Monday, November 30, 2015

A Tale Of Two Tubeless Set Ups

Tubeless and meant to be.
Back in 2012 I had my first experiences with Clement tires and I was playing around with two models- The MSO 40mm and the USH 35mm tires. I liked the MSO straight away, but I wasn't falling in love with the narrower, harsher riding USH. So, I decided upon trying the USH out with the Velocity A-23's in a tubeless manner. That went........well, rather poorly. I struggled for weeks until I finally got the USH tires set up tubeless with some guidance from my friend MG. You can check out a brief recap of the deal by clicking here to read my August 2012 post about it.

The USH was vastly better tubeless, but the tire leaked down a lot, and I wasn't 100% confident in the fit on the rim, being very afraid to raise the pressures above 45psi for fear of blowing them off. That pressure, as it turns out, wasn't high enough to handle me on gravel roads. So, I abandoned the whole deal, and since the USH was a wholly different tire in a worse way with tubes, I never rode them again.

The silver A-23's make the BMC look more classy than ever.
Fast forward to November of this year. I received the newest tire from Clement for review on It is a 36mm wide tire in the MSO model. Very similar width to the USH, but with a design that considered tubeless set ups from the onset.

Using the same A-23 rims- as in the exact same ones as I had in 2012- I was able to set up both tires tubeless from the beginning to the end of the process in a half an hour. Compare that to the hours and hours of work and trial and error to get those USH tires to go tubeless and it becomes evident that a specific design for tubeless makes a world of difference here.

Plus, I can run higher pressures since the tire fits better and has an actual tubeless bead that can handle the stresses of being set up tubeless. The sole barrier against you having a great ride or having the tire blow off the rim catastrophically and causing you to biff yourself spectacularly is the bead of the tire and how it fits the rim. And things could go really bad if it were only a folding bead tire like the USH I tried. A real tubeless design? That's peace of mind right there, that's what that is! Now I can have a decent pressure for me and my style of riding. That's important.

One more thing to add, and that is that these are, (hopefully they rectified this), compatible with sealant. The old, folding bead Clements were not getting along with sealants at all. Delaminated casings were the main cause for concern here, but blistering was also noted by some riders. So, say what you will about converting tires that are folding bead, non-tubeless design to tubeless. I ain't listening to that clap-trap. Not when you don't have to do that dance anymore. Now that several tubeless tires from 32mm-42mm tires exist, there is no need to convert something that was never meant to be converted.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Bit Of Turkey Burn

Looks can be deceiving. It was cold!
It used to be that there was a few of us that would plan on a get-together at the old North Side of The Camp to do a bit of mountain biking the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was dubbed the "Turkey Burn" ride, and we'd always have fun doing that. Generally, it would mark the end of riding out there, as it was either just getting too snowy, or it would by about a week after the ride.

This was before fat bikes were widely available, so when it snowed more than a few inches, and stuck, we were done for the season. The Turkey Burn rides served as a kind of a send off, or a celebration of riding all Summer and Fall out there. Either way you looked at it, I thought they were a great idea.

Now, I am not sure exactly what happened, but the Turkey Burn thing stopped, and we haven't gotten together to do that for several years now. I know folks are out riding this weekend, but it would  seem that everyone is on their own schedules these days. Me? I purposed to partake in my own Turkey Burn ride, but it almost didn't happen. A toilet bowl flapper valve decided to "crap-out" on me Friday during the night. (<===HA!)

Well, once the stores opened up Saturday, I had to go get all the necessary repair bits and make repairs. That took up the good hours of the morning, and then there was lunch with the family, so it wasn't until after 2:00pm that I did finally leave the house.The weather was sub-freezing, so I had to take time in layering up. Fortunately, the wind was minimal out of the Northeast. The funny thing about this time of the year is that when you leave for a ride a bit after 2:00pm, you have minimal light time ahead of you. The Sun was already Westering pretty hard by the time I made my way down South on the bicycle path. I figured on doing only the shorter, Southerly route I do, to make sure I didn't get caught out in the dark.

Turkey Burn Ride- 2009
Well, even if I had wanted to, or had the time to go further, I soon was reminded that I wasn't in top form at all. It was a struggle to go fast, and any ups were met with a lot of effort. I was sweating bullets, and my head was producing a lot more gunk than usual. Ugghh........this wasn't pleasant at all. The thing is though, I was out on a bicycle, in the country, and it was rather beautiful out for a late November day. I was complaining to myself at first, but then realizing how fortunate I was, I reversed my attitude the best I could and trundled onward.

So, it wasn't a "real" Turkey Burn ride, with dirt, friends, or challenging twists and turns on a fat tire bike, but it was a nice, peaceful, much needed ride in the country instead. It was a good enough Turkey Burn ride for me, where I am at. I certainly was burning up some energy, as evidenced by my sweat soaked clothes by the time I arrived back at home. The Sun was just kissing the tops of the roofs along my street. Soon it would be quite dark. Late Fall has a way of dropping the night curtain rather quickly. Besides the temperature, as well.

I'll take what I got gladly, and a bit of a "turkey burn" was better than none at all.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday News And Views

pactbike Battlecat
The Evolution Of The Hardtail:

Just because I ride a lot of gravel roads these days doesn't mean I am not still watching what happens with mountain biking. One of the things I've noticed and that I cannot seem to get my mind off of is the move to longer, lower, and slacker mountain bikes with longer travel suspension forks.

The whole idea is intriguing to me. Most of these bikes are 27.5+/B+ bikes too, and I like that tire/rim combination a lot. Set up tubeless on wider rims, these wheels can give you loads of traction without the cumbersome acceleration a full on 29+ bike would have which keeps things fast, maneuverable, and over all, pretty fun. The over all diameter is slightly less than a 29"er, so you do lose certain nuances of a 29"er wheel. This is why I still think a 29"er with fat rims and fat rubber is also a good bike, just not a full on 29+ bike. 2.4"-2.5" tires is something I think is about right there. Trouble is that there are not a lot of tires in that size range. Anyway....

The point isn't about the tires, it is about the geometry. The long front/short, stubby stem set ups with sub 68° head angles. The shorter chain stays, low stand over height, and dropper posts. It is a different look and feel than where we have been with 29"er hard tail bikes, and those were so "XC-ish" for quite a while. I like this "trail-All Mountain" kind of hard tail, and so I find things like this, the pact bikes Battlecat, pictured above, and the Advocate Cycles Hayduke to be really interesting bikes. Then I wonder if you couldn't be in a similar ball park with the versatility of doing fat bike tires and wheels from time to time with a Surly Wednesday. Ah! It's all too much!

Besides, I have a nice Singular Cycles Buzzard already.......

The next project on my radar......
Standard Rolling Stock:

With the Project 1X1 bike up and rolling, it is time for another project to tackle. That has to be the wheels for my Twin Six Standard Rando. As I have mentioned before, I want to roll on some nicer, 11 speed compatible, disc brake hubs. I am aiming at obtaining some White Industries XMR hubs. I already have the WTB KOM i25 rims sitting there waiting to go.

As suggested by my cycling friend, Mr. Fuller, I am going with a "touch of color at the hub" and get the gold anodized versions to give the bike some pop off the base green powdercoat and black componentry. I'll likely go with black spokes and black nipples as well.

The WTB rims are tubeless compatible, so my plan is to wrap these wheels up with a nice set of tires, and the obvious choice will be the WTB Nano 40 TCS tires. Keeping it all in a system. I know it works and it will make the Standard Rando a great gravel road going rig.  I'll be posting about building those wheels when the hubs are procured.

Although the snow is all gone, it is still a day for the fatty.
Mud & Snow Tires:

The big snow we got last weekend is a memory washed away by warmer weather and rainy precipitation. The fat bike path I beat in last weekend was a worthy work that did what I needed it to do Monday, and maybe it was a mild benefit Tuesday, but I made it through on the 1X1, so it wasn't all that difficult. Of course, without snow, I shouldn't have to use a fat bike to get to work, right?


There are a couple of places where I have some serious mud to deal with, and that is where the fat bike to work idea starts to come into its own. Yes....there are long stretches where it doesn't make sense. However; the stretches of my commute that are prone to mud would make many of my other bikes grind to a halt, at worst, or really mess them up, at best. The fat bike has flotation over these stretches and makes running through the mud, (almost), no big deal. The newly added Dave's Mud Shovel will make that even better.

Okay, that's it folks. Have a great weekend and ride off that turkey!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving Day!!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Today is the day when we in the USA try to get together with family and loved ones to celebrate and remember to be thankful.

Actually, in my opinion, everyday should be thanksgiving day. I am pretty blessed to have a family, a wife, a house, a job, and bicycles to mess around with. I've been overwhelmed with good things, and if I don't stop to remember that, and give thanks, well, then I am headed for big trouble.

Anyway, I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I would encourage you, wherever you are, to count your blessings today and everyday. It will make a change in your life, and I bet it will be for the better.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Day That Rim Brakes Died

One disc to rule them all in in the caliper bind them.....
Yesterday it was very quietly reported in the news of cycling that the UCI, (ruling body in all things Pro road racing Worldwide), green-lighted the use of disc brakes in the Pro and amateur road (Note- Amatuer ranks in 2017), racing ranks for 2016. You can read about what some of this may mean by checking out what "Red Kite Prayer" has to say about it.

Anyone with an eye on cycling knew this was coming one of these ol' days. Mountain bikes embraced the disc brake starting in the late 90's and by 2005, you were going to have a hard time finding a brand new, high end rim brake bike anymore. Then the disc brake crept into the world of cyclo-cross, where it was hotly debated for a season or two, then was generally accepted as the better choice amongst Pros, for the most part. Now it would appear that Pro road cycling will be all disc brake by 2017.

Interestingly, much like many changes in cycling, I find that histrionics and grandstanding generally happen during big changes like these. People bemoan the changes, and throw their collective hands in the air, post missives on social media blasting "The Man" for "forcing us to change" and bilking us for money for these "unnecessary changes" purely for profit. I know......I lived through the advent of 29"ers and am still getting an earful from various places about the whole "gravel bike" thing.

Like I have always said- "You don't have to buy into it." So, for instance, say you don't like disc brakes for road bikes, well......don't buy a disc brake road bike then. Think "gravel bikes" are a stupid idea? Then don't buy one. Still think wagon wheelers are daft? You can still buy a smaller wheeled mountain bike. Nobody is taking your money unless you are letting them. All the decrying and hand wringing about something new is pretty much wasted energy. That said.........

Hey! Whattya know! They still make this stuff yet!
Many times there is actually something to these changes. You when free wheels were invented. Or, how about disc brakes while we're at it. Yes.....rim brakes work, but I've tried these new fangled hydraulic road disc brakes, and you know what? They are pretty dang awesome. At least the Shimano ones are. Modulation, power, ease of use- all there. It doesn't get much better, and I have tried a lot of road caliper brakes. None can hold a candle to the power and ease of using that power that these road disc brakes have.

Now, that said, obviously the title to today's post is sarcastic. Rim brakes are not going away, and you can still buy , and will be able to in the future, a lot of rims and different caliper and cantilever style brakes that are really quite good. Add to that the vintage and used stuff out there that is still serviceable and you will have rim brakes to use for decades to come.

The bottom line is that you might see a bunch of ticked off posts, or rambling rants about how the industry has wreaked havoc again on poor, unsuspecting consumers because your stuff will be "obsolete" in a year and a half. Well, it just isn't true. Maybe it won't be the same again on high-end, new road racing bikes, but rim brakes and frames, wheels, parts, etc, will all be around for a long, long time. In all likelihood, you'll wear out that bike with rim brakes before parts for it are all gone. You don't have to have a disc brake road bike, if you think it is a dumb idea. There will always be alternative choices. Probably good new ones too. They just won't be sold by the "big companies" in the future. Well......probably not, anyway.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Salsa Cycles Blackborow DS: One Year In

A ride early on with the Blackborow DS
The Blackborow DS from Salsa Cycles was a one hit wonder, from the standpoint of it having a simple, parallel single speed drive train, or "dingle speed" set up, as it is commonly referred to. Of course, the Blackborow was offered as a geared bike, and continues on into 2016 as a geared bike. However; Salsa did not continue on with the DS version, so it is kind of a rare offering in the fat biking world, having been the only out of the box, dinglespeed, fat bike I am aware of.

That said, most of the handling characteristics I speak of will transfer right over to a geared version of the Blackborow for anyone curious about one of these bikes. So, with that in mind, here are my impressions of the Blackborow DS.

Set Up: For the most part, I haven't modified this bike with the exception of adding a Rock Shox Bluto fork for the majority of the Summer. Other minor details that were not satisfactory were addressed here such as the grips, which I exchanged for Ergon grips, and I did modify the front brake cable clip on the inner fork leg so it wouldn't collect mud and snow so easily. I accessorized the bike with various bags, water bottle cages, and most recently, with a Dave's Mud Shovel rear fender. Otherwise everything has been box stock for the entire first year. The fit for me, at 6'1", was spot on for this size large specimen, and I did not change the saddle, nor stem or bars to accommodate me, since it all worked just right from the get-go.

I set my "PR" for my coldest commute ever at -17°F with this bike.

 Winter Biking: I got the Blackborow DS just before Winter set in here and as a Winter bike, it was a revelation. My previous fat bike experiences were on a 2011 Mukluk and a 2012 Titanium Mukluk. Those bikes were stable, with really good slow speed handling, but compared to the Blackborow, they were like driving a truck versus the Blackborow's "sporty sedan-like" handling. The geometry of the Blackborow DS has an easier to loft front end, a snappier acceleration feel, a more solid braking performance, and with the through axles front and rear, a much more precise feel on the trail than previous quick release style fat bikes. With all of that, the most impressive feature, in my opinion, was the ability to traverse more difficult terrain with the 4.8" Lou tires on Clown Shoe rims. The wider foot print does the obvious- gives you more float, but the tires give you incredible amounts of grip forward, and a really good lateral stability. This allows for more forward bite and also helps keep your bike from pitching sideways so much. I traversed deeper snow with this bike than I have ever done for longer stretches than I have ever been able to. As a Winter bike, it put my other fat bikes in the shed for the season.

The addition of a Rock Shox Bluto was a boon for Summer riding.
Summer Riding: The Blackborow's nimble feel and improved handling did not come at the expense of a loss of slow speed stability. That was important for snow, but in the Spring and Summer, it also was good in the underbrush, sand, and mud. One thing fat bikes do really well, and that is that they go places you just don't go on a mountain bike, because you (a) can't easily, (b) it is too risky for flats or derailleur carnage, (c), or you don't want to get stuck in the muck!

One thing that was a big surprise for me was how much better Summer riding was with a Rock Shox Bluto swapped in for the stock rigid fork. I figured it would amount to additional dead weight. Boy! Was that ever a wrong assumption! The suspension fork made the riding more enjoyable than I thought, with the capability to go faster, and the bike was amazingly calmer to ride. I will not be using the Bluto in Winter here because of corrosion concerns and when I have to push, or heft my bike over deeper snow, I want it to be as light as I can have it be. However, come next year, that suspension fork is going back on.

Overall then, I was having a blast poking around through sand, mud, and underbrush. Going places I wouldn't go on other mountain bikes was fun, and a diversion from gravel road riding. Plus, I could find all the out of the way places I could want right in my local area.

The Blackborow DS as it sits after one year of ownership
About That Dingle Speed Thing: I get asked from time to time if I would, or have in the past, gear up this Blackborow. A year ago, had you asked me that, I would have said, "Maybe.....probably will." However; I was able to negotiate everything I wanted to in "high range", and as a single speed rider at heart, I was fine with that. Especially around here. "Low range" is really low. Best saved for grinding out longer climbs and for traversing the deepest, most difficult terrain. By the way, "high range" is 30T/18T and "low range" is 26T/22T. You will notice that if you add 30 and 18 it equals 48. So does 26 plus 22. This is how a parallel single speed drive train can use the same length chain. Simply drop the rear wheel, to gain some slack in the chain, swap the chain to the desired set of cogs, and reinstall the rear wheel. Bingo! A crawling gear or a cruising gear with no chain tensioning fuss. Gear swaps are about a two minute drill. I could modify that range, but I found it works well here for my needs, so I have not changed a thing. That said, if I wanted to gear this thing up, all the cable stops are there, but I would have to buy a drive side Alternator drop out with the derailleur hangar.

So, After One Year.... I haven't changed my mind much since I wrote this back in February. Of course, since that post, I have used a suspension fork, and it did do what I expected then, but it worked in places I wasn't expecting as well. I still think a carbon version would be cool here, but my mind has been swayed somewhat to how this bike would work as a titanium bike. In the way that I think most folks would use it, which is for rough and tumble, "out of bounds' type riding, I think titanium makes far more sense.

The Blackborow DS has really raised the bar, as far as I am concerned, for fat bikes. I want to still get on this with 29+ tires and wheels at some point. I think at that point it becomes my all year around mountain bike with two wheel sets which would then cover 95% of all of my mountain biking needs. I might want to try a tubeless wheel set for Winter, and that titanium frame idea is getting better all the time. That said, until a titanium or carbon Blackborow frame entices me away from this, I will stick with this bike and it will be around for a while.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Project 1X1: Ride Report

Pretty much the finished state of affairs now....
Project 1X1: Ride Report: Okay, so how does it all ride? The 26 inch wheels I built using Velocity Cliffhanger rims and Velo Orange hubs suggests a not very lightweight build and perhaps a dead, wooden feeling wheel. However; even before I mounted the Surly Extraterrestrial tires, this bike displayed rather calm, comfortable riding manners and I was already pretty surprised by that. With the big Surly tires onboard, the ride has become even more sublime. With that said, I wanted to discuss the wheels, since they are the featured attraction here and the main reason why the bike feels as good as it does.

"Beefy" best describes the Extraterrestrial tire.
The Tire: This tire I am using has transformed the 1X1 from a fun bike I would use once in a while to one I want to ride all the time. The big, beefy tires are tubeless ready, which all Surly tires will be eventually, but these are some of the first ones to have this feature from Surly. The tires are made by Innova, like most Surly tires, but the collaboration between Surly and Innova have obviously lifted Innova's game. Innova tires weren't noted for being much of anything back in the day, but you wouldn't know it by looking at these newer tires from them.

The tread, an inverted style, has a chevron type of a look to it and the negative spaces are textured to add a bit more grip in looser terrain. These tires are not lightweight, XC racer boy treads. The weight on my scale was 930/940 grams each. Or in other words, there are fat bike tires that weigh in this range. Surly isn't known for XC, weight-weenie stuff, so no surprises here. Beefy, durable, reliable- yes. Well, at least one would hope these tires would follow in the footsteps of Surly's past efforts.

Okay, so now about their tubelessness, which was a big deal for me. I mounted the first bead on the Cliffhangar rim with great difficulty by hand. The second way. I had to lever it on with my Maxxis tire lever. Tight? Oh yeah! I actually used a tire lever to mount both beads of the second tire, as my hands were roached after doing the first bead by hand. Tossed in a little of this Velowurks sealant, which is good to -30°F, and pumped up both tires with a floor pump. Easy. No drama in setting these up at all.

The Cliffhangar rim and Surly Extraterrestrial tire work perfect as a tubeless combo.
The tires were set to 20psi and the ride was smooth, as fast as I would expect, and the big volume of the Extraterrestrial simply was awesome. I loved it straight away. Not too bouncy at all, but very damped and not at all stiff, which was a surprise given the sidewall breaker barrier and puncture protection under the tread. Usually those types of features make tires feel dead and roll horribly. Nothing could be further from the truth with the Extraterrestrials.

The Cliffhanger rims really matched up well here and I feel like I should be able to run whatever pressures I want with no fear of burping the tires. I will only say that if I had a disc brake bike I definitely would have opted for the Velocity Dually 26"er rim, as I feel that would have added the capability to go to insanely low pressures for slippery Winter riding and the tires would have had great sidewall support. Imagine that set up on a Big Dummy. Oh yeah!

That said, I couldn't be happier so far with how this has come out, The tires are 61mm wide at the widest point, and my fenders are just shy of that, but they seem to do okay with the big tires anyway. The Cliffhanger rims make the tread area really arch up into a pronounced "C" shape profile, so I have great turn in on corners and the tire rides up on its central part of the tread at anything over 20 psi. Under that, things get cushier and more traction action is happening. The Cliffhanger rims, at 30mm outer dimension width, are probably the widest tubeless rim brake track rims out there for this sort of bike, and their quality is outstanding. With the fit these rims have with these tires, you'd almost swear that they were designed for each other. It really is quite a remarkable set up.

Lower than 20psi pressures really plant the tread down where you need it when things get slippery.
So, the wheels have been absolutely perfect so far. The rims built up really well, the hubs are incredibly smooth, and free wheel/fixed options are there. The tires added the icing to the cake with perfect tubeless fit, smooth ride, and available traction when you air them down a bit. The bike is a blast to ride now, simple in function, and utilitarian in purpose. I'll add a light, maybe a bag or something to carry things in, and I'll have my new townie rig.

It is pretty surprising that an old, simple dog like a cantilever brake 1X1 could be such a blast and so useful, but there ya go. Bicycles are awesome no matter the wheel size, if they have been designed well and set up with carefully considered, quality components. I look forward to thrashing some urban rides and maybe even some mountain biking come spring. In the meantime, look for long term 1X1 updates in the coming months as I use the Project 1X1 as a commuter rig, errand bike, and more.

Thank You: Velocity USA for the rims, tape, spokes, and nipples. Thanks to Surly Bikes for an awesome tire, and making it tubeless, that was great of you guys and gals. Velo Orange for the super smooth hubs. Finally- thanks to all six previous owners of this frame/fork for keeping the circle unbroken.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Beating In A Path

Spent some time doing a little "trail maintenance"
I've been commuting by bicycle now since about 2002-2003 which was about the same time I got back into the bicycle industry by taking a job at the shop where I still work. I was trying several routes to work back then, but I soon settled on this certain section not far from my home. It is a fairly good sized field formed by the intersection of two highways on one end and a converted rail line bicycle trail on the other. It is sort of an elongated triangular shaped field. I took to crossing the highway, cutting across this open field, and diving down a steep embankment to the bike trail, which then leads me to a dead end street I follow for about a mile and a half. Anyway.....

So with the season's first snow, we got a big dump, which many times means that the field is unrideable. In recent years a man by the name of LeRoy and his dog have taken to using the now decade old line I have burned into the field and they sort of help keep things open when the snows are less. However; this time we got something like 8 inches right out of the gate, and LeRoy and his dog are not going to baet that down into a rideable path by Monday. So, I took it upon myself to beat down a path Saturday, so I wouldn't have to take a detour around the field which adds another mile plus to my morning commute. Besides, by Wednesday the snow will mostly be gone anyway.

Here is where I dump down off the field to the bike path.
Then I continue under the highway to the left up there and eventually back onto a city street. 
Fortunately for the last two years someone is plowing a path through the bike path as well, so I only had to beat a path into the field. After about seven or eight passes, I was riding it well enough I felt that there was nothing more I could do. So, I went off towards home and to see what other mischevious deeds I might become involved in.

I made fresh tracks through the neighborhood cemetery.
There is a cemetery near my home and I noticed that it had not been plowed nor had anyone attempted to drive, ride, or walk through there yet since the snow fall. I decided I would be the first. The Blackborow DS walked right through the snow with no issues. It was a fun way to cap off my "work" and enjoy a very peaceful place away from the general hub-bub in the city.

We'll see now how my "trail maintenance" holds up when I go back through there on Monday morning.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trans Iowa v12: Odds And Ends

Just some small business to clear up today...

First of all, here's a tip to anyone curious about riding in a Trans Iowa: You will have to wait until, and if, there ever is another Trans Iowa. 

I have received a few e-mails since the registration closed asking about "getting on a list", or if they could ride in Trans Iowa, "please make more space", and what not. There is no "waiting list" or "notification list". There is no more room to get in. If you have a question about riding in Trans Iowa v12, and your name is not on the roster currently, the answer to your question is no. I am not answering those e-mails and I ask that you watch the site next year to see if you can have a chance.

Secondly- If you have any reason that prevents you from getting your training in, or that will prevent you from being ready for Trans Iowa, or any reason at all that will stop you from showing up 100% prepared to go, (or show up at all), please drop out. I think it is pretty plain that we will put on Trans Iowa for one rider if that is what ends up happening. (See last Spring) The number of folks on the roster doesn't mean anything to me. It is what it is. What does matter to me is that you, as a rider that has committed to show up, be 100% ready to go.

Finally- The "Trans Iowa Fireside Chats", which will basically be all about what it takes to do a Trans Iowa, will happen on Wednesdays and sometimes on Saturdays on Periscope, which is an ap that allows me to live broadcast video and link it to Twitter. You can easily access Twitter and my account at @guitarted1961. Hopefully many of you can tune in. I'll put up broadcast alerts ahead of time on Twitter, the Trans Iowa site, and Facebook the day of the Periscopes. They will be 7-10 minutes long, so a pretty quick hitting deal, but it is something. Hopefully these will help in some small way.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday News And Views

The roads are free....
USA Cycling Losing Money- Eyeing "Non-Traditional Events":

Yesterday a big topic on some Facebook timelines was the Velo News article about USA Cyling and how they are losing money. The interview with USA Cycling CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall casts a rather bleak outlook for revenues for the business. In the piece, "non-traditional" cycling events are said to be partly the blame for a "market share shift" which is causing a massive drop in revenues for USA Cycling. Bouchard-Hall then states that USA Cycling wants to become a player in these sorts of events.

One thing that should be noted is that USA Cyclings budget is about $15 million dollars. (This figure is from the Velo News article linked above.) The short fall is said to amount to 2.5 million dollars.

  Okay, hold on a minute. USA Cycling is blaming "non-traditional" cycling events for its shortfall? Well, I am not seeing this level of money being generated by gravel road events. Not where I am going. Perhaps there are other ways money is being shifted from USA Cycling, but coming to look for it from the gravel racing/riding community is going to yield little to nothing for their business. First and foremost, USA Cycling obviously misunderstands why gravel racing/riding took route in the first place. They don't know the riders, most of which would never consider a "license" to ride in an event, nor want the multi-level caste system, or desire the intense, person-to-person competition. Rather, I believe most of the gravel road riders are there for an experience, personal satisfaction in overcoming a challenge, and competition in a broader sense of the word. They don't want to have a thicket of rules and regulations governing their equipment, or their bodies, (drug testing), and don't desire sanctioning of their events.

I don't begrudge USA Cycling's mission, or their existence. I don't think a world without crit racing, cyclo cross, or XC mtb events is a good one. However; I also don't feel that USA Cycling's "product" or "benefits" are following where their market's needs have gone. Gravel racing isn't taking anything away from them. Certainly, most folks I see at gravel events wouldn't consider doing a USA Cycling event, although a few will and do.  Heck, most competitive, road racing types feel gravel racing isn't "real racing" at all.  I believe it is a different sub-set of folks altogether, for the most part, that are into gravel events. Obviously looking for dollars to fill USA Cycling's coffers isn't being taken away by gravel races in any significant way.

But maybe what money gravel racing does generate is looking attractive to them. They want a piece of that pie. That's more truth than the other way around, I believe.

This fatty fit fine
Project 1X1 Tire Update:

Well, I was able to get my mitts on these Surly Extraterrestrial tires and have them mounted already. I also have commuted back and forth to work on them. To say I am pretty pleased with them would be an understatement.

I'll spare the details for a blog post next week on the whole bike, but suffice it to say that Surly is well on their way to redeeming themselves with regard to (finally!) getting tubeless ready tires to market. The Extraterrestrial tires are doing really well tubeless, and the bead they have is well formed for tubeless applications. What is more, the Velocity Cliffhangar rims I used on the wheel build fit these tires so snugly I had to use a tire lever to mount the tires on. Needless to say, I could use a simple floor pump to seat the beads and the tires have not leaked down one iota since intial inflation. I am using a new sealant in these, which I also will talk about in my next report on the 1X1.

The tires are doing exactly what I expected, and that is that they are nice rolling, have a cushy ride, and are tubeless, so flats will be much less of a concern. Since they are 61mm wide, I may have trouble fitting a wide enough fender though!

In the cross hairs? It looks that way....
First Snow of Winter:

It looks as though the tubeless Extraterrestrials will be getting a work out this afternoon if the forecasters are correct in their analysis of the data. We are in the cross hairs this time to possibly get quite a dumping of snow right out of the gate here.

Obviously, that band of snow is pretty narrow, and a shift in any of the weather's major influences could drive that band  of snow further North or South with an effect on total accumulations as well. Either way, it is the beginning of the next season and will spell quite a shift in my cycling style here. Fat bikes, single speeds, fenders, and layers of clothing will be required staples of my cycling and commuting to come for a few months, most likely.

Okay, that's a wrap for this week. Keep the rubber side down. FATBIKE!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Last Day Of Fall

Minutes after surviving a squall with stinging rain
The forecast was for steadily falling temperatures and increasing winds. Spotty showers were also in the area. The following days were to get much colder and snow was hinted at. Hmm...... Signs were pointing to this as being the last day of Fall. The calendar may not say so, but the weather- that's what rules. 

So, I kitted up and grabbed the Raleigh Roker LTD to test myself against the gale force Southerly wind. The radar showed a shower headed right at me before I left, but with not a lot of time on my hands, I had to take what was coming. Off I went South down the bike path toward the gravel.

I wasn't but a handful of miles in before I could see it headed toward me. It started in as a sprinkle, but I could see wind driven rain up ahead. When it reached me it intensified to the point where the rain was stinging my face and just seeing where I was headed was very difficult. What's that silly list? "The Rules", is it? I was either spot on Rule #9, if you are a bike freak, or some insane, incredibly stupid, worthy of death or worse fool, if you were any commoner that saw me out there right then. I'm not sure it wasn't the latter there for a minute or two.

The squall eventually passed, it got easier to pedal, and the rain let up. One thing I've noticed about 25+ mile per hour winds, and that is if it is raining, you only get wet where the rain hits you, and the leeward sides stay dry.

The light was getting bent in all sorts of odd ways by this cloud formation. 
The gravel was very wet, as you might imagine. Water was streaming down in little rivulets. The packed road way wasn't muddy, per se', but cleaner, and I didn't get the "concrete" skin effect so often seen when folks ride bicycles on wet gravel around here. I was a bit surprised by that, actually. Eventually I turned out of the wind and was in a cross wind situation. The Roker's stability was much appreciated about this time into the ride.

The barren fields will soon be white with snow.
It wasn't long before I came upon a long patch of fresher, deeper gravel, but with things being so wet, I think the rocks were actually easier to ride than it would have been had it been dry and dusty. Then it was time to turn back with the wind, and of course, I flew back to the city with great ease. A short cruise through the city, then I was back home.

There was one or two things I learned on this ride, but one thing in particular I want to point out. That would be that on very windy days out on the gravel, if you are going against the wind, you won't hear any traffic coming from behind you until it is right beside you. That could be a dangerous situation, so please keep that in mind if you find yourself on a lonely road going against a howling wind.

Fall- It was a grand one here in the Mid-West, and I got a lot of fun rides in, but it is over now. Sometimes Winter is kind and allows for the gravel to be traveled by two wheels, but sometimes it isn't that way. Ice, snow, and especially wicked winds with sub-zero wind chills keep me at bay. That is when I turn to the fat bike and stick close to home here. I don't know what this Winter will be like, but it starts today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Look

First in a series.....
Well, if you clicked on the G-Ted Productions site and thought, "What the.....?!!", I wouldn't blame you. The header that Jeff Kerkove designed for me way back about 8 years or so has been retired, finally. I would imagine you may think you have ended up at the wrong address, but's gonna be okay. 

I'd been thinking about changing up the site's header ever since I did the "A Decade Of Nonsense" series here which celebrated my ten years of blogging. Plus, I wasn't really focusing on just 29"ers, which was a main theme of the header Jeff did for me. I have been dabbling in all sorts of stuff, really, so the 29"er deal has kind of worn out its welcome here. Not that I still don't like that format, or support it....

The Blogger template allows you to use different images and when I was doing "Gravel Grinder News" on the Blogger template, I used that feature to swap out the header image monthly. I finally recalled that I could do that today, so......

You can expect a new header every so often whenever the fit takes me. I may do that monthly, or whenever I get a good shot I want to share. Thanks for reading, as always, and I hope you enjoy the changing header themes.

Project 1X1: The Rest Of The Bike

The Project 1X1 so far.....
Project 1X1 is now being ridden and working out well so far. I built a new set of wheels using Velocity USA's Cliffhangar rims and DT Swiss spokes. The hubs are from Velo Orange and are their "Fixed High Flange" models. That all can be seen in detail in my previous posts here, here, and here.

Now I wanted to talk about the rest of the bike, and what I have done, and then give a clue as to what is coming up.

First off, I will admit that this 18" frame is a wee bit on the small side for me. That doesn't mean it won't work, as I recall, most of the past owners so far have been my size. They made it work, so, hey! Why couldn't I? The first thing needing addressed was the front end height. It was way too XC-ish for my purposes. The bars needed to come up. I purchased a Dimension stem in a 40° rise to jack up the bar height, then used an old Salsa Cycles riser bar to finish it off. A pair of old Ergon grips cap those off, and levers were some old parts bin cheapos bought at an ancient version of Frostbike in the 90's. Well, maybe those levers were free. I recall I paid a buck for some DX levers and Crazy Dave threw these Exage levers in for nuthin'.

Since it is a single speed and all, that's it for the front end. I still am running the old, 80's era Shimano cantilever brakes, and with a little dialing in on the reach of the Exage levers, I have some good feeling stoppers, for now. They still may get nixed for linear pulls later on, but I have a reason for hanging on to these. You'll see........

Seat post, saddle, and bottle mounts. You've seen this before!
The Ergon saddle and generic silver Bontrager branded post I had on here before was nixed mostly because the Ergon saddle didn't fit me right on this bike and the saddle I wanted to use was already connected to a great seat post. That being a Salsa Cycles Shaft post.

The saddle, seat post, and the silver bottle mounts I have attached to it are maybe things long time readers may recognize. They are the components long seen on my OS Bikes Blackbuck. That bike got a newer WTB SST saddle and a Thomson post, so this was languishing in the parts bin. I figured "why not? So, I popped that on the Surly here and it has been much more comfortable. That 1996 vintage SST fits great and still feels wonderful.

I figured Salsa Cycles dropped the Shaft post since it was a legacy product from the original Salsa Cycles and was designed by Salsa's founder, Ross Schafer. Too bad, since it is one of the smartest, albeit heavy, designs ever created for a seat post. Anyway, this one lives on as the post for Project 1X1. Those bottle mounts were something I got in a $5.00 buy of a parts box long ago. Sometimes I actually use it for, ya know, a water bottle cage. Really! Most of the time I don't, and I couldn't be bothered to remove the bits. At least I know where they are.

That's fixed!
I purchased the Velo Orange hubs and with the "flip-flop" design you can run a free wheel and a fixed cog, or two of each, if you want to roll that way. I've stated before that I wanted the fixed option to get a better ride on ice and snow with control that you cannot get with a freewheel driven rear wheel. So, this is a 19T fixed Surly cog and lock ring. I've already ridden it and the fixed gear stuff has mostly come back to me. I need to work on some more skill at that though!

The other side has an 18T cheapo Dicta/ACS type freewheel on there that is essentially expendable if the Winter is harsh enough where drive train bits will get roached. Sure, I could slam on a White Industries freewheel, or one of those new Profile ones, but why? It will just get destroyed over the Winter. I can rebuild a Dicta freewheel easily, so the choice is a no-brainer.

So, that's a basic rundown of the Project 1X1 as she sits today. Things will be evolving though, and one of my first changes past this point will be in the tire department. I've mentioned the Surly Extraterrestrial tires before, and they are in now, so I will be getting those soon and putting those on the Velocity wheels tubeless. Oh, and I will be using some Veocity tubeless valve stems to do that with, by the way. They've got a nice design for their valve stems, which I will detail when I get around to setting up the tires.

The next "big" change for the Project 1X1 is the tires.
When I get those going, I will be using a new sealant that I am trying out that is supposedly good down to -30°F!! Yep! That's right- negative 30. Not that I am going to ride in negative 30 temps, mind you, but I may test this out in sub-zero weather depending upon the Winter and the circumstances. More on that soon.....

Remember the cantilever brakes? Well, after I get these supposed 2.5" monsters set up tubeless, my next idea is to find some full coverage fenders to slap on there. Cantilever brake yoke wires tend to straddle the tire with plenty of clearance for a fender. Linear pull cables- not so much. That is why I am sticking it out with these old canti brakes, in case anyone was curious on that point.

Then one of the final planned upgrades will be to go with a Tangle Bag. Surly in their early days had the foresight to attach fender mounts to the 1X1, but apparently rack mounts hadn't pierced their consciousness as a viable, versatile accouterment for a bicycle yet.  Oh well.... I'll get by with a frame bag then. I need a place to stow my Jethro Tool, a tube, and maybe some stuff I pick up at the store. I'll probably get a top tube bag, something "gas tank-like', as well. Then maybe I'll look at getting a front mounted LED light for night time prowling about. That should about do it then.

So, that's where I am at and where I am going with this project. I should have the tires up and running very soon, then the fender search will be on. I should then be commuting and errand running and what not all over the place on the Project 1X1. Stay tuned for more soon......

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Singular Gryphon Flies Again

Back in rotation again after a long absence.
I have had this Singular Gryphon for quite a while now. I was thinking about this when I saw the Pirate Cycling League sticker Cornbread gave me which is on the down tube of this bike. That had to be 2010 or so. Anyway, this bike has been a staple in the stable but it hasn't been a bike I've used a whole lot in recent years.

It isn't because I don't like it, because I really do like it a lot. In fact, you could say that this bike was the reason I never got a Fargo with an Alternator drop out. The Singular has a Phil Wood eccentric bottom bracket which I can use for tensioning a chain, and I've never run this bike with gears. However; if I did, it has that "fail safe" that earlier Fargos did not have. But that isn't why I like it, really.

See, the Gryphon was developed around about the same time as the Fargo- in 2008-'09. The bike wasn't meant to carry a load, or be suspension corrected, so the Gryphon is very unique in that the bike is a drop bar specific rig with lighter weight, more compliant tubing which yields a better ride quality than my Fargos do.

Okay, so that's why I like it, but I never really got around to using it as the single speed, Winter time gravel machine I envisioned it to become after my Karate Monkey was pulled off that duty in about '08 or so. I had busted it out and had done a few rides on it here and there recently, but now I hope to get this the love it deserves.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Tubeless Journey

Maxxis Rambler 40's- Another new tubeless gravel tire offering.
Tubeless bicycle tires are not a new idea. I think there probably are some really old attempts at it, but as far as I can remember, the first I'd heard of that idea was back in the late 1990's. That's when some bloke by the name of Stan was cruising the NORBA pits and trying to show riders how to ditch their 26 inch tubes and use his system to go tubeless.

Since that time, many riders have been doing garage set ups, using different tires, rims, and sealants, and having varying degrees of success. Intrestingly, just when the 26 inch stuff got dialed, everyone started moving over to 29"ers. Then once 29"ers settled out into the Stan's vs UST camps, the roadies tried getting in on the action. That still hasn't worked out, but now it is the gravel road riders looking for the tubeless "nirvana". Guess what? We've got a long, long way to go. (Oh- and let's not forget fat bikers.)

There are challenges for road bikers which, maybe, someday, they will overcome. Higher pressures by a factor of 3-4 times that of where mountain bike pressures are at will challenge any engineer. The gravel scene wants pressures somewhere in between there, and fortunately, many of the lessons learned in the past are being applied to some gravel tires. Things like a systemic approach seem to get this right out of the box. Design a tire, rim, and the accouterments that go along with running a tubeless tire system, then things seem to go well. Take the WTB Nano 40 TCS tires, TCS rims, and their tape and sealant, as an example. That is pretty much bomb proof and I consider this set up as the benchmark for gravel tubeless tire and rim fit.

With the plethora of tire companies coming out with "tubeless gravel tire" products, one has to wonder for what rims are they meant for? Rim companies are making tubeless compatible rims, but which tires work with them?  We were left asking a lot of questions similar to the above back in 2007 about 29"er tires, rims, and tubeless, and here we are again with gravel road tires and rims to go with that.

The journey has begun again........

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ingawanis Woodlands

Loaded up and truckin'
Saturday afternoon was about celebrating a big turn of events for the cycling, running, and hiking communities here. It was a day about celebrating the awarding of the REAP grant that will allow for the purchase of the property known to us as Ingawanis Woodlands as a Bremer County Park. Well, it used to be known as the "South Side of The Camp", or simply as 'The South Side". A little back story here, as far as I know about it.....

Years ago there were two camps for Scouts. The camps were divided by Quarter Section Creek, with the Boy Scouts on the North and the Girl Scouts on the South side. After the Girl Scouts abandoned the South side, the Boy Scouts set up a COPE course on one of the prominent hills that could be accessed by a service road running straight back into the camp from a gravel road. There also was a service road that nearly circumnavigated the West side of the Camp's South side and was a big dividing line at one time between what I used to call the "Inner Loop" and the "Outer Loop" of Ingawanis' South Side. Back in the early 2000's, the Boy Scouts instigated a mountain biking program, and talks about opening up the Camp lands to mountain biking were started. I first rode out at Ingawanis in 2002/03 and have been out there about every year since then to partake of the ever evolving situation out there. 

Anyway, recently the Boy Scouts needed money, so selling off the South Side, which was little used by the troops, was considered. The end of riding at Ingawanis was a very real possibility, as encroaching development from Waverly, a town nearby, was threatening to take the South side and put high dollar houses out there. Trust me.....I totally get why someone would want to live out there, but it would have been the end of a resource for the public that is rare in this State- that being a tract of heavily wooded, hilly land surrounded on two sides by water. Not only that, but it is a haven for all sorts of wildlife and plant life unique to the area. 

Making final adjustments to ride.
Anyway, the land was scooped up by the Iowa Heritage Foundation in hopes that Bremer County could somehow or another pull together grant money to buy the land. That it did, with a bit of shortfall, but now it seems fairly certain that this tract of land will remain in the public realm and not be divided  up into parcels for private homeowners. Yay! 

So, a pig was roasted, goodies were made, and we all converged upon Ingawanis Woodlands, (which is what the South Side is called these days), to celebrate by riding, running, hiking, and visiting with one another. The good news was shared, and we all had a great time. 

Now specifically, it was planned by Leif, Andy, and myself that we would meet up out there with a couple of others and ride the trail, then eat and hang out. These days the Sun sets early, so we wanted to get a move on before 5:00pm, and we hit the small grassy lot where the trail head is by 4:45pm ready to roll. The other two we were to meet weren't there, and with limited Sun, I wasn't of a mind to dilly-dally, or we'd get caught out with having to mount our lights. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal, but I was the only one that had been there before in our group! So, without further adieu, we hit the trail in my usual clockwise manner. (I guess most folks roll the loop counter-clockwise. I just don't think it flows well that way.)

What it's all about. Leif looks out over the Cedar River
So, with three fat bikes we took off. I was a bit apprehensive about how I would do, since I had a splitting headache and in a silly move, I brought my Blackborrow DS in "high range" to these trails which feature some climbs and challenges. Not only that, but my two riding partners were young enough to be my kids and Leif has a monstrous motor. Oh well!

As it turned out, I did just fine, cleaning every climb okay, but sending my old heart rate skyrocketing. I probably should really wear a monitor, but...... Anyway, Leif would have dropped me like a bad habit had he known where he was going, but we stuck together. 

We met strings of four to five bikers coming the other way about half way through the big loop, and it was shocking, really, for me to see so many folks enjoying the trails out there. Usually I would see one other person out there on a super rare occasion, but now with the land deal being finalized, it seems the public is finally catching on to this little gem of wooded land laced with some really nice trails. Once we got around to the lodge proper, where the festivities were taking place, we saw a lot full of cars and a lot of people eating, drinking, setting off on runs, and hikes, which was just amazing. 

It has been a long time since the days when the mountain biking community was allowed into the South Side, when the trails were confusing, and shorter! I specifically remember the time we were there riding the new Salsa Cycles Mamasita, which hardly anyone else had ever seen before, in the snow. We didn't even know really where we were going, but I remember Salsa Cycles' Mike Reimer saying at the time that he thought the place could end up being "really good". He turned out to be prophetic. It is really good out there now, but it almost was all lost.  

Thank God it will be open to the public so hikers, walkers, runners, and cyclists can all see what a resource it is, and how rare this sort of open space is in Iowa.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday News And Views

Project 1X1
Project 1X1 Update:

Well, this won't be really long, because it all deserves its own blog posting, but I was excited yesterday to have received my Surly 19T fixed cog and lock ring. This will screw on to the left hand side of the hub and I have a specific set of reasons why I went with a flip-flop hub on the bike.

The main reason is for slippery Winter commutes when riding a fat bike doesn't make sense. There are plenty of times I have ridden a fat bike in Winter when there was no real snow to deal with, so a fat bike was overkill. However; there may be patches of ice here and there. Riding a fixed gear bike has the effect of giving you more control over your traction and rear tire slip outs are not as dangerous when you can feel what is happening like you can when riding fixed. I've had experience with this back when I ran my Karate Monkey fixed, so I am pretty confident this will be a good thing. Plus, I like having a fixed gear something or another around for riding.

The other reason is for when I run errands on this bike. If someone were to nab my rig, they aren't going very far very fast without wrecking. One thing about living here is that there are very few ne'er do wells with fixed gear knowledge. One more deterrent besides locking it up is a good deal. I hope to get the fixed stuff installed today and test it all out soon. Look for a Project 1X1 post next week.

White Industries XMR Hub- My choice for the Standard Rando wheel build
Standard Rando Wheel Build Plans:

Way back late last Summer many of you might recall that I bought a Twin Six Standard Rando. Well.....everything but the wheels. I didn't really want to go with the wheels offered with the bike, so I didn't get them. In the meantime, I could have slapped on some 11spd compatible, disc brake wheels, but I didn't have a spare set of those just laying around here. So, I figured that I should do something a bit nicer for this rig. Someone suggested a "bit of color at the hub" might be nice, and I agreed. That leaves only a few choices in appropriate hubs, so I checked those out, and with a couple of solid endorsements from some folks I respect, I decided on the White Industries XMR hubs.

When I get these they will be laced to WTB KOM i25 rims and then all I have to do is pop on some tubeless tires, a cassette, and the rotors and I'll be back in business with that bike. Okay....well, not quite so fast! There is the issue of a saddle for it that needs sorting, but I'll get that done in due time. Probably long before the wheels get built!

Trans Iowa TV?

The past couple of years there has been a Trans Iowa Clinic which we did in Des Moines. It was very well received, and I got great feedback from those who could attend it. The thing is, not very many folks can get to Des Moines for a single event like that.

I wrestled with how we should approach that every time we did this and I just couldn't get around some big technical hurdles with regard to video taping, production, media releases, yadda-yadda-yadda.... Then this thing called Periscope popped up, and I tested it out by using it for a couple of things, most notably my Rookie Lottery Drawing for Trans Iowa registration. It got great feedback, and it got me to thinking again about how Periscope and the Trans Iowa Clinic idea might be used together.

So, I've been playing around with this idea of doing some really basic, very simple live broadcasts on Periscope talking about Trans Iowa techniques and equipment choices. I may even do some bits on basic gravel riding techniques from the perspectives of many who have participated in Trans Iowa events in the past. Of course, it would all be just myself, and very basic, because I don't want to complicate things by interviewing folks, or getting beyond a very simple production. I think it could be valuable, and since it would be free, you'd get what you paid for. (<===HA!) But seriously, I think it might be valuable. Thoughts? Hit me with your comments.

I'm still toying around with this idea, so I haven't made any plans on actually doing anything just yet, but if I do see a good response and get a few good ideas, I'll pursue it and the schedule will be published ahead of time so no one will miss anything. Again- comments or questions should be left in the comments here by clicking the comment link at the bottom of this post. Thanks in advance for any and all thoughts you might share.

That's a warp for this week. It is going to be a stellar weather weekend here. Don't miss out! Ride those bikes!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Repair Schedule

 Tire repair- Refresh sealant. Ready!
Wednesday was weird. First off, my daughter didn't feel well enough to go to school. so I was off work anyway and became the nurse for the morning. Thankfully, by mid-afternoon she was herself again. However; that time was all that was open for riding, so I had to get something else done around the house, not make a ton of noise, (while she was sleeping), and stay within close proximity in case I was needed.

That set of requirements best fit a schedule of repair on some bikes that I had been putting off for a while. I also tackled a swap or two that I had in mind. It was like going to work, except I didn't get paid by my boss for it! Well, at least I benefited from it directly, and hey.......the labor was free! 

First up, I wanted to peel off the Cannonball tires from the American Classic rims on the Roker LTD and put those on the trusty HED Ardennes + rims on the Black Mountain Cycles rig. That went pretty well, with the HED rims taking on the Cannonball tires with a bit of a blast from my teeny-tiny air compressor, and setting up with zero issues. Then I took the rig for a blast around the neighborhood to get a feel for the tires. (Don't worry. My daughter was up and about by this time.) Still not totally convinced on those tires......

Those fancy-pants Cannonball tires will live on this bike for a while now.
Then it was on to my OS Bikes Blackbuck, which I had a puncture on several weeks ago when I rode it. The sealant initially did the trick, sealed the cut, and I got home, but the next day it went flat. I knew I'd need more sealant, as it blew out a lot just getting the initial puncture to seal up.

I wasn't sure on this one, because I figured that more sealant would just blow out again, but much to my surprise it sealed up, and my blast around the neighborhood on it showed no chinks in the armor. Good to go then and on to the next bike.

The next project was a swap again. This time the swap was a fork swap with the Blackborow DS going from Bluto to rigid again. I took the time to blast out the crud from the semi-sealed lower head set bearing, and repack it with grease for the Winter. Then I popped on the rigid fork. I always have a back and forth on stems and how straight they are, eventually just giving up. I know there are little tricks to help with this but my brain and eyes like to play little tricks with me when I do this. My brain and eyes think it is funny. I don't play the game long before I just turn away and torque down the bolts. If I keep looking at it I'll drive myself crazy and give my brain and my eyes the very thing they are wanting- to make me go nuts. So, enough was enough. Moving along now!

Ready for Winter duty.
Then I attended to the chain and cogs on this bike, with a bit of cleaning and lube. I also had to bolt on one of the Anything Cage HD's that I had taken off for a proposed display at work that didn't happen. With that accomplished I had the Blackborow DS ready for Winter commuting and more.

After this it was time to wrench on my other fat bike- the Ti Muk. It developed a flattish rear tire, but it never lost all of its air. So, I took the tube out. I may have put sealant in this tube, but danged if I can remember. That could be taken care of if I kept a log book on each bike! I should do that......

Anyway, I dunk tanked the tube in the kitchen sink and found nuthn'! So, I scoured the tire and found nuthin'! Hrummpff! Okay, well maybe I did put sealant in that tire, but if I did, I couldn't tell other than the fact that it weighed more than it should. Whatever! I took the opportunity to put a new rim strip in the wheel. I hadn't put a new one in since 2011, so it was over due for that wheel. I should do the front as well, but it is in better condition.

The inner casing of the tire was coated in talc powder, then I put the tube in and mounted it up. Now I have another, geared fat bike ready to go for the Winter fun and commuting. With that bike done and out of the repair list, I was pretty much done for the day. A good day of repairs and I even cleared up a bit of space on my cluttered bench as well. All in all a good day at the home office.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Plastic Fantastic Magical Tire Musings

The Raleigh Roker LTD
Okay, so usually I don't get to check out the top-flight groups or frames in my years gigging as a reviewer of stuff. That's okay with me, as those "halo bikes" and bits of jewelry typically don't find their way into too many people's hands anyway. I'd rather chat and blather on about stuff that does make a dint in the "real lives" of the "average cyclist", however that might be defined.

Well, sometimes I have gotten a chance at a sweet, top-o-the range rig to test out, and oddly enough, the other one that comes immediately to mind is a Raleigh as well. Anyway, this Roker LTD has that carbon fiber thing going on, but that isn't a really earth shattering idea anymore these days. What is still fairly odd-ball about this bike is the electronic shifting, and that engenders far more conversation about this bike than anything else. So, how is that electronic shifting?

Well, I will say that it took some getting used to. Buttons are not like levers and the tactile feel of the buttons and the tactile feel of the pushing of them is somewhat ambiguous. Did I shift? Whoops! Wrong button! Those were two common thoughts during the first few rides. However; I started to come around. The fact that you can hold the button down to get several shifts was fun a couple of times. That isn't really going to be that big of a deal on most rides. The one thing I think was a big deal was that I could shift under power, whenever I wanted.

A champ a shifting......whenever you want to.
This is an important thing to stop and consider, because if you haven't used electronic shifting, your ingrained, habitual let ups and work-arounds to make your drive train work are something that is not noticed. You just have learned to shift this way. It's what you do before a hill, during a long climb, or coming out of a corner, that you just have lived with, but with electronic shifting, you don't have to anymore.

I found this to be a "light bulb" moment when I swung around a right hander into a climb, chose a gear, and stomped on the pedals. Whoops! Too high of a gear choice there, but- ya know- you just got to gut it out, because with this much pressure on the pedals, you probably won't get the shift. Unless.......zing! You have electronic shifting, which seems to be impervious to how hard you are cranking out the power. My shift made the climb more bearable. Interestingly, the chain actually did make a zing sound and the resulting vibrations could be felt through the carbon frame, the chain was so taught. I also was able to shift the front rings under power, standing up. It just doesn't seem to matter. All your preconceived notions, all your habitual shifting patterns and strategies are now completely useless with Di2. Those servos don't care. They shift no matter. It really makes things easier and.....better. 

I think electronic shifting bits are okay at this point, but I have to wonder how slippery a slope we are on. How, or even if, electronic shifting might take things out of our hands and start making decisions for us. Sound far fetched? I don't think so when you consider ANT+, Bluetooth, power meters, and electronic shifting and how that could all be integrated into an "automatic" shifting drive train.

It's an "official tire" for a certain event, but is it for you?
Then there are these tubeless tires from QBP's new brand, Teravail. They have poured a dump truck load of R&D, marketing, and promotion into this brand and in particular, the Cannonball 40mm tire. It's a tire that they have pinned a lot of hopes on, and it is the official tire of the Dirty Kanza 200, dontcha know. There is even a tire release party at Emporia this weekend. So.....yeah. It's a big deal.

Are these tires all that and a bag of chips? Well, there are over a 100 miles on the set I have here, and I can say that they are decent tires. I'm not all blown away by them, or at least, not yet. They may break in and ride better than they do now. Many gravel tires seem to be this way. Stiff, wooden feeling casings get more lively and cushy as the miles pile on. I was texting back and forth with my good friend, MG about this last night, and we recounted several tires we have both used that acted in this manner. That said, I'm not going to tell you these tires are so amazing they should have their own release party, because, well, that's just silly.  They do well tubeless though, and for that, I think they are definitely worth considering. I'll have more to say about these in the future.....

So, this bike as a whole, it is definitely interesting. It has a very unique ride quality that I have found that another guy at the shop, who I let ride it the other day, confirmed for me. In some ways it isn't very surprising, and in some ways the ride of the Roker is doing two things at once which is very unlike my steel bikes. Is it "bad" or is it "good"? I just don't quite know the answer to that just yet. I'll be moving the tires off this and slapping something I'm more attuned to to help me dissect this beast.

Until then, I'll be riding this plastic fantastic rig some more to get to the bottom of it all.