Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Business Of 29"ers

For many years, I used to see the following question pop up, or a variation of it: "I wonder what percentage of the market 29"ers have?" The folks that were asking were often trying to leverage their enthusiasm for 29"ers into some sort of "solid evidence" that 26"ers were dying off and this should show the manufacturers that they needed to start making more 29"er forks, tires, rims, and frames.

Looking more "normal" all the time.
It wasn't a question that could be answered at all for many years. The industry sales statistics for mountain bikes didn't reflect a category for wheel size. Why would they? All "mountain bikes" were 26"ers, right? These big wheelers weren't going to amount to much anyway.

That is until Fisher Bikes, who doggedly stuck to their guns despite almost loosing 29"ers to Trek's inner hatchet men, were starting, in 2005, to see 29"ers make inroads on their 26"er product. Slowly but surely, others took notice. More companies were making token 29"er efforts, and they were higher priced, due to the small supply of 29"er specific parts, and specific frames.

But it didn't seem to matter. Customers came and bought the things, and within three years, it was evident that 29"ers weren't going away. Specialized and Giant finally caved in, and then it was on. Since 2009, 29"ers have been the hottest bicycle category next to road bikes, and in the mountain bike category, the 29"er was the only growth area. And you know what? Even with more numbers, the "premium" prices never went away. Didn't have to since demand was often out-stripping supplies.

Now it seems that the industry thought to track 29"er sales. Ya know what? They are still growing as a category, but now it seems that the forecast is for a leveling off. All this despite a slower economy, and all this despite a generally shrinking, or at best, staying even,  mountain bike category.Plus, those bigger prices will likely fade away with the leveling off of demand.

This all was brought to light recently by "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News", in whose latest issue is laid out the skinny on the sales figures in the industry. A few things stand out to me now.

In hard tails and to some degree, full suspension bikes, 29"ers have carved out a huge piece of the pie formerly owned by 26"ers. Interestingly, only full rigid 26"ers showed any increases, but keep in mind, these could be commuter/urban bikes that have more mountain bike-ish leanings. Who knows. These categories and reported numbers can only really be seen as "guidelines", not "hard and fast rules", after all. That said, you can draw some conclusions in trends. Obviously, 26"er mountain bikes as we once knew them are fast becoming an anomaly in the market place. The 29"er rules here.

Where there is a line now is where "Trail" full suspension stops and "All Mountain" starts. Sure, you can find some examples where the 29"er lives and breathes in the All Mountain category, but if we're honest with ourselves, those examples are few and far between right now. The industry is setting up what they think will be the next "29"er-like" surge in mountain bike sales, and that is with the 650B bikes. They aren't here yet, but the category they slot into is sagging in sales. The big travel, all mountain type rigs with 650B wheels are seen as "that bike" which the industry is pinning its hopes on for more growth.

The industry as a whole has pretty much decided for you that 29 inch wheels have too many issues to get around to make a true all mountain bike with 5-7 inches of travel. The front ends would get too high, the tires, (if they existed), would be too heavy, and the way the geometry of big travel 29"ers would lay out isn't conducive to good handling. In other words, you folks out there that have been pining away for "shorter chain stays and slacker angled long travel 29"er bikes" will get your answer. It is 650B.

Oh yeah, and I think this is why the 29"er Maxxis Minion, shown at Interbike, hasn't materialized yet. They aren't going to make many of those, because Maxxis is probably getting hammered to do a 650B Minion, and Kirk Pacenti just announced a 2.4"er 650B tire which is set to be on these bigger travel 650B bikes. The industry wants 29"er growth in the AM market like they have gotten in the XC/Trail categories, and 650B is their "savior", by the looks of it.

The final thing that stands out to me from the article is the category of full rigid 29"ers has shrunken. I find that a bit funny, since at one time, that was all you could get for 29"ers. Now it seems that with the advent of the ultimate suspension technologies being applied to 29"ers, folks see no appeal in the fully rigid ride, or at least companies spec'ing bikes don't have to push those rigs any more. Probably the latter.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Puttin' The Power Down

Pedals. A lot of times we don't give a lot of thought to them, but they are one of the most stressed parts on our bicycles. I mean, you'd hate to think what might happen if one failed, right?

And not only that, they are a contact point. We "feel" the trail, what the tires are doing, and how we balance the bike through these two components. Really, when you stop to think about it, the lowly pedal is a pretty dang important component.

Maybe we ought to give a little more thought to them.

Well, I will admit that most of my cycling life, I haven't given a second thought to it. pedals, that is. Well, lately, after getting a fat bike, I have thought a lot more about pedals, mostly because I was moving to doing something with flat pedals. You see, flats work with winter boots, clipless doesn't.

So I started out with just any ol' flats, because, well, they are just pedals, right? Bzzzzt! Wrong. I found out that some flats have little to no grip, some flats have some decent grip until snow packs up on them, and some flats made of metal can get snow frozen to them and become two ice lollipops real fast.

That made me go scrambling for more information. I found out some folks don't like metal pedals on their fat bikes because they make their feet cold. Some folks were after the thinnest pedals they could get. Some were after the best sealed bearings, and yet others were using cheapo pedals that seemed to work just fine.

I was getting along okay with some old, cheesy big and blocky Welgo flats and not so hot with some Atom Lab pedals I bought when Fyxation got a hold of me and wanted me to try out some of their pedals. I took a look and thought that they may be right up my alley for the fat bikes. Well, here they are, the Mesa and the Mesa MP. The pedals both feature high impact nylon bodies, "DU" bushings and sealed bearings on chromoly spindles, and the Mesa features molded in pins while the Mesa MP features metal pins.

I'll be sporting these now on both fat bikes and riding throughout the coming months to give everyone a review on these soon. (Probably over on Twenty Nine Inches) So far, I'll say that they are thinner by far than any of my other flats, they spin nicely, are big targets for my feet, and weigh a lot less than my old pedals did. I'll have more on these later though.

Never thought I'd have much to say about pedals, but in the last year, it sure has been a big topic of thought here in my mind.

Note: Fyxation sent these pedals for review at no charge. I am not being paid, nor bribed for this review and I'll strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Moving Ahead

Well, with the disappointment in missing CIRREM I figured I had better get busy and make the most of the extra time on my hands. But before we get to that, here is something I wanted to show...

I would have rather shown this covered in the grit from CIRREM roads, but here is the Orange Crush with my 42mm IRC tires and Planet Bike fenders that I stuck on it for the mucky-muck that was predicted.

I did initially try the fenders with the Bontrager XR-1's, but besides not being wide enough, there really wasn't any room to fit them anyway. So, I knew the IRC tires would motor me through the muck, and they have much better tread for that sort of thing anyway. They feature some side lugs that remind me of tractor lugs. They also have a pretty stiff casing. I rode the bike briefly on Sunday with 40psi in the tires, and it looked and felt like I had 55psi in there.

I used these tires when the bike was a single speed last year, so they do well on gravel too. I may leave them on there until something better, (Clement MSO), comes along. The fenders will stay for now as well. I figure it can't hurt anything and I went to all the trouble of putting them on there after all. If I like them, I may opt for some fancy-schmancy aluminum ones, or something.

I need to get a few more rides on the Retroshift set up before I render my final verdict on these. I have learned a trick or two in how to shift them, and I also have found that the shifters allow for unique hand placements on the hoods/levers. The cables don't get in the way at all, by the way. I know some folks were wondering about that.

I did think that if you run a handle bar bag, these shifters might work better. Maybe not for a huge touring bar bag, but smaller bags or rolls should fit just right even with the cables where they are. On a down tube cabled bike, it would even be better.

I spent a big chunk of time dialing in this new Titus Rockstar. It's the second generation of this frame, which I was mentioning Friday. Well, I got to tinkering with the wheels and setting them up tubeless.

I went with the "MG" formula, which is just really a notch above anything else out there. It and the fit of the Rubena Scylla tires on the Crank Brothers rims seems to be all a match made in heaven, because I think it ranks right up there with one of the easiest non-Bontrager set ups I've done.

The bike is billed as an XC/Trail bike. It seems a lot like the Specialized Epic Marathon I rode for a bit. It weighs a touch less, feels similar out of the box, and has similar angles. Biggest difference is in bottom bracket height. Makes me want a dropper post. In fact, this bike really calls out for one, in my mind.

Next up for the tubeless conversion? By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk. Yup. Gotta do it because I'm taking it to Texas soon. That and a set of wheels I just built up, and re-charging some older wheels. Yeah. It must be Spring time or something!

Time to move ahead and get ready to roll.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Just Wasn't Meant To Be

Too much of this...
It all started last night. I went to bed early enough, but it was one of those nights when sleep didn't come easy, and I never was really comfortable. Then, it got worse.

My son woke up at 2:30am because he had a "bad dream". Well, I dealt with that and then I never did get back to sleep. No big deal, right? Maybe I'd be okay anyway.

I got out of bed finally after sleep never came back at 4:00am. I went about getting everything together for the trip to CIRREM.

I had put 42"s on the BMC so I could fit fenders, since Friday all I saw about CIRREM on Facebook was that the roads would become a mess. The bike got done without a hitch and I thought I was good to go. Loaded up the truck and figured that I'd get going about 5:30am for the 3 hour drive to CIRREM and something to eat.

First indication something wasn't right: I blasted through Hudson, Iowa at 60mph. Whoops! Speed limit there is 40mph!  Sheesh! My mind was at about half awake status. Not good. The next issue: Ice. Lots of it off and on. The cars around me were only doing 40-45mph.

I decided to see how it would be further south, but as I got north of Toledo, it was worse yet. Okay- The Truck With No Name doesn't have the greatest tires, is a two wheel drive, and is pretty light in the back. Going fast through ice is not an option. Especially when I'm half awake. I decided it wasn't worth it. I wasn't alert, and driving on this stuff in my rig demands all of your mental sharpness.

So, it wasn't meant to be, I figured. I got home and went back to sleep for three hours and felt bad for not making the event, but at least I'm safe and sound. I definitely wouldn't have been 100% had I gotten there anyway.

Hope everyone had a good, safe ride at CIRREM!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday News And Views

CIRREM rig, for better or worse...
Snow! Yes, it snowed again, but ya is still February and all. It's just that it was all looking so good, so dry, and the Orange Crush would have been the perfect rig for the 62 mile CIRREM race. Now I probably should be bringing By-Tor The Titanium Mukluk instead, but I guess I'm going to stick to my guns. Peanut butter roads or no.

Besides, it is all for testing! I just need to get out there in something mucky and dirty to see if these Retroshift shifters are all they are cracked up to be. (You can read about the initial install and thoughts here.)

And it looks as though I'll be getting my wish. The course has been rained on, snowed on, and will have had some melting on it before the event tomorrow. Then it will be sunny and over the freezing mark, so you know it's going to be a big ol' mess out there! I suspect I'll be sacrificing my drive train and bottom bracket at the very least. Oh well! I've got a month to get it all back in order before the Renegade Gents race April 7th.

At least it should be warmer on Saturday than it was last year when I about froze my left foot off. Hopefully I'll just be warm and dirty this time. (Wait.......that didn't come out quite right!)

Kinda like this, only with wheels and stuff...
Like A Rock (star): Okay, here's a frame that is supposed to be hitting the ground here today, only it will have decals and components bolted to it!

Ya know.....kinda like one of them bicycle thingies! Right then...

Seriously, a Titus Rockstar is supposed to be on a truck to me today for a review on Twenty Nine Inches.  I've no clear idea of exactly what Titus saw fit to bolt onto this rig, so it should be fun cracking open the box when it arrives. I only know a few bits are SRAM and the wheels are pretty blingy, but I'll save all the suspense for next week on TNI. 

A couple odd things about this Titus. First- the model name. I remember when it first came out there were a lot of groans about the name "Rockstar". Well, I guess as far as I am concerned, maybe it's a bit pretentious, but I don't know that it is that big of a deal. I just know some folks were really turned off by the name. That matters too, by the way, because sometimes you buy a bike, or not, based on the name to some degree. (Really. I mean, I knew I would buy a Karate Monkey, just for the awesome name.)

Then there is the carbon rear swing arm and aluminum front triangle. Usually it goes the other way around, but Titus has gotten it backwards, or they got it absolutely right. We'll see, but no one else is really doing this on 29"ers. It's a "Horst Link" sort of deal as well, which should be okay. Otherwise, it seems a lot like a Salsa Cycles Spearfish, at least at a glance. I know someone who has ridden one or two of those besides myself, so maybe I can get a hand with how they compare. (You listening Captain?)

Seems like thre used to be a mid-90's company that did a carbon rear ended full suspension bike with an aluminum front triangle. I was thinking Dagger, or Battle. (Don't even say Cannondale. Those were two wheeled insects, not bicycles!)

Anyway, expect a full on CIRREM report soon with whatever else happens this weekend coming your way Monday at the latest. have a great weekend and have fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Between Times

Yesterday it was very spring-like. Today? Ahh.......not so much! This is the "in between seasons" time that kind of drives me nuts, but yet it offers a lot of hopefulness as well.

Breezer. Mud. Spring.
I tried to see if I maybe could get a bit of trail riding in yesterday along Black Hawk Creek in the Green Belt. Maybe things would be cleared up and solid? (Hey, one can hope, right?)

Of course, being that it was "in between season" the trails were muddy on top and frozen underneath. Pretty messy, and I didn't stay out all that long.  The WTB Bronson tires seemed to "float" up on the stuff really well, so I didn't do the "pizza cutter" and rolling wasn't all that bad, just a big mess.

And that's the thing when it gets like this. The Green Belt will recover, sure. No big deal there, but the bike goes through a year's worth of abuse in one ride. Chain suck, grinding mud through the pads and chain. Blecch! Then you get to go home and clean it all up. Takes about as long to clean up as it does to ride.

It's the price you pay for muddin'. And of course, you probably just can't go out and do a mud ride in most places. That's as it should be. Here the Green Belt will change and the traces of my ride will be gone , most likely after the next thaw, and certainly by the time the next rain comes. Flood plain and all, ya know.

Gettin' the wheels ready to roll.
So a lot of things are about to get rolling along soon with this change in season. Testing stuff, riding, and going places will all be on the agenda soon.

I've got wheels to set up, tires to get set up tubeless, and swapping of parts to accomplish. Bikes will be readied, chains will be lubed, and riding kit will be sorted.

In the short term, all I can do is prepare and wait for the weather to finally break into drier, spring time patterns. I know this year should be a lot of fun. After the Renegade Gents Race in April I'll be all done with racing for awhile, and "fun" will be on the agenda. I'm looking forward to lots of that.

I know the calendar says February yet, but March is coming, and right around the corner we'll be heading straight into the summer before we know what hit us. Seems like that is the way it goes when you are out having fun on a bicycle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frostbike Tidbits

The third post about Frostbike? was a fun weekend! This will be more of a photo-blog- commentary kind of post. Hold on! Here we go....

Mike's Bikes: Ya know, every time I go to this place I uncover some old bit or two that kind of blows me away. Take this New Departure parts box, as an example. It reminds you how long a history cycling has and how far it has come. By the way, New Departure was a hub manufacturer and made some pretty nice coaster brake hubs 50 years ago and more. Some of them are now collector's items.

I think I've actually overhauled one of these old hubs I mention here. I believe it was one with all the little clutch-like plates in it. Pretty cool little piece of design right there, and not all that easy to overhaul, but I got it done.

I'll always be grateful for being in the cycling business and for all the folks and opportunities I have been given along the way. Things like being able to go to Mike's Bikes. Thanks guys!

Here's a really bad picture of Surly's "Ultra New Hub". The newest generation of Surly hubs, which will be offered in many configurations like the old, "New Hubs", have only changed in that now one axle set up takes you from bolt on to quick release. More efficiency! The "Ultra New Hubs" will come with these Allen bolts and large washers to help with wheel retention, but if you'd rather, you can also pull the Allen bolts and slip in a skewer.

Well, I guess they also changed to a non-adjustable sealed bearing. The older adjustable sealed bearings were always tough to get adjusted "just right", so this may be seen as an improvement.......or not. You decide.

These are available now and in black or silver only. I own two sets of Surly hubs and they are solid product. The addition of the Allen bolts is a good change, I think.

I saw these fenders and I just had to sort of shake my head. Every show seems to have what I call "what is and what should never be", partly because Led Zeppelin is awesome, but more so because well, the term just fits things like these fenders. they "are", but they "never should have been".

It is things like this, or the funky bio-mechanical contraptions you see in the halls at Interbike, that make you wince and laugh all at the same time. Someone thought it was a good enough idea to invest a lot of time and money into the idea. How ironic when you see how ludicrous some of these ideas come off to most folks that witness them.

In fact, I instinctively knew something wasn't really right with these, but didn't actually figure it out until I was at home looking at the image closer. Yep! That's not even close to being a truly workable front fender as it sits right there. Weird! Oh well.....I'm sure someone thinks it is awesome and that I don't know anything about clip on fenders.

A geared Nature Boy? Nope- but a "Macho Man"! All City had this unveiled shortly before I arrived on the scene at the booth. It is basically a "geared Nature Boy", but they gave it a new model name. So- same great geometry, same tire clearances, just geared.

This could be a pretty decent gravel grinder if you don't mind the smaller tires. (Well- small is a relative term here) I have heard Nature Boy rigs  are nice, so I suspect this will be also.

If ya gotta have the bigger tires, then the soon-to-become-available Space Horse will fill that bill. (Was there a professional wrestling connection with "Space Horse"? I must have missed that one.) Space Horse bikes are still scheduled to land next month.

Beer. QBP had some specially brewed stuff that you could grab if you talked with "certain vendors" in a kind of beer quest, treasure hunt deal where you had to show that you spoke with these vendors to get one bottle of brew.

I spoke with a lot of vendors, but not knowing if I had spoken with all the "correct ones" I didn't know if I qualified to get a bottle or not. I decided to make an "executive decision" and I grabbed one anyway. This was at the end of Saturday, and I was one of the last folks to get "swept out the door" by security, and they were basically handing these out to anybody and everybody, so don't get yer panties in a bunch here! It was all legit.

Besides, like a moron I took my bottle with me in Curtis' car on the way to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, (which- by the way, was spectacularly great), and when I was obliged to swap out cars, I left it behind with Curtis.

I hope it was good, Curtis! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Three Coolest Things At Frostbike 2012

Okay, you know the drill. You go to a bike show and the inevitable question for everyone that attends that is going to be asked is the following: "So, did you see anything interesting? Did you see anything you thought was cool?"

Al right, okay........that is actually two questions. But they almost always come in tandem, so I am calling it "one question". Sue me! is my answer. since I cannot/will not winnow it down to one thing, I am going with three. I'm sure that will be more interesting anyway, right? Right then.....

10 speed: Get a grip!
Grip Shift returns in 10 speed: I was tipped off to this by our SRAM rep, and it was a cool find at Frostbike. Ten speed compatible Grip Shifters.

When 10 speed XX and XO came around everyone wanted to know if a Grip Shifter would also be offered. (Well, not everyone, but a lot of folks did want this.) At any rate, the shifters were not offered right away, but apparently there was enough pressure from manufacturers and riders to bring back a ten speed version.

The first hint that something was coming was this past summer when Pro XC Champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy, was seen riding a ten speed version of a Grip Shift shifter. Rumors that SRAM was going to offer a ten speed version were hot and heavy, and now here is the proof.

The details are not entirely clear, but here are some solid points I gathered at Frostbike and afterward from SRAM:
  • There will be a XX and XO level 10spd Grip Shift pair offered for now. No lower groups will have this for now. 
  • XX level will have carbon fiber for the outer housing. XO is injection molded plastic. NOT aluminum as some sites are saying. (I asked about this specifically)
  • The internal indexing will be accomplished by ball bearings. I was told that due to the precise requirements necessary for ten speed indexing, a traditional ratchet/spring method was not sufficient for the level of shifting precision SRAM wanted. I was told that the shifter would also feel somewhat smoother due to this different internal design. Apparently, it is not advised to take one apart to look as I was told, "'ll have all kinds of ball bearings on the floor if you do." (take it apart). 
  • Final pricing and availability will be announced at Sea Otter along with more details on the shifters themselves. 
Manitou Marvel 29"er

 Manitou Marvel and Tower 29"er Forks: For about the last three years plus we have been told that Manitou was going to have a tapered steer tube and 15mm through axle fork options for 29'ers. Prototypes were shown to me three years ago at Interbike, but no production models were being proffered since. Well, now, after a long wait, they are about ready to be unleashed.

Along with this comes Manitou's XC 29"er fork line, the Marvel. The Marvel will be 80-120mm forks and Tower forks will be 80-140mm forks. Both lines will have 15mm through axles and tapered steer tube options along with the traditional 1 1/8th and 9mm quick release options.

Marvel and Tower 15mm through axle forks will use the new Hexlock tapered axle technology where instead of threading into the stanchion, the hex shaped end of the axle fits into a corresponding pocket and this holds the Hex while you rotate the QR lever till you can cam it over to lock down the axle. It looks pretty trick and should be easy to use.

The lowers are all new to reflect the move to the through axle and feature a stiffer chassis with the new crown as well. Of course, the tapered steer tube will be welcomed to those who wanted a Manitou that would be compatible with their frame's tapered head tube.  These aren't quite available yet, but they should be later in the spring. I was also told to expect to see these on 2013 models of 29"ers. (Updated 2/21/12: Note: Due to a miscommunication, I have learned I was mistaken about the Marvel. It will not be a 29"er fork. 26"er only for now. Manitou will only offer the Tower and Dorado as 29"er forks for 2012. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)

The prototype "FBFS" (Fat Bike Full Suspension)
Salsa Cycles Prototype Fat Bike: Of course, everyone was buzzing about this rig. Salsa Cycles is officially saying it is ........well, not  on the radar for production. Really, they just don't have enough figured out yet to know if it will even work right.

Admittedly, the front fork just isn't there. The Maverick SC32 forks, (as shown here), are abysmal as far as flexiness and from a tire clearance standpoint. Yes- insiders have known that Lefty fork clamps have been developed for fat bike usage, and one has to assume that a prototype of this bike exists that is sporting one. Obviously, a better take on the bike will be gotten from that fork, but there are other issues.

The suspension damping and compression is going to be affected by such a voluminous air spring, (I'm talking about the tires), and how the suspension reacts to that and trail input  along with a riders pedaling the whole shebang on top of all of that, well..... It's no wonder that Salsa Cycles can not really say much about the project. There are a lot of data points to be gathered, analyzed,  accounted for in redesign, retested, more data points gathered, etc. It's going to be awhile before Salsa will even know what to do with the project.

Big tires + suspension = "Big If".
Another issue being dealt with is how a tire with better traction affects the suspension, frame structure, and surrounding parts, especially brakes. Lots of considerations here to look over carefully.

Salsa folks were "optimistically guarded" when discussing this proto, but it was easy to tell that everyone was extremely excited about the possibilities. Obviously, it would be a big deal for them to have this work out, so you have to think it is on the front burner, as far as projects go.

One more thing- One person mentioned how the mere existence of this bike will push tire and rim design forward. I'd have to strongly agree with that, especially since almost everything fat bike is in house at QBP when it comes to tires and largely so in the rims department. I look for much to come from this, even though it may be radically different than what we are looking at here.

And those are my top three most interesting, cool things I saw at Frostbike 2012. That isn't to say there weren't more cool things, but I'll be mentioning those in the coming days.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Frostbike 2012: Mike's Bikes

Of course, there was mayhem and debauchery at Mike's Bikes on the Friday night of Frostbike weekend. It could only happen on the scale that this tiny gathering is at, so you really can't compare it to the Cutters Ball, because that event, while fun, would cause much trouble if it were allowed to become what this was.

Old Iron
I left for the Northern tier of states late Friday afternoon and rendezvoused with Ben, Curtis, Stu, and a few others at Mike's. Mike was there too, and in better shape than last summer, back when he had busted himself up on his bicycle.

Beer was cracked and I spent a good amount of time speaking with Mike about the folks he knew back in the old klunking days. Mike, as I have reported here before, was one of the original mountain bikers back in Marin County, California. He had his own cruiser turned mountain bike, and had owned several seminal early mountain bike iterations. His "Mountain Bikes" Montare, purchased from Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly, hung in the racks not far from where we were speaking with each other. 

Well, it wasn't long before the traditional Greek pizza, (or three), was ordered. Marty from the Prairie Pedaler came around, and then John showed up as well. More beers were cracked. More conversations were shared. Some folks left. Mike disappeared when it was plain that the events were turning, well......more dangerous.

Stu, well.....he likes guns, so there are a few of those around, and being guys and all, we were looking at those and checking out their details. Ben picked up something nice from Marty, (I won't spoil the surprise for Ben), and that was certainly talked about at length. (No- it was not a gun!)

John plays the downtube flute upon Presidential Request
We played "bicycle based musical instruments". Really. Handle bars work great for this, but on this particular evening, we were graced by the presence of a mid-80's Trek aluminum down tube based "flute" replete with a Pedros bottle opener mounted where the bottle mounts were and the Suntour 7 speed shifters.

Only the truly skilled could make a "musical" sound on this. Others less talented could only make grotesque, gastrointestinal sounding bleats and  blats. There were a lot of these sorts of sounds. Oh, and I should also add that a bottle of Goldschlager somehow appeared around this time. More beers were cracked.......Using the Trek/Pedros/musical instrument to open those beers, of course.

Well, after this became old hat, we had to start warm-ups for the indoor criterium. Yes- riding bicycles indoors.

John on the "Front Stretch"
You see, this is the highlight of the evening. Mike's is sort of an odd place in terms of its layout. The front door opens to a long, narrow-ish floor where the bicycles are displayed. Near the rear of this is a counter, and off to the opposite side is the service area. There is a "ramp" up to a different level, maybe a foot, a foot and a half at best, which takes you into the back room. Here there is a doorway, well.....sort of.  More like an opening, anyway- you go into the hold area where the bicycles waiting for repair, and those in storage, hang from hooks and sit lined up along the walls. There is a couch, computer, desk, and a refrigerator back here.

Then you have to make another tight left hander through a narrow hall way, down a ramp, which makes you pick up speed, and to the end of the "back stretch", which is all "backroom". Because of this, there are various odd things like bikes sitting around, the bathroom door to watch out for, and a railing along the ramp here.But this isn't the most difficult corner. It is a bit slippery though, as the concrete is pretty smooth there.

Ben looking back through the difficult "Repair Area Chicane"
Then it's a short straight, and back up the showroom "front stretch" area where we started.  That pretty much sums up a lap at Mike's Bikes.

The most difficult area is the "Repair Area Chicane". This comes right before the ramp to the back room, and then there is an immediate left. It is tight, and there are a lot of chances for accidents. I have skinned my knuckles on the counter here, crashed into the support pole for the roof, and nicked the repair stand in my days of laps at Mike's. And you know- it isn't like we are being careful kiddies either. Speeds get up into the "Ridiculous Range" very quickly, and laps are done in seconds at speeds over 15mph in places. Indoors. In a bike shop.

So, if you were wondering, yes, it is pretty dangerous to do this at the sort of speeds we do this at. We skid into the corners, slide, and ricochet off things and each other. We are probably pretty intoxicated as well. Actually, I know we are. 

Mayhem: It happened.
So it goes. John misjudged the tight corner going into the back room after the ramp, got a little out of shape, and took out the coat rack, and some stuff on a shelving unit, as he clattered to the floor. He was okay.

It just looked really bad!

We got him untangled from that mess and proceeded to find him a more suitable steed. The Indoor Criterium went on.

Of course, all things come to an end sooner or later. One of those things was Friday. It became Saturday morning, and we never really noticed. That will happen when you are having, fun that is!

Ummm....yeah. Whatever dudes.
Another thing that ended was the beer. Then after trying to destroy what was left of the old Trek frame the "downtube flute" came from, (which Ben did expertly, I might add), we traipsed down to the local watering hole at something past 1:00am. As if we really needed to!

Well, the boyz played darts and I- not being blessed in the arts of bar room gaming, stayed at the table to watch the beer, and munch some salty pop corn. The bar had "entertainment", (only in the most loosely defined sense could you say this), and I tried to find something to appreciate about it. I will say that the duo had some chutzpah and a nice Ric bass. 

Yeah- that's about all I can say about that.

Well, we closed out that bar, and then we had a big problem. Ben's house was a mile and a half away, and none of us were in any shape to drive, nor did we have bicycles. They were all locked up in the shop.
I seriously do not remember taking this one!
 Well, that left us with one option- walking. That we did. It was actually quite nice out and no one was about. We headed up the street and Curtis took leave of us, while Marty, Ben, and I walked on.

Eventually we found ourselves crossing the high school property. I walked in between some tall evergreens and then it happened.

There was some snow piled up in here that had been drifted up, melted, and re-frozen hard as a rock. It was slippery as well. So, my boots, which don't have much for traction, slipped on the hard, icy snow, and down I went. Hard.

I guess I must have smacked my upper left thigh on something pointy, frozen, and unforgiving, because it really bruised my muscle against my thigh bone. I thought I may have broken my leg at first, since the pain was intense and sharp, but I got up and could put weight on it. Nothing I could do but limp the rest of the way back to Ben's place, throw myself on the bed they set aside for me, and sleep it off.

Frostbike. It started out with a bang and a crash. Or two!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday News And Views

Beauty of a Scooter
Breezer Bikes Lightning: Okay, it is mountain bike history time folks. Guess who in assembled tubes into a frame and assembled components to it......the first purpose built mountain bike of the modern era. (Okay- we're not including the "Buffalo Soldiers" here, former college profs,  or any ol' French gang that happened to be riding a bicycle off pavement. We're talking a purpose built machine for down hill racing off road.

Yup- that'd be Joe Breeze circa 1977.

This rig here is the latest design from the mind of that pioneer of mountain biking that was contemporary with Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, and others who formed the basis of what we call mountain biking today. That makes this bike a bit more special in a way. That and it is almost too pretty to get dirty.


Joe Breeze was one of those early Marin folks that took to "clunking" on old Schwinn "ballooner" bikes that were fitted with all manner of components in an effort to make the ultimate off road machine from "found" parts. One of his earliest creations was a bike based upon a "Pre-War", (That'd be the Second World War my chillun!) , Schwinn that featured the ubiquitous "dart" paint job. Later on in Joe's mountain bike history, many of his Breezer mountain bikes sported similar livery, thus the traditional dart paint scheme on the Lightning here. The blue positively glows on this rig. It is an amazing looking bike.

Hopefully the review for Twenty Nine Inches will match the amazing level of the look this bike has as well. We'll see.

Project Two-Six- Yet again!
Project Two-Six Update: Yesterday I posted all about the tires on this rig, but I didn't say anything about the bike in particular. Well, I made one major change, which will lead to another. There is a plan to all of this as well.

First, the eagle-eyed amongst you may see that I swapped out saddles with the help of Captain Bob. (Thanks man!) This is a Brooks Pro of indeterminate vintage. Massive improvement over the Wrights saddle that came off. That said, it still isn't quite right. 

The proper saddle would be a Brooks B-17, but I'm thinking B-67 Springs. Width. Heavy Duty. It all fits the purposes I have in mind here, which is for this bike to become my "townie", errand bike, grocery-getter. I'd like to put some nicer fenders on it, and maybe, if I can get enough use out of it, I'd put on a nicer wheel set at some point. But the saddle and fenders come first.

Of course, this then begs the question: "Where is the Brooks Pro going?" Right then. Well, my initial thought is to send it on over to my Karate Monkey. The Pro model is meant for a handle bar position somewhat below the saddle, and that's exactly where the handle bar position is on the Monkey. I think it will be a good fit.

Fixation "Accela" Tires: Fixie hipster? Just like colored tires? Need some long wearing, puncture resistant training tires?

Well, Fyxation has a new tire out in folding and wire beads in black or white/black, (as shown), in 700 X 23mm and 700 X 28mm sizes for MSRP of $36.95 (folder), and $25.95 (wire bead).

The press release said that the rubber compound used is a harder, longer lasting one that resists abrading. Could be good as a commuter tire, or for dressing up a bike with the flashy white treaded model. Either way, these are available now from dealers. Check it all out on their site here where you will also find a dealer list.

NOS Ukai Alloy wheel, circa 1980
Mike's Bikes: Tonight is the night I will be hanging out at Mike's Bikes in Northfield, Minnesota. I like going here. I'm a bike geek, and Mike's got bike geek magnets all around his shop.

I never cease to be amazed at the stuff I've unearthed while poking around there. Last year I saw this NOS Ukai wheel, and an early 90's Ritchey P-22 frame set.

What will I see this year? Who knows? It will most likely be very cool, old, and rare. Oh yeah......I'll probably see a bunch of beers and Greek pizza. Maybe not.......but most likely, I will. Let's see- what else will happen? Well, we might go and ride outside this time. It has been a lot milder this winter. Usually we lay down a blue groove right inside Mike's shop.

Whatever happens, I'll likely be off the grid here till Monday. So, Mike's Bikes, Frostbike, and what ever else happens will have to wait until Monday's post. (Most likely)

Have a great weekend ya'all!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Continental Top Contact Winter Tire Review

The 26" version here...
Continental Tires "Top Contact- Winter" Tire Review: Winter- a typical winter at any rate- would have seen this review happen a lot sooner than it has taken, but as most of you well know, this has been a "winter of little winter", so to speak.

Conditions have been less than conducive to testing this tire, but I think I now have had enough, (barely), experiences to at least give a good impression on what you might expect from this winter specific tread.

The tires in question here went on my "Project Two Six" bike, which I built especially as a commuter/townie rig for these tires. It should be mentioned that a 700c X 37mm Top Contact Winter tire is also made by Continental, but at the time I was to do this review, none were available. That said, I think you can expect the same from either size in terms of performance/ride aspects.

Okay, before we get to the review, let's see what Continental says about the Top Contact Winter tires: (from the Conti website)

"We contribute all of our know-how as one of the leading automotive winter tyre producers into the new TopContact Winter II. And it shows. The tread design’s outer appearance alone is convincing due to its never-ending grip.

Thanks to countless lamellae, hundreds of biting edges permanently interlock with the surface. The tread compound that is adapted specifically to cold temperatures will even continue to get you going when other bike riders are spinning their wheels."

"Lamellae" tread pattern
 What are "lamellae"? Well, the term comes from "lamella", which is described as a "thin plate-like structure" by Wikipedia. In this case, it is representative of the myriad plate-like tread blocks with small, open spaces between them on the Top Contact Winter tire. Much like the pattern found on a Geko's feet, the Top Contact Winter tire is made for gripping and should impart a more secure feel on smoother, slippery surfaces. Now the big question: "Does it work?"

My quest to find suitable riding conditions one might encounter while using a tire of this sort was not easy. That's part of the challenge of doing reviews like this on specific use products. But, I did get out on compressed, icy snow, wet ice, granular snow, rough ice, and frozen chunky snow and ice along with plenty of crappy pavement and dirt ridden rides. 

Riding in winter time and looking for ice to ride over is very counter intuitive, by the way. Especially when for years I have been conditioned to avoid it like the plague, but I did it. First of all, those who might be thinking these tires are a "studded tire replacement" can stop here and be satisfied to know that they are "right" and nothing works as good as studs.........on ice. Put the test on a mix of dry pavement and snow, maybe a couple of icy patches thrown in, and the equation becomes turned around though. Anyone who has ridden studded tires knows the love they feel on ice and the hatred they feel on the longer stretches of dry pavement in between. 

Conti's best construction here.
The Top Contact Winter will grip far better than most any non-studded tire on glare ice, but not quite to the level of full on studs. Then again, the type of ice you get is going to determine a lot of this. Glare wet ice is tough even with full on studded tires, and not real good with Top Contact Winter tires. However; if you keep a sharp eye out for ice, and you are a "seasoned winter rider", you probably could do just fine on "most" ice. My experiences were mostly positive, with the lone exception of that wet, black ice, which isn't too surprising, really. 

Other types of conditions were really eye opening though. Packed snow with a nice shiny sheen to it was no match for these tires. Similarly, any icy, frozen snow with texture was super easy to find traction on, almost dry pavement like. I found the Top Contact to be an excellent tire for cutting into and down onto pavement through newer fallen snow, and dry pavement performance was more than acceptable. I used pressures from 40psi to 55psi in my tests, and even at higher pressures, the Top Contacts still made an impression of having great traction on sketchy snow and frozen, irregular ice formations. 

The Project Two-Six rig
Dry pavement commuting during post-snow melt conditions is often a mixed bag of sand, dirt, debris, and oddments not normally seen on the road side any other time of the year. (Lost mittens anyone?) I can say that the "PolyXBreaker" belt did its job and no glass bits, strips of metal, or other sharp objects made their way into the casing to puncture my tubes while I tested these tires. Continental also claims this bead to bead belt does not hamper rolling resistance and ride feel, which I can attest to. It rides quite decently for a commuter tire, and far, far better than any studded tire could. 

That said, the Top Contact Winter tires are not going to win you any extra speed. I know you could find faster tires for true, dry weather riding, but that is not what these were made for anyway. I mean, it does say "Winter" in the tire's name, and that should be a clue, right? 

Conclusions: The Continental Top Contact Winter tires are a definite advantage over standard tires in most winter time riding conditions. The relatively skinny, (for a 26"er), tires amazed me with traction that I thought couldn't be produced by a tire with such tiny tread features. I've got to hand it to Continental though, that "lamellae" really works. That said, you are still going to have to watch for the "black ice" and especially wet, slick ice because, like it or not, only studded tires will allow you to let your guard down a little bit there. The Top Contact Winter tires will give you a far better chance of not dumping it over regular tires though, but there is still "that chance". 

So, if your commute is a varied and mixed bag of snow, frozen snow, some ice, and dry pavement during the winter months, you may love these treads. If you are worried about the dreaded "black ice" and you see it more often than not, these may help, but studded tires will win over the Top Contacts there hands down. Pick yer poison. 

Note: Continental sent the Top Contact Winter tires over for review and testing at no charge. I was not paid, nor bribed for this review. I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dumbing Down The Front Derailleur

Or: How Technology Is Making the Front Derailleur Irrelevant

No Chain Rub! No Missed Shifts!
The front derailleur- You know- that thing that swaps the chain from one chain ring to another? I have a funny feeling the bicycle industry has targeted this component for elimination.

It is a pesky component from a manufacturers standpoint. It gets in the way of innovation, it needs several different variations, and by golly, people complain about them. (Or do they?) I wonder. I think front derailleurs get a bad rap. But whatever the reason, you can look around and see that the component manufacturers are finding ways to emasculate this component. Electric powered servo motors, advanced geometry, and outright elimination of the component altogether are being shown on many top end bikes these days.

It used to be a skill that was somewhat cherished back when a rider had to learn how to shift without causing mayhem, and without noise. Back in the days of friction shifting you really earned your ability to shift with a stealth-like quietness and lightning quick speed. What? It wasn't possible, you say? Oh, au contraire my friends. Actually one could shift those old bikes quite efficiently and with a smoothness that might amaze you.

I once had a commuter bike with run of the mill 1980's componentry. Bar end shifters, drop bars, seven speeds, and two chain rings of 53 and 39 teeth a piece. Without a doubt this was one of the best shifting bikes I had ever owned or have been afforded the opportunity to ride. Yes- I had to learn how far to move the lever for each shift, but after some practice it was intuitive, smooth, silent, and fast. Plus, I didn't have to worry about where I put a battery charger for when the battery goes dead.

The front derailleur was dead simple and reliable. Fast shifting up or down. Under power or not. Miss a shift? Trim problems? Whatever. You learned how to operate the bike and it rewarded you with an always there, simple to use system.

Yeah.....maybe it's the retro-grouch coming out. Either that or there is something to this attraction to simplicity and reliability. Something just rubs me a bit the wrong way when a bicycle becomes a "device" and not the machine of beautiful simplicity and functionality that it has been for over a century.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Okay folks, get ready for a disjointed jumble of thoughts! I have no real direction for this boat today, so let's drift.....

Beard = Bike Knowledge?
Monday's With Mark: Yesterday the classes at the shop for consumers started up again, after a six year hiatus!  I had no idea it had been that long ago, but a search of this very blog showed me that the last time the courses were offered was March 2006. This blog was not even a year old yet! Ancient days.....

So, I didn't quite know what to expect for attendance.I do recall that the classes generally were not all that big back then, but last night blew me away as 25 folks came by to hear me yak about this, that, and the other thing.

I even garnered some compliments on my presentation. Cool! Must be the beard, ya know. Yeah......I've seen this thing on the social networks lately that shows a bicycle mechanics knowledge is proportional to the length of his beard. While I can not verify that this is entirely true, (because, ya know- there are some pretty smart, capable female bicycle mechanics that do not have beards- at least I hope not!), but it works for me!

So, it was a success last night, anyway, and we'll see how the next two Mondays go. We may have to jettison the ski tuner and make some more room back there if we keep drawing a crowd the size of this past Monday. Next week; Trail side bike repair! There should be some info with times and what not on the shop's website if you happen to be reading this and are local to me.

Big Fat Larry is good, but...
What I Want To See In Fat: Okay, I've had enough time on Big Fat Larrys to know that I want......nay- need more lateral traction than these tires have. I'm not sure how to get there, but maybe lower the center tread blocks and raise the outer ones? Kind of like the old Dart SC tires.

I'm definitely not a tire designer, but I know that getting these BFL's to not do the slippy-slide sideways sometimes is annoying. And no.....don't even say "Nate". Too much knob on that one. I'm not looking for extreme lugs like that, just a little help here with the Larry. Something in between the Nate and Larry perhaps? I pretty much really like where the Big Fat Larry, (and Larry, for that matter), are taking me, but they don't grip laterally all that well in looser, softer stuff. That's where the Larry shines otherwise.

Other than that, I can't really think of much, but I'm sure that Surly and 45NRTH are way ahead of me in terms of tires for fat bikes. Maybe we'll see something come this weekend.

Salsa Cycles Vaya from Frostbike 2011
Speaking Of This Weekend....

It is Frostbike weekend again coming up, and at least I shouldn't get snowed out of town, if I can believe the forecast for the weekend's weather.  Last year I got chased out of town on Saturday night by an oncoming blizzard that had folks socked into Minneapolis for a couple days.

This time should be a bit more exciting, I think. Last year was a bit "ho-hum" as far as new stuff was concerned. Now I think we'll see more new stuff with the economy not looking quite so dreadful. I know some new tires and some new components should be popping up at Frostbike, and I bet some new bikes will too.

Of course, the whole deal will start with going up to Mike's Bikes again, which is always a good time. That will be Friday evening. Look for some updates to pop up all throughout the weekend on the goings on.

Happy Valentine's Day, ya'all!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting Some Ride Time Logged

The post on Friday past made me think: "I'd better get a move on and ride some gravel!" That is because CIRREM is quickly approaching. That is a "metric century", so it will be the same distance as Triple D, more or less. (Likely slightly less)

Electrical wires....hrrumph!
I had to back off after Triple D for awhile on riding. That really knocked me for a loop, physically. I was fatigued for days on end afterward, and recovery took a while. I was super pleased with my result, since training ahead of that event was, well........not very intense, shall we say?

That and I got really sick there for a bit ahead of Triple D, which made me think, "If I just finish Triple D, it'll be a success." Well, obviously I did, so it wasn't just a success, but coming in 22nd overall was a fantastic result, for me.

So, at any rate, here I am afterward feeling pretty drained, and no wonder at that. I wasn't surprised. But I let the riding go a bit too long. At least serious riding. So, I got started this weekend and put in a good longer gravel road ride. I wanted to do that Saturday, but frigid temps and high winds with the resulting low wind chill factor kept me off the dusty tracks.

I decided also that I would try taking the Black Mountain Cycles bike out and make that my CIRREM rig. The Retroshift levers worked okay. (More on those later) I also used a new bib short. Not very good! They will not be getting used for CIRREM, I'll tell ya that. My posterior was not interfacing with that chamois in a happy way.

I may go sans Tangle Bag for this one.
Which leads me to this "mini-rant". I got geared up to do this ride in the "traditional garb" of a road going or mountain going cyclist. Bib shorts, base layer in wool, thick, winter weight tights, heavy long sleeved wool jersey, winter cycling jacket, "booties" over two pair of wool socks and my cycling shoes, and finally, a thick, long wristed winter glove. A hat under my helmet too, by the way.

Typically, when riding the fat bikes, it is "slip on the winter boots, grab my helmet, winter jacket, gloves, out the door. No other cycling specific gear at all, and it is enjoyable. The freedom of movement, the time saved, and I actually feel just as good and as warm as I did today with all that cycling specific stuff on.

The big difference is time saved and movement. I do not like the restrictive feelings I get when wearing tights, and most cycling winter layering stuff. That's one of the reasons I wore Dickies on almost every winter ride so far, and I almost did for Triple D too. I didn't wear bib shorts, or any cycling specific chamois at Triple D, and I am thinking I may not at CIRREM as well. Bam! Works for me, but don't take my gear as a recommendation for you. It just so happens to work for me, that's all. I'm thinking two or three layers of skin tight clothing is two or three layers too many for me.

Well, enough about that! There was one other thing I think I'll switch out before CIRREM on the bike, and that is to go back to the original Black Mountain Cycles fork. The carbon Bonty fork is waaaaay stiff! I know the steel BMC fork feels much smoother.

Other than that, the ride went off without a hitch, and I should have my set up honed in this week. Maybe I'll have myself honed in too.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Retroshift Update

I found enough time this weekend to get the Retroshift levers and my Shimano 9 speed bar end levers mounted to the Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush" machine. Here's an image....

Installation: The install was pretty straight forward, but that said, you have quite a task on your hands when you swap out the levers to Retroshift.

Obviously the old levers have to come off, but so do all the cables with that, plus bar tape. You'll end up doing a tune up, so why not throw new cables and housing at your bike while you are at it? That's what I did.

So as far as the levers and adding bar ends to them, it was really easy. Retroshift sends along new bar end bases for your Shimano bar end or down tube shifters. Rivendell Silver shifters will also work. At this point there is no shifter adaptation for SRAM or older Suntour BarCons.

The only challenge I had was deciding how to route the cables for maximum flow and efficiency. I ended up going with a set up where the right shifter entered the top tube cable stop on the left side and vice versa. I ran the rear brake right down the middle of the top tube.

First Impressions: Once the brakes had been set up and the derailleurs tuned I re-wrapped the bars with my old tape, (I'm Scotch like that!), and I ran through the gears.

The default low gear position for the front is vertical/in line with your lever. As you can see in the image, the left lever is sticking out to the inboard side of the bike. That's the big ring position. The right lever is in the position where the chain is three cogs down from the lowest gear in this image.

The highest gear will put the lever on the right slightly outboard of the handle bars, so it sweeps a fair distance from low to high gear. Some folks asked about the shift lever being in line with the brake lever and how that affects braking from the hoods. Well, keep in mind that the shifter lever moves with the brake lever, so in cases where the shift lever is inline with the brake lever, simply pull back on the shift lever.  I honestly don't see this being an issue right now, but I'll reserve final judgment until after I've used these a bit.

Kind of like non-aero levers, but not really.
The switch from STI Ultegra 9 speed levers to these does a couple things. One: It saves about a 100 grams of weight. Second: It lends a totally different tactile feel to your rig's handle bars.

I think #1 is okay with about everyone. Number Two may become an issue, or it may be an improvement. I happen to think it is an improvement in feel and funtion for me, but let me explain something that affects my feelings on this.

My first road bike was a Tommasini steel bike with Campagnolo Ergo-power levers. So good! I loved the shifters, and ever since, I have found Shimano STI to be not so great for me. I won't get into all the details of that here, but since the Tektro levers Retroshift uses are more Campy-like than not, I happen to really like the feel. The other thing is that the shift motion is separated from the plane the brake lever moves in. I happen to have an issue activating the brake sometimes while shifting an STI lever. I know- I'm an unskilled STI shift operator! But, that tilts the scales to me liking the Retroshift set up.

Negatives are few. I've gone down the block and back so far, (too frigid to test ride yet), and I can easily operate the levers. The brakes work well from the hoods or the drops, but there is no way to shift from the drops. Other than this, the only odd thing is that due to the way the Retroshift mount sits against the upper body of the perch, the release button for the brakes is rendered useless. That isn't a real big deal to me, but it will make undoing the brakes more of a hassle.

So, that's the initial set up and a first impression. I'll be using these for riding and in the upcoming CIRREM gravel event in a couple weeks time. More to come later....

NOTE: Retroshift sent these levers over for test/review at no charge. I am not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and I will strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wheels And Deals

I like wheels. I like to build bicycle wheels too. Good thing too, because this weekend I have to get a couple wheels built using some parts that I got in for a Twenty Nine Inches project.

These will be built using WTB's latest 29"er rims called "Frequency i23 Team" rims. They are sort of a Stan's Flow competitor, weighing about the same amount as Flow's, and the WTB rims are also tubeless compatible with a tape and valve stem that are very reminiscent of Stan's products. (They supposedly were made with Stan's help, as I understand it)

WTB lists these as "Trail/ All Mountain" type rims and that's exactly how they'll be tested. Hopefully they will make the trip to El Paso, Texas with me in March. The tires that will go on these, some WTB Bronson 2.2"ers, should be just the ticket for the rocky craziness down there too.

Imagine this in "Root Beer"
Black Mountain Cycles is a bicycle shop run by the inimitable Mike Varley, and he designed my "Orange Crush" gravel slayer. You can see the frame and fork here in my image of it just after I got it.

I'm tellin' ya, this frame and fork are pretty sweet. While you can no longer get an orange one like mine, Black Mountain Cycles has all sizes in "Root Beer" of this frame. Why I mention this now is due to the special deal on these right now. Buy a BMC "Monster Cross" and get a free set of tires to go with it. Pretty sweet deal, if I say so myself, (which I do!) Go here to check it out.

And by the way, I paid for my own frame and fork from BMC and they have not asked me, nor have they greased my palms to put this out there. I really like this frame and fork, and that is why I mention this. It's a smartly designed frame and fork that will easily take up to 1.8" tires and just kills it on gravel. You could do far worse than one of these.

By the way, I did get the Retroshift levers and my 9 speed shift levers mounted up to the "Orange Crush" last night. Hopefully Sunday, (when it is supposed to warm up a tad), I'll get to try them out!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday News And Views

A week ago I talked about Retroshift, a component that is a different take on shifting your drop bar bike. Instead of using STI/brifter type shifters in demanding situations like cyclo-cross, or gravel grinding, where grit, dirt, and grime are common and for which these types of integrated brake/shifters weren't designed for, these Retroshifters are suggested. They use the simple, durable, and easy to find down tube/bar end shift levers which you supply yourself.

Retroshift sent over a pair for review and testing. I am going to put these on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike and give them a go. I have been surprised by the amount of interest these have generated in just a weeks time with folks asking me specific questions about these. I'll get them mounted and tried out very soon and hopefully be able to answer all your questions then.

These will definitely get the full on test when I race them at CIRREM in a couple of weeks. That will likely be a messy, gritty 65 miles of tough gravel grinding. Looking at the forecast, it should be fairly warm and dry, but the frost in the ground may provide just the messy conditions these shifters were made to be best in. Stay tuned......

Oakley "Gearbox" watch

To The Winner Goes....

Well, you know the rest of that saying. In T.I.V8, this will include an Oakley Gearbox watch. This is a pretty fantastic award to whomever manages to finish T.I.V8 first.

So, why a watch? Good question! When Rob Versteegh, the Oakley contact I have, called me up about this, he thought doing something unique was in order. Some may remember that we have had Oakley sponsor us with eyewear in the past. But Rob reasoned that most folks coming to this event would likely be good with whatever eyewear they were using.

So, since Trans Iowa has time limits, and doing whatever you do out there during a Trans Iowa is affected by your use of time in a efficient manner, Rob suggested that a timepiece would maybe be a significant reminder to the winner that Trans Iowa was partly a challenge in time use. I thought it was a great idea.

That isn't all. The plan is to have the timepiece made even more unique with some custom engraved message. We'll have to determine what that might be. Any suggestions out there?

Speeding Up: My schedule of events is heating up now going from Winter into Spring. I mentioned CIRREM above, but before that, (only a week before that!), I go to do the annual ritual that is Frostbike. This will once again include the trek over to Northfield, Minnesota's Mike's Bikes. That should be another epic late winter shindig for sure.

The next gig, CIRREM will be a metric gravel grinder, then in about two weeks time after that, I go back to El Paso, Texas, where I have some unfinished business with a certain rocky trail to attend to there. Once I'm back from that, I have a super-top secret double check on the Trans Iowa V8 course. Then about a week or so later, I go to the Renegade Gents Race. Final prep for Trans Iowa will entail most of the rest of the month of April.

Then it'll be summer before I know it! Well, time's a wastin', better get my bags packed and my ducks in a row!

Have a great weekend!