)
So, as you can see, issues plagued the system from the get go. Noise was common. I heard it. Everyone within earshot of a Spot in 2007 heard them. Then there were the ratcheting problems, and worst of all, breakage. Yes- There have been revisions. In fact, I mention one back in my 2008 post:

What they did was to specify a larger "chain ring" and rear "cog" size with a slightly reduced amount of tension on the belt. The larger "cogs" would increase the number of engagement points and hopefully eliminate the "ratcheting" problems. I'm not sure if this also addressed the many complaints of noise in the system from 2007 Interbike riders, but it may have.
Okay, so they fixed the ratcheting problem and reduced pre-mature bearing failures at the same time. Great. Or wait a minute..............did they? Let's fast forward to 2010 and see where this belt drive business has progressed to.

A cursory reading of this thread on mtbr.com's Single Speed forum shows that in 2010 folks are still ratcheting belts, still getting noise from belts, and still having issues with hubs from high belt tensions, (which Gates seems to have re-instated since I last looked into this two years ago). Now the solutions being suggested range from "belt specific" frame designs that feature heavier, stiffer chain stays, to installing "snubbers" to keep the belt from wandering and ratcheting on the Gates specific cogs, which by the way, have increased in size yet again since 2008.

Okay. Those are the facts about belt drive on mountain bikes in 2010. It seems as though not much has changed about the actual performance aspects of belt drive mountain bikes since 2007, but a lot of solutions have been thrown at the system to remedy the problems folks are experiencing in the field. I still see and hear about failures: from belts out and out breaking, to noises, ratcheting, and being damaged. It seems as though much has changed, but the outcome remains the same.

Belt drive systems are expensive, finicky, and not proven. There are too many failures for the small number of units being actually mountain biked in comparison to chain failures per mountain bike. I don't think Gates could refute that with a straight face.

They would rather you focus on that "greasy, noisey chain". That thing that is imminently reliable, easy to maintain, cheap, adaptable, and works even to single speed your geared bike. No, they would rather have you focus on the fact that belts are lighter, and, ("if" they run a full life), will easily outlast a chain's lifespan. You know, instead of a chain that is easy to repair on the trail, strong, and can be found almost anywhere. Not to mention the fact that belt drive systems are "cool", never mind the fact that you must run certain sized cogs which are hard to obtain and may not clear your chain stays. (Ventana display at Sea Otter 2009, anyone?)  You know, not like a nasty chain drive, which has so many variations on cogs and chain ring sizes that it makes your head spin to have to choose one set. I mean, who needs that?

Who does need that? 

I'm raising my hand high. How about you?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Tale Of Two Rides

Bzzzzt! Bzzzzzzt!

I really don't like it when things don't run smoothly. Take for instance the fact that any 2.4" tire on a 35mm rim buzzes the Reba Team's brake brace in corners, or when you are out of the saddle. Too bad too, because the combination is otherwise pretty dreamy. Smooth doesn't have enough "O"'s in it.  Well, until you lay it over in a corner. Bzzzzzt!

Man! That bugs me. I can't live with it, so I'm taking this down and re-building the bike as a rigid rig with a different fork and wheels/tires. Maybe then it will realize its potential and be a bike I can not have drive me nuts. It isn't the frame's fault, by any stretch. I know what would fix it up right quick: A 100mm Manitou Minute. Unfortunately, I don't have one of those. I'll have to fix that here soon. Hmm...........

Ding! Ding! Ding!

On the other hand, I love it when you hit upon a combination that is happy-happy, joy-joy. Such was the case when I set up my Singular Gryphon with the Bontrager Race X Lite wheels shod with XR-1 1.9" tires, tubeless, of course.

These were the perfect combo for me to use at the Gravel Worlds last weekend. The sandy gravel never even phased these tires, the MMR sections were no match, and the XR-1's just ripped along as long as I had the legs to push them. (Sadly, the leg part was sorely missing!) Well, gravel and smooth dirt roads are one thing. What about the single track? I aimed to find out.

I took the Gryphon over to Geo Wyth today, and I was absolutely flying around the single track. I was on rails and it was the fastest I have ripped through there since the 90's. Really. It was pretty dang fun. I would say that as long as things are dry, these are the tires to use on Mid-West single track if you want to go really fast. On grass sections- fahgeddaboudit! This tire smooths over grass so well you'd swear you were on pavement, and the grip is like being on a Velcro track. Crazy is what it is. 

So it was a day of two extremes. One disappointment, one total high. Good thing the good ride was the last one!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So......Now What?

With Gravel Worlds gone in the rear view mirror, I am now left with some catching up to do. First order of business has already been getting taken care of, and that is writing a bunch of reviews and stuff for "the sites".

The next order of business is to start thrashing on this grey Origin 8 frame off road. That will likely take place today. I've heard that the South Side of The Camp is good to go now, so I may be found up there plunking around if you are looking for me. (Not that anyone will be......just sayin'!)

The next order of business is to re-think my geared gravel grinder-lite set up. I have an idea that uses stuff I already have, so it should happen soon. My regular rig for this- the Fargo- remains a main stay, but I have a hankering to do a more minimalistic, lighter set up. And this will only be temporary. I have heard of a new version of "something" that I think may work even better yet. That's yet to come, and may not happen, depending upon certain preferences I have. Sorry to be so "cagey" about it all, but I am not at liberty to 'splain it  now.

Now I have a hankering to do more gravel riding. I miss it. Plus, it gets me in shape better than anything else I like to do. Being a dang "desk jockey" most nights isn't conducive to a "fine figure", so I will be working out a better plan for myself in those regards. Thanks to Gravel Worlds for making that blatantly clear!

 Oh well. My legs are still "barking" at me every time I ride, so I suppose I shouldn't get too crazy with that idea just yet! A little recovery, then we'll get on it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gravel Worlds: Hot, Dusty, And Hilly! Final Thoughts And Comments

At The End Of The Day: So I had CVO cart my sorry rear end to the start finish where Mike was waiting for me with a pizza in hand! Cornbread fetched me a beer, and we hung out with some finishers and DNF'ers. It was all good.

I'm not sure why Lincoln has so many "skeeters" since it was reportedly so dry and hot there for so long, but the monsters were out not long after I got back and Mike and I were getting eaten alive, so we "bugged" out. (Ha!)

We both were comatose by 10pm. It was a tough, tough day in the saddle for sure.

The next morning we hooked up with MG and Adam Blake at the Two Twins cafe for some killer grub and conversations. The restaurant owner, a fellow from Lincoln that rode in the race, picked up our tab! How cool is that? I'm tellin' ya, you can't beat the Lincoln cycling scene. It's as good as anywhere in the U.S.A.

What About That Course? I heard many folks say afterward that this was tougher than this year's Dirty Kanza 200. Maybe it was. It was dang close if it wasn't tougher. The hills never stopped after the initial turn on to Branched Oak Road, and of course, the heat. Wow! Folks back home were telling me they heard it was well over a 100 degrees with the humidity figured into it. Ouch! I'd have to agree, having been burnt by it.

The course was worthy of "Worlds" status, and in light of that, albeit whether it was meant to be tongue in cheek or not, this Good Life Gravel Adventure has set a standard of toughness that will be hard to match. The balance of MMR to gravel, the remoteness, the logistics, and the unique touches that the Pirate Cycling League brought to this event make it a must ride for any gravel aficionado. Add in the fact that the PCL/Lincoln Crew are as nice and accommodating a group as you could ever wish for and this is a no brainer.  

Look. Here's the real deal: The Dirty Kanza 200 was swamped by entrants this year, and deservedly so. People paid good money to come to that event. Here is a free event with everything the DK had. Really. It is that good. No disrespect to Joel and Jim, or the rest of the DK crew. They are top notch, but this has a "low-fi" feel good nature to it that sets it apart from the Dirty Kanza. It is a "different kind of good", if you will. The Lincoln Crew "gets it" when it comes to this genres roots, and they are sticking close to them. I say good on ya. To my mind, the DK is like going to the theater nowadays. (pun intended) The Gravel Worlds is like going to a back yard barbecue. Both are fun, but in different ways. Anyway...........nuff said there.

If there was a legit criticism I could come up with, it would be that of Kevin Doggett, who told me something along the lines that 'Kansas rewards you with its vastness, where as Nebraska hides it in the folds of the land'.  As far as the experience goes, I guess that is a fair observation. Both have their unique charms to be sure.

All I can say is that back in 2006, Jim Cummings and I were talking about a "Triple Crown" in terms of the "Grand Gravel Events". (Boy does this sound pompous to me now,  but whatever....it is what it is) We were missing "one leg" to get the idea going. Well, the GLGA/Gravel Worlds has more than filled that bill. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the premier gravel events in the U.S. in terms of the "scene" and also in terms of how difficult, beautiful, and awesome the event has become.

Thank Yoose: Kudos to Troy Krause for designing a wicked beautiful course. Thanks to the Pirate Cycling League, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey, CVO, and the rest of the "crew". The Lincolnites, Mike Johnson, Peter and Jane Reinkordt: You are top notch folks! So glad to have met you.(Thanks to "davidr" for getting their names to me.) The Star City Inn, Two Twins Cafe, Oso's Burritos, The Malcom General Store, The Phillips 66 in Valpo- (poor cash register lady!), and everyone that participated in the GLGA/Gravel Worlds. This was a highlight of 2010 for me. 

And with that I bring my posts on the Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska to a close. What an awesome experience.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gravel Worlds: Hot, Dusty, And Hilly! Part 3

<==The Blazing Orb About To Crest Horizon

As my morning unfolded, I found a rhythm and also found myself running alone for the most part. A fellow on a straight up road bike, an old steel one, that passed me early on was seen repairing a flat, but otherwise, this part of the day was flat-ish, and fairly uneventful. Some of the riders were held up by a long passing freight train for a bit, but the group got through the crossing before I got to them. A lone semi driver did wave me through the highway crossing just after the rail road crossing though, which I thought was nice.

Once the sun appeared in the sky, which was right about the time I turned on to Branched Oak Road, the heat began to accumulate and I knew I had to come up with a plan. As readers of this blog know, heat and I have not gotten along well this year. At least I was well hydrated and thought to pack an extra water bottle in the Tangle Bag. I carried it all day, and never needed it, but there is a reason for that which will become apparent soon.

 I made it through to the first checkpoint in decent enough time, I figured. I wasn't going out to burn all my matches up front, and I knew I was pretty far back in the field, but again, the goal was to finish, not be racing for places. To that end, I was right on track.

Coming in to Valpraiso, I was being followed by a fellow on a Giant 26"er and when he finally pulled around he exclaimed that he didn't know how I kept grinding up all the steep hills. I just shrugged and said that I had to "just keep moving" and I'd be all right.

The Valpo stop was being held down mainly by some of the Lincolnites that were out having fun. This included standing around with tallboys wrapped in brown paper sacks. Pretty funny. The stop was also being used as a rally car stop where ladies dressed in very colorful matching outfits had to pay for a dollars worth of gas (in pennies!!), get a receipt, and move on. The cashier at the Phillips 66 was about to lose it with all us cyclists and these eccentric elderly ladies and our shenanigans. I had heard Cornbread say at the start that the convenience store across the road had a much better selection, and they did. Funny thing was, no other cyclists were there but me. Oh well! Whilst I re-filled water bottles and munched down a turkey sub, I was approached by an elderly man in a electric scooter chair, and we had a nice conversation. He got a cell phone call, so I took my leave of him and Valpraiso and motored off towards Malcom, which was the next checkpoint.

<==A few miles out from Valpraiso, getting hotter!

On the way there, I hit a rather hilly dirt road section that was putting the hurt to me. I was really getting over-heated, and here is where I kicked in "The Plan". Since I wasn't out to beat anybody, per se', I decided that whenever I felt I needed a break, I was going to take one. So, having found a perfect spot in the dirt road section, I pulled over and layed down in the still wet, cool grass. It was awesome. I cooled down in a hurry.

It wasn't long before a guy with a cyclo-cross bike and wearing a Tomac Bikes jersey stopped and asked if he could join me. I said he should, and that's when I met Matt. He was planning on just getting to Malcom and calling it a day. We chatted a bit, and then took off together. I was happy to have a bit of company in the suffering.

Well, it wasn't long before I felt the need to pull over for a bit again, and Matt joined me once more. Fortunately, the Good Life Gravel Adventure course had plentiful amounts of shade trees lining the course at regular intervals. It made "The Plan" work. Without the trees, I wouldn't have lasted past the Malcom checkpoint.

After cooling down, we took off again. It wasn't long before I had dropped Matt back about a quarter mile. I thought I was crawling up the climbs and that he was right behind me, but he must have been suffering badly. Then I looked up to see a white, beat up General Motors product from about the early 90's turn on its four way flashers and slow down as it approached. Not understanding why, I instinctively knew this was a sign to pull over. Well, it turned out to be a bright and chipper CVO! He popped up out of the car like a jack in the box, asking what we needed. Beer? Monster Energy Drink? Water? What's your pleasure gentleman?

Well, what would you do if a skinny fellow with a plaid pork pie hat and lime green socks emblazoned with "WTF" on them asked you what you wanted to drink in the middle of a desolate Nebraska gravel road? I had a Monster, and I can't recall what Matt said. I just remember he reiterated to CVO that he was intending on quiting at Malcom. I drained the Monster drink and decided that the negative vibe was not good for me, so I pedaled off without him. 

The minute I pulled into Malcom I saw the Lincolnites pulling out. I was all alone again. I sat down to chow my food choices and re-fill water bottles again. I was feeling okay. I had no cramping issues, no problem with food or water. I thought I was doing pretty good getting to Malcom around 1pm.

It wasn't long before Matt showed up. He already had hooked up with a ride before getting to town. He had news of a rider behind us that was slow to come in, but was also nearly to Malcom. He finally showed up, and I took my leave. Here is where I made a mistake. I didn't buy enough food for the section between here and Hickman. That would eventually hasten my undoing. However; for the time being, I was set on getting to an "oasis" point, about ten miles away.

These oasis points, which there were three of, were set up by folks volunteering their resources to help out the riders. It took me what seemed like forever to reach it, after one more shade tree stop, but I finally found Pioneer Road and the oasis.  It was being packed up as I rode in! Well, I was in last place afterall. So, I didn't blame them, but I wanted to see what they had to eat, if anything. Well, they had veggies, but that didn't look appealing to me, so I just took some water, and some good, long conversation in the shade.

The place belonged to a couple that were both teachers: She a high school German language teacher and He the head of the German Language Department at Doan College. Fascinating people. I heard some fantastic stories about their lives and life on the farm. They were super kind to me, and they insisted on a picture of me and my bike before I left them after a glorious hour. I know- I should have been riding, but these folks deserved my attention. (Thanks! I wish I could remember your names, if I even ever heard them. Not sure I got the names) 

After the oasis stop, I went on, but the good time feelings didn't last too long. The heat, (which I heard was in the upper 90's to low 100's, depending upon who's thermometer you were willing to believe), was literally baking me. I could feel my body get really hot, my breath coming in panting like patterns, and the heart rate start getting higher. I would then seek out a tree to park under. I was walking the steepest hills by now, and falling asleep in the ditches when I stopped.

It was as I was stopped alongside the road, (where I had sat on a cockle burr bush by accident and was pulling the thorny devils outta my "nether regions"), that CVO appeared out of the haze like an angel. He didn't see me until he was right by me, slammed on the brakes, skidded to a halt, and backed up the car to see how I was doing. He made the same offers as before, but added that I could get a ride from him as well if I wanted it. I wasn't willing to pack it in, but I did swill a beer from his cooler. Then another one. Then a Monster energy drink on top of that. (Hey! It was awesome at the time!) 

<===CVO takes a swing at it!

As I stood and swilled the beers and energy drinks, CVO grabbed his clubs and some rogue balls and began to profess his love of golfing to me as he took a few swings at the "gravel fareway". Unwittingly, (or maybe not), he invented gravel road golfing in front of my very eyes. This CVO cat is brilliant! Somebody better tell Zach Dundas, who uncovered Urban Golfing for us all in "The Renegade Sportsman" , that another rogue game has been uncovered in the wilds of Eastern Nebraska!

Well, CVO had other duties to attend to beyond entertaining a greying old man on a single speed device, so he took his leave of me and I went back into the "pain cave" for my final miles. It wasn't pretty.

Basically there were more stops, more ditch sleeping, and much more walking of hills. At one point, I got off my bike, sat down, promptly fell over onto my back, head down to the ditch, and passed out for I don't know how long. Some animal hissing at me from close quarters finally awoke me. I stood up and about passed out again with all the blood rushing back outta my noggin.Still, I thought that if I could get to Hickman, I could eat and recover some. CVO had told me it was a "real convenience store" with actual pizza. I was getting really hungry, and that was sounding really good.

 <===Panama Road. Where it all ended for me.

Unfortunately, as a cyclist I knew that when I felt the hunger pains it was too late. Especially after being out for 13 hours on the road. Then I felt the tell-tale signs of a bonk coming on. Blurred thinking. I was second guessing where I was. I wasn't thinking straight at all. I stopped and dug out the last energy bar I had, but that wasn't cutting it. Then I stopped again a few miles further down the road, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything in the bottom of the borrowed Mountain Feedbag I got to use from Mike Johnson. I found a Hammer Gel, and just as I was about to rip open the packet, I heard a car swerving onto Panama Road, kicking up a cloud of dust. it was CVO again!

He went by me once again, slammed on the brakes, skidded to a halt, and reversed it back towards me. He slammed it in park right in the middle of the road, opened the door, which he left hanging open, and asked what he could do for me.

I replied that I was beginning to bonk out, so he offered the car ride again. I looked up the road, briefly thinking about pushing on, but better sense got ahold of me, and I climbed into the car and took the ride back to the start. 110 miles in, (including the two from the motel), only about 3-4 miles from Hickman, but I was okay with that.

It was a brutal, tough day for me. I left it all out there. No regrets.

I'll have some more about the end and some final thoughts for Tuesday.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gravel Worlds: Hot, Dusty, And Hilly! Part 2

<===Welcome to Lincoln, Nebraska, Home of "Weird Wally", Nebraska's Capitol,and the First Gravel World Championships.

My story began on Friday when Mike Johnson stopped to pick me and my gear up to go to Lincoln, Nebraska for the Good Life Gravel Adventure/Gravel World Championships. The trip down was marked by no noteworthy thing, other than it rained.
In Iowa.

Oh well! It hadn't rained much at all in the Lincoln area, and if not for a few mere tenths of an inch the day before, the dust would have been really bad on the day of the event, but I am getting ahead of myself.....

Welcome To Lincoln!

  The event kicked off with an optional pre-race check in at Oso's Burritos on "O" Street in downtown Lincoln. Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey was there with his volunteers getting us dialed in with waivers and souvenirs. (I got a rockin' one-in-50 print commemorating the Gravel Worlds for a song, and a pink PCL t-shirt. Oh yeah!)

We re-connected with gravel aficionados from all across the Mid-West and had an excellent Oso's burrito. I recommend you stop there if ever you find yourself in downtown Lincoln.

 Did I mention that the Pirate Cycling League puts all this on for free with huge support from the Lincoln cycling culture? Oh yeah! They even had these sweet World Champ jerseys ready to go for all category winners. Gotta love the passion for cycling that the Lincoln Crew has.

After the grub and meet-up, we went to the D-Street Hotel, (which is really just a big ol' house that has been the epi-center of Lincoln cycling culture for years), and hung out. The highlight for me was to finally meet "CVO", (a real person, by the way, and not an enigma), and to hang out once more at the D-Street. (Thanks for the hospitality, ya'all!) Then it was off to the Star City Inn for a good nights' rest, because wake up call was set for 4am. The start of the event was set for 6am, and we were going to ride the two miles down to the Lancaster Event Center where the start finish line was set to be.

 <===Under The Banner Of The Pirate Cycling League!

We awoke on time and actually were so efficient we had a few minutes to sit around before having to ride about two miles to the site of the start. When we got to the Lancaster Event Center, we wended our way around until we spied the lone PCL tent and a couple of LED blinkies, which indicated something cycling related going on. We pulled up to be greeted by a smiling Cornbread, who just came off celebrating his birthday that evening. He had CVO and a couple of other guys helping out with check in and numbering the riders, which was performed by CVO by writing the number on our left calf with a magic marker. That felt kinda weird, but it worked.

 <==Cornbread giving the final instructions to the assembled riders.

Soon several riders and cars were appearing. The PCL tent got really busy. Too bad the people didn't take the cue and show up at Oso's the night before. (Note: That's why I require riders come to the T.I. pre-race meeting!) Through it all Cornbread, CVO, and the gang were courteous, calm, and cheerful. Another plus to the Lincoln cycling scene: Cool headed folks that are super helpful. It was awesome to witness.

But due to the human nature of "waiting until the last minute", this "bum rush" at the end of the night made the race start become delayed a bit. I didn't hear any complaints about this, but I would hope that folks would be a bit more conscientious towards guys putting on a free event and make it easier on them by showing up early.

At the end of it all, the event did get underway, albeit a tad later than originally planned. 96 "official" riders took the start along with several that would just be riding along for fun to add up to an undetermined number of cyclists which took off  into the gathering fog and sunlight.

The beginnings of the event were smooth, flat, and comfortable, for me anyway. It was drippy-foggy-muggy, but it was okay with me. I was feeling good and was rolling along just fine.

Stay tuned for Part III

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gravel Worlds: Hot, Dusty, And Hilly! Part 1

Short post: Gravel Worlds was a successful event, albeit super tough and very hot. World Champion Jerseys were distributed. Gutty performances were exhibited.


I made 110 miles before I bonked and pulled the plug after 13.5 hours of gravelly goodness. Single speed was brutal with all the climbing. (More than Dirty Kanza!) It got up to 97 degrees and there wasn't a cloud in the sky all day. I gave it everything I had. I have no regrets.

Longer report with pics will come soon. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Oakley Jawbones One Year Review

Oakley Jawbones Eyewear: One Year And Counting....

The Oakley Jawbones eyewear has been in the house and on my face for a whole year now. I have been wearing a couple of other models from another company's line of late, for testing purposes, and I wanted to draw some comparisons to the Jawbones both positive and negative.

First off, the Jawbones have been trouble free all year. I have religiously kept them in their soft bag when not wearing them, and I have always stowed the lenses not in use in the hard case that was provided with the Jawbones. I have zero scratches and no degradation of the frame's structure over the year of use has been noticed. I have swapped out the lenses a fair amount, and the system works flawlessly to this day. So for the structure and day to day wear issues, the Jawbones score a perfect 100%.

Now for the comparo. The other brand's glasses have no surrounding frame. I happen to appreciate this over the Jawbones, which obviously do not have that feature. However; for a full framed sun protection device, the Jawbones do not seem to "get in the way". I only was a bit annoyed after having not worn the Jawbones for a bit and then swapping over to them again from the frameless design. I lost that sensation after wearing the Jawbones again after an hour or so, and honestly, I do not even notice the frames in my periphery vision anymore unless I think about looking for that, which unless I am doing a review, I wouldn't ordinarily do! I  just note this, and please keep in mind, I have a large noggin, so smaller faced folks may not even notice the frame's edges when wearing these.

Air Flow: The other glasses I have recently tried have quite the wrap around effect, and due to this, the airflow around the eye is restricted. I thought this might actually be a plus in their favor, but with the hot, stifling summer we''ve had, I found the eyewear to be too hot at times. Going back to the Jawbones revealed that the airflow is there while wearing them, but it isn't annoying, or even that noticeable unless you have had glasses on that restict airflow, like I had been wearing. I liked the effect for hot weather, and obviously, this helps keep things from fogging up as well.

Optics: Obviously Oakley's claim to fame is their precision optics and coatings. Although the other eyewear is decent in this regard that I have been trying, you just can't approach the quality of vision you get with Oakley. There were times where while wearing the other brand's glasses, I was wondering why things looked grainy, fuzzy, or just not as sharply in focus. I found out why when I slapped the Oakleys on my head again. There just isn't anything that compares, and that's that.

Conclusions: The Oakley Jawbones passed the one year mark with little to no evidence that they had been used a bunch in everything from rain, mud, dust, and dirt. No scratches, and everything works as it should after a full year. The quality of sight you get with these is unsurpassed, and the comfort of the Jawbones is tops as well. What's not to like? Well, when they are not in use, it is a bit of a negative when compared to the others eyewear! Jawbones: Good stuff and I would call them "Best In Class" with no reservations.

Note: These Jawbones were provided to me at no charge for review. I have not been paid, nor bribed for this review, and in fact, until this appeared here, Oakley and their agents had no idea I was writing this up. This is my honest take on this product.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting Ready For Gravel Worlds

GRAVEL WORLDS 2010 from nocoastfilms on Vimeo.

This Friday I'm leaving for Lincoln, Nebraska and will be participating in the Good Life Gravel Adventure, or otherwise now known as "Gravel Worlds". The fine folks of the Pirate Cycling League are putting on the event which was a blast to ride at last year. This time I will be arriving in Lincoln on Friday much earlier, so a good nights sleep is much more possible, which should figure in to a better ride than last year.

The scene will be pretty crazy this time though. The move to make this event the Gravel Worlds, (which by the way, was partially my fault, since it was offered to d.p. and I to make Trans Iowa the Gravel World Championships first), will have a lot more folks in the event this go round than ever before. How many more? Hard to say, but I'm betting it'll be hundreds of riders. My plan is to stay out of the contenders way, do a good average speed, and finish this beast.

This year hasn't been that great from a riding  standpoint. The heat has wreaked havoc on me this summer. I couldn't finish Dirty Kanza, or my own GTDRI due to the heat. I rode okay at the Fargo Adventure Ride, but I had to pull out of doing some other things due to poor fitness early on, and scheduling conflicts. To top it all off, I have had a bad two weeks leading up to this event. I had some health issues, and scheduling training was not possible due to other obligations anyway later on.

So my goal going in is humble. Finish. I'd like to come in before the sun sets, and if I can manage to keep moving and hold a decent average speed, it'll happen. The heat isn't supposed to be too bad Saturday- it should be similar to the Fargo Adventure Ride, where I did pretty well. I'm hopeful, and my rig is ready.

Oh yeah- the rig. It'll be the Singular Cycles Gryphon. I have set it up with Bontrager XR-1 tires tubeless on Race X Lite wheels. I'll have the Revelate Designs Tangle Bag with a Banjo Brothers Top Tube Bag. Two water bottle bottle mounts with an extra in the Tangle Bag. Single speed gears at 36 X 17T, which is just slightly lower than last years 38 X 18T.

The plan is to eat on the bike from the grub I can scare up on the road. I plan on getting a beer at the last checkpoint too! Should be good times. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Forking Confusion

<==Specialized's Rockhopper 29"er single speed: One of the rare 29"ers left designed around an 80mm fork. (photo credit: Grannygear)

Something has happened to 29"er hard tail geometry. It happened quietly, without any fanfare at all. (Which I find amazing, by the way). What is it? Well, that would be the move by most manufacturers of 29"ers to geometry based around a 100mm travel suspension fork. 

More Must Be Better: It used to be that folks were concerned that 29"ers with a suspension fork would have too high a front end. So, manufacturers were only building to suit 80mm travel forks, which did jack up the front ends of bikes a hair over their 26"er forebears. Nobody seeemed to mind, and bikes like Niner's and Soul Cycles', which were sporting rigid forks corrected for 100mm travel, and frame geometry to match, were seen as freakish. The Niner goes back to a shorter fork on the rigid bike, right when the industry as a whole swaps over to longer legged front ends. Weird. I guess that means "do whatever the opposite of what Niner is doing", if you are looking for geometry advice. But I digress............

It was easy to find a frame and rigid fork a couple of years ago that would play well with each other. Usually a 465-470mm axle to crown 29"er rigid fork could be pretty much slapped on any 29"er of the day and work within reason. Then, as I have said, the suspension forks got longer, but the rigid offerings?

Not so much.

Niner left the long fork market, and Soul Cycles still has some 490mm axle to crown forks, but the carbon rigid fork market is non-existent and steel rigid forks in longer lengths are nearly impossible to come by.

My! What Long Legs You Have! Not that I am a fan of those longer forks anyway. They look.....well, gangly, and weird. All that space above the front tire on a long rigid fork just seems wrong somehow. I have two bikes here with those long, spindly legs, and I can't get over the look. Maybe it is just me.

The older fork lengths look okay to me, but I really like the rigid only set ups of the Salsa Cycles Fargo and the Singular Gryphon. They look right. No extra material. No weird, dead air space above that front tire. Just pure, purposeful bicycle goodness. Committed rigidity is where it's  at, ya know?

So here's to the companies that see fit to bring on the rigid look and not worry about compromising for suspended bits. That said, the folks wanting to run rigid need some decent frame geometry, (ie: 80mm travel designs), or longer forks for these longer travel hard tails.

Until then, getting set up for a rigid ride will be a confusing and frustrating process.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Building Wheels

I've been building a lot of wheels lately, which reminds me.....

Back  in the old Advantage Cyclery days, I learned how to build wheels from Tom, the owner, as I have posted on before. The really cool thing about Advantage was that there was never a lack of stock for building up a set of hoops, if you wanted the practice.

Tom would routinely buy "close outs" of stock from bicycles to components. We ended up with a fair amount of Campagnolo 26 inch Thor mountain bike rims, which always seemed to build up really tough, strong mountain bike wheels. We also had a bunch of older Campy clincher road rims, and I built several sets of those up.

Tom was a Wheelsmith guy. Basically, you were either on the Wheelsmith train, or the DT Swiss train back then. Tom had all the Wheelsmith wheel building tools- the calculator, the whole bit. It was a nifty system to learn from, and I got on with it straight away. I never knew anything about DT Swiss stuff, or Sapim, or whatever flavor your wheel building tendencies go towards, because I was never exposed to that stuff, and well, I didn't ever see the need to get into anything else back then. Wheelsmith was working just fine, thank you very much.

Anyway, back to wheels. I built a set of road wheels in the waning days of Advantage Cyclery that were Campy Athena rims laced to Shimano hubs that I ended up putting on my in town commuter bike. I rode that bike in all sorts of nasty weather. Winter, rain, mud, you name it. They always stayed true, and I just kept throwing tires and brake pads on there until one fateful day.

I was just coming out of the alley way two blocks from my home on my way from work when....BOOM! It happened. I blew off about 40% of the rear rims side wall on the drive side and came to an instant halt. Good thing I was slowing down and only doing about 10mph!

It was kind of sad, because that was the last wheel set I had that I built at Advantage Cyclery. Oh well! I got all the goody outta that one!

Next week: More wheel stories on Bike Shop Tales..............

Monday, August 16, 2010


<===Sunset from my porch the night of my wife's graduation from college.

There are some changes coming and I am looking forward to them.

The first and foremost is a personal one. My family life should be returning to a somewhat stable path for awhile now that school is ended for my wife and starting again for my children. A regular schedule of sorts that we have not had for two years. Although I have already congratulated her, I just wanted to put on this blog that I am very proud of my wife and her achievement. We pulled off a surprise party for her Saturday night with her parents there and close friends. Good stuff.

Second off, I will be switching up the stable in terms of bicycles. I have one up for sale publicly to make room for one I already have pre-ordered. It's going to be an exciting addition to my stable that will also signal a new activity that I am contemplating that will be right in line with this new rig. I'm still playing with ideas, but let's just say it will be interesting. (UPDATE: The Raleigh Rainier has been claimed- No longer for sale.)

 Summer is ending and we have the first hints of fall. Well, really- the trees in our neighborhood were turning color back in July, but now finally the air is matching the look of the trees. So I am looking forward to wool jerseys and crunching leaves. It won't be long now.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Salsa Cycles On Tour And Something 4 Sale!

See A Real, Live Mukluk! If you are reading this and are anywhere in the vicinity of DeKalb, Illinois, you gotta get down to North Central Cyclery and see the new goodness from Salsa Cycles. Salsa Cycles minions will be present and showing never before seen or heard of Salsa Cycles goodness. (I don't even know what the heck they will be showing!) So check out the details here, and be there on August 18th!

(And if you see my friend Ari, tell him G-Ted sent ya!)

4 Sale: In order that I might purchase a very interesting bike, (see above), I am going to put up my rare, pristine, never raced Raleigh Rainier single speed cyclo-cross bike. It is a 59cm frame size. I have a set of Origin 8/Weinmann wheels on it that accept a thread on free wheel and flips for fixed gear use. (Urban hipster alert!) This bike has an Easton EC 90 carbon fork, and KORE brakes with a Midge Bar and vintage Shimano Sante' levers and cranks in white. Bontrager post, stem and saddle. (No pedals with bike)

Make me an offer, but remember- this bike was a very limited edition frame set only from Raleigh a couple years ago. You can not get this anywhere else. E-mail me offers here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More Thoughts On Single Speed Tensioning Systems

I got a great response to yesterday's post regarding single speed chain tensioning systems, (You can hit that post here), and I wanted to expand and clarify a couple of points.

First off, I love the basic reliability of a good horizontal drop out/track end. The one seen here is from the Origin 8 Scout, and as you can see, it has a built in tensioner. I do not expect it to shift, creak, or be an issue while riding. The issue with these comes up when you have to remove the rear wheel. That is where I have a big problem with this sort of system, and I outlined most of that in the other post. One final thing I wanted to add was in regards to "usable axle placements"
Most companies will tell you the shortest axle setting is smack dab against the front of the horizontal drop, (ie: all the way forward). In reality, this is a very difficult place to tension your chain to. (This isn't even touching getting the wheel out). In reality, you probably are not going to get that axle smacked up against the front of the drop out and achieve the "shortest chain stay" measurement. I know a lot of companies don't list the chain stay measurement this way, but many do. Also, you will find that many times the chain stay clearance will not allow a fatter tire that far forward. I'd like to see companies list chain stay length specifying a certain width tire and give "real world" chain stay adjustment measurements. C'mon company guys! Do this. Shoot straight with us. (This goes for sliding drop out bikes as well)

<=== Jason Boucher of Salsa Cycles pointing out the details on their swinging drop out for the new El Mariachi.

My good buddy MG commented yesterday on Salsa Cycles new swinging drop out as seen on the new Ala Carte and El Mariachi frames. I have not "lived with" one of these set ups yet, so I didn't put it on my "favorites list", but judging from my limited test ride and my looking into this closely, I think it may rise to the top of the heap alongside the split shell EBB.

You have vertical drop out simplicity, alignment issues solved, and as long as the swing is putting a real world tire, (2.0-2.4"), in usable space in the chain stays throughout its travel, I will sign on as a endorser of this system.

As for EBB's, I have used Phil Wood, Bushnell, and split shell types, but I haven't had any issues with noise or anything at all but nice quiet operation. I know the "haters" of EBB's will denounce any mention of these systems as being good, but hey......they are. At least for me!

Finally, I think sliders "could be" done well. I have seen newer takes on sliders, (not Paragon), that seem to have promise, but again- without "real world" time on these, I can not say. Too many times I see Paragon type sliders welded on unevenly, and also with usable axle placement that conflicts with the chain stay clearances. One slider system that I have never had issue with, that I thought was something I could have lived with, was on the Misfit Psycles diSSent frame. Those had usable range that did not conflict with clearances and were reliable, simple to set, and could be trusted not to slip. 

Okay folks, that's all I have on this subject today. Ride that single speed, or whatever bike you own, and have a great weekend!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday News And Views

A Side Benefit Of All This Rain....

Rain is a big topic of conversation around the Mid-West, but with all that standing water that you see everywhere around here you also get a lot of mosquitoes. I'll tell ya what, you better not ride slow through the woods these days, or the insects will drain you of a couple spare pints.

I was out at Cedar Bend Wednesday, stopped to adjust the axle on the Cielo, and I couldn't see what I was working on for the swarming varmints that rose up off the ground to attack me. This is the worst infestation since 1993, by my account. It's really bad out there! Fortunately, they don't bite me, for whatever reasons, but they sure pester me otherwise. 

An Old Fashioned Hole Diggin'! I had a plumbing problem here. It was having to do with the water line into the house from the main. I had a big hole dug by the plumbers and they fixed it right quick, to the tune of just south of four figures. Yeah.....ouch! But, try living without running water, ya know what I mean? It's funny, but when they shut down the water, you find yourself becoming acutely conscious of how often you use the water. It is a lot more than you think. Trust me! I was home when the job was being done, and I had to leave to use a restroom! (Not to mention the half dozen other times I stopped short of doing something because the water was shut off.)

How Do You Like Your Tension To Be Achieved?  I've been contemplating single speed chain tensioning systems of late, and recently, the issues with the different styles have hit home with me. Here is a brief synopsis of where I stand on the issue. You may have a religious fervor built up for/against any one of the following, I simply just want something that works. Here's my take:

-Track Ends/Horizontal Drop Outs: Simple. However, add in disc brakes and high torque loads due to mountain biking and you have a different set of things happening. Add in wheel removal. Ooops! Suddenly things got complicated again. Chain tugs solve a lot of issues here. Maybe built in screw type tensioners. Yes- nice and clean, but you need to carry a wrench specific to that, usually. Then you have to remove a disc adapter bolt from the adapter and use a bolt on rear hub. Three wrenches just to remove a wheel. Takes awhile too. Okay, dead reliable when riding, but, there's trouble when flat tires happen, or gearing changes are necessary. As for me, I'm not a big fan of this type.

-Paragon Sliders And Copy-Cats: Sliders! The answer to the disc brake conundrum. No bolt on rear hub necessary. Swappable drop outs for single speed "purity" or geared use. Sounds all good until you have to change gearing, or tire size, (only affects set up if you run the shortest chain stay setting). Then you have to re-align the rear wheel, and you better have built in chain tensioners, (which Paragon does have), but then you need a wrench for that dang jamb nut, and hopefully the screw tensioners are not frozen in place by weather/dirt/what have you. Then when you are done, you might get the slider fixing bolts tight enough in the field with your multi-wrench, or maybe not- then the slider slips. Bummer! Oh! And all this assumes the builder got the dang things on straight and with actual usable range. (I have seen several custom bikes that fail this, by the way) In the end, I still need two to three wrenches to adjust on the dang thing, and you "might" get the bolts tight enough with a field service tool. Not good enough for me. Oh! And I dislike the cantilevered look too. My peccadillo there, I guess. 

What Do I Like? I like a certain system and it isn't widely used. Other types of this system are used widely, but I like this particular version the best. The Split Shell EBB. Why? Because I can drop my wheel out and in with a simple QR. No fussing with alignment, disc brakes, and no chance that the wheel will slip. Plus, it looks like a bicycle's drop out, because, well.......it is, sans the derailluer hangar anyway. So, then you have the adjustment thing. Easy-peezy. Loosen two bolts, use same wrench to stick into adjustment hole in EBB. Rotate crank against wrench to achieve proper tension, tighten two bolts. Done. Split shells don't freeze up. They don't creak. I can field service a split shell EBB with one 5mm wrench if I use a Shimano two piece crank! That's taking everything apart, greasing it, (assuming I even would need to do this), and putting it back together again.

Some will say, "yeah, but it changes your relationship to your saddle if you rotate the EBB." So, you never move when you sit down on your saddle forward or rearward? Not even a millimeter? Right! Well, if you don't, you ain't mountain biking, Buddy! That's all I have to say about that. The difference is so minuscule as to be a non-factor in terms of single speed mountain biking.

As far as I am concerned, a split shell EBB is the way to set up a 29"er SS bike. Everything else pales in comparison.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bike Shop Horrors: (B)Rain Damage!

Recently we had that "ride" thing they call RAGBRAI go across the state of Iowa. Well, it rained pretty hard one day, and many folks just decided to ride in the rain anyway. They continued on the ride, went home, rode some more, and, well......whatta ya know? Problems ensued.

We've had a rash of, "I've got a funny noise in my bottom bracket." complaints lately. This is the story of one of those.

The bike was put in the stand, turned on its nose so I could work on removing the crankset, and then noticed the floor getting wet under the head tube. (See that drop of water coming out of the head set?) I estimate I saw about 6 ounces come out of the head tube. Nice!

The outboard bearing crank was removed from the carbon frame and this was what I found. Looks like a sewer pipe in there!

It used to be that drain holes were a common feature of road bike frames. You know, water is going to get inside of your frame if you ride in the rain. A drain hole lets the rain out. Brilliant, huh? Well, somewhere along the way, this practical, cheap solution to a common problem has been eliminated by manufacturers. Dumb. 

Then there was this sludgy mess. I don't know what causes grease to coagulate into clumps like this. Certainly, there is more than just water and grease here. I don't want to know what though!

Maybe this guy rode without his seat post in the rain, but I doubt that seriously. Still, the amount of solids here is amazing. A drain hole may not have even helped in this situation.

Anyway, I cleaned everything up, re-greased, re-installed, and everything quieted down as it should be. I suppose I could have stuck a hair dryer in there to dry out the inside of the tubing! Ha! This bike should be taken apart and overhauled, but he was in a hurry to get it back, so....

Finally, I got this repair ticket yesterday. You can judge for yourself what it says, but all I gotta say is, I ain't no plumber! I am a bicycle mechanic!

The guy who wrote this up and I had a good belly laugh from this one!

Sometimes when it is busy, and you are in a hurry, well.........you know? 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Slingin' Wrenches

Bike Shop tales returns today with a tale from the pit of Advantage Cyclery............

Advantage Cyclery was located very near a trail head that was/is immensely popular with the recreational cycling crowd. It was in the first block of a downtown area that was rapidly on the upswing from the nadir of activity experienced downtown in the 1980's. With hybrid and mountain bike sales at an all time high in the area, Advantage Cyclery was often swamped with work and customers all day, everyday, all summer long.

This meant that the repairs were not only being scheduled, but were walking in the door constantly. Add in the new bicycle sales that required the requisite kick stand, water bottle cage, bar ends, saddle change, and computer installation, and you have the recipe for frazzled shop mechanics. Don't even ask to have that rack installed!

So it was that on a typical summer day, we would, between two mechanics, do 18 scheduled repair jobs on average along with uncounted walk ins and new bike accessory installations. Wrenches were being slung! Many times, we would be doing things assembly line style, just to keep up. I would do certain new bike jobs as the other mechanic would do walk-ins, or vice versa, and we both would do repairs as well. Sometimes we had three guys back there, but not always, and some days it was just me. All day. Which meant upwards of 10 to 12 hours of non-stop wrenching.

Yeah. It was really busy at times. Stressful? You bet! Sometimes we would be trying to get out of there at 8pm and people would keep walking in the shop/back door for flat repairs, air for their tires, and derailleur adjustments. It wasn't uncommon to be stuck after hours for up to another hour. This was usually our grumpiest time of the day for the mechanics. We were looking forward to hitting Mainly Lou's, or Toad's for after work beers and grub. (Sometimes we wouldn't have eaten all day!)

I remember one evening, when the other guys had bailed out already, and I was locking up the shop. I was about to walk out the back door, lock up, and go have a beer when I heard someone in the twilight ask if they could come in for a "quick air up". You know, I had learned a thing or two already in retail. That sort of phrasing really doesn't ever mean that is all the customer wants.

"If I could just get you to do so-and-so, I'll be outta here right away." Yeah, how many times had I been bitten by that one? Too many times. I knew how that went. Customer comes in, then as you are just about to wrap it up, they say, "Oh! And could you take a look at my wheels, I have this clicking noise that comes around when my Cousin Jim rides this bike, and....blah, blah, blah........" An hour and a half later the customer has finagled a free tune up outta you and you see them scoot out the door with a hurried "Thanks!" and no offer of money, or beer, or nuthin'! Nope! I wasn't falling for this one on this particular day.

So, I turned and looked at the guy, who was dismounting and about to pick up his bicycle, when I said, "No. We're closed for the day. Sorry!" He responded in disbelief, pleaded with me to open up the door, and made a reference to how if I didn't help him, he was going to say "bad things" about Advantage. I looked him straight in the eye and said, " Look, I have a life outside of this place, and I am supposed to get off at 8pm. It's already way past that time, and my work day is over. If you want us to look at your bike, we open again at 10 in the morning and we close at 8 at night. Good evening!"

I turned, locked the door, and walked away. I can't remember if the guy said anything behind my back or not, and frankly, I didn't care. 

I do remember the beer tasted extra good that night.

Next Week: Bike Shop Tales Returns...............

Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday News And Views

Trek world is taking place right now and this bike will be on display there. Called the "Broadslider", it is a design exercise, and even has a comic book to go with it! Although Trek has no plans to ever produce such a bike, it is great to see that at least the design department is allowed to be creative which may point to some features seen here being implemented on future Trek production bikes. The fact that it is a 69er is, well.........meh! But it does work with the overall design philosophy, which is based on flat track motorcycles. More from Trek World should be coming today, and if anything interesting pops up, I'll report on it.

Okay, I could totally see Meatloaf, circa 1978, riding this bicycle! Apparently, someone by the name of Billie Grace Lynn concocted the apocalyptic velo-vison using a real bicycle frame and then gracing it with an actual cow's skeleton. Yes- the entire cow skeleton is here!  Maybe I should get this to ride at the Dirty Kanza 200 next year to scare the livestock off the roads! Actually, it would be an illegal bike, since it is fitted with an electric assist motor! I peeled this image from the Wend Blog.  

The Scout Lives! I finally sussed out the Scout's issues and have it rideable. The horizontal drop outs take me right back to Karate Monkey issues with rear wheel removal, Blecch! But with a super cheap price for entry here, how can you really complain?

I tried setting this up with the shortest possible chain stay length, but with Specialized Purgatory 2.4"ers on Gordos, that wasn't happening. I had a whisper of clearance on the stand, but you couldn't ride it. So, out came the extra chain link and I had to slam the axle all the way back now in the drops. That didn't work either because the angle of the caliper wasn't compatible with the rotor in that extreme setting.  I swapped from a 18T to a 20T and then it all fell into place. I had a mid drop out axle position, enough clearance to get by on the tires, and the rotor didn't hit the caliper anymore. And there it is, with a Rock Shox Reba Team w/20mm thru-axle and big meaty tires. It weighs in right at 29lbs. How fitting! Heavy for a single speed, but this thing feels like it would last through a nuclear attack. Maybe they should have called it the Origin 8 Cockroach!

Jeff Kerkove, who I used to work with, was just doing this little ol' bike ride in the Colorado Rockies recently. He was leading the event until some feet issues took him out after three days of racing. This was his first attempt at the CTR, (Colorado Trail race), and by the sounds of it, it is brutal! My favorite quote from his race recap is, "Everything in this race is further away than you think it is. What you think will take you 2 hours to cover....will in fact take you 8." You  can check it out for yourself here

We Iowans are proud of Jeff and wish him a speedy recovery from his injuries suffered in the event. Ride on, Jeff!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Signed, Sealed, Will Be Delivered

Image of me on GTDRI by Jeremy Fry

It's a done deal. Plans are all in place to go to the  Good Life Gravel Adventure/Gravel Worlds on August 21st in Lincoln, NE.

Race tires purchased, race bike nearly set up, and I will be getting in some last minute gravel rides to fine tune the set up. Should be good to go.

Hopefully it won't be so dang hot and humid, but this is August, after all.  I'll be looking forward to seeing all the Lincolnites in a couple weeks.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday News And Views

It's A Great Big Gravelly World! I was out riding the other day and thinking about how much I miss just being able to take off for the day and ride endless miles of gravel. Hard to justify that now with test riding obligations and the web site management, and everything that goes with that.

It might be nice just to shut that all down and go ride for a whole day, no responsibilities to the other stuff. But then again, I know that stuff helps out an awful lot of people, and really, my desires to go off into a gravelly sunset are just selfish ambitions.

Still, ya gotta give in once in awhile and just go for a winger. I feel one coming on and I'll have to save it, because the Gravel World Championships are coming soon, and I will get 150 miles of the limestone goodness that day. Just a wee bit between now and then couldn't hurt though, could it?

 Summer Is Almost Over: The trees down the street are all orange already, leaves are falling, and the "Iowa Jungle" is showing signs of fading away. (Please let the insects know they can die already, okay!) The Cielo rig shown here will soon be going back to Oregon too. It's been a fun ride, and I like the bike a lot, but it is a different kind of 29"er for sure. More suited to wide open trails than our tight, twisty, turny Mid-Western style single track. Still, she is a beauty and a "gentleman's ride".

Speaking of summer being almost over, I better eat some more sweet corn before it's all gone. Grilled some up tonight too. If ya haven't grilled sweet corn, you don't know what yer missing!.

Steel Steamroller: The Origin 8 single speed build is almost done. I have to tweak out a few things, but this bike just feels like one you could run right over a small car with. I suppose the 120mm Reba Team fork just might have something to do with that feeling though! Big Specialized 2.4" Purgatory tires don't hurt either.

I'll be setting this up in various ways, so I won't be doing the "monster single speed" set up for long, but it'll be fun while that phase lasts.

Get out and savor the awesome weather whilst ya can. Soon we will be wishing it was 80 degrees and humid again! Ride yer bikes! Take some pics!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Strange Letter And A Tale Of A Stray Left Arm

This tale starts out with a strange letter from San Francisco that I received the other day at work. I didn't know who sent it. I wasn't expecting anything from out that way. Hmm............

When I got a few spare minutes, I opened the heavy yellow envelope and looked inside.................

............to find this newspaper clipping with this sticky note attached which reads, " Lefty Rides Ragbrai!"

I was totally baffled.

So doing what any self respecting "Curious George" would do, I read the clipping. Actually, it is a pretty funny story.

 "Lefty" refers to a fellow that went by the name, "Lefty O'Doul", who apparently was a baseball player of some import back in the early part of the 20th Century and played for several Major League teams. After his playing days came to a close, "Lefty" landed the job of managing the San Francisco Seals, a minor league team. He stayed on there for 17 seasons, opened a saloon, and died in 1969.

Well, his saloon survives to this day and is a shrine to "Lefty's" career, replete with photos and memorabilia from his days as a manager and player. There is a mannequin of "Lefty" in the saloon, and one day some merry pranksters decided to make off with "Lefty's" left arm. Some chase was made to capture the miscreants, but they disappeared into San Francisco's streets never to be seen in O'Doul's again. However; "Lefty's" arm did make a reappearance after a lengthy tour.

Apparently, the ner-do-wells took the detached arm and made many photographs which depicted "Lefty's Arm" in several locals and ah.......delicate situations. It even made an appearance on RAGBRAI, which the the writer of the article in the San Francisco Chronicle called "a race".   

The upshot of the whole story was that the arm was shipped back in a cardboard box to O'Doul's, (post marked Des Moines, Iowa, by the way), where a very shocked and surprised cocktail waitress recoiled in horror as she opened said box. With the arm were 12 photographs depicting where the arm had been in its three year absence. The arm is now back in its rightful socket, and everyone has returned to the daily grind at O'Doul's, safe in the knowledge that "Lefty" is whole once more, and not imbalanced by "the right", which in San Francisco is a terrible thing to be imbalanced by!

p.s. And I still have no clue as to whom may have submitted this clipping to me! But it was a fun story, so "Thanks to Whoever You Are!"

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Special Announcement: Gravel Grinder Benefit Ride

This summer's weather has......well, it pretty much sucks! Just ask Bruce Brown, a local Iowa XC racer and promoter, who recently had his home ripped open by a tornado. Not only that, but a guest in his home was seriously injured in the event. Check out Bruce's blog for more details on what he's going through.

Local Iowa publisher of "Iowa Momentum Magazine" , Dave Mable, has taken it upon himself to organize a gravel road race to benefit Bruce and his injured guest on August 15th. You can check out all the details on Gravel Grinder News here.

Please consider coming and donating to the fund to help out these folks in need. All proceeds will go to Bruce and the young lady who was injured in the tornado. Thanks!

Keepin' It (Real) Short

There is a new frame in the house. An Origin 8 Scout frame is in for review on Twenty Nine Inches. This is a budget frame, with a MSRP of $200.00. (I've seen on-line retailers selling this frame for significantly less than that though)

It is steel, of course, and yes- it is heavy. You are not going to "get it all" for $200.00 or less, but this frame does have some interesting bits. This is the second generation of the Scout, the first was flat black. This one has nice sparkles. The powdercoat looks sharp.

Some folks are really stoked about this frame since you can set the rear wheel up to get a sub-17 inch chain stay measurement. That is really short for a 29"er.

As you can see, the plate style drop outs are set up with a derailleur hangar for geared set ups and also feature built in tensioner screws. The disc brake mount is slotted to accommodate your chain tensioning for single speed use, or if you move the axle for a different wheel base setting on a geared set up.

Okay, here's the feature I am excited about. Removable cable guides. These are made in aluminum and screwed into the frame with Allen head bolts. Yes......the frame tubing itself is threaded! There is no brazed in inserts going on here. So, yeah......the tubing is thick, and that's where the weight is.

Still, I think this is a cool feature that some other companies should look into. (Although having removable hydro brake guides on a disc only frame is kinda weird, I'll admit that!)

The original Scout frame was criticized for its minimal tire clearances. This frame features a wider, (73mm) bottom bracket shell and is touted as being more accommodating to wider 29"er tires. Hmm.........I'm a bit skeptical just from my eying this up, but it could maybe squeeze in some 2.4"ers on narrower rims. We'll see.

So, I'll be doing this up as a single speed and more reports will be showing up on Twenty Nine Inches. Stay tuned.

And that's it for today. Short, sweet, and real.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: The Chris Fehr Tool

To cap off RABRAI week in Iowa, I have one more RAGBRAI related story to share.....

When I made my re-entry into the bike shop business as a mechanic with the shop I currently wrench for in 2002, it was because of my performance on RAGBRAI as a bicycle mechanic earlier that summer.  I was at that time wrenching on cars, but that came to an end in September of that year when I was hired back into the bicycle business. In 2003, I was again on the trail of RAGBRAI as a wrench at the overnight stops. We always needed some extra help on RAGBRAI, so the shop had hired a mechanic we used the previous year named Chris Fehr. He was teamed up with my co-worker, Jeff Kerkove as the on the road mechanic team. During the afternoon of my very last day on RAGBRAI ever, (due to the birth of my son the next day!), Chris showed up after getting done early on the route and was lending a hand with the work coming into the overnight town. He somehow got a job rebuilding a paired spoke rear road wheel that used bladed spokes.

Chris was a quiet but smart and resourceful guy. He kind of made a splash the year before on RAGBRAI by taking the DH bike he dragged along with him for the week and doing some high flying antics off a broken water slide section that was in the campground we were at. After wandering around to the other shops and gathering spokes and nipples that he would need to do the rebuild, he got to work on the wheel. As he started to tension the wheel up, the bladed spokes did what bladed spokes coming up to tension do. Twist.

Chris came up to me and asked if I had a section of steer tube in my tool box. It just so happened that I did. Then he asked for a hack saw. Having no idea what he was up to, and up to my elbows in repairs already, I just shrugged it off as something weird he was up to, like jumping a DH bike off a water park slide or something else odd that he was  sometimes noted for doing.

So, after things died down, I asked him what he was up to with the steer tube chunk and hacksaw. He showed me the chunk of steer tube. He had hack sawed a slit into it near one end, and slipped that slit over the bladed spoke to keep it from twisting around as he tensioned up the wheel. I was amazed at his idea, and Jeff and I dubbed it "The Chris Fehr Tool". We got back from RAGBRAI and promptly made our own "Chris Fehr Tools" and used them all the time. Then, when I had to shorten a carbon fiber steer tube, I made a carbon fiber version! The ultimate "Chris Fehr Tool"!

Remember that I said it was my last time on RAGBRAI? Well, that very next morning, my pregnant wife, who wasn't due for two more weeks, called at 5am to say, "Honey, my water broke...."

Fortunately, I made it back in time to see my son be born.

Next week, more "Bike Shop Tales"..............

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bonus Monday Post: Salsa Cycles Mukluk

<===Salsa Cycles Mukluk: image from Angry Catfish Bicycles and Coffee Bar Facebook page.

Possibly the "coolest" bicycle introduction all year, Salsa Cycles has released information on their new snow bike, the Mukluk.

There are a ton of super details on this bike, but suffice it to say for now that Salsa Cycles has done their homework on this rig. It will be a turnkey snow bike set up for anyone and it will also be pretty affordable, with suggested retail at $1500.00 for a complete. 

What's even cooler is that if you build up another wheelset with 29"er rims to fit this bike, you can go with one bike all year long. So, it is versatile in that sense as well.

I happen to have always wanted a snow bike and with the introduction of the Mukluk, I may end up with one in my stable sooner than later. For more on the Mukluk, see Salsa Cycles site.

Note: I am not being bribed or paid for this post. I am just plain ol' excited about this bike is all.