Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gravel Mutt- A Closer Look At The Beast

Today I wanted to go over some things on my Gravel Mutt and maybe give folks an idea about why I feel certain things could be better, while certain things about this bike are pretty spot on. So, let's dive right in....

First of all, let me repeat for the skeptics out there that I feel any bike can be a gravel bike. It is just that some things will work well, some won't, and I have an opinion on that. Whatever bike you choose to gravel ride with is fine by me, but this is what I personally don't like, do like, and is based upon observations by myself, other riders, and experiences of mine and other riders I know. Your mileage may vary.....

Okay, with that non-sense out of the way, here's the deal- The Gravel Mutt rides "okay". It has some cool thing and some not so cool things. First, the good stuff....

  • Steel frame: The True Temper tubes on this bike are definitely springy and that fork does a nice job on the chatter. 
  • Big tire clearances. The MSO's fit well, although going much bigger wouldn't work on this rig.
  • Comfortable positioning- The Gravel Mutt sits well with me in that regard, but many bikes could be that, I suppose. The main thing is that the head tube is long enough that I didn't have to resort to a funky riser stem. 
  • Head angle is good. 71° as I measure it, which is good for stability. 
  • Seat tube angle is 73°, which is par for the course. 
Now the not-so-good.....

  • The bottom bracket height is a surprising 12". I knew it was high the minute I first mounted the bike, and in comparison to my Black Mountain Cycles rig, (a cyclo-cross inspired design), it sits 3/4's of an inch higher. In a world where cyclists demand that measurements be down to the millimeter and degree because they can feel the differences, that's a big, big difference. 

Okay, the balance sheet looks mostly positive, right? Well, that bottom bracket height is something that does make a difference in handling. When you get in the marbles, the bike's, (and subsequently the rider's),  higher center of gravity pivots around an axis laterally that is unnerving at speed. The tires start dancing around and it has a very different attitude than my BMC does in similar situations. In fact, I can run smaller tires on the BMC and get a more secure feeling than the Mutt doles out. The Gravel Mutt tends to want to push the front tire off line in these situations as well, only adding to the feeling of instability.

I don't know what speeds a cyclo cross bike reaches on courses those bikes are designed for, but regularly going 25-35mph on loose gravel? (Or faster many times.) I would be surprised if that was in the gene pool for a cyclo cross design. Those bikes have higher bottom brackets for a reason, and road racing bikes have lower bottom brackets for a reason. I would submit that a gravel road calls out for a more road bike-like geometry, and the Gravel Mutt points that way, from my viewpoint.

In fact, knowing what I know now, I would not have taken the Mutt to the GTDRI. Those hills were steep, fast, curvy, and the really high bottom bracket on the Mutt would have been a bigger handful than they were on the BMC. It's good for the flats and tamer hills, but give me a lower bottom bracket for the fast, steep hills any day.

Gravel Mutt- A Closer Look At The Beast

Today I wanted to go over some things on my Gravel Mutt and maybe give folks an idea about why I feel certain things could be better, while certain things about this bike are pretty spot on. So, let's dive right in....

First of all, let me repeat for the skeptics out there that I feel any bike can be a gravel bike. It is just that some things will work well, some won't, and I have an opinion on that. Whatever bike you choose to gravel ride with is fine by me, but this is what I personally don't like, do like, and is based upon observations by myself, other riders, and experiences of mine and other riders I know. Your mileage may vary.....

Okay, with that non-sense out of the way, here's the deal- The Gravel Mutt rides "okay". It has some cool thing and some not so cool things. First, the good stuff....

  • Steel frame: The True Temper tubes on this bike are definitely springy and that fork does a nice job on the chatter. 
  • Big tire clearances. The MSO's fit well, although going much bigger wouldn't work on this rig.
  • Comfortable positioning- The Gravel Mutt sits well with me in that regard, but many bikes could be that, I suppose. The main thing is that the head tube is long enough that I didn't have to resort to a funky riser stem. 
  • Head angle is good. 71° as I measure it, which is good for stability. 
  • Seat tube angle is 73°, which is par for the course. 
Now the not-so-good.....

  • The bottom bracket height is a surprising 12". I knew it was high the minute I first mounted the bike, and in comparison to my Black Mountain Cycles rig, (a cyclo-cross inspired design), it sits 3/4's of an inch higher. In a world where cyclists demand that measurements be down to the millimeter and degree because they can feel the differences, that's a big, big difference. 

Okay, the balance sheet looks mostly positive, right? Well, that bottom bracket height is something that does make a difference in handling. When you get in the marbles, the bike's, (and subsequently the rider's),  higher center of gravity pivots around an axis laterally that is unnerving at speed. The tires start dancing around and it has a very different attitude than my BMC does in similar situations. In fact, I can run smaller tires on the BMC and get a more secure feeling than the Mutt doles out. The Gravel Mutt tends to want to push the front tire off line in these situations as well, only adding to the feeling of instability.

I don't know what speeds a cyclo cross bike reaches on courses those bikes are designed for, but regularly going 25-35mph on loose gravel? (Or faster many times.) I would be surprised if that was in the gene pool for a cyclo cross design. Those bikes have higher bottom brackets for a reason, and road racing bikes have lower bottom brackets for a reason. I would submit that a gravel road calls out for a more road bike-like geometry, and the Gravel Mutt points that way, from my viewpoint.

In fact, knowing what I know now, I would not have taken the Mutt to the GTDRI. Those hills were steep, fast, curvy, and the really high bottom bracket on the Mutt would have been a bigger handful than they were on the BMC. It's good for the flats and tamer hills, but give me a lower bottom bracket for the fast, steep hills any day.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WW4M: Bell Helmet "Super" Model.

Note: I am not really too keen on doing "product reviews" on this site, (that's why I have the other sites), but I know this blog has a lot of readers that may wonder "what works for me" and what doesn't. So, I've come up with a series that will allow for my recommendations called "WW4M", (What Works For Me"), and here's another one....

 Bell Helmets are the ones for meeeeee! Ha! Well......it is true. They are. There's a good story behind this too. It goes back a ways to my high school football days.

My time spent playing football from 9th grade through until 12th grade was all done in the same helmet. The school had to special order my helmet because my noggin was so big! It's a 7 7/8ths hat size, or about 64cm around the "dome". The high school, figuring that I had soiled the helmet for four years running and that they probably wouldn't ever need it again, let me have it after the senior season was over. Yep! Ever since then, finding a proper hat, let alone a bicycle helmet was frustrating.

In fact, I never wore a helmet for years. That is, until one day I crashed and came millimeters from hitting my skull on a concrete water collection box. That was my "wake up call", if you will. So, I set out to find a helmet that might work. This would have been about 1992.

I stumbled upon a Shoei model, (precursor to Troy Lee Helmets),which looked close, and ordered it up. It had a ton of foam material that I was able to dremel away to get a custom fit. I ended up owning two of those, and then moved to Giro helmets, which always fit weird on my head. A friend suggested I try a Bell Helmet, and it was love at first fitting. I've been wearing size Large Bell helmets ever since. Nothing else I've tried, (and I've tried others), works as well for me.

So when it came time for a new helmet to fit my longish, narrowish, egg shaped brain case, I went with the newest mountain bike helmet from Bell, the "Super". In many ways, I feel it is the best Bell helmet yet for off road.

Actually, it sort of reminds me of that old Shoei helmet I used to have. The Super sports a big visor, that moves up and down a fair amount. It has a thicker-than-road-bike helmet shell and thicker absorbing foam under that. It's got a big aluminum fastener for the visor, just like the old Shoei did too.

But the Super is very different in some key areas. Of course, fit is the major one. I didn't have to dremel away any material on the Super! But there are some cool details I like. One of them is the strap system, which instead of being a webbing that intertwines into the helmet structure, is much more like my old football helmet, in that the straps are anchored into the "tabs" of the shell that come down either side of your ears. This makes the Super fit like a "helmet", and not like a "bicycle helmet", if that makes any sense. That said, it does have a rear structure that grips the back of the head via an adjuster knob.

The Super also comes with a removable mount for a Go-Pro type camera. In fact it is a Go-Pro mount. I do not own a Go-Pro, but this might be a cool detail that you may appreciate. I happen to like the back of this helmet, which doesn't look all "aero" and pointy. This appeals to me on the looks basis, but also should prove to be hood friendly in Winter. The Super's visor is removable, but I have kept it on, and I like it for deflecting the odd branch, dirt clod, and it does a fair job of keeping the sun out of my eyes.

I was a bit put out that I could not place my eyewear in the vents above the visor though, but I did discover the trick. You have to push the visor up, and then stick the glasses in the vents underneath the visor, then everything is right with the world again. Okay- with that crisis averted, I was settled and I can say the Super is, well.........super! I like it, and it works really well for me. It is no hotter than my roadie based helmet, and it has more coverage than that helmet does, which is probably a good thing for off roading. My only complaint so far is that the Super is heavy. A long ride might make me feel a bit like I wished for my lighter helmet, but sometimes I don't notice this. The Super weighs in at 430 grams. My roadie helmet, a Bell Ghisallo, weighs in at 350 grams.

Bell has a trick goggle system for this helmet I want to check out for winter fat biking. But even without that, I know this is my off road, fat bike in Winter helmet of choice. It's got all the bells and whistles: X-static padding, the little dial in the back to fit the thing onto your skull, and adjustable straps with cam locks that are easily adjusted. The Super comes in several arresting color combos for about $125.00, which I find quite reasonable.

So, yeah....this works for me really well.

Note: I purchased this Bell Helmet Super with my own cashola, and I was not asked for this review, or compensated for it in any way. So there!

WW4M: Bell Helmet "Super" Model.

Note: I am not really too keen on doing "product reviews" on this site, (that's why I have the other sites), but I know this blog has a lot of readers that may wonder "what works for me" and what doesn't. So, I've come up with a series that will allow for my recommendations called "WW4M", (What Works For Me"), and here's another one....

 Bell Helmets are the ones for meeeeee! Ha! Well......it is true. They are. There's a good story behind this too. It goes back a ways to my high school football days.

My time spent playing football from 9th grade through until 12th grade was all done in the same helmet. The school had to special order my helmet because my noggin was so big! It's a 7 7/8ths hat size, or about 64cm around the "dome". The high school, figuring that I had soiled the helmet for four years running and that they probably wouldn't ever need it again, let me have it after the senior season was over. Yep! Ever since then, finding a proper hat, let alone a bicycle helmet was frustrating.

In fact, I never wore a helmet for years. That is, until one day I crashed and came millimeters from hitting my skull on a concrete water collection box. That was my "wake up call", if you will. So, I set out to find a helmet that might work. This would have been about 1992.

I stumbled upon a Shoei model, (precursor to Troy Lee Helmets),which looked close, and ordered it up. It had a ton of foam material that I was able to dremel away to get a custom fit. I ended up owning two of those, and then moved to Giro helmets, which always fit weird on my head. A friend suggested I try a Bell Helmet, and it was love at first fitting. I've been wearing size Large Bell helmets ever since. Nothing else I've tried, (and I've tried others), works as well for me.

So when it came time for a new helmet to fit my longish, narrowish, egg shaped brain case, I went with the newest mountain bike helmet from Bell, the "Super". In many ways, I feel it is the best Bell helmet yet for off road.

Actually, it sort of reminds me of that old Shoei helmet I used to have. The Super sports a big visor, that moves up and down a fair amount. It has a thicker-than-road-bike helmet shell and thicker absorbing foam under that. It's got a big aluminum fastener for the visor, just like the old Shoei did too.

But the Super is very different in some key areas. Of course, fit is the major one. I didn't have to dremel away any material on the Super! But there are some cool details I like. One of them is the strap system, which instead of being a webbing that intertwines into the helmet structure, is much more like my old football helmet, in that the straps are anchored into the "tabs" of the shell that come down either side of your ears. This makes the Super fit like a "helmet", and not like a "bicycle helmet", if that makes any sense. That said, it does have a rear structure that grips the back of the head via an adjuster knob.

The Super also comes with a removable mount for a Go-Pro type camera. In fact it is a Go-Pro mount. I do not own a Go-Pro, but this might be a cool detail that you may appreciate. I happen to like the back of this helmet, which doesn't look all "aero" and pointy. This appeals to me on the looks basis, but also should prove to be hood friendly in Winter. The Super's visor is removable, but I have kept it on, and I like it for deflecting the odd branch, dirt clod, and it does a fair job of keeping the sun out of my eyes.

I was a bit put out that I could not place my eyewear in the vents above the visor though, but I did discover the trick. You have to push the visor up, and then stick the glasses in the vents underneath the visor, then everything is right with the world again. Okay- with that crisis averted, I was settled and I can say the Super is, well.........super! I like it, and it works really well for me. It is no hotter than my roadie based helmet, and it has more coverage than that helmet does, which is probably a good thing for off roading. My only complaint so far is that the Super is heavy. A long ride might make me feel a bit like I wished for my lighter helmet, but sometimes I don't notice this. The Super weighs in at 430 grams. My roadie helmet, a Bell Ghisallo, weighs in at 350 grams.

Bell has a trick goggle system for this helmet I want to check out for winter fat biking. But even without that, I know this is my off road, fat bike in Winter helmet of choice. It's got all the bells and whistles: X-static padding, the little dial in the back to fit the thing onto your skull, and adjustable straps with cam locks that are easily adjusted. The Super comes in several arresting color combos for about $125.00, which I find quite reasonable.

So, yeah....this works for me really well.

Note: I purchased this Bell Helmet Super with my own cashola, and I was not asked for this review, or compensated for it in any way. So there!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Maybe It Should Be Called "All Road"

White tires. Old school look.
Friday a commenter on this blog asked an interesting question:" I think a more interesting question is: can a gravel bike be a decent road bike substitute?"

I thought I'd take that one step further and ask, "Shouldn't a gravel bike be most people's road bike?"

As in an "all road bike" kind of bicycle. Let's think about it, shall we? Because I think most road bikes are not the right bikes for most people.

First of all, as I have written here before, traditional road bikes that are sold now are largely based off of expectations that a "road racing style bike" is "faster" and "lighter" which is obviously "better" for anyone. Right? It's the same type of bike, (and in some cases- the very same bike), that the "Pros" use, and why wouldn't you want that bike? Bike shop sales are largely based off of playing on this perception because it is easy, and the marketing machines make it seem that way. However; it is all pretty much snake oil. Most folks do not need such a bike. Most folks end up trying to make a road racing based bike something else,  and even the manufacturers have been trying to play off that fact for a decade.

Witness the rising tide of "endurance road bikes", as an example. This is just another repackaging of previous ideas that were foisted on us by the industry. These bikes are largely impractical since they are a road racing bike with only a slight nod to a relaxed seated position.

My take is that the public isn't really ready for "the right bike", but that it is already appearing. The "gravel grinder" bike, with bigger tires, more relaxed geometry, and more practicality built in really makes a lot more sense than the traditional avenues folks take for their two wheeled pavement satisfaction.

Raleigh Tamland 1- (Image courtesy of Cyclo Cross Mag)
Oh....wait a minute! Maybe you want to ride a smooth trail once in a while. Or maybe you ride on some really bad roads, and think you need "another bike" to supplement your roadie. No.....no you do not, if you have an All Road bike. The typical gravel specific rig, (like the Tamland, shown here), is going to have sufficient rubber that curb hopping, smooth dirt, busted up pavement, and riding it all at speed will be no big deal. Plus- the geometry will be more stable and less punishing than any road racing based idea for a bike, (save maybe Trek's Domane).

Oh yeah, maybe you need a rack, fenders, or a frame pack. try any of that on your fancy carbon shaped tubing. Uh-huh......  The gravel specific bikes will be way more practical in these areas. Areas that give traditional road bike owners fits because they can not make their racing bike fit their needs.

See, you don't need three different pavement bikes, (road racing, urban, hybrid), you just need one- the right bike for every road and need. That's why calling these new bikes "gravel specific" is probably a bad idea. Just like calling a fat bike a "snow bike" automatically limits the imagination, so does "gravel grinder bike".  I'm thinking "all road" is better, but maybe there is a better term than that. Whatever it is, these new bikes coming out, (and that are out), deserve a much wider audience.

Maybe It Should Be Called "All Road"

White tires. Old school look.
Friday a commenter on this blog asked an interesting question:" I think a more interesting question is: can a gravel bike be a decent road bike substitute?"

I thought I'd take that one step further and ask, "Shouldn't a gravel bike be most people's road bike?"

As in an "all road bike" kind of bicycle. Let's think about it, shall we? Because I think most road bikes are not the right bikes for most people.

First of all, as I have written here before, traditional road bikes that are sold now are largely based off of expectations that a "road racing style bike" is "faster" and "lighter" which is obviously "better" for anyone. Right? It's the same type of bike, (and in some cases- the very same bike), that the "Pros" use, and why wouldn't you want that bike? Bike shop sales are largely based off of playing on this perception because it is easy, and the marketing machines make it seem that way. However; it is all pretty much snake oil. Most folks do not need such a bike. Most folks end up trying to make a road racing based bike something else,  and even the manufacturers have been trying to play off that fact for a decade.

Witness the rising tide of "endurance road bikes", as an example. This is just another repackaging of previous ideas that were foisted on us by the industry. These bikes are largely impractical since they are a road racing bike with only a slight nod to a relaxed seated position.

My take is that the public isn't really ready for "the right bike", but that it is already appearing. The "gravel grinder" bike, with bigger tires, more relaxed geometry, and more practicality built in really makes a lot more sense than the traditional avenues folks take for their two wheeled pavement satisfaction.

Raleigh Tamland 1- (Image courtesy of Cyclo Cross Mag)
Oh....wait a minute! Maybe you want to ride a smooth trail once in a while. Or maybe you ride on some really bad roads, and think you need "another bike" to supplement your roadie. No.....no you do not, if you have an All Road bike. The typical gravel specific rig, (like the Tamland, shown here), is going to have sufficient rubber that curb hopping, smooth dirt, busted up pavement, and riding it all at speed will be no big deal. Plus- the geometry will be more stable and less punishing than any road racing based idea for a bike, (save maybe Trek's Domane).

Oh yeah, maybe you need a rack, fenders, or a frame pack. try any of that on your fancy carbon shaped tubing. Uh-huh......  The gravel specific bikes will be way more practical in these areas. Areas that give traditional road bike owners fits because they can not make their racing bike fit their needs.

See, you don't need three different pavement bikes, (road racing, urban, hybrid), you just need one- the right bike for every road and need. That's why calling these new bikes "gravel specific" is probably a bad idea. Just like calling a fat bike a "snow bike" automatically limits the imagination, so does "gravel grinder bike".  I'm thinking "all road" is better, but maybe there is a better term than that. Whatever it is, these new bikes coming out, (and that are out), deserve a much wider audience.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

3GR: Cold North Wind Edition

Ice Cream Cake
The weather changed Friday and Saturday I awoke to a morning about as cold as my son's recent ice cream birthday cake. (Well, not really, but I had to work the image into the story so I could show coastkid the ice cream cake!) It was in the upper 40's, and the wind was brisk out of the North-Northwest.. I made my way over to the starting point and was being thwarted by just about every traffic light. (Yes- cyclists, you should obey traffic lights!)

As I rolled up the hill to the parking lot meeting spot, I spied a rider under the shelter there. It turned out to be Mike. I had thought Mike was doing an event, but I was wrong, it is next weekend. We waited until it was time to take off, but saw no other riders. A twosome it would be. Slowly we rolled down the embankment and onto the tarmac for a few blocks before turning left onto gravel.

Mike announced that he had been in possession of this fine titanium bicycle he was riding for several months, but that the ride Saturday was his first ride on the bike. So it was a special maiden voyage 3GR as well.

The always spectacular Ivanhoe Road
The brisk wind was right in our faces as we strove against it going Northward. We discussed how it had been a Northerly for most of Mike's 3GR attendances. The wind on the ride was steady, at least, and not too gusty. The gravel was a bit pervasive. Many times it was across the entire road surface. No good, smooth lines except in rare instances. This was not a good thing for the 33mm tires I was running. many times I felt as though I was "surfing" more than riding. The ol' Black Mountain Cycles bike is stable though, at lest I had that going for me.

The flowers are spectacular in the ditches now.
The ride was good, and we were not worn down by the North wind, but when we turned our backs to it, we were grateful for the easing of the effort. In fact, we almost felt guilty because it felt like cheating.

Along about the time we were headed back South, the conversation had turned to bears on the Tour Divide route that Mike had just finished. He hadn't seen any, but we both had heard about others who had. Then not more than a few minutes later, a brown blur came racing across the road from my right. It was a squirrel, and it just barely missed my front wheel!

I turned to my left to see it strike Mike's bike near the back edge of his front wheel and the squirrel jetted upward. Now at this micro-second in time, my thought was the squirrel was going to get jammed into the fork crown and cause Mike to have a big wreck. However; the squirrel actually bounced backward a bit, clearing Mike's bike, but it flew up into the air, cartwheeling and spinning up to our head's height! Then it hit the road and sped off in a flash.

Mike and I were flabbergasted. I was amazed he wasn't downed in a bloody heap. We probably laughed about that for the next mile and a half! That wasn't the only wildlife sighting either. We had a big doe early on running up the road ahead of us, and we must have seen a half a dozen Red Tailed Hawks along the route. I'm not sure if the colder weather is making the animals restless, but they were on the move yesterday.

Well, it was a great ride, and the first where I have felt better in a long time.

3GR: Cold North Wind Edition

Ice Cream Cake
The weather changed Friday and Saturday I awoke to a morning about as cold as my son's recent ice cream birthday cake. (Well, not really, but I had to work the image into the story so I could show coastkid the ice cream cake!) It was in the upper 40's, and the wind was brisk out of the North-Northwest.. I made my way over to the starting point and was being thwarted by just about every traffic light. (Yes- cyclists, you should obey traffic lights!)

As I rolled up the hill to the parking lot meeting spot, I spied a rider under the shelter there. It turned out to be Mike. I had thought Mike was doing an event, but I was wrong, it is next weekend. We waited until it was time to take off, but saw no other riders. A twosome it would be. Slowly we rolled down the embankment and onto the tarmac for a few blocks before turning left onto gravel.

Mike announced that he had been in possession of this fine titanium bicycle he was riding for several months, but that the ride Saturday was his first ride on the bike. So it was a special maiden voyage 3GR as well.

The always spectacular Ivanhoe Road
The brisk wind was right in our faces as we strove against it going Northward. We discussed how it had been a Northerly for most of Mike's 3GR attendances. The wind on the ride was steady, at least, and not too gusty. The gravel was a bit pervasive. Many times it was across the entire road surface. No good, smooth lines except in rare instances. This was not a good thing for the 33mm tires I was running. many times I felt as though I was "surfing" more than riding. The ol' Black Mountain Cycles bike is stable though, at lest I had that going for me.

The flowers are spectacular in the ditches now.
The ride was good, and we were not worn down by the North wind, but when we turned our backs to it, we were grateful for the easing of the effort. In fact, we almost felt guilty because it felt like cheating.

Along about the time we were headed back South, the conversation had turned to bears on the Tour Divide route that Mike had just finished. He hadn't seen any, but we both had heard about others who had. Then not more than a few minutes later, a brown blur came racing across the road from my right. It was a squirrel, and it just barely missed my front wheel!

I turned to my left to see it strike Mike's bike near the back edge of his front wheel and the squirrel jetted upward. Now at this micro-second in time, my thought was the squirrel was going to get jammed into the fork crown and cause Mike to have a big wreck. However; the squirrel actually bounced backward a bit, clearing Mike's bike, but it flew up into the air, cartwheeling and spinning up to our head's height! Then it hit the road and sped off in a flash.

Mike and I were flabbergasted. I was amazed he wasn't downed in a bloody heap. We probably laughed about that for the next mile and a half! That wasn't the only wildlife sighting either. We had a big doe early on running up the road ahead of us, and we must have seen a half a dozen Red Tailed Hawks along the route. I'm not sure if the colder weather is making the animals restless, but they were on the move yesterday.

Well, it was a great ride, and the first where I have felt better in a long time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday News And Views

The next thing ya know, there will be fat bike recum....oh!
Fat Bikes:

Of all the posts over the past week, the ones with fat bike  content were the hottest ones here. Obviously all the new entries have stirred up a lot of interest, and if you think about this, it makes sense.

Until recently, there was but one fat bike tire. Now there are several models from three different sources. (Four if you split off 45NRTH from the Surly stuff.) Soon there will be at least two more offerings, and possibly more. I suspect this reminds many, as it does myself, of the early days of 29"ers, when a new tire intro was met with a huge buzz. Heck- now days a new 29"er tire hardly dents anyone's consciousness. Maybe some day fat bikes will get to that point. But they are not there yet!

Then there is the interesting debate on what rear spacing is going to shake out at. Specialized and 9 zero 7 have put a stake in the ground with 190mm hubs, and Fatback also offers them now. Everyone else is pretty much sticking with 170's, with the exception of Surly, but, ya know........they don't give a rip about what everyone else is doing and how they do it. They are their own deal. So I don't think that Surly factors into this anymore.

Finally, there is the Rock Shox suspension fork that is due this Fall/Winter which- when it comes out, will be much like it was in 2005 when Fisher put a Rock Shox on a 29"er for the first time. I remember that well. (Sniff! I still have my Mark 1 Reba in the basement!) There will be a bum rush to get a hold of one. It's going to be interesting, and you have to wonder, "Can Fox or Manitou be far behind?"

Raleigh Tamland 1 (Image courtesy of Cyclo Cross Magazine)
 More On The Gravel Bikes: 

There was a bit of banter on Cyclo Cross Magazine's Facebook page the other day regarding the new Raleigh Tamland  2  gravel bike. A commenter quipped, as I've heard many folks say before, something to the effect that he didn't need a "gravel specific bike" because a cross bike can do all that just fine. Right. I don't argue that at all, but here's my reply to the commenter as quoted from the thread:

"I think the easiest way to look at this would be to say "Why have a road bike for crit racing when your CX bike can do that easily?" Hopefully, you see where I am going with that,because the gravel road races call out for a slightly different animal, (if you want to go fast, be in control, and be less beat down), than what a CX bike is these days"

So, no one needs a gravel specific bike just like no one needs  a time trial style bike for triathlons. I mean, a road bike can do that just as well, right? Right, only a time trial bike is better. Same deal with bikes tweaked for gravel. It's just that most folks have never ridden a gravel specific bike to know one way or the other. Now that will start happening next year. (The Raleigh's come out late 2013, so I've heard), and obviously Warbird owners can attest to this already. There are going to be more of these bikes out there, and I am hearing a "major player" is going to step into this genre as well. It's going to happen, and well......then we'll see how folks like "gravel specific" road bikes. 

My "Off-Road" Fargo
 
Fargo Changes:

The new 2014 Fargo models drew some fire for their changes from 2013 as well. Many do not like the front mounted braze ons for the Anything Cages on the forks for 2014. Some are grousing that it went to a 100mm sus corrected fork length, (which I find weird for a few reasons), and some don't like the new colors.

Here's my take: The Fargo has  looked like a drop bar specific mountain bike in the past, (notice- I did not say it was a touring bike), but it has never quite lived up to that. I feel that it now has reached, what I believe to be, its mission: A drop bar mountain bike capable of bike packing and being a great single track hard tail with a definite adventure leaning. Don't like drop bars? Get an El Mariachi. To my mind, these two Salsa models are the same bike designed with different handle bars in mind. I think that is how it should have been from the get go. (Even though I absolutely love my 2008 Fargo.)

Touring bikes, that can handle traditional touring gear, and that can do a bit of off pavement action describes what the Vaya is for. The Vaya isn't for rough single track though, and shouldn't be. Try dragging a bagger set up through rough single track, (where big, meaty tires are really the best), and see what I mean.

I like the cut of the Fargo's jib now. It isn't anything like the Vaya anymore, which is as it should be. Previous Fargos were pretty much fat tired Vayas, and to my mind, that doesn't make much sense. But maybe having a drop barred El Mariachi doesn't make sense either to some of you. All I can say is that a drop bar mountain bike has a place in my stable and I look forward to acquiring the new 2014 Fargo in some form or another.

I like the 100mm suspension fork capability, and a new one would have that suspension fork, if I get one. I like the Alternator drop out, because I like single speeds, but I maybe would set this up geared. At any rate, I have that option. I also would have the ability to bail myself out of a derailleur failure out in the field by going single speed. I like the slightly shorter stays, or being able to lengthen the back end with the same Alternator set up. And I like Bomb Pop Blue. So, yeah.......I probably will look very hard at doing that for 2014.

3GR: Yes, it is happening tomorrow from Gates Park Swimming Pool parking lot on Donald Street at 8:30am, unless it is raining. Hope to see some of you locals there.

And with that, have a great weekend and ride those bicycles!

Friday News And Views

The next thing ya know, there will be fat bike recum....oh!
Fat Bikes:

Of all the posts over the past week, the ones with fat bike  content were the hottest ones here. Obviously all the new entries have stirred up a lot of interest, and if you think about this, it makes sense.

Until recently, there was but one fat bike tire. Now there are several models from three different sources. (Four if you split off 45NRTH from the Surly stuff.) Soon there will be at least two more offerings, and possibly more. I suspect this reminds many, as it does myself, of the early days of 29"ers, when a new tire intro was met with a huge buzz. Heck- now days a new 29"er tire hardly dents anyone's consciousness. Maybe some day fat bikes will get to that point. But they are not there yet!

Then there is the interesting debate on what rear spacing is going to shake out at. Specialized and 9 zero 7 have put a stake in the ground with 190mm hubs, and Fatback also offers them now. Everyone else is pretty much sticking with 170's, with the exception of Surly, but, ya know........they don't give a rip about what everyone else is doing and how they do it. They are their own deal. So I don't think that Surly factors into this anymore.

Finally, there is the Rock Shox suspension fork that is due this Fall/Winter which- when it comes out, will be much like it was in 2005 when Fisher put a Rock Shox on a 29"er for the first time. I remember that well. (Sniff! I still have my Mark 1 Reba in the basement!) There will be a bum rush to get a hold of one. It's going to be interesting, and you have to wonder, "Can Fox or Manitou be far behind?"

Raleigh Tamland 1 (Image courtesy of Cyclo Cross Magazine)
 More On The Gravel Bikes: 

There was a bit of banter on Cyclo Cross Magazine's Facebook page the other day regarding the new Raleigh Tamland  2  gravel bike. A commenter quipped, as I've heard many folks say before, something to the effect that he didn't need a "gravel specific bike" because a cross bike can do all that just fine. Right. I don't argue that at all, but here's my reply to the commenter as quoted from the thread:

"I think the easiest way to look at this would be to say "Why have a road bike for crit racing when your CX bike can do that easily?" Hopefully, you see where I am going with that,because the gravel road races call out for a slightly different animal, (if you want to go fast, be in control, and be less beat down), than what a CX bike is these days"

So, no one needs a gravel specific bike just like no one needs  a time trial style bike for triathlons. I mean, a road bike can do that just as well, right? Right, only a time trial bike is better. Same deal with bikes tweaked for gravel. It's just that most folks have never ridden a gravel specific bike to know one way or the other. Now that will start happening next year. (The Raleigh's come out late 2013, so I've heard), and obviously Warbird owners can attest to this already. There are going to be more of these bikes out there, and I am hearing a "major player" is going to step into this genre as well. It's going to happen, and well......then we'll see how folks like "gravel specific" road bikes. 

My "Off-Road" Fargo
 
Fargo Changes:

The new 2014 Fargo models drew some fire for their changes from 2013 as well. Many do not like the front mounted braze ons for the Anything Cages on the forks for 2014. Some are grousing that it went to a 100mm sus corrected fork length, (which I find weird for a few reasons), and some don't like the new colors.

Here's my take: The Fargo has  looked like a drop bar specific mountain bike in the past, (notice- I did not say it was a touring bike), but it has never quite lived up to that. I feel that it now has reached, what I believe to be, its mission: A drop bar mountain bike capable of bike packing and being a great single track hard tail with a definite adventure leaning. Don't like drop bars? Get an El Mariachi. To my mind, these two Salsa models are the same bike designed with different handle bars in mind. I think that is how it should have been from the get go. (Even though I absolutely love my 2008 Fargo.)

Touring bikes, that can handle traditional touring gear, and that can do a bit of off pavement action describes what the Vaya is for. The Vaya isn't for rough single track though, and shouldn't be. Try dragging a bagger set up through rough single track, (where big, meaty tires are really the best), and see what I mean.

I like the cut of the Fargo's jib now. It isn't anything like the Vaya anymore, which is as it should be. Previous Fargos were pretty much fat tired Vayas, and to my mind, that doesn't make much sense. But maybe having a drop barred El Mariachi doesn't make sense either to some of you. All I can say is that a drop bar mountain bike has a place in my stable and I look forward to acquiring the new 2014 Fargo in some form or another.

I like the 100mm suspension fork capability, and a new one would have that suspension fork, if I get one. I like the Alternator drop out, because I like single speeds, but I maybe would set this up geared. At any rate, I have that option. I also would have the ability to bail myself out of a derailleur failure out in the field by going single speed. I like the slightly shorter stays, or being able to lengthen the back end with the same Alternator set up. And I like Bomb Pop Blue. So, yeah.......I probably will look very hard at doing that for 2014.

3GR: Yes, it is happening tomorrow from Gates Park Swimming Pool parking lot on Donald Street at 8:30am, unless it is raining. Hope to see some of you locals there.

And with that, have a great weekend and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Time To Calm Down A Little!

Jonathan and James Approved This Message
Hey, it can't all be new product reveals and new model year info everyday around here, ya know! I gotta tell you regular readers that the last week or so here has been nuts on this blog. Numbers have been pushed into record territory. Why just yesterday over 3,000 folks hit up this place.

It wasn't all that long ago that it took 11 days to get over 3,000 hits here! But that can't last and now it is time to calm down around here for a bit and get back to some "regular programming".

Yesterday was about near perfection all the way around. First it started off with my great family, as usual. Then off to ride with Jonathan and James from the shop where I work. They were looking for a ride to Ingawanis Woods, I have a "Truck With No Name", a bike rack, and time off, so we all hooked up to get our dirt on.

James was a rookie up there and Jonathan had not been on the newest section of trail yet, so we had a good time checking out the trails and riding the awesome Ingawanis Woods single track. Only 1.5 crashes, and no major catastrophes, so I counted it all up as a success. Then we had a lunch date back at the shop.

One of our other coworkers, Mark P, decided to bring his charcoal grill and make us burgers and brats which were waaaay good. Okay, so far this day was off the charts good. Then back home after doing a wheel truing job and answering some customer questions. Cleaned up, chilled out a bit, then went shopping for my son's birthday gift. He was born ten years ago when I was down wrenching on RAGBRAI and I had to rush home to be with Mrs. Guitar Ted and see him being born. (I made it with time to spare!)

Then back home for pizza and ice cream cake, (what else would a 10 year old boy want?), then he and I settled in to watch the first dirt race NASCAR has held in 43 years on T.V. It was fun, and the end of the day was bittersweet. One of those days that you didn't want to see end.

So, there ya go. Nothing "new", shiny, or groundbreaking for you bike freaks, but a darn good day, and a nice way to take a break from all this News Season madness of late.

Time To Calm Down A Little!

Jonathan and James Approved This Message
Hey, it can't all be new product reveals and new model year info everyday around here, ya know! I gotta tell you regular readers that the last week or so here has been nuts on this blog. Numbers have been pushed into record territory. Why just yesterday over 3,000 folks hit up this place.

It wasn't all that long ago that it took 11 days to get over 3,000 hits here! But that can't last and now it is time to calm down around here for a bit and get back to some "regular programming".

Yesterday was about near perfection all the way around. First it started off with my great family, as usual. Then off to ride with Jonathan and James from the shop where I work. They were looking for a ride to Ingawanis Woods, I have a "Truck With No Name", a bike rack, and time off, so we all hooked up to get our dirt on.

James was a rookie up there and Jonathan had not been on the newest section of trail yet, so we had a good time checking out the trails and riding the awesome Ingawanis Woods single track. Only 1.5 crashes, and no major catastrophes, so I counted it all up as a success. Then we had a lunch date back at the shop.

One of our other coworkers, Mark P, decided to bring his charcoal grill and make us burgers and brats which were waaaay good. Okay, so far this day was off the charts good. Then back home after doing a wheel truing job and answering some customer questions. Cleaned up, chilled out a bit, then went shopping for my son's birthday gift. He was born ten years ago when I was down wrenching on RAGBRAI and I had to rush home to be with Mrs. Guitar Ted and see him being born. (I made it with time to spare!)

Then back home for pizza and ice cream cake, (what else would a 10 year old boy want?), then he and I settled in to watch the first dirt race NASCAR has held in 43 years on T.V. It was fun, and the end of the day was bittersweet. One of those days that you didn't want to see end.

So, there ya go. Nothing "new", shiny, or groundbreaking for you bike freaks, but a darn good day, and a nice way to take a break from all this News Season madness of late.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

News Season: Part 7- Gravel Bikes

The Raleigh Tamland- (Image courtesy of Cyclo Cross Magazine)
With the advent of gravel racing and the increasing participation in this niche, many manufacturers have been taking a hard look at putting out product to attract the dollars of dirt road riders everywhere. Take Salsa Cycles Warbird, or Clement Pneumatics gravel tires as an example here.

I've already detailed a bit of info on Surly Bikes "Straggler", which has a very gravel bike oriented look to it. (See here) Now I can speak openly about a project Raleigh has been cooking up for about a year now. The Tamland gravel specific racer.

Cyclo Cross Magazine busted open this story yesterday on their Facebook page and scooped some details from Raleigh on this new rig. Made from Reynolds 631 steel tubes, sporting TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes, and a brand spanking new Ultegra 11 speed group, this bike is not a half-hearted attempt at trying to jump on a bandwagon and pry some dollars from a niche group of cyclists. It looks like Raleigh may have done this one up very well, in my opinion.

For one thing, Cyclo Cross Mag says this bike has Clement MSO's on it with "plenty of clearance". Their words, not mine. If so, this bodes very well in that department. Obviously, you can also see that the chainstays are a bit longer, for stability and tire clearances, and it sure looks as though that bottom bracket is sitting low, which if true would be a really good thing as well.

This was the bike I was hoping Raleigh would put out there, if it is what I think it is, and if so, it will be a fine handling rig. That's about all I can say now. There is a lot I like about it so far.

To be completely honest, Raleigh actually called me up and picked my brain one day. I spoke on a conference call with their team that worked on this, so if they took my advisement and made it reality, I guess I'll be proven wrong or right on what I think a gravel bike should be. But I do not know how much of what I told them they took to heart, so we'll have to see there.

At any rate, the name: "Tamland". I'm not a movie buff, so I Googled it. Wow! Maybe us gravel grinders are a bunch of freaked out, mentally challenged weirdos.  Either that or we're crazy like a fox!

UPDATE: For more specific information on the Tamland, see Cyclo Cross Magazine's article on the bike here. 

News Season: Part 7- Gravel Bikes

The Raleigh Tamland- (Image courtesy of Cyclo Cross Magazine)
With the advent of gravel racing and the increasing participation in this niche, many manufacturers have been taking a hard look at putting out product to attract the dollars of dirt road riders everywhere. Take Salsa Cycles Warbird, or Clement Pneumatics gravel tires as an example here.

I've already detailed a bit of info on Surly Bikes "Straggler", which has a very gravel bike oriented look to it. (See here) Now I can speak openly about a project Raleigh has been cooking up for about a year now. The Tamland gravel specific racer.

Cyclo Cross Magazine busted open this story yesterday on their Facebook page and scooped some details from Raleigh on this new rig. Made from Reynolds 631 steel tubes, sporting TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes, and a brand spanking new Ultegra 11 speed group, this bike is not a half-hearted attempt at trying to jump on a bandwagon and pry some dollars from a niche group of cyclists. It looks like Raleigh may have done this one up very well, in my opinion.

For one thing, Cyclo Cross Mag says this bike has Clement MSO's on it with "plenty of clearance". Their words, not mine. If so, this bodes very well in that department. Obviously, you can also see that the chainstays are a bit longer, for stability and tire clearances, and it sure looks as though that bottom bracket is sitting low, which if true would be a really good thing as well.

This was the bike I was hoping Raleigh would put out there, if it is what I think it is, and if so, it will be a fine handling rig. That's about all I can say now. There is a lot I like about it so far.

To be completely honest, Raleigh actually called me up and picked my brain one day. I spoke on a conference call with their team that worked on this, so if they took my advisement and made it reality, I guess I'll be proven wrong or right on what I think a gravel bike should be. But I do not know how much of what I told them they took to heart, so we'll have to see there.

At any rate, the name: "Tamland". I'm not a movie buff, so I Googled it. Wow! Maybe us gravel grinders are a bunch of freaked out, mentally challenged weirdos.  Either that or we're crazy like a fox!

UPDATE: For more specific information on the Tamland, see Cyclo Cross Magazine's article on the bike here. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

News Season: Part 6- Fat Bikes

Okay, here are some of Salsa Cycles fat bike offerings, (besides the carbon Beargrease models), for 2014, as photographed at Saddledrive. (Credits given where known)

Muluk Titanium (Image courtesy of Cycle Haven)
For 2014, Salsa Cycles has decided to change the look of their titanium bikes by painting parts of the frame on the different titanium offerings they have. The Mukluk Titanium gets this awesome looking lime green front end with some green ano accents. This is offered as a complete and as a frame set.

You'll notice that the fork features the Anything Cage mounts on the front facing side of the fork instead of the rear. This was done to help make the things mounted to these bosses not want to rip the cages apart that hold your bottles, or cargo. If the cages are mounted to the front side, inertia created by the objects being carried will want to push back against the fork,instead of pull away from the fork if the cages used are mounted on the back side of a fork. It also has the benefit of cargo not smacking your down tube in the event of a crash or accidental release of the handlebar. (No word yet on the redesigned Anything Cages yet, by the way.)

Of course, the Mukluk Titanium continues with the overseas manufactured, formed, triple butted titanium tubes and Alternator drop outs. These drop outs should allow single speed set ups or use of Surly's biggest rubber on 82mm rims. The bike will feature a 2X10 drive train,and if you do use the really big rubber, you may have to modify the cassette for full use of both rings up front. It'll be close, from what I've read, but doable. Good to know you can do that, since this is the ultimate expedition fat bike from Salsa.

Salsa Cycles' Mukluk 2 (Image courtesy of Cycle Haven)
Salsa comes back with the Mukluk 2 in a Metallic gold this year. The bike retains the basic layout from last year with the exception of the fork. This is the aluminum Beargrease fork with Anything Cage mounts, which should cut a lot of weight out of the front end of the bike for 2014. The Muk 2 is also available as a frame set.

The Mukluk 3 in red
The Mukluk 3 continues on and will come in this brilliant red or with a matte black scheme with white rims. Both come in aluminum and will feature the Alternator drop outs.

There will be no frame sets with the Muk 3 color schemes. Big size range available here though, from XS to an XL, so the bike can fit a wide range of folks.

All Mukluks feature trigger shifters now and will come shod with Surly Nate tires. The Mukluk 2 gets Holy Rolling Darryls while the Mukluk 3 gets the non drilled Darryls.

So, with the new Beargrease carbon bikes, Salsa has moved into the upper end of the fat bike market and have the widest range of fat bikes available in several price points. The low end has "risen" a bit. Expect MSRP on the Muk 3's to be a tick higher than last year's prices, but that still represents a heck of a deal when you get Alternators and a proven package.

Fargo bikes for 2014: Alternators! (Image courtesy of Bike World)
Big news on the Fargo. It finally gets the Alternator drop out! This, in my opinion, was one of the only weak spots on a solid drop bar adventure bike. But that isn't all here. The blue Fargo is a Fargo 2, and it sports Salsa Cycles new carbon Fargo fork. Featuring a suspension corrected for 100mm fork in carbon with Anything Cage mounts in the new forward position for better load stability and durability, this brings the Fargo up to snuff. Salsa also tweaked the rear stay length to be a bit shorter to pep up the handling a bit as well, but you can still get that longer, stabler rear with a move on the Alternator drop rearward. Of course, your IGH and single speed talk is all welcome here as well.

Also, there are more Shimano bits, and no bar end shifters on the Fargo 3, (shown in Mustard here), which should please a few folks. All STI style now!

El Mariachi Titanium (from QBP's feed)
El Mariachi SS Limited (Image courtesy of  North Central Cyclery)
El Mar Ti, foreground- and other El Mar variants- (Image courtesy of Bike World)
The El Mariachi line up reflects Salsa Cycles move to cover more of the high end market with two offerings in titanium. Both will feature the partially painted titanium triple butted and formed frames made overseas. The top of the line El Mariachi will come with Shimano XTR and features top tier racing equipment. Of course, the Alternator drop outs are featured throughout the El Mariachi line up.

Salsa is maybe one of the only remaining companies, ( Specialized, and Raleigh as well), that retain a nice single speed 29"er in the line up. The Limited Edition El Mariachi SS comes in a white with tri-color top tube color scheme and a nice parts spec. You'll note the slight bend in the seat tube, which reflects Salsa's shortened stays on the El Mariachis for 2014.

That's pretty much a wrap from Saddledrive since the show ends today, but never fear! Dealer Camp starts tomorrow....

2014 Raleigh Talus Carbon (Image from Raleigh's feed)

News Season: Part 6- Fat Bikes

Okay, here are some of Salsa Cycles fat bike offerings, (besides the carbon Beargrease models), for 2014, as photographed at Saddledrive. (Credits given where known)

Muluk Titanium (Image courtesy of Cycle Haven)
For 2014, Salsa Cycles has decided to change the look of their titanium bikes by painting parts of the frame on the different titanium offerings they have. The Mukluk Titanium gets this awesome looking lime green front end with some green ano accents. This is offered as a complete and as a frame set.

You'll notice that the fork features the Anything Cage mounts on the front facing side of the fork instead of the rear. This was done to help make the things mounted to these bosses not want to rip the cages apart that hold your bottles, or cargo. If the cages are mounted to the front side, inertia created by the objects being carried will want to push back against the fork,instead of pull away from the fork if the cages used are mounted on the back side of a fork. It also has the benefit of cargo not smacking your down tube in the event of a crash or accidental release of the handlebar. (No word yet on the redesigned Anything Cages yet, by the way.)

Of course, the Mukluk Titanium continues with the overseas manufactured, formed, triple butted titanium tubes and Alternator drop outs. These drop outs should allow single speed set ups or use of Surly's biggest rubber on 82mm rims. The bike will feature a 2X10 drive train,and if you do use the really big rubber, you may have to modify the cassette for full use of both rings up front. It'll be close, from what I've read, but doable. Good to know you can do that, since this is the ultimate expedition fat bike from Salsa.

Salsa Cycles' Mukluk 2 (Image courtesy of Cycle Haven)
Salsa comes back with the Mukluk 2 in a Metallic gold this year. The bike retains the basic layout from last year with the exception of the fork. This is the aluminum Beargrease fork with Anything Cage mounts, which should cut a lot of weight out of the front end of the bike for 2014. The Muk 2 is also available as a frame set.

The Mukluk 3 in red
The Mukluk 3 continues on and will come in this brilliant red or with a matte black scheme with white rims. Both come in aluminum and will feature the Alternator drop outs.

There will be no frame sets with the Muk 3 color schemes. Big size range available here though, from XS to an XL, so the bike can fit a wide range of folks.

All Mukluks feature trigger shifters now and will come shod with Surly Nate tires. The Mukluk 2 gets Holy Rolling Darryls while the Mukluk 3 gets the non drilled Darryls.

So, with the new Beargrease carbon bikes, Salsa has moved into the upper end of the fat bike market and have the widest range of fat bikes available in several price points. The low end has "risen" a bit. Expect MSRP on the Muk 3's to be a tick higher than last year's prices, but that still represents a heck of a deal when you get Alternators and a proven package.

Fargo bikes for 2014: Alternators! (Image courtesy of Bike World)
Big news on the Fargo. It finally gets the Alternator drop out! This, in my opinion, was one of the only weak spots on a solid drop bar adventure bike. But that isn't all here. The blue Fargo is a Fargo 2, and it sports Salsa Cycles new carbon Fargo fork. Featuring a suspension corrected for 100mm fork in carbon with Anything Cage mounts in the new forward position for better load stability and durability, this brings the Fargo up to snuff. Salsa also tweaked the rear stay length to be a bit shorter to pep up the handling a bit as well, but you can still get that longer, stabler rear with a move on the Alternator drop rearward. Of course, your IGH and single speed talk is all welcome here as well.

Also, there are more Shimano bits, and no bar end shifters on the Fargo 3, (shown in Mustard here), which should please a few folks. All STI style now!

El Mariachi Titanium (from QBP's feed)
El Mariachi SS Limited (Image courtesy of  North Central Cyclery)
El Mar Ti, foreground- and other El Mar variants- (Image courtesy of Bike World)
The El Mariachi line up reflects Salsa Cycles move to cover more of the high end market with two offerings in titanium. Both will feature the partially painted titanium triple butted and formed frames made overseas. The top of the line El Mariachi will come with Shimano XTR and features top tier racing equipment. Of course, the Alternator drop outs are featured throughout the El Mariachi line up.

Salsa is maybe one of the only remaining companies, ( Specialized, and Raleigh as well), that retain a nice single speed 29"er in the line up. The Limited Edition El Mariachi SS comes in a white with tri-color top tube color scheme and a nice parts spec. You'll note the slight bend in the seat tube, which reflects Salsa's shortened stays on the El Mariachis for 2014.

That's pretty much a wrap from Saddledrive since the show ends today, but never fear! Dealer Camp starts tomorrow....

2014 Raleigh Talus Carbon (Image from Raleigh's feed)

Monday, July 22, 2013

News Season: Part 5- More Saddledrive

Salsa's Beargrease XX1
Bonus! Update from Saddledrive....

As told in the last post, there would be more from Saddledrive, and here is some of it, albeit not all of it. (Yes- there is more to come.)

First up we have the Beargrease, which is all carbon these days. Through axles on each end mean special hubs, and the headset is an inset one as well. This is meant as an all-out, no holds barred racing bike with really fat tires.

The matte finish is highlighted with green striping and grips but otherwise is very subtle in appearance. With the XX1 spec, this bike is a claimed 23lbs or so, depending on the size. Oh- the sizing! Sm, M, L, XL.

The bike is spec'ed with no strange, weird weight weenie stuff too, which makes all this all the more remarkable when you look at the complete weight. The weight could go down even further with some tricky parts swapping. With all this "raciness" and ultra-low fat bike weight-weenie delight going on, you just know it ain't gonna be cheap.

And it isn't. Expect a well north of 5G retail price on this fantastic fat bike. There will be a second tier model as well as a frame set, but even the frame set won't be cheap. In fact, it is more than just a frame set. Seeing as how the frame requires through axles, the frame set price, (about what a Muk 2 complete retailed for last year), comes with through axles, hubs, head set, and seat collar, along with the immense carbon fork and frame.

I don't see spec or listings for a Beargrease aluminum frame, so this looks like it is it if you want to get into a lightweight, fast fat bike.

Beargrease Carbon, 2X10 (Image from QBP's feed)
There will be more Salsa Cycles news, but now we move on to Surly Bikes, which not only popped out a new disc "Cross Check" type bike dubbed the Straggler, but also has the following things coming your way soon.....

The "ECR", a 29+ "enduro-camping-race" bike (Image from QBP's feed)
Dirt Wizard 2.75"er
Okay- sometimes I think Surly thinks up these odd ball tires and then has to create a bike around them. (They as much as copped to this with regard to the 29+ and 700 X 41mm Knards)

Now they have not had an Instigator in the line up for a few years. Well- it is back. I am not so much interested in the Instigator as I am the tires they made for it. (Or was the frame made for the tire? Hmm....) Anyway, here you have the perfect "fat-lite" tire. This is the sort of thing, ( I hope), that will fit on my "Ultimate Big Dummy" bike build. (Someday, don't ask just now.) I'm sure Surly has other ideas for this tire, especially since it is called the "Dirt Wizard".

I know a lot of folks will be wondering why the Instigator wasn't a 27.5"er, or a 29"er. The Krampus is pretty much the big wheeled version of this anyway, and.....well, did you notice the irony in the Dirt Wizard's width on the hot patch on the tire's sidewall? My guess is that 27.5"ers will shoe into that frame just peachy, if that's what ya want to do.

The "ECR", above, is an interesting take on 29+. I said it when we first learned of the Krampus: 29+ is a great size for bike packing.  Well, obviously Surly was way ahead of me in that thought, because here they already have the ECR. Notice the Troll/Ogre dropouts? Notice that this bike has a front derailluer?  Notice the Anything Cage mounts on the front fork? Notice the Jones Loop Bar, (which will come stock on this rig)? Yep! I think this would be a great, durable, versatile bike packing rig, sans suspension, if you can live without that.

41mm Knards
I think a Rohloff equipped ECR would be a stellar touring-at-a-comfortable-pace off road rig.

Now for the other tire I am excited to see coming down the pike. (Well, depending upon some details, that is), and that is the Knard 700c X 41mm tire.

This tire will be spec'ed on the new Straggler bike from Surly, which appeared here yesterday. The 700c X 40-ish tire size is great for gravel grinding. (One of my favorite tires, the Clement MSO, comes in this size range) If the Knard 700 X 41 comes in a 120TPI version at some point, I think it may become a great gravel tire for events like Dirty Kanza, Odin's Revenge, or any other event that big, floaty tires would be an advantage for.

Surly may not have a 120TPI tire now, but I think that a 27 or 60TPI tire may be too stiff and heavy for many gravel grinders. So, I'll wait to see what Surly offers here, but a 700 X 41mm tire sounds just lovely to my ears right now. Obviusly, Surly doesn't go in for tubelessness, but I would sure like to see a tire in this size class be tubeless.

Whatever- at least there is progress in the tire choices for creative minds to put to use these days. Surly may not have the technology in their tires, (tubeless, dual compounds, higher quality), that others do, but they seem to hit on all cylinders when it comes to sparking imagination and adventure in riders out here. I like that, and I support that effort.

More to come. Stay tuned.