Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Getting My Sea Legs

Crisp, cool air, blue skies, fresh gravel.
Saturday was the day of the Endurance Clinic at Ingawanis Woodlands. I decided to ride on up. The start of the clinic was to be at 11:00am, so I figured I could get there by the start if I left at 9:30am or before. Well, of course, I didn't leave until 9:30am.

I also was just over a week removed from being so sick I felt nigh unto my death bed. I hadn't been on a bicycle ride of any significance for ten days. So, whatever possessed me to think that I could motor on up there in an hour and a half, well, I don't know what it was. I didn't quite grasp my folly until I got about two and a half miles out into the country. That's when I knew I was really out of shape. 

I ended up deciding that I should stop to try to get my self collected and to take a few images of some bits I needed to update on for RidingGravel.com. At this point, I was still under the false illusion that I was way ahead of schedule and didn't have that far to go. I should have known better, because I've ridden this route a lot, but at the time, I wasn't aware of exactly where I was on the route. After I got rolling, I figured out where I was, and then things got a bit clearer. I needed to get a move on.

On the way home I felt good. Roads in Bremer County were clean.
I decided that I needed to amend my route plans and go more directly to the clinic site. So, I took a road I hadn't been on before to the West and it was pretty interesting. There was a big, black Labrador that wasn't too fond of my passing, but that didn't result in anything serious beyond barking and an escort past his turf.

I was pretty stoked until I realized the road dead ended into Highway 63. Meh! It was a half a mile to the North and then another turn Westward toward my goal. The Denver Hills loomed to my right and I found another "T" intersection on Wagner Road. Bummer! I headed North and found the Westward turn on a gravel road I was familiar with. This was the road that went right by the Ingawanis Woodlands' Lodge. Good, but also bad. This road is anything but flat. Big hills, speedy downhills, and short on time meant I was gassed by the time I got there, only five minutes late! After two hours, the clinic was over and I headed back home into the wind. Oh yeah, and also into tons of fresh gravel in Black Hawk County.

That ride went well, and I got home feeling okay, but more fatigued than I should have. That I expected, but feeling good on the ride? Not so much. The result is that I think I will end up bouncing back a bit quicker than I thought. Hopefully..... Now with warmer weather coming on, and more daylight, I hope to start getting out more often. The next two weekends are planned out as for rides with the Renegade Gent's Race and the Geezer Ride #2. In between, I need to start getting mileage.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Geezer Ride #2 Details

From the first Geezer Ride last October
The Geezer Ride was a ride born out of a request for an "easier, less brutal" gravel road experience. I complied by arranging a 40-ish mile loop out of Amana Iowa. It was an easy, slow, ride with many stops, but everyone loved it and asked for more. So, this is it people! The next Geezer Ride will happen in Grinnell, Iowa on April 11th. Here are the finer details....

  • The ride will start at 8:30am, but a few of us will be getting together for breakfast at the Frontier Cafe, 831 Main St which opens at 7:00am. Feel free to join us there. The ride starts right around the corner on Broad Street in front of Bikes To You. 
  • I've mapped out a loop which ended up being 46 miles. I know, I know, I said it would be 40-ish, but boo-hoo! Besides, the last five or six miles are darn near flat as a pancake, so, really, they don't count! And by the way, the loop ends at Bikes To You, so if you are staying at the motels in the Southern part of Grinnell, you'll be able to cut off a few miles. 
  • You can expect big hills on this ride. Don't worry though- we will wait for any and all stragglers. We will likely stop, a lot, and go fairly slow. If this sounds frustrating to you, don't show up. I used this mode of operation last time and it worked really well. 
  • It likely will be windy, raw, and not all that warm. Dress accordingly. I suggest a couple layers at least, and a windproof jacket. Bring a camera. If it rains a little bit, we will still ride. If it is pouring rain, we won't. If that happens we'll hang out somewhere and bug Craig Cooper at Bikes To You with all sorts of senseless bike questions!
  • I will have a cue sheet, and there will be one for the designated "sweeper" who will ride at the back. Otherwise we will all stay together. 
  • There will be one B Level Maintenance road. Trans Iowa veterans will remember it from V8. It was also used on the 2012 GTDRI. 1 mile, hilly, but ya gotta do a B Road! By the way, many of the roads we will use have been used on past Trans Iowa routes.
  • We will have a pass through town stop at Brooklyn, Iowa. We also will go through Malcom, because I want to since I've never been there.
  • I figure we should be done by 2:00-2:30pm. Then I will be suggesting we go somewhere to eat and have a few brews. Feel free to join me. A decision on where to go will be made post ride, but may I humbly suggest the Grinnell Steakhouse? 
That's about it. I know that about 5-8 folks have intentions of showing up, so there should be a nice sized group. Come one, come all, and enjoy camaraderie, fun, and gravel roads which are simply beautiful. See ya there......

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ingawanis Endurance Clinic

Mike Johnson speaks on nutrition at the Ingawanis Endurance Clinic
Yesterday I rode on up to the Ingawanis Woodands lodge to attend the Ingawanis Endurance Clinic which also functioned as a fundraiser to help out the Bremer County Conservation Board with purchasing the former South side of the Boy Scout Camp. First, let me give you all a bit of the history from a mountain biker's viewpoint......

I first heard about Ingawanis Boy Scout Camp from a few of the older/more experienced mountain bikers way back in the early 90's. Details were not freely given, but from what I gathered back then, it was considered one of the best mountain biking opportunities in the local area. However; it wasn't open to mountain bikers. You had to "poach" the trails, and then only at night, or so the story went. Otherwise you might face the wrath of the Camp Ranger and possibly be fined a hefty amount.

Fast forward almost 15 years later, and I received a call from Ward Budweg, who was, at the time, the owner of Decorah Bicycles. I was invited to come out and see Ingawanis Boy Scout Camp to see if there were any possibilities for trails and what I thought about a mountain biking program that would also open trails to the general public. This would have been about 2003, or so, I think. Anyway, it was my first ride at the Scout Camp, and I was stoked by what I had seen there. It was all that I remember hearing about and more. Definitely the best terrain for off road cycling within riding distance of Waterloo-Cedar Falls. Maybe better than 90% of anything in Iowa.

About 20 folks showed up and raised over $900.00 for the trails.
It took a couple more years, but by 2006-07 we were doing regular rides up there and expanding upon the opportunities for single track. Later on, the South side of the Camp, so called since it lay on the Southern side of Quarter Section Creek, was developed and slowly came to rival, then surpass the trails of the North side. With some conflicts arising due to the damage caused by horse back riding, it was quietly decided to cease riding the North side a few years ago. Then the Boy Scouts decided to put the South side up for sale.

This was alarming to us as cyclists, runners, and hikers since there were a couple of development companies eying the land to turn it into exclusive, woodland home properties. This, of course, would have effectively taken away a huge resource from the public domain and would have been a huge blow to recreational opportunities in the State. There just are not very many tracts of woodlands in Iowa, let alone in the Northeast part of the state, due to the vast agricultural interests here. Fortunately, the Bremer County Conservation Board saw an opportunity to add this resource to the public domain, and they were able to secure a loan through the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to get this land locked away from the developers. The Boy Scouts even helped facilitate this as well, since they did not want to see the South side scrapped and developed into privately held homesteads.

Mike detailed his bike set-ups for gravel. Tour Divide, and more for the cyclists in attendance.
This brings us back to the Endurance Clinic, and the reasons for it. Dave Roll, a local cyclist, got the vision for this and set up the clinic as a way to help runners and cyclists share knowledge and also to help draw awareness to the fact that the Bremer County Conservation Board needs to pay a lot of money back to get the lands at the former South side of the Boy Scout Camp secured for public uses into the future. Dave got Mike Johnson, a former Tour Divide finisher, multiple Trans Iowa and Dirty Kanza 200 finisher, and runner Wendy Foote to help facilitate the clinic. A person from the Bremer County Conservation Board presented the case for donations and a jar was set out. A fair amount was donated by the 20 or so guests, but it is barely a drop in the bucket. If you are local to this area, consider giving to help secure this resource for the future by checking out this link here.

So, the clinic was actually really fun, and informative. If you missed out, this may happen again at sometime, and if it does, you should go. If only just for the food, which was tremendous, I might add!

Thanks to Dave Roll, Wendy Foote, Mike Johnson, and the rest of the volunteers and guests for showing an interest in this resource. Thanks to those who have given and will give. I really like riding out there, and it would be a shame for Iowans to lose this great woodland area.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Building From Scratch

Chase And Face
It isn't every day that you get to build up a bike from the "frame up", but I was given that opportunity at the shop the other day by a local rider. He was keen on doing a gravel/touring/any road bike and since he is also a Minnesota Vikings fan, the obvious choice was Surly's Straggler model. He got the frame, fork, and a box-o-parts and brought the whole shootin' match down to the shop where I began the long process of making it all a bicycle.

Now if you are an older bicycle mechanic like myself, you get all excited when the frame you get to build up is a steel one. Why? Because you get to "chase and face", that's why. It all involves a nearly antiquated tool that is made of machined steel cutting bits and a heavy, steel shaft and handle apparatus. This hand run thread chaser and bottom bracket facing tool was made to clean up the threads in a metal bottom bracket and "face" the outer shell so that both "edges" of the bottom bracket are perfectly flat and perfectly parallel to one another. This makes for a nicer, smoother, aligned bottom bracket. Is it all really necessary? Probably not as much as it used to be when serviceable bottom brackets were still being used, but I'll tell ya what- those cups threaded in so smoothly it was uncanny after the machining operation. So, yeah.....it makes a difference.

After that was accomplished I always move on to what I consider the next essential step in building up a bicycle. That's installing the head set and fork. To my mind, it isn't a bicycle to build until the head set and fork are joined to the rest of the frame.

Chris King, Gevenalle, Old Edge wheels, and Cowbell bars.
The owner chose a gold anodized Chris King headset for this project and so that was carefully pressed in and then it was on to the matching Straggler fork. This is where things can get touchy since you never know how much steer tube is too little. So, after I consulted with the owner, I chose to err to the "too long" side and added three 10mm spacers in addition to the spacers provided by the owner for the build. That should be enough, right? The thing is, Surly Cross Checks and Stragglers have notoriously short head tubes for their size. It's a good thing I added those three spacers!

Well, now I had a bicycle. The rest went pretty well until I ran into a missing couple of bits that were essential to getting this build completed. The old style shifter bosses that Surly uses needed cable stop adjusters. Bah! The owner hadn't thought of those, which is completely understandable. Those little gubbins are easy to forget about until you need them! Fortunately, I am something of a pack rat when it comes to the essential gubbins, and after a half an hour search, I came across a pair of old Profile cable stop adjusters in black ano. Perfect for this build. Now it was on to stringing up cables in some blingy gold Jagwire housings.

Finished build- (Image by Andy)
Fortunately, Jagwire sent its brake housing in one, giant length because I needed a full run housing to the back of the bike. The rest was easy-peasy, and then it came time to mount a Brooks Cambium c-17 saddle on a vintage Dean titanium post, wrap the bars with some synthetic Cinelli tape, and dial in the Gevenalle GX shifters. The chain is a blingy gold KMC ten speed chain and that wraps around a 11-36T cassette and a Shimano 105 triple crankset for a big, wide range of gear ratios.

The owner was pretty stoked when he saw images of the bike on the shop's Facecrack page, and was only a bit ambivalent about the tires, but those may be swapped out soon. Otherwise the build was dubbed a success.

Anyway, building a bike up like this with quality parts is always a fun thing and definitely a good respite from the typical "MalWart" bike tune ups and neglected road bike refreshes that normally populate my work stand.Thanks to Mr. Z for the opportunity and I hope the rig brings you joy for many years to come.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Update

Time for a bit of an update on all things Trans Iowa today. Let's jump right in.....

Pre-Race Meat-Up: The roster was sent an e-mail about a month ago concerning the Pre-Race Meat-Up. I am happy to say that all but one person has responded to the call. Since I am such a nice guy, I am giving this individual one more week to respond to me and after that time the assumption will be this person isn't coming and the name will be stricken from the roster. (See the Trans Iowa site's "Latest News" section for the name)

The main purposes from my standpoint are to help out the Steakhouse with preparing for our meal choices and to ferret out anyone who may not be coming. You know, I often post here that I really need to know if you are not going to show up for Trans Iowa, and yet it seems that the annual e-mail about the Pre-Race Meat-Up is the only way I end up finding out about most of the potential drop outs. This year was no different in that regard.

The roster attrition is about what I would expect. It has become clear that we won't have a record field take the start, and this will be the smallest Rookie field to take the start since T.I.v8. That year we only had 26 Rookies, and we aren't far away from that number right now. It still may sink a bit more. I know for a fact we will not have everyone show up that plans to. We always have about 3-8 no-shows a year. By the way, last year we started 108 folks, which was the record all time and looks to stand again this year.

Recon for final cue sheet checking is set for April 12th, and the day before will be the next "Geezer Ride", which will also happen out of Grinnell, Iowa. Look for details on the Geezer Ride here within a couple days.

Also- RidingGravel.com - the site that will be doing our Trans Iowa Radio call ins again,just may be at the event to do more in-depth reporting. This idea is still in developmental stages.UPDATE: I just received confirmation that this will be the case. Stoked!

Stay tuned......

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Marketing "Average": Not Interesting But Necessary

This- Not more Mega-Halo-Pie-In-The-Sky Bikes.
Well, you all know that I am a certified "bike nerd" and as such, I love checking out the "latest-greatest" things that come out on the market. So, listen up here- I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to being seduced by five figure bikes that get bandied about in the cycling press. However; I can't help but feel that the "upper end" has gotten bloated and over-produced. Seriously- how many of those bikes actually are sold versus entry to mid-range bikes? Why is it that there seems to be a vacuum when it comes to press and banter on a bike that costs less than 2G.

First off, before I go any further, this is not about whether or not those big dollar bikes are justified or necessary. This isn't about that. In fact, I would be one of the first to stand up and say those "halo" bikes are totally a good thing. But c'mon! There are far, far more bikes being sold for less than two thousand dollars that we almost never hear a thing about.

I read an article about a full suspension 29"er the other day. I liked what I read, and the review even referenced that the technology was available in aluminum framed examples which were assumed to cost less. Then I looked at the one they actually rode- a bike costing more than $8000.00. 

My gut reaction? "Whoa! Yeah right! Forget about that bike." The whole review was almost instantaneously forgotten. Is that a poor way to react? I don't know, but that was my honest reaction. I bet I'm not alone in that.  I also bet the marketing department of that brand wouldn't be too stoked to know that.  And that made me think. A lot.

Now for a bit of a disclaimer- I just got in a new review bike for RidingGravel.com. It's a middle of a three bike range model with all the models being sub-$1100.00. This is a bicycle that is a bit hard to talk about because, well......frankly it is boring to most. However; in my opinion, totally necessary. It's what the cycling press should spend more time on talking about. Well, that is if they weren't worried so much about regurgitating press releases on bikes you can't even get yet or spouting off about bikes with such low production numbers that they are barely relevant to most riders. That's just my opinion.

And to be fair, there are some reviewers spending time on stuff like this. Just not enough. But, you know, it isn't sexy, exciting, or "new", and that's where the industry thinks the attention is grabbed. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Decade Of Nonsense: Part 8

This came into my life in 2011 and has made a lot of appearances here since.
Okay, I'm going to lump 2011 to the present into one post here. The blog grew by leaps and bounds every year, but never more so than in these last years. Heck, I've had a stat counter pretty much since day one and I can remember thinking getting 300 page views in a day was awesome. Now I get that somedays in an hour. Not that I am bragging, but you know- it's just how it is. And trust me, my numbers are small potatoes compared to many blogs. However; whatever this blog lacks in numbers it gets back in other "intangibles".

One of those has been my ranting and commentary concerning gravel road bikes. Well, that has resulted in something called the Tamland. I am not going to be shy here. I am rather proud of that. Amazed, for sure, and proud. It's not every day you can say that your ideas for a bicycle were actually implemented in a production model.

I had a lot more to talk about than that though. Trans Iowas, Renegade Gent's races, CIRREM, Triple D's, GTDRI's, and one of my favorite events- Odin's Revenge. Some of those events went well, some not so much, in terms of finishing, but all were very, very memorable and got their stories told here.

Still going.......
Now things have changed dramatically since 2011. There is no more The Cyclistsite, Gravel Grinder News, or Twenty Nine Inches that I have to shepherd, write for, and manage. That's been a good thing, actually.

I've had a lot of opportunities since '11 as well because of this blog. I've been a subject in the chapter of a book, a major character in a film, and I've had my work published in three different magazines.

All because I was convinced to start writing a blog.

To be honest, I feel very uncomfortable even writing that stuff above. I don't talk about it much here or anywhere, but those are the facts. I often downplay these things when folks talk to me about them, and it is why I decided to name this series "A Decade Of Nonsense" because I feel this whole ten year ride on this blog is crazy. It doesn't make any sense at all to me why it happened.

The bottom line was that I wanted to talk about what I cared about concerning bicycles and my adventures with them. It didn't take long before some folks- some in the industry even- were saying that I "had better be careful" what I was saying because it was "influencing" people and making folks edgy, and whatever it was I was supposed to be careful about. I always figured I was just a mechanic in Iowa with an opinion. No one had to listen to anything I had to say. You know.....just a guy spouting a bunch of nonsense, right? Apparently many of you out there think/thought otherwise.

Well, for better or worse, I don't plan on changing anything about my writing here anytime soon.

Thank You: To All The Readers- Many thanks and I cannot properly express how fun it has been to write all this for you. Thank you for your comments and on those rare occasions, for your comments to me personally when we have met. 

Stay tuned for more...........

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The End Of One Thing And The Beginning Of Another

An old Gravel Grinder News header
Well, that was a quiet ending. Gravel Grinder News, the stand-alone site that I launched as a spin off of a recurring feature of this blog, "went dark" the other day. Of course, I knew it was going to at some point. That was the plan after all.

The site was mainly a calendar and a bit about the events happening all over which I began to compile in 2008 here on this blog. That got to be kind of a distraction so I had to break it off on its own at the very end of '08 and I launched the site proper in '09. That cooked along just peachy until 2013 in June, when Grannygear helped me launch the "new and improved" GGN. That lasted a year and a half until I merged with RidingGravel.com. That happened on December 1st or so.

The new livery- RidingGravel.com
The entire effort all along was and still is focused on bringing a calendar of events that is updated and made as accurate as possible so that anyone that wants to seek out a gravel adventure can do it more easily. I think that with over 220 events and counting, that has happened at the RidingGravel.com calendar.

The funny thing about the name- Gravel Grinder News- is that is angered some folks. It was a flashpoint for folks and I have read, heard, and got wind of plenty of comments that were derogatory and degrading.


That's never bothered me in the least. Most make those types of negative comments because they have an agenda- getting more hits on their sites, or are doing that simply as an outlet of "cycling based rage and anger". They don't care, don't "get it", and don't want to. That's all good. Why? Because there are a whole bunch of folks that do "get it" and are out "grinding gravel" miles and having a lot of fun doing it. I started Gravel Grinder News for those folks. You know what? There are a whole lot more of them than I ever thought there would be.

So, the "something new" part? Yeah...that's all the other facets of RidingGravel.com. The forums, the reviews, and the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcasts. Of all the things I've done "on the web", I have the most fun doing these podcasts. This sort of feature is something I am really glad to be a part of. It's something that just wasn't possible for me with Gravel Grinder News. So, while it is kind of sad to see GGN pass away, I am stoked to have become a partner in RidingGravel.com and I think most of you folks will find it has all of the "old" with a lot of "new" stuff that makes the whole even better.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Break: El Paso Photo Dump 2

Here's a bunch of images from our trip home, which takes two days, from a few days ago. Enjoy!

Our motel was fronted by I-10. Those mountains you see are in Mexico.
Mountains Northeast of El Paso wreathed in Sunlight and Clouds
Passing Alamogordo, New Mexico on the bypass.
A freight train south of Carrizozo, New Mexico
The clouds began to gather and we ran into some light rain over the pass near Corona, New Mexico.
Scene off I-40
Kansas never has disappointed us in terms of spectacular Sunsets and HUGE skies.
The last bits of the day as seen from Greensburg, Kansas, which rebuilt after a tornado literally wiped it off the map in '07
After getting a bit of sleep in El Dorado, Kansas, we hit the road early toward the Flint Hills.
Sunrise over the Flint Hills, which had been recently burned to promote new growth grass.
Through Kansas, Kansas City, NW Missouri, and passing Des Moines, Iowa by 1:00pm. We were making great time!
While the Southwest had seen rain and was relatively green, Iowa is just waking up from its Winter slumber.

We made it back home on Saturday by 3:00pm, tired, worn out, and glad to be back in our own home. It was a good time seeing family, but now it will be back to the same-ol schedule, piles of tune-ups, and getting some ride tim in for the upcoming Gent's Race and prepping for Trans Iowa V11 and my attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200.

Spring Break: This Is Not The Vacation You Were Looking For

That's about as close to the mountain as I got all week.
You long time readers here know that from time to time I go with my family to El Paso, Texas to visit family and ride in the desert mountain State Park there known as Franklin Mountain State Park. Well, I went there last week to El Paso with every intention of doing that riding again. This time I took the Blackborow DS.

I have wanted to ride a fat bike in the area ever since I have had one and this was to be the time. I was very excited to do this too. However; it just did not go the way I intended. Sometimes, as my friend Jason says, "Things happen for a reason", and you know, I think this past week was a great example of that.

When we left to come down to the border city, we found out that my father-in-law had been laid up in hospital, so we were quite concerned, as this was very unexpected. He was in intensive care, and when we arrived in the city, we took every opportunity to visit him and try to lift his spirits. Bicycle riding was not even a thought then. However; he was making great progress and by Tuesday afternoon last week he was able to be released to convalesce at home. So, I was hopeful that within the two remaining days to us that I could get out.

Of course, that didn't pan out because my wife, my daughter, and I all came down with something Tuesday night late and I got the worst of it. Vomiting and diarrhea for 24 hours straight? Yep......really. I'm not making that up. It was an entire 24 hours of visiting the bathroom at least once every one of those 24 hours. Quite frankly, I didn't know it was possible to have that sort of output with no input of fluids and not actually die. Although, it felt like I was doing just that. 

Obviously on Thursday I was in no shape to do much of anything but work on a hasty recovery so I could start traveling on Friday to get back here. So, other than Wednesday, which I am chalking up as a lost day, I got to relax and spend a lot of quality time with family I don't get to see very often, and that is worth a lot more than a stupid bicycle ride any day.   I'm dead serious about that, and it is just fine with me.

But I will admit that it wasn't the vacation I was looking for!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Break: El Paso Photo Dump

Spectacular Skies As we left for El Paso last weekend.
It's kind of hard to explain the vast emptiness of the Flint Hills of Kansas. We passed through on Travel Day #1
Rare double Sundogs, (at least when it isn't Winter), seen while crossing Kansas' Plains
End of Travel Day #1. We still have a ways to go to get to our overnight town of Liberal, Kansas.
Welcome to the Panhandle of Texas. Travel Day #2. 
People say Iowa, or Nebraska is "flat". They are not. Now the Panhandle of Texas, on the other hand.....
The Metal Cowboy of Conlen, Texas. I love this thing.
Click on this image and look for "The Sombrero" that marks Tucumcari, New Mexico at the end of the road here. 
Couldn't make it out? Here it is closer up. You can see this from 50 miles away on a good day. 
Once we leave Tucumcari, we run with I-40 for almost 60 miles before peeling off Southwest again.
The Organ Mountains as seen from Highway 54 about an hour North of El Paso.
Tomorrow I will tell the tale of our week. Stay tuned......

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Decade Of Nonsense: Part 7

In 2010 I was halfway to now. Or something........
2010 was a smoother year off this blog as the Twenty Nine Inches deal smoothed out and I made the decision to pass on every extraneous trip having to do with that site that came up. I knew from the previous two years that it was just not a wise idea for me to take on any of those opportunities anymore.

So, I filled the spaces with races, which didn't work out very well either, as finishing anything seemed beyond me in 2010. Heat being the biggest part of my downfalls that year. The heat really blasted me at my (what was to be my last so far) attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200. It also got me at my own Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, although the hiding in the cornfield is something Jason, Jeremy, and I still talk about to this day. Speaking of Jason, I did the last Fargo Adventure Ride he put on and it turned out to be the only ride I finished all year, pretty much. Even the Gravel Worlds was a heat fest and I wilted after 108 of the 150 miles. Of course, it was the last year I attempted that event so far as well.

So, I was plugging along here on the blog and as far as the way things went here it was nothing out of the ordinary from what you see now. By 2010 I had figured out "my style" and a format for weekly postings. I did do a series on the history of the 29"er, and that was well received and supported. (The tab for the page on that series is at the top of this blog under the header) Speaking of "pages" on this blog, I did open one on the Fargo and another which basically was a copy of the second or so ever post on this blog explaining the whole "Guitar Ted" deal.

So in 2010 I had this blog, TNI.com, Gravel Grinder News, and The Cyclistsite.com all going and consuming my time. Onward to 2011 in my next installment......

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday News And Views

26 X 3.8 on L- 26 X 5.2(?) R
Pushing The Limits Of Fat:

In the world of fat bikes, there is a certain contingent that wants to see the "next biggest thing", (pun intended), for whatever reasons. So, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would punch out a tire bigger than the enormous Bud and Lou tires. That tire appears to be the Snowshoe 2XL, (don't get hung up on that name just yet, it may change), and is made by Vee Tire.

Early numbers given by one of its promoters, (likely slightly idyllic), are that this tire measures a true 5.2 inches in width on a 103mm rim at reasonable fat bike pressures. It also was reportedly 32" in diameter, and weighs north of 1600 grams with the studs.

Keeping in mind that this is a pre-production tire, and that there are  no current bikes to fit it, here is my take on such a beast of a tire. First off, the weight seems mighty optimistic. A Surly Lou tire weighs 1580 grams, and this tire is supposedly bigger. Hmm...... Could it weigh as little as they claim? Maybe. If it does, it's got a mighty thin casing.

Secondly, the diameter is out of hand. If it is 32", (and I think it almost has to be taller if it truly has a 5+ inch width and isn't a really flat profile), then you will have to be a pretty tall person to fit this. Making a size Medium with these tires will be a challenge and forget about Small or XS sizes. The 29+ rigs and current 4.8" bikes are already pushing limits in this regard. Keep in mind that those sizes are 31-ish inches in diameter.

Finally, although the promoter of this size claims that there will be a "new 11 speed system" available to work with this tire, it is admitted that only 1X systems and this, as yet unknown 11 speed set up will work. So, you need a proprietary drive train, by the sounds of it. It's hard to imagine that too many folks will be itching to get on with a bike with limited choices that apply to it for such things. Maybe I'm wrong there.....

I think this idea is using the wrong rim diameter. This needs to go to a 24" standard where overall diameter would be more in line with current fat bikes. That said, you're still dealing with a really wide bottom bracket, (minimum 120mm), and likely a compromised drive train. Will it take off? I think what we are seeing is the extreme ends of the fat bike progression, and likely things will settle back to 4-5 inch wide tires and bikes that fit them.

Trans Iowa V11:

Time for a bit of an update on all things Trans Iowa here. First off, I have yet to hear from about 17 folks on the e-mail I sent out two weeks ago. I will be posting those names next week once I get back to the ranch, but if you have not gotten the e-mail, or don't have a clue what I am talking about and you are signed up for T.I.V11, hit me with an e-mail and I'll get you taken care of.

Next up- We're down to 110 official riders. Please let me know if you cannot make it to T.I.v11 if you are signed up. My volunteers and I would appreciate that very much. A side note here- I have no transfers, waiting lists, or the like. So, if you are thinking you wanted to get in and you aren't, well you aren't. Wait till next time please.

Finally, on a more fun note- I have a special shout out to Don Daly of the Dirty Dog Racing Pack. He's doing a killer banner for the pre-race and I think we'll be taking it around to the different checkpoints and finish line as well. I won't spoil it, but it will be instantly familiar and will be a great addition to Trans Iowa V11.

Other than that I am all set to roll on April 12th for the final look at the course and then verify that the cues are still good. Then it will be on to printing them up, separating them into three groups, and getting my kit for the event together. Hopefully a little "tune up" work on the "Truck With No Name" will happen, because it needs it badly. After that, it's on to T.I.V11......

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Apologies to my regular readers here. I contracted a bit of food poisoning and was out of commission for 24 hours or so. The good news is that I am well on the way to a full recovery. So, look for a regular posting tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The "Mid-Fat" WTB Bridger: A Clue To The Future

The WTB Bridger 27.5+ 3.0"er tire for "Enduro+"
Well, well, well! Just last Friday we talked about the Fox 27.5" fork, and how this signaled   the beginnings of the "big push" from manufacturers on the bicycles that will be aimed at backpacking and enduro. Yesterday WTB followed this up with the announcement of a tire that goes beyond the initial 27.5+ offering of the 2.8" Trailblazer. This goes to "3" and is dubbed the Bridger. The specs point out something rather revealing and goes right along with where I figured this was heading all along.

I'm dubbing it "Enduro+". The newer form of the enduro bike will be a cross between the 27.5", long travel bikes we see now and the groundbreaking Salsa Bucksaw fat bike full suspension rig. The Bridger specs point solidly in the direction of this bike, as does the Fox fork. Check out what WTB is saying...

  • This will be available in WTB's "TCS Tough", High Grip, and TCS Light: Fast Rolling options. So, all enduro type conditions are covered here. 
  • Pre-production weights range from 1235 grams to 1510 grams.
Okay, so fat bike tire weights in a skinnier tread width? Yes. Especially for durability going downhill at speeds, maybe even ridiculous speeds. Anyway, you can bet the internet mtb'ers will be crying foul because these aren't 700 gram, lightweight, XC-ish/trail tires that will magically be tough and durable too. But what folks are maybe going to miss here is the fact that if you are not doing Enduro events or big mountain riding, these are not the tires you are looking for. Maybe someone will make "that" tire to swap out for fat bike tires for Summer riding, (and let's face it, you still could do that with the Bridger), but this is for those new "Enduro+" rigs that will be flooding the market real soon.

Yep. This is just the tip of the iceberg folks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The "Fat Bike Effect"

My brother-in-law riding a fat bike for the first time with my son chasing
Have you ever noticed how people react to fat bikes? Of course, there are the stares, the questions, and false assumptions to work through. I cannot count the number of stares, pointing fingers, and smiles we saw on the way down here. Curious onlookers at gas station stops, and even a few bold enough to ask about them, were the norm.

However; I think there is even more going on. For instance, I've noted a big difference in how I am treated on the road to work by motorists if I ride a fat bike versus any other type bike. On a fat bike, I get a wider berth, friendly smiles, and the occasional wave or thumbs up. Any other type of bicycle and I may as well be on the same level as the local squirrels. No respect whatsoever.

Then there are the "first timer rides". Anyone you can get over the fears of trying one out will almost always come out of that first ride with a wide grin and a better attitude. Not in every instance does that happen, but more often than not, in my experience, it does. Take my brother-in-law, who I would say is far from a serious cyclist, and doesn't ride hardly at all. He was certainly intrigued by the bikes when we rolled them up to his residence, and had a bunch of questions about the tires, rims, and more. He even asked if he might try one out, and so I went straight away to the garage and put him on mine. He rolled out and disappeared around the corner. Then when he came back into view, he flashed the thumbs up, and disappeared again. Then when he came back, I snapped the image for today's post. I think it says more than I could ever hope to write.

Yep. I'm pretty sure there is such a thing as a "fat bike effect"

Monday, March 16, 2015

Driven Southwest

The Mountains of the Chihuahuan  desert.
It's been two years since I've made this trip, and although a lot of the route is well known I always seem to forget how loooong it really is. What is always amazing is how drained you are when all you've done is sit on yer bum and twiddled a steering wheel for 12 hours, then another 10 the next day. Even my family passengers are zoinked today after we made it all the way to our destination. Just sitting around in a car. Kinda weird.

Anyway, here we are and to visit family and goof off for a week. I may sneak in something two wheeled as well. We'll see. In the meantime I am using a foreign (to me) Apple computer. I know many of you out there are huge Apple computer fans, but the whole interface and user experience is, well.......not very intuitive. I figured out my PC all by myself. Give me an Apple computer and there are so many things I can't get done because the way you do things is really convoluted to my mind. I know........don't even bother defending Apple you Apple fans. I've been shown a million times "how easy and simple" it is, but trust me- Apple and I just don't dance well together. Whatever the reason, I am a PC guy.

But that's off track. Back to the topic at hand.....vacation! Posts will be maybe a bit weird this week, but ......ya know- come to think of it, that isn't any different than normal, right?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Mushy Gravel Daze

Ride Free
Well, things have been getting better on the health front and rides are starting to feel better and better. The gravel is still mushy, but it should be getting better and better as time goes on now that the snow is really just about completely gone now.

So, I have to decide a few things as far as gear goes coming up here soon. It's really boiling down to one bike or another and both will need drive train modifications before I feel comfortable with either bike. Oddly enough, one bike needs a crankset modification while the other needs a cassette mod!

Then there are some periphery items coming into view. One may be a special seat post, and I am trying out a fizik Aliante' saddle. I happened to test ride a customers bike the other day on an extended test loop outside the shop and this bicycle had an Aliante' fitted to it. It "hit me nicely" as far as fit goes, so I knew my boss had one he wasn't using, and maybe I could try it? He agreed to allow that, so I'll give that a go and see if it is better than what I've been using.

Another thing that is developing is that I am reinstating the Saturday gravel ride known as "3GR" again which should also help me pile on some good miles coming into this DK 200. It's 40 miles or so, but I may try to go earlier some days to get some extra miles in. Then I also plan on hitting up some Northeast Iowa hill country for hill training as well.

But all of that is to come. I have a little Spring Break deal to work on first........

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Decade Of Nonsense: Part 6

Travel took me a lot of places in '08. Here's a shot from Deer Valley, Utah.
2009 was a year of really high highs and really depressed lows. I was hither, thither, and non but somehow managed to keep up with the blog here.

It's really hard for me to properly put this time , (including the last end of 2008), into proper perspective. I was really blessed to be where I was and to go where I went, but deep down inside I wasn't comfortable. I wasn't even sure what was going on in many cases, but I muddled through it, and somehow things worked out despite of me. Travel was a curse and a blessing. I was gone too much from my perspective and I really, really despise flying.

A big change was becoming the sole proprietor of TNI.com after a protracted, vague, and overly difficult transaction with the former owner. Not only that, but business connections, business contracts, and even the photo hosting site was either not transferred or lost forever due to incompetence on the former owners part.  But that really didn't affect this blog....

All throughout 2008 I was writing a separate paragraph here and there entitled "Gravel Grinder News". It was usually a part of Friday News And Views, but not always. In 2009 I continued that here and it was becoming more and more apparent that it deserved it's own space. I had been messing around On Blogger with a Trans Iowa History site and what I wnted to do there wasn't easy on the Blogger platform. Someone suggested I look at Wordpress and I got along with that quite well. So, the T.I.History site was ditched on Blogger but I still had the page sitting there in case I needed to refer back to it. Well, all that to say that I figured I could rename the Blogger site "Gravel Grinder News" and separate the gravel stuff from here. By late '09 I had that up and running.

Daryl Pals stands near my "Dirty Blue Box" '91 Honda Civic wagon that saw a lot of gravel action in '09    

So, I had this blog, a Trans Iowa History blog, Gravel Grinder News, and Twenty Nine Inches. I also made an incredibly bad decision to hook up with a former Crooked Cog Network blogger to start "The Cyclistsite.com". I was pretty stoked at the beginning, then about a month and a half after this individual said that they would help me with it, they suddenly bailed out. Thankfully Grannygear, my new found cohort from SoCal, stepped up and saved me from getting egg on my face, but this was another personal downer at the time. Oh, and another Big Wheeled Ballyhoo fiasco on top of that toward the end of '09 was icing on a not very tasty cake.

At any rate, the bottom line was that by some miracle I made posts here on an almost daily basis anyway. Personally, I was a wreck, but "professionally", things were mostly great and I got to do some incredible things I would have never gotten to do otherwise. I got to meet a lot of really great people. I was blessed, but I had strung myself out too far. It was unwise, and I knew it. After this point, there was some pruning planned and it took several years to accomplish it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday News And Views

Did Fox just announce a fat bike fork, or something else?
Fox Muddies The Fat Waters:

You may have seen the news yesterday that Fox Forks announced what was dubbed by some folks as a "fat bike fork" and by most media as a "27.5+ fork".

I've talked quite a bit about the "mid-fat", 27.5+, B+ thing here. I've said it was going to be a "thing" and now we see this announcement. Here's what it means, like it or not......

Fox Forks doesn't do anything unless they sell, (or can sell), OE (Original Equipment) contracts to big bike brands that can afford to pay Fox's tooling costs. Think back to 2007 when Trek paid Fox to tool up for 29"er forks for their Gary Fisher bikes. Fox stayed out of 29"er forks until that happened. So, based upon that history, it is reasonable to say that Fox has a lot of orders to fulfill to companies planning to unleash 27.5+ bikes on the masses. You can bet on this: 27.5+ will be everywhere post Sea Otter and into next year. Enduro bikes will be unleashed, bike packing bikes will be unleashed, and slack hard tail, AM type bikes will be unleashed. The bike industry is hoping this will be "the next 29"er" thing.

The last thing the industry banked on to be "the next 29"er" didn't really pan out. Sure, 27.5" bikes are everywhere, but in reality, they replaced 26"ers, and anybody looking for the next new thing was on to 29+, fat bikes, and other odds and ends. The fat bike craze has topped out, (yes folks......it's old hat now), and this 29+ thing, well it is too big. So 27.5+ will be the deal. It is seen as something that isn't so "snow/sand specific", so heavy, so weird, and maybe will fit a wider slice of the mtb market while being "different".

The dirty little secret? 27.5+ is just about identical in diameter to 29"ers. So, really what you have here is a 29 inch, 3 inch plus wide wheel that still fits all the industry knows about 29"er geometry. All they have to do is widen out a few things and there ya go! New! Shiny! Gotta have one!

You'll have a traction heavy, (pun intended), 29"er bike. Will it be fun? Yes. All bicycles can be fun. But don't get too rolled up in the marketing folks. Your current 29"er will be more nimble and faster, if that's what floats yer boat. Otherwise, have at it.

Gravel bikes are somehow evil, unnecessary, and sub-road bike?
So, The Road Bike Is Dead? 

A recent article on "Bike Radar" called
"Bend in the Road: The end of the road bike" laments the fact that road bikes, as a category, are marginalized into sub-groups, much like mountain bikes, but then seems to come around at the end by saying " All road bikes are no longer created equal. And that's a beautiful thing." 

Seriously, they could have just have written that two line paragraph they have at the bottom of the article and that would have been enough. The drivel that amounts to the bulk of the rest of the article is purely fodder for the bird cage. 

The notion that "road bikes" are based on "race bikes" is clearly lined out in the piece and that's the trouble with the industry. Of all bicyclists that ride roads, most are not racers. So, why would they need a bike optimized for racing? Or from another perspective, why would anyone want a bike based off a racing bike if they do not race? How is it that road racing is the basis for practical road riding? It just doesn't add up. Guys and gals that spend all day riding to be the fastest they can be is great. However; more people are out there than them, and these people are not interested in training 8 hours a day, nor will they ever race. How about a road bike for them? Maybe the "road bike is dead" should be rephrased to say that the "road racing bike is dead". If that is the case, I would say "hallelujah!" Maybe I won't have to install so many stem extenders, shorter stems, and comfy saddles since the bikes will start coming stock with them. You know, maybe if road bikes were not based on the very specialized task of road racing there wouldn't be so many sub-divisions of road bicycles. 

But probably not.......

Sweet Sixteen:

Mark Slate's design notes on a 29"er circa 1999
While all this hoopla is going on, let's go back to calmer times, shall we? Sixteen years ago, there were road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrid bikes in most bicycle shops. Mountain bikes were 26" wheeled, road bikes and hybrid bikes were 700c. Shimano had unleashed another milestone XTR group, and disc brakes were the latest thing folks were arguing about. (In the mtb world, that is.) A little known fella by the name of Lance Armstrong would win the TDF, and in September, a new wheel size quietly debuted in the WTB booth at Interbike meant for a thing dubbed "29ers". 

You can read a great post on the WTB blog about this here that was posted yesterday for their Throwback Thursday post. There in the post you will see the actual bike that was in the WTB booth that year. Plus there you can read Mark Slate's actual note that appeared with the bike. 

Sixteen years ago 29"ers took a bow and, as you might realize, it took about six more years for them to finally come into their own. (See the Fox Shox story above as an example.) While WTB played a pivotal part in the 29"er introductions, the industry largely ignored their presence. Unlike today's "manufacture invented trends", 29"ers grew at a grassroots level for 5-6 years before the industry was forced to notice. Trek/Gary Fisher Bikes were selling these things like hotcakes by 2005, and other companies sales of 26"ers were either flat or declining. It was becoming clear that riders were into 29"ers, and that the industry had better get ther act together or miss the boat. And you know what? Some did. 

That's partly to blame for why it is that companies like Giant have abandoned the 29"er, for all intents and purposes, and have thrown in their hat with the 27.5 size. They don't want to miss out on the hoped for rising tide of sales connected with this "new wheel size". Other companies have hedged their bets with complete or partial lines in both 29" and 27.5" sizes. The "missing the boat on 29"ers" is the reason why fat bikes blew up so quickly this past year, year and a half, after many companies saw what QBP was doing in 2011 and 2012. 

Will there ever be another grassroots driven bicycle style/innovation/trend in the coming years? Not likely, since marketers are quick to jump on anything emerging as a trend and try to own it. But......you never know. 

For more on the history of the modern 29"er, see my series page HERE.

Have a great weekend!