Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Forward To 2016

This is it. No more 2015. Time to move on then......

Today I want to spend my time on the blog sharing my thoughts on the coming year. It's going to be tumultuous in many ways. We have a big Presidential election in the Fall where we will have a new President elected for the first time since 2008. To me.......that's amazing. While I don't like how we conduct business around these things anymore than most of you, I still find it amazing that we can change administrations without some civil war, coup, or major upheavals. Anyway, what the heck does that have to do with bicycles! 

Well, in my opinion, 2016 will mark a turn in how we perceive categories and purposes for our riding. The road racing bike will continue to wane in light of more capable, adventurous bikes. A change in administration, if you will.  Call 'em whatever ya want to, but gravel travel will be high on their list of capabilities. Wider tires, disc brakes, no mention of the Tour, or time trials, or even "the classics".

Mountain bikes will continue the trend of fatter tires on wider rims which has been dubbed "plus" bike. My inclination is to believe that B+ will be the favored size, but I understand that a 26+ sized wheel/tire combination is coming on which will yield a diameter closer to a current 650B wheel. You know, Surly already is there with their Instigator V2 bike. Check that out for reference.

I feel that 29"ers, fat bikes, and 29+ have seen about as much play as they are going to get and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see some eroding of their popularity and thus, sales, in 2016. Hey! The bike market shows no signs of growth, so somethin' has got to give. Maybe we will see a slight resurgence in sales, but traditionally election years suck when it comes to recreational purchases. But, who knows.......

I forgot who took this image of me- but thank you!
As for myself, there are a few things I do know. I know that I will be at the Renegade Gents Race come April. I also know that I am doing Trans Iowa v12 as the event director again.

Then there are the "maybes". I have been talked into the Dirty Kanza 200 again. Mostly by myself, but Tony- you pushed me over the edge! (He's a great guy, really. I'm just having fun here.)

Then......I am thinking I am going to give Odin's Revenge another shot. Maybe Gravel Worlds again. So, those four plus my Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational and a couple of Geezer Rides. Whoa! Sounds just like last year! But things can and will change, so I don't know anything for sure beyond the first two I mentioned. DK200 may not happen for several reasons, and that goes for the rest too. Stay tuned..... These are just what I have on my radar.

Where bicycles are concerned, I have plenty. I don't foresee myself adding anything to the fleet, but that's exactly what I would have said last year at this time, and so there ya go. Famous last words and all. I ended up with the Twin Six bike. I would like to think I would retire/sell off a couple of things, but it always seems hard to actually do that when I look at them in the "stable". Thing is though that there are bikes I haven't ridden in a looooong time, and I have to start coming to the reality that I probably won't ride them again. I did pare down the fleet in '15, so I hope to continue that trend this coming year.

And with that, 2015 comes to a close on the blog here. See ya next year!

Bikes Of 2015: Surly 1X1

Current state of the 1X1
Here's another bike that has seen a lot of play- both here on the blog as Project 1X1 and as a rider. Since most of this bike's play here has been fairly recent, I won't get into any technical breakdown on the spec, or what have you. I's a single speed with cantilever brakes. What more do you need to know? 

I am not sure I've had a proper image up with these fenders though, so let me talk about that here now. The Extraterrestrial tires on the Velocity Cliffhanger rims set up tubeless has made these tires about 64mm wide or so. The widest fenders I could source within reason are these Planet Bike Cascadia fenders which are 60mm wide. Sooooo......... Mounting the fenders was a bit tricky.

I had to take particular care in centering the fenders over the tires so that the tread area is covered up and what is not is mostly just the casing/sidewall as it "bellies out" on its way to the rim edges. That was tedious, but not difficult. The other thing, which did not become readily apparent until I started riding this bike, was that due to the Cascadia fender's proclivity to twist, I had to modify the hard points where the stays attach to the fenders so they wouldn't bounce off the tires as much. No doubt that the new ALX (aluminum, so stiffer), versions of the Cascadia fender would be better here, but these will do for now.

So, with that done the bike is good to go and performs its task well. The fenders really do keep me dry and mud free despite their lack of coverage in width, which is more than made up for in length here. I will be trying to see if I can fit a rack onto this rig next to further its utilitarian nature and turn it into one of my grocery getters.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bikes Of 2015: Singular Cycles Buzzard

You can almost hear the Buzzard flapping its wings.....
Making a few cameo appearances during 2015 was my Singular Cycles Buzzard. I don't have a lot of mountain bikes around, and the only geared one I have is this one. I put this together about a couple years ago now and I really enjoy riding it on mountain bike trails. It is a bit of a tank, but it goes over and around most anything. I'll probably never kill the frame. Too burly.

Anyway, here's the rundown on this bike....
  • Frame: Singular Cycles Buzzard, Size Large
  • Fork: MRP Stage 140mm travel
  • Drive Train: Shimano 2 X 10 STX DynSys 10spd clutch type rear derailleur. 
  • Brakes: Shimano STX Hydro.
  • Wheels: Velocity hubs and Velocity Dually rims
  • Tires: On One Chunky Monkey frt 2.4" and One One Smorgasbord 2.25" rear- both tubeless.
  • Seat Post: Specialized Command Post dropper type. 
  • Bars/Stem: Kore B52 stem and Shimano PRO Alloy Tharsis bar with Ergon grips
Besides some minor brake maintenance, this bike is good to go and I do not plan any future upgrades here unless it might be a better dropper post than I have on here now. This bike really tames the terrain here. It's almost silly how easy everything is around here. That's good, and its bad. Bad because it is hard to have a challenging ride around here and you have to travel to places that would push my limits with this bike. Good because I can travel to places with tougher trails and have a capable rig.

Rear View 2015- Part 3

I PR'd my coldest commute ever in 2015
As detailed in my Rear View Part 1, the year started out bad in terms of health. I was so sick most of the time I hardly turned a pedal in January and February.

There were a few bright spots. One was when I felt good enough to ride and the air temperature was -17°F and I was not going to miss riding my bike just because it was so cold! Careful layering and riding the Blackborow DS kept me warm and safe. It wasn't so bad, really.

It may have, in the end, actually made me more susceptible to becoming sick again, as I ended up battling some malady or another after this as well. It had to rank as one of the worst starts to a year, in terms of cycling, that I have ever endured. Not since the mid-90's had I endured such dismal cycling opportunities due to ill health, weather, and other circumstances.

Of course, I eventually got all of that kicked and started riding more in earnest once the weather broke in March and after a final bout with some possible food poisoning when I was in El Paso, Texas visiting family. When I returned, gravel riding started and I pretty much stuck to that until much later into 2015.

There was a gravel ride to and from Ingawanis to attend a fund raiser/clinic on endurance riding which was fun. 
Dodging large agricultural implements on a 3GR ride in June.
I held a few 3GR rides in 2015, but they were few and far between due to my traveling schedule and for other reasons. It just never seemed to be something I could do on a regular basis in 2015. The rides I did get in were fun and well attended.

I was blessed by a visit from T.I.Vet, Warren Wiebe in July
I ended up doing a lot of solo gravel rides whenever I could find the time to fit them in. I also rode a lot more in different parts of Black Hawk and surrounding counties. Earlier in the year I did a couple longer rides up into Bremer County on unfamiliar roads. I spent a lot of time riding South on Aker Road and then over to the East at times off that road.

On a couple of occasions I rode West over to Grundy County which proved to yield a few good adventures. On one I found a Nalgene bottle knock off which I picked up and now I use that as my water container at work. On another ride later on into the Fall I went North through parts of Butler County and then into Bremer County and on back home through Cedar Falls. The new roads invigorated me and I had a lot of fun doing some different routes at my own pace.

There were a very few outings on the fat bike and those were almost all exclusively into the Green Belt with a couple of rides into George Wyth to bag a couple of new trails that I had heard of so I could keep up my string of having ridden every dirt trail in the park since 1992 that has ever been put in. Many are gone now, but I remember them and now I have the new ones to ride as well.

I got to ride with my co-worker at Europa Cycle and Ski, Andy, on our fat bikes and we dove into much of Geo Wyth that day along with some of the trails on the South side of the Cedar River as well. Oddly enough, I didn't ride any of my mountain bikes at all for most of the year. If it was dirt, I used the Blackborow DS almost exclusively with the Bluto suspension fork. Although Ingawanis is a lot of fun, and the trails were good most of the year, I just never seemed to get a day when I could get up there, or I chose to ride gravel instead.

I managed a couple of "Dirt Home From Work" rides on the ol' Inbred
I spent several weeks following my son's football team in the Fall.
This bike bedeviled me and caused me to start Project 1X1
I got to ride with another co-worker, Joel, for the first time this past Fall.
Yes- this was just about a month ago!
Now it is just dreary, wet, and cold!
The mountain bike thing got done at Ingawanis later in November, but even then I rode my Blackborow! Mountain bikes have been gathering dust, for the most part, in 2015. Maybe '16 will play out differently and those bikes will gather dirt, mud, and trail dust!

The Project 1X1 happened, I did a few Periscope broadcasts, and Trans Iowa registration came and went. Meanwhile, I kept rather busy riding gravel and doing reviews. test riding parts, and swapping out bits and pieces all the while.

I got some much needed house work stuff done after my last event for the year, which was Gravel Worlds in August. The Fall went on forever, and early Winter was unusually warm, and I kept riding all along. It's been a great year for that, barring the first three months or so, but the end is making up for the beginning for sure.

So, that about wraps up my Rear View for 2015 here. I hope you enjoyed stopping by and reading about my adventures, my opinions, and I also hope that some of this craziness was helpful to someone in some small way. I thank you all for stopping by.

Next up, I will ponder what 2016 may have in store, put out my thoughts on bikes, technology, and maybe a few plans on events for the coming season. Maybe more, we'll see what comes out of this addled brain! Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bikes Of 2015: Twin Six Standard Rando

Although it wasn't my bike then, it is now!
This one is a surprise for me. It all started out as a review bike for I figured that I might like it, but after I started riding it, I parked just about everything else I owned and rode this bike fairly exclusively until September when I figured it would have to go back. Then something strange happened.......

I asked Twin Six if they'd sell it to me and for how much. 

I'd pretty much never done that in a decade of reviewing stuff. But, I liked this bike that much. I just am very surprised that it rides as smooth as it does and with such stability and yet has a certain snap. Hard to 'splain it, but all you need to know is that I like it a lot.

The Bike: Twin Six Standard Rando. It is a bike with many purposes, but it seems to suit my gravel travels quite nicely. Here's a quick run down of what it has on it and one thing it will have on it soon....
  • Frame/Fork: Twin Six ain't sayin' what kind of steel this is, but it rides really well.
  • Drivetrain: SRAM Rival 22 w/mech disc brakes.
  • Bars/Stem: fizik with Torx fasteners. (Why?!!) 
  • Wheels: Here's the part I didn't buy when I got the bike. I am building up some White Industries hubs to WTB KOM rims. Stay tuned.....
That last part is why this bike hasn't seen the light of day for months. I now have the rims and the hubs are on the way. Sometime this Winter this bike will have wheels again. Why didn't I buy the wheels? Because they weren't what I wanted. Frankly, I don't feel that they were the right way to go in terms of where wheels and tires are headed these days.

Other than that, I probably will end up ditching the crazy fizik stuff and especially that saddle. I see a set of Cowbells headed for this bike, a different stem without Torx bolts, and lighter seat post. But first the wheels and tires will get done. I have a saddle as a replacement, but the rest will come much later.

Bikes Of 2015: Titanium Mukluk

The geared fat bike.
This is a fat bike I built up from a frame and fork back at the end of 2011. It is a U.S. made Salsa Cycles Mukluk Titanium and originally it came with a steel fork, but that was swapped over to my son's bike during the fork recall on Mukluks and that hasn't been resolved yet. (Mostly because I forget about doing anything about it.)

Anyway, this bike has been modded constantly until this year when I pretty much brought it up to a state where I am pretty happy with the bike now. There are still a few details I want to address at some point, but for now the Ti Muk will stay in this state for a while to come. Future upgrades will be listed later, but here is the spec as it sits today.

  • Frame/Fork: 2012 Titanium Mukluk with On One Fatty carbon fork.
  • Wheels/Tires: Rolling Darryls, tubed, with a Bud up front and an unbadged Chinese tire out back which strongly resembles a Panaracer Fat B Nimble. Hubs are Salsa w/Salsa skewers.
  • Drive Train- Surly OD Crankset w/36T/22T rings, SRAM cassette, 10spd 11-36T, XT Shadow Plus DynaSys rear derailleur w/clutch, Shimano 105 10spd chain. SRAM x-9 direct mount front derailleur
  • Right Shifter- DynaSys 10 speed, Left Shifter- SRAM X-9
  • Brakes- Magura Lower end CarboTech model, can't remember the model right now. 
  • Bar/Stem: Answer carbon flat bar and Answer aluminum stem. Grips are an Ergon cork model. 
  • Seat Post- Body Float with titanium shaft. Saddle is a Velo take off from an SE Racing single speed. 
  • Pedals: Fixation Mesa MP
  • Accessories: Dave's Mud Shovel rear fender, Bike Bag Dude bags, prototype mud guard on crank.
Future Upgrades: I would like to get a new wheel set on this with tubeless tires at some point. That will be a big expense, but tubeless fat bike ride quality is so vastly superior to riding with tubes it isn't even a consideration for me to stick with tubed wheels and tires. Beyond that though, I think this bike will eventually end up as a 1 X 11 drivetrain. Mostly because I need the tire clearance for a slightly bigger rear tire I have in mind for this bike.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sugar Snow

The Ti Mukluk on the way home.
Snow. That stuff we usually would have had on the ground for at least a month or more already has returned. It made a brief, cameo appearance in late November, but it exited about as fast as it showed up. Then we got the "Christmas Miracle" snow, but that was gone the next day.

This stuff looks to have some staying power. It has been snowing all day, and we're supposed to end up with about ten inches of it. You'd think I'd be really happy about that, since I have a fat bike and all.

Well, except that this is possibly the worst type of snow to try to ride on. Sugary, granulated, icy pellet snow that shifts and moves all over the place. It makes getting a purchase on it really hard to do. Think "fine sand" and you will get the idea.

This stuff is drifting up in waves, just like sand does, already today. I don't care how much we get, because this stuff doesn't pack down, and unless we get some warm Sun on it to crust it up, it will end up being a nuisance more than it will be fun. I suspect that's about what it will end up becoming by the time it quits later tonight, a big pile of shifting, sandy, granulated nuisance snow.

Yeah, call me "Debbie Downer" if you must, but I have a very low opinion of this quality of white stuff we're getting. It's that dang "sugar snow" again, and it ain't sweet either.

Rear View 2015- Part 2

As promised in the first "Rear View" for this year, here is a recap of the events I took part in for 2015:

The 5.0 version of the Gents Race was my first event of 2015
 I had a pretty ambitious schedule of events that I wanted to try out for 2015. I left the Triple D off since I had completed it 3 times in a row, and I was glad I did due to all the sickness I went through earlier in the year. However; that meant that with T.I.v11 coming up, and with all that entails, I was seriously out of shape coming into the Gents Race this time. I was a bit worried about that, but in the end, it all worked out and I completed the ride with no issues.

I've stated this probably a million times here, but I love this event. Obviously, so do a lot of other folks. With 60 teams showing up that consisted of five folks each, the throng of over 300 riders and supporters made for quite a scene. More than that though, I've been part of something special for five years running, and that has been that we have the only team that has participated intact for all five editions of the Gents Race. Maybe next year it won't happen, but I plan on being there again. It is the one event I don't want to miss.

Then it wasn't long until I had another event. This time it was to be the second "Geezer Ride" that I was going to host. This whole idea for the ride stemmed from a comment made to me by Wally Kilburg, and his buddy George Keslin, who have been tremendous friends and helpers for Trans Iowa for several years now. They couldn't make the first Geezer Ride I hosted in 2014 in the Fall, but they did make it out to this one held in Grinnell.

There was an exceptional turnout for the second Geezer Ride in Grinnell in Mid-April
The ride ended up happening on a crisp, cool, windy day, but the Sun was out, and we all had a great time. The following day we had Trans Iowa recon, and Wally, George, and I enjoyed a glorious weekend of riding and recon. Too bad the weather didn't hold out for the next event in April I had!

It wasn't going to look like this for T.I.v11! But the final recon went really well due to the nice weather then.
This image by Kevin Fox, a rider in T.I.v11, pretty much tells the tale of the day!
So, yeah.......Trans Iowa v11. That one will go down as one of the more memorable Trans Iowas I have done. A surprise showing of Jason Boucher at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. My buddy MG getting sick, the tremendous wind and rain, and hanging out under a rude shelter house in Guernsey, Iowa as we watched in amazement the scene that unfolded there that morning. Then having MG miraculously re-join me and hanging out with him and his dog, Amy on some forgotten stretch of Iowa gravel waiting for Greg Gleason to appear over the Western horizon. Then going back to Grinnell and hanging out with Trans Iowa riders- friends old and new- till it was finally time to head back home. It all was a whirlwind of a day, and one I shant forget the rest of my days.

That concluded the month of April, and during May all I had to do was to recover from Trans Iowa's running as quick as I could and turn my attention to getting dialed in for an attempt at the 10th Dirty Kanza 200. I had a great time in Emporia with my ride down with Tony McGrane, staying with Joe at his residence, and hanging out with MG all weekend.

In what might be described as a bit of karma visited upon me, the DK 200 was more like a Trans Iowa in 2015! Image by Ari Andonopoulous
My friend Ari Andonopoulous was there to ride and we hooked up just before the event started. We got to experience an unforgettable morning together before we were separated. MG, who blew up his rig in that mud, like many others had, bailed out and appeared like a mirage at CP#1 to speed me upon my way toward CP#2. Things went South for me in a couple of areas both within and without my control which finally led to missing the CP#2 cutoff by a measly two minutes. Still, it ended up becoming the longest time out on a single ride and the longest mileage I had ever ridden in a single sitting that I had ever done. Not bad for the lack of training I had coming into the event.

MG collected me and took me back to home base until the next day, and Tony and I shared another great ride back home. The next event I did would also involve a long drive out and back with Tony. It was another crack at Odin's Revenge. I love the folks that put this on and the terrain it is held on as well. I also had the nice surprise of seeing Wally Kilburg out there as he was photographing the event.

Scott Redd captured some of the immense scenery of Odin's Revenge in this shot. It truly makes one feel small!
Odin's Revenge is an amazing route and one that has be-deviled me on all three attempts I have made. Heat, mud, difficult climbing, and wind all conspire, or have in past efforts I have made, to thwart me in my efforts. It has become my "vision quest" event, and I have turned myself inside out each time I have done this course. How I will ever manage to finish one of these, I haven't a clue, but I plan on keeping at it until I do, or those DSG's stop putting on the event.

Last June I succumbed to the intense heat, and I slept under a tree on a lonely roadside till I became strong enough to drag myself to the second checkpoint town where I ended up getting sagged in by one of the event's dedicated promoters, Matt Bergen who took good care of me. Thanks Matt!

That was it until the next Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, which was to be a reprise of the route the year before when I got hit by that truck alongside the road at mile 95 or so.

Yard sale on the 2015 GTDRI. We had to stop to cool off several times. The heat was as high as the hills that day.
The good news was that I got through the event unscathed. In the process, I thought I lost all my money and credit cards, found out about the goodness of gravel grinder folks, had the joy and embarrassment of finding said money and credit cards buried in my Bike Bag Dude bag, and passed by the infamous "spot" without incident this time. All in all a brutal and beautiful day out on the bike with great folks.

Next up was another hotter than Hades day on the third Geezer Ride which I decided to run out of Waterloo, Iowa for ease of getting it done. We had a good turn out and all finished the ride despite brutal heat and humidity that day.

The surprise oasis stop at the farm of Tom Scott was a big highlight on the third Geezer Ride. 
After that third Geezer Ride I had a short week or two until I was to go with Tony once again to Lincoln, Nebraska for Gravel Worlds. was hot, and windy! What a brutal day on the bike, and I ended up coming up short again. One of these days I will learn how to survive the heat and humidity, but I haven't had good luck with that most of my years of trying in various Summertime events.

I did get to meet and chat with a lot of good folks. Saw my brother MG again, and stayed downtown in Lincoln, which was a different experience. We will never do that again, most likely, but I was glad I did it once! 

The Reinkordts on their farm near Lincoln provided the Gravel Worlds riders with an "oasis stop". I have a special place in my heart for these folks. 
I got to see the Reinkordts again though, and these gentle, kind folks opened up their farm as an oasis stop during the Gravel Worlds event. I had met these folks way back several years ago during the first Gravel Worlds and I have always appreciated them for their hospitality and kindness to sweaty strangers such as myself. People like this are the reason I just love going to events and riding on gravel roads.

Well, it wasn't a very successful year in terms of finishing events I went to, at least not at the big three I tried. Maybe another year, who knows, but I would not trade the experiences I gained for anything. The people I got to know, see again, and the scenes I witnessed cannot be valued in money or "finishes" or prizes. It was a great year from that standpoint, and I thank all who were a part of it.

Next: A look at 2015 from the local standpoint.

Bikes Of 2015: "Fat Fargo"

The "Fat Fargo" was the "perfect bike" on a couple of occasions
Here's a bike that, to be quite honest, I used far more than I had ever thought I would when this year began. Back in January it was pretty much an experiment in a possible bikepacking platform, maybe reverting back to the XC-ish, dirt oriented Fargo I figured it always would be ever since I have had this 2012 version of the Fargo. A chance at getting to go to the Dirty Kanza 200 ended up changing my outlook on this bike dramatically.

The Bike: This is a Gen 2 version of the Salsa Cycles Fargo model which has been modified to be a 27.5+/B+ type drop bar hard tail bike. I built it up originally from a frame and fork. I'll detail some of the more interesting bits from the current build:
  • Wheels: The hubs are '00 era Chris King ISO Disc hubs laced to Velocity USA Blunt 35 rims with Wheelsmith spokes and alloy nipples. 
  • Tires: WTB Trailblazer 2.8's tubeless
  • Divetrain is a 3X9 using an '07 LX crank and SRAM 9spd 11-36T cassette
  • Shifters are a mixed bag. Rear shifter is a Gevenalle 10 speed GX. (YES- ten speed), and the front shifter is a Shimano bar end. 
  • Seat Post: Salsa Cycles Regulator titanium 27.2 x 400mm
  • Handlebars: Salsa Cycles Cowchipper 46cm. 
The longest ride I have ever done in terms of mileage and time in the saddle was done on this bike at the DK200 last Spring. I also used it at Odin's Revenge, and in both instances I was told by fellow riders that this was "the perfect bike" for the conditions. In many ways, it perhaps was that. I know that at the DK 200 that I had a distinct advantage over many when it came to the mud and water crossings. At Odin's, the "moon dust", ruts, and dirt were easier with the bigger, cushy tires. I had float too when it mattered. 

Disadvantages maybe were more wheel weight, and a heavier over all bike, but honestly, the planted feel and stability the bike had in the higher speed down hills and technical stuff made up for it. Anyway, I don't foresee any major modifications to this set up and I expect to use it again at some events next season. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rear View 2015- Part 1

Although I didn't know it at the time, this was to be my main event rig for 2015
 Well, as I forewarned, and as I have done about every year end now, here is my series on a look back over at 2015 before it is gone.  

The time of year for reflection has come once again. Here's to a big 2015. Looking back, I found several highlights and low ebbs. Here's a look at a few for today.....

Sickness: The year started out with several bouts of sickness for the entire Guitar Ted family. That put me off my bikes more than I was on them to get 2015 rolling. January wasn't very snowy to start out with, but it was cold and dreary. I could have been riding, but the seriousness of my illnesses prevented almost anything from getting done. I was a bit anxious due to the fact that I had been extended the opportunity to ride in the Dirty Kanza 200 event on its 10th anniversary.

Miraculously I was okay to attend Frostbike in February once again. There was no Mike's Bikes visit or even a stop in Northfield, which I missed, but I did get to do something pretty crazy anyway. Due to a weird set of circumstances, I made a 12.5 mile walk through the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the snow and temperatures in the teens. This took me from about 2:30am till about 6:30am and caused me to miss the first day of the expo at Quality Bicycle Products. The next day I received no less than a few strange looks and a few stern reminders that I have friends willing to bail me out next time.

An old header from this very blog was brought back in my 10 years of blogging review.
A Decade In Review: 

I also started out with a look back over my ten years of blogging here with some of my past headers and stories of my travels and writing associated with this crazy site. All the way from being a guest blogger on Jeff Kerkove's blog in 2004 till May of 2005 when I turned the lights on here, and then all the craziness that ensued due to the writing here which led me down the path of The Bicycle Hub, The Cyclistsite, Twenty Nine Inches and Gravel Grinder News was detailed.

As I have said many, many times here- thank you very much for reading here and for your past support. Hopefully I will continue to add something positive to your day as you continue to stop by to see what's up here.

The "Tin Cowboy" of Conlen Texas. Just because I like this image!
Website Changes:

As mentioned, I have been doing other web related writing all along, and in 2015 that load got cut down to a large degree, on my terms, and it has worked out rather well. I left Twenty Nine Inches behind and merged Gravel Grinder news in with Ben Welnak's Much less work load and better opportunities to spend time with my family and working on much needed household things was the result. This all took place right out of the gate in January of 2005.


 The Trans Iowa site cannot be forgotten. I was busy doing updates there as the 11th running of that event drew nearer. There was a recon which was done mid-April and cue sheets to print right afterward. T-shirts were designed for the volunteers and a special design came from an image of an old, archaic bicycle tool manufactured right here in Iowa. Otherwise it was a lead up like about any other Trans Iowa of late.

Finally, for this entry anyway, I'll mention that we got back down to El Paso, Texas after missing it for a year to see the in-laws and ride bikes. Unfortunately, I got some bad food poisoning which took out a couple of days, the very ones I had open to ride on, so I drug my fat bike down there and back for nothing. Next time.......

And speaking of "next time", there will be a new post coming which will be a "Rear View" of all the events I did throughout the year. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bikes Of 2015: Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

Surprise, surprise! You knew this was coming, didn't you?
When I started this  series on bikes I used during 2015, a lot of you probably thought that this would be showing up sooner or later. It has been in "regular rotation" as a bike I generally use since I purchased the frame and fork four years ago or so. The funny thing about this one is that I get asked a lot about it and what components I have on it. More so than anything else I own.

The Bike: This is a bike from a bike shop with the same name- Black Mountain Cycles- which is located at Point Reyes Station, California. This one is the Monster Cross frame and fork. I call it "Orange Crush", but Black Mountain Cycles founder, Mike Varley, can't do that for obvious reasons. You can get a full build kit from BMC, but I got just the frame set. While I often modify this bike, the basic set up is as follows with this one:
  • Crank Set: Older Shimano Non-series five arm 110BCD w/46T/36T rings
  • Cassette: SRAM 9 speed 11-34T
  • Rear Derailleur: Older Ultegra 9 speed long cage.
  • Front Derailleur: 90's vintage top pull Shimano STX
  • Shifters/Brake levers: Gevenalle- These are the older non-linear pull type which I mounted Shimano 9spd bar end shifters to. 
  • Wheels: Either Velocity USA polished A-23's or HED Ardennes+ with various tires.
  • Brakes: Tektro cantilevers
  • Stem & Seat Post: Ritchey Classic
  • Headset: Origin 8 sealed bearing threadless. 
  • Handle Bar: Salsa Cycles 46cm Cowbell
  • Saddle: WTB Pure V
  • Rack: Velo Orange Pass Hunter
  • Bags: Front Rack-  Out of production, sorry!, Frame- Revelate Tangle Bag, Medium, Top Tube Bag- Planet Bike Snack Sack
  • Fenders: (When Used) Planet Bike Cascadia ALX
Obviously I like this bike a lot. It just plain works and is comfortable. It is by no means perfect from my point of view though. The bottom bracket is too high, and the head angle a bit too steep. This bike gets kinda squirrelly when things get fast and loose, which I am not comfortable with. But mostly it is fun and it can swallow huge tires and have the capability to run fenders all without a truck-like wheel base. Actually, it is a pretty amazing design, and one I often point to when I get feedback from other bike companies saying, "We can't do that.....". Obviously, you could, and the proof is right here in the Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross rig. Now if I could only get Mike Varley to design a disc brake version with a lower BB and slightly slacker head angle.........


Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Hike

The kids scarcely got out of the car and they were taking pictures.
Snowy Christmas? Ha! Highly unlikely given that the weather had been so unusually warm throughout December, yet that's what we got. It started on my commute home from the bike shop Thursday and it snowed heavily all afternoon, giving us just enough cover to make it a truly white Christmas. A Christmas miracle? Perhaps.

Christmas Day here is foggy and with all the fresh, white snow, low winds, and temperatures warm enough for almost any activity, I decided the family needed to do a walk around the lake out by the Green Belt.

It was a perfect time to do the walk, as the snow was on the branches, a slight fog in the air, and not many folks were stirring yet. Probably they were all busy opening gifts, or sleeping in. We had a modest Christmas. There were no gifts. Just time spent with each other, and on the walk, at least, no distractions from the outside world.

It wasn't a bike ride, or a fancy device, or a shiny gift wrapped with a bow, but it was a better Christmas morning than I have had in many a year. Not that doing traditional things is bad, but I feel like stripping things down to what really matters, at least once in a while, is a good thing to do.

I'll share a few images below......

The peaceful scene was punctuated by a few calls from the Canadian Geese and low quacks of Mallards.
Mother and Daughter

The Green Belt trails look to have a lot of standing water on them from the recent flood.

Merry Christmas!

A neighborhood scene from Iowa with love!
Merry Christmas!
From Guitar Ted Productions!

Here's hoping you and your loved ones have a Happy Holiday season. 

Stay safe and thanks for reading, as always!


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bikes Of 2015: Raleigh Tamland Two

The 2015 edition of the Tamland Two was a winner.
This is another bike that needs no introduction to long time blog readers here. And was the second bike that popped up when I did a random search! This one has been through a few minor modification stages, so I'll list the current state of the bike and highlight what I swapped out.

The Bike: The frame and fork are the same 2014 model edition pieces that I got originally, but I have changed out some drive train bits. The too big 50T Ultegra ring was swapped out quite a while back to an Ultegra 46T one. This year I swapped out the chain and cassette to a SRAM 11-36T 11 speed set up. The lowered gearing was much appreciated! The stem, handle bars, and saddle were all changed out as well. I am not 100% in love with the fizik Aliante saddle, so that may disappear, but the Cowbell and Bontrager stem will remain here. I've used lots of different tires on this rig and currently I have the fenders off of it and it is sporting Bruce Gordon Rock & Road 43mm skin wall tires.

I really like this bike, and as well I should. The basic geometry and many of the features on the bike were direct results of my involvement with the design of this bike. The frame is really a nice riding one and the fork is such a great compliment to it that I can forgive Raleigh for the lack of fender clearance due to the use of a unicrown fork. Anyone know of a good custom fork builder that uses a sloping crown fork? 

Future Changes: The wheels will get changed out sometime in 2016, and as mentioned, the saddle will most likely get swapped out as well. That fizik is close, but.........not quite there. The main thing will be getting the wheels swapped over so I can run tubeless tires on this bike.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bikes Of 2015: Salsa Cycles Blackborow DS

You know it is a good bike if you don't mod it after purchase.
This is my first "Bike of 2015" only because when I picked a random month from this past year it was the first bicycle of mine that popped up. So, this will be a post on the bike and why it is one of my favorites.

The Bike: This is an almost 100% stock size Large 2015 Salsa Cycles Blackborow DS. I changed the grips and added my old Atomic pedals. I accessorized the bike with a Bike Bag Dude rear saddle bag, two Chaff Bags, and of late I have added a J-Paks top tube bag. I have altered the bike in Summer with a Rock Shox Bluto, but currently it is back to the stock fork with the two Salsa Anything Cage HD cages. I also have two water bottle cages on it, and come to think of it, those will come off for the Winter.

I've written scads of words about this bike since I got it just over a year ago. (Here is my year review), so hit the link if you want something more in-depth than I'm sharing here. I will only add that the handling is fun, and the bike accomplishes what I wanted. That being a bike that floats and traverses deep snow better than what I had before. The Lou/Lou front and rear combo of tires is amazing, and rolls well enough for my purposes.

Future Plans: I do have some pretty ambitious plans for this bike. Pieces and parts have been acquired and still need to be acquired to get this where I want it, but I am not quite ready to give up all the details just yet. Long time readers here can probably already guess what I am up to! But the bottom line here is that this seems to be a bike that has struck a nerve with me and I want to keep exploring all of the possibilities I can regarding it. 

So, that was short and sweet! Look for another bike to be featured tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bikes Of 2015

From that one time in 2015 when we actually had snow!
Over the course of the year I have been using an assortment of bicycles and blogging about them here. They have been old friends and new. I guess, in a way, you could say that these were my favorite bikes that I used in 2015. I have other bikes as well, but for whatever reason, they weren't used much- or at all- all year this year.

I thought it might be kind of fun to do a special post on each one that I found here in the past blog posts for 2015. I won't be doing these in any special order, so if I don't get to one you were wondering about, stay tuned.....

Each post will give you a breakdown of each bike- frame, fork, parts, and why I like those things. If there is some future changes in store, I'll detail those as well. If there is a reason I think each bike could be better, I'll say so.

This will be in addition to my usual "Rear View" posts, which will begin next week. So, if you have any requests, please let them be known in the comments. Otherwise, stay tuned for the first bike to be revealed tomorrow. I'm not even sure how many there will be! So, I cannot say if this will go on the rest of this year or just this week. You'll have to keep checking back to see just what I come up with!