Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Full Of Win

Lookin' Good At The Camp
Yesterday was a busy day. It was good, but it was busy. I did manage to sneak in a nice little ride at Camp Ingawanis in the afternoon in between building an $8000.00 tandem for a customer at the shop, getting the car serviced, and picking up my kids from their summer camp/day care deal.

The Camp's south side is where the next IMBCS event will be held at the end of July. It is looking pretty good out there right now. All the trails have been maintained, the new re-routes are coming in, and some offending logs were removed, along with weeds alongside the sides of the trail.

The trails are actually pretty dry, and hard, like they get in summertime. I did find a lot of offending sticks though. Pesky 3/8ths to 3/4's inch diameter dead stick/branches that were getting caught in my spokes, rotors, and nearly de-derailleuring my bike at one spot. Bah! Sticks......   Shoulda brought out a single speed, that's what I shoulda done! Single speed devices would show those sticks who's boss, they would!

Other than that, it was fun flying around on the bike I did take out, a Specialized Epic Marathon. I was supposed to have ridden that down in Texas, but my little adventure with my knee kind of put a damper on that plan. I wish I could get back there and test this rig in the rocks, but that will have to wait.

We do have plenty of exposed roots, busted up embedded limestone, and logs to cross, which amount to their own unique challenges here. Not to mention the sandy corners, and off camber bits which always keep me on my toes.

In Other News: Did ya see where "Bicycling" announced their "Editor's Choice Awards"? They gave the nod to 29"ers outside the 29"er categories in a couple of key areas, I  thought. Best value went to Salsa Cycles El Mariachi, and "Best Of The Best" went to the Santa Cruz Tall Boy.

One of these ol' days, that mag and others will cease to distinguish between wheel sizes, since I feel more and more rigs will be 29"ers, and all off road bikes will be "mountain bikes", and that's that.But I still wish they would have stuck with "all terrain bikes". Sounds more to the point, and more fun! Still, for this time and place, having a mainstream magazine say that the best value off roader is a 29"er, and the best overall mtb is a 29"er is really saying something. That couldn't have happened even just three years ago.

That's a lot of "win" right there!

British Mud And Minnesota Pavement

British Mud: I was recently contacted by one David Atkinson regarding a little film project he recently finished up. It was about the 29"er company, Singular Cycles and their experiences racing at the 2010 "Dusk 'Til Dawn" event in the U.K.

I've often heard about how it can be very wet, very muddy, and messy for off roaders in Britain. I think David's film shows us that don't know a bit of how it really is there....

Singular at Dusk 'Til Dawn from David Atkinson on Vimeo.

This also is about Sam at Singular Cycles too, and since I own a Singular Gryphon, it maybe is a bit more interesting to me from that perspective. At any rate, hope ya enjoy that....

Minnesota Pavement: My good friend in Minnesota, Ben Witt, runs Milltown Cycles, and every 4th Of July, his shop sponsors a criterium on the streets of Ben's hometown of Northfield, Minnesota.

Race Flyer- Click To Enlarge
I needed to get myself and Mrs. Guitar Ted up to visit Ben and his wife, so I thought, "Hey! Why not volunteer to help out with this deal?"

So, I called Ben and asked if he needed some help. He obviously said yes, and so I will be doing something in Northfield on the 4th of July to help out with this thing.

It can't be all bad, I mean, it has to do with bicycles, right? Plus, I figured it was another good way to give something back to the sport of cycling, which I love.

Now, while watching grown men and women go speeding around a closed course is very fun to watch, I wouldn't want to be "them". Just sayin'. I have adopted the saying of my old co-worker, Jeff Kerkove, who used to say all the time: "The Road Is The Devil." Yup, and I'd go along with that, at least for my tastes in cycling, but it is cool if ya'all like it out there. I get that. I might like it better if they'd get rid of those pesky cars and trucks, what clogs up the works, and get used as weapons......


But I digress... I'll be looking forward to seeing my friends, and if you have a mind to grind some gravel, I am bringing a bike, and maybe....... We'll see. It should be a blast either way.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back To The Country

I mentioned it when I was in El Paso. I was going to be looking for a gravel road ride soon after my return. Well, I got it Saturday. We have friends that live north of town several miles away, and they had invited us to dinner. I asked Mrs. Guitar Ted to drive up with the children, and I made my way up on my BMC "Orange Crush" rig.

Another country church find.
I have to admit that I am a bit of a closet history geek. Since we've returned from Texas, I have been delving into Texas history, and also some of the more colorful characters that are woven in and out of the Southwest's wild history. Folks like Sam Houston, Billy the Kid, and Stephen F Austin.

So I always get a kick from learning about my own "back yard", as it were. During my little ride, I stumbled upon another old country church, and a couple of other interesting tidbits.

Black Hawk County, in which I live, is unique in Iowa since it doesn't use the typical alphanumeric system for naming gravel roads like the rest of the state does. Here the roads bear the names they have had since before the 911 Emergency Plan was established which re-named, or named for the first time, every road in the State of Iowa. I've always wondered what the origin of many of these names was.

Bennington School
For instance, there is a road just north of town that runs East-West named "Big Rock Road". Pretty obvious, but I've never seen a "big rock" on this road, or anywhere near enough to it for me to get the impression that "this is that rock".

Well, Saturday, I rode right past "that rock"! It's pretty obvious when you see it. (I won't spoil it for the locals. You need to ride around and find this one yourselves.)

Another road name up north of us is "Bennington Road". Now sometimes I figure that perhaps an important person, or a figure in Black Hawk County history might be accountable for road names such as this, so I never think about stumbling upon an obvious answer to my questions about names like that. However; Saturday, to my great surprise, I rode right past Bennington School, and a small grouping of homes. Perhaps a place known in the past as Bennington? Maybe. But it was obvious that the road that ran East-West right by the school got its name from here.

That was fun, but getting out and riding was better. My knee is at about 90% now of normal. The wound is still healing, but the swelling is now all but gone, and the pain has subsided to a large degree. Only hurts if I bump it now.

Our friends farm is set back from the road about a quarter of a mile and in the back of the property, there is a large, open space that is a third of the way into the middle of a mile square section where it can get so quiet and peaceful you want the evening to last forever. The cooing of Mourning Doves just amps up the feeling even more.

The whole property is surrounded by our friends fields where they raise corn and beans. Typical Iowa farm stuff, I suppose, but I enjoy just sitting here at times and not doing a single thing but breathe. Sometimes I think the world could use a major injection of "slow down and sit fer awhile", if ya know what I mean.

Fortunately, our hosts are of much the same mind. It is nice to visit here, and they always treat us like kings when we come up. My children just love the big dog and riding on the four wheeler. It sure is nice to see that kids can get a kick out of something that doesn't need to have its batteries recharged and has ear buds attached to it.

Bishop In The Bean Field
We sat and chatted around an open fire pit with flames blazing until the stars were all twinkling in the sky above our heads. We saw a shooting star, and told the kids about the Big Dipper and The North Star.

What a great day! (Well, maybe not so much the afternoon, where I got rained on while mowing the yard that had been neglected for three weeks!) It was one of those great summer evenings that seem to last forever.

I was just super blessed to have had a great ride back into the country and have it end on such a fine farm with great friends, food, drink, and conversation. Sometimes it is just a welcome diversion to be riding without any race, big adventure plans, or purpose other than recreation. I highly recommend it.

(As always, click on any image to make it bigger!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Saga Of The Snow Dog And The Phil Wood Hub

Whelp......this isn't a post I ever wanted to write, but.......I feel that I have lost patience, and that I am well within bounds to tell it: The story of my Snow Dog and the Phil Wood hub. The "Snow Dog" is what I called my Salsa Cycles Mukluk, which has a special meaning for me. I think this part of the story is the most disappointing part for me. You see, a lot of people went out of their way to make a surprise birthday gift of the frame and fork, which I had fully intended to purchase on my own. I was flabbergasted, obviously, and suddenly the Mukluk meant a bit more to me than "just a bike" might.

The Snow Dog with the original rear wheel.
So, when I got everything together for this bike, a few days before my birthday, you can imagine my dismay when something wasn't right. A popping noise, which could be felt through the cranks, was occurring with regularity. In fact, after the second ride, I determined that it was getting worse. I had tracked it down to the drive train, and eventually, the rear hub.

After only two rides, I knew something was seriously wrong, however; the next day was my birthday, and I was bound and determined to ride the bike on my birthday, January 23rd, and then I would send the hub, or complete wheel in for servicing. That last ride was a doozy! The hub was really, really bad.

I looked at the cassette and ring gear before sending it off. One of the pawls wasn't engaging at all, while the ring gear was absolutely torn up. I knew at this point that the wheel would either have to be torn apart, or the whole wheel would need to go back to Phil Wood for servicing. I e-mailed Phil Wood on January 24th, and cordially told them about my issues.

I got a reply January 26th with a return authorization number, address, and a promise they would get to the wheel as soon as possible. I sent the wheel off that day, and on February 4th, got a message that servicing was complete, and the wheel would be coming back to me.

Ben Witt's loaner wheel worked perfectly.
In the meantime, I was loaned a rear wheel for the Snow Dog by Ben Witt. It was to be for his own snow bike project, and had a Phil Wood hub like mine laced up to a Rolling Darryl. His wheel never once gave me any problems, leading me to believe that my Phil Wood hub would eventually be good to go.

On February 10th, I got the wheel back. I sent a thank you e-mail to Phil Wood and Co, and then got to swapping out wheels. I was going to ride the Snow Dog to work and see how they did on the warranty work. Phil Wood's invoice showed they replaced the free hub and ring gear. No charge. I was stuck with the shipping bill out only.

Unfortunately, the very next day I had to send Phil Wood another e-mail in which I wrote the following:

"Once again, I wanted to compliment you on you and your teams quick service. However; the hub is still failing.

I went to work and back on the bike today, a round trip of 10 miles, and the hub engagement was making noises and I could feel the vibrations through the cranks. It seems after every time I coasted, it would almost always "pop" loudly after the first revolution, and every so often, in the middle of pedaling. Once the crank freely rotated a half a revolution, as if the pawls slipped again, like last time.

I counted 24 instances of loud popping noises just on my return trip home, which is approximately double the amount from the morning trip into work.

It is my opinion that this hub will fail again completely.

Just to cover everything: I did not touch the hub other than to install the tire, tube, rotor and cassette last evening. It also should be noted that I have been riding Ben Witt's rear wheel, (a blue anodized Phil Wood hub), on the bike for the last week plus, and it has never made a single peep, or acted anything other than normal. So, that eliminates anything to do with the rest of the bike. It definitely is an issue with this particular hub.

I can not trust this hub. I am going to cease riding it immediately."

I got a response the same day:

"Gadzooks!! That is certainly a first since I've been servicing hubs at Phil Wood. I don't blame you
   for your disappointment. I too feel your pain. I will speak to the upper management on how we are
   going to rectify the issue for you unfortunately it will not be until Monday as everyone has pretty much
   left for the weekend. Hang tight and I will get back with you ASAP on Monday."

Happier days with Ben's wheel

That was a Friday, the 11th, and on the 14th, I got a message saying that they would send out a shipping label to get the wheel back to me, and a promise that their engineering department would be taking a look at the issue and making sure it never happens again.

Well, Frostbike was happening that next weekend, and I also had to return Ben's rear wheel, so he could get his bike up and running. When I got back, I packed up the wheel again, and sent it off. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the U.S.P.S. label Phil Wood sent out to cover the shipping:(from my e-mail to Phil Wood dated 2/23/11

"I received the shipping label here Saturday while I was gone at Frostbike. I got the wheel off to you finally today.

A couple of things of note:

1: The wheel was sent intact, as instructed by you.

2: The shipping label, a Priority Mail one, had a value of seven dollars and change. The local Post Office told me that in order to send the wheel to you Priority Mail in the box I had to pack it in would cost $72.00. I had them change it to regular post, which cost me $15.00 and change. I now am out approximately $60.00 in shipping the wheel to you twice.

3: I tested the wheel one last time before pulling it down, static, while seated, I could get it to pop loudly, as if the pawls were not fully engaging, several times."

I also went on to say that I didn't think I could ever trust that particular hub, and requested that they swap out for a completely new one. 

That's been the last time I saw my wheel......

On March 16th, I sent a followup e-mail asking for a progress update. The next day I received an answer telling me free hub bodies were not available from their supplier and that they should be showing up "next week" , and that they would be keeping me informed as to the progress on the matter. 

On April 20th, I sent an e-mail again, since I had heard nothing from Phil Wood in the ensuing 33 days since my last communication with them. I simply asked for an update. On April 21st, I received the following:

  "Well, unfortunately the free hub bodies are STILL on back order from our
          supplier. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will see them next
          week. I will let you know as soon as I see them hit the door.

On May 23rd, after hearing nothing for 32 days, I simply fired off this; "What's the latest?" I got the following reply....

 " We just received the back ordered freehub bodies from our supplier.
            Our hub/wheel is currently being inspected by our engineering department
            per their request just to double check that everything is within spec in order
            to prevent any further issues in the future. From what they tell me they should
            be finish with the inspection by Friday at which time will ship the wheel back
            to you right away."

Well, as of this writing, on June 27th, I have neither received the wheel back, nor heard from Phil Wood and Co. Now I have pretty much lost all faith in the situation. While I may get the wheel back at some point, I have purposed to move along, since there isn't really any way at this point that I (a) would want to run a Phil Wood hub, and (b) I can't trust this company. 

I post this as my story to those who went out of their way to make the Snow Dog possible for me, and to let anyone who might be wondering what happened with this situation know what has went down. I am not a person who wishes to "bring Phil Wood and Co. down", or "get revenge" for this situation by putting out any negative spew about the company. It is what it is. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is bad customer service. 

Finally, I want to make it clear that this hub was something I purchased with my own money. I wasn't given the hub, and it wasn't a review/test deal for Phil Wood. It was an honestly purchased hub for my personal use. 

Where am I going from here? Well, as I understand it, a matched set of snow bike hubs is due out later in the fall from a company I do trust, which I may wait for. If that looks like it might be delayed, I will have to pursue other options, but for now, that's the sad story of the Snow Dog and the Phil Wood hub. 

Now ya know....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gear Try-Outs

Throwin' the Horns
Recently I got a couple of new items to check out. These will be getting reviewed on The Cyclistsite in short order, so stay tuned for that. For now, here is some information and my initial impressions on these two cycling items.

First up, we have Ergon's new glove, the "HE2". Ergon has four new gloves for different mountain biking disciplines. The HE2 is geared for DH and Enduro type riding where the rider would likely be using a GE1 or GA1 grip. (Although in reality, you can use these with any Ergon grip, or any other grip, for that matter.)

The gloves came on an environmentally friendly, 100% recycled/recyclable cardboard display hangar. This is great, but the fine, faded looking print on it was hard to read! Good thing Ergon has a great website!

And on that website, you'll find Ergon's description of the gloves. I won't get all into that here. (Look for details on The Cyclistsite), but I will say a few comments about them right away here.

These gloves look very well made. Lots of stitching going on with the white panels against black, and the heel of the palm protector, in case you biff! One glaring omission here: No terry cloth sweat wiper. Weird! I though every cycling glove had that feature. Guess not anymore!

I've had one ride on them so far, and it is obvious they are still breaking in, so I'll wait for any performance judgments for a bit.

Mrs. Guitar Ted and the Alpha by Spy Optics
Spy Optics has re-entered the "performance eyewear" category with this new Alpha model and three others which are new for 2011.

The Alpha eyewear I received has a gray polarized lens on a matte black, semi-rimmed frame made from Grilamid which is crazy flexible, light, and holds its shape really well. Just perfect for the rough and tumble mountain biker!

There are all sorts of technologies going on here with the Alpha, which I will get into in my review pieces on The Cyclistsite, but for now, I have to say that these are impressive.

Haven't heard of Spy Optics? Well, these are not "cheap sunglasses", by any stretch. These are competitive with some brands you are familiar with, and have similar treatments and performance attributes. My initial testing shows that Spy Optics Alpha is a top notch piece of equipment. Right up there with my favorite eyewear. This should be a good test.

Well, that is if I can pry them out of Mrs. Guitar Ted's hands! She looks better in them than I do anyway! (Well, I think I look "okay" in them too, don't get me wrong!)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Strobe Effect

Sawyer In George Wyth
Friday I got the shop work done early. So, I left an hour earlier than usual, and went over to see how George Wyth State Park was doing.

The trails there are now under the watchful eye of CVAST, and they are mown and cleared for the most part. They do a good job with what they have to work with.  And let's be honest, Geo Wyth is essentially low-land, backwaters of the Cedar River flood plain. Flat. Silty. When it gets wet, it is the worst slickery, snotty, greasy mud you'll ever run across. was more wet than not. 

At any rate, there I was, slogging through the mud pits, and having to gingerly pilot the Sawyer through the single track due to the slick trails and packed up tires. Oh yeah, did I mention that this mud sticks to everything?

The Sawyer, being as stable as it is, was a perfect sled for these conditions. Even though the tires were a terrible choice! I wished plenty of times that I had the Mud X on there yet. I don't mean to complain. It isn't like I haven't seen this before out there. In fact, it was what I would cal "typical Geo Wyth" conditions.
It was still lots of fun, and beat working an extra hour hands down. It was good to get over there, see the old place, and reminisce about the old days when I was just learning the ropes and these trails were all new, and very different.

One thing that hadn't changed, and that was the "strobe effect" you get when speeding through the single track under the canopy of foliage with the sunlight trying to pierce through every now and then. This dappled sunlight can play tricks on your mind, and if you aren't careful, you can wreck. The on again, off again light makes it hard to see just when you really need to at times!

On the way back home, I went around  East Lake, which has water up over the trail in three spots. I motored right through hub deep water on the single speed, much to the amazement of a couple of young fishermen at one spot.

It was a good ride, but I won't be back that way for awhile now. A little bit of the Geo Wyth goes a long way for me. We've got history, me and that park!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Salsa Cycles Cowbell II Handle Bar: First Impressions

Salsa Cowbell 2 On The BMC "Orange Crush"
The new Salsa Cycles Cowbell 2 has been getting some rave comments from folks I trust and respect lately. Now I know why.

I've got my 46cm Salsa Cycles Cowbell 2 bars mounted and ridden and here are my impressions of the bar so far.

Mounting And Taping: Unlike some other off-road drop bars, the Cowbell drops are pretty typical road-like fare to deal with, in as far as how you will want to have them set up. I like "traditional" placement of the levers and drop extensions- Meaning, level drop section, parallel to the ground, and lever tips hanging just below the drop section. Call me "old skool", but I think it looks far better and not only that, it rides better in all hand positions. I'll get to that later, but just know that these bars will be familiar to set up and tape for anyone that has done road bike bars before. No funky "point-the-drop-extensions-at-the-rear-axle", no weird sweep, and no weird lever angles.

Salsa put some sweet graduated lines on each hook on the outer side of the curve to help with lever placement. Ever obsessed about which lever was higher? too! With these simple graphics on the bar, the guess work is gone. Thanks Salsa for that thoughtful touch! Saved a bunch of fretting and time for me, I know that much.

Looks pretty normal from here
Ride Feel: Okay, I've a confession to make: I don't like traditional road bars at all. They feel all wrong to me, and not comfortable at all in the drops. (No wonder people never use their drops on road bikes. It feels all constricted down there, at least to me.)

The minimal sweep and flare of the Cowbell bars is so subtle, you almost can not see it when the bars are mounted and taped up. (Salsa claims 12 degrees of flare) That said, it was "just enough" to make me not hate on these bars.

My first ride was not all hearts and roses. I felt the Cowbell was too roadie-ish for my tastes. (This may be all you need to read to be a fan of these!) However; I knew I was coming off some pretty radical drops in the Ragely Luxy Bar, and anything with less sweep than those was going to be a huge departure for me. So, I gave it some time.

The Cowbell does have an excellent transition from the ramp section to the hoods. Very comfy place to grip there. The variable radius bend of the drops was great too. This is something I would like to see more of in the swept, flared off road drop bars. Variable radius bars just fit into the hand better, with a great perch for the butt of the palms to sit into. Super comfy and secure grip there. The drops reach to the levers is perfect. I could easily brake and shift from the drops at will.

The tops have a wide enough section that makes it feel good to climb there and cruise there without making you feel that your grip is too narrow. Going from up top to the drops is easy since the drop is shallow. Overall, every traditional hand position is very useable with this handle bar.

Traditional set up: There is a reason this works...
On rough stuff, like grass, and pot holed, cracked pavement, the bar felt reasonably smooth. Salsa says the Cowbell 2 is double butted. If I push hard into the drops, the bars flex a bit. Nothing radical. I can't discern it while climbing and honking on the levers. That said, it feels smoother than the Luxy Bar that came off the "Orange Crush", so I'm going to say it is the double butted stock and design of these that gives them a bit of a sweet ride feel.

Conclusions: What about that "roadie-ish feel"? Well, I did have some of that sensation disappear. On the last ride before I wrote this, I found myself shooting up a steep embankment in the drops. Rocking the bike slightly from side to side, out of the saddle. Then it dawned on me. "Hey- these are not all that bad for being so "straight" in the drops!"  The minimal sweep and flare seems to be "just enough" to make them work for off road, and yet they don't look "nontraditional" in the sense that they have a very normal drop bar look and feel for most riding.

I won't be rocking these on my mountain bike, but I do like these for gravel, and if I were a cyclo cross kind of guy, I would seriously look at these. They afford much more control in the drops than a traditional road bar can when descending, and you can power up climbs and short chutes while in the drops and not break your wrists. The variable radius bend is great for your grip as well.

These bars can accept bar end shifters too. "Brifters" should set up really well for folks on the Cowbell bars, and if you need to mount gadgets, there is plenty of room on the tops for that non-sense.

I think Salsa has designed another great product in the Cowbell 2 bars, and I'll be sticking with these for the "Orange Crush" for a long time. I just wish they came in silver! (There! A criticism!) I'm not much on these for real rough off roading, but they weren't really aimed at that activity either. Road bikers, tourists, and anyone not satisfied with wonky drop bar designs prevalent today should look hard at these.

Happy Trails all! Have a great weekend!

UPDATED: I've gotten some questions about what the difference is between the Cowbell 2 and Cowbell 3 bars is. I e-mailed Salsa Cycles for an explanation Here is what they shared with me.....

Here is the skinny on our naming. This is new for the future and these are the first products coming under our new format.

1 = BEST (equate to product like Pro Moto Carbon bars and Pro Moto Ti stem)

2 = BETTER (equate to product such as aluminum Pro Moto bars)
3 = GOOD (equate to product formerly known as Moto Ace)

Each of these levels will be differentiated by features, materials and finish quality. All of our core components will come this way eventually. We will have 3 level of components in bars, stems and seat posts. 

So, there ya have it folks! Thanks for the comments and for checking out Guitar Ted Productions!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The First Day Of Summer.....(Really?)

With yesterday being the first day of summer, you'd think we would be basking in sunshine, humidity, and mosquitoes. Well, you'd be wrong on all counts. It was anything but summer-like out there yesterday, but I had a good day anyway.

A Wet Muddy Goblin
I got an early start and headed up to Cedar Bend Park because of all the wet weather from the past days. It is the only place I  can ride near by that won't clag up the bike when it has been wet.

Well, it was wet, and in fact, it was drizzling all the way up there. The trails were holding up well though, even though there was some standing water in some spots. The sky was grey, the wind was blowing from the Northwest, and it was in the low 60's. Chilly.

It boggles my mind to think it was 45 degrees warmer where I was last week! The air was downright cold feeling as I went down the trail. No matter, it felt good to finally be mountain biking again after my biff in Texas. The knee? Well, it worked just fine, thank you. I think it is still a bit irritated and maybe a tad weak yet. Certainly stiff at full leg bend, but things look well on their way to full recovery.

Otherwise it was good to be back and riding familiar trails. The legs were still in good shape. The lungs seemed to be willing. I was a bit surprised, frankly. I thought I had lost more fitness than that from the rest necessary when I hurt my knee. 

All You Could Do Was Smile About It
Later, after doing laps at Cedar Bend, I decided to run an important errand on the Karate Monkey. I thought at the last second before leaving that I might pack my rain jacket. You know.....just in case. 

The wind was really kicking from the Northwest now, and going right into it on the single speed was a chore. Not even a mile from the house, I began to feel waves of mist hit my face. Then it became a constant spritz. A few hundred feet later......


So I headed for the bike path that goes underneath the expressway. I stopped and pulled out that rain jacket, put it on, and then decided to goof around with the camera a bit. Maybe it would blow over, and I could continue on without the jacket. No such luck though. It rained all the way out to my destination.

It was all good. I was riding a bicycle, my knee wasn't an issue. Just those two things were enough to make it an awesome day. Rain or no.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday News And Views

Image courtesy of Salsa's website
Yesterday, I did an in depth look at the new Salsa Cycles Cowbell drop bar, but that isn't the only new bar in the range now. They also have the "Bend 2" bar for mountain bikes out as well.

This was the un-named bar they showed us at Frostbike earlier in the year. It will be available in 17 and 23 degree bends with a forward wiggle that should allow users to keep their original stem, instead of necessitating getting a longer one, which was a criticism of the older 17 degree bend flat bar. This joins bars like On One's Mary Bar and Fleegle Bar, Ragley's Carnegie's Bar, Bontrager's Crivitz Bar, and others in the "W" shaped/wing shaped mountain bar selection. I hope to be ordering one of these for myself soon. 31.8mm clamp diameter only on these, by the way.

Niner Bikes' JET 9 RDO frame
Carbon fiber......yeah.... More carbon fiber. Niner Bikes does it now with their organic, swoopy looking JET 9 "Race Day Optimized" frame. I admit that Niner seems to explore ways to exploit the way forms can be made differently in carbon than say, aluminum or other metals. It is somewhat polarizing though, since when you start deviating from the norm of straight tubing, you are going to make a shape that will turn some on, and some off.

Niner gets the first blow in as far as the "arty FS" bike goes, but I am waiting for Ibis to play their hand. Because when their FS 29"er design comes out, I am betting it will be much like their 26"er, which I think looks better than the Niner here does. My personal opinion there.

Yeah,'s all about how they work when you ride them. I get that, but when you are throwing down the coin it takes to buy one of these carbon fiber bikes, looks play a big role, and Ibis wins that game, in my opinion. Maybe their bike will not look great in big wheeled guise, but I am betting against that myself. We'll know soon enough, as Ibis plans a reveal at Eurobike in September.

That said, I am sure the Niner JET 9 RDO is a killer trail bike and it isn't ugly by any stretch. Plus- you can buy it now. Can't say that about the unseen, untested Ibis. So, there ya go!

Wet, wet, and moar wet: Rain has soaked things on a fairly regular basis around these parts of late. So different than where I was the last two weeks, which was super dry. Can we make a trade? Anyway, it looks like I'll have to hit the Cedar Bend area for kicks today and see how my recovering knee likes climbing! If that doesn't work, I've got a yard that needs mowed, and several bikes to work on in the Lab. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Salsa Cycles Cowbell II Handle Bar: Moar Cowbell!

In terms of drop bars that I write about, the recent post I did concerning the Salsa Cycles Cowbell II handle bar has garnered tons of traffic here. (Not due to anything I have done, but owing to lack of info out there on this bar.) Seeing as how there is a lot of interest in the Cowbell and Cowbell II, I am posting up this brief comparison with the Bell Lap bar, also a Salsa Cycles offering.

New graphics on the Cowbell II are tastefully subtle

Why the Bell lap? Because the Cowbell is so much like the Bell Lap, and it is purposed for similar usage. That seems to be mainly cyclo-cross, but I also see this bar as being a gravel grinder's friend, and for folks wanting a more comfortable road bar they can actually use the drops with and not be uncomfortable.

Let's take a closer look...

Cowbell II (Bottom), and Bell Lap (Top)
The basic shape from the front is very similar. The Bell Lap is a 25.4mm clamp model and the Cowbell bars will all be 31.8mm clamp diameter bars. The difference between the Cowbell I and II is in the alloy used and weight. (Cowbell II is 292 gms) Both bars have flare, and as far as I can tell, that flare is identical between the two bars. The Bell Lap features cable grooves, while the Cowbell has flattened areas instead of grooves. Obviously, the Bell lap has that funky ergonomic bend in the drop area. The Cowbell has a variable radius bend.

Cowbell II (Bottom) and Bell Lap (Top)
In the view from up top, you can see some of the bigger differences between the two bars. The Cowbell II, (bottom), has less reach. (Approx 70mm as I measure it) The transition into the ramp section is more abrupt on the Cowbell, making the tops incrementally wider than the Bell Lap's. You can see that the minimal sweep on both bars appears to be identical. The drop extensions reach back further on the Cowbell due to the minimal reach, which makes them appear much longer than the Bell Lap's. However; they are actually only a centimeter longer. Both bars here are 46cm width. (Measured at the point where the top of the brake hoods would likely mount for most folks. The ends are actually about 52cm center to center due to the sweep and flare. This is the same for both bars.)

Cowbell II (L) Bell Lap (R)
Here we can see the other major distinctions between these two bars. The older Bell Lap design features an overall deeper drop, and more slope to the ramp section. The Cowbell II has shallow drop, (measured at 140mm from the table top to the bar tops), and a flatter ramp section. (Note: The reach looks longer on the Cowbell II than it really is at this angle. Also, I had to tape down the bars to get this shot!)

The Cowbell's flare and graduated brake mount guides
The flare on both these bars is minimal. It is more than a Nitto Noodle and perhaps slightly less than a  Nitto Randonnuer bar. The biggest difference here is that the Cowbell has a minimal amount of outward sweep to the extensions, which the Nitto bars do not have. Obviously, the variable radius bend drops and shallow drop dimension is a major departure from the Nitto bars as well.

There is your brief tour and comparison with the Bell Lap bars of the Cowbell II. I think it will find a home with cyclo-crossers, long haul cyclists, gravel aficionados, and folks wanting comfy road bike bars. The Cowbell should set up well for tourists and racers alike.

Comments: The Cowbell Bar is really close to what I would have done with an off road "dirt drop". (I know- I said it was what I would have done, but it isn't quite on the mark, now that I have seen it.) That said, it isn't really a bar suited for rigorous off roading/mountain biking due to the minimalistic sweep in the drops. Could you mountain bike with a Cowbell II? Well, of course, you could. But there are better drop bar choices for that out there with better sweep to the extensions which would give you better control in the rough stuff.

I see this bar as a great alternative to road drop bars for gravel riding. It will have just enough flare and sweep to offer good control over the bike in loose, chunky stuff, and the shallow drop dimension will make being in the drops for miles of head winds more bearable. The minimal reach will help also with climbing from the drops. All of this translates over beautifully to cross racing, of course, and that is where this bar will become very popular. That said, a lot of recreational road riders should take a long, hard look at this bar. It will make the drops far more useable, and the short reach will make braking far easier for folks with smaller hands. The slight flare and sweep will surprise many road riders with a increased feeling of stability and comfort too.

I'll be mounting these to a bicycle soon and getting some ride impressions up shortly.

UPDATE: Salsa Cycles site has been updated with info on the Cowbell bars and more. Check it out!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting Back In Gear

Back In The Saddle Again

So, I got home and tried a bicycle ride. It went well, actually. I did about an hour and a half of bicycle path with no real pain. The knee felt weaker, but not bad. The next morning, Father's Day, was okay. A bit of stiffness, but still, nothing to fret over.

I even did an errand on the Xtracycle, but for the most part, I stuck close to home to spend time with my family, you know- Since I am a father and all. It made more sense to me to hang out with those that allow me to be a father, and love me for that, than to selfishly go out and do whatever I wanted on my own. I mean, that's what being single was for, no?
After we ate supper, I went on another "training" ride with my son. He's getting the hang of it all. He'd keep yelling at me, "Hey Daddy! Did you see me turn that corner? That was good, huh?" Yeah.....I was glad I told him I would ride with him today. A solo gravel adventure is good too, but not in the same way, ya know? 

I don't feel as though pretending to be single, and carefree is what celebrating Father's day is all about, but your mileage may vary.

Hope you all had a great weekend. I look forward to re-habbing the knee further and getting back to 100% again. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It's "Good" Money

The business of bicycles is good these days. In more ways than one. Too bad a lot of folks just don't get it. Happily, many do. Hopefully, the more things like what is  going on in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere happen, the more the folks out there will switch from "not getting it", to supporting bicycles and the business they can generate.

Chris De Stefano speaking at the Bicycles Mean Business event
Portland, Oregon: Here we have a great example of what bicycles can bring to the table economically. Portland is taking the bicycle and promoting it in an economic way to any who will listen. And by the sounds of what my friend, Chris De Stefano, is saying, more folks might benefit from listening. Here is some of what Chris shared with me regarding what is going on in Portland:

"Added together, Portland bicycle-related business adds up to $100 million in annual sales while providing over 1500 jobs. (We added our 88th employee the Monday following the BMB presentation)"

- Note: The "we" that Chris refers to is Chris King Precision Components and Cielo Cycles-

"Even more wonderful, there are nearly 4000 bike races, events, or scheduled rides in Portland per year. Bikes mean more and more business in Portland."

Portland is not the only place things like this are happening. The Mid-West, East Coast, and other places in the U.S. are also beginning to, or are already enjoying, the economic impact of manufacturing, distribution, and support of the bicycling industry on many levels. More places in the U.S. could be doing the same.

And we're not even touching upon the normally touted benefits to communities, like better overall health, happiness, and environmental impacts that cycling brings.

Chris King (L) and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (R)
Everyone Can Get In On The Act: So, you say you are not into business? Okay, well what would you say to getting some money back from your employer just because you commute to work by bicycle? Sound good?

Well, enter 3rd Congressional District Representative, Earl Blumenauer, who is working with like-minded lawmakers to increase the amount of money that employers could give to employees who use alternate forms of transportation to get to work, such as carpooling, taking the metro bus/train, or bicycling. Under this bill, commuters who use alternative transportation would have the same incentives currently provide to those who commute by car.
Economic benefits for employers, employees, and for communities are waiting for those that embrace the bicycle. I know that in the communities I live in, (Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and surrounding area), the bicycle has brought in a marked increase in tourism, commuting, and use of bicycles for recreational purposes. Money spent in local businesses has been increased by this activity. Much of that influenced by the investment into the local trail network. It's extra money that wouldn't be here if the trails didn't exist. 
Do you want to say no to extra money, health benefits, and "clean" transportation alternatives? Go ahead and ignore the bicycle. However; I don't think that would be a very wise course. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Black Coffee At Home

Coca Cola In The Bottle!
Making it home was awesome on Friday evening. We were so glad to walk through that door after over 3900 miles of windshield time in less than two weeks.

The trip home was thankfully uneventful. Other than monitoring a slow leak in one of the vehicle's tires, we had no real drama.  That left us to enjoy some of the little things in life.

Like full strength Coca Cola ice cold from the bottle!  I had to buy it, since I can not remember the last time I ever had Coca Cola in a glass bottle. It's been a long, long time ago. Does it make a difference? If you need to ask, you just won't get it. Want some? Maybe you can get it elsewhere, but I bought this bottle in Tularosa, New Mexico for a $1.59. Worth every penny. I'm saving the bottle cap for my head set YAWYD cap from Niner Bikes.

New Mexican Windmill
I played my little game of trying to capture windmills from the seat of our speeding vehicle. Some of the images didn't come out too bad.

The first day I missed a lot of really good ones since Mrs. Guitar Ted couldn't stay awake behind the wheel and I ended up driving most of the day. That's cool. I'd rather that we were all alive instead of dead with great windmill images!

We over-nighted in Liberal, Kansas once again, setting up a longer second day of driving than I normally like to have. Normally I would have tried to get us to Wichita, Kansas, but we got a late start from El Paso, so we didn't feel like pushing it into the night on Kansas two lane highways in the dark

Early Morning Drive Eastward
Kansas two lane. Yeah....... What can I say? Trains, oil pumping from wells, and wind blasted range lands.

The road traffic was pretty heavy. Lots of trucks use this highway, (HWY 54), and getting around them is no easy task. Then you have the inevitable slow downs through small villages and towns.

I really don't mind this, since it is actually very much more interesting than interstate travel is! At least there is some contact with the culture and geography, which generally you just speed by while traveling the interstates.

The vacation is over now, and it is back to bicycles again. Hope you all are having a great weekend. One last windmill shot from Kansas for you.....

Barbed Wire And A Windmill

Ride your bikes! Take some pictures! Have some fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday News And Views

Moar Carbon
Niner Bikes Carbon JET 9: By now ya'all have probably seen this image of what is part of the new Carbon Jet 9 from Niner Bikes. Carbon.....It's What Is On The Menu For 29"ers For 2012.

Well, seemingly that looks to be the case. I also saw what might be a bigger, AM-ish carbon 29"er from another company on Twitter recently as well. Is this the way of the future for mountain bikes and specifically, 29"ers?

While carbon fiber seems to be the "material du jour" these days, I don't think it's going to supplant other materials any day soon. It just seems that way now. Heck, given that some air plane companies big military contract might be granted, and we might just see carbon fiber frame development curtailed a bit. Also, I figure there will always be those that will never trust a carbon fiber frame, so aluminum and steel will still be showing up at the trail heads for a long, long time.

I will say that the prices some of these frames fetch is a bit suspect, but maybe that's just my suspicious nature kicking in.

The Renegades Are At It Again: The Newton Renegade Gravel Bike Race will take place on June 25th. I went to the first "Renegade" series race in April and it was a hoot. Sounds like this one will be quite an adventure, and if I know a thing or three about the promoters, there is going to be some sweet, steep Jasper County goodness on this 71-ish mile event. I'm going to try and swing it, but the bum knee may have something to say about that!

Pung Cha's Flowers
Still on the road from El Paso yet, overnighted in Liberal, Kansas. Hope to hit the pavement early  and bring in the truckster before dark-thirty tonight.

So, this will be an abbreviated post today. Gotta get back to the business of getting everyone safely home. I can't wait, really. Lots to do and catch up on.

Do I still actually have a job at the shop? I don't think they miss me too much! We'll see....

Have a great weekend ya'all, and I hope you get some great rides in, wherever you are.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Turning Back Northward

Discovered some crash damage the other day.
The time has finally arrived to point the vehicle northward and head home. Today is going to be taken up by slightly over one half of the travel miles needed to get home. Tomorrow we'll finish it off and have the weekend to recover before the usual daily grind kicks back into gear for a while.

It's been good to have been removed from that "usual daily grind" for a bit too. I learned that I need to get outside to stay sane, (more of a reminder, really), and I learned that I really, really miss riding my bikes.

Speaking of which, I've been cleared by Mrs. Guitar Ted to go on a light, easy spin once we get back home. We've been keeping tabs on my progress. So far, so good. The wound is closed, and now will just require some time to fully heal. I suspect that it might take a couple more weeks at least for that to happen. It's what happened inside that may take longer.

Flowers in my Mother-In-Law's garden
Mrs. Guitar Ted says it is my ACL and it is inflamed. I say that I can't go without pain killers too long or it hurts really bad, and my knee is slightly swollen.

I do know it is re-gaining strength, bit by bit, and I have been walking more normally of late when I take my exercise here. Still, I've no idea what a bicycle ride might do yet. It'll be a cautious, easy first ride when I get the chance this coming Saturday.

It's always weird to leave here for me. We so seldom get to visit here, that the goodbyes are a little bit heavier than maybe they would be if we saw each other more often. That said, I am ready to get back home and leave this dry, dry, hot, unchanging, dry, hot, unforgiving weather behind. Did I mention that it is dry and hot?

The weather situation here is almost boring. I went to the window a couple mornings ago to check the sky, and my Father-In-Law says, "What'r you lookin' for?" I said I was just checking the sky to see what the weather was doing. He shook his head and said, "No need for that. It's the same every day here." There is something to be said for variety.

Speaking of variety: My Mother-In-Law is Korean, and she is an excellent cook. For our final evening meal here, she made us haemultang. It's a soup with all kinds of shellfish, crab, mussels, and what not in it with a spicy, hot broth. These ingredients are cooked all with the shells on, so it is kind of a noisy soup when you stir it, but it sure was good. My Mother-In-Law says it is a meal that "takes time to eat", and she is right. Good for meals where you want to do a lot of chatting. Oh yeah, and it's messy to eat! It's lots of fun for me to try these new things.

Well, anyway, that's the end of vacation here, and I'll be on the road for two days- today and tomorrow. Can't wait to get back home now......

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Changing Horizon

One of the things I've seen over the past decade in Iowa is a changing landscape. A landscape featuring towering white wind powered electric generators which line higher ridges and hills in various places in Iowa now. Places that once were devoid of anything that huge breaking up the view of the rolling fields.

Old fashioned wind mill in West Texas
Sure, you had your occasional blue "Harvestore" silo, or an old fashioned wind mill sticking up in the air a bit, but those were rarely ever taller than a big ol' oak tree, and seemed to be fitting, in a way, with the agricultural way of life molded by the land itself.

Now these wind generators just seem a bit out of place. They are gigantic in scale, and with their stark, "Apple-esque" white appearance, these seem to be a cold, unfitting way to adorn the landscape of Iowa's countryside. Don't get me wrong though. I do like the idea of generating energy with wind. I just wish it wasn't done in such an unharmonious way. You maybe could have painted these things green. Or "sky-camo", or something other than what they are painted. Heck, dirt brown would work. They are getting pretty grungy looking already anyway.

Well, the whole "working with nature" thing was really brought to mind on our trip back from San Antonio this past weekend.

East of Fort Stockton, Texas on I-10
Maybe it really doesn't matter. Maybe in 50 years, folks couldn't imagine this scene any other way, but having these propellered sticks atop every mesa for miles in West Texas just seemed weird to my eyes.

Like I said, maybe it is a good thing. I know we need to be looking at alternative energy sources, but I sure hope I don't have to one day bemoan that my single track has been uprooted to accommodate some grove of white whirly-gigs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gravel On The Menu: Soon.....

Well, with the bum knee I obtained recently, there will be a definite shift to doing some heavy gravel road work in my future. That should be okay, given that I have a fair amount of recon riding ahead of me for the GTDRI, which will be at the end of July.

I suspect I'll be finally putting those Geax Evolution tires to rock then, and riding a fair bit on the new Salsa Cycles Cowbell II bars I recently got in to try out. Then I will be spin, spin, spinning away the miles on gravel to rehab the knee and not put too much force on it for a bit.

And as for that knee, it is swollen, gets stiff, gets "loosey-goosey", and is sometimes aches beyond words. If I stay on the Advil regimen, it sometimes feels perfectly normal. Basically, I think it is just inflamed, bruised, and ticked off at me for the time being.  The hole I punched through to the knee cap is closed now, so that skin should be repairing itself, and there are no worries with that. Mrs. Guitar Ted made sure there would be no chances for infection, that's for sure!

I have been walking on it a bit, just to keep active, but alternating that with some ice, and some elevation of the leg at times. However; it mostly has been either walking, or sitting around taking it easy. Hard to do with two mountain bikes and some awesome technical trails that I don't get to ride on just any ol' time staring me in the face every day I am here. 

So, pretty soon I will be getting back at it, but with a bit different focus for awhile. Gravel. It's what's on the menu....

Monday, June 13, 2011

Withering Heats

That's dust obscuring the view of the mountains.
Okay folks. I apologize for the obvious lack of cycling related material, but even I need a vacation from that once in awhile.

At any rate, I wanted to talk about the heat here. Yes- it's been hot everywhere, for the most part, but here in West Texas, the heat has been so intense, there is a severe drought going on. I've never experienced anything quite like it, except maybe for Bootleg Canyon, where the Interbike Outdoor Demo is held. Except this is more intense.

The day coming back from San Antonio on our return from Sea World was an amazingly hot, windy day. We found ourselves driving nearly 600 miles, (yes- one way all in Texas), in triple digit heat for 80% of those miles. At one point, just west of Fort Stockton, Texas, it was 108F.

We stopped for gas and a bit of a rest in Van Horn, Texas, where it was a pleasant 104F, and I stuck my head out the door of the car to find my face in a hair dryer. Well........not really, but I swore it felt exactly that way. The wind has been like that most of our time here. Southwesterly. Strong. You know, strong enough to stand one of those half acre American flags straight out at attention.

Dust Devils, those swirling vortexes of dirt about three to five stories high, are a dime a dozen out in the range lands. I saw one cross I-10 right in front of the car yesterday. Surreal. It's as if the world down here is in a monstrous, hellish version of a convection oven.

We ate our evening meal at an excellent Chinese buffet down here in El Paso on Sunday. I walked out afterward into the last rays of sunlight and thought it felt rather nice. Almost cool. It was 97F.

Can I borrow that feeling come January in Iowa?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Big Country

First of all, I wanted to thank everyone for the kind comments yesterday regarding my knee injury. Oh, and by the way, I biffed more than just my knee, but that is minor stuff compared to this knee deal. Some of you asked for pics, and while these won't be gory, or all that interesting, please keep in mind that my main goal was to get out safely, and not be coyote fodder. Pictures of said injury were a luxury I should not have even considered, but here ya go- this is all I got.....

Bandannas: More than just "do-rags".
The injury was covered first with a giant Band-Aid I had, and then I wrapped one of my trusty bandannas around it. By the time I got back to home base, this was soaked with blood.

By the way, I'd walked/ridden a fair piece before this shot was taken. Just to make sure I would get out. The rock face I crashed on was a giant, jagged exposed bedrock area with about a 45 degree pitch. Oh yeah, and smaller rocks were littered over its face as well. 

I mentioned yesterday how much it hurt, and without ibuprofen, it hurts just about as bad today as it did yesterday. I can walk, but gingerly, and stairs.....OUCH!

It's going to be awhile before any serious cycling gets done again, but I suspect commuting will still be okay once the wound heals. Trust me, I'll take it easy. Baby steps, and all that.

The wound that did heal...

The one "good" thing, (besides living through this), was that my Geax sealant actually sealed a huge hole punched into the sidewall of the rear tire. I aired it back up, and it held for the ,( admittedly gingerly paced), ride back out, probably at less than 20psi too.

I'm not sure if I'll have to boot the tire, but I'm going to see how long the "zit" will hold up.

If it doesn't, I'll get to see how tight that Geax tire still is on the Gordo, and when new, it was reeeeeeellllllly tight!

Now on to "bigger" and better subject matter.......

Play of Light
I took the family to San Antonio for the weekend, and we're going to Sea World, and all of that. However; when we left El Paso, the highlight for me of the trip so far was seeing the sunrise on the mountains east of the city. Wow!

My images are squat, so nothing too great. I mean- I took them out the passenger window while speeding down the highway. These wouldn't win any awards, but hopefully they convey some semblance of the grandeur and spectacular nature of.........well, Nature!

I could have spent all morning running around setting up shots and having fun. More so had I been on a bicycle doing this stuff. Imagine: Running with a friend or two on a back country photo taking trip on bicycles. That would be a blast. No hurry to go anywhere. Just enjoying the moments, and the riding in between getting there.

A Lonely Peak On The Range
Even as the sun got up, and the mountains got fewer and further between, the scenery still captivated me. I kept seeing places I wanted to go, but sadly will probably never get around to setting foot on. Maybe that's just as well......

It's a big, big country out there, that's for sure. We drove nearly 600 miles and never got through Texas! I sure can understand the lyrics to "Home On The Range" a little bit better now. I'll tell ya that much!

It still amazes me, and causes no end of wonder to me that our ancestors crossed this land with what they had to use. Complain? Who, me? I've nothing to complain about. Bum knee and all....

Have a great Saturday ya'all!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Busted Up

Well, it finally happened. I crashed hard on the rocks of El Paso, Texas, and the rocks won. I will be okay, first of all, so don't worry about that, but my bike riding is done for a bit until my knee recovers. Details? Read on...

I went for a ride on the Big Mama and hit the Lower Sunset trail first. There is a pretty tame downhill section to start out with, then a sharp right into a ravine/arroyo area with some switchbacks. The first is okay, the second one is tougher. Its always been one I've walked. This time it was really eroded and blown out from riders skidding around it. I still attacked it and cleared it for the first time ever. I was stoked.

Some rollers followed with a steep uphill. Then I came across a split in the trail. You can go left for a more difficult route, or stay right. I'd never done the left route, so I took it.

Well, there was a very steep down hill over exposed bedrock. My front wheel went left and I went right and....

 Things happened fast, and when I quit tumbling I was in a seated position. I looked at my left knee, as I felt pain there. I saw a flap of skin sticking up. A thick one. Not good. I looked closer and saw a 5mm wide by 8mm long hole in my knee that I am pretty sure was exposing my patella. (It's not like it mattered what I saw at that point!)

Right about then I started feeling really dizzy and everything was getting more brilliant and washing out to white. I couldn't see. Ghostly shapes, dizziness, and extreme pain were all I knew for several long minutes. I don't know how long I sat there. I knew I had to focus to keep my consciousness. I didn't want to pass out, since my car was the only one in the lot there, and I saw only three sets of old tire tracks on the trail. I fought and prayed, and managed to keep it together. Note, all through this, I hadn't moved from where I had landed.

Finally, I decided I had better dig out my emergency bandages. I always carry them. I still wasn't bleeding, but I knew I would be sooner than later. I bandaged it, put a bandanna over that, and decided to try standing. My head was swimming. I did stand up. My vision cleared somewhat. Still, I didn't push the issue. I ate and drank some water. I rested until my vision cleared some more, then I haltingly started walking back up the trail I had come down.

I stopped a bit again, assessed the situation. Feeling better. I actually soft pedaled a bit, but couldn't climb without sharp pain. I finally got back to the easier beginning section and managed to pedal it back to the truck.

Well, Mrs. Guitar Ted wasn't too pleased, I must say, but she got me patched up, being an R.N. and all, so I'm in good hands. Needless to say, I won't be back on a bicycle for a bit!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Cowbell II: It's What I Would Have Done...

Image by Jonathan Smith
It's pretty well documented as to my affections for drop bars for gravel riding and off roading. I get tons of hits on this blog about that subject. Well, here's a story, and believe it or not, it is true.

About two years ago, I was on yakking about drop bars and I mentioned a few things I thought would make a right proper drop bar for what I use them for. It wasn't long before I had been contacted by e-mail by Brant Richards. He asked me to sketch out what I would like. So, I did, in pencil. I scanned it, and sent it off to him.

Now, he's a great designer of handlebars. He penned the Midge Bar, the Mary Bar, and has done a lot of cool, well thought out bits and bicycles. However; when I saw the initial photos for what would become the Luxy Bar, I must admit I was a bit deflated. My ideas were mostly gone. No matter, I figured Brant knew best, and I hadn't even tried the Luxy Bar, so who knew? Maybe they would be great.

Image by Jonathan Smith

And the Luxy is great. I do really like it, but my ideas were still in my mind as being something I thought would work great. Some folks knew about it, and could vouch for me, but in the end, it really doesn't matter. I don't care who would, or does make such a bar, as long is it got made and available. I just really believed it would be something that would work. It's just that I am not a product designer, nor can I manufacture such a beast. I figured it was a dead horse.

But, much to my surprise, I got a call about a week ago from my good friend Ben Witt. He said Salsa Cycles had a new drop bar out that hadn't been mentioned, nor was even on their website, but was available from QBP. He described it, or shall I say, tried to, but stopped short and said, "Just order it. I know you're gonna love it."

Image by Jonathan Smith
Well, Ben is one of the very few people I would allow to put me a bicycle together sight unseen by myself, and have it be exactly what I wanted. He just has a knack for knowing what I'd like better than I do, seemingly. So, sight unseen, I ordered up a 46cm Salsa Cycles Cowbell II bar for myself.

It came in yesterday, while I was away on vacation, but Jonathan Smith, who took these images, was kind enough to forward me some pics. I was floored by the similarities to my earlier drop bar idea.

You know what? This bar and I are going to get along really, really well together. I just know it, and I haven't even held it in my hands yet. Thanks Salsa Cycles for another killer component that should bring me miles of smiles on my rigs soon!

UPDATE: Go to my post on the Cowbell II vs the Bell Lap found here for more.